paulmundane

General and somewhat random story things

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Tales From the Bucket Cap.

So, that’s that then.  Tales From the Bucket is done.  So, now what?

Well, first off, I should mention that Tales itself is still a rough work, so I’ll lay it aside for a month or six, and forget it.  That way when I pick it back up for the first run of editing, I won’t be too familiar with the story to miss the glaring mistakes.  I do intend to publish Tales From the Bucket, just not in it’s current form.  We all had some laughs, but lets face it, the grammar needs a once over, as does the layout.

I suppose I’ll try to gussy up a page just for Tales as well, since it can be left alone for a bit.

As for the next batch of posts; Nanowrimo begins in just two days.  My next novel will be written then.  Despite severe delays near the end there, I consider this first foray into online writing a success, so I think I’ll do it again.

Look for a chapter a day starting November 1st.  Well, chapter a day-ish.  I haven’t lost a Nano yet, and I don’t intend to do so now.  Those not aware, by the way, Nanowrimo is the National Novel Writing Month.  It’s a challenge to complete a 50 000 word rough draft of a novel in November.  it’s a great project that I suggest ANY budding or seasoned writer try.  Check them out at Nanowrimo.org

So yeah, check out my new story then.  I’m going to take my free day and catch up with some stuff.

See you in a few:

Paul Mundane

Tales From the Bucket 46 (Final Episode)

Boris had not gotten any warmer over the last year.  Oh sure, the cold had let go a bit during the summer month, but it was still damn cold, and Maychange was starting to feel it in his bones.  He blamed old age jokingly out loud amongst the crew, and cursed the truth of it silently in his private moments.

Not that he was regretting his triumphant return.  Maychange had stayed true to his own promises, and had integrated as well as he could.  Not as well as the others of course.  They slid right back into the lives they’d built as though they’d never left.  Still, Maychange did what he could to shake his hermit traits.  Even now, he sat at The Barn, nursing a potato alcohol that the bartender had insisted was beer.

Maychange liked to come and sit alone at the Barn every Sunday afternoon.  He’d have a beer or two, then return to The Trebuchet just outside of town.  Sometimes he’d chat with the local farmers.  They’d tell him about their work, and he’d tell them about his time in the Military.  He didn’t often talk about his last few years on The Trebuchet.  It wasn’t that Maychange didn’t want to share; it was that the rest of the crew had shared enough.

This Sunday, Maychange was left alone.  The Barn was surprisingly packed; mostly with unfamiliar faces.  Maychange kept his eyes on his beer, and showed no interest in the strangers that were taking up space in his bar.

Maychange’s quiet Sunday was interrupted by the whine of old cybernetics.  For a moment, he assumed it was Reese, but she’d finally fixed her arm months ago.  Besides, it was too loud.  Maychange looked briefly, but didn’t give any other sign of interest as Rain Dog hovered over him.

“Afternoon Rain Dog,” Maychange commented.  The bounty hunter didn’t answer.  His cybernetic hand whirred as it twitched just above his gun.  Maychange smiled without looking up.  “No comments on how easy I was to find this time?”

“You bastard Maychange,” Rain Dog spat.  “Bad enough that you crippled me, that you destroyed my ship…”

“And your reputation,” Maychange interrupted.  “I’m sure I did some damage to that too.”

“Then you make me come back to this ass end of the galaxy to find you.”  Rain Dog grabbed his gun, and half drew it out of its holster.  “You have no idea how long I’ve waited to do this.”

“You’re an idiot, you draw your gun in here.”  Maychange waved off the notion.  “Just walk away Rain Dog,” Maychange offered.  “The bar’s full, and most of these folks aren’t locals.”

“Do you honestly think I care about an audience?”  Rain Dog’s cybernetics whined as he drew his gun.  “This’ll be a story for em to tell.”

The moment Rain Dog drew his gun, Half the bar stood.  They all drew Military standard pistols from beneath their jackets, and aimed at Rain Dog.  The bounty hunter’s features twisted from hate to surprise to frustration.  He considered his options for a moment, before putting his gun down gently on the bar.  “That ain’t even close to fair,” he muttered as he put his hands in the air.

“Tried to warn you,” Maychange relied.  He turned back to his drink as the marines carted Rain Dog away.  He didn’t look up as their commander came to stand behind him.

“Keevas, Captain.”  She put an emphasis on the V instead of the E.  It translated to a garbled comment about jamming things deep into kittens.  Maychange decided he preferred that to Clarisence’s meaning when she swore.  “How long have you known we were here?”

“Since you all began to trickle in,” Maychange responded.  “Boris isn’t exactly a tourist location.  I’ve gotten to know the locals.”  Maychange motioned to Rain Dog’s now abandoned seat.  “Any reason you’re all trying to sneak up on me?”  He left a purposeful pause at the end of his comment.  He may have worked with this woman, but it didn’t mean he knew her name.

“Lieutenant Pierce,” the woman introduced with a quick salute.  She pulled up the stool.  “We’re not trying to sneak up on you,” she explained.  “We’re just making sure you don’t rabbit before the admiral has a chance to chat with you.”

“Admiral?”

“Admiral Hound,” Pierce continued.  “We all hopped up the ranks a bit.  Reward for our vigilant defence of Rigel, and all that.”  She ordered a drink of her own.  “Chen’s the captain of The Vigilance now,” she told Maychange.

“Huh,” Maychange replied.  “He here too?”

“Course he is,” a voice called from the other end of the bar.  Pierce, and the rest of her men stood at a quick practiced attention as Admiral Hound entered The Barn.  “Chen’s our ride.  You didn’t expect me to come here in any other ship, did you Captain?”

“Maybe,” Maychange said.  “I would have come and picked you up, if you’d wanted.”

“No you wouldn’t have.”

“No, I wouldn’t have,” Maychange admitted.  “You going to tell me why you’re here?”

Hound didn’t answer right away.  He ordered, and drank in silence with Maychange.  Lieutenant Pierce quietly dismissed herself, and joined her men at a side table.

“It’s been a busy year,” Hound stated finally.  “After you left, the Jakara sent two more behemoths into human space; full attack on the earth.”  Hound gave a shrug.  “Suppose they had to see if what N’gyr had said was true.”

“The code The Girl gave you?” Maychange asked.

“Worked like a charm,” Hound replied.  “Shut them right down.  We kept one, let the other go as a show of good will, and as a warning.  Next time we saw a Jakara ship, it was under the flag of truce.  Full of diplomats and scientists.”

Hound took a long drink.  “War’s been officially over for nearly half a year now.  The Jakara scientists and ours have been working round the clock to break Dr. Roccas’ theory.”

“Well,” Maychange noted.  There wasn’t much more to add.  “You still haven’t answered my question.”

“Suppose I haven’t,” Admiral Hound admitted.  “I’m here to give you and your crew an official pardon Maychange.  I’m supposed to bring the five of you back to earth, for presentation to the Prime Minister.  She wants to personally present you with Medals of Valor.”

Maychange sipped at his potato beer.  “That’s very kind of her,” he commented with no conviction.  “Why?”

Hound chuckled.  “You stopped an intergalactic war, for starters.  Hell, you managed that with just a speech and a bit of radio time.”

“No, I mean, why now?”  Maychange put down his mug, and turned full attention to Hound.  “Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy to be officially able to stop looking over my shoulder for the Military, but it’s been a year.  Why does the Prime Minister need us all back on Earth now?”

Hound sighed.  He paused a second before answering.  “It’s Ms. Roccas,” he admitted.

“Ah.”

“It’s not like that,” Hound continued.  “This isn’t some trick.  There is a gala in your name, and there are medals.  It’s just that the Prime Minister wanted to ask Clarisence Roccas personally for assistance.”

“I see.”  Maychange turned back to his beer.  “I believe that The Girl has been very clear on her feelings towards helping either side.”

“She won’t be helping either side,” Hound countered.  “She’ll be helping both.  The Science Coalition says they’re close to breaking her father’s theory.  They just want her help with the finer points.”  Hound smiled best his scarred face would allow.  “Ms. Roccas is the only living specialist in the field of Fold Technology.  Did you honestly think no one would come and talk to her?”

Maychange considered.  If the scientists of both sides had indeed formed a coalition, it’d likely be something The Girl would be ecstatic about.  “I’ll talk to her when I talk to my crew,” Maychange relented.  “Tell Ms. Prime Minister not to set a date for the parade though.  Harvest is just around the corner, and Clarisence has been working pretty hard to recover her garden after that idiot bounty hunter landed a ship in it.”

Hound blinked.  “You’re joking, right?”

“Not in the slightest,” Maychange replied.  “It’s been good to see you, admiral,” Maychange stated as he stood.  “I’m sure I’ll hear from you again soon.”

Maychange watched as Hound and his men walked out of the bar.  He’d hear from them again.  Hell, he’d probably hear from them again daily until he and the crew finally gave in.  Harvest was just around the corner, but then, so was winter.  Boris was cold enough during the fall; no reason not to hide out on Earth during the snow season.  Besides, Maychange had been aching to get The Trebuchet back in the sky.

He’d let Hound wait for an answer though.  The man had chased them half way across the galaxy; Maychange owed the admiral at least a bit of anxiety.  Maychange sipped at his potato beer.  They’d go to earth, he admitted mentally, but they’d be back.  Maybe he and the crew could mooch a few months of good living from the Prime Minister, but they’d return to this tiny ice ball of a planet.  It wasn’t much after all, and the beer sucked, but it was home.

And that was good enough.

The End

 

Tales From the Bucket 45

N’gyr looked at Maychange, his cold smile returning to his face.  “Will you shoot me, Captain Maychange?”

“Might,” Maychange admitted.  “I’m strongly considering it.”

“Ah, but what will that get you?”  N’gyr took a step towards Maychange.  He stopped when Maychange waved the pistol at him.  “Fine,” N’gyr said.  He put his hands half up in show of momentary surrender.  N’gyr never stopped smiling.  “What now, Captain Maychange?”  He didn’t leave Maychange a chance to answer.  “Let me tell you what is next,” he offered.

“You must think that you have been very clever,” N’gyr offered.  He waved at the screens that still floated around the Fold Engines.  “I am sure the actual attack on the N’yarlath is orchestrated by Captain Hound.  That is the type of man he is.  But the rest of this?  This is you.  Who else would believe that they could  stop a war with a bit of conversation?”  N’gyr took another step towards Maychange.  “This all changes nothing.  You do understand that, right Captain Maychange?  You think this clever, but you needed to bring my ship back to life to project your message.  Yes, the humans now have the theory, as do we.  But, you have delivered us Clarisence Roccas.”

“So, here is what will happen,” N’gyr continued.  “The N’yarlath will return to Jakara space.  There, Captain Hound and his men will be cleansed from my ship like the infestation they are.  Clarisence Roccas will complete her father’s work long before the humans can even begin to comprehend the theory of Fold Technology.”  N’gyr took another step.  “You, Captain Maychange, I will have left forgotten in the deepest of prisons.  You will be kept just alive; enough to make Clarisence Roccas continue to do her duty to her people.  When she is done, I will kill you, and her, myself.”

“Unless we shut you down,” Maychange suggested.

“Clarisence Roccas shut us down the first time,” N’gyr countered.  “I am not sure how she did so, but I am sure it was her.  Clarisence Roccas is unconscious.  She will not stop me from Folding back into Jakara space.”  N’gyr never broke eye contact with Maychange, even as he called in the order to Fold.

Maychange watched as the Fold Engines powered up.  He laughed openly.  “You’re an arrogant son of a bitch, you know that N’gyr?  But in a way, you’re right.  The Girl is unconscious.  She can’t turn off your fancy engines.”  Maychange shrugged.  “Guess I’ll just have to do it myself.”

N’gyr stared a moment at Maychange.  “You?”  He laughed; a mocking version of Maychange’s.  “And how exactly do you plan on achieving this?”

“You don’t know how The Girl shut you down,” Maychange replied.  “I do.  You want to know?”  Maychange mirrored N’gyr’s smile.  “She fired some sort of equation through that fancy cannon that Hound attached to my ship.”

N’gyr raised an eyebrow.  “Yes.  Clarisence Roccas shut us down.  She in not in position to do it again.”

“You’re not listening,” Maychange retorted.  “The Girl didn’t use any of her fancy whatever she does to shut you down”  He thought about what The Girl had said before.  “It was just math.  Complex, sure, but just math.”

“Math you can’t possibly understand,” N’gyr replied.

“Oh, I don’t need to understand it,” Maychange explained.  “I just needed to record it.”  Maychange tapped the communicator on his lapel.  “Now,” he commanded.

There was a flash of blue that seemed to seep from the walls all around them, as outside, The Trebuchet fired its great laser.  N’gyr stared at Maychange, his horror all the more evident in the blue glow.  He hissed a terrible promise in Jakara, and readied to charge at Maychange.

“Don’t,” Maychange suggested with a wave of his pistol.  He pointed his broken hand at  the air around them.  “You hear that?  That hissing noise?  That’s the last of your atmosphere being sucked into space.  You stay here and fight with me, you die.  You may be beyond caring, N’gyr, but you need to live.  You need to escape from this, and deliver a message to your masters.”

N’gyr glared at Maychange.  His intent was still clear in his face, but curiosity had stalled him.  “Do I?” he questioned.  “And what would that be?”

Maychange smiled viciously.  “You need to tell them that we humans have a way to shut down the Fold Engines.  We’ve already given the code to Hound.  He’s already sent it to The Military.”  Maychange shrugged.  “You bring your Fold Engines to us, and we’ll shut them down and take them.  When us insignificant humans have all the engines, and you have none, how much fight will your people still have in them?  I can assure you, we’ll have plenty.”  Maychange walked forward till he was nearly nose to nose with N’gyr.  His pistol was at his side, and he visibly dared N’gyr to start something.  “We see another of your warships in human space, and we’ll shut it down, take it for our own, and use it to pay your home world a visit.  Now, don’t you think you may want to tell someone that?”

N’gyr stared murder at Maychange for a full minute before a slight smile crossed his features.  “Well played, captain Maychange,” he stated.  N’gyr turned from Maychange.  “I hope that you die here,” he admitted.  “But you will not.  Your type never does.”

“Funny,” Maychange offered to N’gyr’s back.  “I was thinking the same of you.”

Maychange waited for N’gyr to break into a run before he went for The Girl.  He’d played some hard ball before in his life, but today took the cake.  Maychange lifted her into a sit; propping her head up with his chest.  The blue light of her tattoos was almost extinguished.  It flickered a sheen across her as it tried to find the energy to protect her in the fading atmosphere.  He shook her lightly at first, then again with more force.  Her eyes flickered open, but she showed no sign of comprehension.

“Girl,” Maychange growled.  “Girl, pull it together.  We have to go.  Now.”

Clarisence blinked at Maychange.  She nodded slightly at him, and pointed at the outer hull.  There was a flicker, then a flash of blue light.

Just like that, they were gone.

Tales From the Bucket 44

Maychange could feel The Girl shift against him.  It was a light struggle as she found herself bound and more than a bit confused.  It was more than enough to be sure that she was awake.

“How you doing back there,” Maychange asked.

Clarisence muttered something under her breath.  “Where are we?” she asked.

“Don’t know,” Maychange admitted.  Currently, they were climbing down a vast line of pipes and cables, but that was the best he knew.  “On our way to the engines, as least.”

“How long have I been out,” The Girl asked.

“Not long,” Maychange said.  “About five, maybe ten minutes.”

“Oh.”  Clarisence shifted about.  “It feels like I’ve been asleep forever.”

Maychange chuckled.  “Really?”

“Sure,” Clarisence stated.  “I’m disoriented, sore, and I’m terribly hungry.”

“But rested at least,” Maychange interjected.

“No.  Turns out five minutes of sleep are still just five minutes of sleep.”  Clarisence shifted again, and tugged a bit at Maychange’s neck.  “Am I tied to you?”

“Sort of.”  Maychange continued his downward climb.  “Do you remember all the stories I told you about when I was a mountain climber?”

“No.”

“Yeah well,” Maychange commented, “there’s a reason I never told those stories.  I’m not a climber.”  Maychange gave a dry chuckle.  “Holding onto an unconscious teenager wouldn’t have helped much, so I strapped you in.”

“I’m not a teenager,” Clarisence protested.  “Nah keev.. darn Maychange, do you assume everyone under thirty is a kid?”

“Pretty much,” Maychange admitted.  “Part of being old is hating everyone younger than you.”

There was an awkward silence, interrupted only by Maychange’s occasional noises of hard labour.  “Is there anything I can do to help?” Clarisence offered.

“You can quit squirming about,” Maychange suggested.  The Comm. on his lapel buzzed slightly.  Maychange looked at it and sighed.  “You could answer that, I suppose.  My hands are full.”

Clarisence fumbled along Maychange’s neck and chest.  With the way her arms were bound, it might have been easier if Maychange had just done it himself.  Finally, after a large amount of fumbling, and a small bit of frustrated apologizing, she found the communicator.

When the comm. buzzed to life, Quince’s voice played across it.  “Hey, captain.”

“Quince,” Maychange acknowledged.  “We’re in the middle of a thing.  This had better be important.”

“A little,” Quince replied.  “We’ve got Reese aboard, but she’s brought company.  Sore and Reese are holding them off for now, but…”

“Alright,” Maychange cut in.  “Take off, but stay close.  We’ll find a place to catch up with you once we’re done here.”

Maychange considered a moment.  “Actually,” he amended.  “Circle wide, let them think you’ve left.  Then I have somewhere I need you to be.”

Maychange explained his idea to Quince, and was glad to hear no arguments.  He figured if Reese was in the cockpit, things would have gone differently.  She hated his plans.  This wasn’t a full plan so much as a backup, mind you, but Maychange was pretty sure she’d disagree with that too.

Maychange made the rest of the climb in relative silence.  On his back, Clarisence did all she could to stay still.  Once or twice, he was certain that she’d passed out again, but she’d shift, or make an attempt at small talk, and ruin the illusion.  Not that Maychange minded.  The climb was killing his arms, and any distraction, no matter how little, was welcome.

The Fold engines had a large room of their own, deep in the bowels of The N’yarlath.  They nerve column fed right to the power source.  It looked very much like a giant version of the one that resided in The Trebuchet’s engine room.

Maychange quickly freed The Girl the moment they’d set foot on the grated floor.  He shook his arms out, and quickly took in the room.  The corpses of the fallen Jakara troops lay on the floor; an almost certain sign that no one had come this way since they’d fallen from above.

Behind him, Clarisence coaxed what she needed from the Fold engines.  Holographic screens floated around her, giving views from all over the N’yarlath.  A few of them flashed red, and in them, Maychange could see Hound’s marines engaging the Jakara troops.  Hound and his men were doing what they’d promised.  They were keeping the Jakara busy.  Busy enough that even by the time they realised what Maychange and Clarisence were up to, there’d be nothing they could do about it.

Clarisence motioned to Maychange, letting him know they were broadcasting.  Blue light flared along his face, and settled across his throat.  He knew that this was how Clarisence was going to capture his words for the broadcast; how she was going to translate it on the fly for the Jakara, but it felt like a glove ready to choke the life from him.  He ignored it, and with a sigh, he began.

“Hello, civilians of both the Human and Jakara Empires.  If I’m right, we’ve just hijacked all transmissions either of you have.  Your governments aren’t going to like that, and they’ll be taking steps to shut us down.  I’ll be quick.  I am Captain Maychange of the Salvage Ship: Trebuchet.  With me is Clarisence Roccas, daughter of Cyd’seya Roccas.  Clarisence is the only person in the universe who understands Fold Technology; the ability to travel instantly from one place to another.”

Maychange looked over at Clarisence.  She gave him a curt nod.  “Clarisence is ready to share this information.  Not with her government, or with mine, but with everyone at once.”  Maychange gave her one more chance to reconsider, and Clarisence nodded to him again.  “Get ready to record, because we’ll only be able to do this once.”

Clarisence placed her hands on the Fold Engine.  Both her tattoos and the engine pulsed with a blue energy, synched to each other.  She didn’t cry out this time as the energy flared around her.

It was blindingly bright, but Maychange watched nonetheless.  Clarisence’s mouth moved, but no sound escaped from her lips.  The light flickered around her body, as numbers and symbols played across the screens in front of her.  Just as soon as it had begun, it ended.  The light dimmed, leaving Maychange and Clarisence alone.

Clarisence second checked the screens quickly, but seemed satisfied.   She gave Maychange a tired smile.  “We did it,” she confirmed. “We did it.”

Maychange reached out, as The Girl staggered on wobbly legs.  She didn’t fall, but she welcomed the assistance.  “You did good Girl,” Maychange told her.  “You did it.  I’m just here for the ride.”  Maychange gave Clarisence a smile and a nod.  He pointed at the outer hull.  “Speaking of rides, we need to be out there.  Quince is waiting for pick up.  Last job of the day; you think you can handle it?”

“No one is going anywhere,” a voice commanded from above them.

Maychange followed the voice, looking up just in time to see N’gyr diving towards them.  N’gyr dropped from the cable tower, and landed in a crouch between Maychange and Clarisence.  N’gyr thrust his palm into Clarisence’s chest, and pushed her away from Maychange.

Maychange swung his pistol around to meet N’gyr.  The N’yarlath’s captain smiled wickedly.  He caught Maychange by the gun hand, and twisted upward.  Maychange felt the bones in his wrist strain, then snap.  His pistol clattered to the ground at N’gyr’s feet.

Maychange gritted his teeth, and tried to swing with his off hand.  N’gyr stared calm indifference, and twisted Maychange’s hand further.  He didn’t bother with words as he drew back his fist, ready to pound Maychange to oblivion.

“No!”  Clarisence dashed forward.  She locked her arm around N’gyr’s outstretched one, and drove her other hand into the small of his back.  The Girl dropped her weight backwards, and pulled N’gyr away from Maychange.  She managed to lift the man over herself, and with the momentum, dropped him upside down to the ground.

N’gyr’s surprise was visible on his features for only a moment.  He twisted his weight, and hit the grated floor shoulder first, instead of taking the drop on his head.  He recovered instantly, and grabbed her by the back of the belt.  N’gyr used the momentum of Clarisence’s grab, and tossed her across the room.  He rolled to his feet, and fell immediately into form.  Clarisence twisted in the air, and landed in matched pose.

N’gyr tilted his head as he looked over The Girl.  “Sloppy,” he chastised.  “Your form is terrible.”  N’gyr clicked his tongue.  “Who taught you the Shabbith-Kata?  Was it your father?”  He offered a cold smile.  “Perhaps we are lucky he is not alive to see your sad example as a student.”

Clarisence growled.  She dropped into a low crouch for a moment, then launched herself at N’gyr.  N’gyr laughed openly at Clarisence as he blocked her attack.  He reached through her defences and slapped her upside the head.  It was harmless, but about as insulting as he could be.  As Clarisence looked over at his one hand in indignation, he pushed his other against her chest, and shoved her away.

“Disappointing,” N’gyr stated.  “I have trained children with better form than you.”  He gave her mock pity.  “Are you tired, Clarisence Roccas?  Is that it?”

“Not too tired for this,” Clarisence boasted with little conviction.  She shifted her weight, ready to charge again.  She stopped a step in to her attack.  “Wait, you’re a trainer?”

“I am,” N’gyr assured her.  “You are beginning to see the futility of your attack?”

“Sort of,” Clarisence admitted.  “Just not the way you think.”  She twisted again, and resumed her charge.

N’gyr smiled at her attempt.  He easily parried her first swing, and brought his knee up with perfect timing to block Clarisence’s attempt at a kick.  He was, however, taken completely by surprise when Clarisence balled her hand into a sudden fist, and followed through with a left cross into his side.  She continued in with a right jab, and a sweet upper cut.

N’gyr’s smile flickered slightly as he stepped backwards.  “What,” he started.

“Boxing,” Clarisence replied.  “You don’t know that, do you?”  She gave a few shadow jabs.  “You’re too used to fighting other Shabbith masters.  You’ve gotten sloppy.”

N’gyr’s smile vanished suddenly.  He drove a forward kick past Clarisence’s defences, catching her in the chest with a wet crack.  He stepped forward in the move, and drove a fist down on the top of The Girl’s head.  Clarisence folded like an accordion, before the spring of her spine snapped her up and back.  N’gyr backhanded her in the face as she passed, and watched with mild interest as she spun limply through the air.  She hit the floor like a wet sack, and didn’t get back up.

N’gyr walked calmly to The Girl, and looked down on her.  “You are lucky,” he commented.  “You will be needed still, or I would finish this now.”

“Pretty brave talk to an unconscious opponent,” Maychange accused from behind N’gyr.  He held his pistol in his off hand, and cocked the hammer.  “You want to try your little threats over here?”

Tales From the Bucket 43

Maychange hurried down the hall, dragging Clarisence along with him.  He pulled along the bulkheads, and swam the distance off the hall.  Behind him, he could hear Reese firing at the troops.  He didn’t feel right leaving her behind, but he knew she was right.  The Jakara knew they were here, and Reese was doing what she could to keep them looking in the wrong direction.

“She’ll be ok, right?”  Clarisence held onto Maychange, but kept looking back as though Reese was going to catch up any minute.  “She knows what she’s doing?”

“She knows,” Maychange said.  “She’ll be fine.”  He bit back a few less inspiring comments.

Clarisence pushed off of Maychange.  She looked him in the eye, searching his features.  “Ok,” she agreed finally.  “We need to keep moving, right?”  She floated just out of reach from Maychange as he tried to help her.

“No,” Clarisence declared.  “I’m not a child, I can float all by myself.”

Maychange considered a hundred responses.  “Suppose you’re not,” he settled with.  “And I suppose you can float by yourself.”  He grumbled a bit under his breath before he waved at the hall.  “Lead the way,” Maychange suggested.  “Just stay close.  I don’t want you getting shot while you’re distracted by all this independence.”

Clarisence smirked at him, and darted ahead.  Unlike Maychange, Clarisence didn’t have the need to ‘swim’ in the lack of gravity.  She shifted and moved in the air like she was flying, and like it was the most natural thing in the world.

“You seem to be doing better,” Maychange admitted as he pushed off of a bulkhead.

“I’m up and moving.” Clarisence ran a hand across the wall of the corridor, and pointed in the direction that they were already headed.  “I still want to pass out, and I can’t even begin to tell you how hungry I am, but I’m up and moving.”  She gave Maychange a weak smile.  “I can’t really explain how I feel,” she told him.  “My body’s like a battery for my tattoos; for everything they do.”  Clarisence gave a shrug.  “Given time, I recharge, I guess.”

Maychange mentally compared her to the Fold Engine in The Trebuchet, but he kept it to himself.  “Up and moving,” he settled on.  “We on the right path?”

“It’s this way,” Clarisence stated.  “The flow is still pretty strong, power or not.  The nerve column should be just ahead.”

Maychange almost questioned what the nerve column of a ship was.  He didn’t need to bother though, as they came out of the corridor into a cavernous section of the ship.  It was rounded off, with a great shaft running through the floor and ceiling.  A great line of varied sized cables ran through the shaft.  The cable bundle was held together by bands thick enough to walk along.  It was thicker than a few buildings Maychange had seen in his time.

Clarisence pointed up the shaft.  “Communications is up there,” she stated.

Maychange looked over the edge.  “And down?” he questioned.  It seemed to drop forever.

“The Engine,” Clarisence told him.  “This is the nervous system of the ship.  It connects to everything sooner or later.”

“Alright.”  Maychange nodded at the cable tower.  “We can follow it straight up to communications.”

Clarisence nodded.  She gave Maychange a concerned glance.  “Does this seem too easy so far?”  Clarisence gave a nervous shrug.  “It feels like the other boot should be on the floor already.”

Maychange chuckled.  “You hoping it’d be harder than this?”

“No,” Clarisence replied.  “It’s just.  You said before.  You’ve never had a job like this that didn’t end in a gun fight.”

“Except for the one knife fight,” Maychange finished.  He gave a shrug.  “Reese had a gun fight,” Maychange offered.

“I know,” Clarisence agreed slowly.  She floated towards the cable tower, ready to head upward.  She turned and watched Maychange clumsily leap/float towards the first band that circled the cable tower, and offered a hand.

Maychange ignored her help.  “It was part of the plan,” Maychange stated.  “The whole reason Hound and his marines are attacking the N’yarlath is to keep the Jakara busy.”  Maychange trailed off.  “Yeah,” he accepted.  “This is a bit too easy.”

Maychange pushed off of the platform that topped the cable band, and passed Clarisence in the tunnel.  She smiled, and flew a tight circle around him.  “Show off,”  he muttered with a smirk.  Maychange’s half smile vanished as he looked past Clarisence.  He grabbed The Girl by the foot, and yanked her towards the nerve column.

The Girl’s bounced against the cables, even as Maychange was pulling himself in.  She shot him a dirty glance, but her complaints died in her throat as Maychange pointed up the column.  Above them, a squadron of Jakara troops were on the patrol, already pointing back down at Maychange and The Girl.

The Jakara troops circled around the cable tower in form fitting space suits.  Small spurts of plasma burst from their packs, allowing for controlled flight; something Maychange did not have.  They didn’t waste time on warnings, and brought their laser rifles to bear as they manoeuvred down the shaft towards Maychange and Clarisence.

Maychange grabbed a surprised Clarisence by the waist, and pulled her close as he kicked off .  He fired up the shaft and the coming Jakara troops.  He winged one of them, but most of his shots went wild.  Maychange didn’t mind that much; hitting the Jakara was only a secondary part of his plan.  The recoil of the shots threw him and Clarisence back down the shaft, their speed increasing with each shot he took.

The Jakara troops returned fire, but cautiously.  Unlike Maychange’s pistol, the lasers had no recoil, and didn’t effect their movement.  They also seemed to be purposely avoiding any chance of stray shots hitting the cable bundle.  Still, their packs gave them some speed, and Maychange wasn’t getting that great a lead.

Maychange changed his aim, and fired into a facing wall.  The sudden change in momentum flung him and Clarisence into the cable tower.  He grabbed a handful of smaller cables, and used them to keep from bouncing back out into view.  They’d made enough distance to lose temporary sight of the Jakara troops, but that wasn’t the same as losing them.  Maychange was buying time at best.  Below them, the engine room wasn’t even in sight yet.

Maychange considered his options quickly.  They were only inches above one of the platform like bands that ran around the nerve column.  He looked to Clarisence with a smile.  “Can you start up the Fold Engine again?”

“From here?”  Clarisence ran a hand over the cables.  “I think so,” she offered.  “I can try.”

“Don’t try,” Maychange ordered.  “Do it!”

Clarisence swore under her breath as she ran her hands over the nerve column.  She bit her lower lip hard, and a bead of blood formed against her teeth.  Beside them, the Jakara troops floated into view.  They yelled warnings in Jakara; understood by both Maychange and Clarisence.

Clarisence screamed a particularly creative obscenity as blue energy shot from her hands into the nerve column.  There was a pulse of light that travelled from them downward.  Almost immediately, the Fold Engines came back online, bringing with them the artificial atmosphere in the N’yarlath.

As Maychange had hoped, the Jakara troop’s boosters were not built for normal gravity flight.  They flickered plasma uselessly as the troops plummeted down the shaft to their deaths.  Maychange turned a satisfied nod to The Girl, but found her slumped along the platform.  He looked up towards where the communications tower was supposed to be.  They were even further below it then when they’d started their decent.

“Maybe I didn’t think that through as well as I thought,” Maychange admitted to no one in particular.  He gently propped Clarisence into a sitting position, and tapped her face.  “Hey Girl,” he prompted.

Clarisence’s half opened her eyelids.  Her eyes rolled wildly in her head.  “Pah s’ahdra keh nada?”

“English,” Maychange told her.  Able to speak Jakara or not, Maychange had no idea what The Girl had just said.  “The next part.  Do you need to be in the communications tower for that?  Can you do that from here?”

Clarisence struggled to focus.  “Maychange,” she stated finally.  The Girl looked around, as though not certain where she was.  “No,” she stuttered.  “Not here.  Communication tower.”  Her eyes drooped closed.  “Communications tower, or engines.”

“Great,” Maychange muttered as Clarisence slumped back down.  He looked over the edge of the platform.  “Well, easier down than up,” he declared.  Maychange scooped up The Girl, and crossed her arms around his neck.  He used his belt to bind them there, and began to look for a possible climbing point.

The Delay, or ‘Jeez Paul, what happened?’

So, you may have noticed that it’s been, oh, a few days since the last post.  A few days, in fact, may be polite.  It’s been a damn long time.  I have a hundred reasons, most of them understandable, though maybe not great excuses.  Lets go through them though, shall we?

First off, and I cannot stress this enough.  I can’t write at home.  Serious, I’m not sure what’s up with that, I just can’t.  Normally this is no big deal, because i work evenings at a major coffee company.  I can write, like most writers, in the cafe.  Difference being, I drink coffee for free.  So, I just come in a few hours early, write my chapter for the day, and everything’s pippity boo.  Yes that is a term.

Problem is, I’ve been working the open shift for the last week, so my come in early plan is a bit off.  I know, I could just stay late, and write then, right?  Well, yes normally, but that brings us to excuse number two.

I’m opening a candy store.  I know there’s no reason for any of you to know that, but I am.  It’s in Kitchener; corner of Queen and Charles.  Retro candy.

Shameless plug.

ANYways, it’s also been time consuming, as we rush to get it up and running by November.  My time hasn’t been my own for the past bit, and my work on Tales From the Bucket has fallen aside a bit.  Shame really, since I’m on the last chapter.  That, by the way, brings us to the biggest of my excuses.

The last chapter (Penultimate chapter really, I mean, there will be an epilogue after it) has been kicking my ass!  I don’t know what else to say about it.  Right now, it’s a series of floating events, all of them pretty sweet.  I’m just struggling to put them in order, and connect them all.  It’s been a hassle, but not one that surprises me that much.  First and last chapter are always tough on me.

So, there you have it.  The delay.  Now, about the good part.  I have time tonight, finally.  I am going to connect it all, polish it a bit, then put it up.  Should be up tonight or tomorrow.  After that, short epilogue, and finish.  We’ll talk about what comes next after that.

So, long winded story there, with a short form being; sorry for the delay, post to follow soon.

Thanks for your patience, and your continued reading.

Paul Mundane

Tales From the Bucket 42

Maychange was the first off of The Trebuchet.  He stepped onto the docking bay of The N’yarlath, and was immediately bounced off balance in the lack of gravity.  Maychange swore, remembering only now that the mag-boots weren’t going to stick to anything aboard The N’yarlath.

“What is this anyways?” he asked over the comm.

“It’s,”  Clarisence stopped.  She attempted twice in Jakara, but there wasn’t an English word for the material.  She sighed, and finally settled on “it’s ceramic.”

“It’s a pain in the ass,” Maychange verified.

Clarisence didn’t respond right away.  She was trying to play up brave, but Maychange could hear how laboured her breathing was over the comm.  “I thought the same about metal,” she finally commented.  “Heavy, and useless against lasers.  Like flying around in a food container.”

“That’s enough chatter you two,” Reese cut in.  “We need to stay focused.”

Maychange bit back a comment for Reese.  He flicked on the shoulder lights of his suit, and led the way as they moved through the corridors of The N’yarlath.

The curved organic build of the N’yarlath was unsettling enough in light.  In the pitch blackness of the powerless ship, it was downright eerie.  The shadows from the bulkheads danced along the segmented walls, and played tricks on the mind.  Maychange’s only relief was that they hadn’t run into any floating Jakara corpses yet.  He figured it was only a matter of time though.

“Anyone in this area would have been spaced,” Reese commented, as though reading Maychange’s mind.  “The inner areas of the ship may still be sealed, and might have atmosphere still.”

“We’ll have to keep sharp when we get there,” Maychange agreed.  “I’m sure they won’t be happy to see us.”

Reese nodded a sharp agreement.  She shifted her hold on Clarisence, and kept her gun drawn.  Reese was holding The Girl in her good arm, and her gun in her other.  Reese’s cyber arm had been unstable since Maychange had put a bullet through it, and she wasn’t feeling that secure in her aim with it.

“Here,” Maychange offered.  “Let me take The Girl.”

“I can walk,” Clarisence objected.  With some thought, she amended.  “I can float.”  She was ignored by Maychange and Reese.

Reese drifted Clarisence over to Maychange, and switched her gun to her good hand.  “Probably for the best,” she said to Maychange.  “You’re a terrible shot.”

Maychange sneered.  “I hit you well enough,” he sniped.

Reese flexed her cyber arm.  It whirred and creaked.  “Sure,” she admitted.  “Too bad you were aiming at my chest.”

“I was aiming for your leg” Maychange muttered.  He paused.  “I wouldn’t have missed your chest.”

Reese opened her mouth to reply, but was cut short by a sudden loud crunching noise.  The N’yarlath groaned, and lurched suddenly as The Vigilance rammed into her.  It felt as if the corridor was suddenly rushing past Maychange as he and the women were flung forward.

Maychange twisted in the air as he was flung down the corridor.  He shot past several cross sections, and hit hard when a wall finally did show up behind him.  Maychange managed to get his hands up to protect his visor before Clarisence slammed into him.  It was like moving his hands through molasses, as the force of the moving ship wanted to hold him tight against the wall.  It proved to be an unnecessary effort, as Clarisence smashed into his chest.

Reese landed feet first on the wall beside them.  She held herself in a crouch with her cyber arm, and despite groaning against the pressure, refused to be pushed flat.  More impressive was that she still had her gun drawn.

“When we’re clear of this,” Reese grunted, “I’m going to circle back.  There were two Jakara troops in one of the corridors we shot past; they may have seen us.”

“No,” Maychange forced.  “We keep moving.”  Maychange forced his hands from his visor, only to have them thrown to his sides.  The Girl was getting heavy against his chest.  “They wouldn’t have seen us.  Ships are running into each other, they’re a bit busy.”

Reese waited for the force to let up.  She kicked off the wall, and pulled herself across the corridor with an opposite bulkhead.    She was already moving towards the corridors they’d passed.

Maychange gave Clarisence a gentle push, and ignored her protest as she floated towards Reese.  “No,” he repeated as Reese caught The Girl.  “We keep moving.  I don’t want to get split up, and I don’t want to double back, so we keep moving.”

Reese pushed Clarisence back at Maychange.  The Girl squeaked her annoyance as Maychange caught her again.  “They may have seen us,” Reese stated.  “We need to take care of this.  If we lose the element of surprise…”

Maychange drifted Clarisence back towards Reese.  Clarisence didn’t protest this time.  She just crossed her arms in annoyance.  “We just left them dead in the air, and then hit them with The Vigilance,” Maychange stated.  “They know we’re here.”  Maychange caught Clarisence as Reese pushed her back towards him, but he didn’t let up his end of the conversation.  “They don’t know what we’re doing, but I’m sure they’re expecting us.  We keep moving.”

Clarisence muttered to herself in Jakara.  It began as a full complaint of her treatment, but dwindled off at the end.  She pointed frantically.  “We don’t need to go to them,” she exclaimed.  Her comment was punctuated by laser fire from down the N’yarlath’s corridor.

Maychange pulled Clarisence around the corner into cover.  Reese leant over him, and fired a pair of shots down the corridor.  She gripped the bulkhead tight, keeping the recoil of her gun from throwing her across the hall.  Maychange peeked out from under Reese, and squeezed off a shot as well, forcing the troops to take cover.

“We give them a reason to stay down,” Maychange ordered, “then we make a break for it.”  He looked at Clarisence, and found her struggling to get her suit off in zero g.  “The hell are you doing Girl?” Maychange asked.  “I said you’re to keep that on.”

“Keevas, Maychange,” Clarisence shot back.  “I need to be out of it.”

Laser fire lit the hall again, slicing lines into the wall behind them.  Reese fired again at the troops.  “This is hardly the time for this,” she muttered.

“Either of you know what way to go?”  Clarisence didn’t wait for an answer.  “I can feel Fold Energy,” she explained.  “I can find the way to the Engines, and follow the conduits from there to communications.”  She smiled.  “My father invented Fold Technology for interstellar communication, remember?  The communication array is attached directly to the Fold Engines.”

Maychange took a moment to fire up the corridor.  The troops returned fire, leaving scorch marks were Maychange had been a moment ago.  “Power’s off,” he reminded Clarisence.

“Residue,” Clarisence replied.  She ran her hand over one of the walls.  Blue energy seeped from her fingers.  “They’ve been running the Fold Engines for years now, there’s still residue in the conduits.”  She pointed up the hall.  “That way,” she declared, “then round the corner.”

“Fine,” Reese stated.  “Maychange, you and Clarisence go that way.  I’m going to lead these guys straight past you.”

“No,” Maychange stated.  “We’re not splitting up.  I was pretty clear on that already.”

“Maychange,” Reese replied quietly.  “We need them to think we went the other direction.  They have communicators, or whatever version of radios they have.  There will be more troops coming soon.”

“Reese,” Maychange stated.  He didn’t like the direction this was going.  “This isn’t necessary.  You don’t have to…”

“This is a distraction, not a sacrifice,” Reese cut in.  “I have no intention of dying for you here Maychange.  I’m going to hold them off for a moment, then I’m going to split away from you two.  They follow, and anyone else around thinks we’ve all taken off down that corridor.”  She gave Maychange a quick smile.  “It’s cute when you try to be concerned Maychange, but I’ll be fine.”

Reese leant around the corner, and pulled of a spread of wild shots.  She held onto the side bulkhead to keep the recoil from launching her down the hall.  Gunplay without gravity was always a nuisance.

Reese ducked back in, and quickly slammed a new magazine into her gun.  she pulled the laser from her hip, and held it in her off hand.  “I’ll be fine,” she insisted again.  “Now you two get going!”

Tales From the Bucket 41

Fold Engines had made human space combat technology obsolete.  Most human weapons were varied designs of the mass cannon.  They fired bullets through space.  It wasn’t that humans didn’t have laser technology, it was that lasers were pretty much unnecessary.  Rail guns and mass cannons blew pretty big holes in the hull of other ships, and space tended to do the rest.

Fold Engines, however, came with their own environment, and their own protection from space’s lack of atmosphere.  When firing at a ship with a Fold Engine, you needed to either be able to tear the ship completely apart, destroy the command deck or cockpit, or disable the Engine.

The Vigilance wasn’t capable of doing any of these.  It could punch great holes in The N’yarlath, but that was it.  There was little chance of it hitting the command deck, and less of it hitting the engines.  Instead, Hound fired everything he had, looking for wide spread destruction, and then set The Vigilance to a crash course.

It was meant to look like an act of desperation.  The last hurrah of the old captain of a crippled ship.  In short, it was meant to be enough of an insult that N’gyr wouldn’t be able to force himself to flee.  It was also meant to convince N’gyr that Captain Hound and his crew were aboard The Vigilance.  If they had one thing on their side, it was N’gyr’s dismissal of human intellect.

Space was lit with laser fire as The N’yarlath fired on The Vigilance.  The beams cut large sections of the behemoth’s hull free, and sent them adrift.  Maychange used the debris to cover his own movement.  Originally, the plan had been to do a short Fold, and appear right behind the N’yarlath.  Now, looking at The Girl, Maychange had decided that it wasn’t worth the strain on her.  She had enough to do without pushing.

While Maychange and his crew were moving into position, Hound and his were waiting for their cue.  They would be in the cargo ship by now, ready to board the N’yarlath.  All they needed was for The N’yarlath to stop firing at them.

Quince flew The Trebuchet tight along The N’yarlath’s hull.  He swung the ship into position, hovering just short of the giant Jakara craft, just above the engine ports.  He hummed satisfied to himself as he kept The Bucket steady.

“We’re locked on target,” Sore verified.  “If we’re doing this, we should do it quick captain.  They’ll know we’re here by now.”

Maychange nodded.  He looked over at Reese and The Girl.  Reese glared back at him.  She’d stopped telling him her thoughts on his plan, but the daggers she stared at him made her feelings clear.  Clarisence was still unconscious in Reese’s arms, though she shifted about enough to show that she could be roused.

Maychange hoisted Clarisence to a stand, and drag walked her to the controls of The Trebuchet.  She was hot to the touch, and Maychange was concerned that she was feverish.  “Girl,” he stated softly as he put her hands on the controls.  “Girl, we’re ready.”

Clarisence’s eyes fluttered open.  She gave a half smile to Maychange.  “Ya’them ka t’godo Cyd’seya ta?”  She shook her head suddenly, and blushed.  “Ta.  Ta Maychange,” she corrected.

Maychange nodded slowly.  He’d understood every word.  The Girl had mistaken him for her father before she’d corrected herself.  It wasn’t a good sign.  “English,” Maychange suggested offhand.  “We’ll get you a drink, but you need to focus Girl.”  He gave a quick motion towards Reese, but she’d already left to get water for Clarisence.

Clarisence shook her head again, this time to shake loose the cobwebs.  “Of course Maychange,” she muttered.  “We’re in position?”

“Holding steady,” Quince assured her.  He gave a smile.  “I can circle and come back, if you need a minute.”

“No,” Clarisence assured him.  “I’m fine.”

Clarisence didn’t move her hands around the controls.  She bit her lower lip in concentration, and muttered equations in Jakara.  Blue energy flickered from her fingertips, and bled into the panel.  She continued the equation like a litany, while motioning for Sore to fire the laser cannon attached to The Trebuchet’s side.

Outside, a stream of powder blue energy flared from The Trebuchet, and slammed into the side of The N’yarlath.  It hit the hull of the great ship, and rippled outward.  For a moment, nothing happened, and Maychange held his breath.  If Clarisence’s theory didn’t work, if they couldn’t shut down the N’yarlath, they were screwed.  Worse than screwed in fact, because Maychange could tell by the flicker of the lights onboard The Trebuchet that firing the laser had strained the Fold Engine.  It wasn’t down, but it wasn’t going to get them out of there once The N’yarlath turned her attention on them.

Then, suddenly, everything went dark outside.  The N’yarlath stopped firing at The Vigilance.  The N’yarlath, in fact, stopped doing anything.  The atmosphere inside The Jakara flagship vented visibly, carrying debris and Jakara troops into space as the Fold Engines failed.  A large section along her starboard broke free, and small explosions played along her hull.  The N’yarlath was hurt bad.  Maychange could only imagine N’gyr’s reaction.

“We’re moving in,” Hound announced suddenly, clear communication instead of ship to ship.  He was pretty sure that the Jakara weren’t listening right now.  “We’ll move to take the helm of The N’yarlath,” Hound continued.  “You and your crew make your way to communications.”

“We’re already on our way,” Maychange fibbed.  He motioned for Quince to get them moving.  “We’ll meet you mid point?”

“Negative,” Captain Hound replied.  “We still have orders to arrest you, Maychange.  Your part in this may change that, or it may not.”  Hound flickered onto the screens, and gave Maychange and his crew a nod.  “We’ll be pretty busy securing The N’yarlath, so there’s not much we’ll be able to do to stop you getting away.  If you hang around though, Well…”

“I get the point captain,” Maychange stated.  “Good luck.”

Maychange ran a hand in front of his neck, and Sore cut communication.  The screens all flashed the outside, and they watched as Quince brought The Trebuchet into one of the lower landing bays of The N’yarlath.  It was abandoned.

“Anyone who’d been in here would have been spaced,” Sore commented with a shake of his head.

“Rough way to go,” Quince agreed.

Maychange swore lightly.  The crew that might have been in here had done nothing to deserve being spaced.  Nothing to Maychange and his crew at least.  He shook his head, and muttered a few apologies in Jakara to the hundreds that had probably been instantly killed throughout The N’yarlath.  Clarisence looked up from the control panel and locked eyes with Maychange.  She repeated his words in a whisper.

“Nothing we can do about it,” Maychange stated.  “How are you holding out Girl.”

“Fine,” she said.  Some color had returned to her face.  She waved dismissively at the control panel.  “That was nothing as hard as moving The Vigilance.  Really, it was just some math.”  She rolled her eyes.  “Ok, my head is killing me, and every bit of my body wants to go to sleep.  But, beyond that, just some math.”  She gave a smile.  “And look at me, talking normal, up and moving,” she stumbled a bit as she stood to prove she was ok.  Reese caught her.  “Well, talking normal,” The Girl concluded.  “Just some math.”

“Just some math,” Maychange agreed.  “And sending ‘just some math’ across space, that’s going to be fine?”  Maychange didn’t wait for an answer.  It wasn’t going to change the plan anyways.  “We have three suits onboard,” he stated, changing the subject.  “Reese, Clarisence and I will head to communications.”  He pointed to Sore and Quince.  “You two be ready to leave at moment’s notice.  We’ll keep in touch, tell you if we see an entrance closer to the target.”

“I don’t need a suit,” Clarisence muttered.  She waved to her tattoos.

“You’re wearing a suit,” Maychange stated.  “I don’t know much about how the theory works, but I’ve seen your tattoos fade.  I’m not having you out there without a suit if they fail.”  He stared at Clarisence until she grudgingly nodded.  “Right,” Maychange concluded as he left the cockpit.  “Unless anyone has something to add, lets finish this.”

Tales From the Bucket 40

Quince Folded The Trebuchet in under the shadow of The Vigilance, and immediately powered down all non essential systems.  The cargo ship appeared beside them, and did the same.  Maychange gestured to Sore, and the big man set up communications.  Short range targeted.  Nothing fancy, just audio from ship to ship.

“This is Captain Maychange,” Maychange announced.  He shook his head at customs.  After all, who else would he be.  “We’re in position here,” he continued.  “No sign of enemy movement.”

“This is Captain Hound,” Hound replied.  Short range target communication was the high tech version of can and string, and Hound’s voice vibrated across the hull of The Trebuchet instead of playing from the speakers.  “No movement on our end.”

“How’s The Girl?”  Maychange asked.

“I’m fine,” Clarisence insisted.  Her optimism sounded forced, but that could just be the vibrations of the ship.

“Alright,” Maychange stated.  “We’ll give them a minute to react.  I’d rather get jumped in space than in the derelict.”

“You watch your tone,” Hound warned.  “That’s not a derelict, that’s The Vigilance.”

Maychange muttered a quick apology.  The Vigilance was a derelict, but he could understand a captain’s pride.  Maychange looked at the behemoth on the screens.  Giant holes dotted her frame, and debris that had blown from The Vigilance had formed a ring around the hulking ship.  Hound had suggested that N’gyr had left the behemoth in orbit as a warning to any one else who’d try to move on the Jakara occupied planet.  Maychange couldn’t think of a better message.

A different message was playing now though.  Just past The Vigilance, Maychange could see the shipyard.  Small explosions burst across the platforms, only to be immediately snuffed by the lack of atmosphere.  A few smaller ships flew strafing runs across the yard, though there was no way to tell who had control of them.

Maychange chuckled as he watched the unfolding chaos.  He motioned for Sore to click on the ship to ship.  “Looks like the Jakara are busy.”

“Good.”  Hound’s voice hummed through The Trebuchet.  “If they knew we were here, they’d have responded by now.”   The cargo ship’s engines gave a short burst, then powered down again.  It was just enough to shove the ship towards The Vigilance.  “We’re moving into position,” Hound continued.  “We’ll come in through docking bay 12.  My men will get to their posts.  Second Lieutenant Reese and Ms. Roccas will meet with you in the engines section.”

“We’ll be there,” Maychange responded.  He motioned unnecessarily for Sore to cut to connection.  The cargo ship was slipping out of range anyways.

According to Hound, there was a giant wound in The Vigilance that led directly to the engines.  The Jakara had used it to drive a full sized cruiser into The Vigilance, and steal away with their Fold Engine.  The hole could easily allow a salvage ship access, and for the plan, it was best that The Trebuchet be readily available near the engines.

Reese and Clarisence were waiting as Quince pulled The Bucket in through the side of The Vigilance.  He pulled the salvage ship down near the ruins of one of the behemoth’s oversized engines.

Maychange left Sore and Quince in the cockpit, ready to lift off on a moment’s notice.  This was to be a quick stop.  The Girl would restart The Vigilance, while Captain Hound and his crew brought her under control.  A surprise attack on The N’yarlath from a zombie ship.

Reese gave Maychange a sharp, annoyed glance as he joined the women.  The Girl had been sitting on the floor waiting, and was slow to get to her feet.

Maychange offered a hand.  “How are you holding out Girl?”

“I can do this,” Clarisence insisted shortly.

“Not what I asked,” Maychange replied.  “This is only the beginning, and I need to know you can see it through till the end.”

“I can do this,” Clarisence stated again.  She forced a smile.  “I can do this.  Just don’t be surprised when I sleep the entire ride back to Boris.”

Maychange nodded.  There was little else to say.  Clarisence stepped past him, and placed her hands on one of the great relays.  She sighed deep before gripping the relay with white knuckle intensity.  The coloured light of her tattoos flowed to the machinery, and flooded out throughout The Vigilance.  Blood trickled from Clarisence’s nose in a steady stream.

Reese moved to grab The Girl away from the relays.  Maychange put his arm up against her chest, stopping her without a word.  She glared at him, but didn’t step further.  Maychange clicked on the communicator on his lapel.

“Hound,” Maychange called.  “How’s things on your end?”

“We’re setting target now,” Hound replied.  “The N’yarlath’s been caught with her pants down, and we should be able to get a few good shots in before she responds.  Damn if setting all the systems to the Fold Engine wasn’t the stupidest thing our engineers ever did.”

“Hound,” Maychange interrupted.  “Can you get her up to speed?”

“Half,” Hound replied.  “I can get to half.  They may see what’s coming, and move.”  Hound cursed slightly.  “I’m going to need more power from ms. Roccas if you want to be sure.”

“Maychange,” Reese half stated, half begged.  “No.  She can’t do this,”

“I can,” Clarisence insisted through clenched teeth.  “I can do this.”  She turned a smile towards Reese and Maychange.  Sweat and blood mingled along her lips.  “He needs more power.  I can do that.”

“Clarisence, no.”  Reese moved towards The Girl, this time ignoring Maychange’s attempt to stop her.  “You can’t.”

“I can.”  The air around Clarisence ionized.  Reese stopped short as energy flared from The Girl.  Everyone covered their eyes against the glare.  From inside the nimbus, Clarisence screamed.

“Hound,” Maychange yelled over the comm.  “Is that enough?”

“More than enough,” Hound replied.  “We’re moving full speed.  Don’t think we could slow down if we wanted too.  My crew is taking a few more pot shots, and then getting out of here.”

The Vigilance rocked hard, throwing Maychange and Reese about.  Clarisence didn’t so much as twitch.  “We’ve gotten The N’yarlath’s attention,” Hound announced.  “I think you can get on with your part of the plan.”

Maychange didn’t bother with a response.  At this point they were dependant on N’gyr being arrogant enough to not move the N’yarlath in time.  It was hopeful he wouldn’t Fold too soon.

.  He caught up with Reese at the edge of Clarisence’s bubble of energy, and pointed in.  Maychange and Reese waded against the energy waves together.  Reese grabbed The Girl around the waist, and yanked her free from the engine relays.  The room went immediately dark.

Clarisence blinked confusion as she looked around the room.  She finally offered a weak smile to Reese and Maychange.  “How’d I do.”

“The Vigilance is about to ram into the N’yarlath,” Reese replied.

“Twice the speed we’d planned,” Maychange added.

“So.  Pretty good then,” Clarisence replied.

“Good enough,” Maychange commented.  He ignored the look he got from Reese, and pointed back towards The Trebuchet.  “Still more, Girl.  We need to get out there before N’gyr decides to Fold away.  You still up for it?”

“Sure I am,” Clarisence insisted, just before she passed out.

Maychange watched The Girl go slack in Reese’s arms.  He felt the shame in Reese’s glare, but brushed it aside.  “Get her aboard,” he ordered in a voice of steel.  “We see this through.”

New Review for The Amelia Academy Standards

New Review for The Amelia Academy Standards

Hey, you know what?  A new review for The Amelia Academy went up recently, and I forgot to tell you guys about it.

Yeah, I know; bad Paul, no blog love.

Anyways, check it out here.

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