Operation Hide and Seek pt. 2

Drey ran her finger across the edge of the last crease and flipped over the tiny origami crane. Yes, the drive through was that slow today – reduced to folding up unwanted receipts to keep from losing what little sanity she had left. The kid’s meal bags were already folded, stuffed with cheap plastic toys and stacked floor to ceiling. The dishes were all washed, the floor had been mopped twice, the walls were even scrubbed. Drey blew her hair out of her face and watched the electric blue highlight hit the brim of her visor in the dark order screen. Only ten more minutes left of shift. Then… freedom. For another night.

Bing. Drey turned on her mike.

“Welcome to Burger Bell, what can I get for you tonight?” she asked, working hard to keep her voice cheerful.

“Yeah, thanks, I’ll have, uh…” Drey waited while the nameless, faceless customer placed their order, waited while they drove up to her window, took their money, and sent them on their merry way. The customer was gone when Steve, her manager, came to clean out Drey’s cash drawer.

“Got any plans for the weekend?” Steve asked. He punched in his code and the drawer slid open.

“Nah. Maybe watch a movie, nothing exciting,” Drey answered. She took off her headset and reached around Steve to punch out. “See you Monday.”

“Night Drey,” Steve answered. He gave a wave as Drey headed to the crew room. She spun in her locker combination and pulled out a padded blue motorcycle helmet. She paused a moment to wipe a squished bug off of the painted blue morpho butterfly.

They’d been three – Sparrow, Tigress, and Butterfly. Now she was the only one left – Sparrow with another team, Tigress gone. The last one, with a price on her head too big to ignore, a magnet for any bounty hunter’s bullet. What on earth was she still doing out here? She smiled. The adrenaline was still too much of a pull. She’d always been a fool.

Drey tucked the helmet under her arm and headed outside. The pursuer was in the back lot, behind the building and half hidden in the shadows. Drey swiped her hand over the console and the machine purred to life. A magnificent machine, Meg’s baby, abandoned when she’d bailed. Drey had inherited it, and it was the one thing she still kept kept from their time together. Drey straddled the thousand horsepower engine and took off into the night, whooping with the joy of being young and alive and free.

Operation Hide and Seek

Megan Cooper slid down the wall till her forehead could rest against her knees. This was one of the few unwatched corners of the lab, and thus her only privacy. Three years – God, had it only been three years? – and she had a sense for where cameras would be, she knew where to look for the tell-tale gleams, and she could map out in her mind’s eye every single blind spot. It was a skill she didn’t need anymore, except to fulfill the longing for privacy. Most of her life she’d shared everything with someone – Ryan first, later Sonia and Drey – but now that she was alone, she wanted desperately to BE alone.

Megan hugged her knees to her chest, adjusting the white lab coat to get it out of her way. Hair escaped from her ponytail, her bangs flopped forward over her face. She couldn’t remember what color her hair was now, she didn’t want to look. It didn’t matter anymore, her face didn’t show up on watch lists anymore. She knew, she’d checked. Management had been as good as their word. She leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes, images of steel at the molecular level dancing behind her lids. There had to be an answer, there always was. Something that could stand up to the stress of flight and still be light enough to efficiently scale up bird wings. The answer was there, floating deep in her subconscious, she could feel it.

Megan’s pocket buzzed gently. She barely moved. She knew who it was – only one person could have tracked down the number and disabled her firewalls. Maybe if she ignored him he’d give up. Yeah right. She’d been ignoring him for a week now, changed the number twice, and rebooted her firewall three times. She really should just get rid of the phone – all her files would transfer easy enough – but she couldn’t seem to let go of that part of her life yet. Megan fished the bulky customized iphone out of her pocket and slid her finger across the screen.

“It’s about time you answered your phone,” Megan’s twin brother Ryan said. A blue holographic computer materialized above the iphone’s screen. Megan smiled. It had been too long.

“It’s hard to stay in touch once you’ve gone dark,” Megan answered. She checked the hallway to make sure she was still alone.

“I already have control of the security systems, we’re safe,” Ryan said.

“It’s supposed to be a closed system, how’d you get in?” Megan shifted to sit on her heels and brushed her hair out of her face again.

“Closed systems don’t exist when you’re using wifi. Least not for me.” The holographic computer flexed spaghetti noodle arms that suddenly popped into existence.

“Forgive me oh mighty internet god, some of us are stuck doing things the long way round.”

“We miss you out here Tigress. Please come back.” The hologram folded its hands and made cartoon puppy-dog eyes.

“I don’t want to talk about it Byte,” Megan brushed her hair back and sighed. “Besides, I went dark for a reason. I fit here.”

“Fine Tigress, be Management’s lapdog. I thought it would take more than six months for my sister to be eating out of their hands though,” Ryan said.

“Not going to work Ryan. Anything you can say I’ve already thought of. Just leave it.”

“Fine. Can I at least send you some problems to work through from time to time? I’m swamped.”

“You realize where I am, don’t you? Too much illegal activity and I’ll be forced to run again. And I’m not sure I want to. It’s a decent life Ryan,” Megan said.

“You’re bored. You miss the adrenaline Meg Ryder,” Ryan said.

“Meg Ryder is dead. Listen Ryan, I gotta go before they start looking. Talk to you later.” Megan hung up before her twin could convince her otherwise. Much as she hated to admit it, Ryan was stronger than she was. Deep in enemy territory, his life hanging in the balance with every move he made, seeing people die daily – having to dispose of the bodies even. Herself? Megan had spent three years running circles around incompetent fools. When the game had changed, when it had started to get dangerous, she’d bailed. Meg Ryder had turned back into Megan Cooper. Management had offered her protection, on the condition that she work for them. That they be able to use and abuse her genius. That she remain dead to her family. She couldn’t go back – she’d burned that bridge the day she’d forged her own death certificate three years ago. No, there was nothing left for her out there, not when her lack of power only made her a liability to any team she was on. Meg stuffed her phone back in her pocket and started back down the hall to work.

Hercules Chapter 3: The Moon

Chapter 3:  The Moon
As the ship arrived at its destination in a far off solar system, Rick turned in his chair and said to the black haired guard behind him, “So, I put in the coordinates, and I feel I owe you an apology.  We didn’t explode, even though you wouldn’t let me verify the trajectories or even look at the map and in fact, wouldn’t even let me near my own desk until you had finished doing what you were doing.  I for one am glad you got lucky.”  With that, Rick spun around back to his keyboard while the guard replied with indignation, “Lucky?  I have been working on-board vessels as a navigator for years!  I know how to plot a jump, and this is a secret location!”  Dan grinned slightly as he looked at his screen and muttered, “Not anymore.”  Just then he felt a large, rough hand on his shoulder and heard the blonde guard saying, “The device we put on your ship also deletes all files the moment it is removed, so all those numbers will be gone whether this ship explodes or whether you somehow actually manage to pull this off.”  Dan slumped in his chair for a moment before suddenly staring at the screen, muttering numbers to himself.  Kaleb wandered over and asked, “Is he actually trying to memorize the coordinates?”  Karl blinked a moment before yanking Dan from his chair and answering, “He was.”  He then drew his pistol and said, “Alright.  Make for the small moon.  The blue one, dead ahead.  That is our objective.”  Rob steered the ship straight where Karl had directed while replying, “Alright, but only because I want to see what’s so important myself.”  Jess added, “And perhaps we WILL get rich on this?  Wouldn’t that be a great turn of things?  From death sentence to filthy rich, just like that!”  Karl Shook his head and motioned to Kaleb, saying, “Come on, let’s get our gear ready for the landing.”  With that, they left the bridge.  The moment the door closed behind them, Rob jumped up from his chair and said, “Alright guys, I need a plan to get rid of our trackers, the ship tracker, and the two goons which also lets us become rich.  Any ideas?  After a short pause with all the crew racking their brains, Jess let out a small grunt as she threw her hand in the air and said, “What if we hold the goons hostage until they get the trackers out?  I’ve always wanted to tie someone to a chair!”  Dan shook his head and replied, “They can just push a button and boom, tracker explodes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they also had a voice command or a timer or some other back up for the trackers.”  Rob stroked his chin and replied, “ok, what if we just remove our own trackers first, throw the goons out the airlock, then hop on the top of the ship with a crowbar and wedge the ship tracker off?”  Rick replied, “Yeaaah, if these things get tampered with too much, they go off even if they didn’t get a signal to, so I’d say no.  The ship tracker should be the least annoying one to do though, so we just have to focus on the goons and the trackers in our arms”  Michael shrugged and said, “What if we cut our arms off?”  The rest of the crew looked at him, stunned, causing him to raise his hands defensively in front of himself and add, “It was a joke!  It was a joke!  Although, let’s be honest, it would remove the tracker.”  Dan replied, “True, but it just adds a whole bunch of new problems.”  Jess let out an exasperated sigh and replied, “Ok, we can figure it out eventually, it’s not like we need them out now or anything.”  Rick rubbed his arm where it had been put in and replied, “Easy for you to say.”  Right then, Kaleb and Karl reentered the bridge, each one carrying a surprisingly large blaster rifle that, in all honesty, was only a few small steps beneath being a handheld cannon.  Rob took one look, blinked rapidly for a moment, and asked, “Where did you get those, and where’s mine?”  Kaleb pressed a button, causing his gun to make a slight buzzing sound and replied, “This is mine, that is Karls, you don’t get one.”  The crestfallen look on Rob’s face would have made a small puppy cry, but neither of the soldiers were small puppies, so it had no effect on them other than making Karl raise an eyebrow in mild amusement before replying, “Get your gear and meet us on the exit ramp.  Be ready to fight.”  As they turned to leave, Rick let out a small moan and asked, “Fight?  Fight what?”  But the only reply he got was the door closing behind the two.  A few minutes later, at the exit ramp, Karl and Kaleb looked over the crew in shock for a moment before asking the entire crew, “This is a joke, right?  Please tell me you’re joking.”  One could understand his distress because other than basic outdoor survival gear, none of the crew was especially well armed, each one having just a single pistol at their side and each with something unusual.  Rick was wearing a electronic monocle, Jess was wearing a device on her wrist that looked like a mix of a watch, phone, mechanical pencil, tape measurer, pedometer, and a stapler, none of which seemed to be working.  Rob was wearing a belt with more flashing lights and spinning gears than any device had any right to have and Dan was carrying a staff.  Not a fancy, electronic staff or one made out of glued swords or something, just an ordinary wooden staff which he was busy sliding a smoking pipe into as he entered the cargo hold.  Michael had slightly better looking armor on and a sheathed Katana on his back, making him look the most prepared to Karl and Kaleb, but only in comparison to the rest.  As the crew looked at the guards, then at each other, Rob smacked his forehead and replied, “Of course!  What were we thinking!”  With that he ran to the side and grabbed a small cooler, saying, “Almost forgot lunch.”  Kaleb looked at Rob for a moment, speechless, before replying, “Well, if nothing else, you’ll make an adequate meat shield when the creatures attack.”  With that, he hit the button to open the door while the entire crew in unison asked, “Wait, creatures?”  As the ramp reached the ground, Karl and Kaleb moved out, sweeping the area and giving shouts of, “Clear right!  Nothing on scanners.  Thermals clear”  And other military jargon while the rest of the crew timidly stepped out quietly muttering among each other;

Creatures?  What kind of creatures?
Maybe they’re just trying to scare us.
Well, it’s working!  I wanna go back on the ship!  I’ve always wanted to escape guaranteed death, you know, add it to my resume.
Yeah, good luck with that.
Hey, I can talk to judges, I can’t talk to creatures that want to eviscerate me.
Don’t worry, most creatures just want food.  Give them that and they’ll leave you alone.
And if they decide I’M the food?
Then I can get away safely.
Har har.  You’re hilarious.

With that, Rob yelled out to the two guards, “So what exactly are we looking for?”  He bent down and grabbed a rock off the ground, held it aloft and asked, “Is this it?  Can we go home now?”  Kaleb pulled out a small scanner, scanned the rock and replied, “No.  That’s Andesite mixed with Dunite.  We’re looking for pure Leonium.  Rick straightened up at that and replied, “Leonium?  I’ve heard of that stuff.”  Michael looked at him and asked, “What is it?”  Rick replied, “Well, for starters, it’s supposed to be the stuff of legends, but according to the legends it’s virtually indestructible.  Stories talk about a famous ship that could survive a direct hit from a Mark 5 Hull Breacher missile unscathed.”  Rob whistled and said, “Wow, our ship couldn’t survive even a Mark 1 version of those things.  So is this moon supposed to be where it comes from?”  Karl looked at his scanner and replied, “Yes.  Now let’s get moving, we should be able to get more supplies about 5 clicks in that direction.”  Jess angled her head quizzically and asked, “Why?  Is there a store over there?”  Kaleb grinned and replied, “No.  It’s where the last ship we sent here should be.  They landed, started searching, and then were never heard from again.”  Dan jerked his head around to look at Kaleb and said, “You know, this mission is sounding less and less fun the more you talk.”  Jess added, “Maybe he shouldn’t talk, it feels like he’s causing all the bad stuff just by saying it exists.”  Michael silently nodded his agreement as the whole group made their way in the direction Karl had indicated.  Rob made his way over to Rick and quietly asked, “Anything?”  Rick tapped his monocle and replied, I’m not getting anything unusual on thermal, backscatter, motion, sonic, UV, or Pheromone scans.  For now it seems safe enough other than the two goons we’re stuck with.”  Rob nodded and turned to Jess and said, “Be ready to deploy the moment Rick gives the word.  Dan, be ready if she fails and Michael…”  Michael interrupted, “No worries, I’ll take care of it if everything else fails.”  With that, they made their way towards where the ship was supposed to be with Karl and Kaleb leading the way and everyone else chattering absent-mindedly in the back.

Hey, maybe there will be Military food supplies on the ship!  Our supplies are running a bit low.
Military food?  I think I’d rather die, or eat the cables from the engine room.
Don’t you dare!  I finally got most of those fixed and in more or less the right place!
It was a joke.  Don’t panic Jess
I’m more interested in seeing their weapon reserves.
If they disappeared without a trace, they probably used up their weapons.
Hey, you never know, maybe they disappeared very suddenly?
Yeah, not boosting my moral here.

The chatter continued until Karl turned around and glared at the group, shushing them into silence for the remainder of the Trek across the rocky terrain.

Solstice

The darkness comes swiftly

the shadows grow cold

Snow tumbles gently

defenses won’t hold

as the night lingers on

as the stars shine down coldly

as the wolves howl more boldly

soft feet pace the borders

glowing eyes haunt the night

as vision fades

as the stars tell their story

and the darkness holds fast

and the snow spreads its silence

and the day doesn’t come

and the darkness has won

silence, silence in the night,

silent battle as the stars hold their sway

And the last log burns out

and the mind full of doubt

and we hope and we pray

for the break of the day

for the coming of Son

The night-watch grows fearful

for the battle seems won

and the snow falls down colder

and the hunter grows bolder

as the fires die

but a child’s cry

sounds in the dark as the yule log is lit

And the sparks light the night

and the star tells its story,

the coming of glory,

and a voice cries “Rejoice!”

God has shown us his choice

and the night fades away

with the break of the day

for heaven kissed earth

in the chill

of the

night.

Hercules, Chapter 2

Chapter 2: the trial

“Rick.  You are charged with forgery, bribery, extortion, and attempted obstruction of justice.”
“Jessica.  You are charged with smuggling, black market dealing, bribery, and insulting an officer of the law.”
“Robert.  You are charged with unlawful entry, forgery, black market dealing, and assaulting an officer or the law.”
Daniel.  You are charged with bribery, extortion, stealing secure knowledge drives, and insulting a military officer.
“Michael.  You are charged with desertion, owning illegal weaponry, bribery, and attempted assault of a military officer.

“How do you all plead?”

With that, the five people in trial all stood up and Robert said, “I speak for us all when I say.  I still think you have the wrong guys!”  Rick mumbled under his breath, “Besides, they didn’t even mention that time I snuck aboard a Fleet Mothership and stole a fuel cell.  I mean, if you’re going to charge me, at least have my crowning achievement on there!”  Dan nudged him in the side, causing Rick to squeak and collapse back into his chair.  The other crew members could not control themselves as they all broke out into grins.  The judge thought it was less funny, “Stand up.  You can collapse after your sentence is carried out” He said quietly with malice dripping from every letter.  With that, he straightened up in his chair and continued, “Under the circumstances, I could have you all shot, hung, and starved.”  Michael interrupted here and asked, “Don’t you mean shot, hung OR starved?  Seriously, you can’t starve a corpse.”  The judge just glared at Michael before continuing, “However, I have a much better idea.  For your punishment, you, and your ship, will be sent on a special mission to gather resources that our fleets could use to great advantage.  I’ve sent other men to do this and so far, no one has come back, so as far as I’m concerned, this is a death sentence, but if you succeed, I’m willing to forget your crimes.”  Rob looked at the judge and said, “I’ll need a moment to discuss this with my crew.”  With that he turned around, looking expectantly at the other four crew members and waited for their response.  After a second, Rick spoke up, saying, “Well it seems to be either guaranteed death or certain death, and we’ve escaped certain death before.”  Jess nodded in assent and added, “Yeah, like that time we were eaten by a Cave Worm or when we had that mine lodged under the wing or that guy who was trying to backstab us or…” Dan cut her off and said, “Yeah, let’s go for it.”  He also added, “If we succeed, will we get paid?”  The judge rolled his eyes and muttered, “Mercenaries, I have no idea how you’ve survived even this long.”  He then turned to two guards and said ,”Take them to get beacons and then to their ship.”  Jess spoke up timidly and asked, “Can we skip to the ship?  I’d rather just go to the ship.”  The judge moaned and added, “Quickly.  Before I change my mind.”  With that, the five crew members were escorted out of the room.   As they entered the next room, Rick stopped dead in the doorway.  Looking around, he saw medical equipment, chairs with restraints, and worst of all, needles.  He stood there saying, “Oh no.  No way.  I am not going in there, take me back to the judge guy, I’ll take the firing squad.”  One of the guards grabbed him and shoved him into the room, saying casually as Rick hit the far wall in a clump, “Too late.”  Rick got up, wincing a little as he faced the guard, trying to look as intimidating as possible, which was not easy since Rick was 5’6 and the guard was almost 7’ tall.  After the short contest, Rick wandered meekly to where the rest of the crew had huddle, much like how a herd of animals huddles when it senses a storm coming.  The black haired guard rolled his eyes as he grabbed a small, pistol-like device off of a tray and said, “Alright.  We are going to put this tracer in your arm.  If you attempt to flee, overpower me and my associate, tamper with it, deviate from your mission, or annoy me in any way, it will release a neurotoxin into your bloodstream and you will be dead in minutes.  Understood?”  Rick Raised his hand, causing both security guards to raise an eyebrow before asking incredulously, “Uh, do you….. Have a question?”  Rick put his hand down and answered, “Yeah, is there any way I could just get a bracelet or a necklace, maybe a ring that does that instead?  I mean, do we have to put it inside me?”  The dark haired guard grinned and replied, “Actually, I think I do, come on over and I’ll put it on you.”  With that, Rick timidly walked closer, and before he could utter a word he was grabbed by the blonde guard who pinned his arms to his sides while the dark-haired guard quickly injected the tracer.  “There” Said the blonde guard as he released Rick, “Now get back with the others.”  Rick couldn’t respond though, because he was passed out cold on the floor.  Jess spoke up quickly saying, “That was mean!  Do you have any idea how long he could be out?”  The blonde guard shrugged silently, grabbed his own injector, and within a few minutes had a tracer inside everyone.  The crew was then escorted to the docking bay, with Rick still out cold and being carried by Dan and Rob who asked, “Hey, nameless guard guys!  You want to carry him?  After all you knocked him out and where I come from, we clean up after our own messes.”  The black-haired guard pointed first at himself, then his associate and said “Kaleb.  Karl.  No.  Keep walking.”  Rob shifted his grip while muttering under his breath.  About halfway down the hall, Rick awoke with a yelp and a sudden sporadic jerk, which caused several events.  First both guards had their pistols drawn within a second to deal with the unexpected noise.  Second, Rob and Dan lost their grips, causing Rick to experience gravity, first-hand.  Third, Rick’s head hit the ground first, sending his glasses flying and causing Michael to lunge with surprising speed to catch them in mid air.  Seeing the catch even with his blurred vision Rick said, “Thanks!  I really wasn’t looking forward to ruining another pair of those.”  Kaleb sheathed his gun and replied, “Another?  How often do you break them?”  Rick simply shrugged as he put them back on and replied, “Hey, it’s not like I can glue them to my face.”  Jess spoke up and said, “Although that idea has been tossed around almost as often as his glasses.”  Karl simply shook his head and answered, “Let’s just get to your ship.  As soon as they arrived in the hanger and saw their ship, Rob stopped dead in his tracks and said in an quiet, but annoyed whisper, “What are they doing to my ship?”  Several uniformed engineers were standing on top of the craft, affixing something to it and sending sparks flying.  Kaleb answered calmly, “They’re attaching a tracer to your ship as well.  It also opens a direct line of communication to our base here so we can inform our boss of anything going on without it being intercepted.”  Rob just stood there, mouth open as he stared, looking like someone had just hit the Mona Lisa with a paintball.  Karl, looked at Rob for a moment in mild amusement before giving him a quick shove and ordering, “Alright, enough gawking.  Inside.”  The crew went on board and immediately dispersed all over the ship, faster than either of their guards could track them,  Suddenly the internal com system was abuzz with chatter.
“Engines seem to be in order, Oh!  And I found that die I lost a few days ago!  It was lodged in the manifold.  That actually explains a lot!”
“Well, other than that abomination on our roof piggybacking on our signals, the comms seem to be in good order.  Also, who ordered pizza?  I’ve got several missed calls from The Moon Pie, looks like they want an address for delivery.”
“Heh, they didn’t find all the secret compartments…. I mean, cargo hold is… Holding.”
“Someone clearly went through my locker, my stuff is all over the place!  Have they no respect?”
“Oh, actually, that might have been me.  I couldn’t find my hat and someone hinted that it might have been hidden there.”
“Hey!  I didn’t take it!”
“I know, but SOMEONE *cough* Jess *cough* said that was where it was.”
“Hey, I said it was in a locker, not necessarily his.”
“Wait, did you go through all our lockers?”
“….No comment.”

As this chatter continued, Kaleb looked at Karl and said, “If we don’t die on this trip, it’ll be a miracle.”  Karl shrugged and replied, “Hey, if it gets rough, we leave them, simple as that.  No need to get attached to a bunch of prisoners.”  Kaleb nodded and headed to the comm, turned it on, and said, “Hey!  Where’s the bunks?”  “Oh, go to your left, third door on your right down the hall.”  Kaleb replied, “Great, now get this thing ready for liftoff, on the double, I don’t want any delays!”  He went in the direction he was directed and opened the door, only to find himself staring at a small, one-person bathroom.  His yell could be heard throughout the ship, almost as clearly as the snickering coming over the comms.  Turning to Karl, he sighed and said, This is going to be a long trip.”

Hercules

Introduction:

In the year 2567, World War IV finally came to its terrifying end.  The land had been scorched to ash, the air was filled with toxins, and countless lives had been lost.  In order to preserve humanity, all the nations that were still standing gathered together and worked on the technology needed to travel and survive in space.  After years of research, they built transport ships and developed devices that would allow mankind to travel through the stars and populate new planets.  The ships left earth, leaving behind some men and women who chose to stay and try to fix the planet, while the rest colonized new places.  In their travels, they encountered alien races, some hostile and some friendly, and after many years humanity had reestablished itself on several planets, as well as coexisting with several alien races on their planets.  Humanity was saved.

Unfortunately, this would not last and in 2852, the Galactic War began.  The universe quickly divided into two sides.  The Alliance held that some alien and human colonies had been working together to take over and rule the universe in a massive coup.  The Coalition claimed that the Alliance were the ones doing this.  Defenses have been placed, fleets have been dispersed, armies have been raised, and the battle line is drawn and negotiations are long over.

Chapter 1: Caught

Space is a very open area when you think about it.  After all, the numerous planets, stars, asteroids, and moons that spin around take up the merest fraction of a galaxy.  In one particular area though, where empty does not even begin to describe the surroundings, there were two ships.  The first was a large, triangular vessel with large gun placements clearly visible all over the exterior.  Beside it, and being drawn towards it via tractor beam, was a small frigate which boasted only a few light weapons.  On board the bridge of this frigate, a young man stood looking at a console where a stern looking man with an eye-patch glared at him through the communication screen.  The young man smiled widely, pushed up his glasses by the bridge and said cordially, “Well, if we have no other options beyond being blown up or boarded, we would be happy to entertain you and your crew.  Feel free to make yourself at home!”  The other man only nodded seriously as he reached forward and turned off the comm. unit.  As the screen faded to black, the young man turned around to the other crew members who were staring at him wide-eyed and said, still smiling,

“Guys, I think we’re screwed.”

This statements was met by a flurry of motion as everyone erupted into interjections.

“What were you thinking!?!”
“We are in SO MUCH TROUBLE!”
“Wait, maybe we could board their ship?”
“Jess that won’t work, they have at least a platoon on that thing!”
Why did you tell them we were all sick?”
“Well I didn’t think they would offer to send their medic along!”
“Do you realize how much Contraband we have on board right now?!?”
“Well why isn’t it in the secret room?”
“Because that room is already full!”
“What are we supposed to do now?”

This statement was followed by a small pause, interrupted by a slight hissing sound.  Everyone turned to look in the direction of the noise and saw that a bearded crew member had opened one of the numerous crates on the bridge, pulled out a bottle of alcohol, and opened it.  When he realized that everyone was looking at him he said, “What?  We have to get rid of this stuff somehow!”  There was another pause before a young blonde lady with grease-stains on her shirt threw her arms into the air and cried out, “BRILLIANT!  Dan!  Rob!  Start drinking!”  This statement was met with an even louder explosion of noise.

“We can’t drink 500 gallons of beer before they get on board!”
“Well I don’t hear any better suggestions!”
Maybe we could beam it all above their ship?  Where they won’t pick it up on scanners?”
“OOO!  Even better!  Let’s beam it aboard their ship!”
“You do realize they will know exactly where it came from, right?”
“Well, what if we beamed it quietly?”
“*Sigh* I’m going to try and stall them.”

With that, the Navigator leapt out of his chair, grabbed a comm-set off his desk and attached it to his glasses, and headed out the door leaving the rest of the crew to argue about what to do.  As he made his way quickly down the hall toward the airlock, he forced a smile back onto his face and stood, beaming as the door was forced open from the other side. Once it was open, he was able to see 4 heavy military soldiers, each with blasters leveled right at him, while behind them stood a stuffy looking officer in a neatly pressed uniform, a blaster pistol sheathed at his right side.  The Navigator began to introduce himself, “Greetings!  My name is Rick, welcome aboard the Herc…” He didn’t get to finish as the soldiers rushed past him towards the bridge, with the officer barely glancing at him as he passed.  “Wait!  Don’t you want the full tour?”  He yelled at their quickly disappearing forms, following this up by turning on his communicator as he ran after them, saying, “guys, they’re coming.  Look casual!”  Immediately, a voice came over his set saying, “What happened Rick!  I thought you were going to delay them!”  Rick replied, “I would have, but they weren’t interested in a full tour or in my rant about politics!”  As he said this, he heard a distinct click which at first he assumed was his headset, but then a gravelly voice spoke up from behind him, saying, “That’s enough talking little man.  Let’s join your friends at the bridge.”  Turning, Rick realized there were two marines right behind him, guns drawn and pointed at him.  He kept on grinning as he nodded and headed towards the bridge, but in his mind all he was thinking was,  “We’re-dead-We’re-dead-We’re-dead”

When Rick entered the bridge, he saw the rest of the crew standing sheepishly off to the right, so he went over to join them, partially because he wanted to and partially because he had been vigorously shoved that way.  The captain of the other ship casually walked over to one of the crates and pulled out a bottle.  He read the label, turning it in his hands before opening it and smelling the contents.  After a few tense minutes, he threw the bottle onto the ground, smashing it into a thousand pieces.  With that, Jess yelled out, “Hey!  We just cleaned this ship!”  The man turned and glared at her coldly before asking, “You do realize that with this much contraband on your ship, I have the authority to shoot you all on sight.”  With that, the entire crew exploded.

“What?  Contraband?  We just…. Found it on a derelict ship!”
“Yeah!  We had no idea!  You had better take it from us then.  So sorry!”
“Hey, why don’t we all head to the mess hall and have some non-contraband stuff, you know, to celebrate?”
“Oh!  Good idea!  And we could…”

The commander of the military ship yelled out at the top of his lungs, “SILENCE!”  Instantly shushing most of the crew, with just a few high-pitched yelps being uttered.  With that, the captain turned while saying, “Put them in the brig and their ship in the hanger.  We’ll take them back for a fair trial.  Afterwards, we will have them shot.”

A Bright Sunshiny Day, Ch. 8

Anastasia opened her eyes. All was white; there were no dimensions, as if she was lost in the endless fluff of a cloud.  A piano was playing somewhere in the distance.  Then Gerard walked toward her, smiling as if his heart was full of joy.  “Anastasia, it’s wonderful to see you!”

“Yes,” Karen chimed in. “I’m so glad you could make it to our wedding.”  The beautiful girl was more beautiful than usual.  Except that her eyes were sinister.

Slowly the tune morphed into the wedding march. Gerard waltzed with Karen up the aisle.  Perfect Greta Thomas flicked her slender fingers over the ivory keys.  For some reason, Anastasia knew that between Greta’s playing and Karen’s voice, Gerard had been enchanted.  This was not his free choice!  She must stop them!  Yet try as she might, she could not move.  Looking down, she saw a white sheet swathing her.  She was just as much a prisoner.  “Gerard, no!”

Then all was dark again. There was no sound, no light, no one besides her in the all too small room.  Crawl as she might, her searching fingers found nothing to grasp.  But what was that?  Something had grabbed her.  With a sharp cry she attempted to wrench her wrist away.  Yet the warm grip held her powerless.  “Who are you?”  The words echoed eerily inside her.  Then a pain pierced her.  She cried out and the grip went away.  She was left alone again.

She began to walk. Step after step, plodding along, time stretched and nothing came. Was there anything to meet?  Step, pause, step, pause, shuffle, silence, shuffle, silence: endless monotony droning with each movement that accomplished nothing.  Where was she, where heading?  It did not seem to matter, and yet it did.  Then from the abysmal black she heard Karen say, “It’s not your fault your sister is an old homely maid lacking intelligence.”  The words repeated themselves, “It’s not your fault your sister is an old homely maid lacking intelligence.”  Each syllable dragged out longer and louder, “Your sister is an old homely maid lacking intelligence.”  Thousands of voices shouted them at her, “An old homely maid lacking intelligence.”  Yes, yes, she was!  Tears coursed through her soul, winds blew them away, the dark grew hands to push and poke her.  “An old homely maid lacking intelligence.”  Yes, she was ugly!  But did that deny her love?  Was she to be a thing used, a trinket played with till broken and then flung aside?  Surely even the ugly deserved better!  “It’s not your fault your sister is an old homely maid lacking intelligence.”  Fine!  If love only meant pain and refusal, then she would have nothing to do with it!

Without thinking, Anastasia ran away back to the corner from which she had come. She curled up expecting a harsh coldness, but instead found a warm softness.  It took away her tears, it removed her pain, it whispered “I love you, Anastasia!”  Slowly, as calm returned to her, sleep conquered.

Gerard watched as her breathing slowed; perhaps now she could sleep. Slowly he released her head and tucked the covers under her chin.  Her collapse had given them all quite a scare, but Gerard felt constrained by a worry that he could not show.  He had not told his sister and father just how he felt about Anastasia, yet he knew they had guessed it.  Sighing he sat back into the chair.

His eyes became fixed on the window pane mottled with raindrops. It would have been a new moon that night anyway, so the clouds probably did not matter.  For some reason clouds covering the moon had always disturbed him, why he could not say.  But they did not disturb him now.  Perhaps it was because he was already too disturbed to notice them.  How could a mother react so?  After sending word to Mrs. Bulfinch asking her to come since her daughter was suddenly taken ill, the woman had replied that she was certain all would be taken care of and her presence therefore unnecessary, just send her the doctor’s note.  How cold and uncaring!  Gerard knew that he was being unjust, that she was most likely allaying Mr. Bulfinch’s reaction.  Anastasia had never told him, but Gerard somehow felt he knew that the merchant thought little of his stepchildren.  Perhaps he had deduced this from observing the family in the pew on Sundays.

He sighed again and rubbed his eyes. He was not tired; in fact he could not sleep which was why he was sitting there now.  He figured seeing her calm and peaceful would soothe him.  Yet he had found her tossing and mumbling, tears slowly trickling from under her closed lids.  At that moment he had felt his heart rend immendable.  Somehow the words “I love you” had escaped.  They had comforted her enough to dispel the storm inside her dream.

Suddenly his heart pace quickened. If his admittance of love had settled her soul, could it be she loved him?  It was too fantastic to believe.  Surely she had remembered her mother crooning over her as a sick child; or more possibly it was some hero from her novels, Sir Gawain or Henry V perhaps.

Oddly enough, Gerard could not dispel this thought. All her actions that day had shown something: first ecstatic joy when he had greeted her, then cold sorrow as Karen spoke, and now this.  But one day was not enough; after all had she not declared with her own lips that he meant nothing to her?  His heart felt the stab of pain as if it had been a blow received only that instant.  A third sigh escaped him.

“So you can’t sleep either?”

Gerard jumped at his father’s voice. “I thought I heard her call out.”

The elderly man chuckled. “Now, Gerard, don’t give me that.”  Seating himself opposite his son, Mr. Thomas asked, “You love her don’t you?”

Gerard helplessly nodded.

Studying the distraught face of the younger man, he knew something was hurting inside, and it was not simply fear for her health. “Does she return your affection?”

He watched as the one he had raised from childhood swallowed hard, every muscle straining in his face, neck and hands. “I don’t know,” he replied somewhat huskily.  The elder man waited, knowing the rest of the story would slowly pour itself out.  “She said she didn’t care.”  Nodding, the father looked down at the ground.  “But then, she had been pushed by others.”

“Hmmm.”

“Her face showed she was happy to see me again.”

“Oh?”

“I don’t know. Father, how did you know mother loved you?”

With that proverbial smile that only a parent gives, Mr. Thomas chuckled softly under his breath. “Your mother was not like Ms. Bartle.  She told me openly and honestly what she thought.  One might say she proposed to me.  But that is not what you need to hear.  Gerard, my boy, look at her actions: what do they tell you?  She may say one thing and believe another.  Most people rarely say what they mean, but you can always tell by their actions if they do or not.”

“But she is so sincere! Every time I’ve talked with her she has told me plainly what she thought.  How do you know that she did not mean what she said?”  The eager eyes searched the sedate father’s.

“Just because she is honest intellectually does not mean she is with her heart. Some people are afraid to admit when they love.”

“Why?”

“Why? Well, that is the simplest answer: because they fear.  Son, to love someone is to no longer be your own.  In love you are totally poured out for the other, completely lost in the tide like a drop of water.  In love you sacrifice all with a ready smile, you hold nothing back of your heart and soul.  It is difficult to do, but when you lack trust it is impossible.  And from all that you have told me, Ms. Bartle does not want to trust.”

Gerard looked down at his bare feet on the sage carpet, a burgundy flower curling above his toes. “Then I am not trustworthy?”

“No,” Mr. Thomas whispered. Such words disturbed deeply his heart.  “She must have been hurt as a child that she is so wary of trust and love.  Yet, the mere fact that she considers you a friend tells you she trusts you somewhat.”

Gerard sighed. “I suppose so.”

“Come to sleep. In the morning things won’t seem so dismal.”

Young writers reaching out.