Radecki / Dark : Emerald Flight : Star Wing – Chapter 8 – Objects in Motion

Elizabeth stared at the augmented image on the screen, trying to make sense of it. Although the object remained indistinct, it was clearly not a fragment of an obliterated asteroid. What it was, though, she had no idea.

“What do you make of that?” Devereux asked, directly her question primarily toward Hawkes.

“I’ve seen nothing like it before,” Hawkes replied. He studied his console, but made no further comments.

Devereux turned toward the Science station. “Anything?”

Gho consulted her console and then shook her head. “We’re still not reading it, Captain.”

“Is that what’s causing the interference?”

The Science officer tapped several controls on her station before lifting her hands away from it in frustrated surrender.

“I don’t know, Captain,” she sounding apologetic. “I can’t tell.” She gestured toward the main bridge displays. “It’s almost at the center of the interference field, so it might be.”

“Chief,” Devereux called over the open comm channel. “Can you zoom in any further?”

“All you like, Cap’n,” the Chief replied. “But I don’t think it’ll help you much.”

“Humor me,” Devereux said without rancor. “Give us another ten.”

A moment later, the screen was filled with the hazy image. As the Chief had warned them, it provided very little in the way of new information. Devereux turned toward the Science again, but Gho interrupted her before the Captain could speak.

“That’s the best the computer can do, Captain,” she stated. “There just isn’t enough data for it to extrapolate from.”

Devereux frowned, looking toward Hawkes and then at Elizabeth.

“Your assessment, Commander?”

Elizabeth fought not to let her surprise show.

“I think,” she said, hesitantly, trying to gather her thoughts into some organized fashion. “The Chief should go take a closer look.”

Devereux nodded slowly, giving her a faint smile. “I agree.” She tilted her head toward the main screens. “See to it.”

Elizabeth smiled back even as she swallowed hard.

“Chief,” she called out, trying to ignore the slight waver in her voice.

“Yep,” the Chief replied. “We’re still here. No one remembered to pack stuff for a coffee break.”

Elizabeth let the quip go unnoticed.

“Chief,” she repeated. “We need you to take a closer look at the object.”

“‘You’, meaning me, personally?” Even through the slight flattening effect of the comm channel, Elizabeth could tell that the Chief was toying with her.

She looked over at Devereux. The Captain waited patiently for Elizabeth to respond, giving her absolutely no indication of what she thought. Turning to face the main screens, Elizabeth studied the image, using those few moments to decide.

“You,” she answered aloud. “And a member of your team.”

In her mind’s eye, she could see the Chief’s smirk for having placed her in that spot fade as he considered his choices.

“All right then,” he agreed. There was a pause while he considered the situation. “Lieutenant,” he said, “we’re going for a nice romantic walk under the stars.” If Ferahim responded, it was obscured as the Chief continued. “Tsu,” he said. “Stay here with the professor and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.”

“Yes, sir,” the engineer responded. Elizabeth could not tell solely by his tone over the comm channel whether he was disappointed or relieved.


Rusty stared out into the debris field. He could make out the object in the distance, although without any of the detail that the telescope had revealed.

Oh joy.

Still, he had to admit to being intrigued by the mystery of the object. It was scrambling their sensors, which probably meant that it was hiding something. That was the part that worried him. When someone went to that kind of effort, it almost always meant they had something to hide. Sometimes  it was only an effort to conceal pirated cargo behind a curtain of sensor static, but it always led to trouble.

“Check your tanks,” Rusty told Ferahim.

He verified the readings on his own. With a full charge, each suit should have enough air for at least twelve hours. They had been out for less than two.

“Air at eighty-six percent,” the attractive young Security officer replied. “All power systems are nominal.”

His own showed eighty-two percent, slightly less than he had hoped, but still within the expected range.

Must have been all that heavy lifting . . .

He moved over to inspect the safety lines for Tsu-Tao and Jeffries. He checked the fastenings, making doubly sure that Jefferies’ was secure.

Last thing we need is him floating off . . .

Tsu-tao, he knew, could handle himself. The ensign was a veteran of several EVA repair missions. He had not, Rusty recalled, enjoyed any of them, but he had done them. If Ferahim was having any issues, she was doing a superb job of hiding it.

“I’m thinking just our cameras and our portable sensors,” he said aloud. “That okay with you, Cap’n?”

There was a moment’s pause before the captain’s voice sounded in his helmet.

“Confirmed,” Devereux said. “Activate the data feeds before you head out.”

“Acknowledged,” Rusty replied.

He looked toward Ferahim and saw that she already had her sensor unit out. Rusty activated his own, waited until it was fully powered on, and then switched on its transmitter. A stream of data appeared along the lower edge of his helmet visor.

“Are you getting that, Bridge?”

“Affirmative,” Elizabeth replied. “Lieutenant, your . . . there it is.” There was a murmured conversation in the background before her voice returned. “We’re receiving data from both of you now, Chief.”

He looked up into the debris field again, peering at the position of their target.

“I don’t suppose anyone thought to bring a map?”

“‘X’ marks the spot, Chief,” Devereux remarked.

Rusty rolled his eyes.

Everyone’s a comedian . . .

“We’re sending you updated telemetry now, Chief,” Elizabeth reported. “Are you receiving it?”

Rusty checked his helmet display. The trio of location coordinates for the object changed slightly, just by a decimal place or two. Still, he knew it did not take much more than that to miss a target in deep space.

“I’ve got it,” he confirmed. “What about you, pretty lady?” she asked Ferahim.

“Updated coordinates received,” she replied, sounding disappointingly professional.

That old fossil really needs to lay off his poor people, Rusty observed silently, while trying to think of a snide remark to offer aloud to Hawkes.

Rusty checked the coordinates again, noting the distance and position of the mysterious object in their “sky”.

“I’m thinking a six-second initial thrust,” he mused aloud, not really caring if anyone agreed with him or not. “That should at least get us closer for some better readings.”

“Just keep it to a straight line,” Pryafox said. “We’re picking up some microgravity pockets along the periphery.”

“Just like bumper pool,” Rusty remarked.

In his mind, he could see both Devereux and Elizabeth reacting to that one: Devereux shaking her head and Elizabeth with wide-eyed dismay.

He turned to Ferahim. “Ready, Lieutenant?”

“Ready, Chief.”

“Okay then,” Rusty said, taking a deep breath. “Six seconds. On my mark . . .”


The image being broadcast from the Chief’s helmet camera changed. The objects ahead of him, particularly the oddly shaped construction, increased in size as he moved closer.

“. . . six! Disengage thrusters.”

“Thrusters off,” Ferahim acknowledged. “Confirmed.”

The speed at which images grew larger steadied, now that he was traveling at a constant velocity.

“Are you seeing this, Bridge?”

“Affirmative, Chief,” Elizabeth replied.

Devereux glanced over at her with a quick smile. The young Commander glowed under the silent praise.

“It doesn’t look any prettier from out here,” the Chief reported. “I think I saw something like it in a museum once. I don’t remember which one.”

Devereux’s interest was piqued. The object, what they could make of it, did not look familiar to her at all. Although there was a remote chance of any connection, it might still reveal a clue to its origin.

“The Boston Museum of Science? The NASA museum? The Sagan Observatory?”

“No,” the Chief answered abruptly. “I remember now. It was the Toyota-Ford World Wrestling Arena.”

“What was it doing there?”

“A piece of their ceiling caved in.”

Devereux was certain that she heard Pyrafox snicker. She stared hard at the back of his red-furred head, but he did not turn around.

Rolling her eyes, she sighed and looked over at Elizabeth. To her credit, her First Officer’s expression displayed a very straight face. The tension of that corners of Elizabeth’s jaws, though, told Devereux how hard she was working to maintain it.

“I suppose we should start taking some readings now or something. Huh, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, sir,” Ferahim answered promptly.

Devereux’s eyed turned toward the main Science station. They were already receiving automatic telemetry from the suit, but not the detailed readings there were looking for. The Chief and Ferahim were still too far away to see anything that the telescope back on the large fragment had not already shown them.

Muffled sounds came over the comm channel as the pair detached and readied their portable scanners. Few of the words were clear, but Devereux was certain that at least a half dozen of the ones coming from the Chief’s suit radio would be considered profane in at least three cultures.

“Okay,” the Chief finally reported. “We’re ready. Transmitting now.”

 “Bring them up on Screen Three, split screen,” Devereux instructed Gho.

The image flickered and then two almost identical computer-rendered images formed at the top and bottom of the bridge display. Each seemed filled with a thin haze, preventing any real details from being seen.

Devereux looked toward Gho, but the Science officer just shook her head.

“Can you adjust your resolution?” Elizabeth asked.

“You seem to think I know how to work this blasted thing . . .”

Devereux suppressed a slight smile. The Chief was determined to keep up the appearance of being just a overranked deckhand—despite the fact that he knew how to repair and operate nearly every piece of equipment aboard their ship.

“There,” he said, his voice crackling slightly. “I think I’ve got it.” His voice dropped and Devereux assumed that he was conferring with Ferahim. “Is that any better?”

Devereux studied the images on the screen. To her eyes, it looked about the same as before, perhaps even less defined. She turned her head to get Elizabeth’s and Gho’s opinion. Their expressions told her that they shared her appraisal.

“It actually looks worse, Chief,” she told him.

She Devereux had held no doubts about the profane content of his the Chief’s next words.

“Bridge,” Ferahim’s soft, lyrical tones sounded over the comm channel through a thin haze of static. “I have adjusted my scanner. Has the image improved?”

Devereux looked toward the far right bridge display, seeing that the ensign’s readings appeared on the lower half of the screen. It looked no different from the images being created from the Chief’s scanner.

“It’s not any better, Ensign,” Devereux replied. “Sorry.”

There was a short burst of sound that might have been profanity from the Chief again, but it was too garbled to tell for certain.

“Bridge,” the Chief said, a little more clearly, “we might . . . need you to . . .”

Muted hisses of noise swallowed the rest of his words.


“Chief,” Devereux said. “Repeat your message. We lost your transmission at the end there.”

“Bridge,” the Chief’s voice burst from the speakers, but it was awash in interference.

He is either shouting, or has boosted his signal gain. Perhaps both.

The Captain turned to Hawkes. “I want to see their positions.”

Hawkes tapped the necessary controls on his console. The locator grid on Screen One reappeared, showing the Chief’s and Ferahim’s positions.

“Their suits are still transmitting,” the Captain reported. Her relief was apparent.

“They function on a much higher wavelength,” Hawkes reminded her. “Due to the likelihood of just such a phenomenon.”

Devereux flashed him a tight-lipped look of irritation and then gestured for him to take over communications.

“Chief Rayna . . . Ensign Ferahim, please respond,” Hawkes called out calmly. “We are not receiving your signal clearly.”

Several spurts of static answered him, but nothing that sounded intelligible. Hawkes replayed the message through the communication filters, designed for such situations, but they produced only one or two barely understandable words.

Hawkes’ lifted his head to look at the main bridge displays. The images being transmitted from the helmet cameras, while not clear to begin with, now showed ragged flashes of false color from across the spectrum. His eyes turned toward the locator grid. It still showed bright dots that represented the Chief Engineer’s and Lieutenant Ferahim’s positions. As he watched, though, even those began to flicker in intensity.

“Chief Rayna, Ensign Ferahim, please respond on this frequency,” Hawkes called out calmly. “We are not receiving your audio signal.”

He was answered only by a steady hiss.

“Are you still getting medical telemetry?” Devereux asked, turning toward Hope.

Hawkes turned to look as well. He could see that her readings were now as erratic as the other signals.


“But they’re alive?” Devereux asked. Hawkes heard the urgent need for confirmation in her voice.

“They were,” Hope replied. “Readings are now unreliable.”

Devereux frowned, concern evident on all of her features. She stared at the trio of main screens, assessing the situation. Hawkes saw her make her decision. She turned calmly toward Elizabeth.

“Recall them,” she told her First Officer. “Send as much power through the comm grid as it can handle. See if you can punch a signal through.”

“Yes, Captain,” Elizabeth acknowledged, and began issuing the necessary orders to Engineering.

“Lieutenant,” the Captain turned back to Hawkes now. “Work with Lieutenant Gho to see if there are any communications frequencies that can penetrate that interference.”

“Yes, Captain,” Hawkes acknowledged the order swiftly.

He looked toward the main Science station. Everything in Gho’s body language betrayed her mounting anxiety.

She is young. Reassure her, he told himself. And then get to work.

He loaded a tablet with the data he needed and walked over to her.

“Lieutenant,” he approached her with detached calm, offering her the tablet. “Can you please verify these readings of the interference patterns of the field? I believe it would be more efficient for you to do so. It is not my area of expertise.”

Gho looked at Hawkes with unconcealed undisguised surprise, and then eyed the tablet warily caution. She accepted it, studying Hawkes’ expression. It, of course, revealed nothing more.

“I’ll get right on it, sir,” Gho answered diffidently.

“Please do so,” Hawkes said. “The Captain expects a prompt response.”

Gho swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.”


Hope manipulated the controls of the secondary Science console. Nothing she did, however, improved the integrity of the biostatistical data coming from the Chief Engineer’s and Security Lieutenant’s suits. Despite her efforts, the signals continued to degrade until the data they produced was meaningless. She had told the Captain the truth: the Chief Engineer and Security Lieutenant had been alive, and in nominal health, before the readings became distorted. She had no reason to believe that they did not still remain so. Still, she would have preferred intelligible readings that proved this to be true.

She looked at the Science station to see the Tactical Officer and Science Officer conferring, as the Captain had ordered them to. Turning toward the Captain, Hope saw in her solemn discussion with the First Officer. The Navigator’s attention, she noted, alternated between the images being displayed on the main screens and readings on his console. He remained tasked with keeping the vessel at its present coordinates. Of them all, Hope found that, with the remote life sign readings unavailable to her, she was only the one with no immediate function.

“Hope?” the Captain called to her, interrupting her silent assessment. Although mildly startling, she was relieved that her presence still appeared necessary.


She approached the Captain and First Officer.

The Captain looked at her thoughtfully. “How long can the Chief and Lieutenant Ferahim survive in the middle of that field?”

Hope glanced back toward the life sign monitors to see whether they might now be functioning. They were not: gGarbled data still filled their screens. She turned back to face the Captain.

“While their suits function.”

Devereux frowned in surprise. “So they shouldn’t be affected by the interference fields or gravity pockets?”

“Simulations report no significant effects.”

“What about their suits?”

Hope stared at the Captain in surprise.

Her simulations had revealed no serious detrimental effects on human physiology as a result of exposure to the microgravity fields. As the proper functioning of the space suits fell neither in her area of responsibility or knowledge, she had not included their integrity as a factor in the simulations.

“That was not simulated,” she admitted.

The Captain’s frown deepened. “But their suits should protect them?”

“If they function, yes.”

The Captain turned to the First Officer. “Get me someone from Engineering,” she ordered, the urgency clear in her tone. urgently “I want to know whether that interference field can scramble more than the communications systems of those suits.”

“Right away, Captain,” the First Officer replied. Her expression revealed her growing anxiety.

“Lieutenant Hawkes,” the Captain said, turning to addressing the Tactical Officer. “Any progress on finding us a workable frequency?”

“Not yet, Captain,” the Tactical Officer reported. “We have, however, started are testing athe first set of possible frequencies.” He paused a moment before continuing. “However, the interference spans a large range of the electromagnetic spectrum and is not stable within that range.”

The Captain’s bright green eyes darkened with frustration. “Send some of your people out onto the hull with handheld lasers, if you need to. We need to regain contact with our people.”

The Tactical Officer faced the Captain evenly. His expression revealed almost nothing of his surprise at her uncharacteristic outburst.

“We will consider that option, Captain.” He waited until the Captain turned away to confer once more with the Science Officer.

The Captain stalked the deck of the bridge like a caged animal. Hope waited, observing her carefully when she stopped at the Navigation station.

“Lieutenant,” the Captain said, speaking to the Navigator now. “Get a relief down here. I want you in the shuttle in case we need to go in after them.”

“Aye, Captain,” the Navigator responded swiftly. His excitement was clearly evident. ”I’ll—“.

“Emerald Flight, we are receiving your transmission.” The Security Lieutenant’s voice was barely audible above the background wash of interference. Her statement was clear, though.

Relief was evident in the expression of every member on the bridge crew.

“We’ve established contact, Captain,” the Tactical Officer reported. “Although I cannot guarantee how long it can be maintained.”

 “Chief, Lieutenant,” Devereux called out, probably louder than was necessary, as if she hoped to penetrate the communications interference through the sheer strength of her voice alone. “What’s your status?”

Their first words were lost in a muted burst of static. It was unclear who had spoken them.

“. . . few meters from the . . .”

The rest of the response was washed away by a new wave of interference, Hope was certain that she heard distinct intonations indicating the Security Lieutenant’s voice. For several moments, nothing more was heard except for the irregularly pulsing hiss of the interference field.

“Bridge,” the Chief Engineer’s voice suddenly broke through. It sounded unusually subdued even through the muting effects of the interference. “I think we’ve gone and found ourselves an angel.”

Radecki / Dark : Emerald Flight: Star Wing – Chapter 6 – Outside Opinions

– 6 –

Elizabeth checked the seals of the Chief’s space suit. He was not making it easy on her as he shifted and turned as she tried to adjust the fittings.

“Hold still!” she scolded him, laughing.

Rusty grumbled something unintelligible in response. Elizabeth was certain the remark was uncomplimentary to her in some way. She just smiled. Regardless, he stopped fidgeting for the most part. Elizabeth fastened the straps that ran over his left shoulder, checked to make certain they were tight, and then worked to fasten the ones on his right side.

They were in the corridor alcove outside the interior hatchway to Airlock Three. The team member assigned from Engineering, Tsu-tao, assisted Ensign Ferahim, while Lieutenant Hawkes performed a final check on the Ferahim’s weapons. Elizabeth was struck once again by the ensign’s exotic beauty, understanding why she had no problem capturing the attention of male crew members. From what Elizabeth had heard, Ferahim had her share of female admirers as well. Those same stories also implied that one or two of those had also successfully shared the ensign’s bed.

She glanced across the alcove, trying to understand why Jeffries looked so incredibly awkward. At first, Elizabeth thought the stocky geologist might have brought a suit that was too small. She then realized that it was simply because he was trying to reach all of the straps and fastenings by himself.

That’s why we have the buddy system, Elizabeth chided him silently, trying to recall who he had been paired with.

A wave of embarrassment washed over her. It was her duty, as First Officer, to see that those kinds of details were dealt with.

Damn it, I wonder if I’m ever going to get this right . . .

Elizabeth tried to remember the last time she had been directly involved in an extra-vehicular mission . EVA missions were not uncommon among the Engineering teams. It was often a necessary part of dealing with ship-wide maintenance and repairs, but they were generally managed by the Engineering shift officer in charge.

That’s no excuse, she admonished herself. The next time, she promised herself solemnly, I won’t forget.

She looked guiltily in the Captain’s direction, but the Devereux did not seem to notice.. The Captain’s attention remained focused on her conversation with Hope.

Hawkes finished his inspection of Ferahim’s weaponry and returned it to her.

“Thank you, sir” she said quietly and saluted.

Hawkes gave no response other than for a small dip of his head as Ferahim slipped her weapons back into their places on her belt. She snapped Hawkes a quick second salute, then glided over to aid Jeffries with his suit. With a slight nod of approval, Hawkes walked over to offer his assistance to Tsu-tao

“All right,” she told f. “Let me check your boots.”

Elizabeth stole another quick glance in the Devereux’s direction, but the Captain remained deep in discussion with Hope. She turned her attention back to the Chief’s boot seals.

“It’s amazing your feet fit in these things,” Elizabeth murmured, just loud enough for Rusty alone to hear.

He impishly  grinned down at her. “Just be glad I washed them first.”

Elizabeth fought back most of a giggle and bent down to check the calf bindings.


Rusty waited grunted with only mild impatience while Elizabeth tightened and locked the fastenings on his left boot. He grunted his approval. She smiled, and started work on the right one. While he probably had logged more hours in a suit than almost anyone else on the crew, that did not necessarily make him happy about it. The suit itself did not make him feel particularly claustrophobic. It was more that only a few millimeters of airtight fabric and polyglass separated him from the life-sucking vacuum of space.

He felt a tag around his middle.

“Going for seconds on dessert again?” Elizabeth asked him, teasing him quietly. Rusty sucked in a deep breath and held while she fastened the waist straps. The belt fastenings were snug, but not uncomfortably so. “That’s better.”

Elizabeth stepped back and visually inspected the suit. She frowned for a moment before nodding, apparently satisfied.

“Not very stylish,” she admitted.

“Hey!” Rusty protested, a little too loudly. “This suit was designed by the best designers on, well, Taipei Luna, or some place.”

Elizabeth snickered, handing Rusty his helmet. “In case you forgot, the transparent part goes on the front.”

Rusty studied the helmet for a moment. “So much for them seeing my new haircut.”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and stepped aside.

Rusty joined Jeffries and Ferahim at the hatch. He had never met the older geologist personally. His immediate take was that the man might be competent at his job, but probably about as interesting as the rocks that he studied. Ferahim he remembered. He had never worked directly with her, but she was hard to miss when they passed in the corridor. Seeing that her head was turned in his general direction, he gave her a quick wink. She looked away, giving him no other indication that she had noticed him.

He smiled to himself, pleased. Love it when they play hard to get.

Jeffries was struggling with his helmet now. Ferahim strode over to assist him with a grace Rusty would have thought impossible in a space suit. The Security officer fitted the helmet over Jeffries’ head and checked the seal. She turned closed the fastenings and stepped back, gesturing for Hawkes to double-check her work. The older man held completely still the entire time.

Probably in shock from the attentions of a pretty girl, Rusty guessed with a smirk.

Rusty lifted his own helmet and dropped it into place with practiced ease. He had begun to close the fastenings when he felt a pair of hands assisting him through his gloves. Turning his head, his caught a glimpse of Elizabeth’s chestnut hair flash past his faceplate. A moment later, he heard a knock echo from the top of his helmet.

“You’re good to go, Chief,” Elizabeth told him.

He gave her the traditional thumbs-up sign. Walking over to the hatch, he stopped to stand beside Hawkes at the airlock control panel. Ferahim joined him a moment later. Jefferies stumbled over next.

Looks ready to trip over his own boots, Rusty observed. He is a space geologist, right?

For a moment, he considered asking Elizabeth aloud. For a change, he opted for discretion, and waited while Ferahim and Tsu-tao brought the last of the equipment closer to the hatchway. Elizabeth stepped out of their way. She flashed him a quick smile before moving out of his line of sight. For no reason he could explain, he found her small gesture reassuring.


Devereux gestured Hope aside, moving them toward a corner of the airlock corridor alcove.

“Have you determined anything new on the Chief’s . . . condition?”

Hope’s eyes moved for an instant toward the Rusty before turning back to Devereux.


Devereux nodded slightly, breathing a quick sigh. She had hoped for more, but Hope’s report was pretty much what she had expected.

“Do you believe there’s any danger to him or the team?” She persisted. “He’s the best choice for this mission, but I’ll yank him right here and now if you think there might be an issue.”

Hope hesitated for a moment before answering. Devereux found that troubling. She turned toward Rusty, but Hope’s voice stopped her.


Devereux turned back to face Hope. “You’re certain?”

There was less hesitation from her Medical Officer this time.


Devereux frowned.

She’s really rattled—for her. Not knowing the answer’s really gotten to her.

Devereux studied the Aerian’s dark eyes, but found nothing there that worried her.

“Okay,” she told Hope. “He’s going.” Her eyes turned toward the four spacesuit-clad figures as they made final preparations to enter the airlock. “But check the remote med systems on the suits,” she instructed Hope. “Double-check them. Make sure they’re working.”

Hope nodded almost imperceptibly. “Yes, Captain.”

“Ready, Captain,” Hawkes reported, poised ready at the airlock hatch controls.

“One moment, Lieutenant,” she told him. “Hope wants to check the med systems.”

“Of course, Captain.” Hawkes moved aside and waited patiently while Hope approached the four members of the team.

Devereux watched as Hope began with Ferahim. After completing her inspection of his suit, she moved to Tsu-tao, then to Jeffries, finishing with Rusty. She spent longer with him, Devereux noticed, than she had with the others.

I hope that’s because she’s really double-checking and not because she found something else.

During the few minutes that Hope worked, there was no conversation among the group. Some of them watched her inspection for a few moments before turning their attention somewhere else. It was not a particularly interesting procedure to observe.

Hope stepped away and addressed the Captain.


Devereux nodded, feeling a small ripple of relief.

“You may proceed, Lieutenant,” she told Hawkes.

“Yes, Captain,” her Tactical Officer acknowledged.

Hawkes tapped the controls on the bulkhead panel. Several status lights glowed red now. The distinctive thunk of the locking mechanism disengaging could be heard. A number of the indicator lights changed color again and then the inner hatch slowly swung open into the alcove.

Ferahim and Tsu-Tao moved the equipment cases into the airlock and secured them with magnetic bands. That would prevent them from being blown from the airlock when the outer hatch was opened and the pressure equalized between the airlock’s interior and the absolute vacuum of space beyond.

There’s nothing worse than having to chase after your luggage, Devereux mused lightly. She knew this from personal experience early in her career.

Ferahim and Tsu-Tao remained in the airlock. Rusty and Jeffries joined them inside. All four of them moved deeper into it, well clear of the hatch. Hawkes looked at Devereux, who nodded her assent to continue. The Tactical Officer worked the controls again and the hatch slid closed. Most of the status lights glowed green now.

“Depressuriziing,” Hawkes announced.

A faint alarm could be heard coming from inside the airlock. Yellow warning lights strobed, changing to red as the pressure dropped below survivable levels.

“We’re ready, Captain,” Hawkes reported.

Devereux walked over to the control panel and tapped the intercom. It was keyed to the general frequency of the suit radios.

“All set here, Chief,” she told him. “Ready when you are.”

“Leave it unlocked,” Rusty quipped. “I think I forgot my keys.” There was a long moment of silence as he positioned himself at the control panel inside. “Opening outer hatch.”

The lights flashed brighter as the outer hatch unlocked and swung slowly inward.

“Here we go . . .”

“Good hunting, Chief,” Devereux offered.

A faint hum of electronic static sounded over the speaker, and then they heard Rusty reply.

“I’ll bring you back something nice,” he said. “You too, Lizzie.”

Elizabeth’s cheeks brightened slightly. Devereux could not recall a time recently when Rusty had referred to her First Officer by that nickname. She chose to take it as a positive sign.

“I’ll settle for you and your team back here in one piece,” Devereux responded seriously, but she could not help but smile just a little.

“You betcha,” Rusty replied. He bent and began to unfasten the equipment.


“They’re clear,” Hawkes reported.

Devereux nodded in acknowledgment. “Close the outer hatch.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Hawkes worked the airlock controls again. Red and yellow lights strobed, shifting finally to green. Hawkes’ eyes never left the status display until they all indicated that the airlock hatch was closed and locked. With that confirmation, he deactivated the airlock’s interior lights, plunging the chamber into darkness. He turned, ready to follow the Captain back to the bridge.

Devereux turned and began to head down the corridor.

“Hope,” she addressed the Medical Officer without pausing. “You’re with us. I want you to monitor their readings from the bridge.”

The Medical Officer hesitated for only the briefest moment, seemingly surprised by the order.

“Yes, Captain.”

She fell into line between the Captain and Hawkes. They were nearly back in the main corridor when the Captain paused, turning back toward the airlock.

“Commander?” she asked, seeming both bemused and concerned. “Are you joining us?”

Hawkes turned to see a slightly startled Elizabeth. From what he could tell, she had been staring out the adjacent view port. She looked away from them with awkward embarrassment.

“Sorry, Captain.”

She approached them quickly. Devereux waited until Elizabeth stood beside her, and then moved out into the quarter.

“Have a team prep the shuttle,” the Captain directed her First Officer. “I want us seconds away from launch, if needednecessary, in case we need to attempt a rescue. Understood?”

Elizabeth hesitated for an instant, surprised at the request, and then nodded her acknowledgment. lifted her tablet and began logging the orders.

“Yes, Captain.”

She lifted her tablet and began logging the orders.

“Hope,” Devereux continued, addressing the Medical Officer without turning. “Make sure they add any emergency equipment or supplies you might need.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Are you expecting trouble, Captain?” Elizabeth asked, also taking note of the Captain’s order to Hope.

“No,” Devereux replied confidently. “But I’m sure our Tactical Officer will agree that we should be prepared anyway.” Her eyes darted toward Hawkes. A faint smile played along her lips. “Don’t you agree, Lieutenant?”

Hawkes studied the Captain for the length of a heartbeat before answering.

“Completely, Captain.”

Devereux’s smile was thin, but genuine. “I’m glad you approve.”

The four officers had reached the main hatch to the bridge. Hawkes moved forward and keyed in his access code. He then opened the hatch and held it open for the others to enter.

Devereux did not slow as she entered the bridge, moving to stand behind the helm station.

“Lieutenant,” she said, addressing Pyrafox. “Switch the external view to Screen Three. Put the locator grid on Screen One and the feed from the Chief’s camera on Screen Two.”

“Aye, Captain.”

The field of stars vanished from the first screen, appearing seconds later on the one to the far right. It was replaced by a three-dimensional representation of the EVA team’s progress across space. The center screen showed a scene similar to the one on the third screen. Its vantage point was far less steady as the Chief moved his head.

Devereux tilted her head toward the Tactical station, where Hawkes had resumed his customary post.

“I want an open comm channel with them at all times.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Hawkes tapped the necessary controls on his console and a faint electronic hum filled the air around them. The only discernible sound was that of a team member’s heavy respiration. Hawkes quickly concluded that it came from Lieutenant Jeffries.

The Captain nodded with approval.

“All right then,” she called out. “Let’s get back to work.”


Although surprised by the Captain’s order that she monitor the team from the bridge, Hope had, of course obeyed. She would have preferred to do it from the private sanctuary of the infirmary, but as she had no patients there right now, she could raise no justifiable objections.

Hope took a position at one of the secondary Science stations. Activating the console, she reconfigured it to display the medical telemetry being recorded and transmitted from the mission team’s spacesuits. The console surface cleared and then displayed four distinct sets of medical data, one for each member of the team.

All within expected ranges.

Lieutenant Jeffries’ respiration was on the higher side of normal, but still within the acceptable range. The readings for everyone else caused her no concern.

“How are we doing, Lieutenant?” the Captain asked Navigator Pyrafox.

“Holding position, Captain,” the Navigator replied. “No more problems.”

“Glad to hear it,” the Captain responded. Hope heard the laughter and relief in her voice. It faded as she continued. “I want you to plot a course from here to the center of the field that the shuttle can take without too bumpy a ride.”

The Navigator frowned, showing the top points of his teeth. “Are we taking the shuttle in?”

“I hope not,” the Captain replied, patting the Navigator lightly on the shoulder.

The Navigator glanced at the scene slowly playing out on the center bridge display. “Understood, Captain,” he acknowledged quietly. “I’ll get right on it.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

The Captain glanced toward the main bridge displays once more, turned away, and headed for the command deck.

Hope continued to monitor the medical telemetry, but saw no noticeable change in the readings. Lieutenant Jeffries’ respiration had stabilized. It remained high, but had not risen any further.

Accessing another set of controls, Hope verified that she had remote access to the medical systems incorporated into each of the team members’ space suits. They all reported as functional, including the overrides. That task completed, Hope turned from the console to observe the other members of the bridge crew.

The Navigator remained busy at the task assigned to him by the Captain. Occasionally, he emitted small noises that Hope was not certain that the others on the bridge could hear. She had no idea what the sounds indicated, and found them quite distracting. During her time with humans, she had learned that they often made such sounds for a variety of reasons. Often, they were used as a means to indicate that they were thinking or, more commonly, delaying while they considered a less candid response than the one in their thoughts. This was not an Aerian shortcoming.

“Captain,” the Science Lieutenant called out from her station. “I’m getting some new readings from the debris field.”

The Captain looked up with interest. “What do you have?”

“There was a small break in the interference,” the Science Lieutenant reported. “We’ve picked up another source of those organic components, and some additional metals.”

“Anything interesting?”

The Science Lieutenant shook her head. “It’s hard to tell,” she said. “We’re still too far away. But they look to be some unusually complex ores.”

“Why do say that?”

The Science Lieutenant looked uncomfortable. “Because if they’re not,” she finally said, “then the debris field contains manufactured alloys.”

Radecki / Dark : Emerald Flight : Star Wing – Chapter 4 – Cloudy Space

( Things are starting to get a bit more interesting as the ship begins to work into the debris field.  Microgravity as envisioned is a small but comparatively intense gravitational field that can effect ship travel.  Enjoy Chapter 4 🙂 )


Elizabeth walked the bridge, trying to ignore the cold sensation of dampness between her shoulder blades. The collar of her uniform adhered with clammy wetness against her skin. She had given up try to pull it away.

What I wouldn’t give for ten minutes alone with a hair dryer . . .

Status reports from the various stations throughout the ship appeared on the tablet she held. Other than on the bridge, things appeared routine through the ship. Until they were close enough to actually enter the main body of the debris cloud, there was little else beyond their usual jobs for anyone else to do.

The Captain had come back down from the command, apparently surrendering to her urge to be closer to where the action was happening. She paced a slow circuit between the helm and main Science station. Neither Pyrafox nor Gho had anything interesting yet to report. Elizabeth could tell, though, that they were both growing increasingly nervous under the Captain’s constant attention. She suppressed a tiny smile at the sight, silently glad that Captain Devereux’s attention was on someone else for a little while.

I can’t believe I was late. I’m never late.

That had been true even at the Academy, although it had been a near thing on more than a few occasions. There was that one morning in particular when she had slipped in the rain crossing the quad from the dormitories. Her stumble sent her tablets and other materials skidding across the wide puddles. Commander Atchison had given her no sympathy, and had seemed genuinely irked that she could not grant Elizabeth at least one demerit for tardiness. The last Elizabeth had heard, Commander Ilsa Atchison was still terrifying second-year cadets in both intermediate quantum mathematics and championship volleyball.

Her eyes kept drifting back toward the main hatch. She had seen the Chief escorted away by the two guards, followed by Hope. Some part of her, though, still expected him to walk back through the hatchway with his usual jaunty smile and stride.


Devereux’s voice interrupted her reverie.

Elizabeth’s cheeks burned with embarrassment.

Twice in the same day? I’m going to be back on reclamation maintenance before mid-shift at this rate.

“Yes, Captain?” she answered as smartly as she could manage. “What did you say?”

“Nothing,” Devereux replied, studying her carefully, “exactly.”

“Oh,” Elizabeth said, almost too softly to hear. “I’m sorry, Captain. I’m . . . I’m worried about the Chief.”

Devereux’s expression softened and yet also became serious. That makes two of us, is what Elizabeth thought she would say.

Instead, the Captain responded with, “I understand.”

Her eyes darted toward the main hatch for a moment before turning back to Elizabeth.

“Hope will let us know when she has something to report,” Devereux went on. “For now, I need you to do your job.”

Elizabeth’s face tingled again. “Yes, sir.”

Devereux looked at the main bridge displays and then over toward Gho at the Science station.

“Who’s in charge in Engineering?”

It took Elizabeth a moment to realize that the Captain was addressing her.

“The Ch—“ she cut off her automatic response, looking down at the tablet she carried before anyone could see her reaction. She consulted the duty roster before answering. “Lieutenant Aruna, sir.”

Devereux nodded slowly. “Ask her to assign a team to monitor the starboard sensor junctions. I don’t want us to miss anything if something in the cloud interferes with those units.”

“Yes, Captain.” Elizabeth entered the appropriate orders onto her tablet and then looked back up at Devereux. “Anything else, Captain?”

Devereux thought for a moment before answering.

“Not right now,” she said. “Return to your duties.”

“Yes, sir.”

Elizabeth swallowed hard, determined to remain focused and make no further mistakes that day. Taking a firm grip on her tablet, she began another circuit of the bridge.


Rusty paused in the corridor outside the infirmary.  He noticed then that the two Security guards were still with him. Although they remained stoically composed, Rusty was convinced that they were as uncertain as he was about what they should do next. The Captain had given them no orders what to do after they had escorted him to the infirmary.

I’d better decide before they do.

As he was still technically on-duty, he could not return to his quarters. He quickly considered his other options Going to the bridge probably meant lots of questions, almost none of which he could answer. He did not know any more than what Hope had told him—and that he had barely understood. From what he had gleaned, his brain appeared to be producing extra Gamma waves. As they had not seemed to have granted him telepathic or telekinetic powers, his interest had pretty much ended there.

Engineering, he decided. Fewer questions.

Word of his trip to the infirmary had probably already circulated among the crew, but it would be a lot easier for him to deflect those on his home turf than on the bridge. He took only a few steps toward the shaft that would take him to the Engineering Deck. The guards fell into step behind him after a moment of shared uncertainty.

“You two don’t have something better to do?” Rusty asked them, trying to sound annoyed.

“Captain’s orders, sir,” the dark-haired one on the left replied. While taller than his partner, he was the clearly the younger of the two.

“That’s interesting,” Rusty countered conversationally. “I heard her tell you to take me to the infirmary. I didn’t hear nothing about you tailing me around the entire ship.” He stared at each guard individually for a moment. “I mean, I’m flattered and all . . .”

The two guards exchanged a long look.

“I’ll need to check with the Captain,” the older one finally told Rusty.

“You do that,” he agreed. “I’m heading for Engineering.”

Without waiting for a reaction, he turned and continued on his way. A moment later, he heard two sets of footsteps echoing behind his own. As he climbed into the shaft, he considered sliding down the rails and scampering off on a higher deck just to see how the guards reacted. He bowed to reason, though, deciding that being monitored on the Engineering Deck was far preferable to being subjected to it in the brig.

He exited the shaft and entered Engineering. Without turning, he addressed the guards.

“Just stay out the way,” he warned them. “Or I’ll put you to work.”

He did not bother to check their expressions. What he imagined was amusing enough. Humming quietly, he strolled across the deck.


Devereux remained on the command deck, although she was sorely tempted to follow Elizabeth on her rounds throughout the bridge. Like her First Officer, she was deeply concerned about her Chief Engineer’s recent behavior. Even during his previous assignment aboard the ship, despite his other shortcomings, he had at least been reliable.

“Captain,” Gho called out from the Science station. Although she addressed the Captain, she received the attention of everyone present on the bridge. “We’re picking up some more detailed readings now.”

“Post the data on Screen Three,” Devereux told her.

The scene of the star field ahead was replaced by a representation of the data coming in from the ship’s sensors. As they watched, the information was updated in real-time, the numbers and graphs changing as new data as the systems received new data.

Some of it made sense to Devereux; much of it did not. She recognized the spectroscopic and metallurgical analyses, even if she did not understand what some of the details meant.

“It looks the typical ores and elements you’d expected to see from a moon or asteroid,” she remarked.

Gho nodded in agreement. Devereux felt tiny swell of pride that she had interpreted the data correctly. Her training and experience leaned more heavily on the tactical side. The hard sciences were not her strong suit.

“The configuration is strange, though,” Gho said, highlighting the boundaries of the debris field on the screen. “There’s a lot more dust than you’d expect and not as much mass still in larger chunks.”

“Debris from a comet then?”

Gho studied the results again. “I don’t think so, Captain. The mass and elements don’t match any comets we’ve ever recorded. Although there are organic components.”

That got Devereux’s attention. Pyrafox’s ears perked up as well.


Gho nodded, appearing unsurprised. “Organic compounds have been found on a number of comets,” she replied. “Nothing complex, though,” she explained. “Mostly simple hydrocarbons.”

Devereux continued to study the image in silence, watching as its resolution slowly improved. Behind her, Gho took deep breath that sounded a lot like an exasperated sigh.

“What’s wrong, Lieutenant?” Devereux asked, turning to face the young Science officer.

“I’m still having trouble getting clear readings from one section of the debris field,” she answered. She tapped controls on her console and the previous highlighting on the main screen was replaced by a new one position toward the upper right quadrant of the field.

“What’s there?” Devereux asked.

 “I don’t know,” Gho replied, shaking her head. “There’s something scrambling the sensors in that section of the cloud. We can’t get a clear reading.”

“What would do that?” Devereux asked. “Do the sensors need calibrated?”

Gho tapped some controls and intently studied one of her console displays for a moment. “The sensors seem fine,” she reported. “And there’s any number of things that might confuse the sensors.”

Devereux nodded at that.

I know a few tricks for doing that myself. Almost none of them, though, exist without artificial means.

She studied the image on the screen again, paying particular attention to the area that Gho had highlighted. She found the data associated with that region, but saw nothing that caught her eye as unusual—other than that it was annoying incomplete.

“Let’s take a closer look,” she announced quietly. “Helm,” she called to Pyrafox. “Slow our approach to one-quarter. Head toward the patch there on the outer edge.”

“Aye, Captain,” Pyrafox acknowledged quickly. “Slowing to one-quarter. Adjusting course.”

Devereux watched the navigational display as their velocity and heading changed. She turned back toward the Science station.

“Anything new yet?”

Gho studied her displays for a moment before shaking her head. “Not yet, sir” she replied, sounding disappointed. “I think we’re going to have to get a lot closer before we can punch through the interference.”

Devereux nodded her understanding. Although it was the prudent thing to do, decreasing their speed meant that it was going to a bit longer to get that much nearer.

She glanced toward the Tactical station. Hawkes worked intently at his console and she wondered what he was so focused on. There was absolutely nothing for him to fire at or defend them from except for some drifting chunks of rock.

He’s probably expecting to discover at any moment that one of those chunks is a disguised enemy vessel.

Devereux turned her attention back to the data display, seeing once again the highlighted area of the debris cloud.

If I was going to hide a ship in there, she considered. That’s where I’d do it. Force them to move in. Lure them nice and close.

For a moment, she considered ordering Hawkes to place the ship on a standby alert.

It’d just be a distraction, she decided. And so far we’ve found nothing but rocks out here. She glanced over at Hawkes again. He’ll be the first to tell me if he sees anything even remotely suspicious.

Devereux allowed herself to relax and went back to studying the data displays.


Hawkes studied the feed from the Science station. He understood most of the data, enough to determine that there appeared to be no immediate threat from the debris within weapons range of the ship. The patch of obscure readings, toward which the Captain had now directed their course, troubled him. During all of his years of combat experience, he had witnessed a variety of techniques used to scramble sensor feedback. This was unlike any he had seen. He took some small comfort that the area affected could not mask any particularly large vessels.

We might end up being outgunned, but we’re not likely to be outnumbered.

Based on what they had discovered so far, he saw no reason yet to bring the ship’s weapons systems online. He had hoped that Captain might at least place the crew on stand-by alert status, but she had so far failed to do so. She seemed to feel comfortable with the risk.

He studied the sensor logs for some the larger fragments, examining them for signs that might indicate a masked vessel or hidden weapons platform. So far, the readings had indicated exactly what Lieutenant Gho had reported: rock fragments and conventional ores. The lack of active energy signatures of any kind told him that whatever force had created these fragments had done so a long ago.

“Captain,” Lieutenant Gho called out hesitantly. “We’re getting some new readings.”

Hawkes looked up from his station as Gho tapped out commands on her console.

“It’s not much,” she reported as the data on the third bridge display changed, “but it’s something.”

Devereux stared at the screen for several long moments before shaking her head slowly. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she admitted, turning toward Hawkes.

“Nor have I, Captain,” Hawkes reported. “I can find no matches for it in the Tactical database.”

“There’s nothing in the cosmological records either,” Gho reported. “We may have encountered a new astronomical phenomenon.”

“You just might get yourself into the record books yet, Lieutenant,” Devereux smiled at the Science officer.

Although Gho tried to mask it in her expression, Hawkes could tell that the young officer was pleased by prospect.

“It looks like a gravitational disturbance,” Elizabeth offered, looking at the data display.

“That small?” Devereux asked. “And erratic?”

Elizabeth’s eyebrows rose in the equivalent of a shrug. Her eyes turned toward Gho.

“It could be pockets of microgravity,” the Science officer hypothesized, “caused by heavy elements in the ore. If they’re highly radioactive as well, that would explain the trouble our sensors are having with them.”

Devereux nodded. Hawkes agreed that it was a reasonable explanation, but by no means the only one.

“Can you give me a visual?” Devereux asked.

“I think so, Captain,” Gho replied. “Let me see what I can do.”

“Center screen.”

The image of the star field displayed on the center display, now littered with jagged chunks of rock, flickered, turned gray, and then resolved into a new view. A soft gray haze now muted the definition of objects visible on the screen. It reminded Devereux of the ground fogs she would see during early morning rugby practice in the spring.

Except there’s no fog like that in space . . .

“Can you magnify that?”

Gho tapped some controls and the image shifted again. It did not help much. Some of the objects were larger now, but not much clearer.

“Any idea what’s causing that?” Devereux asked.

Gho consulted her console quickly before answering. “It’s just dust, sir.”

“What’s holding it there?” Elizabeth asked.

“Good question,” Devereux replied, nodding slowly. “It should have dispersed long ago.”

“It might be the microgravity pockets,” Gho suggested. “They might be holding it in place.”

Devereux nodded again. “That would explain why it’s localized there and there almost none at all in the outer sections of the debris field.”

The deck of the ship seemed to sway beneath her feet slightly. She glanced down and then over at the helm station, seeing Pyrafox working furiously at his console.

“Something wrong, Lieutenant?”

Pyrafox’s hands slowed. He paused a moment, both his hands poised ready over the helm controls. After a few seconds passed, he began to relax, breathing out a hoarse sigh. It reminded Devereux of the irritated growl from a long-haired Chihuahua one of her secondary school friends had owned.

“Sorry about that, Captain,” he remarked without turning. His gaze remained fixed on the navigational displays. “Just a small issue with the gravity pockets.” He reached down and tapped a control, although with less urgency, Devereux was relieved to note, than before. “I think the computer’s got most of them mapped out now.”

“Is there any danger to the ship?”

Her question was directed to anyone who had information, but it was Pyrafox who answered her.

“I don’t think so,” he replied. “They’re more like potholes in a dirt road than anything really dangerous.”

Devereux tried to map that analogy to space navigation in her mind. She did not find herself particularly comforted by the imagery that arose.

“Bring us to a stop, Lieutenant,” Devereux ordered. “I don’t want us any closer until we have a better idea of the effects.”

“Aye, Captain,” Pyrafox responded crisply. Something in his posture expressed his disappointment at no longer being allowed to meet the challenge of their course ahead. “Answering full stop.”

The images on the main bridge displays became stationery, but not before the deck rolled one more time underneath Devereux’s boots. She opened her mouth, but Pyrafox interrupted her before she could speak.

“Sorry, Captain.” He sounded genuinely apologetic. “One last pothole.”

“Better check the tires,” Devereux chuckled.

Behind her, Elizabeth snickered.

“Yes, Captain,” Pyrafox replied, making no effort to hide the laughter in his own voice.

Devereux’s expression grew serious once more. She studied the data still being flashed onto the third screen. So far, even at this closer distance, the sensors had revealed little new information.

“Commander,” she called out to Elizabeth without turning. “Have all stations continue to collect data for now. Assemble the senior staff for a briefing in one hour.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“You have the bridge, Commander,” Devereux told her. “I’ll be in the infirmary.”


Hope puzzled over the results of the Chief Engineer’s medical scans. Except for the unexplained increase in his Gamma band activity, all of his other readings fell well within established ranges for humans. Some of them, she noted with some surprise, had even improved since his last complete examination. There was, as far as she could determine, no biochemical cause for the change in the Chief Engineer’s brain activity. Her research on the subject so far had produced frustratingly little new information.

The Captain will want a report.

She could produce one, of course, but it would be one that would yield more questions than answers. Hope possessed a deep understanding of the human nervous system and neurological biochemistry, but she had never seen readings like these before. The most relevant analogy were the examinations conducted of suspected Psi-actives, but even those tests had yielded completely different results than what she had received from the Chief Engineer.

The main hatch opened. Hope knew, without turning, that the Captain had entered. She heard the familiar cadence of the Captain’s footsteps as she approached. That was, of course, not her only clue to the Captain’s presence.


Hope turned to face the Captain. “Captain.”

The Captain glanced over at the empty diagnostic beds and then took a closer look around the infirmary.

“Where’s the Chief?”

“He is gone.”

The Captain frown deepened and she examined the infirmary again.

“You released him?”

Hope hesitated for a moment. The Captain was displeased.


The Captain stared hard at Hope. Her words came out sharp and clipped.

“May I ask why?”

“The data,” Hope said. “I do not understand.”

The Captain frowned thoughtfully and then shook her head slightly. “What do you mean?”

Hope stared at the Captain for a moment longer and then gestured toward the diagnostic equipment still connected to Bed Four.


The Captain followed her to the diagnostic bed. Hope activated one of the displays, showing the results of the neurological scans. The Captain studied the screen carefully for several moments before turning back to Hope.

“I don’t understand what I’m seeing here.”

Hope tapped a control and one of the waveforms displayed on the chart grew brighter.


The Captain studied the image again and then shook her head again. “I’m still not seeing it,” she said, leaning back slightly. “Is it something dangerous?”

Hope stared silently.

“Is it?”

“I do not know.”

The Captain’s expression held a mixture of astonishment and concern.

“And you released him?”

“Yes,” Hope answered flatly. “Security went too.”

The Captain visibly relaxed. She studied the diagnostic display again.

“But you don’t know what this means?”


 “Could it explain his strange behavior?”

“I do not know.”

The Captain released a long, slow breath.

“What do you know?”

Hope stared back at the Captain for a moment before answering.

“Increased Gamma band activity.”

The Captain breathed deeply.

“All right,” she said, stepping back from the display. “Let me know when you do find something. In the meantime, I’ll have Security keep an eye on him.”


The Captain laughed softly. “I’m glad you approve.”

The chime from the communication console sounded. The Captain’s smile grew a little bit more.

“That’ll be Elizabeth letting you know about the briefing.” The Captain’s expression became more serious. “See what you can find out before then.”


The Captain frowned, looking at the diagnostic display and then back at Hope. She appeared ready to speak, but seemed to change her mind. Turning away, she strode purposefully toward the main hatch.

Hope watched the Captain leave, feeling the familiar sense of emptiness as she departed. She turned away from the hatchway and studied the diagnostic display once more. Again, it failed to reveal the answers she needed.

Radecki / Dark : Emerald Flight : Star Wing – Chapter 2 – Dust to Dust

Elizabeth slid into her tunic, gritting her teeth against the twinge of discomfort as she slid it over her left shoulder. The heat from the shower had helped somewhat, aided no doubt by the analgesic that Hope had injected her with.

I won’t be swinging a racquet with that arm any time soon, she considered sourly.

Wincing in anticipation of another stab of pain, Elizabeth fastened the waistband of her uniform. Relieved when she felt only the slightest twinge from the strained ligaments and muscles, she released a slow breath. She still could not decide which hurt more: the physical pain from her injury, or the embarrassment of being seen tripping over her opponent.

It had happened during the second match of her racquetball game with Ensign Manuel de Marco. He was good, better than she had expected, but not very experienced. Although he had kept her moving on the court, Elizabeth had held back slightly, trying to keep the score close. Manuel had fired in a particularly adept shot. Elizabeth raced over to volley it. Instead of moving toward the wall as she expected, though, Manuel had stepped back. She stumbled over his extended leg, sprawling and unable to stop her slide until she smacked hard against the wall.

And all because I was trying to impress him . . .

A certain amount of off-duty fraternization among the members of the crew was, while not encouraged, expected. Since she had been promoted to First Officer, though, she discovered that those boundaries were now far less flexible. Technically, none of the crew reported directly to her, but she was a member of the command staff now. So it was critical to her career that she maintain a certain level of professional detachment. There was something about Enrique de Marco, though, that kept bringing her thoughts of him back to him. Since he was not assigned to the bridge crew, she had given herself permission to see what might happen if they met while off-duty.

I found out all right, she sighed heavily. It must be a sign.

Sitting down on the edge of her bunk, she pulled on her left shoe, managing to do it with surprisingly little difficulty. She was startled by the tight knot of pain when she attempted the same action with her right shoe. It took her several clumsy attempts with her left hand, with some awkward twisting, but she finally managed to get her foot into it. She stood, wiggled her foot so that the shoe fit more comfortably, and then took a long, slow breath.

Light duty, huh? She looked in the mirror, checking the appearance of her uniform. At least I don’t have to wear a sling.

It was a small consolation. She knew the Captain would review Hope’s medical log at some point during the day and probably ask her what happened.

Assuming that she doesn’t know already . . .

One of the things that she had learned at the Academy, and the lesson had been reinforced during her postings on the both the Emerald Flight and the Washington, was that, like those ships, some information also traveled faster than light.

Particularly, she mused unhappily, the kind that you wished wouldn’t.


Rusty eyed the twin slipstream drive cores warily. Quiescent now, as they were traveling under normal thrust, he still could not shake the feeling that there was something off about them. Each one had been tested, calibrated, and re-tested—and not a one had revealed any significant issues.

Seen that before, he mused glumly. But put them all together and . . . KABOOM!

He had heard about it happening, but never on any ship that he had ever been on. The most serious problem he could find on his ship, in fact, was a blemish on the aft coolant flow casing where someone had dropped a tool on it, probably weeks ago. Out of sheer irritation, Rusty had ordered a detail to repair and polish it out.

He studied the engineering status displayed on his desktop monitor, and then the diagnostic reports contained on the tablet his hand. Only an immense effort of will kept him from hurling them both across his office. That was fortunate, he realized, as Aruna appeared in the hatchway.

“Chief?” Her soft, clipped tones sounded hesitant.

Rusty looked up from the tablet, trying to decide whether or not to snarl at her. He wanted to be alone, to puzzle this out without interruption.

Then you should have locked the door . . .

He opted to behave civilly.

She doesn’t deserve it. She’s just trying to do her job.

“What is it?”

“The Bridge has asked if we can send a maintenance crew to the galley. There’s some kind of leak from one of the refrigeration units.”

Rusty looked away from her for a moment. He really had no good reason to refuse. All his engineering teams were doing now was wearing out parts by replacing them when there was nothing wrong with them.

“Yeah,” Rusty finally answered. “Go ahead.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“And Aruna?”

The young Indian ensign paused in the doorway. Rusty saw tension tighten her posture. Seeing it made him realize just how wound up he was.

“Take the rest of the day off.”

Aruna turned, puzzlement evident on her mocha-tinted features. “Sir?”

“You heard me,” Rusty replied. “Do it,” he said, trying to sound gruff. “Before I change my mind. The waste ducts on Deck Two still need to be cleaned.”

“Yes, sir.” A faint smile then formed on her dark lips. “Thank you, sir.”

Rusty grunted, turning his attention back to the status display. Once he was certain that Aruna was no longer there, he allowed himself to smile.

I do have a reputation to maintain, after all.


The distance from the bridge to Devereux’s quarters was short, but it gave her enough time to consider her growing restlessness. She had felt it even before Hawkes had interrupted her workout, attributing it to the current monotony of their mission. The unexpected sensor readings had done nothing to fan those feelings, so she assumed they were unrelated. Yet, there was something . . .

Entering her quarters, she palmed the lights up to a brighter daylight level. Activating the “Do Not Disturb” indicator, she began to strip out of her workout clothes. Pulling her shirt off over her head, she caught a whiff of her dried perspiration. Other than for Hawkes and Pyrafox, no one else on the bridge had been close enough to smell her.

It’s not that bad . . . 

She pulled and naked now, studied her body’s profile in the long mirror.

The soft edges she had acquired during her leave of absence were nearly gone. Her legs and hips had regained nearly all of their previous muscle tone. She did not have them back in the same shape as they had been when she been a Lieutenant, but she was close to doing so. Although she had tried to maintain a rigorous exercise regimen during the last weeks of her father’s life, it had been nearly impossible at a time when even sleep had become a precious commodity.

She studied the curve of her breasts for a moment, grateful for the ship’s low gravity. During her personal leave on Earth, she had noticed that they had begun to sag slightly. It was, she knew, as much an unfortunate side effect of being planet-side as it was a reminder of her brief pregnancy. The hollow feelings of loss no longer came immediately upon her at that memory. What she did not expect was the remembered sensation that came unbidden to her next—that of Scott’s touch on her body.

He is gone now, she reminded herself, closing her eyes against the memories. Long since dead and gone.

No matter how many times she had practiced that litany since she had returned to her own present—his future—a part of her refused to believe it. They had touched, talked, and made love. For her, it had happened only months ago, not more than a century past. With some effort, she shrugged away the visions, turned on the shower, and stepped inside. The instantly heated spray cleansed her body, but did little to ease her mind.


Twenty-four minutes later, Hawkes heard the main hatch open and looked up from his station. The Captain entered, carrying a mug in one hand, just as he had predicted. Her other hand, though, did not contain the protein bar he had expected. Instead, it held some kind of pastry. Hawkes recognized it as one of the scones from a batch that Ensign Evelyn Jaccard had baked that morning. Apparently, the Captain had opted to sample one.

“Anything new on the sensors?” Devereux asked, taking a small bite from the scone as she waited for an answer.

“We’re still out of the optimal sensor range, Captain,” Lieutenant Gho reported from the main Science station. “It still looks like it could be an asteroid cluster,” she went on, “or maybe a comet, or maybe even some other kind of debris field.” Gho consulted the displays on the station before continuing. “There’s nothing to suggest that there’s anything the size of a planet or small moon out there.”

That, Hawkes considered, would have been intriguing.

Planets and moons were typically not found outside of established solar systems. None of the previous surveys had reported any of the usual signs of a planetary system in the region. Their own sensors now appeared to confirm that as well. Hawkes knew that was no guarantee that one was not present. In his experience, the universe made it a point to remind those who explored it that they did not understand everything about it how it worked.

Devereux stared at the trio of main bridge displays, chewing another bite of pastry thoughtfully.

“Still,” Devereux mused aloud, “it’s odd for it be out here in the middle of nowhere.”

Hawkes found that he had to agree.

“And there’s nothing at all unusual about this region?”

Gho shook her head, her sleek shoulder-length hair casting dark waves across her face. “Nothing, Captain,” she answered. “At least nothing our sensors can detect.” She waved her hand toward the Science station, indicating that the Captain could check the readings for herself.

“What about spatial displacement?” Hawkes asked.

The ensign tapped at the surface of the console and then glanced at Devereux before answering.

“There’s nothing, sir.” She tapped a control, replacing the image on the leftmost main bridge display. “If there’s been any FTL traffic through here, it happened a long time ago.”

The Captain’s posture relaxed slightly. Hawkes felt an undercurrent of relief as well. It seemed unlikely now that they were heading into some kind of ambush. There were no known ways to obscure the spatial displacement caused by the passage of a vessel using a faster-than-light drive, regardless of the technology being used.

Devereux turned toward Hawkes with a bemused expression.

“I hate to tell you this, Lieutenant,” she said, “but it looks like we’re going to get that spot in the history books after all—for discovering a new cloud of space dust.”

Hawkes met the Captain’s eyes for only a moment before turning away. Until he was convinced that the region was safe, he would not share in her amusement. With that thought in mind, he turned back to his station and studied the tactical readouts once more.


Hope stood, engrossed in her examination of the data from her last experiment, despite its clear failure to produce the results she had hoped for, It took a moment to recognize that the insistent buzzing sound was the intercom calling for her attention. She had also failed to notice the blinking alert signal. Feeling only a faint twinge of chagrin, she reached over and lightly tapped the intercom control.


“Doc!” a voice shouted over the speaker. “Sanchez tumbled down a maintenance shaft and banged herself pretty bad.”

There was brief delay, filled with a background of unintelligible sounds.

“She’s says she’s all right,” the voice went, hesitating slightly as it added, “but there’s a lot of blood.”

Hope picked up a tablet and linked it to medical monitoring network. It her a moment to determine which “Sanchez” the voice might be referring to, but guessed that it was the one named “Ensign Sheryl Sanchez”, as she was the only one currently assigned to Engineering-related duties. Hope accessed the Sanchez’s medical record and checked the current readings from the Ensign’s embedded physiological monitor.

Pulse rate slightly elevated. Respiration elevated. Blood volume slightly reduced.

While definitely in some discomfort, the Ensign did not appear to be going into shock.

“Bring her,” Hope said.

There was a noticeable pause before the voice returned to the intercom.

“Are you sure?” If Hope interpreted the vocal intonations correctly, the individual sounded both uncertain and incredulous.

“Yes,” Hope said. “Bring her.”

Once again, there was a burst of undecipherable noises.

“Okay,” the voice said. “We’re on our way.” The intercom speaker hissed into silence.

Hope put the tablet down and began shutting down the equipment, placing those she might want to use again soon in standby mode. Picking up the tablet again, she rechecked the Ensign’s readings then headed for infirmary’s main section, letting the lights dim and the hatch close and lock behind her.

She just finished preparing Diagnostic Bed One when the main hatch opened. Through it came the Ensign, supported by a Human male wearing maintenance coveralls which hid his rank insignia. Hope was forced to identify him from his facial features, finally deciding that he was Ensign Josef Gogorsky, also a technician assigned to Engineering. Dark stains streaked the front of his coveralls. Hope was certain that an analysis would report it was Ensign Sanchez’s blood.

“Bring her,” Hope said, directing him toward the diagnostic bed.

Sanchez’s face twisted with pain as Gogorsky guided her toward the platform. Her teeth showed brightly as she gritted them together. The front of her tunic was slick was a coating of blood. She released a sharp moan as Gogorsky helped her into the bed.

“Remain still,” Hope instructed the Ensign, and tapped the control to begin the diagnostic scan.

Ensign Gogorsky watched with obvious concern, fidgeting as Sanchez continued to breathe rapidly while the scan was run.

“Doc!” Gogorsky called out sharply. “Can’t you see that she’s in pain?”

Hope quickly glanced at the Ensign’s face, but saw no significant change in it from before.


Gogorsky’s eyes widened, the change in his posture adding to his expression of incredulity.

“Aren’t you going to give her something?”

Sanchez’s eyes also watched Hope as they waited for her to respond.

“Yes,” Hope replied.

Some of the tension on Sanchez’s face eased away.

“When scan is complete.”

Gogorsky’s hands and arms moved in a motion that she could not identify. Hope presumed it was a physical expression of his frustration. She ignored it. Based on established medical protocol, she would not administer an analgesic of any kind until the type and severity of the injury was determined. This might displease Gogorsky, and prolong Sanchez’s discomfort, but such caution was required.

The instruments connected to the diagnostic bed completed their evaluation and alerted Hope that the results of the scan was ready. She studied them quickly, confirming what she had surmised on her own: the Ensign had suffered a deep laceration along the anterior thorax, penetrating the pectoralis major. The ribs had prevented any damage to the organs beneath them. Had she suffered the same injury, Hope considered, it might have proven fatal. Her skeletal structure, at least where it supported and protected her torso, was much less durable.

She quickly considered the proper sequence of treatment, knowing that if she delayed much longer, the Ensign would likely slip into shock. Hope had found Humans to be surprisingly resilient, even after suffering severe—and even life-threatening—injuries. There was a wide variation among Human responses, she had learned, though.

Hope checked the Ensign’s medical record again and then selected a medium-strength analgesic. She loaded an injector and pressed it against the Ensign’s chest, just above the wound. The injector beeped once, emitting a barely audible hiss, and then Hope removed it. Sanchez watched her, still grinding her teeth.

“That’s it?” Gogorsky shouted. “That’s all you’re going to do for her?”

When Hope did not immediately respond, he went on, his voice rising, “You don’t care when we’re in pain, do you? We’re all just some sort of alien experiment to you!”

A moment later, Sanchez relaxed, releasing a long, slow breath. Glancing at Gogorsky, she flashed him a quick, relieved smile, and then settled back into the bed’s cushions. Hope turned away and began gathering equipment from one of the cabinets. She then paused and turned back the face Ensign Gogorsky. Her dark eyes fixed on him.

“You will depart.”

Gogorsky stared back at her, blinking in stunned surprise.


Hope considered his question for a moment, wondering if perhaps her instruction to him was unclear. She searched her memory for another Human word that might more accurately convey her message.


Gogorsky’s eyes widened. His mouth opened, but only sputtering noises came out before Sanchez interrupted him.

“Get out, Go-go,” she said, chuckling hoarsely. “I’ll be fine.”

Gogorsky’s mouth closed. His eyes shifted between Sanchez and Hope.

“Okay,” he finally said, his shoulders squaring in a gesture of mock defiance. “But I’ll be back to check on you later.”

He shot one final glare at Hope and then trudged out of the infirmary.

Sanchez breathed another soft chuckle, shaking her head slowly. “I think he’s got a bit of a crush on me,” she told Hope.

Hope paused for a moment, considering the truth of the Ensign’s statement. Gogorsky’s actions were consistent with some of the mating behaviors she had observed among Humans. Whether Ensign Sanchez desired Gogorsky as a mate, Hope was not yet certain.


Sanchez stared at Hope, trying to read some meaning into the Aerian’s large dark eyes and flat expression. When she found none, she settled back once more and closed her eyes as Hope began to cut away her ruined tunic.

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 14 & 15

Chapter 14

Hamish Montrose settled in behind his new, polished oak desk. The promotion ceremony went without any incident. He was surprised by the appearance of Donald McDonough, the executive secretary to the High Magus Harold Crist. “Congratulations on your promotion, Captain Montrose. Your rise in the ranks bodes well for your future”, McDonough informed him. Montrose smiled and replied, “I’m at the Council’s beck and call. I serve with pride.” McDonough nodded, then smiled slyly. “Indeed, your service has been impressive. The only blemish being The Yellowjakket. I’d heard that she’d beaten another sweep for her.”

Montrose gritted his teeth behind a bland smile. “She’s certainly a challenge. One could wonder that with the power of the Council, how she has managed to survive.” Montrose smiled internally as he saw McDonough’s eyes narrow. “It is a puzzle”, McDonough replied, with feigned nonchalance. “I hope that, for all our sakes, she’s brought to account soon.” With that McDonough proffered his bare hand. Montrose made certain his glove was on as they shook. He felt a tingle of an attempted spell in his fingers, and smiled knowingly at McDonough, who finished shaking and released. He turned away and disappeared into the crowd, as others moved in line to shake Montrose’s hand.

Once the crowd had thinned, he left the ceremonial to sit in his new office. He was now Captain of East London, with the power to move resources about as he saw fit. He reported directly to McDonough he found out after the man had left. The spell bothered him. It was so subtle, he couldn’t determine what it’s intent was. McDonough also hadn’t seemed to notice the failure of the spell to affect him. Perhaps he had noticed and was playing ignorance. Either way, he would bear watching. He would need to be very careful about his position.

The political waters ran very muddy and very deep at this level. Any mistake would be magnified. That worked both ways however. He knew that the Council was always in flux. With some luck, and some careful planning, a seat could be his. He reached for the mind-crystal. It was time to inform Root and Thorpe of their new duties. The game’s stakes had been increased, and he was determined to win.

Chapter 15

Yellowjakket had run hard through South London, looking for a potential target. The mages here with the authorities were the ones most likely to have any information on the raid, and where any prisoners were taken. She’d had no luck at all as she ran the streets. The notorious London Fog had come in off the river, blanketing the city in grey so thick that she had to slow down to avoid the ubiquitous double decked buses, autos, and cabs. It made movement like a huge game of blind man’s bluff. She turned hard left at a main street and finally spotted her target. The short distance of maybe forty meters visibility worked to her advantage. She was among them like a fox in a hen house before they realized she was there.

A quick look at the situation made her focus harder. This press-gang was in the middle of hauling away a teen-aged girl, who was hanging limp in her captor’s grasp. A man in work clothes lay sprawled on the step, and a woman was huddled against the door lintel, clutching a little girl to her as she tried to stab another mage who was trying to pull the child from her. She concentrated and hit the first man with an electrical cage, locking his voluntary muscles. The cage was about two meters in diameter. One mage who spun towards the speeding huntress, brushed the cage, and grunted as his body locked in place. Two out of the fight, six to go.

She fired an electrical blast at a mage who’d pulled a stone from his pocket. The stone glowed reddish and pulsed as he was hit in the chest. The blue-robed mage was lifted off his feet and propelled four meters away, striking a trash receptacle, and falling stunned to the sidewalk. One mage finished a quick spell, and a blue glow covered him. He drew a pistol, and fired a quick pair of shots at Yellowjakket, who skidded sideways, and leapt into the air. The bullets cut a path of disturbed air through the fog underneath her, to shatter some glass in the fog.

This is unit three-oh-five”, she heard and turned to look at the speaker. He’d ducked into the house, using the door as a partial shield. She fired again, and the surge of power hammered into the man struggling with the woman. He blew backwards into the door and frame. She missed the mage trying to contact help, but did startle him enough to stop his communication. Right now that was all she wanted.

Another mage began glowing blue. The first who’d set a defensive screen began intoning a quick spell she’d heard before. He was trying to hit her with a disruption spell. She didn’t fire, knowing the blue would stop electricity, so she sped at the man rolling her shoulder forward at the last moment before impact. She caught him flush in the stomach, knocking him backwards into the front of the townhome. A quick cage locked up another wizard mid-spell. Five down three to go. The three left were going to be difficult. One was the mage in the doorway, trying to call assistance. Another still had the girl, and had retreated down the street, holding the girl between him and Yellowjakket.

The third aimed the pistol and fired again. Yellowjakket dodged, and hear a meaty thwack behind her. She glanced back, and saw a blotch on the girl’s thigh. She’d been hit by the bullet. Something clicked off inside her. The next blast took the shooter in the chest, burning away the robes, and charring his skin as he was hurtled towards the townhome, snapping ribs on impact with the brick facade.

The next shot tore the door away from the frame, blowing it to flinders and blasting the mage with splinters. He screamed and clawed at his eyes as he blasted backwards, colliding with the inner wall headfirst, and dropping to the floor, bleeding from a dozen wounds. The last man dropped the bleeding girl and vanished in the fog. Yellowjakket sent a blast his direction, and a yellow-orange ball erupted from a unseen vehicle in the fog.

She sped over to the girl, and dropped to one knee to inspect the wound. To her untrained eye it looked bad. The area was swollen already at least half-again as much as her undamaged leg. “I’m taking her to a doctor, Where’s the closest hospital?” The woman stood silent, clutching her child and staring that the downed wizards. Yellowjakket looked at the man, who was trying to sit up. “Lewisham, I think. She’s North of here and a few streets left.” His voice was rough, unsteady. He sounded drunk, or maybe a concussion. “I need to know NOW! Exactly where it is! This girl’s been shot! I need you to think!” She urged him. The desperation in her voice lending it an urgency that helped the man focus.

Go west to the one-two-one then north, it’s about a kilometer, maybe two up. It’s on the left.” His eyes dropped to the unconscious girl then back to Yellowjakket as she shouldered the girl in a fireman’s carry. The fear in his eyes lent Yellowjakket a desperate strength and she lurched into motion, hitting a solid stride after a few shaky steps. She accelerated, turning right on one-twenty-one and speeding north.

The hospital loomed out of the fog, the lights creating a soft whitish glow in the fog. She turned and sped to the doors, her free hand yanking the door open and stepping through. “Emergency! I’ve a woman who’s been shot! I need assistance for her! The activity in the lobby stopped in shock as she shouted over the din. The distinct costume drew officers and medical staff. “Take her she’s been hit in the thigh. I’m not certain how bad”, she explained hurriedly. The police were moving between her and the door, trying to box her in.

All righ’ gel, settle, an’ we’ll take it easy on ye”, an older man in uniform said. He was about one point eight meters tall, and stocky. His paunch lapped out over his belt, which he adjusted as he spoke at her. His left hand had an automatic pistol, and his right was up to his microphone on the shoulder. He had it tight on the mic, so everything was being radioed to his precinct house. She didn’t hesitate. A quick glance showed three halls that would be possible exits. She chose the leftmost and accelerated past the surprised officer, and disappeared into the hall before the officers could react.

Yellowjakket sped through the halls, finally coming across signs the guided her to an exit at the back of the building. She slowed to push the door open, then was out in the open once more speeding northwest away from the hosptial. She darted back south after a moment, intent on finding the mages she’d fought. It took her about eight minutes for the full round trip back to the fight. One of the mages was trying to struggle up, confronted by an ugly sounding crowd of people. She datarted past the men and women to the mage’s side. “They’re in a foul mood. I think they dislike you”, she told him with a smirk. “I’ve a mind to help them out, unless you can tell me something I want to know.”

The mage peered at her. He’d been the first one hit, and held in the electric cage. “You come in quiet, and I’ll put in a good…hrrk!” He dropped to his knees as Yellowjakket kneed him in the groin. “Try anything at all and I leave you here. You’re screwed, mate. Think you can get a spell off before they decide to beat you to death? I don’t think so. They’re too close, and you’re too slow. You’re about to die here. Unless you give me something. There was a sewer squat hit just south of here a little while ago. What do you know about it? Where’d they take the people?” Her voice was hard, brittle. She meant every word.

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 13

Yellowjakket sped into Whitechapel, and dropped her power. She’d near exhausted herself holding onto it for longer than she’d ever done before. She’d needed to rest and ready herself. She hurtled though the narrow side streets, turning and skipping through them like a mad hare. When she’d felt certain any pursuit had been shaken off, she dove into the Aldgate East Tube entrance. Yellowjakket dashed down the steps and launched herself off the landing, heading west. Following the tracks, she slowed to a stop and blasted a service door open, disappearing off the tracks, and out of the search area.

She kept up a steady run. The dark, narrow tunnels were filled with pipes and littered with debris, making high speed travel very hazardous. More than once she barely ducked a low-hanging valve or bend in a pipe. At her speed, a concussion would be a lucky result. She finally reached her destination after a slow fifteen minutes. She entered the back end of the hidden tunnel, and immediately the bitter smell of marijuana assaulted her. The thickness and intensity caused her to gag involuntarily.

She recovered, and crouched, listening. Up ahead a number of voices carried to her. She started to stalk forward slowly. Yellowjakket wanted to charge in, but it was prudent to get a look first. These might be metas, and if so, it would be potentially very dangerous to get in a fight. The last thing anyone needed was the interest of the Patrols. The smell made her light-headed. She shook her head to clear it, and fell on her side, partly dazed by the potency of the smoke. Her vision swam, rippling like a heat mirage above hot asphalt.

The talking stopped when she fell. Fortunately, no one came to check out the noise. She slowly pushed upright and retraced her steps, finally getting out of the tunnel into clean air. The slim woman took deep gulps of air trying to clear her head. She couldn’t figure out why the smoke in the tunnel was so potent. She’d been around marijuana and other drugs growing up. In the public schools it was impossible to get away from. Kids wanted the latest, and greatest drugs. Their way of rebelling against family authority, or something to sell and make some quick cash.

After ten minutes, her mind cleared. Balance and a sense of wholeness returned. She started down the tunnel, and towards the checkpoint. The guards would want to know about the tunnel and the people nearby. New smells met her as she moved closer. Smoke from burned plastic hung in the air, along with a charcoal smell. She started to trot, suddenly fearful. There was no noise. She moved past the first home. The curtains over the small man-made caves had been burned away. She didn’t smell any petrol or other liquid flammables. The regularity of the burn marks made her think mages. Those were the only ones who might trouble themselves to attack a place underground like this.

The checkpoint was devastated. The metal pipe that served as a watch point had been melted so thoroughly that the sewer tube had collapsed. Debris and loose dirt half-filled the main tunnel. She kept walking, occasionally seeing a location where someone she knew had stayed. Where there had been a small, bustling community, there was now only the sound of dripping water and the quiet squeal of vermin that scurried through the debris of the lives that were once here.

She held her sorrow tight inside. This was not the time to grieve. Right now was time to look, search the detritus for any possible clues about the attacker, and the fate of the people. She sifted slowly through the wreckage, hunting for anything that might tell her where and who to focus her efforts on. A spot of color drew her attention. She moved a piece of charred wood, revealing a strip of blue-grey cloth with a distinct bit of red piping on it. A mage’s robe. That confirmed who the attackers were. It also meant that the people here fought back rather than ran. A piece of robe doesn’t just fall off.

So, with the mages being the culprits, she needed to find a group to question. That could get problematic. The other problem was, why had this place been attacked? It was small, out of the way. Nothing was here that would draw a full-on raid to her knowledge. She needed more information, which went back to finding someone to ‘talk’ to.

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 12

Montrose was up and shouting orders as soon as the call came in. Yellowjakket had been found, just south of the main search. She’d apparently felt the pressure as she’d accelerated and was now just east of Stratford, moving towards London at a measured three hundred and forty kilometers per hour. Her sped made any ambush futile currently, but he knew she’d have to slow down. The past reports said that Yellowjakket couldn’t maintain that high rate of speed for long. He contacted Root and Thorpe, and had Control’s apportation specialists ready a teleport for him and his new team. Once she slowed down, then they could chance a jump ahead of her expected travel. Perhaps what he needed was a few metas himself. Fight fire with fire.

He returned in his mind to Root’s words. She wasn’t a teleporter. So what had really happened in those earlier encounters? He had built and cast out any number of scenarios, as any magic would have been detected by the mages trying to capture her, and if it was another meta, they would have shown in the sense-scans the mages performed trying to locate her. The only way to avoid either was to teleport far enough away. Once the target got a kilometer or so away, the traces faded unless a majo working was done by Control’s tame wizards. But with their inability to pin her location, they might as well be throwing darts at a map to try and predict her location.

Hamish stepped to his private teleport circle. The essence he’d gotten from the boy was almost used. He’d need another recharge when he got to Control. He wanted to be fully ready when he confronted Yellowjakket again. The teleport took hold when he triggered the permanent spell, hurling him in an eyeblink to Control in downtown London. “Where is she?”, He demanded as he strode from the circle. Montrose nodded at Root, walking past as the small man mumbled a ‘good evening’. He stepped to the prefect in charge. “Who’s on the list?” The prefect lifted his arm, and mumbled a spell. A face and name appeared above his open hand. Montrose nodded. “She’s in the ready room?” “Yes, sir. I’ll ring ahead and make certain you’re not interrupted”, the prefect said in a high, shaky voice. Montrose smiled. He enjoyed the respect power gave him. When Yellowjakket died, he’d be another step to a full council seat.

Sir! We’ve got news! The team assigned to search the tip for Charing Cross found the runaways.” The courier snapped a salute, and handed Montrose the memory crystal with the full report detailed therein. Montrose pressed the crystal against his temple and concentrated. The report said that the press-team had searched the Charing Cross orphanage, and had found exactly what the mole had described. Upwards of thirty children, all young mages and metas, currently unwakened.

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 11

Yellowjakket sped east, darting through London Fields and continuing was through the small streets. She’d slowed enough to be seen, now it was time to move back North and West. She needed to meet the boys and guide them to the next conductor. He would guide them out to points north. She turned north, hiding in between buildings and away from the large main streets, sticking to feeders and cutting between buildings. She ran through Highbury Fields and turned Northwest, It took another half-hour to work her way up to Hampstead. Hampstead Heath is on the north side of London, still in the city proper actually.

This was the toughest portion of the trip. Pryor’s Field was a large area, and out here, while more remote, was out in the open. The fog thinned as she moved north so travel was much easier under near cloudless skies and a full moon. If they were spotted, there was no quick escape. The boys would be taken to Rochester, if they were lucky. If not, to Control, and then to god knew where. She was dead if they caught her.

It took ten minutes of searching quietly around the prior to find them. They’d huddled in the trees as she’d told them, going up to Joy pond to hide. One of the boys yelped when she seemed to step out of the shadows next to him. She stifled a tired giggle, then said quietly. “This is going to be the hard part. We need to traverse north, to Monken Hadley. I’ll be staying with you more on this leg of the trip. It will take a day, and we’ll find a place to hide at sunrise.”

The trip to Monken Hadley took two days, as the neighborhoods between there and Hampstead had active police patrols going day and night. One of the boys found out that there was an escaped felon loose in the area. Taking it slow and careful, the small party made it through without attracting attention. She finally ushered the tired and hungry students inside the building. The lights were left off, leaing Yellowjakket and the fugitives in the dim light.

The place had a surreal look. The building was one large open room, with double doors front and rear. One small water closet, and a bank of dimmable switches for the interior lights. Light coming from the streetlamps was filtered by the closed curtains, bathing the interior in a disturbing greenish glow. Dust seemed to dance in the beams of light, making the place feel almost disconnected with reality.

The Hadley Memorial Hall, and most of Monken Hadley, had been abandoned when it had been deliberately burned by Control. A small group of metas had used this area as their home, until someone had informed the authorities about their activity here. Control adopted a ‘scorched earth’ policy to send a message and create an object lesson as to their intentions. Whole families had been taken and tossed in the new isolation camp at Water’s End. Only a few still lived here. Those who stayed were unswerving in their loyalty to the Council, and Control.

So, on one hand, this location was one of the worst to choose because of the people. It was also one of the better places as most of the people had been removed. From here, they were in the hands of the UG, until they made it to Scotland. Yellowjakket decided to take a quick turn around the small town before turning in. She started to the door, when she heard a lock turn at the back door of the hall.

Everyone froze in place at the sound. She moved next to the door, ready to attack should something attack. The door rattled as someone pulled at it, then a second lock was turned at the bottom of the door. Yellowjakket drew a breath, and focused, as an old woman entered. She took a quick look at the boys, pointedly ignoring the black and yellow meta by the door. Hse was dressed in a dingy looking dress that looked a sickly green in the light. A darker, purplish-green shawl was around her shoulders. Her heavy black-framed glasses made Yellowjakket think of a librarian. Her skin had the same sickly greenish tone as the light. Her nose was a classic Roman nose with the prominent spur between the eyes. Her thin lips were a garish pink, and pressed in a thin line as she gave each boy in the room a once-over.

Hurry up dearies, let’s get you out and to the house. We’ve got food and a warm barn for you to sleep at.” She smiled then turned as Yellowjakket stepped behind her. “How do we decide to trust you?”, she asked bluntly, her hand beginning to glow with a yellowish cast. “Oh how clumsy of me”, she chuckled. “Ah, oh dear my memory.” She frowned in concentration, and then looked at Yellowjakket. “You’re that girl in London that’s got everyone in a snit. Yellowjakket’s baker’s dozen. So what is the countersign?”

The smile left her face, and she made a claw of her left hand. A bluish liquid seemed to form there, smoking and spitting like boiling fat. “You’re Granny Goodwitch.” Yellowjakket said, and watched the old woman’s face wrinkle with distaste. “Yes, you’re the one and I’m the one. No one would call me that to my face around here.”

She looked at the children. “You’re a day late, and you’re way out of your home, girl. Why?” “Gewlry asked me to. She had some difficulties crop up and wanted these out soonest”, Yellowjakket informed her. “As for the late part. There was a report of an escapee around Hampstead, and the patrols were heavy. I prefer stealth to speed, especially when none of the boys can outrun a car, or a bullet.” Granny nodded. “That’s very true. I heard about that escaped prisoner. Bloody rotten luck the timing. But when is timing good for anyone?”

You seem to do well by it.”, Yellowjakket smiled. Granny frowned at Yellowjakket, who could see the mischievous twinkle in Granny’s eyes. “If you mean I’m old and slow, you’re a cheeky one.” Yellowjakket shrugged, and looked over to the children. “They’re yours now, I’ve got to get back to Londinium. I’ve got to find where they’re training the children to be Control members. If that place could be shut down, there might be a chance to really disrupt things. Maybe even get a full resistance going.”

Granny looked at her. “The resistance is there already. Someone just has to start calling for it.” Yellowjakket looked at the old woman. Granny Goodwitch opened the door, which turned the shawl from a sickly purple green to a warm lavender. “Well? We’ve not all night to chatter, fun as it is. Let’s get you to the house and some food in you.” She stepped out the door, and slowly walked towards the back of the lot and then turned north. The boys filed out and followed her in a silent gaggle, turning north and disappearing around the edge of the wooden fence at the edge of the property.

The slim huntress watched for a few minutes, then stepped out the door, quietly closing it behind her. The streets were empty of any moving traffic. Curfew was in effect. Yellowjakket flitted quickly from house to house. She could move much faster now that she needn’t worry about the boys. She swung wide around downtown Monkton Hadley, then paralleled the tracks back towards London. She was far enough outside of London proper that it was easy travel, without the dangers of overhead reconnaissance. She moved east intending on coming in from the last direction she’d lured them towards. If they took the bait, the area around Stratford would be futilely searched for her, at least for a few days.

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 10

Yellowjakket sprinted hard and dodged left past two abandoned cars. The police sirens were louder but so far she’d only seen one and a quick shot had blasted the front left tire, crippling the car. It had swerved, and skidded to a stop as she sped off. She hoped it didn’t roll. Up ahead, over the rise she could see a number of flashing strobes in the gathering fog. There were a lot of police cars gathering. She needed to find a way to get by the roadblock and into open ground. The further away from the enclosed streets, the harder it would be for them to corner her.

She came hurtling over the rise, a dark blur in the light fog. Two vehicles had turned across City Road, blocking her path. A quick glance to her right showed officers behind vehicles on those streets also. Yellowjakket considered pulling a reverse, but discarded the idea immediately. The police would be blocking the roads, hoping she’d turn and allow the trap to close. It was time to push her limits.

She concentrated, then her body lit up like a firefly. The glow surrounded her, and she accelerated to thrice her original velocity. A hard left at the patrol car then a leap put one foot on the boot, and she was over and past before the officers could react. She ran, turning right when the street ended, then chuckled grimly to herself, charging into the City Road Basin and turning up the basin and then east in Regent’s Canal. She dropped her power, running on top of the water at a solid one hundred twenty. She was past the blockade and in the open. The helicopter following her she lost them after turning up Kingsland basin, and losing them in between the buildings.

* * * * *

Montrose gaped at Yellojakket’s sudden break. “No! No no no no no no no no NO!” She disappeared in a blaze of Yellow, passed over the parked police car and was gone. He heard the police radio frantically trying to redirect officers enroute to cut her off, but none were equipped to deal with the canal. “She’s a proper bitch, she is.” Root ambled up to Montrose, who ground his teeth. “I thought you said she’s a ‘porter. That weren’t no ‘port.” “She didn’t need to ‘port! You saw what she did. She just ran through the blockade like it wasn’t there. Root held up his hand placatingly. “No sir, I mean she’s not a ‘porter at all. If she were, using it or no I’d feel a shift. If ye ken ‘port, there’s always a, displacement, if you will.” He nodded at Haverstock, where Yellowjakket had disappeared. “She don’t have it.”

Montrose was still seething as the words sunk in. “No teleportation. Are you sure, Mister Root?” “Sure as I am standing, she cannot teleport. There is no feel of a ‘porter to her at all”, the small man replied seriously. “I repeat, Mister Root, you are certain?” “Yes, I am absolutely certain, Mister Montrose. There is no way that Yellowjakket is a teleporter.” A whoosh, a burst of light from overhead, and a wash of heat pushed down on them for a moment. Mister Thorpe, came at a trot towards the other two. “What happened? I’ve been holding that heat for nigh on three minutes. I never saw the git. I had to let it go. So, if you please, why did you leave me to cook like that?”

Montrose glanced at Thorpe, who returned his angry gaze with one that nervously flicked from his shoes to Hamish’s and back down again. The man had been left out of the events. Montrose noted that the police scanner had partly melted on Thorpe’s jacket. The heat he’d built up apparently shorted the system. Montrose went over the details briefly to bring Thorpe up to speed. “That’s a proper bollocks. Something like ‘er is hard to pin with just normals about. Perhaps more auxiliaries to control the edges?” Thorpe noted the slow building of anger and power in Montrose, and stopped talking.

Will you be needing us further, Mister Montrose?”, Root asked him, very politely. Montrose got his temper, and his power back under control, then looked at Root and Thorpe. With Yellowjakket out of reach until they sighted her again, there was nothing to do about her. Root and Thorpe were both good, obedient wizards. A tighter relationship between them would be mutually beneficial. With the captain’s job all but his, he would need reliable lackeys to watch his back as he worked to further his own power.

He looked at Thorpe, and forced a rueful smile to his face. “You are right, Mister Thorpe, it was a bollocks of an operation. We tried a slapdash approach, and it failed. What we need, is a dedicated force to find and corner her. Would you two be interested if such a possible group were to be formed?” He watched their faces carefully as e presented the idea. The two men listened, then turned to look at each other for a moment. Montrose almost chuckled to see them shrug their shoulders at the same time. “We’d be in, sir, if such a group were put together”, Thorpe said quietly. Root simply nodded in agreement with Thorpe.

Montrose smiled in genuine good will. He had a start of something. Certainly, it was spontaneous, but some of the best efforts came from spontaneity. Things were looking up.

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 9

Yellowjakket took out at a flat sprint, holding to alleys and back streets until she was a good distance away. She was out on the street, in view, and moving as fast as she could, going south, crossing the Thames at Vauxhall. She angled southwest, then dropped into the underground. She followed the tube back to Euston, then scrambled through the tube to Camden Town. The black-clad huntress was listening to the radio traffic. While the wizards used magical means to communicate, everyone else used their cells and the police used their own channels. This was how she knew where the press-gangs were. The police would report their movements as a way of staying out of the wizards way. The less attention you had from those in power, the safer you were.

She listened to the radio traffic, trying to visualize the moves the ‘PG’ were making. If nothing seemed to be coming north, then they could use the train, otherwise it’d be on foot to avoid discovery. The radio traffic didn’t sound like they’d seen her. She decided to play it safe. She trotted through Camden Town station, and spotted the children where they had gathered. The platform had a few evening pedestrians, though none seemed inclined to notice her when she landed on the platform. She watched the commuters as she waved the children near. Making sure none of them tried to leave or take cell-phone pictures, Yellowjakket whispered the next set of directions to the boys.

“All right everyone, we’re going out to Hampstead. I have a few places to be to keep the PG off of us. Once you get to Hampstead, Go northeast to Pryor’s field, and stay in the trees. I’ll meet you there.” She looked to the two oldest boys. “Keep an eye out for the others. And watch the people on the landings when you exit the station. Anyone tries to follow you, alert the others and try to lose them. If you can’t, scatter in two’s and lie low for a few hours. Then gather at Pryor’s. I’ll be there, and any trouble, I can handle it.”

She hopped down to the tracks, then places a hand on the outside rail, closing her eyes. She could feel the faintest vibration, the subway was near. Yellowjakket jumped the track, then jumped the southbound line, accelerating up the steps and actually generating enough of a draft to pull dust and paper into the air behind her. A couple of commuters shrank back against the wall fighting the sudden draft behind her. The dismayed security had an eyeblink of time before Yellowjakket was past him and gone up the steps and into the night.

* * * * *

Montrose was reading when the link went active. “Sir, she’s been spotted, Camden Town, moving east at high speed. We’re diverting teams to cut off her escape. Latest report coming in is Euston, now moving due east. Estimated speed one hundred twenty kilometers per hour.” Got you, Montrose gleefully thought. “Send two emergency auxiliaries a kilometer east, I’ll be there momentarily.” “Very good, sir”, the disembodied voice replied. “Messers Thrope, and Root will be meeting you. They will pop red for ident.” “Understood.” “Control, out.”

He gathered the pitiful remains of the boy, condensing the essence into a space, then he envisioned his destination. A moment later, there was a slight ‘pop’ as displaced air rushed to fill the location he had been in a moment earlier. He appeared Just east of St. Mark’s hospital. There was activity ongoing as a police cab screeched to a halt straddling the road Yellowjakket was expected on. Two plain clothes officers braced themselves on the hood and boot, aiming back up the road. Montrose raised a hand and a a ball of red light formed. Two other red globes popped into existence to his right. He smiled as the two auxiliaries trotted over.

Both were in dark long-coats that trailed to their ankles. The short thin man Montrose knew by sight and had worked with before. Andrew Root looked like he could be blown over by a strong wind. His face at first glance seemed emaciated, which a further glance at the body beneath the long-coat seconded. Barely one point two meters tall, Root looked like his namesake. His eyes however were a striking yellow-green, and almost seemed to glow in the dim light. The other man, was taller, and more rotund.

Philip Thrope had been a sideshow ‘freak’ before the turning had occurred. His skin hung in loose flaps, hair sprouted thick like a pelt in patches, giving him the grotesque visage of a animal with a case of mange. He weighed over two hundred kilograms, and while his appearance was striking, his strength and abilities with fire magic were known and respected. Both had been tested in combat, against men, and metas. Montrose smiled as the two men joined him by St. Mark’s.

“What’s the plan, mate?”, Thrope asked him. “The plan is to kill her when she gets here, start casting now, she’s due in seconds. “Righto, we’re on it.” The big man rotated his hands, speaking in a clear voice, “اللهب جمع، يدي المصدر، ذهني النموذج، هل لي القوة

The air glowed then caught fire around his hands, the flames getting brighter as he brought them together in front of him. Root began his own chant, a reddish darkness forming around him, then floating aside as another liquid-like outline formed and moved away to make room for yet another. In mere seconds thirty reddish black humanoids had formed. Shouts and shots from the west announced the arrival of their target.

Montrose grinned. Twice Control had been certain she had died, and twice she’d somehow survived. This third time would be the charm. He wondered how she’d survived the ambush at the prison. He’d snapped her neck, he knew it. Yet, here she was. The location spells had confirmed it. What instinctual power did she have, that allowed her to survive a broken neck? What power would cause teleportation to explode the ground around the teleporter like she did? He’d find out and claim that power. That was Root’s function. Each of his simulacrums devoured entangled displacement. More properly, they devoured the energy. She couldn’t teleport away, not with Root locking her down.

“You there!”, Montrose roared at the police. “Block off Pickard street, and ..” He glanced at the streets, “put men on Haverstock and Remington! Keep her on the City Road!” The second half would be on Thorpe. His fire could stop her from being able to escape. He could form barriers, and create balls of fire. Thorpe’s fire could, and would, burn anything it touched. Montrose’s personal specialty was metalmancy. He could warp metal, and animate it. The one flaw was that he had to touch his target. So it would be up to Root and Thrope to trap her. Then when she had no place to run, he could finally kill her.

It would be another step up the ladder. His previous commanding officer had died last night. The cause was a sudden heart attack. No one knew he’d hidden a small metal ‘bug’ loaded with potassium chloride just outside the odious man’s window. A thin wire that allowed control made it easy to inject the man with a lethal amount. Now the job was his. All that was needed was a proper conclusion to this trap.