The Deep End – Chapter 3

Dean tidied up the last bit of his writeup for the job he’d finished. The runaway was in the hands of social services, while her dad was in divorce proceedings with her mom. Neither parent seemed inclined to put her welfare above theirs. Both were in fact, so dysfunctional that Dean had actually contacted social services for the girl after meeting her parents.

I never thought helping would be something like that. What are those people thinking? Whatever it is, it sure doesn’t include their daughter.

He finished the writing, then transcribed it to an official report on the computer. He sent one to social services, and one to each parent. He knew he was going to get stiffed for his fee, but that the courts were for. Dean didn’t feel one twinge of remorse for piling another problem on the two.

I’m glad that one’s over. I can do with a nice, quiet break.

It’s said that the time you feel the most need for a break is the time when you get the most trouble. In this case, trouble found Dean right as he was closing up the office for the night. He’d just finished turning the key in the dead bolt when a woman came through the front door and walked nervously towards him.

“Mr. Youngwood?”

Dean turned to face her as she appraoched. She was his equal in height, with deep coppery skin, black hair and deep brown eyes set in a soft, round face. She wore a pair of faded blue jeans, a red thermal shirt under a black winter coat.

“I’m Dean Youngwood. What can I do for you, Ma’am?”

She stepped closer and Dean could see worry lines creasing her face as she opened her brown purse, and pulled out a folded picture. She handed it to Dean.

“That’s my daughter. She’s missing. Her friends went out clubbing last night, and she didn’t come home. When I found out she wasn’t sleeping over at any of her friends places, I came here. I think something’s happened to her. The knot in my stomach won’t go away.

Dean examined the picture for a moment, then unlocked his office door. “Come in Mrs…ahh…?”

“Payamy. Henra Payamy. My daughter’s name is Maren.”

Dean held the door open for Mrs Payamy, then closed it quietly once they were inside. His office was a spare place, containing a desk with a chair and two guest chairs. Two file cabinets adorned the wall to the right, and a small coffee pot set on the desktop. Dean indicated the coffee maker.

“Would you like a cup? I can start it up. I usually want one right in the morning.”

She shook her head no, and sat in the closest chair to her.

Dean sat down and focused his attention on the woman, who was visibly trying to avoid breaking down in front of him. He didn’t have any tissues, so he got up, rummaged under the small counter to the left. he returned to his desk, unwrapping paper cloths. She took on and held it, twisting it in her hands constantly as she waited for Dean to say something.

“Mrs Payamy. If you want me to look for your daughter, I will be happy to do so. What I will need is the names of her friends, and places where she likes to hang out when she’s not at home.” He looked at the desk, then back into her eyes. “If I can find out where she was, then I can start following upon where she went and find out what’s really going on.”

Dean made a conscious effort to harden his voice. He knew that sometimes young girls ran away because they had fallen in love, couldn’t stand the home life, or gotten pregnant by their boyfriend and couldn’t face the family.

“Understand please, that if you hire me, I’ll find the truth, regardless of what it is. I don’t push anything under the rug.”

Mrs Payamy nodded. “I don’t care about that. I just want my baby home again.”

Dean stood up and moved around the desk to pat her arm sympathetically.

“I understand, Mrs Payamy. I’ll do my best to get her home to you.”

She didn’t nod, but left an envelop on the desk, then walked back out of the office, head up, back straight, forcing herself to remain calm. Dean watched her go, then sat down at his desk. He stared at the envelope, then opened the middle drawer. He pulled out a letter opener and carefully slit the top. Out came a class ring, two pictures, and five hundred dollars various denominations. A second letter was inside.

‘Dear Mr Youngwood: Please accept this as your retainer. I know you can’t do this for free, so I hope what’s here is adequate.

Lorna Payamy’

He put the letter aside, along with the class ring. Why she had sent that along with the money bothered Dean. A ring is a memento. It’s something you don’t part with unless a dire situation comes up. It underscored the concern the woman had for her daughter, and made Dean more determined to find the truth of the matter.

He moved everything to the middle drawer then locked it closed, and went home to sleep and tackle the problem rested and refreshed. The next morning a letter was on the floor inside his office. Mrs Payamy had dropped by and left the list of six friends, like Dean had asked for. Three had asterisks next to them, and a note at the bottom saying these three were the ones that were with her daughter the night she disappeared. A second sheet of paper had a list of four locations that she thought her daughter liked to visit. Time to go to work.

Dean went to the girls with the asterisks first. The first girl was Alys Hardisty. She was the youngest, being fifteen. She had been the first that Maren Payamy had dropped off that evening.

Alys mentioned that they’d gone to an all night diner to talk about school.

“Maren was excited, I remember. She had met some new guy, and she was crushing in a major way. She even showed us a picture of him that she’d taken when he wasn’t looking.”

“Did you get a copy of the picture from her? That would help a lot with finding them.” Dean crossed his fingers.

“Sorry. She didn’t pass it out.”

“Well, damn.” Dean thought for a moment. “Was there anything in the picture that you remember?”

The girl shrugged. “Nah, it was just a picture.”

“Okay, thanks for your time.”

Alys nodded, then closed the door. Dean went to the next two on the list and got the same answer, She showed them a picture of a handsome looking guy, but didn’t share it. None of the three girls remembered anything about the picture other than the man, who had shaggy brown hair hauled back in a ponytail, square features, and looked like he worked out. He went to the last girl’s address, hoping that he might get lucky, and he did.

“The picture? Yeah, I recognize the place because it’s where we stopped a couple of times to get beer. The guy worked behind the counter at the Kwik-Way on Docket. It’s a couple blocks from the high school.”

It was a real break. He drove down to the store, then wandered inside. Behind the counter was a grey-haired man who looked in his fifties. Dean walked up to the counter. The man looked at him.

“What brand you want?”

“Brand? Oh, no. Sorry. I’m here asking about someone who works here. Tall guy, square features, ponytail. I was in here the other day and asked about,” Dean hesitated for a moment, scanning the store, “Moosehead? I wanted to know when you guys restocked it so I could get a case.”

The Deep End chapter 2

Dean sat in his old black Jeep CJ, waiting for the bail-jumper to appear. The mobile homes had all seen better days. Many had paint peeling away from the aluminum siding, while a few had plywood covering windows. Few people moved about. The neighborhood had the broken, desperate feel of poverty and privation. His Jeep was old, but a cut above the average vehicle around here. Most that he saw in crumbling cement driveways were dented and rusting.

The job was to track down a three-time bail jumper who had gang connections. Dean had proven to be a good skip-tracer. He was quiet, nondescript, and could talk to most anyone. He’d talked to a few former associates of Mick Browning, tracing his movements around Halifax as he tried to stay ahead of people like Dean.

Dean had been very diligent while learning the ropes of skip-tracing. A lot of what they did was paperwork, legwork, and waiting. He’d been working with Carny’s cousin, Adair, for nine months now. His record for his time was fourteen arrests after ‘failure to show in court’. To dean’s relief, all fourteen were of those deserving of jail time.

His fear of having to jail a person just because they screwed up once didn’t eat at him like it had before. It was still there, and that fear was what made him so diligent in getting information and making sure the guy he was chasing deserved to be chased. Such as the current person of interest. Mick Browning was a man Dean found he didn’t like much. Mick had a arrest record that stretched back to middle school when he was arrested for breaking into a grade school to steal computers.

His first brush with the law set a pattern of attempted thefts and punishment in Juvenile facilities, which turned Mick Browning into a street-savvy hustler and car thief. Along the way, he’d gotten into a local motorcycle gang, ‘Charon’. They’d taught him the subtle skills of drug trafficking. He’d served some time, but was released early due to prison overcrowding. Then he’d expanded into home invasion, which was what the courts wanted him for now. His trial was pending, and somehow he’d been allowed to be under ‘house arrest’ with an ankle tracker.

The tracker worked exactly for ten minutes before an alarm went off, indicating that it was no longer attached to an ankle. Police arriving on the scene found the collar had been somehow sliced in half, and Mick had disappeared. The warrant was issued that evening and Dean had been given the job of retrieving the wayward criminal. Mick had been careful not to talk to anyone of his usual friends after escaping, but his habit of frequenting strip clubs gave him away. Dean found some people at a local bar that’d seen Mick a couple days ago.

Further canvassing of nearby neighborhoods had led him to this mobile home park, and a particular address. Now, he was parked two houses down, in his old Jeep, waiting for Mick to show his face in public. Dean took a bite out of a cold hamburger, then shifted, moving his hand to his belt and loosening it one notch.

This fast-food is packing on pounds. I need to get to the gym or something, or I’m going to need new clothes as my old ones won’t fit anymore.

The walkie-talkie on the seat next to him crackled to life.

“See anything on your side?”

Dean picked it up, keying the mike as he watched the trailer house.

“No Zeke, he’s probably sleeping the day away in there.” Dean shifted again, putting the remaining half of the hamburger on the seat.

“Okay, nothing here either. Think he’ll show today?”

“Maybe, it’s Monday, and he’s got to be running low on things. If he wants to eat, he’s going to have to go somewhere to get it.”

“yeah, I getcha. Well, only four more hours until we get relieved. Wanna catch a burger afterwards?”

Dean looked at his half-eaten burger. Not again. “I’d rather not, honestly. I’m having trouble fitting into my pants. Any more and I’ll start splitting seams.” He chuckled. “How do you even eat that many? We’ve gone to that burger place every day this week and you still want to go again?”

“Well, if you can’t handle perfection, then I’ll catch alone tonight after we get relieved.”

Dean opened his window to a thin crack to let air in. July was baking him inside his car. He wondered again how John managed to eat all those burgers and still fit in his clothes. His attention shifted to the trailer house.

“I got movement. Someone just opened and shut a window shade.”

“You have eyes on?”

“No. No movement since the blinds.”

“It’d be nice to get this done, eh?”

“Very nice. I could sleep in a bed instead of my front seat.”

“Now you’re just being mean.”

“Someone’s coming out. I have eyes on.”

“Car, or walk?”

“Bike. he’s got leathers on and wearing colors.”

“Shit. Let’s take him before he gets loose in traffic. That damn bike can dodge rings around us.

Dean fired up the Jeep and dropped it into gear.

“I’ll take the bike, you take him.”

“Okay.”

Dean didn’t wait, but went through the small front yard of the home next to Mick’s. The Jeep jounced and wobbled across the uneven ground. Browning had just gotten to the motorcycle when he spotted the Jeep coming straight at him. he abandoned the bike and ran, clearing the bike just barely before the Jeep’s winch and bumper smashed the big bike flat, and the Jeep ran over it in pursuit of Mick.

Mick ran around the edge of his trailer home, breaking contact with Dean. Dean cursed, and ran to the corner, stopping and peering quickly around the corner to see if Mick had stopped to ambush them. He saw the fugitive taking on his partner in a quick exchange of blows, blocks, and counters. Mick was larger, but John had years of martial training, thanks to a father that was a full-time Aikido instructor.

John threw a punch at Mick’s face, which was blocked. John used the block to balance his arm, and he spun into a back kick that caught Mick just below the ribs, knocking him back on his backside. John followed the kick up with a quick shuffle and a second kick to his groin.

Mick turned red and gasped, falling over and groaning in pain.

Dean stepped next to Mick, zip-tie in hand. He flipped Mick onto his stomach, then locked mick’s hands together behind him with the zip-tie. Then John and Dean both helped him up, and placed him in the back of John’s old police cruiser. He helped Mick sit down, then tied Micks hands a second time. This loop with through a specially prepared loop of metal on the floor of the rear passenger’s seat. A third tie went around Mick’s legs and through the metal loop, holding Mick bent over until he was delivered to the Halifax police.

John finished checking the restraints, then closed the door. He turned towards Dean.

“So, still on for a burger?”

Dean patted his growing belly, and shook his head. “No thanks, I have to drop a few pounds before I can indulge again.”

John nodded and opened the driver’s door and clambered in.

He started the car, then rolled the window down.

“Hey, you still planning on dropping to part time with Adair? I know a couple places you’d fit in with.”

Dean smiled and leaned against the door.

“Yes, I’m still going part time. I want to open my own place, and Adair’s being kind enough to help me out, since it won’t be for skip-tracing. It’ll just be me finding lost relatives, lost kids, or wayward spouses who may or may not be cheating on their partner.”

John nodded, and shifted the car into ‘drive’.

“I get that. I think you’re missing a good deal though. We mead a lot of money on these guys.”

“Yes, we did,” Dean replied. Despite his laid-back expression, his mind was racing. He’d found a place, and would be getting the keys for the office today. The thought of actually having his own office sent a thrill through him that he never had when chasing bail jumpers.

I just don’t see a future in chasing bounties like that. This is the big-time. My own office. My own business. My own hours. Mine, and no one else’s.

John beeped the horn, and waited for Dean to stand up, then rolled off to collect the money for delivering a felon back to the waiting arms of the courts.

Yeah, my own place.

The Deep End – Chapter 1

“Hey Dean, how did the test go?” Carny Weston walked over to Dean Youngwood, giving him a fist bump as a greeting, and falling in next to him as Dean walked to his car. The sidewalk was full of pedestrians in a hurry to get lunch. The noon whistle had blown only a minute before Dean had exited Precinct Four after taking his test. He’d come dressed for the weather, and Dean was thankful for his bit of preparation. The snow was coming down thick and slushy, sticking to anything it landed on. The weather station had promised wet snow and the station had got it right. Dean smiled at Carny a little wistfully, then stuck his hands in his jacket pockets.

“You know, I think I did pretty good. But…,” he paused and Carny’s face fell. His blonde beard was already festooned with fat flakes that were threatening to turn his whiskers into an ice sculpture. Carny’s blue and black checked hunting jacket was doing much better, the snow giving Carny the look of a man with a completely out of control dandruff problem. His shoulder length blonde hair combined with his beard made him look like a modern viking.

Dean by contrast to Carny’s appearance, had short black hair irregularly cut, a testament to ‘don’t do this at home in a mirror’, and dark brown eyes that almost looked black. He’d put on weight since his days in the Canadian Air Force, and had a slight gut. His swarthy skin made him look piratical, but in fact Dean was a full-blooded Cree. He wore a pair of thick blue denim work pants, and a matching blue coat to protect him from the cold. His last name, Youngwood, was his adopted parents name. He chose it for his own despite some protests by fellow Cree.

“Aw man that s…,” Carny started to say, but Dean pulled a piece of yellow paper out of his jean pocket and held it in front of Carny’s nose.

“I think they believed so too, because they gave me this little piece of paper.” Dean smiled as Carny whooped and enveloped him in a bear hug.

“Way to go, man! Way. To. Go!”

He ceased hollering as people around them stopped and stared at the exuberant spectacle. Carny put Dean back on the ground and the two continued their walk back towards Carny’s pickup. When they reached the battered green truck, Dean glanced at Carny as he opend the passenger door, “How about lunch on me? I passed the exam, I think we should celebrate at ‘The Shake Shack’. I haven’t had a artery-clogging hamburger and fries for a couple weeks.”

Carny laughed, and opened the driver’s door.

“Sounds great! how ’bout we stop by Tim Horton’s afterwards to get a coffee and donut as dessert?”

Dean grimaced. “I’d love to, but I think I’ll pass on that. I can only handle so much decadence.”

“Wimp.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“Dammit, it’s no fun if you don’t insult back. Where do you get off being agreeable?”

“The same place you get off by trying to start something.”

Carny laughed again and pressed the start button on the dashboard. The vehicle rumbled as the engine refused to start, then caught with a roar. Dean settled back in his seat as Carny wheeled the vehicle out of the parking lot, and into lunch-hour traffic.

While they slowly worked their way towards their destination, Carny asked Dean, “So where are you going to hang your shingle?”

Dean stared forward out the windshield, watching the fat flakes of snow descend on the barely moving vehicles.

“I was thinking up around Shannon Park. The area is old and poor, but a lot of decent sorts there. I could probably get by.”

Carny looked over at Dean as though Dean had sprouted a second head.

“You’re nuts, you know that? I understand wanting to help people, but first you gotta get on your own feet. Helping people is good, but if you can’t keep a roof over your head, how you gonna help someone else?”

Dean shrugged, then looked over at Carny.

“You blew big holes in that idea. Yeah, I’d like to help out that way. Lots of folks could use a little help to solve problems. Hell, maybe solving the problems would fix something.” He sighed and turned back to watch the traffic in front of them. “But you’re right. If I can’t keep a place open, I don’t do anyone any good.” He turned his head towards Carny again. “So what would be your plan?”

Carny shrugged, then replied, “What about joining a detective agency for a bit. Get a name, take care of a few cases. Hunt down a few bail jumpers. Whatever. An agency would get your feet wet for a regular paycheck, and getcha experience without worrying about rent.”

Dean listened quietly. The traffic began moving once more and the two lapsed into silence for the three minute drive over to ‘The Shake Shack’.

After thy sat down with their food, Dean took a bite out of his burger.

“You’re angling for me to work with your cousin, aren’t you?”

Carny smiled and took a hefty swig from the straw in his drink.

“See? That’s why you’re the detective. You can figure things out.”

Dean shook his head. “I know you think your cousin’s a good guy, Carny, but I’m not sure he’d be the best one to work for starting out. I mean, he’s a skip-tracer, not a private investigator.”

“That’s why he’s perfect to work with. He’s been there, done that, and can give you pointers into how to use your newfound legal license the best way possible. It’s a steady paycheck, and you help by getting bad people off the streets.”

“And I have to track down people who’s only crime was that they can’t pay on their car, and I have to take it away, and they lost their job because they can’t get to work to pay bills and help their families.”

Carny’s face drooped. Dean figured he’d tried to be helpful. Carny was always trying to look out for friends. He and Dean had spent a hitch in the Canadian Air Force for four years as mechanics working on the old F-22 Raptors that had survived The Change. They’d gotten along and worked well together. Then became in-laws when Carny had married Dean’s adopted sister Carol. In the three years they’d been married, Carol had two pairs of twins. The first pair were girls, and the second were boys.

Dean shook his head. then took another bite from the burger.

“Say I join your cousin, do you get anything for referring me?”

“No, I just thought he’d be a good place to start.”

Dean nodded. “Okay. I’ll go see him. No promises. I’m still not certain that I want to do this, but you’re right, I have to start somewhere.”

“Cool! I’ll drive you…”

“Ease up Carny, I’ll drive over this afternoon. You need to get back to work, Carol’s probably going crazy with four crazed munchkins running around.”

Carny set his drink down and grabbed at his potato wedges, stuffing two in his mouth. he chewed, then swallowed.

“She probably is, eh? Carol’s a great mom. Though she’s got a temper.”

Dean shrugged. “Well, you would too with four kids in diapers and needing constant supervision. I bet she’s exhausted by the time you get home.”

“Yeah, she is.” He turned to look at Dean. “Speaking of that, wanna come by and spend time with your nieces and nephews? I could take Carol out on the town, maybe a movie, eh?”

Dean chuckled. “Okay, okay. I get it. When do you want me by?”

“How about five-thirty? I’ll be home by then and you can show up. the kids’ll love seeing you.”

“Yeah, I bet. My back’s still sore from the last time they loved seeing me.”

Carny chuckled and finished off the last potato wedge.

“You adore them as much as they adore you. Admit it for once.”

Dean shrugged, smiling. “What, and ruin a streak?”

National Novel Writing Month – Brandished Destiny – Part 8

The last half of Chapter 4 – speculation about where things are sent from the old world

Larry went through that with both of us. He was made of stronger fibre than I. I took it out on the cop in the lobby at the hospital. Larry had to handle me, Fawn, and when Zhira was born, his daughter and keep a sane head on his shoulders. How he managed it I’ll never know. Now here we were with a very cryptic threat hanging over us, and one that could affect the whole of his family. So I swallowed my knee-jerk smartass remark and just nodded. I thought I saw Fawn give a faint sigh of relief.

So, where do you think we should start?”

Give me a day or two to think about it. I know Rynun isn’t a practical joker, but part of me really wants him to be pulling our collective legs. He said ‘war is for the young to fight,’ correct?”

Yeah, that’s right. He said that Fawn and I didn’t need him. He was just an old man that had a few tricks, and that wars are for the young to fight.”

Larry got hard-eyed as he listened. When I finished he leaned forward and to the side so his shoulder was against Fawn’s.

Did you ever thing it wasn’t you he was talking about?”

What do you mean? We’re younger than him.”

Yes, but who here is younger than both of you.”

I had to stop and think. I didn’t want to come to the obvious conclusion because I just might tear my hair out. Larry had correctly pointed out another possibility. Zhira might be who Rynun was talking about fighting a war. She like Her mom and I, was younger than Rynun. I didn’t want to accept it, but I had to. She might have to fight a war. But if that was the case, how did we fit into the picture? Was it something we could change? If so, how? I was circling the same hole I dropped into yesterday. But now I was wanting to tear apart anyone or anything that threatened my niece, even if I had no clue what Rynun’s words were truly supposed to mean.

I’ll put requests for information on sudden catatonia being reported” Fawn said quietly. “If we find more, we can start to put together a pattern on how these people with bottles operate and hunt. Mr Thensome was fairly focused on you, Fern so we didn’t get a clear picture of his tendencies. I hate the idea of more people dying, but unless we find a different way to corner these users, we’re stuck until more information comes to us.”

That’s a hell of a lousy way to find out, Fawn.” The idea of waiting for people to die did not set well with any of us. For all we knew Zhira could be a target. Yes, Rynun might be talking about her fighting the ‘war’, but we just didn’t know. There had to be a way to figure it out.

Larry, do you know any fortune tellers you consider legit?”

Oh come on Fern!? Seriously?! Why not just call up a power and ask it?!”

Well, why not really? Larry’s glare turned to one of alarm as he watched me.

Fern, I didn’t mean you should. Seriously. Forget that idea. There’ll be another way to do it.”

You know more than I about it. We are running with no idea what’s going on. Asking a power at least gives us a starting point.”

At what cost!? I remember what you said about that kidnapping and what you asked for help. That girl screwed up and you’re eaten up with guilt because she got ahead of herself and called that thing herself.” Larry was practically shouting across the small table at me. It was obvious to me that he had no desire or intention about calling up a power. And I’m certain he read in me at the same time I was bound and determined to do something, and that something was likely to be calling upon a power to help us.

What we could get for help had to be bargained for, so payment would have to be commensurate to the information gained. I had to be careful, because all the knowledge of what was happening wouldn’t help me a bit if a power decided to call in the bargain right away. Then it would either be pay up right then, or get turned into a little greasy spot for not upholding a promise made. Powers get testy and viciously creative in dealing with promise breakers. I did not ever intend to be one. If I screwed up, then something might happen to Zhira, or Fawn, or Larry. So not something to think about.

For me, the question was what kind of entity to call. The answer to me at least was obvious. Darkness. That of hidden places and hidden thoughts, and unknown futures. Like Megan had summoned. No, I did not want to summon a being of darkness. Magick the same. Entities of Magick are pretty much incomprehensible, and for good reason. Like darkness they’re a living breathing equivalent of a tactical nuclear device, only with intelligence and an agenda. Never ever deal with powers and yet here I was considering doing what I’ve constantly railed against; dealing with a power when you’re desperate. Yes I was desperate. Larry’s point had me thinking of Zhira having to fight something that I had set in motion. That’s not something any parent wants for their child. Mistakes should be the responsibility of the mistake-maker, not the family of.

I was still going through with it. Right now, appealing to a power seemed the only way to get a handle on what was happening. I needed to set this up carefully and with a lot of thought or I’d be as snared as Megan had been. I could call to the Darkness and see if another entity would answer, but there’s the old adage about the devil you know versus the one you don’t. Which would you prefer? The one I know is dangerous, devious, and frightening. It’s sole purpose from my limited experience with it and Megan was that it was working to drive Megan insane. By now she probably was. I know her mom blames me, and I can accept that building a circle in front of her germinated the idea to cal a power of her own.

No one pays enough attention to teenagers. They’re easily the most messed-up stage of humanity. Bodies are changing from child to adult, and the hormonal imbalances also make the mind more volatile and vulnerable to suggestion. Think about it, as a child you took on dares because it was fun and exciting, but even kids for the most part know when they’re in over their heads. Teens see it a challenge to their existence so they go all-in even if the little voice is saying that whatever they’re doing is a REALLY BAD IDEA. As I said there’s the devil you know and the one you don’t. In my case I’d prefer to delve into the unknown instead of taking the Darkness on and trying to free Megan.

Larry didn’t want to have anything to do with summoning an entity. He’d do it though because Fawn would help me if he didn’t. In terms of rooting about for secret knowledge or hidden things, the Darkness was probably the best choice for knowing. A close second would Secrets. If man can conceptualize an idea, there’s an entity for it. Whether that’s because a being created the entity because of their thoughts, or it already existed because the concept existed, well, that’s what’s driven more than a few scholars crazy trying to answer that. Let’s just say they exist and move on. Between Darkness and Secrets I suppose I should explain how I see them. I think it’s semi-safe to say the how the petitioner sees the entity has a lot to do with their scope of abilities.

Darkness is all sorts of hidden things to me, both remembered and forgotten. Secrets are things that are not physical for the most part, and are hidden within the person. So in a sense one is physical, external to the person, and the other mental and internal. You may see it different and for you the entity may be somewhat skewed from my view. The trouble is Darkness also encompasses fear of the dark, terror, isolation, and a number of other negative connotations. Larry knows a lot more than I. His take is that the entity encompasses those things and more, but because of our limited understanding, when we call an entity, we somehow limit it by how we set up the spell for petitioning.

The spell I made way back when was a general call, and I got a number of different entities that answered. Now this one is specific because my need was specific. I needed information. Specific information with specific limits. Fawn and I to start with. I wanted it about us, not about Zhira. So, that was one specific point. Number two, how are we linked. We’re sisters, and twins, fraternal like has been mentioned before.

That’s another possibility, but I was looking for something more to do with somethinge we were both involved in. That covered a lot of ground. Being with Fawn, Larry, and Zhira was good for the spirit, but not so good for thinking. Both Larry and Fawn had remained quiet when I went off into my little world and thought about things.

Larry, is it a good chance that what this is about is something Fawn and I were in together? I don’t see how just being sisters gets Rynun to say what he did.”

Fern, I think that’s a good idea to start, but it covers a lot of history. You two have been wrapped up in things since you were kids. For starters look at the spell that your Uncle Todd pulled you out of. That was supposed to have killed and resurrected you.” He started ticking off other happenings, like the case with Hervald Thensome and Ahiah, the Nephilim which we laid our parents to rest and broke the suspended spell. He was at it for ten minutes detailing each situation and how Fawn and I were caught up in it one way or the other. It was a long list and I think Fawn and I just sat there stunned at how much Larry remembered, all the way back to middle school when we first met.

Neither of us thought it weird at all at the time, but then we were the ones it happened to, and kids see what goes on around them as normal. Only when you get perspective and look at your life and someone else’s in comparison does the odd things begin to stand out. The stuff starting with Hervald though, all of it had been very out there on the weirdness scale. Magick makes everything odd, but not bugnuts crazy, usually. This has been kind of non-stop excepting this two year break since the good Reverend had manipulated me into kidnapping his niece from his brother and tried to sacrifice eighty-six men, women, and babies to some entity in the ground below the compound.

It’s scattered but not gone. Both Fawn and I know that. It also was another spot where we found out more about ourselves in ways we’d never done before. To get to the meat of the story is that we both have the ability to hold a huge amount of Magick in reserve like a battery. We can’t touch it ourselves, but it’s easy to pull from each other to power ourselves. We’re linked through Magick, but until the compound, it never occurred to us that we might be ‘made’ for each other beyond being just sisters.

What Larry was getting at seemed to be that maybe our link to what Rynun had said was between us. That didn’t explain the war, but explained to me why we might be the ones he was discussing or warning. Going on that premise, we were linked the moment the Magick and the demon worked to kill and resurrect us.

Doing some quick searching online got us Semjaza and Ahiah. Fallen Angel and Nephilim. Father and son. The father would gather power to free the son into the world and the son would then break the bonds that held his sire. Together they’d free all the others and come ravage the world and destroy man in an apocalyptic war. It’s a part of the Book of Enoch. In the book, they were bound to be forever suffering for spreading knowledge and mating with women. So we knew who, and kind of what and why. Where was pretty much unmentioned but because everything had happened around Halifax/Dayning we guessed where was here. None of that explained ‘how’ though. The book of Enoch was not terribly specific about those beyond Azazel and Semjaza being bound and held in the ‘Abyss of Fire’.

Some of you might be wondering about why Halifax. Well, If you were going to bind someone and put them away from the knowledge of men, you take them to the farthest place away, wouldn’t you? The farthest place away from and land mass would be one surrounded by water. Guess what two land masses fit that bill? That’s right, North and South America. So the guess is this is where they were imprisoned however long ago, probably before men found a way to get to the continents via the Alaska land bridge if you believe the anthropologists that wrote books about it years ago.

We needed to figure out how all of this was supposed to happen. It was late in the evening when we finally called a halt to brainstorming and online searches. I went home after giving Zhira one more hug. I needed it. I wished she was here to give me another after waking up to the news the next morning.

National Novel Writing Month – Brandished Destiny – part 2

Here’s the second part comprising the end of Chapter one.  It’s a lot of exposition and talking to oneself/scribe.  There’s also some explanation of the last book and what happened to Fern and Fawn at the compound.

 

Fire, water, earth, air. The four classical alchemical elements. I could lift and toss rocks up to the size of a bulldozer over two kilometers, create heat that could melt brick and cause the earth to glaze. I could form shapes from my imagination, just like the earlier ramp to divert Fawn’s attack away from me.

That brings me to the most interesting part. If we’re within a few meters of each other, our skills blend. Each of us is the power source for the other. We’re both huge Magick batteries.

We can do those Magickal things each other can do ourselves. Fawn can punch power at me; I can harden Magick around me. They’re not quite the same, but it is close in form. If we hold hands, we become one source that can do everything. We think the same, hear the same. Our powers become one all encompassing cauldron of power that is anything we deem it to be. It’s intoxicating, and scares the both of us all the way to our toenails.

Something that feels that good without any apparent limits is something to avoid. Magick is seductive enough on regular days. It’s why a number of potential wizards don’t live long enough to become wizards. They play with power and want more to play with because it’s like a heavy shot of your favorite method of getting high. Drunk on power is not just a metaphor. Knowing when you’re getting into that kind of power is what keeps you alive and sane. It made us paranoid. We did some research and had Larry help us out. We found nothing describing what was going on with us.

Larry is still hunting through whatever’s on the ‘net. And we live as quietly as we can with this power and try not to go too crazy with it all. Thankfully Zhira seems unaffected by it. She’s a normal active little girl with curly Ash blonde hair and the most intense violet eyes. Eyes like that usually presages Magickal ability, and with her parents, it’s kind of a given she’d be some kind of Magick wielder. Honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing it and dreading it at the same time.

Magick is has been the one big constant in my life since the craziness started happening with Hervald Thensome. I could definitely do without more crazy Magick. Which was why Fawn and I were practicing. You know the old saying of ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’? We knew it was going to happen. Magick’s got its own agenda, and like it or not anyone that practices Magick is part of that ongoing agenda. Anyways, reminiscing can get you really lost in your own head. However, sometimes the past comes knocking at your door. When it does, you really should avoid answering. I’d left the door wide open and the past came waltzing through in full party mode. What’s a girl going to do? Well, in this case, throw a party.

National Novel Writing Month – First update of ‘Brandished Destiny’

National Novel writing month got off with a literal bang for me.  I got in 3500 words which is a new record for any output that I can remember.  I’ll be posting 2-3 pages of the new novel here in the following days fore two reasons.  First is to let those interested see the progress of the fourth book of the Glass Bottles series which is tentatively titled ‘Brandished Destiny’.  THe second is a spur for myself to keep up the pace and not fall into overthinking the story, which had clobbered my writing before.  So now that you’ve made it through the introduction, here’s the first post of 2020’s ‘Brandished Destiny’

CHAPTER 1

The blast of power blotted out the cloudless blue sky with a rippling distortion that turned everything grey. It smashed into me like a runaway truck. I held my ground and diverted the power upwards by imagining a curved surface in front of me. The surface did its job and the power flashed upwards to break apart in blots of grey surrounded by flecks of blue. Imagination is a great weapon when you don’t need a circle to cast, but you pay for it with headaches and lethargy. I had both in spades.

We’d finally gotten a handle on what we experienced facing off against a huge entity that a weird cult had put their compound over. Both Fawn and I suddenly could do major magic without needing any kind of practice or particular item to focus. It was just there. Believe me, we were very happy it was just there back then. We’d have died along with a lot of naked senseless people trapped in cabins that were going to be used for some kind of sacrificial ritual that would have wakened said enormous entity. That we’re still alive is a testament to sheer wild luck, and perhaps magic’s own agenda.

Larry has never heard of this kind of thing ever happening before. If Larry doesn’t know, it’s a good bet that it’s something potentially unprecedented. Which ratcheted up our own paranoia about becoming lab rat test subjects for the powers-that-be in Canadian government. We’ve kept what happened secret for our own peace of mind. Neither of us wants to give up our life as it is.

Fawn and Larry, through a lot of counseling and a lot of work, stuck together. Zhira, their daughter was born healthy and Fawn was pulled back from death’s embrace via shocking her heart back into action. I helped out for the first five months until Fawn told me to get lost and take care of myself. She’d recovered totally, and was the picture of Amazonian health. If anything, she looked more together than she had since high school.

She was back on her job and had been promoted again to precinct captain and still managed to hang on to the leadership of Dayning/Halifax police department’s magickal response team. That organization went through three incarnations before settling on the current the current ‘Special Response Unit’ moniker. The SRU was her special baby. Larry had given up on trying to get her to drop that position, but had at least gotten a compromise with her being the precinct captain which meant her forays into the field were now more limited.

Fawn relaxed and glanced over to her left, where Zhira was making sand castles with daddy Larry. She turned her gaze back to me.

One more time?”

No, I’m wore out. Spend some of that extra energy on those two” I laughed, then winced. I’ve said in the past that Magick is a pain, and now it was a literal pain in the head, and the metaphorical neck. It’d be a few minutes before the headache went away, but at least it’d go. I hadn’t been terribly interested in practicing Magick, especially since it was something that just came natural after being dragon possessed. What changed I don’t know, but after it happened the cases I got hooked into suddenly were a lot more weird and unsettling. The giant entity was the first and the most disturbing to me. The others were just plain weird.

The latest example was that I had to go over to Klaus’s liquor store down the block from my office, and help him solve a problem with missing stock. The security system he had showed no one in the place, and now one leaving. Bottles and kegs were full one moment, and empty the next. Not gone. Empty. How someone empties a full bottle of alcohol without removing the cap would have been beyond me before Prince Edward Island, now it could have been simple. I’d have to do it one bottle at a time, but I could do it. Whoever had played this trick was way more practiced than I.

Klaus called me back later saying he’d found the missing booze. One thing you should remember about Klaus is that he’s a bookie. He’s not big-time, and he deliberately keeps his client list small, almost like a hobby than a business. Anyways, he found the booze when he opened the door to the small back room where he runs it. All of the booze had been transported into the room and nearly drowned him when he opened the door.

As it was his equipment was shot, and I think the critters in the sewers had a grand old time with that much booze flowing into the system all at once. I never did find out why or how that happened. Rynun wasn’t hanging around the alley any more so I couldn’t ask him. He’d returned to the area around my folk’s old cabin since the spell conjuring up Ahiah was finally broken. I rubbed the nub of my little finger. Ahiah had bitten it off during that fight. He’d been banished back to the ground.

I’d tried to forget that particular nightmare for two years without any luck. It seems more than just my Magickal abilities were improved. My memory was nearly eidetic now. Maybe that was a reason why I could do spells so easy and without a circle. I could remember every sense and feeling, for lack of a better description, of each spell.

It made my head swim thinking about it and I turned my attention to my niece. Zhira was two. Her birthday was last week, and she’d gotten a genie costume. Yes, she wanted one. How did we know? She told us. Yes, at twenty months she was forming sentences. Not great ones, but definite, distinct, sentences. She saw the costume on sale for Halloween. Yes, that’s still a holiday, only one with more meaning than before. Regardless, she saw it and wanted it. And ‘Auntie’ Fern just couldn’t say no.

She hadn’t taken it off since she’d opened her present, with exceptions to wash it. I could only wonder what she’d be like by four if this was two. Maybe she’d be casting spells though gods I hoped not. Which brought my thoughts over to Fawn and I.

I find it amazing how Magick fitted itself to us in such disparate forms and yet so appropriately. Fawn’s Magick works internally. Basically she can harden her skin, increase her strength, speed, vision, hearing, etc. Anything dealing with physical attributes, she can do it. Me, mine’s all external.

Possession is 9/10

Here is the start of ‘Possession is 9/10’.  It was a fun little story to write.

 

The day invaded my personal space with a gradual lightening of the comforting darkness. Next came the tortuous ringing of the bells on the alarm clock. That vicious little thing has it in for me. I tried to burrow deeper into the warm coverings and ignore the cutesy venomous ringing that threatened to drive a spike in my ears. Ten agonizing seconds later I finally started my day –- by bringing my clenched fist down on the offending noisemaker. Irritated strength overpowered the small mechanical brass contraption and the satisfying ‘crunch’ of flattening metal gave way to irritation. I was going to have to get another alarm.

Blessed sleep ran whimpering from the growing brightness and I sat up in bed, stretching my arms towards the ceiling and trying to keep them between me and the way too cheerful sunlight streaming in through the blue lace curtains on the floor-to-ceiling patio window.

Each morning can be an adventure. This morning I wake up after crunching the alarm, stretch, try to cover my eyes, and then turn and put my feet on the floor, only to find that the floor isn’t there. The bed I’m in hangs in mid-air with no visible means of support, and my head barely avoiding a collision with the ceiling as my senses start to tell me things are very wrong.

The night stand drops from the side of the bed, falling to the floor with a splintering crash. My feet dangle off the edge and the bed tilts dangerously as reality and gravity grab me by the throat and give me a solid shake as a good morning greeting. The bed falls stopping just above the floor and gently settles. My feet touch the floorboards and flinch away. The wood was like ice. I look down and the floor is ice –- at least a quarter-inch thick over the reddish cherrywood. My breath hangs in the air as puffs of fog from my lips. Just another day of possession for yours truly.

You heard right. Possession. As in something not ready to pass on hides inside a person hoping that it can coerce whom it possesses into satisfying a last lingering regret or desire before it rejoins the choir invisible and moves on to its reward or whatever place restless spirits go. Fortunately for me, I’m not the one who’s the possessed.

That would be my ferret, Imp. She’s what is called a ‘Siamese coated’. Her limbs are all a chocolate brown with a light tan body and a bandit mask. It’s striking actually. Not as striking as her chatter when possessed. If you’ve ever heard a child try to squeak out curse words while trying to control an out-of-control object, you have a good idea of what it’s like for Imp.

She has full control of her body, but the spirit can talk, usually screaming for Imp to slow down so they can talk to me and we can agree on a deal for their lingering business. After a negotiation of some mutually beneficial deal, we get about the business. Hey, stuff like this isn’t for free. I have to make a living too. Otherwise I couldn’t keep Imp in the style she’s accustomed to.

Like today, she’s sleeping on my bed, and came wide awake as it settled back to the floor. Her furry body launched off the bed onto the floor without a care in the world.

Me, I shiver in real cold and check the thermometer on the wall by the patio door. It says -10C and that I’m welcome would I like to hear the forecast for today? I decline with ill grace. I’m never happy unless caffeinated. That being said, it was obvious that a spirit was in desperate straits to use Imp.

Obvious, you ask? Easy to answer. If you note I said the bed was floating in the air. I didn’t suspend it from strings as a slight of hand trick. That’s expensive and more effort than I want to put out for anything actually.

To answer the second unspoken question I know you’re itching to ask; Why not me? Because I’ve no aptitude for psychic phenomena. Why a ferret has that kind of sensitivity is one of those things in the universe that no one has any idea. It just is. Imp was being her usual self, running to the food dish, finding it empty. Then realizing she hasn’t done her morning ablutions, and runs for her toilet. Once that’s done it’s back to the food dish, then to me to ask if I could please hurry up and feed her since she’s hungry thanks-ever-so-much?

I get there eventually, which is never fast enough, and get a scoop of ferret food for Imp. Then I can go about the real necessities, coffee for a wake-up, and eggs with bacon for me. Then I can get to the spirit in question. Said spirit was trying to talk around ferret crunchies and failing. Imp paid no attention to the funny noises while I waited patiently for her to finish eating and let the spirit communicate.

When Imp came over, I nodded at her, and she lay down in front of me, looking for all the world like a cat that had just claimed that spot for its own. I leaned over so the spirit could get a better look at me. Ferrets are notoriously near-sighted.

Hello, I’m Kat, that’s Imp. What can we do for you?”

Imp shifted lazily as the spirit tried to get a word in edgewise while she cleaned her belly fur.

I’m…ahh…Chuck Wuerley.” The spirit tried to gag as Imp started cleaning her butt. “Gah! Oh my god this is…ack! What are you doing?! stop! Stop!” His discussion was put on hold while Imp finished her morning ritual. She looked back up at me and the spirit recovered enough control to resume talking.

What is this? There’s this weird taste in my mouth.”

That would be Imp’s breakfast and some hair from her grooming. You’re in a ferret, by the way, not a person.”

The ferret continued to gaze up at me in what I suppose was stunned silence or ferrety satisfaction of a full belly and clean fur. You can never tell with spirits. Or ferrets. Some are okay with an animal possession. A few were ecstatic. Most are shocked and dismayed. Chuck seemed like the latter.

A ferret? What the hell is a ferret?! I rolled my eyes and walked over to my bathroom. I had a mirror on the counter next to the sink, and picked it up. I walked back out to the still motionless ferret, and plunked the mirror down in front of her.

It’s a rat. I’m in a rat. Why am I in a rat?”

Imp is a ferret, not a rat,” I said indignantly. “Get your mammals straight, doofus.” I waggled a finger right in front of Imp’s nose as I spoke. Imp took this as an invitation to a play fight. She leapt up, dooking and shook her head side to side as she rapidly backed under the bed while the protesting Chuck tried to scream at Imp to stand still.

Whoa! Stop! Stop! Dammit you little ass-wipe-fuzzy-stretch-rat stop! I need to talk the person. Stop dammit!”

Imp scrambled out from under the bed and pounced on my fingers, biting playfully at them as I flipped her over and tickled her belly.

Waah..ha..hahahahaha! Stop! It tickles! Haaahahahah!”

Imp dook’d happily and flipped back over. She scrambled back under the bed, ran out, then ran back under again as I moved toward her. Chuck was pleading with me to stop and listen to him after another five minutes. I stopped playing with Imp, who made a few lunges and back-aways from me, then seeing playtime was over, noodled over to my feet and lay on her side.

Okay Chuck. What’s your situation besides being dead and all. What do you need to happen to go to the great beyond?”

I want you to find my kid.”

Find your child? What happened? Did she run away? Or…?”

No no no no…nothing like that. I want you to find my kid. My baby goat.”

I couldn’t help it. “Say…what?”

World’s Eye View – 26

I think we’re in trouble. The station wouldn’t ring like some bell from just a panel hit, would it? We might have lost something. Once the decision had been made, he called Roels and Salila over to man the cameras, and cycle through them to look for other possilbe damage. “I’ll help them button up”, He told the two. He took a look at Salila, then jerked his eyes away as his body had started to respond. God I gotta keep it under control. I couldn’t live with myself. He hurried away from the two and down to the airlock to help Ingers, and Kim.

The EVA inspection was thorough, and the information was bad. The main body had been clipped by something, and while there wasn’t a leak yet, the irregular dent would weaken the welds under the constant and extreme temeperature changes as the station passed from sunlight to darkness four times a day. Kim sat everyone down to discuss the options. “As it is currently, we are in no immediate danger. But as Ingers has pointed out, the uneven expansion and contraction will eventually pop the welds open, unless it is fixed immediately.”

Thompson was in his own thoughts as Kim talked. Should I or shouldn’t I tell Ingers and Kim? After all this time how do they no t know about the capsule? Vyhovsky never talked to them, o anyone about trying to get the Xian-Xi freed from the docking rings. Why is that? What made it so important to him that we didn’t know? I can’t figure that out. So, why haven’t I said anything? Because I’m paranoid that’s why. It’s a secret, and for whatever stupid reason, I’ve kept it a secret. He was pulled out of his self-examination by Kim’s next words. “Ingers looked over the Xian-Xi capsules during his EVA, as have I. It appears that comrade Vyhovsky, was trying to sabotage the capsules.” Roels and Salila stared at Kim like he’d grown a second head, Thompson felt himself go pale, and cold. “Sabotage?! What the fuck, Kim?!”, a voice yelled. Thompson looked around and then realized it was his own. What the hell? Sabotage? Where’s Kim going with this?

Yes, fiend David, I’m sorry, but ‘friend Eugeni’”, Kim almost spat the name, “has partially dismantled the docking rings. In the apparent hope of marooning us permanently. The rings have small boxes inside the exposed areas that appear to be some kind of small, disabling charge, according to Ingers’ inspection.” “Are you certain of that, Kim? Ingers, are you certain?”, Roels sputtered. “Explosive charges? Why? This is a science station, not an orbital missile battery.” Kim nodded. “In truth that is all the station is supposed to be. But who knows what Russia’s ideas for the station were with ‘worst-case’ scenarios? This place would be ideal as a missile defense item. The base’s orbit is four times around the earth in a twenty four hour period. The orbit is more pole to pole, than geosynchronous, or equatorial. One might wonder why, if one was of a paranoic disposition.”

Thompson stared at Kim, slack-jawed. You’re kidding, right? How is a station that barely has enough room for us, and in a particular orbit suddenly become part of a Russian military conspiracy? This is nuts. “H-how do you figure this? Have you gon all X-files on us Kim? That’s just, crazy”, Thompson finished. He looked at the others, and could see Roels and Salila leaning against each other, and talking in quite whispers. Ingers scowled at Roels, which Salila caught and shrank back against Benoit. Roels didn’t seem to see the look, but he hunched down as Salila clutched at his arm. He’s still terrified of Ingers. So am I. I don’t get how he can be so Ingers one minute an d so psycho the next.

He put the thoughts aside and listened as the others talked. Roels argued that there was no way Vyhovsky could have brought charges like that up with him without them being discovered. There seemed to be too many and to precisely placed for one man to get them all into the ring without his efforts being discovered. Salila said nothing and stayed close to Roels, and away from Ingers, who had begun to stare blankly at her, once more. Kim looked over at Ingers, who ducked his head and turned away. “So, what if it was put in place by the Chinese when they made this part of the station? I wouldn’t put it past them, or any country, to build in a few ‘safeguards’ in case some kind of conflict arises. Look at Russia with the Missile platforms they tried to disguise as nuclear communications. You don’t need a big bosster if the warhead’s in orbit, just a push at the right time.”

Kim glared at Thompson for a moment, then said with a sigh, “Yes, it could easily be that the devices were in place as part of the Chinese designed section.” He strightened up and projected his voice. “What it all means is we work together, and see if there’s a way to defuse the devices safely.” Thompson took a deep breath. Maybe it’s way past time to let the cat out of the bag, and fix this. “I think that was what Vyhovsky was trying to do. He’d uncovered the devices. Maybe that was why he’d kept the radio signal a secret.” Everyone turned to Thompson, listening. “How does one link to the other, friend David? Do you have a theory?”, Kim demanded. “Yeah I do”, Thompson replied. “Think about it. What if we did know about people surviving down there. The first thing we’d be doing is thinking about going home. We were in a debris orbit. IF we didn’t move the station, we’d have been perforated most likely. Look outside. It happened. We have no idea how high up we are except a computer’s best guess, since there’s no telemetry. We’re gonna burn up when the station finally drops to the edge of the atmosphere. I think he was trying to free the capsules by taking the rings apart. The bombs were a complication he hadn’t figured out.”

World’s Eye View – 23

The screaming started and he was out the hatch, and caroming off the wall towards it. A few quick turns and he arrived at Roels cube. The screaming had faded to wracking sobs as he grabbed the handhold at the hatchway, prepared to launch himself at Ingers. He pulled up short as he saw Roels, clutching a shivering, naked, woman against him. As Salila clutched at his shoulders, Roels looked up, and saw him. “Roels? Is she…”, he swallowed drily as his eyes followed Salila’s supple curves. He shook his head. Get it out of your head, asshole. She’s been raped! “Is she all right?”, he finished lamely. “Better than I”, Roels said. I think I have broken ribs. It hurts to take a breath.”

How are we gonna keep maintenance up? I don’t trust Kim, and Ingers is great at it, but he’s not Ingers, he’s something seriously messed up.” Thompson watched Roels haunted look harden with anger as he discussed maintenance. “After this, travesty, should we even care about maintenance? I think maybe we should just let things fall apart. This is hell, and there is no way out.” Thompson looked at Roels. Everyone’s talking about how there’s no way off the station, but Vyhovsky figured out the docking ring. I gotta take a chance. It ought to pull us together. Oh slag that, David you idiot. The wound’s too deep. Still, it might be the only way off the hamster cage. I gotta ask though, why did Vyhovsky keep it from us? It doesn’t make sense. That would have brought us all together on a common goal. We’d be out of here and home.

Roels, there is a way off”, he said quietly. Roels blinked, and stared at him. “A way off. Why do you tell me now?”, Roels asked, suspicion thick in his voice. “Vyhovsky figured it out. He told me about it just before he died”, Thompson said quietly. “The docking ring has the Xian-Xi locked in place, and a software virus locked the ring closed. Vyhovsky was taking the ring apart a little at a time. Once the ring’s disassembled, the craft will float free, and it can be powered up to go home.”

Roels looked at Salila, and closed his eyes, holding her close against him. She struggled a moment, then sobbed harder as she clutched at Roels shoulders. Roels arms went protectively around her as he gazed up at Thompson. “You’re not just saying this to trick us? Disassembling the docking ring will work? What about traps?” Thompson grimaced. “I’m guessing there aren’t any. Even the most paranoid engineer has to draw the line between function, and blowing you sky-high.” Roels gave a bitter chuckle, and wrapped his arms tighter around Salila. Salila sobbing slowed as she was held, and her head came up. “I would rather they were trapped. I could die then, and escape my shame.” The bitterness and hatred poured out in the words, making Thompson shiver. “Get healthy Roels, I have to go, vote. Kim’s wanting to set priorities.”

Set priorities? Help me get there, and we’ll all vote. I’ve had enough of this travesty. We need to work on the Xian-Xi and the docking collars. I have had enough of this place.” Thompson nodded. “We all have.”

**

Thompson floated in the galley at the far side, as Kim, and Ingers conducted the meeting. Kim frowned at Roels making it to the meeting. Thompson thought he could see Kim trying to figure out the best way to control the meeting. Ingers, staring vacant-eyed at Salila, moved to sit beside her. Roels sat close, putting a comforting arm around her shoulders. Ingers reached a hand in her direction, then lowered it back to his side.

Now, let me bring this first full complement meeting to order. We have a number of things to discuss, and prioritize. First, there is the regular maintenance, then temperature control, and finally, consumables.” Thompson mentally muted out Kim’s voice as he studied Ingers. The big Swede seemed lost in himself. Thompson couldn’t decide if this was due to being close to Salila, or guilt from previous actions. Is the real Ingers still in there? He said it was like things were flipping on and off, and he didn’t have control. Did Kim screw with his mind somehow while he took care of him? If he did , what and how did he do it? Can it be fixed? Who’s gonna fix it? Kim never would. I don’t know how, and Roels, I don’t know about Roels. Whatever this situation is, our job is to get home now that we’re on the same page.

Thompson raised his hand. Kim stopped his talk to stare directly at him. “What is it David?”, he said, sounding like a schoolteacher lecturing a troublesome student. “There’s another priority. Getting home. We need to get home and off this station. Put that in the list.” When Kim hesitated, Thompson raised his voice. “Put it on, and let’s vote on our priorities.” Ingers eyes flicked to Thompson as he spoke, and flexed his hands, clenching and unclenching them. Oh shit. Did I push my luck too much? He watched Ingers float over to the left of Kim, giving him a clear line of travel to Thompson. “I do agree that we should arrange our priorities, friend David”, Kim said quietly, his own eyes on Ingers movements. Thompson noted that Kim seemed to pale, as if he too, feared Ingers unpredictable reactions. What if Kim didn’t do anything? What if the whole thing is Ingers? Thompson tried to turn the thought over, but the vote was called for. Kim set two priority lists. Maintenance came up on ‘what needed to be done immediately’, and going home went to the top of the ‘overall priority’ list.

Roels watched Thompson with increasing agitation as Kim droned on, arguing ranks in the priorities. Finally, when Kim finished, he nodded with his head for Thompson to follow him. Ingers was staring hard at Salila, who sandwiched herself between the two men. They reached Roels’ cube, where all three spread out in the room, staring at the one entry hatch.

World’s Eye View – 22

Do what about temperature control?”,Thompson asked. “It needs to be changed”, Kim answered him gravely. “Currently, it is too warm, we do not have the luxury of having it kept heated. We must save energy to extend our time here. We need time to find out how to leave.” “We don’t have that luxury either”, Thompson countered. “Any colder and we start needing more calories to stay warm. More cloaries needed means the food runs out faster. And of the two, energy or food, we have a LOT less food than energy.” Kim’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t like being outmanueverd in a logic match. Thompson knew it was goin to come to another ‘vote’, and the temperature was going to be lowered, but he hoped that something o the argument would get to Kim. We need to think of both sides of the equation, Kim. Come on, please, follow the logic, figure it out.

Kim motioned to Thompson, and Ingers quietly floated away down the corridor after securing Thompson’s boots on the magnetic pad. “Friend David, You hold me responsible for what happened to Vyhovskey. I know this. It’s obvious if one pays attention to your reactions and manner of speech.” He grabbed a handhold, re-directing his travel slightly to avoid bumping Thompson. “When They started fighting, I was shocked. I never thought Ingers capable of such violence. And Vyhovsky breaking his neck on the edge of the table. A tragic accident. I wanted all of us to have a say in what happened to us. We deserve that right up here. We did then, and we do now. Moreso after the tragedy. We have to get things pulled together, friend David. If we stand apart, we will fall apart. We must be all focused of purpose, we must be all striving towards….”, Kim stopped.

David watched Kim as the man pulled his emotions back into check. “Everyone must work together”, he said, his voice returning to it’s more solemn tones. “What about Salila? Does she get a say? She of all of us is the one really out of place. What about her?”, Thompson challenged. “She has a say, and is serving in the best capacity her stature allows”, Kim replied evenly. “It doesn’t matter the type of job, so long as you serve the greater good.” Thompson just stared at Kim. How can you say that? He fought the urge to punch Kim in the face, fearful that if Ingers was nearby, the punch would set him off again. “You’re out of your tree, Kim. I heard from Roels what happened!” He threw his hands out, gesturing angrily, and started spinning slowly from the motion.

How could you do that to her!”, He yelled. “How could you?!” Kim seemed to measure the difference between him, and Thompson, then delivered a sudden slap to Thompson’s face. Thompson spun with the force of the blow, and hit the wall corner down and away from Kim. “Because it is the only way!”, he yelled back. “It is the only effective way we have to reduce stress!” Thompson snorted at the absurdity, and saw Ingers, float into view behind Kim. Ingers seemed wholly focused on him, so Thompson didn’t move, other than to hook a hand thorugh a holdfast. “Have you even read how sex is a natural relaxant?! The intimacy literally calms the fires in a man’s soul! It’s why rapists attack women. Power and control. They control their emotions through the act! Whatever other depravity there is, it is still a method of emotional control!” Kim’s words made Thompson sick to his stomach with revulsion. What the hell are you, Kim?! Who justifies rape as a method of relaxation?!

Our passions were tearing us apart! There needed to be some displacement of them before a tragedy happened. And look around you! Where’s Vyhovsky?! He’s dead! DEAD! Killed because all of us are unbalanced from all this stress of survival! Lost with no way to go home! Where is the release! Where is the control?! It’s her! She is the control, and the release. She can keep us all sane! That is her function here.” Ingers floated forward towards Thompson, and held out a hand. “Let me go with you to your cube, friend David”, Ingers offered quietly. “We’re all stressed and damaged inside. Frined Kim has shown me that. I don’t want to hurt a friend.”

I don’t want to be hurt either, Ingers”, Thompson replied. Ingers eyes had a haunted look, as if he knew all of his crimes, and knew there was no salvation no matter how he tried to find it. It tore at Thompson’s chest to see him like that. Vyhovsky called you the best of us. God dammit Koll, what flipped you over the edge so bad there’s no coming back? Vyhovsky lost his family too, and he kept it together. Why not you?

Thompson shook his head and ignored Ingers hand. “I’m fine Koll, you better get on maintenance. Right now there’s just three of us to do it.” “We still need to vote, friend David”, Kim reminded him. Thompson ground his teeth, and keeping his face away from Kim, he nodded , and said, “Okay.” He pulled himself into motion and floated down the corridors to his cube, where he closed the sliding screen. He hooked his legs into a ergo chair, and stared at the small computer screen on his desk. He popped open his mail, and watched the last video his fiance’ had sent him. When the video finished, he started it again, and again, as he tried to lose the sense of horror that whispered in the back of his mind.