Brandished Destinies Chapter 3 part 1

After Judge Caddus left, and thoughtfully left the bottle under my coffee cup, I called Sinera in to ask her take on the conversation.

He is truly disturbed by finding the item. It is not his only concern however. I do not have a notion of what his other concern might be. He is very careful with speech and mannerisms.”

So asking him directly is not going to be an option.”

Sinera shrugged, then sat down in the guest chair. “I do not believe so. If he would have given an indication of concern, I am certain that it would have been obvious enough for a human to recognize.” Ouch, burn. She was correct though. Elves are raised on politics, which means being able to read small tells better than a professional gambler. Humans are just not as in tune with each other as Elves are.

Okay, then let’s find out if there is anyone who has collapsed recently and acting like a vegetable.” It’s what the bottle does to people. I hate the idea of looking for victims, but right now it’s the only idea I had.

Are there any patterns that the previous perpetrator used? If those using the bottles are after similar things, what the original was targeting, these new users may target also.”

I went over to the files and made of show of looking through them, but I had intimate knowledge of Hervald’s habits. He wanted attractive women, and had frequented singles bars for them. I don’t think that someone would do the same thing. But it didn’t hurt to check out. Singles bars are good places to make contacts. Hervald went for the high-end places. Not the best place to hunt targets. Missing debutantes tend to stand out. Homeless don’t.

Sinera, can you check with the police if there’s a sudden rash of disappearances of homeless people in any one area? They seem like a natural target if someone wants to hide what they’re doing.”

Sinera nodded. “I can do the search. Would you prefer immediately, or Monday morning?”

Immediately. We’re on the clock. We can charge…” I smacked my head. He left before I could bring up price. Note again, listen for what Elves DON”T say. Not only had he hooked me with the bottle, he’s getting my efforts for free. I wanted to pull my hair for falling for such a trick. Sinera looked at me with an enigmatic smile that perhaps I was actually learning something. Freaking Elves.

I pulled out the old file on Hervald Thensome and walked with it in hand back to my desk and read the notes I made. The first one with a note “This sucks!”, was how I felt right now. Score one for old notes. I’d ran into Hervald the third bar I had spent an hour at. He invited me up to an apartment, then tried suck my soul out with the bottle. He ended up getting himself when I tripped him trying to escape. The question now would be Fawn. She deserved to know. As a cop, she had resources I couldn’t touch, and I had contacts that she could never talk to. It was a good balance when we weren’t on opposite sides of the law.

I sat down and grabbed the old candlestick phone and dialed her number. Each rotation of the dial was pure enjoyment. How many people do you know that can still use a rotary phone? It’s fun compared to the push button or touchscreen. Slower definitely, but fun. The desk sergeant, Richie Pomeroy, picked up on the third ring.

Hauser House, Pomeroy speaking, how may I help you?”

Hi Richie. Fawn in?”

The line was quiet for a few moments then Richie said with exaggerated politeness, “She’s still out at the scene. I’ll pass on the request.”

Richie didn’t like me much, and the feeling was mutual. I didn’t like him in high school when his idea of paying attention to me was as a way to hang with Fawn. We both ran him off when we got wise to what he was doing. After that things happened to my locker and any stuff I didn’t keep an eye on. The culmination was the self-defense classes. His dad ran the class and he and I were called up to demonstrate a few self-defense moves against a surprise attacker. I threw Richie down harder than I needed to once. He retaliated with a full football tackle which knocked the wind out of me. When I got my wind back, I went after him. His dad and Fawn had to break us apart.

He mellowed and turned into a good cop, but he still held a grudge, and I wouldn’t let go of mine either. We were unfailingly polite, but that was it. Strange how that works. Maybe the Elves weren’t so different after all. And maybe I’m a six foot Amazon.

After the call, I doodled random notes to see if any inspiration would hit and I’d have a way to start this investigation. Sinera would take likely most of the day remaining talking to the various Houses to see what, if anything unusual had happened in their territory. I started to get up and check on Sinera and get a few numbers to call and give me something to do instead of brooding, which is when the phone rang. I was rapidly losing faith in coincidence so I hoped whoever it was had something simple and mundane. Yeah, fat chance, right? I took a breath and exhaled slowly before I picked up the receiver.

Fatelli Investigations.”

Shortstuff, we need to talk. I have something creepy as hell and want your take on it.”

Some victim a vegetable and glassy eyed like three years ago?”

She sputtered on the other end of the phone and I would have grinned at surprising her but the upside down cup on my desk with one of the four missing Glass Bottles under it sobered me up real quick.

I got a visit from Judge Caddus from the Elven enclave. He convinced me that we have a real problem. So yeah, I wanted to talk to you. Richie Pomeroy has a message from me to call since you weren’t at your desk.” I took the next few minutes describing our chat and what the Judge had left on my desk. Fawn remained quiet through the whole talk, but I could feel her anger building. Some deranged THING brought those back to Dayning. Right into her proverbial back yard. She did not want to wait for the body count to rise.

Do you think that demon’s back too?” Fawn. Direct and to the point. Forget the bottles and focus on the bottle user. That’s the best way to shut trouble down.

No idea right now. I’m hoping he’s gone and not coming back. Once was more than painful enough for me.” I rubbed the nub of my little finger again. It had started throbbing when I saw that bottle again. Fawn gave me a complete run-down on the victim. Young, blonde, pretty, and missing from work after not calling in sick yesterday. This was almost identical to Hervald’s victims. I really REALLY didn’t want it to be Hervald again.

She’s gone, isn’t she?”

Fawn sounded sad and angry at the same time. “Yes, she’s gone, if it really is that bottle again.” She paused for a moment. “Come by the station, you’re going to be a professional consultant to our house. You’ll get full pay and full access to our database and whatever we get from overseas or the ‘states.”

Brandished Destinies Chapter 2 part 2

He stared at me for a long moment. His eyes locked on mine and I don’t think he ever blinked. He sat and stared, as if trying to find a way to broach a subject. Finally he sighed, then reached up a sleeve on his robe. He took a few moments to locate something by touch, then removed his closed hand and placed on my desk in front of me. He opened his hand and withdrew it, leaving behind a small metallic-like blue glass bottle. The same kind of bottle that cost my friend Zhirk his life and Hervald Thensome his soul.

I’m not sure if I shrieked and scrambled back or just teleported to where I was, mashed back against the wall next to the window that had been replaced during that first hellish case. The Judge, thoroughly alarmed at my reaction quickly grabbed my coffee mug and placed it over the bottle, covering it and hiding it from sight.

I struggled for breath for a few moments before the adrenalin shakes hit. I was scared to death. I had smashed that thing! At PEI Anolyn had deliberately targeted the box with glass bottles and burned it to ash, along with the huge oak tree that Cobb had used as a torture chamber to make them from the agony and despair of his victims.

I could hear Kent Nix and Kevin Love scream their lives out all over again. More than anything at that moment, I wanted to grab the bottle of scotch and drown my fear in the bitter alcohol and forget that cursed thing under my upended coffee cup. It’d taken the better part of a year of twice-weekly therapy to finally get a control on all the trauma that went with the previous jobs. My head was more or less back on straight, and I didn’t wake up screaming or paralyzed by nightmares.

Now, that thing shows up on my desk out of the blue. Well, blue robes anyway. Snark and sarcasm has always been a way I handle stress. It just isn’t the best choice because giving someone attitude when they’ve got the upper hand is just begging for bad things to happen. It had more than once and somehow I managed to avoid most of the bad intentions sent my way. I rubbed the nub of my little finger while Judge Caddus attempted to apologize by bowing his head almost to the desk top in contrition. Now was the time to use that diplomatic moment.

Judge Ca-ddus. I apologize for alarming you.” I took a shaky breath and walked back to my chair, turned it deliberately slowly back to the desk and sat down. “That item you thoughtfully brought me has many bad memories and experiences tied to it. I, uh, did not realize that any still existed.” Another shaky but calmer breath helped focus me. I closed my eyes and pictured my room mentally, using its familiarity as a calming influence for my body. I could feel the wire-tight tension ease as I mentally pictured each item in the room.

I humbly accept your generosity and would have you know I meant no disrespect nor harmful intent. You are one of the few that know the nature of that creation and I am very desirous of temporarily procuring your abilities and expertise to determine the reason for its reappearance.” He gestured at my cup. “This was found in the hands of an Elf that had used it to overwhelm a Troll. The Elf has been judged and executed in accordance and balance to the crime committed. I have brought this to you to request your expert assistance.”

In truth, I never had a job I wanted to turn down so badly as this one. But one thing had changed my mind. The Troll. I saw Zhirk, who Zhira was named after in my head. His face dissolving in the shotgun blast. I shut my eyes again and went through my office again mentally, remembering where each item of my office was. It helped divert my mind from the horror of those vivid memories and let me release them instead of replaying each one again and again in my head.

Judge Caddus, I must admit I would rather never to have anything to do with that object you brought.” I held up a hand as his face screwed up in stricken despair, which was a shock to see on his normally serene and stoic features. “I will help you. One thing I am sure we both have learned is that if you do nothing, evil like that flourishes.”

There was a faint ‘snap’ like a static shock. I, for better AND worse now, had a binding fae contract with the Judge. Gods and powers, I sounded like a freaking superhero or something. How much more pompous could I sound? I guess it was the right bit of bombast, because the Judge’s features smoothed out and I think I detected relief emanating from him.

I thank you for your reminder that no one being need stand alone. We have to trust, and reach out to confront imbalance and chaos.” That was one way to put it. I’m certain I don’t mind imbalance and chaos, we humans live with that all the time. Perhaps they look at Imbalance as Injustice. I don’t know for certain. What I was absolutely sure of however, was that bottle was made to make misery and death. Ahiah had drunk from it and become immensely powerful.

That was burned into my memories. What I wasn’t sure of was the ‘why’. Why did it show up? Why did and Elf have it? I could somewhat understand his coming here. I was mixed up in that horror before. Both I and Fawn.

I’m certain he came to me because of our prior meeting, rather than go to Fawn. She represents human law, and Elvish law is not close at all to it. What we judge by is intent and morals of our society. What Elves judgment are certainly not on those qualities. I’m not certain what they are based upon, but one thing we are certain of is Elves despise Magick used for ill. They rightly hate and fear those powers that have free will to meddle in the physical world, especially those of malevolent nature.

Be it human, fae, or other, it was a monster that needed be caught and put away. I’d prefer it gone and buried and the bottles broken and tossed in the ocean. The problem would be to hunt it down. Which meant locating the source of the one the Judge had brought.

I looked over at the cup resting over the cursed bottle. “Judge Caddus, where did you acquire that particular item?” Diplomacy. Yep. No vicious names for things. No strong emotions. Nope, not a thing to unbalance the calm, or whatever passed for it currently.

The bottle was procured from the remains of a burned oak on what you name Prince Edward Island.”

I went cold with memories again. Cobb. The tree. Kent and Kevin. Anolyn. Being possessed by him, and his rage at Cobb for making those abominations. I’d thought the dragon fire would have burnt them all. I looked up at the Judge, who seemed anything but calm now that we were discussing the main reason for our meeting. He appeared suddenly careworn. Deep lines were etched on his face that I hadn’t noticed earlier. Fae magic or just normal human inattention. Neither he or I reached for the cup to expose the bottle underneath.

In the reopening of the way to PEI, we found the devastation that had been wrought upon the tree, and the abominations that were warped into its heart. We found the remains, and the tools to create.” He paused, as if to add a more colorful term, but refrained and continued. “We found a crate made of bespelled wood which had been destoryed by dragon fire. The Bottles inside broken and rendered inert.” He paused for a moment, like he was a movie actor about to dispense an ominous statement to make the audience gasp.

There were four empty locations in the crate. We procured this one from an Elf that had used it on his own.”

My stomach churned at the thought of three of those things loose. But why Halifax? Wouldn’t Europe be a more fertile hunting ground for the users? Why here?

I have found myself wondering why we are the recipient of such a menace. It would much simpler to go where the population is greatest. There one could hunt and use the bottle to their heart’s content. Disappearances would be lost in the myriad of other disappearances that occur daily in large populations. Your Nova Scotia is far from being a huge metropolis such as London. What would bring something so dangerous here?”

We were on the same wavelength, which made me wonder at the apparent coincidence. With Elves, never expect coincidence. I learned that already. Never ever trust in coincidence. It will trip you up at the worst possible time. So using the ‘there are no coincidences’ rule, the Judge was reading my mind or following my intent and using that to reinforce the idea in hopes of something breaking loose. I suppose it’s his method of helping, but, soooo not helpful.

If you’re observing my thoughts, I recommend against it. Agreements of that nature do not help discovering new paths. Right now I’d love to talk to the person who had this bottle in their possession. Asking the right questions could get us answers where the others are.”

He bowed contritely. “I do apologize. This is a very dangerous investigation. I had hoped to assist in creating active thoughts that would find a method of advancing along this perilous conundrum. Please forgive my earnest error. I meant no insult nor harm.” Take note. He did apologize for his enthusiasm, not for trying to manipulate my thoughts. Always pay attention to what Elves say, and more to what they DON’T. I decided to let it go. In his own way, the Judge was doing his best to be helpful and cooperative. My job, as I saw it, was to track down the rest of the bottles. Just how was the real question.

Radecki / Dark : Emerald Flight : Star Wing – Chapter 11 – Rude Awakenings

Elizabeth watched Captain Devereux wait impatiently at the shuttle bay airlock as the atmosphere slowly equalized.  Rusty’s statement that the shuttle had an alien survivor aboard surprised everyone on the bridge.  Now all those that could be at the bay, were there, waiting to glimpse this ‘survivor’.   A new species?  What do we call it?  Heck, what does it call itself?  She’d decided on calling the survivor an ‘it’ since she had no idea of gender, or even if there was one in the classical sense.  How does something survive in a vacuum?  What kind of tech makes up the suit?  How long was it out there?  Was it pirates?  Smugglers?   

Elizabeth checked her tablet, enlarging the box that held an alert from Petty Officer Ratko.  She tapped it open and read.  Got it done, now you owe me one, Lizzy.  Ratko.  P.S.  Let the ball come to you next time.  Manuel is still limping after you ran him over.  He’s looking forward to a rematch.  Call him on it, his backhand’s lousy.  R.

Elizabeth smiled and saved the message.  She wondered if she could actually beat Manuel the next time they played. Could he handle it if I did? Probably,  he’s got a nice… Her reminiscence was cut off by Captain Devereux.  “Commander,  there are two things I want done immediately”, she told Elizabeth.  Elizabeth couldn’t remember hearing the captain sound so excited in a long while.  She listened intently as Devereux continued.  “First, re-plot the field now that the interference is gone.  Make certain we have direction and drift.  Once you’re certain you can find it blindfolded,  I want you to assign someone to image and catalog the pieces brought back.  Then make a roster for an extended EVA mission.  Use your judgment on numbers and equipment.  We’ve got enough time to get a couple larger pieces for study.”

“Yes, Captain. I’ll get right on it,” she answered. A grin that matched Devereux’s grew on her lips.  Image and catalog.  I’ll get to see them first! I am so glad I’m here and not on the Washington.  Captain Dresden would have never bothered to alter course to check a lowly debris field.  She tapped the tablet again, saving the captain’s orders in a box, and highlighting it.  

She moved towards the hatchway, tapping Gogorsky on the shoulder as she moved past him.  “Gogo, you’re with me,” she said.  “We’ve got artifacts to catalog”.  She smiled when ‘Gogo’ said “yesss!”  after a short moment, and she could see that signature fist pump he did when he got excited.  She continued through the hatch and headed to cargo hold D.  She heard his long stride on the deck behind her as he hurried to catch up.  At exactly two meters tall, Gogo reminded her of the old 2-D animated tale of Ichabod Crane. With his large ears and prominent Adam’s Apple, he resembled the fictional schoolteacher to a great degree.

Chop was waiting for them as Elizabeth and Gogorski entered the bay.  Ratko gave Elizabeth a very ill-tempered glare as she approached.  “Gonna need four hundred cubic meters, huh?”, he growled, sounding a lot like the pirate he resembled.  “I got you six hundred, and the shuttle says it has barely twelve.”   he folded his arms and turned his glare on Gogorski, who looked over to Elizabeth.  

“Chop”, she said, “You’re checked out on EVA?”  Ratko’s glare returned to Elizabeth.  She noted there was a glint of interest in it now.  “Yes, I’m checked out, and you know it.”    “I know.  Want to put it to use?”, she said.  “I’m putting a salvage team together, you’re in since you’ve got experience.”  She arched an eyebrow and said, “That is, if you want to.  This is all volunteer.”  “I’m in!”, Gogorski said excitedly, “I..”, Elizabeth silenced him with a look, then turned back to Ratko, who had a very large grin on his face.  “A chance to go floating?  In a heartbeat, Lizzy, err, Commander”, he said, rubbing his hands together.  “I volunteer.”

Smiling, Elizabeth looked over, and up, to Ensign Gogorski.  “I’m checked out for EVA”, he said quickly. “Chief  insisted everyone in Engineering get certified for EVAs and repair.”  He looked down at her, excitement showing in his eyes, and his eager grin.  “You’re in, Gogo”, she said, and turned to Ratko.  She took a moment to think about the situation.  Am I going to have to go EVA?  Thank god no, the captain asked me to put the team together.  That means to oversee and choose a field leader.  The Chief? No.  He’s due time down.    Who else has been out there?  Okay, Ratko’s team leader.  I’ll have hmm, Singh as his second.  She closed her eyes and winced a little at the idea.  Won’t that just please the Chief.  He’ll be chewing my ear off why he should be in charge and out there.  

“You’re in charge, so you’ll be reporting to me, Chop”, she said and fixed what she hoped was a steely gaze on him.  “That won’t be a problem will it?”  Ratko scowled visibly at Elizabeth, then sighed and gave her a piratical grin.  “There’ll be no problem, Commander.  My word on that.”  Elizabeth nodded, then tapped an icon on her tablet, pulling up names with EVA experience, and began selecting the team.  “Singh is going to be your second.  Beyond you, and the others already logging space time, Singh has the most hours EVA.”   the Petty Officer’s grin faded slightly, not quite disappearing from his face.  “Can do, I’ll pick the rest if you’re fine with that”, he said.  “You can send your requests and I’ll approve them.”  Ratko smiled again.  “You got it, Commander, I’ll make certain they’re the right ones for the job.”


Rusty watched as Hope maneuvered the winged body onto the diagnostic table.  The lack of gravity made Hope’s efforts easier, as the body would go any direction with just a push.  It was also harder, as the woman’s limbs and wings would tend to splay out, making it difficult to position her on the table.  

“Let me help you, Doc”, Rusty said with a smile. “She’s putting up quite a fight, isn’t she?”  Both he and Jefferies moved at the same time to assist her.  Rusty moved deliberately in front of the older man, cutting off his movement. He grinned and moved opposite of Hope.

Hope looked up at him, then said, “Turgidity.”

“Tur-whatty?”, Rusty queried.  “Doc, I know all sorts of technical jargon, but I don’t know that.”

“Fluid pressure”, Jeffries replied.  “In space with no gravity, fluid sets up pressure in the body so arms and legs tend to…”  “All right, prof, I get it”, Rusty said.  The guy looks for a reason to irritate me, I swear.   He turned his attention to Hope and the being on the table.  Jeffries moved away to help Tsu-tao record images of the salvage.  Lieutenant Ferahim wandered around the two men, occasionally helping Jeffries roll a larger piece over to get a full view of it.

Hope gathered in the wing first, pressing it slowly back against the body. Then, using her other hand to push the arm in, folding gently over the wing to hold it in place.  Rusty mirrored her movements, getting the limbs against the body.  Hope quickly released the arm and drew a restraining strap over the upper chest of the creature’s body to hold it down, then  ran a second strap at the waist, and a third above the knees.   As he gazed at Hope’s actions, his attention was caught by a faint flash of light.   

The diagnostic table flickered as the red heartbeat icon pulsed, with a green line that Rusty remembered was blood pressure. Another showed a white, wildly flickering motion that was brainwave patterns, while a fourth showed a broken blue line that he didn’t recognize.  Ferahim stood next to the table for a moment, peering at the numbers.

There was a flash of light just to his left.  He turned his head, and watched Jefferies and Tao-tsu working on the salvage pieces.  Jefferies would carefully turn the irregular piece over for Tao-tsu image capture.  The two men seemed to be in their own world, talking back and forth as they worked.  I wonder if they’re comparing notes  

He looked over at the statuesque woman admiringly.  She seemed to take no notice of him, but he could feel her gaze.  She’s sneaky, I didn’t even know she was there.  I like that in a woman.  “Why isn’t there a radiation value?”, she asked Hope.  “I do not know”, was all the reply Hope gave her as she continued to adjust straps and slowly move the wings to wrap around the entity.

Jefferies and Tao-tsu walked over to the small crowd around the table.  Tsu-tao stopped a few feet away, content to gaze from a distance.  Ferahim smiled at Tsu-tao, then moved to stand next to him.  He returned her smile with a warm one of his own, and turned his gaze back to the debris.  Oh, I never saw that coming!  Tsu-tao, you devious wrench monkey.  He chuckled then returned his gaze to the unconscious winged girl.  No suit. No protection we understand, and she’s alive after, Morris knows how long, in space.  

“How, by the Morris, does something…”, he was cut off as the shuttle bay doors finished closing and Pryafox began to pressurize the bay.  “How does something, well, live like that?”, he finished.  Jeffries reply was a grunt and a mumbled, “Who knows?”  Hope looked over to him, and said, “I don’t know”, and returned to checking the straps and the readouts. 

Sykes and Tuggle started to gather the portable radiation detector.  The suits made maneuvering difficult, and slow.  Their magnetic boots made faint clunks against the metal deck in the now-thin atmosphere of the hold as they muscled the detector onto the carrier.    “We’ve got adequate pressure, so you all can unbuckle your fishbowls”, Pryafox’s voice came over the speakers.  “Our ETA back to Emerald Flight is about five minutes, so you all can relax and please enjoy the ride.”

Rusty chuckled as he watched Hope focus on the readings.  “I’d almost think you know her, Doc”, he said 

“I do not”, Hope returned, still intent on the readings.  Rusty had seen Hope focused before, but never to this intensity.  She seemed mesmerized by the readings in front of her.   He watched the Aerian turn the diagnostic table to standby and ready it for transfer back to the Emerald Flight

He looked over to the radiation detector.  “I got it”, he said, knowing full well that no one else wanted to touch the delicate looking instrument.  He grinned, and disassembled the detector down into component parts.  He strapped the pieces down securely onto a rolling pallet.  The magnetic wheels kept it firmly anchored to the floor.  Rusty turned on the motor and guided it next to the airlock door.    

He watched Hope wheel the diagnostic table to the door, lock it, and wait.  Leaning against the wall, he waited as Pryafox slowly drifted the shuttle to a precise landing back in its own bay.    The airlock floor vibrated as the doors closed and locked.  Rusty could begin to hear faint noises outside his helmet as pressure equalized.  “When are visiting hours, Doc?”, Rusty said as the shuttle loading door slowly swung open.  Hope, looked up, a puzzled look on her features.  Sykes and Tuggle moved through the airlock, breaking Rusty’s concentration.  He looked up to see Tuggle grab the pallet holding the detector and wheel it through the hatchway.  Hope was close on his heels with the diagnostic table.

Rusty watched Hope for a moment, a worried frown on his face that quickly disappeared. I am going to have to see what’s going on with Hope.  She’s totally fixated on that winged girl.  There’s something about her that the Doc just won’t let go of, and that’s not like her.  The worried look shifted to one of purpose. I think I’ll go see what all this is about.  What does she see in that girl anyways?    His devil-may-care demeanor returned, and he grinned to himself.  Whatever it is, I’m going to find out.  He stepped over to the medical equipment, and began Pryafox load it onto the carrier pallet.


Devereux looked down at her wrist display, then spread her fingers to enlarge the data display.   The holographic image enlarged to a full three-dimensional picture of Emerald Flight, the shuttle, and the near edge of the debris field.   “Tactical, get me a display of the full field”, she said.  Her display swerved then pulled back, showing the slightly elongated sphere of material. 

She used her hand to turn the display to a mostly overhead view that showed the location of Emerald flight next to the field.  She murmured quietly at the screen, “Show anything with a organic signature in yellow.”  A number of yellow dots appeared on the screen, most just the near side of center.  She considered the hologram for a moment longer, then collapsed it back down, the hologram shrinking to a small sphere on the upper edge of the wrist display.

“Update the field and send me the data”, she said to Hawkes, who nodded and replied, “Yes, Captain.”  He tapped at his console,  then said, “Mapping and analysis should be finished in two hours, Captain.”  Devereux nodded, and turned to the communications station.

“Lieutenant Martine, contact the Paragon colony.  Tell them, we’re going to be staying here to research this field.  We’ll be here for two standard days before resuming course.  Verify this delay with the colony to make certain we’re not needed sooner.”  “Yes, sir.  I’ll take care of it”, the Martine replied.  Christine watched as the Lieutenant pulled Paragon up to inform them of the delay in their estimated arrival.   Her thoughts drifted as she pulled up the field again.  Scott would have been jumping at the chance to explore that field.  And Thad,  he would be out there already, and we’d be yelling at him to slow down and wait.

She blinked, and felt the familiar ache form around her heart.  Scott, I wish so much you were here. Christine’s gaze unfocused, as if looking back in time to another place, then her eyes blinked, and she looked to the tactical station.   “Lieutenant Hawkes, you have the bridge until I return.”  Hawkes looked up at her, and adjusted his spectacles.  His steady gaze stayed on Christine for a moment before he answered,“Yes, Captain”.  He returned to his board, tapping at it as Devereux stepped through the hatchway, and followed the corridor towards her cabin.  Funny, I was just thinking it didn’t hurt any more, and here I am, walking it off all over again. 

Her footsteps carried her past her quarters, along the slanting corridor down to Engineering, and past the huge, synchronized slipstream engines.  Her pace slowed as she looked over at them.  Scott and Thad both had a hand in every drive that was made.  Everything we’ve got is possible because of them.  Space, and the chance to explore.  

She made an abrupt about-face, and, her jaw set, returned the way she came.  It’s not going to rule my life.  We both made the choice.  It’s done.  Christine Devereux, accept what you can’t change, and wait for the things you can.  Scott, you always had an answer for everything.  

Her wrist comm hummed. Christine raised her arm to chest level, looking down at it.  A small, green dot of light enlarged to a small hologram of Hawke’s face.  “Captain, the shuttle has docked.”   “Thank you, Lieutenant”, she replied, then told Hawkes, “Have a security team with our ‘guest’ to keep the gawkers away, and give Hope an extra pair of hands in case there’s a need for them.”  She knew Hawkes would take the last statement as an ‘in case’ the survivor woke up.  If it did, Hope might need and extra person or two to help calm  or control the situation.

 She tapped at the base of the hologram, which shrunk to a small light on the surface of the comm.  It’s not like I’m not curious.  Something like that wreckage will have a lot of the off-duty personnel down there to get a look at whatever it.  I’m already partway there.  She reversed her direction again, and strode towards the shuttle bay.   


Hawkes checked his simulations.  Most of them had progressed adequately, showing that the distribution of security throughout the ship should be adequate to corner and recapture an angry, hostile Star Blood.  Hawkes reflected on his experience.  

Star Bloods are the shock troops of the Aerian military, deployed when extreme military measures are requiredThey use symbiotic organic armor. The armor protects its wearer, and augments strength and endurance. The symbiote also can protect a Star Blood for up to seventy hours in space by burning its own tissue to create oxygen and nutrients for the host. Strength is on the order of three to four times human standard.  

He looked down at his board, then pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.  He copied all the medical information to the simulation and then watched the scenario unfold.  After fifteen simulations, he concluded the best method was a two step trap.  First, lure the Star Blood into a section of the ship with no immediate cover.  Second, use portable sonic emitters to disorient and push it into the open for tranquilizers or energy weaponry.

With the Star Blood carapaces, Hawkes preferred the sonics, as the weapon required a less precise aim.  The sonics would not knock the Star Blood unconscious, but would severely disorient and weaken it.  Tranquilizers were still the most effective method of control, if used as an aerosol or misted spray. Darts would be effective only if skin and not the carapace was struck.  He made a few personal notes on his tablet, then set them aside, minimized, along the left edge of the screen.  He set the tablet down and returned his attention to the station board.

“Sergeants Sykes, Tuggle.  Please send me a visual feed, along with any biological data the Ship’s Physician has acquired”, he said firmly.  “Yes, sir”, Tuggle replied with a soft rasp to his voice.  “The Doc heard you and is uploading to your board now.”  A small icon appeared on Hawkes’ flatscreen, glowing blue and pulsing.  He tapped it open, reading the data.  The live feed from Tuggle’s camera allowed him a close view of the being.  The wings are reminiscent of Aerian physiology.  He continued to make notes of the being’s immediate features.

No visible armor, no visible weaponry, wings, no spines.  It doesn’t appear to be of the same race, despite similarities.  “Sergeant Sykes, please press one of the being’s fingers just below the tip?”, Hawkes ordered.  He watched Sykes’ camera close in, then an extended finger pressed against the beings.  Nothing happened.  “Did you note any unusual stiffness in the finger or perhaps a bony protrusion?”, he asked the sergeant.  “Nothing sir”, Sykes said.  “No venom sacks or claws”, Hawkes said dispassionately. There was a long silence, then Sykes and Tuggle said in unison, “Say what?”.    

“Do not touch the body”, Hope said firmly.  “Yes ma’am”, Sykes and Tuggle replied together.  Hawkes watched the view turn, then one person, Tuggle, raised his hand and grabbed the edge of the diagnostic table, and pushed it, following the medical specialist.   Sykes showed a step behind Tuggle in the hallway.  Hawkes noted that if upright, the being would be rather similar physically to the medical specialist, and perhaps a half head taller.

“Sergeants, have you seen a similar being before in your experiences?”, Hawkes queried them as the men followed Hope to the Infirmary.  “You mean, other than Star Bloods? You know more than me or Tug, Lieutenant.  You fought them.”, Sykes replied.  He shifted the carrier left to avoid some personnel in the hallway before moving back to the center of the deck, following the short, slim form of Hope. “I’ve never seen wings on anything other than bugs.”

“Understood”, Hawkes replied, then lapsed into silence.  Am I missing something?  Could this be a Star Blood of some form?  Hawkes brought his tablet from its holster, then tapped open a series of boxes, looking up what was known of Star Bloods. After scanning the physiological information briefly, he was certain this creature had no relation to them in any manner.  It is too small, too light for a Star Blood. There is no symbiote.  And there are no physical markers to any other race in the database either. What is it?  He ran a hand through his hair then pushed his glasses up his nose again.  No matter, once the Doctor runs a complete suite of tests, there will be much more data to compare.

“Move the table there”, Hope told the men.  Once the table was maneuvered into place, Hope addressed the two men once more. “Leave”, she said in a way that had both men almost scurrying for the entry.  Hawkes snapped out of his musings, and returned his attention to the Medical Officer’s preparations.  Monitoring equipment. Diagnostic sensors. Data gathering. More data gathering, and no thought to security or defense, Hawkes thought with a slight flash of irritation.  The infirmary needs security on that creature until we know it’s not needed.  Hawkes keyed the comm channel.  

“Sergeants, you will stay at the medical facilities and maintain security overwatch on the unknown.”  Hawkes paused, then added, “Four hour shifts.  Remain alert.”  “Aye, sir”, Tuggle replied. “We’ll make sure sleeping beauty’s not disturbed.” He heard a chuckle from Sykes.  “Make certain the automatic quarantine security is active. Hawkes out”, he said, then turned to his other duties, designing and running another capture and containment simulation.  


Hope stared impassively at the two security personnel.  “Out. By the door.”, she said in a level tone.  “Aye, Doc”, Tuggle said with a smile.  “ You won’t know we’re here.”  

“Yes. I will.” Hope replied with the faintest trace of irritation.

Tuggle suddenly looked like he bit into something sour, and a small grin grew on Sykes’ face as Hope waited for them to leave.  “Never argue, Tug”,  Sykes chuckled, “She’s literal.”  “I noticed”, Tuggle replied.  Hope ignored their chatter; there were other things on her mind at the moment.  Foremost was the patient in quarantine.  The readings have to be confirmed.  I can’t make a mistake.  If the initial values are true, then I may have a sequence I can use.  “No visitors”, she told the security team,  then turned and strode to the quarantine room.  Hope unlocked the sliding door, raising it open, and stepped in.  The winged creature was still unconscious, and still strapped to the table.   The diagnostic table was recording information as it had been left.  Hope switched the computer to voice activation.  “Reset.  Zero all readings.  Turn off all sensors.  Come active”, she said slowly in her raspy, stilted English.

She ran the entire suite of diagnostic scans again. Doing every step by hand, one at a time, in complete detail. Hope made certain there was no result due to genetic drift within known species.  She laboriously tabulated each result and ran comparisons against every genome in the medical database.  She double-checked correlations between every one of them, regardless of how different the values appeared.

The initial data finished in fifteen minutes, and confirmed her first impression.  There was no doubt in her mind, and with that, more questions than she had anticipated.  She set the data aside, then looked over at the quarantine room door, as if trying to peer through it.  

She is my species, one that has never been even hinted at in the historical archives.  How do I begin to explain something that has no history, yet exists?  Is this an enemy, or an ally, or perhaps an experiment by the Creators? I do not know the answer yet.  I will find it.  First, I must know the age of the wreckage.  That will at least be an indicator of when she was trapped.  Hope left the quarantine room, closing the heavy glass door.  She turned to go to the culturing lab, then paused.  What am I feeling?  There’s something I can sense. I can almost know it.

Hope looked over to the desk with the data on it, then back at the shadowy figure behind the translucent quarantine glass, and then over to the diagnostic readouts.  She switched through the screens:  physiology, chemical analysis, brainwave patterns, radiation, energy, nervous system.  She was excited, and frustrated, by the winged Aerian.  What is she?  Somewhat like the Star Blood, and not.  Wings longer than tall yet too small to be functional.  No symbiotic armor.  No evidence of any symbiote whatsoever.  No protection from vacuum, yet, no damage from vacuum. No damage from radiation.  No damage from her, she groped for the proper description. Semi-solid state?  What kind of conditions created that state?

She adjusted the controls, setting a deeper constant scan.  There must be something in the cellular structure.  Could she be old enough? Hope focused, inhaled, and using a calming exercise, quietly counted twelve heartbeats while exhaling slowly.  As she pondered the information streaming across the readouts, she heard the distinctive cadence of the Chief Engineer’s thudding footsteps as he reached the infirmary. 

“Uh, Chief, Doc said no visitors”, Sykes told him. Rusty chuckled and replied, “I’m not visiting.  I’m here for follow-up testing.  Doc still wants to look inside my noggin, and convince herself the empty space is supposed to be there.”   He tapped the side of his head with his knuckles as the two men shared a soft chuckle.  “Go on in Chief”, Tuggle told him.  Hope set the scan to record, then turned to face him.  I will reschedule his scans for later.  She looked at Rusty with a hint of impatience as he toured the infirmary like a tourist gawking at something he’d never seen before.

“Anything new, Doc?” Rusty said with a grin.  “Is our space angel awake? Or is she still gettin’ her beauty sleep?”  He sauntered over to the quarantine chamber where the winged woman lay, then tapped theatrically on the translucent glass.  Hope stared at him, then at the motionless shape just beyond.  An involuntary ‘chrrr‘ of anger slipped past her lips.


Rusty held his hands up, palms to Hope, and stepped back from the glass.  She advanced slowly, menacingly towards the Chief, her  arms spreading, as if mantling wings over something precious.  Her angry ‘chrrr‘ repeated as she backed him towards the entry.  Rusty’s smile faltered as he took a step back from her, sensing he had stepped over an unspoken line.  


She continued to steer Rusty out of the room, her sheer force of personality driving him one step through the hatchway just as a series of warning beeps sounded from the readout panel.  The sound stopped both Hope and Rusty in mid-step.  Ignoring the Chief Engineer completely, she quickly moved to the display.  Rusty blinked at Hope’s sudden shift of attention, then followed her back in.  Hope scanned the readouts, which showed a dramatic spike in brainwave activity.  She turned to look at the quarantine cell, and the world blew apart.

Radecki / Dark : Emerald Flight : Star Wing – Chapter 10 – Delicate Handling

( Here’s chapter 10  As I said earlier, there was a small easter egg in the writing.  Here it is:  Sykes and Tuggle – James Caan and Roger Aaron Brown of ‘Alien Nation’)

Chapter 10

“This is Shuttle One, we have Jefferies and Tao-tsu aboard, with their souvenirs”, Pryafox said with a chuckle. 

“Understood, Shuttle One.  Send scans and dimensions, we’ll make sure there’s room in cargo”, Elizabeth replied.  This is exciting!  Wreckage!  Not just a bunch of rocks, but actual material and tech that might not have been seen before!, she thought.  

“Commander, where are we at for ‘go point’ on the EVA team?”, Devereux said.  Elizabeth turned to look back at the captain, who in turn had her attention on the view screens.  

Elizabeth pulled up the estimated time left on the Chief and Ferahim’s air supply.  “Based on the Chief using his reserve faster,  they’ve got another two hours before the meter’s at fifty percent”, she said confidently.

Devereux continued to look at the screens as she spoke to Elizabeth.  “Tell Sykes and Tuggle they’re on for search and rescue in two hours if we don’t hear from the Chief or Lieutenant Ferahim.”

“See about arranging space in the cargo hold in case the Chief comes back with something too big to tuck under an arm”, Devereux finished.

“Yes, Captain.  I’ll get Chop on the job”, Elizabeth said.   She tapped the tablet in her hand, opening a direct channel to the chief supply officer. 

“Supply”, came a gruff voice.  Elizabeth smiled.  Petty Officer ‘Chopper’  Ratko was a built like he sounded.  Short, barrel-chested and bald, with a neat black beard under a pug nose and eyes, one blue, the other brown, that gave him a slightly piratical cast.  ‘

“Chop, this is the XO,  the captain wants cargo moved to make room for some samples that might come back with the Chief.”  

“Hah!  Chief gone a little salvaging hey?  Lemme seeeee…”  he said.  Elizabeth could hear him over the channel walking towards the cargo bay, the hard soles of his shoes tapping on the floor.  The walking ceased, and she could almost see him in her mind looking around in the hold.  

“How big is this souvenir he’s bringing home?”

“I’m not sure, Chop.  I’m gonna estimate twenty meters square”, Elizabeth said.   There was a low whistle on the other end of the channel.

“Four hundred cubic meters, that’s a lot of space to clear.  I can do it.  Lucky for you I’m aboard.  You’re gonna owe me one, XO.”  The channel went silent again for a few seconds.  “Give me three hours and we’ll have you the space.”

Elizabeth smiled at the tablet.  “Sure thing, Chop.”

“Supply out.”

Elizabeth turned off the channel, then took her own look at the viewscreen.  I am so glad I’m here and not out there.  I wonder what the Chief is doing right now.  There was no trouble going in, so, this isn’t a time to borrow trouble.  She pulled up the chief’s estimated air supply and set it in a corner box on her tablet for ease of locating when the captain asked for the information again.  

“Chop says he’ll have four hundred cubic meters available in three hours, captain”, she said to Devereux.  

“Very good”, Devereux said, then looked over to Elizabeth.  “By the way, what made you choose that volume?”

“I checked how full we were before I chatted with Chop …err… Petty Officer Ratko.  We’re at three quarters capacity,  so one eighth is six hundred cubic meters.  And knowing the lieutenant, he’ll give us a full six hundred and be done in sixty minutes.  He always knows we never ask for enough room, and finishing early makes him look like a miracle worker.”

Captain Devereux smiled.  “Good job, Commander.  Pass my thanks on.”   Elizabeth looked down to her tablet and smiled, basking in the praise.  “Thank you, captain.  I’ll do that.”  Elizabeth said.


“What do you think, Yvonne, cut that sliver and take her back, or cut around the base and see if we can take the whole thing?”, Rusty said as he used his thrusters to lower himself for a better look at the hologram, and the material penetrating through it. For all his grace in maneuvering, he still resembled a bulky four-limbed spider desperately trying to find a purchase.  

He didn’t wait for an answer, continuing to talk as his mind worked furiously trying to determine the origin of the projection.  “What if the sliver’s supposed to be in the middle, that it’s projecting the hologram from a central point?  No, that’s just wreckage,I can see broken edges and tubing.  There’s got to be an origin point for this holo.”

He looked up at Ferahim.  “Well, what do you think?”  

“I think, the best sample would be the largest we can handle without a cargo sled”, Ferahim replied.  She was silent for a moment, then said, “We should be finding a way to communicate, or return towards the ship.  My reserves are at eight-point-four hours.  We’re almost four hours in spacewalk with no contact with the Emerald Flight.”

Rusty stopped searching the sliver, stood, and faced Ferahim.  “What?  Go back early, and miss all this romantic ambiance?  Spoilsport.”  He blipped his thrusters and returned to trying to determine the source of the hologram.   He coughed suddenly, firing the thruster hard when his hand clenched involuntarily.  grabbing at the surface to keep himself from spinning like a Catherine wheel away from the wreckage. 

Ferahim reached out and timed her grab expertly, snagging his ankle and suspending him in front of the sharp metallic sliver. Rusty bounced once against the wreckage, then floated up.  Ferahim held on, and slowly resisted the momentum. Rusty slowed firing his jets in short blips. Once they both stabilized, she released him and resumed her overwatch.

“Was it as good for you as it was me?”, Rusty said with a chuckle. 

“Only that it gave me something to do while I was bored and waiting for something to happen”, she replied dryly.

“Well I’m…hey, move over here with that cutter, I think I see a seam or something”, Rusty said excitedly.  He pointed down at the base of the sliver, a few inches from it.  “Cut here, go clockwise, and try to keep the same distance.”  He pointed again at the location.  “Right here.  I think it’s hollow underneath.”    

Ferahim looked where he pointed, then asked, “Are you certain?”  

“Pretty sure”, Rusty answered.  “When I bumped it, it gave a little, solid doesn’t give, hollow does.”

Ferahim hesitated a moment, then turned on the cutter, slowly bringing up the power until the target started peeling back from the heat.  She then slowly began to work a circle counter-clockwise around the sliver, keeping a meter away from the structure and the impaled hologram.

“Just why are we cutting it now?”, she asked him.

“In a few hours, when we reach the halfway point in our air supply.  I’m guessing they may send people out to check on us, since we’ve heard a big nothing because of the Morris cursed jamming”, Rusty said nonchalantly.  “I’d like to have something dramatic to show Cap, so I can have more time digging through all this treasure out here.”

“So, this is all for drama’s sake?”,  Ferahim said.

“It’s for having the ‘wow’ factor maxed out. Hasn’t anyone told you about a sales pitch before?  You want to sell ice water to eskimos, make it BIG.”  He gestured to the hologram, “That is ‘wow’ dialed to eleven.” 

Rusty said with a smirk “Drama, it isn’t just drama any more.”

“I’m sure it will be quite dramatic”, Ferahim said drily, as she  continued to burn a cut in the material with the laser.

“Angel on a stick”, Rusty said with a chuckle.   “Hard to find something more dramatic.”

“Indeed”, Ferahim said drily, sounding exactly like security chief Hawkes.

Really gonna have to find a way to get that old fossil to loosen up.  All these security people have no sense of humor…


Devereux ran her hand through her hair.   It’s not like we’re running out of time.  Even at half-supply they’re good for another four hours minimum.  The part I hate is not knowing for certain.

She moved over next to Elizabeth.  The First Officer was looking at her tablet and quickly pulling up data on drift, distance, and relative velocity of the shuttle and Emerald Flight.  Devereux noticed a box on the tablet that showed engine output and alignment between the tandem slipstream drives.  She misses getting her hands dirty, She mused. God knows I do.

“How are we on cargo space, Commander?”, Christine asked.

“Chop’s got twenty minutes left and he’ll have us six hundred cubic meters, sir”, Elizabeth replied crisply. 

Devereux suppressed a small smile.  The First had called it almost to the minute.  “Inform me when the shuttle’s docked, I want to take a look at what they brought back.”

“Yes, Captain.  I’ll do that”, Elizabeth said.  Devereux thought she could hear a faint bit of pride in the Commander’s voice.  She’s doing well,  all that cross-training has really helped her settle into being the First Officer.

She watched Elizabeth tap her tablet and the box opened to show Lt. Aruna.   “Commander?  If we’re staying in place for another hour, I’d like to cycle and filter the coolant for the slipstream cores.  It’s not critical, but cycling and filtering would give the new hands in engineering some experience.”  Elizabeth looked up towards her, and Devereux gave her a smile and nod.  Good idea, it’s not difficult and with nothing else to do, it keeps them from worrying.

“Go ahead, Commander,  Bridge okays the cycle and filter.  Make sure you’re done in one hour”, Elizabeth said.

“Yes, Commander, we’re on it”, Aruna replied, then cut the channel.

She looked over to Gho, who’d put on a pair of over the ear headphones, cutting out the ambient noise.  Her face showed concentration, and frustration in equal measure.  Devereux moved over towards Gho, noting that she seemed very absorbed in her work.  

She stopped by the communications board, then watched Gho’s fingers tap commands out like a concert pianist doing Beethoven.  She recognized a few of the algorithms as basic sound filters.  Everything else was a mass of numbers and figures she had no notion of.  

Continuing on, she walked past Hawkes’ security board, noting the simulations running.   Hawkes appeared deep in thought as he watched the displays flicker their information at the iron-haired lieutenant.  Where Gho had been a fiery frustration, Hawkes was ice and control.  His focus was intense, and devoid of any feeling.   When he gets like this, I’d swear an ice cube would have more emotion.  I wonder what in his life made him like this?

She ran her hand through her hair, giving a frustrated sigh.  Everyone was doing their job, it was up to her to stay out of the way and let them.  Time to be the square-jawed, heroic captain, instead of a nosy one.   She walked back to command deck with deliberate, unhurried strides that proclaimed her to be completely unruffled by the situation.

Give them a show and..  her musings were cut short by the communication officer’s sudden movement, tearing her headphones off then slamming them onto her cradle.  Gho looked up sheepishly at the captain.  Elizabeth arched an eyebrow, then waited for the Ensign to explain herself.

“Captain, the interference is getting stronger.  It’s beginning to impinge on the shuttle’s communications with us, and they’re only a couple hundred meters from the ship.  The power is pegging the filters,  I doubt anyone could hear us any more.”

“Understood ensign.  Keep trying to get through it.  I’m sure you’ll find an answer”, Devereux said.

“Shuttle one has Jefferies and Tao-tsu aboard, with about two hundred forty eight cubic meters of debris for study”, Elizabeth informed her.

“Good.  Have the shuttle return and secure the samples in the hold, and make sure the rescue team is ready to go”, Devereux said to Elizabeth.  


Hawkes finished the fifteenth hostile boarding simulation, saving off three for future practice.  He looked over to Captain Devereux, who was making a circuit of the stations.  Starting another simulation, and leaving it to run, he strode over to Gho’s board, and looked at the data boxes.  They showed a steady increase in strength over the last ten minutes, going from controllable with filtering to now interfering with all transmissions, and the level was still recorded as rising.

Hawkes tried to extrapolate the effects of the interference,  then realized his experience was inadequate to the task.  “Lieutenant, If the magnitude of the interference continues to rise, what are possible effects?”,  he asked her. 

Gho looked up at Hawkes, her frustration sliding away as she turned the idea over in her head.   After a long moment, she finally said, “I’m not certain, let me do some checking on that and I’ll get back with you, sir.”

Hawkes nodded, then returned to his own simulations once more.  His mind was spinning with the new information, trying to fit it to what he already knew.  It stayed a vague sense of foreboding.  It’s like trying to find my way in a thick fog.   

“This is like trying to see in a pea-soup fog”, Gho exclaimed in frustration.  Hawkes blinked in surprise.

Gho looked over at Hawkes, seemingly puzzled for a moment by his odd look, but she recovered herself and reported, “I’ve got a few simulations done, Lieutenant.  I don’t see any problems other than we’re going to be really deaf to traffic as long as we’re in the field, which is continuing to strengthen”, the ensign finished.

“Do you have any theories as to why the field has changed from stable to this?”, Hawkes asked her.  “Maybe it doesn’t like us?”, Gho said irritably.   She then looked up at Hawkes.  Perhaps I have been too insistent on this problem. 

“Sorry, sir”, Gho said with a frustrated sigh.   Hawkes nodded to her.  “This is a unique problem”, he said.  

Gho straightened her shoulders, then focused on her board again.  “Forget conventional, I’m going to find..”, she trailed off, then punched up the fleet quantum effect channel.  The resulting squeal of interference had Gho snapping the speakers off with an angry stab of her finger against the comm board.  “That’s impossible!”, she said disbelievingly.  “Quantum entanglement isn’t something you can jam with interference, there’s nothing to jam”, She said, and took a deep breath.  

“Explain”, Hawkes said.

“Quantum Entanglement doesn’t work typically at faster than light speeds, it’s limited by the collapse of the quantum state over distance”, Gho said, warming to the subject.

She looked up at Hawkes, who nodded.  She returned the nod, and continued.  “Our communications takes advantage of stepping out of phase with this dimension, like stepping through a door to hand a note to someone.  We shouldn’t have any interference unless there’s something out of phase nearby, then it’s like two people trying to fit through door at the same time and getting jammed tight.”

The jamming indicates another source is close enough to create this?”, Hawkes asked, his whole being focused on her.

“That’s the only way we’d get this kind of interference”, Gho replied, “But where it is I have no clue. Theoretically, it could even be out of phase and still affect communications.”

“How would you identify such a source, within the jamming it produces?” , Hawkes asked her.  

“That I don’t know for certain.  There’s theories, but I haven’t read of anyone figuring out how to make one in the first place.  I don’t know even if near means, well, near.  It’s beyond anything I know.”  She chuckled bitterly as she turned back to the comm board and began trying new sequences of filters.  “Just when you think the universe is figured out”, she  said and put her hands together, then splayed her fingers out.  “Pffft!  It blows everything crazy.”


Hope watched the samples ushered in through the overhead doors into the hold.   Can this be evidence of a new race?  I must see these organic parts.  There may be something I can use in my own research.  Fortunately though, the medical bay did have enough equipment to study and test the supposed organic components.  I will request a piece for study.  The captain will approve it, she told herself.  Her jaw twitched slightly.  She turned her head left to observe sthe  Sergeants Sykes and Tuggle.  

Both men were sitting in their seats, strapped in and,, to her eyes, to her eyes, sleeping soundly.  Humans are confusing. There is potential danger, yet they sleep.  She glanced away and out a port side window as she pondered how sleep seemed so easy for humans, when she sat upright, her attention focused.  Both men sat up simultaneously, instantly awake and looking about.  

“I perceive movement”,.  Hope said as she continued to look out the window.  

“I don’t see anything, Doc”, Sykes said, “Where are you looking?”  The two men crowded next to Hope, trying to see what had caught her attention. 

“That rock”, she said, pointing with her hand,  “See?”

“Ma’am, no I don’t see anything”, said Sykes, an awkward tone in his voice. She continued to indicate a point out in the field.

“There. Movement.”

Pryafox was looking back, and Hope thought she heard some kind of whimpering noise.  She thought it might be more laughter from him.  He is uncomfortable close to me.  No matter, not my concern.  Her focus was on the small dot of lighter black moving against the deep black background of deep space.  “Have you got any binoculars in this crate, ‘Fox?”, Tuggle said.

“Look in that wall locker behind your seat, Tug.  I think there’s one in there, or one of the other lockers.”   Hope didn’t turn, and kept her eyes  focused on the moving speck.  “It is approaching”, she said, as she heard Tuggle rummage in the locker.  “Found ’em.  Now let’s see what the Doc thinks she’s seeing”, he said as he moved back to the window and raised the magnifiers. 

Hope raised her arm, hand aimed at the moving speck.

“It is there.”, she said.   

“I see some movement,”, Pryafox said over the comm.  “Telemetry’s still blind as a bat.  It isn’t picking up anything out there.”

“I don’t…wait yeah, it’s something moving all right.  I’m going to dial this up bit and see…. it’s suits… the Chief and the Lieutenant.  I’m betting money on it,”, Sergeant Tuggle said. 

“Looks like we don’t have to go searching for them after all”, Sergeant Sykes said, then sighed in irritation, “I can hardly wait to get out of this suit, damn thing makes me itch.”

“Lose weight”, Hope said absently without looking back.  What is that third object?  It’s nothing like the other two.  Is it leading them?  “Hey Doc, what’s the big idea saying I’m fat?”, Sykes said in a shocked voice.  Pryafox and Tuggle chuckled.  Hope ignored them, and the background noise faded away as she focused on the moving specks.

 “There are three”, she said finally.   “Yeah, a light one leading the other two”, Tuggle said.  Hope shifted to make herself more comfortable looking out the window.  

Her eyes took a moment to adjust to the bright lights, and noticed the figures had altered course directly towards them now.  “Opening overhead doors”, shePryafox said, andas Hope unbuckled from her seat. HopeShe put her helmet back on and sealed it, then headed for the airlock.  

“I think that front one has … wings?”, Tuggle said.

  “The Chief did said say something about an angel, before everything went buggy”, Pryafox said over the hissing comm,. ”You think he’s bringing it back? Is it even them?  This static is messing all my telemetry up.”

  “I don’t know”, Tuggle replied, over a faint crackling static.  “But whatever it is, we are going to find out soon enough.” 

Once the airlock cycled, she moved to the center of the bay, and waited as the overhead doors opened.  Her eyes searched, and spotted the movement immediately against the dark background.  The specks moved closer and gradually enlarged enough to be recognized by Hope as the Chief and Lieutenant Ferahim.  As the figures moved closer, the third figure did look vaguely like an angel, impaled like some sacrifice on a jagged piece of material. Unease began to fill her as the figures made their way to the shuttle. Why do I feel…tense?  There is …anticipation?  Fear?  I don’t understand this sensation.  

The interference flooded everything with its hissing, crackling presence.  Radio communications in their suits had slowly degraded over the last fifteen minutes until communications were only possible over about twenty meters or less.  Beyond that range, all comm channels drowned in static.  

Sergeants Sykes and Tuggle joined Hope in the bay, waiting for the Chief and Lieutenant Ferahim to arrive.  Both men had anchored their rescue equipment back to the bay walls, ready for use if needed.  Lt. Ferahim entered the bay just ahead of Rusty, both of them blipping their thrusters to bleed off velocity.   The Lieutenant landed awkwardly, her momentum off-balance from the large chunk of interlocking tubes and wires.  The Chief Engineer was much slower, firing his thrusters in rapid spurts to bleed off velocity.  He deftly maneuvered the meters long jagged spike with the hologram at the end to a gentle landing on the deck.

The hologram pulsed, becoming opaque, then nearly transparent in rapid flashes.  Hope walked forward, seemingly mesmerized by the flickering picture.  I…feel this one…I feel her.  She is…in pain.  Hope reached her hand out towards the hologram, feeling as if she was under some compulsion greater than herself.   I want this..and I am afraid.  Her hand trembled as it curled to grasp the wrist of the hologram.  “What in the name of Morris are you doing, Doc?”, Rusty said.  Hope only registered his words as a soft buzzing in the background of her perceptions, so intense was her focus on the image in front of her.

Her hand brushed the image, and her mind was flooded with a white hot blast of sensation and received a blast of pain that staggered her..  Against her will, her hand gripped a now-solid wrist, and pulled. Her hand closed, and, on instinct, she pulled, trying to get away from the source.  Her entire being was on fire, She felt a tearing sensation, as if her body was being torn open.  She pulled harder, desperate to escape the sensation.  She screamed, or thought she did, as raw agony tore through her,  only to wash over her again, like the heated breath of a volcano.  Her hand was locked on the wrist now, and she began to pull.   I must do this!  I must … The  pain roared back into her, and she felt her blood boil, then snuff out, only to burst to steam in her veins, then go cold as space.  Oddly, her heart slowed, its beat flowing through her, stifling the pain  .  It must be done. This is written, and there is no failure.  She pulled with her whole being.  There was a tearing sensation, muffled by her heartbeat.  She felt it as if through a soft haze,  aware of the pain, but only as a slight pressure on her mind.

The pain suddenly quit, like a light being turned off.  She collapsed backwards, falling to the ground,.  She took making her take Taking deep gasping breaths, as she tried to remember/focus on the rapidly fading memories and sensations.  A sharp cramp in her hand made Hope realize that it the sense of holding something in her hand still  was curled around something, solid, and warm.  Hope opened her eyes to find she had hold of a wrist.  She traced from her hand along the arm, to the body.  A limp figure in white, with white wings and flame red hair lay on the deck at her feet.  She’d dragged the hologram/creature off the spike.  

“By the Morris!  What just happened?”, Rusty said disbelievingly.  

“Shuttle One, come in. The interference is gone at our end., Can you receive?”, came came Ensign Gho’s voice over the suit  comms.

“Yes, we hear you”, Pryafox said.  “Never mind that, Emerald Flight!” Rusty shouted.  “We’ve got a, Morris take me …, we have a survivor! , she’s here!”


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 7 – Coming Attractions

Elizabeth’s surprise mirrored what she saw reflected on the Captain’s face. It took only a moment for the implications of Gho’s announcement to sink in.

There’s been other ships out here before.

“Can you tell what type?” Devereux asked.

Gho’s uncertainty was evident when she shook her head again. “Not yet,” she said. “At least not for sure.”

The Captain looked toward the Tactical station with concern. Lieutenant Hawkes met get her glance squarely. Neither said a word, but Elizabeth was certain that some kind of communication had passed between them. She felt a twinge of jealousy at being left out.

Devereux turned to look at the main bridge displays.

“It will be difficult to detect slipstream events within the field,” Hawkes said aloud.

“I know,” Devereux replied, just barely loud enough to be heard. “Let’s hope it’s too dangerous for them to transition there.”

“That might explain the alloys,” Elizabeth offered.

Devereux looked at her thoughtfully.

“Do you want me to consult with Engineering?” Hawkes asked.

Elizabeth opened her mouth to answer, but Devereux cut her off.

“No,” she turned to Elizabeth. “I want you to,” she said. “Have them provide us with their best guess as soon as possible.” Her eyes held firmly onto Elizabeth’s. “Have them do the work. Keep it internal. We’ll inform the Chief, but he has enough to worry about at the moment without having manage that effort from a distance.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Devereux looked away.

Elizabeth took a slow breath and then headed for the main Science station to ask Gho for her latest readings. Her mind was already working on the problem, thinking through which sensor readings to focus on and how to set up the simulations.

Stop, she told herself. That’s not your job any more.

She felt a muted sense of loss at no longer being in the middle of tasks like that. Stealing a quick glance at Devereux, she wondered how the Captain managed it. She had seen the Captain on the deck, smeared with grime and lubricants, trying to repair a damaged console.

But that had been under battle conditions, with everyone else trying to keep the ship in one piece.

Sure, Elizabeth knew, the Captain got to make all of the important decisions. That was her job. Except when that kind of direct action was needed, though, it was starting to look like Captain’s job consisted of a lot of mindless paperwork—at least that which she did not foist off on her First Officer. Elizabeth began to wonder in earnest whether someday having a command of her own was what she really wanted.

Maybe having your own command isn’t everything it’s hyped up to be . . .

Elizabeth checked the Engineering duty roster and saw that the Chief had left Sanderson in charge. He was coming off duty, though, so she sent the orders to Aruna, who would be taking over the shift in less than thirty minutes. She included a copy of the sensor data, and then had to stop herself from annotating it with her own recommendations.

How does the Captain do it?

Devereux was thorough when she needed to be, Elizabeth recognized, but she never micro-managed her crew. She depended on them each to do their jobs, and assumed that they knew how do them. Elizabeth wondered if she could ever achieve that level of confidence and comfort with her colleagues.

You’d better, she warned herself. Or you’ll have the next crew in the fleet to mutiny.

As serious as the thought was, the relative absurdity of it brought a small smile to her face. It made her feel a little better about the entire situation. Looking down at her tablet, she studied the next set of requests coming in from various departments throughout the ship.


Rusty checked and double-checked that everyone’s safety lines were secure, including those attached to the equipment.

No one’s floating off into space on my watch . . .

With the slow speed that they would be traveling, along with redundant locator beacons built into their suits, there was little risk of losing anyone for more than a short time. Still, he was not taking any chances with the microgravity pockets. The last thing he needed was a member of his team smashing against one of the asteroids, becoming a new organic puddle on its surface. Remembering the spectrochemical analysis he had skimmed, and its reports of detecting organic matter, Rusty wondered whether his was the first team to explore this debris field.

“Great,” he murmured. “I finally get to make first contact and it’s probably alien road kill.”

“What was that, Chief?” Tsu-tao asked.

“Check,” Rusty called aloud into the suit radio.

“Check,” came Ferahim crisp response.

Tsu-tao’s sounded an instant later. “Check, Chief.”

Rusty smirked, knowing the young engineer was disappointed at missing his remark. He started to reach for Jeffries when the older man’s voice sounded in his helmet.

“Um . . . check.”

Rusty rolled his eyes, even knowing no one else could see it, wondering if it was too late to leave the old geologist back on the ship.

“Directional sensors on,” he said instead, keeping his opinions to himself for the moment. “Triangulate on that large fragment at zero-zero-four. Mark.”

“Mark,” Ferahim and Tsu-tao reported, almost in unison.

Rusty opened his mouth to prompt the geologist, but Jeffries responded an instant later.


“Okay then,” Rusty announced. “Four-second thruster burst, and then let’s find a nice little spot for our picnic.” He paused, checking to make certain that his fingers were poised over the correct controls. He knew the suit by touch, but also knew that one does not take chances in open space.

“On my mark,” he told the others. “Three . . . two . . . one. Mark.”

He felt more than heard the tiny suit thrusters fire. Their surroundings moved past them just a little bit faster, gaining speed with each second of thrust.

“. . . two . . . one. Disengage!”

For a moment, Rusty felt as though he was drifting as the acceleration provided by the thrusters ceased. He checked the directional sensor on his wrist and saw that his vector was correct. It also showed four points in close alignment. He turned his head to verify that, and was encouraged to see that both Ferahim and Jeffries were right there with him.

Okay, he considered with some relief. This just might work.

“Okay,” he said peering ahead and then verifying what his eyes told him with the scanner. “Let’s head for that large fragment. It’s as good a place as any to set up camp.”

“Yes, sir,” Ferahim acknowledged promptly.

“Okay,” Jeffries responded in something twhat almost sounded like an unenthusiastic mumble.

Damned scientist types . . .

“Which side, sir?” Tsu-tao asked.

Rusty peered ahead, trying to make out some detail on the fragment’s surface despite the distance.

“Aim for that dark spot,” Rusty replied. “Toward the port side. See it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good,” Rusty responded with grin. “If we’re lucky, it’s a pool with deck-side bar service.”

Someone snickered. Rusty was pretty sure that it was not Jeffries.


“One second burst,” the Chief Engineer’s voice came over the speaker. “Adjust your heading starboard three degrees. Confirm.”

Three confirmations overlapped, creating an odd-sounding echo over the communications channel.

“On my mark.” There was a momentary pause before the Chief Engineer spoke again. “Mark.”

A burst of noise like static washed across the speakers as the four team members fired their thrusters, followed by silence.

“Perfect,” the Chief Engineer said. “Stand by for surface contact in twelve seconds.”

Devereux’s eyes turned toward the locator grid, seeing a tight quartet of signals moving toward an outline that represented the large fragment that was the team’s target. Her gaze moved toward the center bridge display. Sharp-edged shadows revealed the raw ridges of the shattered rock as the spotlights from the team member’s helmets shone on it.

“. . . eight . . . seven . . . six . . .”

The granular surface of the fragment became more visible as four beams converged on it.

“. . . five . . . four . . . three . . .”

The image was a wash of light, now too bright to make out the details.

“. . . two . . . one . . . contact!”

A series of Ddiscordant sounds issued from the speakers. Devereux guessed that it came from loose pieces of the asteroid’s surface shifting beneath the team’s boots.

Emerald Flight,” the Chief Engineer said. “I don’t know if the Eagle has landed, but we have. All team members accounted for.” 

Devereux chuckled at the Chief’s announcement, allowing herself a small smile as she joined in the scattered applause that sounded from around the bridge. Neither Hawkes nor Hope, she noticed, participated. She did not find that unsurprising.

“Nice work, Chief,” she called out. “Now be careful out there.”

“Yes, Mom,” Rusty muttered.

Devereux was tempted to roll her eyes, but settled for the mental equivalent. The Chief knew perfectly well that the comm channel remained open.  She saw Elizabeth shake her head, amused but trying to hide it as well, as she moved toward the primary Science station.

“Anything new on the sensors?” Her First Officer asked Gho.

The oriental Science officer shook her head, causing her dark, chin-length hair to brush against her cheeks. “Nothing yet,” she reported. “They’re just setting up the equipment now.”

“How soon?”

Gho frowned thoughtfully for a moment. “Maybe eight or nine minutes.”

“Okay,” Elizabeth responded, noddeding slowly in acknowledgment. as Sshe made a notation on her tablet.

Devereux glanced toward the Tactical console and saw Hawkes busy at his station. There was nothing currently threatening about this situation, at least from a tactical standpoint. She wondered just what it was that he found to do. It was not something she worried over, though.

He’s always doing something, she mused. But then he’s never been one to waste energy on pointless tasks. She fought back most of a smile. Probably torturing the weapons teams with timed readiness drills again.

“I guess we should take some samples or something,” Rusty’s said over the speakers. “How ‘bout over here, Doctor?”

Devereux automatically glanced toward Hope, stopping herself as she realized that the Chief was addressing the geologist, not her Medical Officer.

An unintelligible noise came over the comm channel. Devereux guessed it was Jeffries thinking over the Chief’s question.

“About two meters behind you and to the right, I think,” the geologist finally answered.

“Whatever you say, Doc.” There was a short burst of muffled sound. “You heard the man,” Rusty called out. “Time to unpack our toys.”


The communications of the EVA team settled into routine conversation as they unpacked and assembled the sampling equipment. Hawkes continued to monitor it as he resumed his other tasks. At the First Officer’s request, he assigned a member of his team to assist with the preparation of the shuttle. The security risk was low, but he silently commended the First Officer for electing to have one of his officers present. 

The shuttle normally carried only basic emergency supplies. They might be sufficient to stabilize a badly injured crewmember until they could return to the ship, but it was not intended to deal with major or traumatic injuries. Although almost all mission teams included a qualified medic, there were simply some medical situations that required the skills of a fully-trained physician and a well-stocked infirmary. 

“That should do it,” the Chief Engineer’s voice sounded clearly through the speakers. “Right, Doc of the Rocks?”

There was garbled noise before Jeffries responded. Hawkes guessed that it was the geology specialist expressing his disapproval of the Chief Engineer’s sobriquet.

“One second,” Jeffries said. “Let me check something.” Several seconds passed before he spoke again. “Yes,” he announced finally. “That should do it now.”

“Ready whenever you are, Doc.”

“Engaging the core drill now,” Jeffries said. “We should start getting readings in a few moments.”

Several moments of relative quiet passed before Tsu-tao reported, “It’s transmitting the data now, Chief.”

“Bridge?” the Chief Engineer queried them. “Are you receiving this?”

Devereux looked toward Lieutenant Gho. The Lieutenant tapped several controls on her console and then nodded in confirmation.

“Yes, Captain,” she reported. “We’re receiving data telemetry from drill sensors.”

“Anything unusual?”

The young Science officer studied the displays on her console for several seconds before answering. “Nothing particularly strange that I can make out,” she finally replied. “The few unusual elements we detected seem to be only at the surface layer. The rest of the core seems to be pretty much you’d expect from a fragment like this.”

Devereux appeared mildly disappointed by the news. Hawkes found the results hardly surprising. Despite their anomalous location in space, there was been no indications so far that there was anything extraordinary about the asteroid fragments. Rather than feeling disappointment, Hawkes experienced relief that nothing dangerously unusual, and therefore potentially hostile, had been discovered.

“Have you managed to get any new readings past the interference in the field?” Devereux was asking Gho.

Gho shook her head. “No, Captain,” she replied. “There haven’t been any more weakening of the field interference.”

Devereux nodded her understanding, but looked unhappy about the report.

“Chief,” she said. “You brought along the short-range telescope, right?”

The telescope was small and lightweight, approximately the length of an average person’s arm and about twice that diameter. It was designed to be easily carried and operated by personnel while outside their ship. The trade-off in mass meant that it carried almost no automated systems and had to be adjusted manually. What it saw through its lenses would actually be transmitted using the comm system built into the suit of the person operating it, connected via a physical cable.

“Sure thing, Cap’n,” the Chief Engineer replied. “They’re just finished setting it up now. What do you need?”

“Can you aim it toward the center of the interference field and then give us a live feed?”

“Tsu?” the Chief asked. “Can we?”

“No problem, Chief,” the ensign replied. “We’ll need another three or four minutes.”

“You have two,” the Chief told him.

Hawkes was surprised and impressed by the Chief Engineer’s attempt to drive his team to higher levels of performance. It was atypical behavior for the Chief. Considering the Chief’s recent spell of unusual behavior, even given the Chief Engineer’s history of questionable conduct, Hawkes considered questioned whether the Captain and Medical Officer had been prudent in allowing him to lead this mission.

“We’re set here, Bridge,” the Chief announced a few minutes later. “Ready for some pretty pictures?”

“We’re ready here, Chief,” Devereux replied. “Lieutenant,” she said, addressing Pyrafox, “bring the feed up on Screen One.”

“Aye, Captain,” the helmsman acknowledged.

The locator grid faded from the screen, replaced by a slowly resolving image of an arc of the debris field. Its resolution was not as high as that that could be provided by the ship’s sensors could produce.

But at the moment, Hawkes considered, the ship’s sensors are providing nothing except for occasional fluctuations in the interference field.

There appeared to be nothing extraordinary in the images being transmitted from the telescope. Additional fragments, in a variety of sizes, were visible within the debris field. For the most part, they did not appear to be significantly different from those in other asteroid fields that Hawkes had visited in his lifetime. Although nothing they showed was remarkable, the fact that they could see anything at all was.


All eyes on the bridge turned toward the main bridge screens. The ship’s sensors had provided them with little but garbled data for the past several hours. Using a low-powered portable telescope, they now had an unobscured view of the phenomenon.

Perhaps now we will know, Hope thought.

“How’s that, Bridge?” the Chief Engineer asked.

The Captain quickly surveyed the expressions of the others on the bridge.

“Keep going,” the Captain instructed him. “Give us a full sweep of the area. We’ll let you know if we want you to go back.”

“Copy that,” the Chief Engineer replied. “You want a full souvenir album to commemorate your fun-filled journey through The Mysterious Asteroid Field of Doom.”

It took Hope a moment to reconcile the Chief Engineer’s statement with the cheery tone with which he delivered it. The name he had assigned to the phenomenon denoted serious danger; his recitation the manner in which he stated of it did not.

The image on the center screen moved very slowly, but noticeably, as the telescope tracked through the region of space that the Captain had indicated. There was nothing visible that hinted at the source of the interference field. It appeared, essentially, to be just another section of the asteroid debris field.

The Tactical Officer studied his own displays intently. His expression revealed puzzlement and a growing concern. Others members of the crew might not have noticed it, Hope suspected, except for perhaps the Captain.

“What is, Lieutenant?” the Captain asked, confirming Hope’s assessment of her abilities to understand her crew.

“I’m not certain, Captain,” the Tactical Officer said. His answer surprised Hope. The Tactical Officer rarely admitted to a lack of knowledge. “May I?” he requested, gesturing toward the main bridge displays.

The Captain nodded her approval.

“Chief,” the Tactical Officer called out. “Please redirect the telescope back to these coordinates.” His fingers moved across his console as he transmitted the data back to the team. “I believe there may be something of interest there.”

“Got it, Lieutenant,” Tsu-tao reported. “Adjusting the angle now.”

The image on the center screen moved more quickly, giving the illusion that the vessel was spinning to starboard. After several moments, the scene steadied. Positioned almost directly in its center was an irregularly-shaped object, probably smaller than the asteroid fragment on which the EVA team was now standing.

“Congratulations, Lieutenant,” the Chief Engineer said. “You’re discovered another rock. Do you want us to name it after you?”

“That will not be necessary,” the Tactical Officer replied icily. There was a momentary pause while he reinforced his composure. “Enhance by a factor of ten, please.”

The image on the center screen grew larger, but revealed nothing of obvious interest. It still appeared to be a rock fragment, although perhaps a more oddly shaped one than most.

“By another factor of ten, please.”

The screen shimmered and then displayed the  even closer view of the fragment. Its details remained indistinct, looking more like an oversized dust mote than a chunk of rock.

“Can you augment the image?” the Tactical Officer asked.

“I might be able to at this end,” the Science Officer replied. “Let me see what the computer can do with it?” She tapped a few controls. “Chief?” she called over the comm channel. “Are you transmitting at maximum resolution?”

There was a momentary delay before the Chief Engineer answered. “Tsu says we are.”

“Okay,” the Science Officer acknowledged. “Stand by.”

For several moments, the image on the screen remained the same. Then, slowly, the computer extrapolated more information from the sensor data and updated the image. Edges gained definition. A collective hush fell over the bridge as details became more apparent.

“Chief,” the First Officer asked. “Are you seeing this?”

“Yeah . . .” the Chief Engineer answered in a hushed tone. “What in the name of Morris is it?”

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 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 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.