Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 8. Captain’s Log

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Captain’s Log

The young man sat on the padded seat with a quill in one hand, a book in his lap. He eschewed the captain’s chair at the desk, and preferred instead to sit in his favorite corner.

The Blackfish was making way nicely, and his view of the ocean from the stern of the ship made his soul feel free with the expansive view when the storm doors were open.

His long crimson hair, cut short the months before, now hung down past his earlobes, he dipped the tip of the quill in the jar of ink and put the blackened tip to the parchement.

“Captain’s Personal Log Of Keegan O’Danu:

First entry, and the first voyage of the Blackfish, and my father follows in the Cúlaith. A sistership to this one. We have come here from the start of years ago.

Nearly half my life.

A summer day when my father went out with a ship that he had built. He was gone when the English came and destroyed my village.

I saw my seanathair lay on the ground with a bolt jutting out of his chest and the soldiers that beat my mam into the dirt until she stopped moving. In those days, I thought she was dead.

I woke up on a slave-cart, I still carry the scar, hidden by my hair, where the soldier hit me.

When I came home, I found that my mam, taken by the English, was in the islands where my old friend Captain Myngs freed me.

I found when I returned to my father in the Virgina lands of a bay they called Irishtown. A backwater behind a German settlement.

I sit in command of this new ship, a crew of twenty and one hundred of the old crew. Only twelve adults serve on board. The balance of older’s follow in my father’s ship of his design.

We return in force, with my old friends Anna God-Wants and Jacquotte Delahaye to find my mother, somewhere on the islands of the Caribs.

I will not rest until I find the fate of my mam and return her home.

I cannot watch my father walk alone any longer, he weeps at night for the life stolen from him, he doesn’t I see it. But he is my father, I hear him in the dark when he thinks everyone is sleeping, I see his eyes. The strain shows on his face.

I cannot watch my father suffer.

It fills me with a rage that keeps me awake at night.

My friends all have parents, brothers and sisters all still missing and we will return to collect them.

The Blackfish and the other ships can carry twice more than the crew who man them. Plus my plan will be to take ships on our return home.

Empires will tremble at the thought of our rescue. No navy will prevail against us. We have new bronze cannon built by the one my father calls Francois Buile. He showed us that the ranges of these new nine-pounders are double of our last guns.

Granuaile has built gun carriages of her own design. Adult men have learned to keep their distance from her.

My only pleasure around her, she has stopped socking me in the shoulder. My bruise is almost healed, but any man who hits me there now, will have a surprise. Unless he has hands of stone, I would not notice it.

Diana, who has returned to using her war-name of Angelcries has driven our crew as a stringent task-master. She follows my direction to the letter. She has a heart of a lion, even I am afraid of her sometimes. But she has stopped growing, I think. A year ago, we were the same size, today I am taller by almost a head while she has yet to grow to five feet.

The ginger-haired youth rubbed his shoulder and laughed. But when he gazed out over the water, the old melancholy chased away the smile.

Putting the quill into the bottle, he stood up and walked to the expensive glass window. An artisan, commissioned by the blacksmiths, made the glass into three letters to remind a woman’s child of her name.

“Fey” in small colored cut-glass gems sparkled in the sun.

Tracing his fingers over the inlay, the old anger rose again. He would get her back.

He sat back down and picked the quill out of the bottle and tapped the drop off against the mouth of the blown-glass bottle of ink and put it to the expensive vellum in his personal journal.

Turning the page, he wrote at the top of the page:

“Captain’s Personal log of Keegan O’Danu

I miss her, I can remember my mam’s eyes and her laugh. I was only nine-summers old when we were taken. I will find her and bring her back, if only for my athair. A son should never see a father broken. Slavery should never be a market and I will free anyone that is in service against their will that I find, so long as I draw a breath. Slave ships will be my prey, anyone who flies the flag of empire will strike colors on my approach.

The Pirate Kingdom of the Sea will hold sway. Free people will embrace the name.

Everywhere they use the label pirate as a perjorative, I will embrace it as freedom.

Until my Mam is home, I will walk the decks and sail the seas until I am too old to chew my food.

Many years ago, to me.

My máthair was taken.

The English declared war on our village.

Today, I return to get her back. The Spanish or English and any who strike with the might of an empire, just because they can, I will make tremble with fear to sail these waters with their flags flying.

My father and his crew accompany us in thinking they protect the children.

We are the seeds of crimes that the Spanish, English and the Dutch have sown.

It is up to the children to protect the fathers.

I will continue to use my war-name given to me by the Quartermaster of the Marston Moor.”

A member since the first tour on Grampus she had no fear of anyone, Beth Angelcries stepped through the door.

“Keegan, your Da’ has hailed us using a speaking-trumpet.”

The captain of the Blackfish nodded. He smiled into the hazel eyes of the girl who had shown such fury when they made their way home, causing Keegan to redefine the term in his mind.

Looking down, he finished his entry.

With the support of Anna Marie and Jacquotte we will stop at the harbor of Germantown and meet with those children who stayed behind and were adopted when we left their village last year for the Chesapeake.

The adults in that town invited us to return when we wished. It is something I do wish to do, there is a debt of help I owe to the families there.

He set down his quill, the youngest captain in any fleet left his journal to talk with his personal hero.

He would discuss their next stop, Germantown, with his father.

The discussion would be from an adventurer sailor to a citizen sailors that was the fathers and uncails of the Cúliath, the swift, long legged canine used to chase prey.

It was a happy meeting. The crew of the Cúliath showed interest of the small village of Germantown. The people that helped their sons and daughters.

Fathers let the children lead, for they had been here before. Protected by the women pirates, the fathers sailed with the Wrath leading and the Scorned following.

Conn laughed at the names. THe women silenced him with looks alone, and would brook no arguement of the joke regarding the nature of the ships christening.

He was reminded, he and the other men were the students, his son and the women that protected Keegan, were the masters.

It made him smile.

His son the Master.

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Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

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Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

Disaster.

That was the only word for it.

No, there was another, an add-on to emphasize the level of defeat.

Unmitigated disaster.

The classification was undeniable.

A dead captain.

A burnt-to-the-waterline ship.

Dead crew, but for a handful that jumped overboard or were put off on longboats.

All to a single ship that out-sailed, out-gunned, out-fought the ship-of-the-line of His Majesty’s Navy.

They were adrift for three days, rowing like madmen against the ocean current before they got to an island.

The curses of having no navigator or maps.

The navigator, captain and the talented helmsman that knew how to read the sea better than anyone were all obliterated in the lopsided battle with a crew of child-pirates.

Children they call them! More like a small-stature crew of barbarians who should have struck sail when challenged. But, they fought with uncanny skill. They turned their ship and fired, time and again. All the while, they would not offer a target for the big guns of the third-rate ship-of-the-line.

Chain-shot, bar shot, heeling and tacking. It was more like a dance, a dance of death for the English warship. Cannon from the small ship battered the larger vessel at will. It seemed to hit from all points of the compass. The whipstaff blew away with helmsman’s the left hand still holding onto the tiller.

A cannonball cares not for who fired it or where it goes. Random chance, the will of gods, demons and a roll of the infinite dice of the Lord God determine a sailor’s life in battle.

No matter how the Captain prayed for his life, or the helmsman who vanished in a hail of iron rain could change the outcome.

And in politics, those that administer the will of the King care little for God’s Will or Random Chance.

There was a ship lost, that was the question that the minister wanted answered from the only surviving officer of the Worchester.

And “Will of God” was not going to be an acceptable answer. Then, the summons came from the doorway.  He stood and followed the owner of the hand up the steps to the next floor.

Dressed in his military best and a new powdered wig, he entered into the chambers and walked where the squire led him.

His heels made an echo on the fitted stone floor as he walked down the hall into the chambers of proprietary governor’s office.

His Highness Gurdman Stonecutter, Governor for the Virginia Colony, stood in the middle of the Great Room that served as his chambers. Tall, he stood six-feet four-inches and towered over everyone in the court. At ten-stone, he weighed less than most men.

Informally, his peerage called him “Colosus”, something that he did not object to. He lived up to his name in his focus as a warrior. Fair in judgement, but without mercy in his treatment of anyone who failed the Empire, he had anticipated the arrival of his only visitor of the day.

Archebald Whyte, late of the Worchester stood respecfully off to the side as told by the Governor’s secretary, until the Governor turned and addressed him.

“Tell me a story, Quartermaster. What happened to the King’s ship I gave to Captain Willim?” The Governor asked as he sat in a large chair, built just for him. The secretary filled a cup of wine for the Governor, leaving Quartermaster Whyte standing, without comfort or refreshment.

It promised to be a long afternoon.

Married by Mistake Chapter 37. Las Vegas, Declaring A Medical Emergency

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Chapter 37. Las Vegas, Declaring A Medical Emergency

The jet punched a hole in the air as it sped over the horizon, taking a direct line to the desert city, shining like a jewel in the barren land.

They had to get down, Tom’s arm was showing signs of decompression illness, a kind of compartment syndrome that blocked blood from circulating in his arm. If it was up to Captain Watson, she’d have an ambulance waiting for him to get him to the medical center emergency room.

Pushing the limits of the rated engine’s power until they could not go any faster, Captain Watson managed to shave a measurable amount of time off the trip. A planned orbit of the city that would give the passengers a view of the beauty of it, even during the daylight the view was glorious. The Captain skipped the flyover and they saved a half-hour to get him on the ground.

Captain Watson would never say it outside of the conversation with her first officer sitting to her right.

“The fool flew too soon.”

“Did he have medical clearance?”

“No, I would bet not.” Regina said as she got cleared for her approach, declaring a medical emergency and ordering a paramedic unit.

The wheels touched with a feather like control that Watson used. A fine pilot, she never bounced the passengers or her planes if it was humanly avoidable.

As they taxied to the private terminal, she heard Tom moan loudly with a profanity.

“We need to expedite this. That medical problem is growing worse back there, Captain.” Kevin spoke quietly.

“Check on EMS, be sure they’re cleared to meet us when we stop.” There was no room for questions. “I will speak with Thomas Harte and see what is going on with his arm.”

“Affirmative that.” Kevin nodded, patting his shirt, confirming the mobile phone that resided there was still in place.

Coming to a stop, Captain Watson stood and walked to the rear of the cabin where Kaylee and Tom sat.

“Everything alright?” The Captain could see it was not, Tom was pale, perspiration shined on his forehead.

“Just a bit of an ache.” He hissed through gritted teeth.

“His fingers have gotten darker red, but they are still warm.” Kaylee said.

“Would you let me call you an ambulance?”

“You can.” Tom moaned when he moved his arm. “But I will always be human. Just don’t call me late for dinner.”

Kaylee looked at Regina and sighed.

“I already ordered an ambulance before we stopped. It is coming now.” Captain Watson said.

“I should have let Kaylee carry the bag.” Tom winced.

“Is that is what is going on?” Regina raised an eyebrow. She observed a light pink stain on the bandages that covered surgical wound. “You have saturated the bandages. Look, I can have you back in San Francisco in under an hour.”

“No.” Tom grimaced. “We just need to change the dressings and take a look. I strained it when we packed and I moved the bag.”

“What did they do for you, Tom?”

“They had to graft a vein they took out of his butt.” Kaylee said.

Regina almost laughed, but no one in the world knew.

“I might have over-stressed it.” Tom admitted. “Maybe you can hold over the next few hours, I’ll pay extra.”

“We have another assignment, Tom. But I’ll see what I can do.” Captain Watson said.

“Okay, we can wait until the morning after we get clear of the courts.” Tom looked like he was feeling better.

“But your arm?” The Captain asked.

“We will change the dressing and see what it looks like…”

“It’s gross.” Kaylee nodded.

“But I have finger movement.” Tom said as he wiggled his fingers with obvious discomfort.

“Well, let’s get you somewhere to get the dressing changed.” Kaylee growled. “We have to get to a doctor where we can check that arm right away.”

“Do you know where you are going?” Captain Watson asked.

“I don’t. But we have a rental car here, somewhere.” Tom moaned slightly. Turning his head to look out the window, the paramedic ambulance was coming down the taxi-way.

“Let me give you a directive. You will go by ambulance to the ER straight away.” The Captain said and turned to the Co-Captain who nodded and dialed the tower.

“Thomas, you do not allow yourself to become a wreck. I have a seven-year-old nephew that loves your books. He even has a model of the flying yacht you have. It’s painted in the colors of the Pacific Wizard.” Her tone betrayed her normal professional façade.

“Seriously. I will come fly your jet for you if you need.” Kevin Nunez said. “I hear you have a twin-engine yacht.”

“With wings. And I’ll refuse service.” Tom added, trying to laugh, failing and moaned out a profanity instead.

“That does it, I’m taking him to the emergency room to get that checked out.” Kaylee said and stood up. “Come on, trouble. The ambulance is here.”

“I’m not trouble.” Tom with a strained grin, got up. “I just write it.”

“Yeah. Trying to lift stuff, you refuse to listen, over exert that wound that we spent a million dollars to put back together.” Kaylee growled.

“It wasn’t a million dollars.” Tom said.

“The final bill has not come in, they were charging forty-five bucks a pill for over-the-counter acetaminophen.” Kaylee grumbled. “And you took a lot of pills. It might be a million dollars in the end.”

Two uniformed people stepped on board, a man and woman, both with patches that said “Paramedic” on their chests and back, kneeled next to Tom and took report.

“Maybe. But that is what I have health insurance for.” Tom said in between questions as they escorted Tom from the chartered jet and he bid farewell to the pilots as they went about securing their race-car of the sky.

Tom sat on the ambulance gurney and Kaylee walked next to him while the medics wheeled their patient to the waiting EMS unit. The medic in charge motioned to the second with three fingers.

The EMT nodded without a word, got out of the ambulance before he finished his procedure and got into the driver’s seat.

It took a moment while he sat Kaylee in the front passenger’s seat and made sure she wore the seatbelt, then got in behind the wheel and made a radio report.

“Medic-27 enroute Med-center code 3, one passenger, one patient.”

The radio echoed his report and confirmed the destination.

“Okay, ma’am. Do not ever drive like I am about to do.” He winked and flipped an overhead switch, she could hear clicks of relays as navigated the ambulance around in a careful turn back the way they came. The EMT never used the siren until they got to the gate and out into traffic.

In the back, she could hear the medic describe the serious medical problem.

“ETA 4 minutes.” The medic in the back could have just told someone when lunch would arrive.

Married by Mistake Chapter 36. Captain Watson

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Chapter 36. Captain Watson

Without the approval from the Federal Aviation inspector to certify the jet as airworthy, the Sea Dragon was still grounded.  A shrug from Tom and a few phone calls later, he sat with Kaylee, hand in hand while they rode in the limousine towards the parking lot of the charter jet service.

The jet sparkled with a coat of white paint and a stylized sun on the tail sat with the turbine blades slowly in the breeze that blew over the airport.

The muscular arms of Captain Watson were visible to Kaylee when the limo pulled up in front of the private entrance.

Lettie opened the door and let the couple out and touched Tom on the forearm.

‟You two make a good couple. Both of you are artists and compliment each other.” Lettie looked at them both. ‟If it costs me your business, I don’t care, I just had to say that.”

‟Lettie,” Kaylee smiled. ‟It is something I have to do. It’s a promise I have to keep.”

‟Lettie, you’re good.” Tom kissed her cheek. ‟You will always have my business when I am in Northern California.”

Nodding, Lettie told Tom that her number was always open and he could have any car he wanted in her inventory at any time, including a new MRAP-style limousine ready to go into service in the next few weeks.

‟That does not sound like something to take to a book-signing.” Tom laughed.

‟You’d be surprised what people think they like to ride in.” Lettie shook his hand. ‟I supply it so they don’t have to buy one or sign up for three years into the army.”

‟Thank you for your words, Lettie.” Kaylee hugged her. ‟I hope to see you again.”

‟You can find me on Google-plus. Facebook I don’t use anymore, they charge too much.” Lettie hugged tightly back.

‟Same name?” Kaylee asked.

‟Yeah. Or you can look up ‟sexy biker bitch”. That will get you to me.”

‟You bet I will.” Kaylee smiled.

Watching Lettie drive away in her limo, Tom and Kaylee walked inside, greeted by Captain Watson.

‟Hello Tom.” The tanned face of the retired military pilot smiled as the author of so many novels entered the building, followed by Kaylee .

‟And Missus Harte.” The Captain smiled warmly. The most emotion Kaylee had seen the professional pilot express.

‟Kaylee , please.” The younger woman asked.

‟Of course, Kaylee .”

‟Regina, my plans are to do business in Vegas and return by morning.” Tom said, in a matter of fact tone. He did not start with his usual small-talk.

‟Thank you, I learned it was you and where you said you wished to go. The Lear is ready to fly. I have just to file a flight plan. Kevin Nunez is my right-seat and he is on the plane now. Please see him and make yourself comfortable, I will be there in ten-minutes, we will be wheels-up in twenty.”

Kaylee and Tom nodded and walked out the door towards the Leer Jet holding hands.

‟I hear they are going to Vegas to get an annulment.” Another pilot mentioned to Watson. ‟They were talking about it when I was standing outside.”

Captain Watson stood up from the phone where she had filed the flight plan.

‟I have had worse.” She gave a heavy sigh. ‟Mister Harte is a regular customer.”

‟Don’t you know him?” The first pilot, a handsome twenty-something buzz-cut hairstyle co-pilot of mixed race.

‟Why do you use his last name?” The older cargo-pilot said. “He insists on first name.”

‟I use a formal addressing when talking in third-party conversations. It is respectful to Mister Harte and all he has done. I give him all the respect he is due, and when talking to me about others, I would expect the same.” Watson then turned on her heel and walked out.

‟Bitch.” The young cargo pilot muttered under his breath and received a punch in his shoulder by Buzz-cut.

On the jet, Captain Watson stepped into the cabin and smiled at the couple.

‟Tom, I have heard of your plans in Las Vegas. I must say that I could not disagree more with this trip.” The Captain said. “Kaylee here is the  bandage to the scars on your heart and soul. You must know that I had to address that. You always have said to speak my mind, even if you don’t want to hear it.” She did not smile, but nodded in self-agreement, turned to make her way forward and sat in her seat. Captain Watson, after speaking her mind put on the headset for the radio and began her check off for startup procedures in the all glass cockpit.

One at a time, the engines spun up, giving Kaylee the thrill she had the last time of being in a race car of the sky.

‟Tom, this is exciting, I know why you like to fly. But why don’t you have something like this?”

‟Well, I don’t like to stay in one place for very long. The paparazzi start sniffing around, they have already started it with the long-range picture of us on top of the Pacific Wizard.” Tom looked out the window as they taxied to the runway. ‟When I go, I won’t tell anyone my destination. I can upload manuscripts over the internet from anywhere. There are a lot of places in the immediate area that I can put down on — not counting airports — and live there for a while.”

‟You were going to move away when I went back to school?”

‟You would have to learn how to drive a different route each time.” Tom chuckled. ‟I’m not much of an interest to those jackals at the moment, so hiding out is easy. Just moving from one place to another in the area, I have dozens of bodies of water and airports. They would spend too much time looking for me than they would be paid for.”

‟Until they’d find out about me.”

‟Then we would be fodder for the monsters of the tabloids.” Tom frowned. ‟They would hunt us to the grave like they did a princess.”

‟Oh, oh! The engines are wound up to take off!”

‟Wound up?” Tom chuckled.

‟Whatever they call it when they step on the gas pedal.”

‟Uh. There is no gas pedal.” Tom was looking at her sideways. ‟You sat up front with me in the Wizard.”

‟Well, yeah. I just wanted to make you laugh.”

‟You made me worried.” Tom laughed. ‟Early onset Alzheimer’s or some such.”

‟Well, it worked.” Kaylee blinked, the jet felt like it was a horse at a starting gate, anxious for speed. ‟Omy gawd! Here we go!”

The sleek jet began to roll with the brakes off. Gathering speed, the rakish plane with swept wings did not find the end of its acceleration like one would with a car. The faster it went, the faster it accelerated as it overcame its imprisonment of the earth and to the sky like a soul on fire.

Then, suddenly, it rotated up on its back landing gear and quit the earth while Kaylee made noises like a teapot on full boil.

‟I LOVE that!” She laughed hysterically with her eyes closed.

Tom laughed at her squeal while they gained altitude.

After several minutes, they leveled off and banked into a turn towards the southeast, towards Las Vegas.

‟I hope this is fast, my arm aches.” Tom moaned slightly.

‟How long as it been hurting?” Kaylee said, suddenly alarmed.

‟About ten-minutes. Just before we took off I think I bumped it.”

‟Tom. Damn. You cannot do this to yourself.” Kaylee touched his fingers, feeling the tips and making sure they were warm and the correct color, even if stained with the iodine-betadine ‟Bug Juice” (as one nurse called it and made her laugh.) that covered his arm.

Picking up the phone, as she learned to do on the last trip north from Ocean Bay.

‟Captain, can we see you back here, please?”

A moment later, Regina Watson appeared.

‟Yes? Tom?” She focused instantly on the pale writer.

‟It’s nothing, my arm aches a little.”

Captain Watson blinked.

‟How long?” The Captain asked.

‟A few minutes.” Tom was becoming pale from the pain.

‟Like a man.” Kaylee growled. ‟It began to hurt him right before we blasted off.”

Looking around, the Captain asked Tom.

‟What did your doctor say about flying? Maybe I should declare and emergency and put down.” She grimaced. ‟What kind of injury did you have, Tom?”

‟Nothing much, I got stuck with a shard of glass in my forearm.”

‟Say the truth. Regina, it cut his tendons and everything down to the bone. Even cut the bone.” Kaylee said. ‟But his fingers are warm and when I press on the nails, it returns to color fast.”

‟That is serious surgery for a man that makes his life with typing.” Captain Watson was sounding as serious as a sidewinder missile. ‟MISTER Harte.”

‟Kaylee , I am the all-seeing, all-knowing, unforgiving Queen of The Sky here and you will address me as Captain. But my first name, Regina, please feel free to use it when we are on land. You and I will get Tom back into shape.” Regina smiled. ‟What is causing you to go to Vegas to get divorced?”

‟Annulment.” Tom said helpfully, but then cringed when both women looked at him. ‟Crap on a cracker, sorry. I’ll just take the nearest exit.”

‟Just be quiet, Tom.” Regina said. ‟You are an injured party and not thinking clearly. This is obvious.”

‟Well, honestly.” Kaylee said quietly. ‟I have requested to get this annulled.”

‟If I may ask.” The Captain didn’t smile. “Why?”

*Does she ever smile?* Kaylee shuddered at Captain Watson’s intense air of authority.

‟This was not supposed to happen. I have someone at home I made a promise to. Tom is good enough to let me go, so all this is my fault.” Kaylee said. ‟Although I there is a lot of pressure on me to stay with Tom from all sides. Every one of his friends have stood up for him. But still, I have to keep my promise.”

‟I don’t agree.” Captain Watson said. ‟You made a promise with Tom.”

Tom raised his hand.

‟Can I say something?”

‟No!” The women answered in stereo. Then both women laughed while he cringed.

Captain R.M. Watson’s laugh was frightening, a sound like someone might make when shooting down an enemy.

‟I have a boy at home that believed me when I said I would marry him.” Kaylee explained. “When Tom and I did this, it was a kind of crazy party and I had a blackout night.”

‟Were you on drugs?” Regina looked at Tom who held up his hands.

‟Of my own hand. I like to smoke and drink. It makes party life that much more fun. I woke up married to Tom, so we never dated but the one night.”

‟Ah, okay. Princess Anna on a cane. You seriously married him on your first date? Drunk to the point of no memory of the evening?”

‟Yes.” Kaylee tried to look the Captain in her eye, but was unable.

Captain R. M. Watson was quiet for a moment.

Then she laughed.

‟I did the same thing with my first husband. Kaylee, at least you aren’t pregnant.” She pondered for a moment, pulling at her chin. ‟Are you?”

‟Not so far as we can tell.” Kaylee gave a timid laugh.

‟Okay, I understand, you started your contract with each other in the worst way. At least you are friendly to each other. With Tom hurting, I’ll pick the pace up a bit. We will make for maximum speed, it’ll save us some time.”

Nodding with a soft smile. She turned and made her way back to her seat in the front of the speeding jet.

Kaylee looked at Tom.

‟You have more friends that fight for you than any ten people, combined.” She stroked his face.

Tom smiled weakly, his arm was causing him more pain by the moment and he was not prepared to argue.

“Captain. He is getting worse.” She yelled to the cockpit. The Captain nodded as she answered.

“We just got clearance for our flight change.”

Then…

Kaylee did not think possible, but she felt the small jet accelerate.

Married by Mistake Chapter 18. Frantic Flight

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Chapter 18. Frantic Flight

“Hello,” The woman behind the counter said as Kaylee walked in. “You shouldn’t come in that way. Just so’s you know, that is access to the airplanes only. It is dangerous to cross that way and if the security were to catch you, they are a serious pain in the neck. They can arrest you or make you walk around.”

“Yeah, I have had a run-in with one on the way over here from the Pacific Wizard across the way.” She had learned that sometimes the dropping of the name would open doors for her in some cases. “So I just ran across.”

“Oh! You’re Kaylee .” The counter-woman did not make it a question. ”I just received a call from a limo company in Sacramento that you needed a flight. I must say, that was a surprise to hear about Tom being married.”

“I thought I was meeting a driver here? And… We are not supposed to be married, it was one of those things that happened when drinking. We are getting annulled in a few days.” She laughed as she said it. “We are just good friends that partied too much and did a bit of a dare game that went out of control.”

“Of course.” Counter-Woman said it in a way that it was something she could not quite swallow. “Considering who it is for and that the flight is an emergency need, our only wait is the crew. No on the driver, I have a plane that is ready to depart when you are.”

From The back room, walked a muscular, petite woman with more stripes on her sleeve than anyone else Kaylee had seen.

“My bird ready for flight?” The pilot asked Counter-Woman. “Fueled and serviced?”

“Yes ma’am.” Counter-Woman seemed to shrink a little. Even if the Captain was smaller than she was, the Captain carried the air of unquestioned authority with her.

“What is the ETA of my right seat?” The Captain said in a matter-of-fact way that she expected an immediate answer. “We leave as soon as they arrive.”

“Your first officer will be Rome Oldman today. He is driving time from his home. He called as he pulled out of the garage of his house.”

“Thank you, advise me when he arrives, leave when he walks in. We have a bonus for getting our VIP to destination in less than an hour.” The Captain looked at the clock. “We are going to push the envelope. Where is my VIP?”

“Right behind you.” The flight agent said.

“Oh. Hello.” The Captain extended her hand in a business like handshake. “I’m Captain R. M. Watson. We will be flying as soon as possible. I’ll walk you to my aircraft.”

As they walked through the door, the Captain continued talking as if she was giving a report. “Follow me, please, let’s step on board while I wait for my right seat driver. I received a call from Lettie Nesmith of the Discrete Limo service in Sacramento, Tom’s been in an accident and I’m hired to fly you to Hayward Executive and have you there to meet her limo at the top of the hour. I trust you packed light, you can store your carry-on where the signs indicate there and there.”

“Yes, I packed light, I brought nothing except my purse.”

“Perfect.” Captain Watson said. “Take a seat and settle in, you don’t need to use the seatbelt just yet and I am going to finish my pre-flight checks.”

Kaylee settled in to the closest seat, someone placed the seat belts for convenience to clip on and she did not wait for instruction to do so. She was impatient to fly out and arrive at the airport in the north and the snap of the clip satisfied her need for action. Kaylee could not recall the name of her destination, other than Lettie had set everything up and she wished they were already in the air when she heard Captain Watson’s voice raise while she verbally mauled her copilot.

“DAMMIT ROME! Stopping for a foo-foo coffee on a mission is not acceptable, we’re scheduled to arrive at our destination in fifty-minutes. We are going to push the envelope as it is.”

Kaylee could hear a male voice asking if the package had arrived.

“Package”? She was a package, not a passenger.

“The package is Thomas Harte’s wife.”

“Bullcrap, he’s not married. We would have heard about that.”

“Let’s go, we can talk on the way.”

“No way Mister Harte’s married.” Rome said as he stepped into the sleek jet. “Oh! Hello. You are a passenger, not a package. I’m Captain Oldman, I’ll be your co-captain in the right seat next to Captain Watson.”

“I’m Kaylee , Tom’s wife. Tom’s has had some kind of an accident and is in the hospital in San Francisco.”

“What happened to Mr. Harte?”

“I don’t know, something with his hand. Lettie, the owner of the limousine company called me and told me that he cut off his hand.”

“Oh no.” Captain Watson said, showing emotion for the first time. “Okay Missus Harte, strapped in? Good, hang on, we are pushing the limits of this jet. Our maximum rated speed is mach zero point eight-one, we will be doing all that.”

Moments later, the business jet taxied out to the runway and lined up. Kaylee could not hear what the pilots were saying, but moments later, it was as if someone pulled a trigger and shot them out of a gun, the chartered jet accelerated faster than either the Pacific Wizard or the Flying Sea Dragon. The wheels came off the ground quickly and it seemed as if the diminutive jet sat back on its tail and climbed steeply into the sky. This was a race car compared to Tom’s sky-yacht.

As the ground fell away, Captain Watson turned and spoke loudly for Kaylee to hear.

“Missus Harte, you have a phone call. The phone is on the wall next to you on a magnet mount so you just need to push the gold button next to it.”

“Thank you.” Kaylee said loudly back. Captain Watson nodded and turned back to her guidance of the winged missile as it banked and headed to a northerly course.

“Hello?”

“Kaylee ! You made it, good. I have Kaikane, one of our newest drivers waiting for you. He’s a tall Hawaiian and is well-trained. He will drive you to the California Pacific Medical Center.” It was Lettie, her voice was uniquely embedded in Kaylee’s memory these days.

“The hospital will tell me nothing of Tom’s injury, but the rumor has it that he was carrying a tv out of the plane when he fell. The tv landed on his arm and broke, the glass cut him up.”

“Lettie?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Are you like Tom’s personal assistant or something?”

“Oh heck no, he can’t afford me. But we are good friends, and he is one of my best customers. Probably the best customer we have. All my family thinks the world of him.”

“But how do you spend his money like the chartered plane?”

“Get-Jet, the company that owns the plane you are on, also thinks highly of Tom. I know the company president and I just gave him a call. It seems weird, but we are all pretty friendly, so we watch out for each other. Tom has had a hand in getting more than a few of us in business, so we all owe him.”

“Wow. You are all friends and do this for each other?”

“Kaylee, Tom’s a tremendous person who spends far too much time alone. Even a philanthropist needs to have friends, even if he doesn’t think he does.”

“Lettie, I don’t know him like you do.”

“You will learn about him.” She could almost hear Lettie smile at the other end of the phone. ”He is someone who had his heart torn out and his soul shattered at one time. I don’t know his history except for what he has told me. But I know what he is like now. When we started the company, we had one limousine, he contracted and invested with us and allowed us to buy our next two limo’s in less than a year. We’ll buy out his investment in eighteen months. Not that we want to distance our company from him, but we, my family and me, we want the company to ourselves.”

“Understandable.”

“You have Tom.” Lettie said softly. ”Kaylee . Keep him. Like it or not I’ll put some pressure on you. He is going to self-destruct if he has no muse to show the world he builds.”

“Lettie, you are a meddler.”

“Yes, I always have been, according to my sister.” Lettie laughed. “I’m not proud of it, but I will always do what is right.”

“Everyone’s mother?” Kaylee asked with a laugh.

“Hah! Yeah, but I can’t have my own kids. So I adopt everyone.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Oh no, not that there is anything wrong. I don’t date men.” Lettie laughed. “You’re a good person, too. Compassionate. You match Tom’s spirit, you both are like eagles. You fly together in your souls.”

“I’m not as good as you would think.”

“Well, don’t doubt yourself. You have what it takes.” Then Lettie broke the connection and Kaylee put the phone back in its cradle.

Moments passed while Kaylee looked out the window watching the green of the long state pass by.

*Do I have what it takes to fill the shoes of a wife? The annulment, that’s my goal.*

Then again. There was something about how people stood up to help Tom.

*Maybe.* She pulled at some lint on her shirt. *Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong.*

Married by Accident Chapter 43. Leaving on a Jet Plane

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Chapter 43. Leaving on a Jet Plane

The limousine ride for Barbara was quiet, giving her a chance to think. The trip home to see Glenn filled her with excitement.

His family was hard-working and, while not wealthy, they wanted for nothing.

She wondered what kind of ring she might get. The last time they had spent a summer home, Glenn had negotiated to lease a three-wheel motorcycle from a company with full windshield and a trailer that folded out into a tent.

They had toured Canada that year and she found a ring with a star sapphire, surrounded by small diamonds as an engagement ring.

Glenn nearly fainted right then and Barbara laughed at his frugal soul.

‟A ring is a ring. I would love it no matter what.” She had told him when he got his breath back.

Afterwards, he walked into a smoke-shop and bought an expensive cigar, tossed the large brown stogie into a garbage can and took the small brass-colored paper ring off the shaft and put it on her finger.

‟I will replace it with a real one after we graduate.”

The ring had long since worn out, but it lasted for the length of their journey before they started as freshmen at their separate colleges. Still, she kept the wrinkled and torn paper-foil ring in between the plastic pages of a photo album.

It was exciting to think that the day was so close, and she had nearly altered her future.

*Mangled it, even!* Barbara thought to herself with a quiet laugh, a party with a strange man who ended up as a husband for a short time. But she was able to put her life back on track, and Tom was kind enough for one last favor and fly her to her hometown.

Tom said they could use an airport closer to home than going to a commercial airport. There she could take a taxi home instead of trying to have family take time to drive the hundred miles, pay for a bus, or try to find connections to land at the same airport. It was the best of all choices.

And she had no need to buy tickets.

The limo pulled up to the gate leading to the private area where the jet was. She could see it was the same kind of Lear jet as she had taken to Las Vegas with Tom.

The person that stepped out of the plane was none other than Captain Watson.

Regina Watson! This made Barbara smile, Captain Watson made Barbara feel motivated to make choices.

The limo pulled to a stop and the driver walked around and opened the door.

‟Thank you, Miss Grant.” He remembered her name despite not talking with her at all. Barbara was feeling a bit worried, she still did not see Tom anywhere when the limousine drove off.

‟Barbara?” Tom’s voice came from the building where Regina Watson was walking towards.

Tom stepped into the sunshine and smiled a wide smile. One would think they had not seen each other for weeks, instead of just that morning.

‟Let me get those for you.”

‟No, if you hurt your arm again, I’ll break your leg.” She warned him.

‟I have it.” A tech walked from the office behind Tom and took the bags that she was carrying.

A long hug from Tom, old friends. Lovers as of the previous morning, but no animosity.

She felt that pang of doubt that haunted her a few times when she molded her body to his for a moment.

Tom flinched a little.

‟What happened?” She touched his wounded arm. ‟Is it hurting?”

‟No, it actually feels pretty good, I wrote a few chapters this morning. A novel idea called ‟The accidental husband”.

‟You better not be using my name!” Barbara laughed.

‟Kidding, actually a fourth book to Steamland that’s in theaters. It will be the last one. I planned only three, but it began to come out of my hands this morning.” Tom smiled. ‟There was one in the middle that had needed to fill in some gaps. The mother’s point of view of losing her child to the abuse of government’s agent.”

‟Wow, sounds intense.”

‟I have a few folks proofreading it as of this morning.” Tom said as they entered the cabin of the jet. While they were settling down, a few more people climbed in.

‟I thought this was a private charter?”

‟It is, but they also chartered it. We are all going to the same place.” Tom smiled. ‟I would like to introduce you to a few writer friends of mine. Dee O’Kelley. He has written a few swashbuckler novels. The Porthos series, the musketeer that is also a kind of anti-hero?”

‟Haven’t heard of it.” She whispered to Tom after she shook hands with Mr. O’Kelley.

‟Phoenix Alexandra, she has written about a woman who becomes a private-eye after retiring from military special forces. She is doing well with that, it’s on the New York best-seller’s list.”

Barbara smiled and nodded hello to the rest of the group as they filed in. Six in all, the writers all chatted animatedly among each other on the upcoming book-con that they were going to attend in Seattle.

Tom smiled as the group settled in, Captain Watson finished her checks and closed the door.

The speakers overhead chimed on the small jet and the seatbelt sign illuminated.

Although a group, the chartered jet had few seats in relative terms, and was very comfortable. This was a different airplane that Captain Watson was in charge of. The seats were different, it was as if the group had wished for a family room with wings.

‟How do you know Tom, honey?” A beautiful woman asked Barbara.

White haired, but intense black eyes, she looked as if she had stepped off a farm. To call her elderly would have been wrong on a philosophical level, her eyes had seen much during the years of her life, but the life and light in them was piercing when she looked at Barbara.

‟We are friends, I helped her out with a problem at Ocean Bay University with Doctor Manga.” Tom chimed in when Barbara looked stuck.

‟Barbara, may I introduce you to…”

‟I know!” Barbara grinned. ‟Margaret Patrice! You are my favorite author! You wrote about Honey, the homeless dog.”

‟A young adult book, my answer to Old Yeller. That was a long time ago, my dear. I have written many since then.” She smiled. ‟And thank you for remembering me and your kind words. Are you going to Seattle with us?”

‟No, I am getting off near Portland, if Tom slows the plane down a little.”

The older woman laughed lightly, a sound of a person that enjoyed to laugh. Her eyes sparkled with good humor.

‟You should ask Tom out.” Margaret whispered in a conspiratorial tone to Barbara when Tom became deeply involved in conversation with Thomas Kraig who had written a fan-fiction of an established science fiction series that became a basis for an upcoming movie.

”He has been alone for far too long. I would do things with him, but alas, I have a family that might take a dim view of an old woman chasing the likes of a man who lives on a floating plane.” The wrinkles around her eyes smiled as brightly as her lips.

‟Flying boat.” Barbara corrected, and immediately regretted. ‟I’m sorry, he has jumped me for that a few times. It has become habit.”

‟Jumped you?” The sparkling eyes smiled with the dual meaning. ‟Have you slept with him?”

Another jaw-dropping moment that Barbara’s command of the English language failed her.

‟Maggie, Barbara is a bit of a wallflower, kinda shy and all. Are you intimidating her?” Tom leaned over and asked.

‟Not at all!” She laughed. ‟I think I was finding some details.”

‟No details to find.”

‟Maggie!” Thomas Kraig piped up. ‟Stop intimidating people. Forgive her miss…?”

‟Grant. Please, call me Barbara.”

‟Of course. Barbara. See Maggie, she is a sweet girl, not like us Bohemian Bull types.” It was Phoenix that had reined in Barbara’s favorite author.

Still, the white-haired author studied Barbara.

She knew.

She knew there was something going on between Tom and Barbara, she was but a few hours late.

The flight continued with Phoenix looking at pictures on Barbara’s camera, her entire collection of paintings over the three years of fine arts studies at Ocean Bay.

An image of Tom without a shirt surprised them both and Barbara coudn’t get it off fast enough. Laughing quietly, Phoenix patted Barbara’s leg.

‟I saw nothing.” She whispered.

The overhead speakers chimed and the sign ‟Seatbelts” illuminated.

‟Ladies and Gentlemen, we are beginning our descent to disembark a passenger. We will be landing in about five minutes, our time on the ground will be about a half-hour.”

The last chance to hold Tom’s hand presented itself without being obvious.

It was one thing she was going to miss with all her heart.

2 Seconds… T-Minus 3 Seconds

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T-Minus 3 Seconds

Twice the moon’s distance from the earth, photons closed the distance to the growing blue and white sphere that destiny had chosen for them. Of the many photons that left the photosphere of Sol, dust, satellites, Van Allen Belt and the associated atomic debris entrapped around the earth’s radiation belt, while many photons reflected off or absorbed by alpha particles, more than half passed through the region.

Alongside the highway, Lucy saw the opening in the traffic and took her foot off of the brake of her German engineered car and pressed on the throttle. Turning the wheel she pulled out across the lanes in an illegal U-turn. It was perfect, a godsend to get on her way.

The big car spoke with its authority and crossed the lanes of traffic…

AND STOPPED! Jamming her foot down on the brake pedal, narrowly missing a car that turned in, she had not seen the turn signal on the old pickup truck driven by an even older man. Then Lucy took her foot off the brake and began roll forward again more slowly, crossing the lanes midway and trying to figure out if she still had enough space to merge it, Looking down the lane of traffic, not enough room, she looked back and realized the headlight of a motorcycle was close.

Too close!

Station 2315 still had the garage doors open, two bays, two type-3 engines with fully stocked first aid sat, now warmed up with the daily checks. Two full crews did maintenance around the property while Captain Thomas watched the disaster set up.

He didn’t wait.

“Hank, hit the alert button!” He yelled at the engineer sitting in the driver’s seat. “There’s an accident going to happen!”

“Where?”

Hank’s eyes followed the captain’s pointing finger as his hand automatically moved to the control panel.

“Ohshit.” He said it as one word. His right hand mashed on the siren button, not pausing to switch the dial to any other setting.

A hundred-yards behind, “The Hammer” Erikssen saw that the rider in front of him did not seem to react to the big German luxury car that pulled out and stopped in front of him. Even from here, he swore he could see the saucer-wide eyes of the little-old-lady that was piloting the rubber and steel cage on wheels.

He yelled a futile warning to the rider and his passenger. But no matter how loud he could yell, it was not humanly possible for Russell to hear the big Norwegian.

A string of Norwegian profanities issued forth while Stonn helplessly watched what was to come.

Lulu spoke of what she planned for dinner, later with the children and pondered what she had in the ice-box. They would sit on the patio after Russell cooked up the chops she had to get cooked or throw out. Russell agreed that it sounded like a good plan and mentally mapped his route home.

Russell turned the throttle up on Gertrude, preparing to change lanes, just checking his mirror and glancing over his shoulder making sure the lane was clear, he noted a large group of riders was behind him. At least ten riders judging from the headlights. Looking ahead again to see the…

CAR!

Dragon Master University Chapter 19. Team Training

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(After NaNoWriMo, I now return you to the regular programming already in progress)

Chapter 19. Team Training

Jona walked down the stairs of the spire, the circular stairs were enough to make him dizzy, what was once a good place to visit now was a dizzy walk down the stairs, Each floor had its own landing for dragons and creature comforts for humans and drake alike.

Pausing to look around, an older student stepped out of the hallway into the circular common room and yelled at Jona.

“WHAT are doing here, slug? You are trespassing! Your kind does not even earn the right to breathe here! This is upper class area, we allow your years only in the cellar or lower.” Yelled the otherwise pretty girl. “Get out of here, what are you looking at, worm?”

She looked Jona up and down with the look of someone who had smelled something unclean.

“Not much, that’s for sure.” As he walked down the stairs, the girl had paused for a moment then began to yell at him and as other students came out she explained, loudly, how a lower class student violated common room’s sanctity.

Finally! He made it to the courtyard.  Jona spied a friendly face and relaxed.  The steps of following older students had stopped after a few flights. Jona had not hurried, unafraid of the other students, but the sun on his face outside made the nasty faced girl seem much farther away.

Kolo was across the court-yard and waved at Jona, with a wide smile on her face. She seemed pleased to see him.

“You are going to practice now? I’ll go with you, there is something that the teams are needing to do, they need to practice racing together.”

The troubles seemed so far behind him as they walked out of the volcano and into the brisk early winter’s sunlight. Fresh snow had fallen on the ground, the meadow sat Eva and surrounding the meadow were all the dragon racers and most of the riders. In the saddle of a yellow and black tiger-striped dragon, sat the girl who yelled at him, she had not noticed him, laughing and talking with a rugged looking muscular rider next to her and the ride as he kicked the ground and laughed at what the blond human girl was saying.

Jona stood on the far side of Eva and patted her shoulder. Eva turned and said quietly, “You are just in time, the captain is about to explain what we are doing today.”

Jona looked around to the riders, each one wore a leather cap with goggles, all decorated differently, different colors but all had the crest of the school on the front. Each cap seemed to match the rider to the ride. Scale colors and caps were very similar.

“Attention” Teva called, “Today we have Eva back with us as a racer, this is her first full team practice and her rider is also new to us. Chosen by dragons to attend our school and found by our own Kolo as a rider.” Teva smiled and clapped at Kolo.

“Jona would you come here, please? I have something for you.” Teva waved Jona over to him in the center of the meadow.

Jona stepped out from behind Eva and the blond girl stopped smiling and just stared with her mouth in a big “O”, frozen in mid sentence. Then leaning over to the large rider, she pointed at Jona and began to whisper and point.

Teva took no notice.

“I formally welcome you to the team of Dragon Racers.” He said loud enough for all to hear. ‟Jona, you have learned well under the skilled tutelage of Kolo and Eva — and me of course.”

With this cap, wear it while you fly, it serves to protect that head of yours, bird strikes hurt, and your eyes. You are the hind eyes and co-pilot of the ride as they fly. Decorate the hat as you win to match your tastes, but keep the colors with that of your ride so it marks you not only as a team of our school, but as a team of a ride and rider. Jona, I welcome you.”

“WAIT!” The blond girl yelled, “HE cannot be a rider! We have to vote on it and he has not been here long enough.”

“Votes have never mattered, you only suggested it last year and it was never agreed, Kelly, you have no say in this, I am captain and I will decide who is on our teams. Jona here is looking good enough to join the team, he rides fast and keeps eyes out and has a great balance and relationship with Eva.”

Kelly looked as if she had a bug fly up her nose and turned away, speaking quietly and quickly to the big rider and his huge ride.

Jona bowed slightly to the clapping as he put on the cap, several cheers went up and a few roars from the dragons. Kelly’s dragon started to hoot in a cheer but Kelly pulled the reins she had on him tight, cutting off his honoring sound.

Jona returned to Eva, and Big Rider stepped up behind him, “You do not belong here, should not even ride, you have no business in this race. You get up there, we will have issues. Do you understand me? You are the baby waste that was on our floor and stunk it up? Well, you will find that there is payment due for that trespass, maggot.”

Big Rider backed off when Eva turned around, and stared at him.

“Just remember, you don’t belong.” as his ride stepped up, an equally huge, twice Eva’s wing span and half again as tall with smoke curling from the big males nostrils. “Eva, you should not have come back after your accident if this is what you think of as quality rider material.” With that, he climbed up and the ride and rider flew off.

“Do not fret about him, Jona,” Eva said, “We have our own practice to do still. The rider is Stixx, the ride is Kanus. Kanus knocked me out of the sky last year and caused my crash. He said it was an accident, but the judges ruled it an intentional fault by the rider. The judges suspended them for two races for overly aggressive racing. We have to keep an eye on them, but so long as I know where they are, they won’t  pose a problem.”

Jona nodded. “I’m also worried about the blond girl who is a rider.”

“Her?” Kolo had walked up after talking with Teva, “Kelly is insane. Insane and stupid, when she chooses to dislike someone, she uses every chance she can to complain and whine. She is a problem, but not a good rider, she treats her ride like a common horse or burro. See the reins?”

“You ever think to put reins on me, Jona, I will teach you the meaning of fire-breathing and a rough ride.” Eva interrupted.

“She abuses her relationship with Sol, her ride.” Kolo said. “They are not friends, Sol is a good dragon, fast, smart but never gives all because of her.”

“Why does he race with her then?” Jona asked.

“I don’t know, there is gossip, but nothing proven. I think it has to do with he was failing a class and she caught him cheating one time. He is very smart — and proud. It would be a disaster for him if he had cheating come to light.” Eva said.

Jona shook his head, saddened that extortion was something he had to put up with in school. Kola climbed on his ride, Zerksees. With all the riders on the backs of the rides, a cheer from most the dragons stood up as tall as they could and roared.

“This map I am handing out to you is this years route. I propose we follow the route and time ourselves, this will be a real race, let’s see who can cross the finish line first, regular race rules apply, we race against ourselves. Try not to bump each other! We don’t need injuries before the inter-school races.” Teva said chuckling, “We are all on the same side and all.”

Captain Teva yelled “Launch!” and they all shot into the sky.

Eva banked down into a canyon around a butte, Jona was guiding her with his voice as he read off the map and with body language.

“Above!” Jona yelled as Sol dove and passed them in a tight bank, to which Eva had turned to the inside. Down the canyon they sailed and soared, out into a large valley, Kanus easily outdistancing the group, all except for Eva who had kept up without straining herself, Sol was fifth in line, three rides back with Kolo and her ride, Qo’noS, behind Jona.

“Hang on, Kanus is going to use his speed to get ahead, but we don’t have to stay close, just close enough until we get into the canyons for the return trip. To turn, Kanus has GOT to bank and with those big wings, he has to slow down, so he can pull them in.” Eva said in a rumble.

Faster they flew, paralleling the mountain range in the flat lands of the desert. Kanus began to dig deep with great rapid beats of his wings, Eva pushed with more energy than Jona had seen so far, she was not overheating, but he could feel the muscles strain and stretch under her scales and flesh.

“Keep your head down, Jona, we are going for more speed, Kanus is overconfident, he has not looked back.”

Jona looked back. Kola was trying to keep up and he was a distant third, Sol and Kelly were so far behind he couldn’t see her. Faster than the sun they traveled, it appeared to move backwards to the east. Jona could see that Kolo’s ride was fatiguing and slowing slightly but staying directly behind Eva, using her to break the wind as was their plan. The sound of the wind was the familiar hiss with an opaque cataract seem to follow Eva’s shoulders. Jona could see that Kanus was pushing a larger shock-wave and had the disadvantage to being unable to look back at this speed.

“Jona, I can smell Kanus, Stixx is pushing him and Kanus is overheating. I can smell the body heat that his scales are trying to expel.”

“What happens if he gets too hot from exercising? Do Dragons sweat”? Jona asked.

“We do, but not like humans, if it gets very bad, you will see him start to lose scales, we shed hot scales and bare flesh is open to the air and he will grow new ones later.” Eva said. “But he will lose the smooth flow of air over his body and it leave him open to injury.”

“How are you doing?” Jona was running his hands under Eva’s scales, looking for any  overheated spots. 

“Two things, ONE, I’m okay at the moment, the practice runs out to the continental divide have really helped. TWO , stop that! You are tickling me.” Eva giggled in a way that only a dragon could.

A few minutes later, as Jona was looking on the map, telling Eva that the turn into the mountains was over a pile of old rock lava flows.

“I know where those are, just a few minutes more, Kanus is slowing down a bit and I am not even that tired. I didn’t have to race that hard, just stayed in his wake.” Eva laughed as her flight plan was working, no other dragon had yet used drafting from a distance like she had done.

“The draft is a new idea?” Jona wondered.

“Drafting is not new, but from this distance it is, it is not a big boost like if I was right on his tail, but I don’t have to engage him in combat this way and still get a tiny boost. Kola, Kolo’s brother thought of it.”

Banking over dry and rocky ground, Eva and Jona sailed through the peeks over a plateau into the high mountains. Banking hard, they were in a small canyon that snaked back and forth from millions of years of tributary erosion had made the tortuous small canyon tight. No longer lagging behind, Eva was closing the gap as Jona grinned and looked behind, Kolo was also getting closer.

“We’ve been seen.” Eva said.

Stixx had looked back and his eyes widened in surprise behind his goggles as the two dragons had caught up as they banked in and out of the mountains. The rest of the group was closing up , but were still far behind. The large dragon could not bank around the small twists and bends of the mountain peaks.

Forests began to get more lush and deeper, down sheer cliff walls as they followed a waterfall, then a stream along a rapids. Then banking and out into a wide valley, where in the clear air that Kanus pushed and pushed by his rider. Kanus had tried too hard and fatigued, unable now to shake the neck and neck dragons, they went into the next canyon three wide. Kolo and Qo’noS ducked down, using her ride’s slightly smaller wingspan to bank more tightly and gaining more points, Eva and Jona went closer to the mountains using compression of the air to help get them around corners.

Stixx was unable to get his ride to bank tightly enough and missed one turn, having to pull up and return to it, falling back six spots in a single overshoot of the corner.

Jona looked back and could see Stixx shaking a fist at his ride as he pushed the dragon back into the race. Along the spine of the mountains they climbed and dove, Kolo was ahead, then Jona, both Eva and Qo’noS were enjoying themselves without exerting too much.

Then Jona yelled a warning, “Bank and climb! We are gonna hit!”

Eva had little time to react, but with the training done, Jona had given her just enough time as she extended one wing and folded the other, going into a spin and then both wings out and up, a huge shadow blew past them and went into the canyon.

“Stixx! He tried to bump us, but he has more turns coming. ” Eva said.

Teva and his ride Tron had seen, nearly catching up to them as they yelled at each other encouragement and ignored the cheat by the fellow team, they raced on.

In and around the canyons they went. Stixx slipped further behind, charging forward. Two rides, bumped by the older students, had to fall back for missed turns, leaving three racers with Stixx that were his friends. Kelly, Stixx, Robert and Lyster flew in formation and gained on Teva, Kola and Jona.

They raced through the mountains, suddenly bumping and bruising each other in this practice race, the following racers were afraid to continue. Lyster, a small pale senior rider with blue cat eyes rode his ride Muon and brushed up against Teva and then went straight at Eva as they went into a corner, Muon was moving far to fast at the wrong angle for the corner coming up, and with a warning, Eva dove, followed by the excessive speed of Muon and Lyster.

Pulling up, Eva knew what was coming, Stixx and Kanus were moving in from the other side. Eva flared out her wings and hit the brakes. Stixx and Lyster collided and went down into the river as Eva dug deep into the air currents to catch back up to Kola and the backwards looking Teva who had seen it all.

On they raced, Stixx and Lyster were out of the race, Kelly and Robert were trying to close in, but Sol was of no mood for games and Robert had not practiced, both falling behind the three leaders as they finally crossed the finish line at the meadow, dismounted and were talking before the others pulled in.

“I want to file a complaint! This newbie here caused Stixx to collide with Lyster and they went down into the water.” Kelly complained, “They were not doing it right!”

Teva looked at her impassively. “Like be knocked from the sky by your boyfriend? No, Kelly I saw what happened, if I see it again, as captain I can and I will take them off the team, that is not a racer’s way to win.” Teva looked steadily at her, “Besides, they have not been practicing and neither have you, Sol here is unwilling to put himself out on a limb for you because of your attitude. Fix it, or Sol will find himself a new rider on my recommendation. “

“First he is not my boyfriend, I am engaged to Hortense the Honorable. Second. Only so long as you are Captain, Captain.” Kelly said. “If you ever drop out, Stixx is next in line and he follows fraternal law.”

“You should not worry about that, just ride like a racer is your concern.” Teva said mildly.

As the other racers pulled together. Robert standing shyly back, clearly not enjoying the fracture of the team. Stixx making noises to Teva about how Jona fouled him in the corners and he collided with Lyster and his ride.

Lyster looked around as Teva and Stixx were arguing and walked over to Jona, “If you ever knock me out of the air again, I will break you and your little dragon rider over there, too.”

Kolo had heard that and walked up to Lyster, “Try it, you will find yourself being a walking racer, we can find other riders or dragons. You have a good dragon that likes to race, but instead you try to use him as a weapon instead of a partner for a race.”

Lyster blinked, he was larger than she was, but he was not about to cause a scene so close to the captain of the teams, he’d be removed and he did not have Stixx as a backup. Lyster backed away, with a muttered threat that was nearly inaudible as he walked back to his ride and rode away to the dragon’s aerie.

Teva returned from his animated discussion with Stixx and Kelly looking over at the departing Lyster, “What was that about?”

“Nothing, just a show of his bruises.” Jona said as Kolo giggled. “We weren’t impressed, I have seen much better.”

Teva nodded, looking sideways at Jona, not believing him. “As you wish, I won’t have bullying and infighting with the teams, if we are to win the world cup this year, we need a focused team. We will race the dirtiest racer school if we get past Drakensbergs’s and Lord’s.”

“Other racer schools? And dirty racing?” Jona said, surprised at the news of so many more others. “Are there not judges?”

Teva nodded, “Yes, there are judges, but they cannot be in all corners always, bumps happen, accidents happen, but a dirty racer — well, like today — can cause an accident without being observed by judges. Schools like Dragon Lance and ‘kind first are very physical racers, they are known to rub and bump — that is regular racing, but they take it to the point of trying intimidate the other racers into letting them win. That’s not racing, that is bullying. So, we must practice and have aggressive and skilled racers of our own.” Teva paused, “Without trying to bully our way to the winning circle.”

Eva looked around speaking softly, “Qo’noS and I are going to rest and clean at Dragon house, practice again in a few hours?”

Teva nodded, “Sunset after classes, Eva. We do a team race practice again.”

Off Eva flew, in the light of the day, still needing to clean up, all the remaining riders went to their houses and rooms. Jona looked forward to the coming races, the challenges of a race like this would make his parents proud, but he would have to wait until he had done it before he would tell his mother.

“She would have apoplexy if she knew what I was doing on the back of dragons” Jona thought to himself.

Arrows of Time: Short story rewrite.

Standard

Section 1. Rough Landing

The energy wave came out of deep space. At one time it was a gravity wave and it registered as such, except that it was beyond the ability for read-outs to display properly. Only using arcane exponent figures, it was not difficult to decide — after the curiosity factor spiraled into…

Screams…

“Shields!” Captain Soofy yelled before the wave hit. “Shields!”

But the shields, strong as they were, were woefully inadequate for the gathered energy being pushed in front of the wave. Warning alarms blared.

“Hold on to something, this is going to hurt!”

Impact!

Then pain, darkness and silence.

His Royal Highness, Prince Bren U’Maile of the Pirate Confederation could hear nothing. He was numb in his face, but pain crept in, waking him from a dream.

An alarm klaxon blared…

Prince Bren hurt in his shoulders as when his bigger cousins had tried to pull out his arms when he was very young.

Bren opened his eyes, a sticky goo covered his right eye and he touched his face.

Blood. He was injured.

No. It was Nician’s blood, his best friend and cousin, they had struck heads and Nician’s nose was broken, bleeding like a hose.

Captain Soofy had grabbed Bren and was holding on to him as they tumbled, Nician Soofy was badly hurt but was hanging on to Bren U’Maille with an inhuman grip powered by his surge of survival instinct.

They tumbled across the ceiling of the bridge towards the nose of the warship.

Bren could see Nician’s lips move but he could not hear any sound in his numbed brain, the sound slowly began to register.

“…spin! We need to get control!” Nician was shouting. “Bren! We are in an inverted flat spin!”

A flat spin, in space it was a minor inconvenience while they would gain control.

This could not be that easy. Struggling to waken from his concussion, Bren could see the horizon of the planet they were near was spinning in and out of view— they falling into the planet’s gravity well.

“Flat spin! Bren, wake up! I cannot hold you!” Nician yelled. “Bren!”

“I’m awake. I have a rail, get to the helm!” Bren said. “Computer. Emergency stabilize.”

Silence.

“Computer systems are down.” The bloodied navigation officer Lt. Yoa said. A member of the elite Pirate Raider force, she rarely raised her voice. Some said to get her to smile was an accomplishment. To get her to panic was impossible.

“We have lost power to critical systems!” She was yelling now, and not because it was loud in the bridge.

“Need to get to a hardline.” Nician said. “Independant power.”

Prince Bren began to climb up the floor. The flat, inverted spin of the big ship made floors into walls. The crazed world, altered by centripetal forces made the climb a challenge.

Klaxons shut down suddenly and the silence was deafening. If the crew was not struggling for footholds on floor and ceiling, all would be quiet and calm.

Profanities and grunts as the command and navigation crews struggled to get into position. The helm officer dangled from his seat restraints limply. No one could tell if he was unconscious or dead.

While he climbed up, Captain Soofy grunted and pulled on the Prince as they leapfrogged along the vertical floor-come-wall.

“It’s only about six-tenths gravity, we are lucky it’s not more.” Bren said.

“Yup. But the rotation rate is increasing. We are going to fly apart if we don’t stop her from spinning.”

“Agreed..ugh! That’s my face.” Bren said as they used each other to climb on.

“Sorry. Next stop, helm.” The Captain said. “Looks like you will be up, I’ll crawl over to navigation.”

“Aye.”

The two cousins struggled with climbing over each other, Bren finally grunted over the edge of the navigation station.

“Ensign Wills! Wake up.” Prince Bren shouted and shook the helm officer. “He’s alive, but he has a nasty head injury.”

“Right. Let’s get him in a spot where he is safe.” The two men struggled with limp officer and finally got him wedged in place.

The prince tapped the communications button on the panel in front of him. Prince Bren bent over awkwardly with the increasing spin making the nose of the big ship “Down” from their position.

“Engineering! Flat spin, we are in an inverted flat spin. Helm is not responding.”

“Engineering here. Bridge apologies! All systems have rebooted, we have another two minutes to get the core computer online before we can reset anything from down here.”

“We are out of service for another two minutes? We will be in the stratosphere in thirty-seconds!”

“Bridge. You can reset systems locally there. Each system is independent. You have reset options on the command chair, helm and navigation.”

“Copy, what is the sequence?” Bren yelled. “We have to do it quick, we have increased our felt G’s to double normal gravity.”

“Afirmative bridge, we have it showing here. We are increasing felt gravity by zero-point-eight G’s per minute.”

“Yeah. I feel it, we are over two-point-zero now.”

“Sequence on reboot. Press the red button and hold for four-seconds all the buttons will illuminate then blue-blue-red, it will ask to confirm then green.”

“Engineering, this is Soofy, I have it up, I will code the reboot.”

“Acknowledged Captain.”

“Seriously? We don’t have that much time. Who the hell designed four-seconds?”

“Your dad.” Soofy answered with a flat tone.

“Oh great, I am going to have a talk with him if we survive.”

Tapping in the code into the illuminated console, lights came back on and gravity systems reset.

“Okay, gravity and inertial damper are online at zero-point-two gee-per-second.” Captain Soofy said.

“Excellent.” Bren said, as he  stood on the floor, then sat at the helm control and began to tap commands into the console. “Helm is responding, I am stopping the spin with reaction jets. We are still without power and are falling, but everyone will have command with their area’s.”

“Engineering to bridge.” The familiar voice of the Hawaiian chief engineer. “Whoever stopped the spin, good job! Our life just got easier down here.”

“We still need power, we’re inverted and falling into the planet still but at least we are not in a flat-spin. I am rolling into a conventional flying attitude and I’ll deploy landing gear.”

“Uh sir, with all due respect, but this ship is not really built for performance in an atmosphere.”

“Understood, but we taken a hell of a beating and if you cannot give me engines, we are not going to get to escape velocity and out into orbit.”

“Copy that, I cannot promise you engines in the next few minutes. We have all other systems coming online. Engines have been reset as well.”

“We are in control, just out of power. Why did all systems reboot?” Ensign Robert Wills asked as he got unsteadily to his feet.

“That gravity wave had a charge to it. The computer shut down to prevent damage.” Bren said. “I remember that from some plans of the designs that. We could have had a reactor overload.”

“Request permission to return to my post.” A bloodied Ensign Wills stood up.

“I stand relieved, but let us get you a replacement and you report to sick-bay as soon as possible. Dude, you were out like a light.” Prince Bren chuckled.

“Yes, sir.”

“Bridge to engineering,” Soofy called. ”We have attitude control but no directional navigation. We have stopped the spin, but we are going into the atmosphere. ETA on Engines?”

“Engineering to bridge. Cold restart procedures are in effect.”

“Okay, how long, chief?” The Captain asked.

“Five minutes, tops.”

Captain Soofy leaned over to the bleeding but recovering helm officer.

“How long do we have?”

“I figure three minutes.” Ensign Wills said. “Tops.”

“Chief, you gave a power ETA about two minutes longer than we have. Can we get partial power?”

“Nician, I just don’t have it.”

Prince Bren tapped on a calculator and nodded to himself.

“Nician, we can slow our fall with reactive thrusters at emergency override maximum.” Bren read his figures. 

“Bare enough power. I would be happier with a zero point 5 better thrust. But these units are not built for that.” The Captain was ahead of his cousin.

“Can they produce it? It is not like we have a lot of choices, they produce it, or near. Or… Or… we crater.” Bren was looking for a way to not sound hysterical. He stood there with his black ceramic armor on, looking heroic, but in his head, he was in a panic and ran in circles.

“They can produce it but for a short period, we would have to replace them.”

“We will need to replace them anyway with emergency override.”

“Aye, true enough. Okay, helm, I am giving you the override codes.”

“Override’s got a hell of a workout today.” The helm officer said without humor.

“Speed?” Bren asked.

“One-twenty meters per second and slowing.”

“Nician, safe landing speed?”

“Maximum of twelve meters per second, we are one order of magnitude over that.”

“Well, that is just about to ruin my whole day. Set the reactive thrusters and engage, keep them going until they burn out and we crash or land.” Bren said.

“Already below the triple digits in descent. Ninety meters-per-second.” The navigator said

“Captain? Time to impact?”

“Well, with the rate of deceleration it is not a straight…”

“Time to impact?” Bren interrupted.

“Three point five minutes.” Captain Soofy answered. “Subject to change.”

“Time to safe landing speed?”

“Three point two minutes.” The helm answered.

“Pfft, we are all over this.”

“Selected land looks like a shallow grade to a body of water three-thousand kilometers across, sensors show a high salinity and depth exceeding one-hundred meters near the shoreline.”

“An ocean.”

“Aye, sire.” Ensign Wills said. “We are in a trajectory to set down about one kilometer from the water, plus or minus six-hundred meters.”

“Why such a wide field?”

“Deceleration is not a constant.”

“Copy that.”

“Speed?”

“Fifty meters-second and decreasing.”

“Altitude?” Bren asked from his command chair.

“One-thousand meters and falling. Sir, the braking has dropped off.”

“Captain?”

“We have burned out ten-percent of our thrusters. The deceleration is not a constant.”

“Damn.” Bren was no longer smug in his assessment of being “All over this.” He was worried. “Can we compensate.”

“Negative, there is no more to give.” Soofy tapped on his command panel.

“Sirs, we have sensor data,” Orion said from the helm. “The ground we are approaching has a high water content. It’s a delta marsh.”

“Change vector, find some solid land.” The Captain ordered.

“Aye-aye.”

“Bren, divert power from life support to ship integrity field. Take all power you can find and brace up the ship for impact.” The Captain turned to the helm. “Eta to ground.”

“Twenty seconds.”

Pressing a button on his headset for ship-wide communication, it failed to connect to the central computer that was still down, causing Nician Soofy to cover his face with the palm of his hand while he growled, then the Captain jumped to his command seat and press the button on the speaker built into the command panel.

“All stations all stations, prepare for a hard landing, impact fifteen seconds.”

“Bren to engineering, ETA on power?”

“Longer than we have, Sire.” The chief engineer answered. “At least ninety seconds, I can get you power for hull and frame integrity. Diverting power now. I have increased power to dampers with what we have.”

“Impact five seconds.” Helm called.

“Anything you can get us, engineering.” The Captain interjected then asked. “Helm, speed?”

“Eighteen meters-per-second. Four seconds.”

“Bren, anything else you can do, burn them out.”

“This is going to be hard. All stations, all stations, brace for impact.” The Captain’s voice echoed into every corner of the Peacemaker.

“Two seconds!”

“One…”

The impact of the struggling ship overwhelmed the systems, in a tail-low approach, the right-rear landing gear touched first, sinking into the soft marsh of the delta, compressing the wet, springy soil underneath. The nose gear touched second on firmer soil. The roll of the ship, worsened with the rebound, throwing the right side of the ship high while the left of the ship sank into the soil.

The Peacemaker was rolling over with no life-support or artificial gravity. Screams of the unrestrained  echoed in the bridge as they tumbled around inside the ship.

The only ones wearing a seat belt of any sort was Captain Soofy, the Helm officer Yoa and Ensign Wills. Lieutenant. Sifa Yoa had already been injured once and was not taking another hit if she could help it.

Prince Bren not so restrained, thrown out of his seat, hit and tried to hold onto a strut, cursing the high quality of the ship’s finish, he had no corners to hang on and then thrown as the Peacemaker continued to roll. Thrown to his back and lights sparkled behind his eyes when he hit his head on a control panel that tore free and his consciousness faded.

Darkness came as the Peacemaker continued its roll, ending back on the landing gear with one last, violent, impact.

Blessed oblivion held the prince in the arms of darkness.

Nician was less fortunate, he stayed awake during the terror of the ground coming up and hitting the football-field long warship.

Thrusters were pushing two-hundred percent of maximum, Nician reduced thrust on the starboard thrusters to level the ship— but it was not enough.

The shock of the sight of his cousin and prince sailing across the bridge as they inverted during the roll. Bren hit and bounced off the ceiling with a yell and hit a panel as the big ship continued to turn over, the prince’s ceramic armor clattering has he tumbled around the ship.

The Peacemaker gave one slow-motion pause as they tilted three-quarters through a full rotation, Bren’s only purchase with his fingertips was not made to hold against any weight, broke loose and dropped Bren on the floor. A heavy section of the broken panel that landed on top of the prince with a sound of a loud thud under the sapphire-glass display.

For the longest second in his life, Nician hung at an awkward angle out of his command chair— this was worse than if they were at any of the ninety degrees, even upside down would have been…

“HOLD ON!” Orion shouted. “She’s not finished moving!”

Peacemaker gathered speed as it continued her roll, landing violently right side up.

Alarms blared as bodies struggled to stand. Displays flickered for a moment, listed damage to different systems and sensors, then went dark.

The alarms went silent the same time as all lights went out and once again, emergency lighting illuminated the interior of the warship with a ghostly light.

“Report.” Nician moaned, wrenching his back at the last impact.

“All systems are dead. Starting reboot sequence.”

“Thank you Lieutenant.”

Looking around, Bren lay ominously quiet under the heavy, detached display with a growing pool of blood leaking out from his head.

 Then he groaned out a profanity while Nician lifted the panel off his cousin. 

“Remind me to talk to dad about that time-delay.” Bren whispered. Profuse blood coming from his earlobe. 

“Bren, you have an injury.” His cousing pulled up a bandage from the first aid kit. 

“That reminds me, mag-boots on your bridge from now on. I’d rather be stuck than bounce around inside your ship.”

“You are so not hurt. Let’s get you to sick-bay to confirm that.”

Another alarm sounded. On the panel an engineering display came up, the reactor core illuminated in red with the words “Containment Breach.” flashing.

“Oh no. Not now, what else…” Bren said, while reading the words.

“Shut it.” Nician said. “You’ll jinx us.”

The alarm went quiet.

“Engineering to bridge. We have a proper shutdown. Disregard the alarm.”

“Bridge to engineering, you have some folks turning blue up here. We all stopped breathing for a minute.”

“Apologies, Captain. We have some cleanup to do and shutdown procedures to perform. Engineering out.”

“Sickbay for the injured.” Bren adjusted his own bandage.

“We need to inspect my ship for damage from that rollover.”

“The rest of us, too.” Bren nodded. “At least the ships back is not broken.”

“There’s a lot of other things that will keep us grounded. But yes. That is a positive note.”

“Well, let’s get her to rights and get our area surveyed. Whatever we hit that turned us over might also have other surprises.”

“First, you go to sickbay to check that head of yours.  You should’ve been wearing a helmet.”

“Now you turn nanny. Where were you a little while ago?”

Nician laughed and slapped his cousin on the shoulder as the prince walked out.