Sailing to Bermuda (and How I Nearly Died at Sea)

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They say it’s bad luck to change a boat’s name. Maybe that’s why it all went horribly wrong. The following story is so crazy that looking back on it, I can still hardly believe that it happened to …

Source: Sailing to Bermuda (and How I Nearly Died at Sea)

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Irelan’s Adventure

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Prologue: Irelan’s Adventure

 

Six-year-old Irelan sat in the seat she mother hurredly strapped her in as the ejected lifeboat module’s orbit decayed in a parabolic arch towards the planet below.

In seconds, it had traveled from one battle zone to the next, crossing the terminator into the night-side where the green flags of the Enlightened flew on the tops of poles. The man who drove the boat told Irelan they were flying at twenty-times the speed of sound, whatever that was.

She watched when he pulled a big lever and released the parachute at the last second, it slowed the lifeboat enough to land safely in a muck-filled bog of a forest glen, barely under control of the, just moments before helmsman of the Galaxy Hitchhiker.

Opening the hatch, the navigator, called Mr. Ensign by her mother, got out and walked around the roof of the lifeboat.  Mom started to yell at the lifeboat pilot to not jump and to stay on the hull. The young man yelled back that she was not in charge and stepped off onto a grassy flat spot next to the lifeboat’s hull.

It was nearly the last thing he did in his life as he immediately he sank to his waist and Larsya Espiosa, Irelan’s mom, and the three other men,pulled on the young man as hard as they could, two on each arm.

Calling him names that Irelan never heard her mom say before, the quartet of people lost their grip on him  and he sank up to his chest.

The only saving advice they could give the man is to lay back and take deep breaths, and do not struggle and let his buoyancy pull him out.

The struggle to save the officer focused everyone, even Irelan looked out the door while the passengers and crew struggled with the overconfident, now panicked, officer.

She saw a huge light in the starry sky come towards them over the trees and smaller lights detached from the big one, sliding down slowly on ropes.  They looked like monsters, pale gray with blotches of black spots that moved around at random, big bulbous eyes and bald heads. 

Irelan, only six, was afraid and hid as far back in the pod as she could get, crying. She heard her mom’s voice yelling for help. Her mom never asked for help from anyone. Mom was someone who helped everyone. Sounds and a sky creature that looked like a big red fish came down low and dangled tentacles to the man in the muck.

This terrified the little girl, the heavy sounds as if something were hitting the lifeboat from outside. It was a sound was different from the atmosphere sounds when they came down so fast, they made sparkles fly past the windows.  

Whatever that meant.

Mom leaned in and told her to put her jacket on and reached in to her.

“Mom! What’s happenin’?” Irelan whispered.

A giant in blothchy grey coveralls and a full face mask reached down and took her mom by the arm and pulled them both up.

“Put this on.” The electronic amplified voice said through the mask.

Irelan began to cry at the hands that held out to her.

“Aw hun.” The electronic voice said. “DOn’t cry.”

The masked and uniformed creature pulled the goggles back and lifted the helmet back.

It was a lady inside the mask!

“Your name is Ireland?” The woman asked the little girl. 

“Irelan, no ‘d’.” Mom said. “Irelan, go with the lady!”

“Hang on ma’am.” The masked soldier who had his arms around her mom from behind gave her.

“Wear the chin strap kind of tight, this thing is almost as big as you are.” The sergeant put her helmet on child’s head. “Irelan, my name is Riley. Riley Kennedy. We are going to go up into the rescue ship on this rope. Then they are going to lift your lifeboat until it’s tucked into the hold and you can go back and get your stuff out of it. Okay hun?”

Irelan nodded while the lady braided a seat out of a flat strap and clipped it to rings in her chest. Irelan faced the lady and was able to put her tiny arms around the ladies neck.

“You ready for an adventure.”? Irelan shook her head.
“Well, we are going to go see your mom. She is safe on board the Sky Guppy.” The blonde lady smiled. “Okay hun?”

Irelan nodded and Riley tapped her ear. She held tightly to the little girl while she hung on to the lady’s neck.

They went straight up. The helmet she had on seemed to pull at her head.

It was FUN! Irelan drew a breath to laugh and scream, when it was over.

“Do it again!” Irelan laughed in Riley’s face.

The lady soldier laughed.

“Not tonight, hun. We have to get your lifeboat up in the hold.”

“Sergeant Kennedy.” A deep voice from behind her interrupted their talk. “How was the rescue? Are you on your coffee break now?”

“No, sir.”

“Then get to your station. We don’t have time to waste” The shaved headed voice strode away.

“Don’t mind him, hun. The lieutenant wears his shoes too tight, it makes him mad.”

“Why doesn’t he take his shoes off.”

Riley laughed and hugged the little girl.

“You’re smart! I don’t know why he doesn’t take his shoes off. He would be nicer.”

“Okay.” She smiled at the lady with the eyes like the daytime blue sky and soft voice.

“Mommy!” Ireland ran to her mom, who stood and caught her daughter in a big hug. “I flew on a rope!”

“Me too, they lifted me up and I was flying like a bird!” Mom stood up and spoke to the sergeant, “I want to speak to your commanding officer at the earliest convenience.”

“Yes ma’am. That would be the Colonel. Her name is Granuaile.” She pronounced it as Gran-u-wail. “For now, we need to get you secured. We will lift the lifeboat into the cargo hold and you can gather up your belongings when we land.”

Ensign Firston interrupted while he fiddled with a clip on his rescue webbing.

“We have only what we wore on our backs. When we hit by an energy beam and were shot down, there was no warning.”

“Shot down?” Riley gaped. “What?”

The lifeboat officer tried to himself from the lift, struggling with a spring-loaded clamp. Riley reached over and released it with a skilled twist.

“Yes. I was at the helm when the navigator said there was an energy surge from the surface. We were hit immediately after that. We lost all systems, life support, propulsion. We were on approach to Fienow Fields in the northern hemisphere on Keppler-B, but we got caught in Keppler-A’s gravity well. The captain only called for use to abandon ship.

“If you’ve been shot at, you need to talk to the colonel right away.”

Riley tapped her wrist, typing in a coded number and spoke into the microphone at her throat.

“Sir? Sergeant Riley. We have a problem and someone needs to see you right away. Yes, sir. On our way.

“Ensign, come with me please.” She motioned with her hand. “YOu get to sit closest to the door and you will be the first on off.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She sent a message to the Lieutenant that he needed to come back to meet with their passengers.

His shoes are going to get a lot tighter, she sighed. I should’ve taken this week off.

Christmas on The Orcus, non-poem style

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Christmas, Somewhere in the Galaxy.

The Magnatar class ship held in orbit around the “Super Earth” at forty-thousand meters above the ground.

Well above the traffic lanes for aircraft that flew from hither and yon. The crew of the large ship parked it with great care while the pirate King strode around his command center at the top of the ship.

The Orcus was a powerful ship that logged many hours in trips between planets for negotiations for trade and peaceful coexistence in the United Confederation of Pirates. A label put on the outlying colonies by the Empire. They were all self-governed and traded with each other with no control or supervision by the Momo Empire. No one could be happier than the colonists.

After negotiations, the crew was tired. They had stopped at a half-dozen planets, secured agreements with every one of them.

Delivered gifts of the one time of year that was held onto by the humans to bring out the best of each other.

Still, the bachelor King, Ruu’ta O’Danu. From a long line of scofflaws, scallywags, rogues and leaders stood with his arms crossed in thought.

One crewman, the weapons and flight space officer, his daughter was just born, it was her first Christmas for this family.

Another, her mother died in the last month (Against the Kings mandate that no one dies during this time.) but she stayed at her post. Even when the King performed his duties as Ruu’tan she acted stoic. But, the king noticed the trickle of tear from one eye that traced down Chief Sharan Nayaan’s cheek in quiet moments.

They were too far away for her to go home to bury her mother, weeks out at maximum speed.

Sigh The crew was beyond their limit. Each member of the dozen ship’s crew had needs to go home. Even if it was to make contact over the holidays.

He took a position on the bridge, behind his chair and had a thought.

“Chief, ship-wide communication to my station please.”

The surprise announcement. Everyone had a five-day pass. Two days before, the day of and then two days after the time on earth where everyone sang, and felt a little nicer.

King Ryan O’Danu saw everyone off, transporters operated full-time, three drop pods took the teams down to their hub points.

One lieutenant had a sky-surfer he had modified himself, and, to the laughter of the red-headed master of the ship, flew it off of the landing pad that he ordered deployed from the side of the ship.

From there, the crew all went to their homes.

Last on the ship, a Magnatar class heavy cruiser, was the leader of the planet himself.

King Ryan O’Danu, his line of leaders went back to an age of sail and wooden ships. The first pirate, family legend had it, was a child that was kidnapped by the government. The child became a king of the sea and started a family dynasty.

Today, the king was simply a man alone on board of a flying battleship. He strolled about the empty ship, the quiet undertone of electronics his only company.

Standing on the landing pad, he watched until Lieutenant Antares was no longer visible. When the King turned back to the ship, he noted a blemish on the hull. A meteor impact when they orbited the mining colony that suffered a storm of flying rocks when two ‘roids collided nearby. The teams that mined the raw materials needed their shields repaired and King O’Danu brought the royal ship in as a blocker until the colonists and ship’s engineers got the system up and running again.

It had been a busy time for the run-up to these days of family and reaffirmation of life and love. They had worked hard to renew contracts, deliver gifts and assure that peace would last for at least another month.

Now it was over, other than the pit on the side of his ship, painted to look like a Killer Whale of earth. The ship was a well known force, and it the pride of the master of the ship, never shot any of its weapons in anger.

He tapped on a palm-held display and a ladder built by the Rose Suchuk company rolled out on its own wheels.

An hour later, he finally finished. He’d leave the ladder out to climb again later and inspect the fit and finish of the repairs. (He was picky like that.)

“Computer, Celtic traditional drums.” He said when he made his way to the lounge of the ship. “Collapse ladder, but leave in airlock for further use. Seal Airlocks.”

He sat at the table in the lounge, drinking an eggnog with rum from Lats-Ute mining colony. Finger foods, from Gray Kitchens on his own planet.

He laughed. If the ships chief medical officer saw what he ate now, Lynn McCoy M.D. would issue a health report on him and make him do extra physical training.

His cup was empty, but the view was grand. King O’Danu shook his head, he was not about to give up his view and poured another jigger of rum, shrugged, then just filled the cup with the dark liquid.

An hour passed while he read novels of distant lands and other worlds when his eyes started to droop.

“Computer, nightwatch. Sensors on passive scan. Environmental shields only.” He sighed. “I might want to go out later for a view of the stars.”

The king thought about his telescope, he’d like to do some stargazing later.

It was important that the shields would keep a layer of warm, pressurized air around the ship for him to breathe if he used the pad outside.

Whooo… I’m buzzed. That was potent stuff. He rubbed his eyes, they felt dry. He had been up and going for twenty-hours straight today. In the last few weeks, he slept only three hours out of every twenty-four. They may live on a ship, but the force of his circadian rhythm still forced him to hibernate a few hours per day.

In the captain’s quarters, Ryan peeled off his carbon fiber body armor and crawled into the bed and pulled the dense, heavy blanket up to his head.

He liked a cool room with the a blanket.

His mind drifted, the ship was secure, he set the systems and he was safe. No one would dare approach a Magnatar class, fully armed battleship with evil on their minds.

Then.

The unthinkable!

Alarms sounded.

Ruu’tan and King of Garnet-4, then leader of the council of the Pirate Confederation. Ryan O’Danu lept out of bed like a cat spooked on Halloween.

Proximity alert Proximity alert Negative response on IFF

Lights were at full bright, which dazzled him for a moment. Ryan ran to his desk were basic control systems were active.

“Computer, display sensor contact.” He rubbed his eyes, but not out of fatigue.

On the display, the contact was small. Only enough room for, maybe, four people.

“Overlay readings with Orcus in relative center.”

A hundred-thousand feet lower but climbing rapidly. He thought.

No one is scheduled to come back for four more days.

The display glowed with a 3-D overlay.

“Magnify.”

Then he gasped.

The speed at this target tracked, it approached the ship, cannon and defensive systems came online.

Phased energy weapons locked on.

Crap!” King Ryan knew what the targets was. He had to shut this system off at the command center. The weapons command and control had not been transferred, only navigation. ran down the gangway and hung a hard right, skipping the lift, he climbed the emergency ladder next to it and flopped over onto the floor.

The main display showed with detail not available to him in his bedroom.

“Computer, display HD display on holograph map of 3-D space, overlay Orcus as relative center and give readout on altitude and direction.” He thought a moment. “Speed and mass.”

“Working. Speed is thousand meters per second, mass of two-thousand two hundred kilograms. Reading ten life signs. One biped humanoid, nine quadruped of the Rangifer tarandus.”

“Rangifer. What is common name of Rangifer whatever you said.”

“Rangifer Tarandus, common name reindeer.”

“Reindeer? Rein…” his eyes grew big. “Oh Jeeze!”

“Computer, disable defensive systems.” King O’Danu yelled. “Stand down shields, stow the guns.”

“Power down. Alert, target is tracking to landing pad.”

“Oh good.”

“Danger, there is an obstruction in on the pad.”

“I requested the ladder in the airlock.”

“Manual override engaged on brakes, ladder is stationary.”

Ryan slapped himself in the forehead and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. At the bottom of the stairs, he tripped over the automated janitor and ended up in a pile next to the door.

Outside, clatter and noise of a landing.

“Computer, send warning to contact, danger on…”

A voice sounded through the intercom.

“Ahoy in ..oh balls!” and the sound of a body hitting the deck.

King Ryan ran down the gangway, slipping on golden elf-dust and overshooting the doorway and ended up, for the second time, in a pile on the floor. This time near his quarters.

“Sorry, Nicholas! I was fixing a meteor hit and left it out for inspection later.”

“Yeah, you left a trap for me. I know!” The shaggy white mane shook as he laughed at the joke. “I have some deliveries to here. Special ones.”

“I don’t have anyplace good to put them, over in the lounge on the bar would work well enough.” Ryan said.

“What’s this? You don’t have a tree.”

“Trees on Garnet-4 are all protected, this is one barren rock, you know.”

“This planet is, but Sapphire isn’t, nor is Palindrome Prime.”

“Yeah, but with PP you can’t tell which way your going.”

“Ryan.” The old elf turned around. “I can take these all back and assign you a Cadet Elf. Her name is Moonbottom.”

“Eh… Moonbottom?”

“She sent a gift to the wrong person, supposed to send a puppy to one boy named Brighthill in the Carolinas of the US on earth. Instead, she sent the pet to a Miss Elisabum in London who had coal coming.”

“Coal? From you? She must have been quite bad.”

“No no.” He pulled out another gift from the bag he carried in. “She is very poor. A lump of coal could warm her for the season.”

“Must be some lump.”

“About a ton.”

“OH! Well, in that context, I can see that.”

“Now for your tree.”

“You do not have a tree in that…” He went slack-jawed and silent.

“An Immortal tree. Sequoia Sempervirens. It is rooted on the bottom, too. When you get this craft on the ground, plant this tree. It’ll grow. You also have a warehouse full of these to plant along the coastal areas as of now. You have perfect zones for it.”

“How did you get these trees? They are protected and endangered.” Ryan stroked the green, feathery growth that served as needles for the evergreen tree. “I didn’t think the government would allow them off world.”

“Yes, actually. They are spreading them everywhere. So you have a hundred-thousand seedlings, ready for planting.”

“Thank you, I will have people on it after Christmas. You are a saint.” Ryan paused and thought a moment. “How many gifts are you leaving?”

“You have quite the shopping list. Why do you ask?”

“Ooh, nothing. I am having alerts, the ship is compensating for the weight of your deer and sleigh.”

“Reindeer.” Nicholas corrected. “Oh, my back. I have another billion stops to do tonight.”

“How do you do that? You cannot even go a second per stop, that’d take you longer than thirty-years.”

“Thirty-one years, nine-months, one and a half weeks and one hour. Roughly.” Nicholas groaned again as he stood. “But we have the Einstein Time Exception Device. The rest of the universe slows to a crawl, while me and anyone nearby is sped up. Elf Bernard came up with using the formula eons ago.”

“Oh, one more thing.” He handed Ryan a box. “This is a special request. It keeps all the good wishes for you, nice and safe.”

He turned and the old man nearly fell to a knee again.

Yeah, he gets some medicinal drink. The King of Garnet-4 thought to himself.

“Nick, have a seat. I’ll make you something ot warm the cockles of your heart.”

Nick sat back in a chair with a sigh.

“I’m a little tired of milk and cookies tonight. I’d take a carrot.”

“Carrots are…” Ryan called from galley. “For the reindeer! And I have a whole bag for them.”

“As you wish.”

Ryan brought out a pitcher of hot water, a mix he had created a few days before of maple sugar, vanilla, butter and cinnamon, hot water and rum.

They talked far into the night, each comparing notes with the other.

“You might have been told you are autistic as a child, King O’Danu, but you have done such good things with other people. You have shown other people who there is no label that you cannot overcome. You should be proud of all the negotiations you have done.” The white beard shook as the eyes crinkled behind the glasses in rum-warmed humor. “That said, I have a lot of stops to do and I am going to have to do something special. I must go.”

King O’Danu picked up the heavy bag, it felt nearly empty, but if he shook it, it made a sound, as if boxes rubbed together.

“Don’t shake that.” Nick smiled. “At the rate you are going, you’ll have my job someday. You are a good man. Ruu’tan Ryan O’Danu, King of this planet.

Ryan walked with the older man out to the landing pad of the ship, where he climbed up into the ancient anachronism. The conveyance was a throwback of nearly five-centuries. But the antlered reindeer were muscular and, quite literally, glowing gold.

Adjusting his had, he slurred his words slightly.

“Good rum. Keep up the good work, Ryan. Merry Christmas.” He pulled at his beard for a moment and then said softly.

“Ho ho ho.” And Santa was gone.

Watching the old man disappear from sight. He felt an old familiar pain.

King O’Danu walked back into the ship and hit a button and the landing pad withdrew into the ship, and he heard an old familiar refrain.

“Merry Christmas to all, to all a good night.”

Ryan laughed as the airlocks were sealed.

“Good night to you, too, old man.” Ryan said to the 3-D map as it tracked the small target, accelerating up and away, already at the edge of sensor range at relativistic speeds. “Merry Christmas to you too.”

Ryan O’Danu, descendant of Keegan O’Danu, the first pirate of the family, turned off all the lights. And set the defense systems to alert status and went to bed. The rum had definitely gone to his head.

When he woke up in the morning, he would laugh as he got out of bed. He was so drunk, he dreamed that Santa came and visited. Which everyone knew was a figment of his booze addled imagination.

Which made the existence of a pile of gifts all the more difficult to explain in the morning.

Married by Mistake Chapter 13. Alone on a Jet Plane

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Chapter 13. Alone On A Jet Plane

Just as he promised, a limousine drove up the dirt road next to the canal, driven by a woman in her mid-twenty’s wearing a tuxedo and a chauffeur’s hat opened the rear door for her with a professional smile.

“Thank you, but I want to sit in front. I need some girl time.” Kaylee smiled. “You don’t mind?”

“Not at all ma’am. It’s not regular, but the insurance does not prohibit it.”

The ride was talkative with both women lamenting about men being overgrown boys and their wishing to show off.

Lettie, the driver, smiled softly after a long-winded complaint that they flew low over the wine country and hit a flock of birds. Kaylee shook her head and wept over one bird whose life ended smooshed all over the windscreen of the big jet.

“Well, it would have been a pretty view up until then.” Lettie smiled as she drove. “He didn’t do it on purpose. I would love to have a guy to show me the wine country from above. Plus, he put it down safely. Does he ever say he loves you?”

“Naw…” She answered, looking out the window. “It’s a long story. But I’m going home and smoke until I’m stoned out of my mind and wake up by the weekend. It’s been a crazy month.”

“Once in awhile,” Lettie softly laughed. “Crazy is what you need. It has been crazy in this limo from time to time. Occasionally, the crazier nights have been the most rewarding.”

“How crazy?“

“I have been paid to drive naked and pick up girls.”

“Oh my god! Did you do it?”

“No.” Lettie laughed loudly. “He tipped me anyway, we did pick up some girls at a club and they partied in the back.”

“And they partied hard, I found clothing for days after that.”

“Um, ew.” Kaylee laughed. “I’ll sit up front from now on.”

Lettie laughed louder as she wheeled the limo towards the Stockton Airport.

“You have not asked, but my suggestion Mrs. Tom, is to take a few breaths while you are back home without him. He’s slightly old world, but a great guy.” She smiled.

“You know him?”

“Yes, he has hired our company more than once.” Lettie said with a wide smile. “He is a regular customer. Pays in advance, I think he has a thousand hours paid for this year.”

“Does he ask for you?”

Lettie shook her head. “No, but there are only five drivers. Me, my sister and two cousins and a psych-major that goes to UCSF.”

“An all woman limo business?” Kaylee’s curiosity piqued for the moment.

“Yeah. We were all going to school in Sacramento and started driving friends around as designated drivers. We studied in the car while everyone else drank. One thing led to another, now we own a limo service.”

“How well do you do?”

“Pretty good. I own two Molinaxil Harley’s and an Indian now.”

“Two… what?”

“Motorcycles. I have one custom fitted to me, built by a custom shop in Ohio. Molinaxil Metal. He makes custom bikes and cars. His sheet metal work is something out of the movies. THEN! Oh my god, then! The guy who does the work? He used to be a dancer, he looks as hot as the machines he builds.” Lettie laughed like a kid at Christmas. “And oh, he is jaw-drop gorgeous.”

“A dancer?” Kaylee asked while looking out the window. She was a thousand-miles away.

Lettie pressed on, she promised herself to improve the mood of the young woman next to her.

“Yup, like Chippendale’s? Same kind of thing. A rocking body and eyes that you would dream of doing naughty things with.” Lettie smiled at that. “Like Mr. Harte. He’s handsome enough for a church girl think of things. Naughty things. Over and over.” She gave a lusty laughed.

“He’s an ass.” Kaylee said in a wistful voice.

“The plane was in the water in one piece. Lettie frowned. “What happened?”

“He was flying low and ran into a flock of birds.”

“Bird strikes are common around here. We are in a migratory path of so many types. I even hit one with a limo last year.” She shuddered with the memory of it. “It nearly came all the way through the windshield, blew in a hole like it was an artillery shell. Tom saved you both by setting the jet down in the deep water channel.”

“Maybe. But I’m still mad at him.” She shook her head. “He keeps making me mad at him.”

“You can upset about almost dying, that’s your right. I would be, too! Ah, here we are.”

Pulling up in front of the airport. It’s architecture from the mid-seventies was obvious, but it was well maintained and spacious. One professionally dressed security in plain clothes held a sign with her name on it.

Lettie opened the door for her and handed her a business card with a penned in phone number.

“If you need me for anything again, call. That is my private number on the back.” Lettie smiled. “Kaylee, you have a lot going now. Don’t let this change you mind about Tom. He is a treasure, he is a keeper.”

Kaylee hugged Lettie. It had only been a half-hour’s worth of talking but she felt as if she was old friends with the limo company owner.

Walking up to the man with the sign, she smiled.

“I’m Kaylee.”

“Excellent. Come with me, please.”

Passing through TSA Checkpoints, she had no luggage to speak of. Robert, as his name badge stated in gold lettering, was polite but non-talkative.

“Your flight is waiting for you, this way.” Robert said with a slight smile, but showed no other emotion. All business.

The next officer uniform was a dark-skinned woman who had even more of a ramrod straight spine.

“You are Kaylee Harte?” It was almost a statement and not a question. “I’m Captain Adanna Ogechi. I will be your pilot on the plane. We will be setting down in Harbor Bay Airport within an hour of departure.” Captain Ogechi motioned with her hand. “This way.”

All business like Robert and made no comment as they walked to the small business jet that was claustrophobic compared to Tom’s flying yacht. But then, she remembered, it was his home.

*Since after the second day, Tom has hardly written on his notepad.* She realized, *Since I’ve been with him.*

He was always in her business. His “rescue” of her being blackmailed into a compromising position and possibly sex with the professor who the police arrested later.

*I had it handled,* she fumed. *I would not have wrapped my legs around the art instructor, I would have gotten the upper hand on that situation, somehow.*

Still, she had no idea what she was going to do to extract herself from that mess. Between an epic-awful morning on that Friday, getting fired from the restaurant and pub where she slaved as a waitress and tended bar. The day just kept going from bad to worse until she met Tom.

Kaylee laughed at herself. Then life just took a left turn into a surreal universe as she reflected on the last week. The adventures in how his body and hers could merge.

*His hugs are like having a heart hold mine*

How they fit together and things she had never tried in a plane before. Hands on the controls, sleeping on top, diving off the wing.

AND!

Sleep on a boat was wonderful beyond words, even if the boat had wings. She did not even need to smoke any weed to get into a zen mood!

She had an eighth of a kilo of Killer Kai weed at the Wizard that she had not even touched. It was all that good.

Her thoughts drifted back to Glenn, who went to Mt. Mazama University.

*Not as far from home but it’s still an eighteen-hour drive from Ocean Bay, too much of a long-distance relationship. It is so far apart, even with current technology, and not date other people.* She remembered the conversation. *To expect either of us to not go out with other people is a setup for failure.*

A Poli-Sci major, he was honest in they both would make contacts.

*”It is unreasonable to assume we could be faithful to a promise, being so far apart.”* She remembered him saying. *If Glenn only knew how unreasonable I could take it.*

They were “steady” when they were home together, but not when at the remote colleges.

A sigh. *I hope that the papers and annulment will be final before I go home, because Glenn sent that email that he had something important to talk about.*

*Glenn might propose this year. He has been acting strange, like he has something to say and has a shy-bone stuck in his head.* She gave a big sigh, holding her face in her hands in the solitude in the back of the tiny jet. *This is so messed up! This should excite me, but it would only complicate our schoolastic careers. UGH! It will be more complicated if I am still married to Tom when I go home.*

This made her laugh again as the small jet shrieked down the runway then pulled in to a steep climb.

*Tom is a good man.* She was growing fond of him in many ways. *But he has achieved success while I am at the beginning of my art career. I’ll have a gallery in a couple of years.*

Still, his kisses. He was attentive and made her toes curl just to think about it. Her heart skipped and jumped in pleasant ways from his smiles to when he looked in her eyes.

*I wonder what children would be like with him.* She smiled for a moment. *He writes children stories and… OH!*

She surreptitiously had looked them up in her phone, even though the signs at the airport said to turn off all phones.

Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon had many adventures, most of the stories had an ecological slant to them, some dealt with right and wrong. Leonard’s friend Wendel “Weeds” The Weedy Sea Dragon was a constant companion and sometime hero as Leonard would get into predicaments that needed help.

Tom addressed things that kids would be worried about, bully issues were dealt with in one arc in the series of the little novellas. Scary things that shake the bushes in the night in another arc. Tom was a talented writer and made a living off of his books.

*He did say he was “comfortable”.* She smiled herself at the memory.

Then, she saw a reference online with her smart phone and clicked on the link.

She looked forward to the cockpit of the jet, the pilots had not looked back. No one to check on. She was the only one on board of the chartered flight.

She read the title about the tragedy of Tom’s life. His pregnant wife failed to beat a train at a crossing and died in the accident, there were no other children in the family. After that, he began to write prolifically.

Other searches turned up tabloid comments about that Tom was gay and had his wife murdered.

Another read that she killed herself on purpose since she was gay and was going to leave him, then found she was pregnant.

Many speculations that he no longer dated women. Paparazzi had a difficult time keeping up with him and his flying boat that they had come to call the “Flying Wicked Wizard of Solitude” out of spite.

Images of his plane leaving when they would try to chase him after the accident in speedboats. Super long-range lenses used to image the Pacific Wizard as it floated in lakes or the ocean were all in the trash websites.

Then another picture, taken from shore of two people on top of the Pacific Wizard, one was obviously him and another of a raven haired woman who was impossible to recognize. They were between the engines and, with no obvious clothing.

But Kaylee recognized the mystery woman! It was her! Kaylee knew it by the large sunglasses she wore. It was their first day after getting married by accident in Las Vegas.

The image was grainy and blurred from such a long distance and the rocking motion of the plane.

Another website claimed the unknown woman was a victim “Kidnapped by Alien Author” as the trash tabloid alluded that Tom was now a non-human from space. Possibly a vampire.

She laughed at that. *Well, he does have sharp teeth that he uses in nice ways when he presses his teeth against my neck and hums the song “Star Spangled Banner”.*

She rarely held out past the first stanza before laughing and then the spasms that went through her and she loved that. It still made her toes curl to think of it.

Still the picture of them on top of the plane was obvious they were together, the image taken more than a mile away. Shot from shore and they were not on the top of the plane for any length of time, so she felt that her identity was safe for the moment. No one bothered to chase them with any speedboats. They were old news and boring.

*Except for the bird strike. This is sure to make the papers.* Again she face-palmed.

*I need to call Tom and tell him to keep my face and name out of the news. Damn him! Mom ‘n’ Dad will be sure to find out. Gramma G is a big reader of all those tabloids.*

She flipped through the listings of the conspiracy web-sites.

*Ever since Grampa Grant died, Gramma’s talked about aliens, time travel and immortal beings. She is sure that Grampa was with the aliens instead of the airliner that he was in that went down over the ocean.*

A memory, it did not seem that long ago, but it was over a decade. Not a single distress call from the airliner, it just went off the radar and wreckage was found floating in the water.

There were no survivors. Not even bodies in water that was more than ten-thousand feet deep.

Without a body to say good-bye to was the hardest thing for Gramma to bear as she descended into a fantasy that Grampa was still alive, somewhere.

“Missus Harte, we are landing now.” The Captain called back. “Seat belt on, please put away your phone.” This caused Kaylee to blush like a kid caught with a cookie. She had not asked if she could use it and on commercial airlines, the rules prohibited the use of laptops and phones.

The descent from luxury private jet to the mundane real world had begun and Kaylee was not entirely prepared for what was to come.

*I’m not prepared for anything.* She reminded herself with a heavy sigh.

Married by Mistake Chapter 12. Snarge: Blended Bird

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Chapter 12. Snarge: Blended Bird

Sitting in the right hand seat, Tom showed Kaylee how to take the controls.

Tapping a few displays, a chime sounded while Kaylee held on to the stick that guided the large aircraft towards their destination under Tom’s watchful eye.

“Now you are flying it.” Tom smiled. “Just hold the stick gently.”

“There is so much power in this stick.” She laughed slowly pulling to the right to bank the plane when Tom showed her when for a course correction. “This reminds me of a poem. To touch the face of God. ”

“The passionate artist in you is coming out.” Tom chuckled.

“We will be landing soon.” He said, after looking at the displays. “I want to take you on a low tour of this area to show you where we will be wine tasting at.”

Tom pushed forward on the stick and banked the Flying Sea Dragon slowly while talking into his earphones. She listened to him become all professional, deciding that he was talking to San Francisco by the sound of it.

“There, we have permission to fly low.” Tom looked at the displays. “Passing through four-thousand feet.”

“Low?”

“Yeah, about a thousand feet. Maybe less. As slow as possible and still fly.” He smiled. “I’ll fly it by hand and make a big figure-8 over the area.”

“Sounds fun.” She smiled. “Maybe I can flash someone down there.”

“Yeah… No.” Tom laughed. “You would cause us to crash.”

“How?”

“Who do you think would be staring?”

Kaylee laughed as she bumped him with her hip as she walked back to change her clothes and began to pull on her walking shoes when a chime sounded that drew Tom’s attention.

“What?” Tom said in an irritated voice to the display. What he looked at was not visible to Kaylee .

“Kaylee , sit down, put on a seat belt.” Tom ordered. “Now! We have a flock of birds…”

Alarms sounded and Tom yelled a profanity.

“Fire in engine one!” Just as something large hit windscreen with a loud “THUMP” and obliterated the view outside with reds and browns.

“OhHellNo.” He said it as one word. “Bird strike! BIRDSTRIKE.”

Alarms sounded and lights flashed on the display panels as the plane took a decided change in direction. Tom struggled to straighten out the plane and called an emergency into his headset.

“Affirmative, cleared for Stockton.” Tom was all business as Kaylee struggled with the seatbelt.

Another alarm sounded. A loud bang from the rear of the plane, more profanity from her husband.

“Uhh… Negative, not going to make Stockton, we are losing power in engine number two, going to set it down on the highway.” Tom swore a stream of words that surprised her. He did not talk that way since she had met him.

“Dammit! Too much traffic. OH YAY! Look! Water!” Tom yelled at no one in particular. “Come on you Flying freakin’ Sea Dragon, Kaylee is too cute to die.”

A long straight canal was on the far side of the highway, pushing the number-two throttle forward he was able to coax more thrust out of the remaining engine.

“Engine two is spinning up again. We have some extra power.” Tom said into the microphone. “We have a canal to set down in just west of the freeway.”

More lights flashed information in the pilot’s console. Amber and red display flashed as Tom pulled on the stick, commanding the wounded metal bird to do his bidding.

“Flaps full.” Putting his hand on a knob that was already at it’s maximum. “We want to come in as slow as possible here.”

“Landing gear up. Check. That would be unfortunate to put down in water with wheels down.” Tom gave a smile to Kaylee .

“Now it is like always. Easy into the water.”

The plane passed so low over the lanes of cars, she could see the people’s faces as they looked up. In one red mini-van, she could see the face of a small child staring while she rode in the car seat as the big jet rocketed the divided lanes of the interstate and over the water.

Lined up, Tom put the flying boat down with room to spare on both sides.

“Hang on to something.” Tom warned through gritted teeth when he brought the plane down to a rough but safe water landing.

Talking into the microphone on his headset, Tom told the flight control where they were. “Lat.” Tom said with a series of numbers and then softly spoke the word “Long.” with another sequence that Kaylee did not understand.

“Made it!” Tom smiled wryly as he put down the headset and shutting down the engines. “That was fun in a twisted way.”

“Tom?” Her jaw dropped at his cavalier tone. “TOM! How do you think this was…”

“Sorry,” He interrupted. “I need to check the engines to make sure we don’t need to abandon ship.”

“What do you mean, “Abandon Ship”?”

“If we have a fire, I want you safe. This place could burn to the waterline and I need to drop an anchor to keep us from going aground.”

He walked to the main hatch that opened left side of the plane, opened a door of a closet next to the entrance and pulled out an anchor attached to a heavy chain. A rope as thick as her thumb, he threw the anchor out then waited for a count of three, then tied the rope to a ring in the door frame.

Then he walked past his wife who was changing colors from pale to livid.

“My god.” Kaylee gasped. “We are still in danger?”

Tom climbed up a ladder to a hatch and opened it then disappeared up through the hole. It was the same kind of hatch that they had used more than once to sunbathe between the engines of the Pacific Wizard.

“Tom?” Kaylee looked up from the foot of the ladder to the hatch.

“Come on up! We are safe, you might be interested in what happened.” He called down and she climbed the ladder, like she had done many times before, then she was giggling and happy, now she was beginning to shake.

Tom stood by the engine, there were several dents in the leading edge with traces of a brownish goo and feathers in the fan blades of the turbine.

“What’s this?” She asked. “Blood?”

“Well, the official term is “snarge”, it is what is left of a bird when it gets sucked into an engine it at speed.”

“Snarge?”

“A combination of the words, snot and garbage.” Tom nodded while looking in the engine as Kaylee made a face, she felt she might get sick and walked over to the edge of the wing to vomit into the water below. But she held on to her insides.

“Damn, this did a number on the engine. There are vanes missing everywhere.” Tom gave a heavy sigh. “We were lucky to not have it happen to the other engine.”

He walked over to the opposite side, running his hands over nacelle’s leading edge, tracing his fingers over dents that were there, but the engine appeared undamaged.

“Oh poop.  Another problem.” Tom spoke as he turned and watched the Fire Department tried try to back off the road to the edge of the water. An ambulance followed by a sheriff unit trundled down the dirt road with lights flashing. “We are anchored farther out than they can reach. We’ll need to use the rubber boat to pull it closer to shore.”

“How do you do that?”

“Well, not much of a motor, but it will work after a fashion. Even if I need to drop two anchors and pull us by a winch.”

“Wait… anchors? Boat anchors?”

“Yes, four. In case I need to stay in a harbor with foul weather and unable find a hanger or fly to safety out of the path of a storm.”

“Why is it so bad?” She shook her head. “This is the worst thing to happen.”

“Worst?” Tom shook his head. “Naw. We’re alive.”

“I want to go home.” She looked at him. “Now!”

“Okay, once the Fantasy secured, there will be a limo pick you up and you will catch the flight to Ocean Bay.”

Tom sighed heavily as he pulled his phone from its holster and tapped on the screen a few times, and nodded. Then he swiped a finger over the screen.

“Mo? It’s Tom Harte. Say, I need a ride for someone and I’m not at a normal location.” Tom looked at Kaylee sadly as she climbed down the ladder back into the cabin of the jet.

Long minutes passed before he climbed back down into the cabin and found Kaylee curled up on a couch. Her legs pulled up and she was hugging herself in a fetal position.

“A limo will pick you up on shore and I have chartered a plane to take you back home. I will stay here to meet with the FAA, there will be questions.” Tom said softly.

Kaylee nodded and quietly wept into her knees.

Tom walked without a word to the front of the flying boat. At the door, he opened the shoulder-wide closet, and lifted out a bundle and put it in the water. Carefully finding a handle, he pulled firmly, causing a rubber boat to inflate at the door. An electric motor he quietly released from a recess in the closet then attached it to the mount on the back of the boat. With waterproof cables and a practiced touch, Tom had the rubber skiff ready in moments, then went to work.

He sat in the boat and the electric motor seemed that the twenty-foot boat would be woefully underpowered to move the jet, but after a minute, the machines began to move. Painfully slow in the beginning, then with gathering speed, against the flow of the rising tide, Tom was able to bring it within range of the fire department to reach across to the wing with ladders and anchored it with three anchor lines strung from the shore to keep it secure.

Inside the plane, delayed panic turned into anger at her brush with disaster, she blamed him for putting them in jeopardy.

Showing off nearly killed them, and she was not sure she wanted on the plane, any plane, ever again.

She had never been so frightened in her life and it made her angry, and he had promised! He was a supposed protector and her personal hero.

Her personal hero? Hero’s did not put their people in danger.

He was no hero. He was a… Loser.

It was the only insult she could think of just then.

*I don’t care if he is an author and has money.* She wept. *He almost killed us just to show off. Like a boy with his dad’s car.*

It was the most angry she had ever been at anyone in her life, she could not even look at him.

She wanted to go home, as far away from the plane, the man and this wine country, as he called it, as she could.

Married By Mistake Chapter 10. After The Rescue

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Chapter 10. After The Rescue

 
After talking with the President of Ocean Bay University and the police, giving her statement, Tom walked with Kaylee down the open air hall of the college.

“How did you know where to find me?” Kaylee asked Tom after a long silence while they walked down the stairs of the college and towards her car. “There are more than ten art classrooms there.”

“We tried three rooms with Dr. Manga’s pass key before we found you. I was getting worried that you were in deep trouble, and you were.”

Kaylee wept and leaned against him as they stood by her car.

“I’m sorry. I…” She sobbed against his chest. “Sorry.”

“He was up there blaming you for entrapping him.” Tom frowned, free hand clenched into a fist. “I talked with Professor Manga while you talked with the police, and he has offered to test you on your finals if you would take them with a summer class next month. It will be in a group.”

“Oh wow.” Kaylee wiped her eyes on his chest and laughed tearfully. Wiping the wet spot on his shirt. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. That’s what I’m here for. I’m your personal snot-rag.” He said softly.

She laughed, his support made the pain of the situation so much less. Tom could be funny in the most quirky way.

“Thank you.”

“There he goes.” Tom nodded towards the two police cruisers pulled away with now ex-Professor in the back seat.

President Manga walked towards them from the steps of the University.

“AH! Good, you have not yet left. Kaylee , in light of the events today and review of your record, I’m passing you on your final exam with a one hundred percent. Further, you will not need to deal with that cretin directly. You might be called upon as a witness, but you are not the one filing a complaint. That would be my office and my signature. Tom is a witness to his criminal misconduct as are you. He attempted to entrap you in his little game.” A volcanic anger seemed to radiate from his eyes. ”It seems that there is more to this as well. He had video cameras in there from several angles. A search of his office showed a number of computer memory sticks with other women he had done this to.”

“I’m not the only one?” Kaylee asked, the thought of being in a personal library of porn took her by surprise.

“There could be hundreds. He was here for years, a tenured professor. The police will be investigating, and Tom,“ President Manga looked away from Kaylee . “I hope this does not affect our business together.”

“Of course not, my friend.” Tom said as they shook hands. “In fact, you are the hero of the hour. If we had not stopped our meeting to check on this, who knows what might have happened to her. But she is safe now.”

“Most excellent, I will leave you then and you can take her home.” Turning to Kaylee he spoke softly with his basso-profundo voice. “Missus Harte, you have an honorable husband and a good man here. Congratulations on the marriage.”

“Thank you Professor.” She said softly, her tension slowly leaving her. Still traumatized, she hung on to Tom.

“Let’s head home.” Tom said.

Riding in the car, Tom pushed a Bluetooth device in his ear and told the phone to call the local car rental, spoke with the person on the other end and made arrangements to pick the rental car up and then broke the connection.

Instead of driving to the harbor, Tom drove towards the airport.

They turned on a road and a guard let them through the gate to a private parking area of the airport. Tom pulled up to the yellow zone and turned off the car.

“Why did you move it?”

“More than a few days in the water, marine life begins to grow on the hull. So I need to bring it out and have the hull cleaned, I’ve seen that before on some float planes that have sat too long in the ocean. It makes the engines work harder to get us airborne and fuel consumption goes up. Besides, speaking of fuel, we need to fuel and reload with water. We have been using the fresh water like crazy, when I went to take a shower this morning and… nothing. We were empty of fresh water.”

“Wow. I didn’t think of that.”

“Neither did I. It’s a lifestyle. It is something that takes some getting to used to.” He said smiling as he got out of the car.

She was quiet for a few minutes while they embraced against her car, thoughts rolling around in her head, when she remembered one important issue.

“Tom. Have you gotten the papers?”

“Papers?”

“Annulment papers. We are having fun and all, but I have a life back home and a boyfriend that I’m quite sure he would not understand this.”

Tom gave a nod with a sigh.

“Yes. You said thirty days.”

“I know, but you followed me to the college. I can handle myself, there is no need for a stalking hero.”

“So it seems.” Tom said flatly, no longer smiling. “You were wearing nothing but a towel, he was standing naked on the stage and you were about to climb on a bed with video camera’s all around.”

Tom looked directly at her as they sat at the stoplight. “He was going to extort you into sex. You are tough, probably the toughest woman I know, you can break a man’s arm, give him knowledge bumps on his melon, but you could not fight that.” Tom frowned. “He had you over a barrel and, if you were alone, he would force you to comply. But you were never alone. Not after I made the promise.”

“I don’t need a hero, Tom.” He irritated her by thinking she needed some omnipresent protector. “I want to go home alone, you drive back to your plane. There’s a lot on my mind right now.”

“Why are you mad at me? I helped you, if the Professor and I did not arrive when we did, you’d have your legs wrapped around that… That… Monster because he would destroy your life if you didn’t.” Tom clenched his fists hard enough to her back that his knuckles cracked.

“Desperate people can do desperate deeds, and you had no wiggle room.” Tom tried to help with his words, but failing. “If you walked out, he could have denied everything and charged that you failed your test and were now retaliating. He would have wiped out your scholastic career. You might as well have quit your studies totally and applied at the local bar and serve whiskey and wine to horny students for the rest of your life.”

“So you are saying I would have prostituted myself for a grade?”

Tom gaped and went slack-jawed. Without intending, that was what he had said.

And it was the truth. Without a rescue, a helping hand, someone to blow a whistle, Professor Billings was going to extort her into sex. Then with the video camera’s around, the Professor would have had even more leverage on her.

*It could have gone on for months, maybe even years,* Her heart fell, Tom was right. *Using the pornographic home movies of me banging him to keep me quiet or worse.*

“I’m saying he was blackmailing you. The police already know of dozens of other women from the quick scan of the memory sticks that Dr. Manga and I found and gave to the police. The detectives took another hundred or more, it was a trunk load of full evidence bags from his office — All memory sticks. I have no idea what is on those.”

She finally asked the question that was burning in her mind when she slipped out of his arms and walked around the car to get in the driver’s seat.

“Do you think there are other videos of girls on them?”

“Yes, the few we saw were dozens of thumbnails of women having sex with him. Some files were time-stamped a decade ago.”

“Oh, damn!”

“Tell you what, “ Tom sighed. “Let’s not fight, instead let’s go north to some wine country. Let’s do some wine tasting in the north state. We’ll there in an hour, I’ll even give you a low pass over the vineyards and then spend the next few days there. It’ll be fun.”

“Tom. You can’t just smooth over this.” She thought a moment and relented. It was a romantic and exciting idea. “But okay, it sounds wonderful. But you are still in trouble for ignoring me when I said I’d go alone.”

“You went alone. I just had a meeting with someone from the school.”

“You mister Harte,” She raised her voice in mock irritation and put her finger on his chest, just over his heart. “Called him because you were jealous!”

“These meetings have gone on for two months. It is not my first time to break bread with Doctor Manga. You know that he is leaving as the Headmaster of the school next year. His contract runs out at the end of August and he has accepted a position at Cambridge University. I’m invited to speak at his installation.”

“Then you had no choice to mention I was there?”

“I just asked when all classes ended.”

“I’m not sure about that.” She eyed him suspiciously. “I’m still mad at you. Go home. I’ll come by later.”

“Call me before you do. I have some services to schedule. The Wizard is out of water and low on fuel, and I’ll hire a company to clean and repaint the hull. We will be taking the Fleeting Fantasy. She is the first one I bought when the first four books sold.”

“Where are you going to pay for, you said service and this…” Kaylee paused as Tom’s words sank in. “Wait… a second airplane?”

“Here at the airport. You will be able to come here if you like. I’ll leave word with the guard, your car will need a sticker. This is also where I rent my cars. Way easier than having the company pick me, or us, up at the dock.”

“Okay. When do we leave?”

“Well, it’s almost noon now. They’ll be done servicing it all by the time you’re back. So anytime you arrive, we can leave. Bring some comfortable shoes and clothing to wear at the wine tasting. You’ll be standing a lot.”

“Where are we going, precisely?”

“Lodi.”

“Low…who?”

“You’ll see.” Tom laughed softly.

Trying to kiss her, Kaylee turned her face.

“I’m still mad at you. I don’t know why, but I am.” She looked at Tom with tears in her eyes. “Your timing was perfect today. But I’m still mad at you.”

He watched her car disappear around the guard shack into the lunch hour traffic, he felt a familiar pain.

Tom gave a heavy sigh then turned and made his way towards the Pacific Wizard, walking across the tarmac he wished it would rain.

Walking in the rain, no one can tell when you cry.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 3. Chapter 4. Awakenings

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Gen 3. Chapter 4. Awakenings

“Ugh.” His mouth felt like someone stuck an old, used gym-sock in it. Then the pain hit. He tried to squeak again, but his tonsils complained loudly. His voice squeaked like fingernails on a chalkboard. His throat was on fire.

“Amsi. Shhh.” It was a familiar voice. “You will need some hydration, here is some warm water with honey and lemon.”

The first swallow was painful, but heaven followed close behind the swallow. The honey settled on the surface of his throat and put out the fire, the citrus hit, but the pain produced was, while not pleasant, tolerable and worked in concert with the honey for relief.

“Thank you…” Damn! He forgot her name. She was one of his crew, but not one of the engineers.

“Fae.” This was a different voice. Smaller, but with authority and nearby. “Her name is Fae.”

Amsi’s eyes took longer to focus than he thought it should.

“Slowly.” Doctor Ofir’s voice still sounded strange in his ears. “You have been sedated for two days after taken out of stasis. You have spent the last thirty-millenia at just under three-degrees Kelvin.”

“Thirty? We were only supposed to sleep for ten years. What happened?” He blinked again, sipping on the tea of honey and lemon. His eyes focusing more. “What the f..”

He paused.

“No offense but … what are you?”

“We are mini’s. Minibots. You set out to avoid the virus’ that the other system created in the ancient times, created nanobots to recycle all the machines of war. They are still around, but from them, the Core Systems evolved many more sizes.”

“Amsi, I will explain later.”

“I’m still wrapping my head around this… Robot? And how it evolved so quickly.”

“They call themselves “Bots”. They are an evolution that has happened over thousands of years, so not as swift as you think.”

“Wait.” Amsi shook his head, information was not processing. “What?”

“You need some more tea, maybe a shot of rum or vodka. I have a lot to bring you up to speed on.”

For the next two hours Fae spoke of three-hundred centuries, Core System, Thea, the Doctor, the tens of thousands of flitting artificial life forms outside the window that existed with great alloys of the machines of war that the people left sitting out when all, what the Core System logs called “Organics” went into cryogenic vitrification.

Reanimation, the Fae showed Amsi the logs, was a complicated, careful and exacting process using the nanobots and microbots and replacing the cryoprotectants that did not crystallize in ultra-low temperatures.

Even with helium as a superfluid, the crystals of ice did not form and poke holes in the cell walls of the body.

Such was the theory.

Initial numbers used, predictions estimated that one or two may not survive the freezing. (Mathematically, there would be a loss of 1.48 of the personnel.) Estimations were only for a single decade, after three-thousand times longer than anticipated, logs indicated forty-two pods showed excess cryoprotectant in the helium.

The bodies were leaking.

Nanobots, unable to function at such low temperatures were on standby.

However, after a long time, the Core Systems estimated that greater than half the fluids of the organic bodies had leached out. Rendering the humans inside little more than extremely cold, desiccated mummies.

Amsi moaned on the information she passed onto him.

“We were never meant for that length of storage. The system was never designed for that long of operation without supervision.”

“We supervised.” Thea fluttered about. “All systems were under the control of the Core System. Repairs performed by all the bots.”

“There were no qualified humans to oversee the machines.” Amsi the engineer argued.

“Sir. The bots here are as capable as anyone I have seen. They can repair cells and lift whole buildings with the megabots. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they can do what we could.” Fae frowned and pulled at her ear.

“The logs show my brother now weighs less than his clothes. There is only liquid helium in his veins now, as soon as he’s taken out, he’ll crumble like dried out leaf.”

“He still has a PICC line, like we all do.” Fae said. “We can infuse more into it in the chamber, correct?”

“No, I don’t know.” He shook his head. “Maybe. Could be. If we warmed him up to, say, four Kelvin? Special IV tubing would remain flexible and we could flow cryoprotectant into him and refill all the cells over the course of a few days and displace the helium. The helium would be at the boiling point and easy to replace.”

“What if we just replace his fluids as we warmed him up?” She asked.

“No, helium would be gone before any glucose or blood solutions would make it into his body, the cells would collapse like dried out eggshells the moment there is any pressure to refill them.” He rubbed his chin. “That’s not even medical, that is structural engineering. Right now, helium is supporting everything. It has to be a two-stage rehydration. Maybe three.”

“Okay. We warm him up first?”

“No. Oh no. We get the medical teams out first. Just because I understand the process, does not mean I understand the biological effects. What if he has a hole in something important? I can’t sew it up.”

“Oh, I understand.”

“So engineers first, medical folk second, so engineers can make things work, the ones marked here in red, they are last. Medical will need to deal with them as a team with the… What did you call them? Nanobots? But there will need to be a teamwork between everyone. Artificial or Organic.”

“Thank you.” Thea smiled as she sat up in her saddle.

“Thank me for what?”

“You acknowledged us as living beings and are part of a team. Even our nanos.”

“Miss… Uh. “

“Thea.”

“Miss Thea. You make it easy.”

“No. Just Thea.”

“Okay, Just Thea.” He smiled. “You make it easy to feel you are real and alive. We have been here to seek contact with new life. Even if we build it.”

Thea laughed.

“My full name is Wentvie Thea. Our second name is given, our family name comes first.”

“My apologies.” Amsi winked. Then Thea knew she was victim of a human sense of humor. “I will refer to you only as Thea or Miss Wentvie.”

She laughed. It sounded like tiny windchimes.

*Humans waking up,* she felt, *A good thing.*

The Golden Hour

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The Golden Hour

The water was cold in the early morning, washing the rescue-ship in the shadow of trees in the hours after sunrise, such is the beginning of any shift in the high mountains with the remote station.

A three-day shift began on Rescue-Medic-10. For two-hundred Terran years it had been the base for rescues in the wilderness of the planet’s northern hemisphere. It was a planet just coming out of an ice-age, giant glaciers still were visible in the distance, miles thick, they still retreated up to one-hundred meters per planetary year. A few faster, many slower, still the settlers from the home world would forge a living in the spreading alpine-forested world.

Once rocky and barren, not so much as a microbe had been found with probes, introducing cyanobacterium and land-plants four-centuries before had caused a spike in oxygen that surpassed that of the normal twenty-one percent Terran air quickly, becoming an energetic twenty-eight percent in the four centuries since humans planted in the carbon rich atmosphere.

The planet, chosen for atmospheric manipulation as the stellar system that surrounded the orange-dwarf star was emerging from a dense cloud of space-debris that had blocked the radiation and heat from the planets sun.

‟Incident assigned.” Came the sound from the station-wide speakers.

‟Long fall, male fell from roof of structure, approximately five meters.”

The crew of three moved to their vehicle, a ducted-fan vertical-lift airship warmed up and lifted off.

‟Rescue-Medic-Ten responding.” Justin Timeagain spoke into the mic-boom of his helmet. Long a medic in the wilderness, once he had gone to earth and had spent a few years in the black-paved forests that were the cities before returning to the planet of Sunkissed-two with stories of horrors on man versus man over the price of stale beer.

‟ETA five minutes.” Rajish Coriolis said.

‟Copy Rescue-Medic-Ten.” The disembodied voice came over the earphones. ‟Incident update, victim is on the ground but sitting up, reporting party states that victim has an altered level of consciousness and is not speaking clearly.”

Justin and Rajish looked at each other. Rajish, the best pilot in the out-lands had worked with Justin for nearly three decades, attending each other’s weddings and birth of children.

Good friends that had been together often over the years.

Honoria ‟Honey” Stathatos, a field nurse-in-training assigned to Justin for her orientation to flight rescue. Engineer and communications officer, a polyglot from earth Jose ‟Yak” Herrera, the only one of the crew that spoke as many languages as could be known. His talent for learning a langauge fluently in a week was legendary in the company, but he was dangerous with anything heavy or sharp.

Lifting off, they rose above the rapidly growing forest, trees already taller than the tallest living things on earth sprouted and grew in the high carbon atmosphere and iron rich soils that oxidized, releasing ever more nutrients for the planets new life to live on.

Evolutionary effects changed life forms rapidly. Bees became larger in the dense atmosphere and low gravity of the super-earth.

‟Rescue-Medic-Ten, be advised, reporting parties on scene say the victim is impaled in the thorax.”

‟Well, that makes things a whole lot harder.” Justin observed quietly.

Raj just smiled, not wanting to make any inappropriate humor comments that might be picked up by the flight-deck recorders. Where they headed was under a storm-cloud. The small VTOL craft was over-engineered, over-engined and powerful with contra-rotating impellers of the ducted fans, just the machine needed for dependable operations in the overgrown forests that orbited as an emerald jewel around the gem of the orange-dwarf star.

‟Rescue-Medic-Ten, this is Bald Mountain Fire Protection Engine-4, Captain Yehn. We have a landing zone for you cleared. Lat and long transmitting to you from my location.

‟Copy Captain Yehn. Our ETA is short, we are vectoring with you in sight.” Raj reported without emotion.

Yak came on the intercom, his voice more baritone since he arrived from earth.

‟Justin, we have a super-cell developing to our south and east, just the direction we will want to go. Weather forecast shows it might go over the top of the incident.”

‟Thank you, Yak. I wonder if the winds there have something to do with that.”

‟Could be.” Raj agreed. ‟I’m showing gusts of greater than thirty-knots around the LZ.”

‟Copy that,” Justin said. ‟Yak, monitor any rotation that develops on doppler and keep us updated, we are going to hot-load, if we take time for tea, we may not get out for a while if there is a rotation.”

‟Justin, what are you worried about.” The female voice of Honey sounded in his ear.

‟Rotating storms in these mountains get a boost from the shapes made by the glaciers, downslope winds compress,  pick up moisture and then sucked up. If it rotates, we could have the makings of a tornado. In this area, they are more-or-less stationary and last for long minutes and some as long as hours. We find bare areas in the forest, trees are not native here and have not adapted to these kinds of storms.”

‟What— how do you adapt to that kind of wind?” She asked. A native Terran, she had arrived on the S-2 planet six months ago.

Justin and the others chuckled.

‟There is no defense other than to go to ground as far as we know. We can build to withstand the wind, but that takes time and money the company does not like spending, and going into a hole is faster.” Yak said over the sounds of the engines.

‟We are on final approach, lady and germs, strap in for a bumpy landing.” Raj said matter-of-factly. ‟We have cross winds that are just at the redline, but we have a wide area to put down in.

‟That… That is a wide area?” Honey said, looking at the thumb-nail sized patch of rock they were approaching.

‟It looks bigger when you are on it.”

‟It better, it is nearly microscopic from here.”

‟Don’t look out the window, focus on the descent speed and altitude readouts. You’ll feel less panic then.” Raj sounded as if he had done this a hundred times.

And he had, more than a dozen times over.

‟Quiet please, emergency traffic only while I put the bird down.”

The group fell into silence, as the contra-rotating blades changed speed and pitch, the HummingBird class rescue airship, agile and fast when need called, set down on the landing wheels.

‟Yak, keep an eye on the doppler and the boilers stoked, old friend, we will be back asap.” Raj said, second in command on the ground, he followed Justin out the back ramp with his backpack and calculators. ‟This is all kinds of farked up to operate in these conditions!” Raj yelled at Justin as they made their way to the linked-treaded construction tank. Brutally spartan in the interior, it was only good for short-range transports of people, in this case, it was a make-shift ambulance.

Technically against any written protocol in civilized areas, here in the wilderness, they did what worked and wrote their own rules without a leader that had any important title. They were Medical Emergency and Trauma Helilift.

‟Justin! Raj! There are some teams we are plain glad to see land.” Lieutenant Robin Wise smiled as the trio of Honey, Justin and Raj walked up with their hardware.

‟Where is our patient?” Justin asked as they entered the tank. ‟And the appreciation feels nice, thank you.”

‟On his way. Justin, he is hurt bad, he fell on a fence post and it has impaled him, they are having to cut the post off for transport.” She said sadly. ‟Justin, it’s the new sheriff. Do every trick you know.”

‟Oh, damn.” The Paramedic in Justin kicked in, the new Sheriff had moved from the southern hemisphere and gotten control of the corruption that had crept in, the area had become a seed of crime that the leaders had decided that the current sheriff that had a drug problem and needed replacing. A decision that backfired, multiple arrests of community leaders, police officers, a minister later, the miniature crime wave came to an end.

The heavy link-treaded tank clanked along the path that served as a road to the sub-rural area, it stopped and lowered the ramp, allowing the flight-crew to enter.

Tomatsu Kia was well liked, an encyclopedic knowledge of the law made him respected by politicians and criminals, and his good looks made him popular with the women when he was on patrol, his manner would have made a doctor jealous.

Today, after falling off the roof of his own house, the pointed post of the gate entered just below his left ribcage and out just on the opposite of his sternum, piercing his left lung in two places and as Justin assessed the Sheriff, he found that Tom’s right lung also sounded diminished.

‟We have an eighty-kilo male, blood pressure has been steadily de-compensating.” The EMT told Justin. ‟We have him splinted as well as possible with vacuum braces, one-hundred percent oxygen by non-rebreather mask, his nail beds blanch and take a long time to come back to color. More than five seconds.”

Justin nodded, more than just lungs were an issue, then remembered the nurse, Honey.

‟Raj, put a cuff on him so we can get an auto-bp on him asap when we get to the bird. Honey, start an IV, I’ll spike the bags. Please reassess the lungs, give me a report”

Honey nodded and as Justin held out to packages of IV tubing he asked which one.

Laughing inwardly, he was making her give orders and she chose the tubing most used in surgery that this patient would need.

‟Let’s get him to our gurney, we do everything on the way after I get the first IV in, Justin, you do the second one at the same time.

Smiling and nodding. Justin knew she had it handled. Her orange-red hair was nearly white in the starlight of the orange-dwarf star, jokingly refered to as Sunkist in stellar traveler circles.

‟Oxygen saturation is down below ninety percent.” Raj said.

Tom was grunting with every breath.

‟Honey, we need to do something. What would you like me or Raj to do?”

‟We need a chest tube placed.”

‟Sorry, fresh out. How about something in protocol that won’t get us put in jail and our license shredded.” Justin pulled out a package and broke open the seal.

‟Thoractic decompression! Yes. Let’s do that.” Honey jolted from her stuck moment.

‟Copy that.” Justin said as he applied a silicon flap-valve to the end of the large catheter he punctured into the side of the Sheriff.

‟I have mine leaking blood.” Honey’s voice was tight and high.

‟Afirmative, Yak, toss us some towels, would you please? Honey, what do you think to begin transport to a definitive care center for Top-Gun Tom here? He is one of my fave souls in this part of the planet, hate to have him bleed out with this fence stuck in him.”

‟Yes, Raj, get us off the ground and to Challenge Medical Center. What is our ETA?”

‟Forty-minutes at conservative speed.”

‟We were en route here for ten-minutes from time of call,” Justin gave a time report of their current call. ‟It was another five to seven minutes for someone to call and another two minutes to get the call to us. We have been on the ground six minutes, twenty seconds. Of our golden hour before irreversible shock sets in, we have now have used twenty-five plus a half-minute of the sixty we need to get him to a surgeon.” Justin nodded to Honey.

Taking his math into account, Honey looked at Raj.

‟What is our ETA on emergency speed?”

‟Twenty-five minutes, but we will be on vapors when we get there and the engines will be too hot to shut down straight away.”

‟Let’s do it.”

‟Yes, ma’am, code-3 it is.”

The jet engines turned up the contra-rotating blades, Raj adjusted the pitch and they lifted off the ground as if the airship was anxious to leave, the machine knowing that a life was in the balance and time was short.

‟Lady and gents, sit down, shut up, strap in and hold on.” As he buried the throttle to the edge of the top if its scale, after a minute of acceleration, Raj pulled the throttle sideways until it clicked and pushed it forward slowly, the sounds of the airship changed from one of ducted fan to one of jets as the fans disconnected and feathered into ring-shaped wings.

Justin directed Honey to call through the recorded communications system to the emergency department at the medical center. Several stuttering starts, Honey hit her stride on painting a picture of the patient’s condition and communicating with the surgical team at the trauma center.

The gentle increase in felt gravity, kept at a perceived vertical by the gimballed treatment area that the team and patient was in. A new feature to the Hummingbird class vessel, during acceleration or deceleration, the treatment area’s perceived vertical did not change. The emergency team would sit, strapped, in moving seats that prevented falling during treatment procedures.

****

A tone sounded after the automatic blood pressure cuff cycled, Tom’s vital signs were diminishing. His blood pressure had fallen below the normal values and he was hypotensive— low blood pressure— and his heart was beating faster at over one-hundred twenty beats per minute. His body was losing the fight to stay alive, even with the fluids that where initially used.

‟Honey, he is leaking faster than we can put in, progressive shock, if we do not increase his body’s ability to transport oxygen to the tissues, he will go into refractory shock.” Justin said calmly. ‟What is your plan of treatment now?”

‟He needs to have vasopressers.”

‟Hm.” Justin pulled at his ear. ‟Something more immediate that we don’t have to measure. Perhaps Syntheglobin? It has balanced electrolytes and a variety of other needed components that he is losing.”

‟And coagulants?”

‟We have that partially covered with the application of Quickclot bandages, we do not administer that intravenously, don’t even carry it. That is a hospital med only.”

‟Okay.” Honey nodded. ‟Hang two bags of Syntheglobin and infuse it wide open.”

‟Bags already spiked, wide open for infusion.”

‟Justin.” It was Yak on the intercom.

‟Yakkity-Yak, please talk back.” Justing gave a wink to Honey.

‟Information only, a wedge tornado touched down right after we left. There are casualties, they are declaring a multi-casualty incident.” Yak’s voice was grim, but professional.

‟Pilot copies.” Raj said. ‟We are unable to go any faster, as it is we have a required cool-down time on the engines of twenty minutes after landing, then we have to refuel.”

‟Ugh, copy that, Raj.” Justin said. ‟Yak, please keep us posted on the incident and weather.”

‟Affermative.”

‟ETA to the Trauma center, ten minutes.” Raj informed the crew. ‟Clear air between us and them.”

‟Copy, Raj.” Justin said. ‟Honey, what is his oxygen saturation reading?”

‟It’s showing only eighty percent!”

‟Correct. Using the artificial blood it has difficulty in picking up the new blood’s oxygen capacity. It is clear and the translumination of the red light on the probe will not pick it up, we have to change probes that are compatible. On the shelf marked ‟Synthe” pick out a probe and let’s place it on his ear, there is a special clamp for that.” Justin nodded.”That will give us a true reading now that he has had…” He looked at the bags. ‟Two and a half liters of Syntheglobin, and this flavor of Synthe is four-times the oxygen capacity, there is another kind of Synthe out now that has double that, so we can use less of the blood replacement for each victim and use the normal saline for the balance. Hospitals are liking it as they can then use different electrolytes without overloading the patient or having some other challenges.”

Honey nodded, getting a little glassy-eyed.

‟How, I mean, where. That is, how do you keep all that in your head?”

‟I wear earplugs to keep it from leaking out.” Justin laughed.

‟He knows all that useless crap.” It was Raj’s voice. ‟We just need to plug holes and run. Only the doctors need to know it by memory, the rest of us have our data pads. But Justin, he is annoying.”

‟Well, keeps us where we are.”

‟ETA 5 minutes.” Raj’s voice changed instantly to all business.”

‟Assess his lungs again.” Honey told Justin. ‟Monitor shows his heart-rate dropping, below one-twenty.”

‟Good, three liters of Syntheglobin in. Sensors on the I.V. catheters show a blood ph of seven-point-four-two, we have slight alkalosis, but in good shape.” Justin said. ‟Tom, are you still with us?

‟Yeah, I keep going to sleep, though. I don’t feel so good.”

‟Well, according to my rule-book, you are not supposed to. You have a hunk of bronze stuck through you, best I can tell, you have missed your heart, spleen and other organs.”

‟But you said it punctured my lungs?”

‟Ah, you weren’t supposed to pay attention to that. Yeah, but you’re in good shape, we are putting down on the tarmac now. You’ll be in and out in no time.”

Justin looked at Honey. ‟Time?”

‟What do you mean?”

‟Of our golden hour, how much is left?”

‟We have, if our time is correct, eighteen minutes.”

‟Awesome, let’s get him out, swap things over to the portable and let us get this show on the road to the Emergency Department.”

Rolling the stretcher to the edge of the Hummingbird, it fit the waiting emergency room gurney tightly with clips that fit into the frame of the wheeled table and they walked quickly through the doors where the surgical team waited them.

Tom lived long enough to make the golden hour and would live to come home.

Reports made, the crew of the hummingbird headed for home, lifting above the clouds of the storm, Yak said it was overcast with showers, but no major storms in the area when the computers on board illuminated with information and a computer generated voice chimed in on the pleasant converstions…

‟Incident assigned.”

The Pirate Kingdom Facet 11. Escape

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Facet 11. Escape

The Doctor demanded to know what was happening as he and several nurses joined the rush as they all ran down the hall with half the black clad group in front and the balance covering their escape when the Doctor finally got his question answered.

“Star Empire has attacked the station. There were news releases that the vaccine is a genocide poison against their people.” The redheaded leader of the group answered. “We arrived here to meet with the science and medical teams to show the vaccine was not toxic and meet with investigators of the merchantman attack. Those people who arrived are soldiers, not doctors or scientists. Three Buccaneer ships intercepted the attacking ships, but the Empire ships outnumbered them and they have fallen back to the far side of the planet. The soldiers have made it into the station and have taken control of elevator command center.”

“They caught my fleet in the ambush when the hidden ships set off anti-matter charges.” He shook his head. “I have word that Captain P’ak Sitron was fast enough to change the vector and headed out into deep space to stop the fleet safely. But that will make it two or three hours before they can regroup and return, ready for battle. By then, the Empire will be in place, barricaded and in control.”

Blasters came out as they made a corner. One of the black group pulled out a baseball sized object and rolled it down the hallway.

“Close your eyes.” The warrior said to her rolling a glittering, round crystal around the corner into the corridor, then called “Fire in the hole!”

Phoenix closed her eyes just as a silent flash in rapid sequence illuminated so brightly that her eyes were able to see shadow through her eyelids and she would later swear that she could see the bones in her hands that covered her eyes.

A strong hand grabbed her shoulder and propelled her past the point where several people were laying on the ground vomiting and holding their eyes.

“What kind of bomb was that?” She asked no one in particular as they ran down the hallway, explosions followed by a gust of wind in their faces.

“Breach! Hull breach!” Called an obvious human. Of African descent like the doctor, this warrior was shorter than Phoenix but powerfully built, he grabbed the others and dragged them through a doorway and slammed his hand down on an emergency close button and the shrieking wind stopped with everyone’s ears popping.

Through the clear door, Phoenix could see several people sucked around the corner of the last intersection hallway and out of sight.

“That will work against the strike force, they brought that issue on themselves, the Empire has violated every treaty possible just now.” Said the red-headed leader.

“Sir! We can’t get to the transport. We have to find another way off the port.” Phoenix saw on the chest of the man who had pulled her through the hatch wore a name tag “Garr-id”.

“Escape through the utility access. Rhea! Take the civilians to the ship.”

Rhea, a slightly wolfish looking woman with pointed ears interrupted him.

“I can’t leave you, Sir!” She argued.

“You have your orders, now go, these people are non-combatants and do not need to suffer through this. We will meet you at the ship and give you cover, when you are in we will join you.”

A growl like that which Phoenix had never heard from someone before nearly made her laugh, it might have been even comical in another time and circumstance, but now all she did was stare.

Through a small hatch that was quickly sealed behind them and by the sound of debris piled over the access port, hidden.

Rhea and the half-dozen doctors, nurses and former patients ran, crawled, climbed and balanced carefully on pipes as they made their way down the access tunnel towards a destination that Phoenix did not know.

Through the conduits and ventilation systems, sounds of gunfire and high-pitched whine of energy weapons and people screaming dug into Phoenix’s brain.

Rhea held a finger up to her lips as she stopped the group, a low hum from the pipes made their skin tingle. She pressed her ear up against a hatch that looked much like any other, then nodded. Pulling a small flat rectangle out of her belt she pulled a cord from the small palmtop electronic equipment and plugged it into a port next to the hatch.

Phoenix and the others watched as Rhea tapped the screen a few times then a holographic projection appeared over the top of the device showing a hangar door and the hallway was clear. A few more touches and she explained about recording the empty hallway for a few seconds worth.

Rhea smiled and put her hand against the lever of the service hatch and pushed it open and pointed the device at the video sensor.

“Out! OUT! Everyone.” She said in a loud whisper. “Through that door and step to the left and wait for me.”

When the last of the medical team was through the door, Rhea took a bound step and was through the hangar door.

“That last was the most hazardous.” Rhea explained to the group. “They could have seen us, but I blinded the camera for a moment. Okay, to the ship. Quietly, single file behind me.”

The ship was slightly silver-blue in color, Phoenix touched the hull as she walked and it felt like nothing she had ever touched, almost plastic or an oily covering, her fingers came back clean, but they tingled slightly as if from an electric current.

Rhea motioned the people inside and got them seated as she communicated quietly on her headset.

“We are in. Hallway was clear, video camera disabled.” She reported.

“We are already here.” Said the Redhead as the second group appeared from around the corner and through the door. “You are getting slow in your old age.”

The other men half-dragged both the leader and two others who had injuries. It was obvious they had a rough go of it. The smaller ship rocked on the deck as the space port experienced to another impact of heavy weapons fire, only this time red lights lit up and began to flash rapidly.

“Someone finally got the defense systems working.” Thought Phoenix.

In the back of the small ship, Garr-id started pulling at the RedHead’s cloak and armor. “Get this off you, Sir, I have to view your wounds.”

“I’m okay.” RedHead groaned, “It’s a bruise, nothing got through. Next time
someone make sure I’m standing next to a softer wall? Take care of Lieutenant Muir, we have to get this crate launched and out of here to safety, that’s the priority now. We don’t get out of here, your skills with inflicting pain while fixing us will be moot.”

Standing up, the chest had a darkening bruise over the right shoulder. On his back, a large tattoo that was partly hidden by the undershirt, but what Phoenix could see was similar to the markings on all the armor, a bruise growing over his right shoulder-blade. Whatever had knocked this leader down had taken a toll through the armor.

“Sir,” Doctor Concord stood up, “I have had combat medical experience. I am a trauma surgeon, I can help.”

Garr-id looked at the doctor with a quick eye and smiled, “Thanks Doc, I can use you, come here and….” the voices trailed off to the back of the ship as they assessed the other team members condition.

“Rhea, pre-flight emergency launch checks. Let’s get the hell out of here asap. But do it quietly with minimal use of power until the last moment. We don’t want to alert them that we are here. Change the ship markings to that of something more general, a merchant or something.”

Phoenix raised her hand and spoke up.

“Excuse me, but the port defense systems are up— the red emergency lights are up and flashing.”

RedHead looked out the window.

“Good! Thanks! The strike team would not want those systems up, that means one of the control rooms are still in control of the facility. They are fighting back.”

Pressing a few illuminated panels and tapping in a sequence on the panel and a video display came up.

“Foenicks! Good to see you are in control of things.” RedHead laughed into the display. “I’ll keep this short- you look like you are a bit busy.”

“Your gift for understatement would be funny at another time. But we have them contained for the moment. The captain of the transport had called ahead and alerted us that something was up, we just did not know where. We assumed they headed towards the planet.” Fenicks, a tiger-striped face that was bleeding out his nose and one eye was swollen but not shut. “Boru- they are demanding where you are from those that they grab. We have video of them abandoning hallways to follow your direction of travel until they lost you. You are their target Your Majesty.”

“All the more reason to get out of here. Can you give a hand on that?” Boru asked quietly.

“We have decompression problems all over the station, we might have a control problem on hangar door number-5. Yes, yes, I think the controls are overloading and we might have an explosive decompression. Anything in there will be sucked out into space towards the planet.”

“Copy that, Commander Foenicks. We will watch for signs of decompression in about a minute.”

Phoenix looked around and out the ports, no single digit numbers were on any of the doors. There were 21 through 26.

Rhea spoke up. “Pre-flight checks done. We are ready to launch. All power is routed through shielded circuitry.”

“Okay everyone, get your restraints clipped and hold on, we are doing an explosive launch through door two-six.” Boru said. “Rhea, when we move use thrusters only, just keep us from hitting the edges. Let’er drift for a bit once we clear the cloud. No power to the engines, life support or any lights until the last minute.” Turning around and looking at the ex-patients and medical providers, “Folks, it’s going to get bumpy and cold! You civilians will find blankets over your head.  If you get cold? Don’t hesitate to use them, but wait until after we finish bouncing around if possible.”

A shockwave slightly rocked the small ship as door “two-six” blew off it’s track and the atmosphere blew it out. Debris, another small ship slid towards the breach, airtight doors closed around the hangar.

Rhea gently tapped the thruster controls and just gave enough spin to the ship so it rotated out the door directly at the planet appearing to have no control.

The smaller unmanned ship hit the side of the hangar door and split off the starboard engine. Spilling fuel and atmosphere it gained speed and rotation, angling towards the escapees’ ship.

“EVADE!” called Boru as he jumped into the pilot seat next to Rhea. “Z-minus one-hundred. Let’s see if we can keep our cover that was not much of a move.”

Using thrusters only, the ship just sidestepped the spinning debris.

“Passive sensor’s have picked up– SIRE! We’ve been painted with target beacons. We have multiple bogies at multiple vectors coming in from all upper altitudes.” The one with the name badge Timate called out.

Phoenix heard the term, it piqued her curiosity.

“Thems not bogies— thems bandits! Okay, cover’s blown! Cloak the ship, let them lose us in the debris.”

Negative G-forces pulled upward on Phoenix, the only thing holding her down was the multi-point restraints that automatically tightened slightly holding her in place as the ship dropped sharply into the cloud of blown out debris. The ship shook with a concussion.

“They have us! Four Titan A6-T’s” A blond warrior with a at a weapons console that Phoenix did not get the name of.

“Emergency dive! Into the atmosphere. Target the lead ship with pulse cannon.” Boru ordered.

The ship rattled with cannon’s rapid fire. Bolts of particle energy struck the first attacker who dissolved into photons and sparks.

“Three more, we are in the atmosphere boundary, we will be visible!” Garr-id yelled.

“Keep going, we’re outgunned up by the spaceport.” Boru looked up and then at the his displays, “Prepare to abandon ship!”

The outside the ship began to heat by the entry into the surrounding atmosphere of Aquila Nova as they sailed at hypersonic speeds into the atmosphere below.

“Drop the cloak, SIre?” Called Rhea

“No no, we need to fake them out a bit longer. Prepare to jettison empty escape pods two through six in half second intervals. Then the rest of you take the last of the pods and abandon ship. I’ll take the ship back up into space while still cloaked. They will think we broke up on reëntry for a moment or two, long enough for you folks to get away.” Rhea started to protest but Boru held up a finger, “You are the Captain, but I outrank you, the civilians will need you to fend for them, until I am able to draw the Empire ships off.”

Rhea grumbled acceptance and went back to the controls and primed the empty pods for jettison without shielding as the ship rocked with more hits.

“We are visible!” Garr-id called. “Shields are holding, cloak is disabled.”

Phoenix terrified at the thought that she was about to die.

“Jettison pods two through six!” Boru yelled from his pilot seat. “Everyone in escape pods seven through twelve and deploy on my mark.”

Rhea directed the Doctor back to the seat next to Phoenix, a sudden jerk and the seats backed up an arm’s length and a door slid over the void left by their movement.

“Oh damn, I had forgotten how much I hate this.” Doctor Concord growled. “If I live through this, remind me to schedule that pirate to get his colon scoped with a reamer.”

“Pirate?” She asked.

“Yes, don’t you know? That’s why they are after him– he is Boru U’Maille, the Pirate King. He and his father drove them back in the last wars and forced the peace treaty” Dr. Concord tried to force a smile. “He is a thorn in their side. A big one.”

“THAT is the Pirate King? It must be a mistaaaaaaAAAA…..” Phoenix’s scream mixed with Dr. Concord’s as the ship made a violent roll and ejected the escape pod out at an angle, they did an arc instead of straight line and the motion was enough for Phoenix’s stomach to rise in her throat. She thought she was about to dump her churning stomach on the Doctor.

The autopilot of the pod took over and they rapidly slowed down, banked into a steep angle. Several lights lit up on panels.

An artificial male voice announced: “Vector stabilized, pod is cloaked, programmed destination arrival ETA is four-minutes.”

“Four minutes to arrive where?” Phoenix asked.

“Don’t bother asking, the computer is not interactive, it is just telling us where we are going.” Dr. Concord said. “They will have all the escape pods land close to each other.”

The Doctor did not lie, the pods had landed and the cloaking shimmered and faded as the escapee’s exited and took account of each other.

Rhea looked around as others came out of the trees where a couple of the pods missed the landing area by a few dozen yards.

“King U’Maille is not here.”

Timate, Phoenix could see him well now, an older warrior with stripes on his shoulders as he walked towards Rhea. “He will be here when he can. The bandits were still trying to stalk the pods. I don’t think they were fully convinced that the ship broke up on reentry.””We are near enough to go to the meeting place, besides, I am hungry.”

“I want to sit someplace that doesn’t move,” One of the wounded warriors limped up on his feet. “Or have someone shooting at me.”

The group agreed and walked into the village.

 

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 6. Bells, Ales and Conversations

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 6. Bells, Ales and Conversations

Four ships rocked quietly in harbor at twilight. Captains and First Mates sat on a small meadow that overlooked the small fleet of predators below, the moon, three-quarters full was already illuminating the horizon. It would be a brightly lit night. No stealth would be possible from the east. The smoke from the cooking fire below, on the lee side of the volcanic rockfall, between boulders half the size of their ships made for a natural chimney. Used by the sailors as a kitchen, the flow of the air dissipated smoke among the rocks and hills, masking their presence to any lookout on the water.

A short hike with the food in hand, the crews assembled stone and wood benches and tables that allowed them to see to all points of the compass to more than twenty-five miles.

Two women sat at either side of the red-headed Keegan who was clearly tense with the attentions of the two women pirates.

“I think I should sit on the other side of the table.” Causing even his father to laugh.

“Keegan, we need you to stay slower on the ship.” Conn said as they ate a dinner. A bottle of ale sat, the adults pouring and laughing while they ate the evening meal later than planned.

“Da’…” Keegan O’Danu started to complain.

“Dash,” Anna “God Wants” spoke softly. “you vasseau… boat… ship… is more rapide tha’ mienne.” Her French accent slightly enhanced by the copious ethanol in the new ale donated by her last visit on the Spanish Treasure fleet. Annemarie, once one of the Fille du Roi, sent to the Caribbean because she was disruptive in the King’s Court, and still did not have that small voice most people have when it came to speaking her mind.

“You must reduce the sails you set so we can keep up.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, setting his ears ablaze with heat.

Captain Delahaye laughed and talked with the muscular first-mate with dark-eyes, playing with her hair while he poured her more ale from his pitcher.

Dana looked at his brother with one eyebrow raised.

“What is going on with her?”

Keegan shook his head and looked at his father for guidance, the elder O’Danu laughed.

“That, my boys, is the age-old mating ritual.” Looking at their puzzled faces. Keegan looked alarmed when the sailor reached out and touched the bright-red hair of the pirate captain.

“She will kill him.

“Perhaps.” Conn said with a crooked grin. “But not in the way you think. Come with me, let’s start talking about what our plans are from here. Leave those two be for now.”

“But… but…” Keegan still did not comprehend.

“That bruise on your shoulder?” Conn asked his son while they walked to the fire, around which the other captains sat in the hidden grove of trees and tall rocks.

“Yes?” Keegan said. It had mostly healed, Granuaille did not sock him so much after they were away from each other so long at sea. “It still hurts, but it is no longer the color of the midnight sky.”

Conn laughed at his young sons quandary of the attentions of a girl. Here was a young man who could sail around the world, but did not know the first thing about romance of the heart.

The three O’Danu’s sat in the circle with the other captains and officers.

“Where est Jacquotte?” Anna asked, then screamed. “DELAHAYE!”

“OUI?!” The answering voice echoed. “Je viens!

Finally, when all eight members of crews sat, with other crew sitting behind, paying rapt attention.

“The treasure fleet comes through in the next fortnight, they are punctual, but the ships from Campeche had difficulty with Morgan again.” Jacquotte winked. “So I predict that they will be on the far edge of the fortnight and sailing direct. They risk the storm season and will not waste time trying to hide during the day and sail only at night. This time, maybe they carry silver or gold, not chocolate.”

“Even under full sail,” Keegan said, his red-hair glinting in the firelight. “We can catch them.”

“Est malavisé, em… unwise.” Anna shook her head. “They catch us in open daylight without surprise, the war-galleons will stand and fight. Big Spanish canon are bad to face. We must catch them with their guns stowed and guard down.”

“We can catch them in the dark. In a fortnight, the moon will be on the wane.” Keegan said. “But still too bright, nightwatch will see anyone coming close.”

“Broken clouds would help.” Dana spoke up, then looked down when every eye turned towards him.

“We cannot depend on that.” Conn looked at Dana. “Weather is on thing that we can only take advantage of.”

“Da’.” Keegan said, defending his brother. “He knows.”

Jacquotte spoke up.

“We will speed up the chance to catch them on the first leg of the journey. Not far from where they depart, there is a small harbor, we can put ships there and in another harbor. When the war-galleon’s turn to fight the chasers, the treasure ship will run ahead.”

“Into the hunters.” Conn shook his head. “Is this how you always work?” The father asked the son.

“Often, Da’.” Keegan’s voice was soft. “We just followed.”

“I do not approve, we are here to retrieve your mother.” Conn looked around. “You said you would help us find his mother.”

Monsieur O’Danu,” Anna looked at him evenly. “This est how our life est. We make the living from what we take, and the Empires we take from deserve no less.”

Few times in his life did Keegan O’Danu see his father truly frown. This being one of those times.

“We are on a mission to seek my mother.” Keegan said, in defense of his sire’s disappointment. “I will not be distracted with the hunt of a treasure ship. My Da’ has never taken a ship, he builds them.”

“And fine ships they are, too!” A voice behind Jacquotte sounded.

“We go to Port Royal first. No stopping until we get there after we leave here. You can gather crews and a fleet then.” Keegan spoke with his old edge. “My mother awaits, my father will seek to rescue her, but he will not fight in any combat.”

Jacquotte turned to Anna and pulled on her left earlobe and took a breath.

“The son protects the father. It is upside-down, the son is the warrior, the father is the peacemaker.” She looked Anna directly in the eye. “Père O’Danu est brebis among wolf.”

Shaking her head, the blond French Captain nearly wept.

Monsieur O’Danu, you stay at Port Royal and get to know our friends. Mon Dash will come with us, we will bring your épouse back to Port Royal.”

This was the best news that Conn heard, but not the news he wanted to hear.

Conn was a sheep among wolves.

The Pirate Kingdom: Facet 1. War against Empire

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Note: This is a concept story that came out of my head. Might not be developed.

The Winged Sword

 Facet I.

In the outer reaches of the systems, the cargo ship Seraph shuddered as he pushed the engines to the limit. The Captain, Iridium Metrano was twelve years its master. He loved the position. Out away from the worlds, trading with the different outworld’s. It was a great life, an adventurous one. Pirates, traders, empires, rogue black holes that were uncharted.

 And the lovers in each port. Captain “Eye” (as his crew called him with affection) slipped a soft, secret smile into his morning as he recalled the last port of call.

 One Captain he had met a year before and had kept in touch with the woman adventurer in a virtual world of “Spacelife” for the out-system shippers. She was… Fun.

 An alert light at the navigators position lit up, bringing the Captain out of his pleasant memory. It had been an uneventful trip thus far, well more than half-done. This trip was to be well profitable with their trading for a pure solvent and coolant purchased at Storis for a pittance. One-hundred thousand metric tons of oxidane and another ten-thousand metric tons of oxane — oxidane binary solution. The bottom line would be very profitable. The biggest problem was more of the fact that the cargo was not as dense or compact as it could be. The danged stuff was potentially hazardous.

 As a solid it could fracture bulkheads if the cold of space got to the loads. In the gaseous state, the potential of lethal burns was very real. It took only a little of it to be inhaled to cause health problems up to and including death.

 Handled properly? It was very safe. But bulky. At a kilogram per cubic meter, it was a lot of cubic meters. The engines strained with the Alcubierre drive doing it’s best to contain the volume of the mass. The weight was not a serious problem, it was the volume that kept the warp bubble unstable.

 For the twenty-fifth time the intercom beeped on the captain’s headset from the engineering department, another complaint from Engineer Lockesly from the outworld systems. He was closed about what he was doing on a boomer.

 The colloquial names of the big cargo ships. Long lost to history, the name boomers had a long and proud tradition. Occasionally called outlaws or even pirates. They did not rob, but did strive for freedom on the shipping lanes outside the empires rule.

 Another light on the navigator’s panel lit. A proximity alert. Something had entered the ship’s sensor range.

 Sir! Incoming electromagnetic pulse!” Yelled the weapons officer. “It’ll knock out or drives!”

 The worst had happened, the warp bubble collapsed and they dropped to normal space. Seraph was built as a very tough ship, but the sudden change in speed put the entire ship under strain. Noises and groans as the ship held together as the structure was strained to the limit.

 “Incoming message.” Kitt the burly male human-siberian tiger hybrid whose arms were more the size of most men’s legs with shoulders to match. Kitt would laugh and say that the only exercise he ever did was to lift a beer to his lips and pour. His striped white fur so very fine on his skin, it gave him a look that glistened in the light.

 “Prepare to be boarded.” was the only message as impacts of weapons fire lit up the weapons officer’s panel.

 “They are hitting the hanger doors, Sir!”

 “Hail them! Tell them to stand down, we surrender.” The Captain responded.

 But it was too late.

Facet II. Captain’s Log Found

 The pinging of the emergency beacon, detected on the coded sub-channel by the incoming rescue ship. A channel often used by Boomer’s when wanting to keep conversations out of the ears of pirates or empire raiders.

 The cargo ship power section, that included crew’s quarters and medical facilities responded. Leaving their cargo orbiting a planet, the good ship “Katrina” was pushing her graviton engines to the maximum while relaying the beacon’s coördinates to other cargo-haulers in the area. The “Copper Nugget” was responding but was a half-day away at full speed.

 Another ship answered the call for help, from the distant outlands. “Fireball Express” was pushing its Alcubierre drive until they reported that they had set a personal speed record and would be there shortly after the Katrina. The Seraph was going to have all the help she could use.

 The super-cargo hauler “Alexandra the Great” had dropped its load in the orbit of a gas giant and was responding. Known as one of the most modern superships in the lanes. The captain was a good friend of Captain Metrano.

 “Keep it to the wall Mr. Tox. I don’t want to lose a single heartbeat to the clock.” Captain Phoenix Alexandra, owner and operator on this mission. Her own messages had alerted her company and all ships were responding to the broadcast location of the Seraph.

 A few hours after the ships had arrived in the area. Evidence of a violent battle had taken place on the Seraph. The ship’s log by Captain Metrano had been found.

 Facet III. Captains log:

 

We are under attack, hanger doors were hit first when we dropped out of light-speed.  The first attack has disabled our dorsal engine (number-2 engine) and the warp field collapsed. We hove to and signaled that we were just a merchant ship.  No injuries initially but they shot their way through the hangar doors.  Crews set up defensive positions but we have only minor weapons and cannot hold out.

 

Markings on the ships involved show them to be of the Momo Empire, we have identified one as a capital ship of the DreadStar class.  We sent a general distress call but they have jammed all frequencies. We do not know who have answered and if any are en route with help, but they will be too late I fear.  We will try to hold out, but our ship is no match for Imperial weapons. They have blown holes through the doors and pushing through out of the hanger.  They are assaulting the cargo area where we are carrying twelve-thousand units of Oxonium in armored containers for trade to the Oriak Mining Syndicate as coolant that they desperately need.  

Captain’s Log final entry:

I sent a message to the Pirate Hegemony, but there is none that is close enough to answer in the time on the channels I have used. All other communications are down, I have no other access for standard frequencies. How this will pan out, I will only ever wish and hope against all odds,  it is too late we have lost the ship.  I have been sending out surrender message on all channels but no response….

They have broken through the below decks and have taken over. They are attacking up the stairs, there is no time to finish. I will launch this log to outside the ship with a beacon.

Tell my family I was going home for the holidays. Tell them I love them.

They are coming.

 

Iridium Metrano  

Captain and Master of the Merchant ship Seraph

 

Facet 3. Investigation

 

Teams from the four ships went through the Seraph. Shattered metal from high speed projectiles littered the floor. Here and there, overturned tables lay about, cargo containers upended and used as barricades. Smoking bodies were testament to the futility of the resisting crew.

 Edged weapons were in evidence of a very pitched hand to hand combat had been widespread. The raiders had taken to using combat swords that strongly resembled those used by the Pirate’s of the outlands.

 “Pirates? This is not their way!” The first officer of the Copper commented over the intercom system between teams.

 She picked up a slim bladed sword that glittered evilly. Wider at the tip, the single edge, serrated in a way that promised hideous wounds.

 “This is Royal Pirate style! Damn them! I don’t know why this would happen!”

 Captain Alexandra walked through with her armored entry suit. “Life support systems are nearly repaired. We should be able to…”

 The lights illuminated and ventilation of the air began.

 Emergency lights flashed on a panel, they were venting atmosphere in the bridge somewhere.

Four of the repair crew found where a railgun had blown a hole the size of a fist in the outer hull. Nearly a meter thick of Fendrik Alloy, it was exceptionally tough material that could absorb radiation and meteor impacts without appreciable damage. Very durable and widely used in the boomer ships.

Captain Metrano remained MIA. Worries that he was ejected out into space by the raiders nagged at the rescue teams, but laid to rest when they performed micro-fine object scans for dozens of kilometers around the ship. Several bodies were found within a few hundred yards but it appeared they had not been forced out of any airlocks. They showed signs of being sucked out the holes during explosive decompression.

“Captain to the Alexandra.” As the master of the big ship called over the communicator that hung on her shoulder. “Contact the nearest Pirate Hegemony outpost and request if they had any ships in the area.”

Releasing the mic, she looked at the first officer. “We have to find out if there was anyone in the area. The PH has more information on movements than any one kingdom. If anyone was here, the best odds are the pirates know who it was.”

 “The log said they were in Imperial ships.” First mate Modoc of the Fireball said. His handheld readout reflected off his eyes as he read the transcript.

 “Until we can get verification of what the Captain Metrano recorded, no one can say for certain, right now it is all preliminary and we cannot settle this with the conflicting evidence. A written account and then we have pirate weapons stuck in some of these crewmembers. ” The Katrina’s engineer pointed out. “Until I can get the computers data banks back online and we get access to the sensor logs.”

 “Agreed. We need to return to the ships and organize the information thus far recovered. The confederacy of buccaneers will wish to take charge of the investigation of this crime.” Communications officer Kitt had brought up over the intercom system while he worked under the flooring with the internal data storage units.

 “Negative. We are the only ones here. My ship is the most advanced and has the complete facilities to perform a preliminary investigation of the attack. If any of the pirate kingdoms or clans wish to get involved they have to establish their jurisdiction. ” The communicator buzzed in their ears.

 “Copy, no need to get short on the radio. You have the more current equipment. But the Buccaneers and Pirates normally have the best of everything.”

 “We have contacted them already.” A voice recognized as the second engineer of the Fireball. Those that had readouts recognized his transponder codes.

 Captain Alexandra keyed up her communicator “Crewman, identify yourself, you are not transponder address is not on the crew manifest.”

“No surprise captain, as we are not in the ship, we are outside. You should find 

 “They have?” The distracted voice of Carla Qualy as she was running file scans of the memory core.

 “Yes they have, we have three ships pulling up outside now. firebrand has broadcast their arrival first.” Captain Alexandra spoke. “I’ll be having a word with my ship over this.”

 A collective “OOooo” came from the several teams over the com network.

 Outside three medium-sized ships with crossed lightning bolts and a forward facing skull painted on the side approached and stopped a short ways away from the collection of ships and the smoking wreck.

 The Thunderbolt had arrived.

 

Tunnel of Darkness Section 2

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The smell was nauseating, especially so with the knowledge where the gore came from in the pilot’s nest. Clotted blood and bits of torn flesh plastered the seat and control panels in thick, sticky mass that covered everything in a pattern reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock creation. The co-pilot dragged the captain of the seat and harms way while the sniper kept up the shooting, aiming it seemed, at the rescue symbol. The copilot’s seat being behind the driver of the hybrid craft allowed him to rapidly extricate his friend and pilot out of harm’s way.

With tank treads under a skirt that used hovercraft technology, it was capable of smooth travel along different terrain. The tank tread could be deployed to keep with directional control on slopes, while the hovercraft skirt allowed it to it traverse over marsh, water and broken ground with equal ease.

Throwing blankets over the blood-fouled seat, the backup pilot, using a foaming cleaner, cleared the control surfaces as best he could.

Forced to duck, projectiles once again hit all around the pilot dome and the thumb-sized hole where AP projectile overwhelmed the polycarbonate shield.

“The F-wits back at headquarters cost another life.” The Colonel’s mind was in overdrive of being offended once again. 

The Colonel had long recommended that crystallized, transparent aluminum be used in this exposed area of the field units.

Polycarbonate dome was four fingers thick with a minimal distortion, a corundum dome could do the same job with less distortion and be lighter in weight by being thinner, perhaps as thin as a finger-width. Such a dome could stop a fifteen-millimeter exploding round, but the Advanced Med-trauma Rescue corporation deemed it as not cost-effective. Trading credits for lives.

Again.

Shaking his head, he came out of his cynical moment.

“Colonel, we have teams ready to head out to the scene.” The voice over the radio sounded.

Fifty meters distant, between buildings, he stood and looked out the hole from the pilot’s advantage and sighed. It was between two buildings, they could fit.

But just. No room to maneuver, it was a kill-box if ever there was one.

“MCI treatment protocols are in effect, load and go only.” The Safsy said into the radio quietly. Then took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Then committed them all. “Deploy.”

The Chief of Surgery on the Seraph said that when he gave a report and a patient was dying, his voice was as if he was making small talk. Lately inside his soul, he was always in a panic with a hair-trigger temper at home.

Home.

The last time he had been there, his wife acted surprised and a little disappointed that he had not been killed with his current state of mind. In her life, she could not stand knowing if he was going to walk through the door or come home in a box. She would be better off with the insurance money, financially. But, as she told him, she wanted the man that she married, back.

Now, he stood with his newly promoted pilot in the small control room. Officially it was a one-person closet with a dome that allowed a three-hundred sixty degree view of the area. 

“Strapping on.” The ship as the pilots would say. The pilot control was simply he turned the ship with his mind and used hand controls to fine-tune the different systems to keep the surgical, trauma, and rescue teams and their patients, safe.

Safsy saw a silhouette on the roof of a building, instinctively pulled James Cupri, the pilot, down out of the gaping hole before the sniper began shooting.

“Back-back-back!” Safsy yelled. “Our location is untenable.”

“Emergency reverse.” James yelled back. “Distance from team now is seventy-meters.”

“When the team returns with the victims, move us closer, load them up and get us the hell out of here.” Safsy called with a voice that could have been a conversation about the flavor of toast during a meal.

Four of the paramedic trauma-team walked with intent and speed, then breaking into a run when a crackle of a particle weapon that fractured and melted a large crater in the asphalt ten paces from the team. They followed the route they first took into the area, dragging the victims to the safety of the armored rescue units called ambulances, which was a bit of a misnomer, the true ambulances were fully stocked larger units than these small, heavily armored and speedy rescue units.

But the teams were heading back to the hanger, James at the pilot controls watched the approach of the team and was ramping up the power in the engines.

In the lower level, just below the pilot, the Defense System, Radio and Radar operations was the primary job for the “Rear Seat” officer.

Although Safsy was in charge of the overall ship operations and now with two patients, his job was to get them back to the Seraph safely, making him the next up on the chain as the Radio Officer. They would be returning to the hospital ship with everyone.

Safsy took a deep breath of sad resignation. Once more, doomed to disappointment. He needed to speak to the social worker again, about a badly wounded pilot that would weigh on his mind. The man would live, but he lost a lung. The report would be filed to answer why they entered into an unsafe scene. No matter the dispatch data stream, it was Safsy’s responsibility for the mobile emergency room.

Safsy knew he was in for a restless, terror filled sleep.  would once again have the nightmares tonight.

The pilot…

Crap he could not remember the man’s name!

Moments like this he had so much fear building up inside him. Nothing he did could have avoided the pilot’s injuries, the man who was injured put the vessel in harm’s way with the information displayed on the screen. Still, reports needed writing and filing for all events that led to the wounding of the pilot.

Safsy wondered if there was a large bottle of rum at the Seraph. 

The Golden Hour

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The Golden Hour

The water was cold while washing the rescue-ship in the shadow of trees in the first hour after sunrise, such is the beginning of any shift in the high mountains with the remote station.

A three-day shift began on Rescue-Medic-10. For two-hundred Terran years it had been the base for rescues in the wilderness of the planet’s northern hemisphere. It was a planet just coming out of an ice-age, giant glaciers still were visible in the distance, miles thick, they still retreated up to one-hundred meters per planetary year. A few faster, many slower, still the settlers from the home world would forge a living in the spreading alpine-forested world. 

A planet where summers were torrid in the sunlight, but had a chill in the shade of any tree. The winters were brutal, cold and slightly longer than the summer. Autumn and spring were the growing periods and long as a year on earth. 

Once rocky and barren, not so much as a microbe had been found with probes, introducing cyanobacterium and land-plants four-centuries before had caused a spike in oxygen that surpassed that of the normal twenty-one percent Terran air quickly, becoming an energetic twenty-eight percent in the four centuries since humans planted in the thick atmosphere.  

The planet, chosen for atmospheric manipulation as the stellar system that surrounded the orange-dwarf star was emerging from a dense cloud of space-debris that had blocked the radiation and heat from the planets sun.

‟Incident assigned.” Came the sound from the station-wide speakers.

‟Long fall, male fell from roof of structure, approximately five meters.”

The crew of three moved to their vehicle, a ducted-fan vertical-lift airship warmed up and lifted off.

‟Rescue-Medic-Ten responding.” Justin Timeagain spoke into the mic-boom of his helmet. Long a medic in the wilderness, once he had gone to earth and had spent a few years in the black-paved forests that were the cities before returning to the planet of Sunkissed-two with stories of horrors on man versus man over the price of stale beer.

‟ETA five minutes.” Rajish Coriolis said.

‟Copy Rescue-Medic-Ten.” The disembodied voice came over the earphones. ‟Incident update, victim is on the ground but sitting up, reporting party states that victim has an altered level of consciousness and is not speaking clearly.”

Justin and Rajish looked at each other. Rajish, the best pilot in the outlands had worked with Justin for nearly three decades, attending each other’s weddings and birth of children.

Good friends that had been together often over the years.

Honoria ‟Honey” Stathatos, a field nurse-in-training assigned to Justin for her orientation to flight rescue. Engineer and communications officer, a polyglot from earth Jose ‟Yak” Herrera, the only one of the crew that spoke as many languages as could be known. His talent for learning a langauge fluently in a week was legendary in the company, but he was dangerous with anything heavy or sharp.

Lifting off, they rose above the rapidly growing forest, trees already taller than the tallest living things on earth sprouted and grew in the high carbon atmosphere and iron rich soils that oxidized, releasing ever more nutrients for the planets new life to live on.

Evolutionary effects changed life forms rapidly. Bees became larger in the dense atmosphere and low gravity of the super-earth.

‟Rescue-Medic-Ten, be advised, reporting parties on scene say the victim is impaled in the thorax.”

‟Well, that makes things a whole lot harder.” Justin observed quietly.

Raj just smiled, not wanting to make any inappropriate humor comments that might be picked up by the flight-deck recorders. Where they headed was under a storm-cloud. The small VTOL craft was over-engineered, over-engined and powerful with contra-rotating impellers of the ducted fans, just the machine needed for dependable operations in the overgrown forests that orbited as an emerald jewel around the gem of the orange-dwarf star.

‟Rescue-Medic-Ten, this is Bald Mountain Fire Protection Engine-4, Captain Yehn. We have a landing zone for you cleared. Lat and long transmitting to you from my location.

‟Copy Captain Yehn. Our ETA is short, we are vectoring with you in sight.” Raj reported without emotion. “Approach looks good.”

Yak came on the intercom, his voice more baritone since he arrived from earth.

‟Justin, we have a super-cell developing to our south and east, just the direction we will want to go. Weather forecast shows it might go over the top of the incident.”

‟Thank you, Yak. I wonder if the winds there have something to do with that.”

‟Could be.” Raj agreed. ‟I’m showing gusts of greater than thirty-knots around the LZ.”

‟Copy that,” Justin said. ‟Yak, monitor any rotation that develops on doppler and keep us updated, we are going to hot-load, if we take time for tea, we may not get out for a while if there is a rotation.”

‟Justin, what are you worried about.” The female voice of Honey sounded in his ear.

‟Rotating storms in these mountains get a boost from the valleys in the glaciers, downslope winds compress,  pick up moisture and then sucked up. If it rotates, we could have the makings of a tornado. In this area, they are more-or-less stationary and last for long minutes and some as long as hours. We find bare areas in the forest, trees are not native here and have not adapted to these kinds of storms.”

‟What— how do you adapt to that kind of wind?” She asked. A native terran, she had arrived on the S-2 planet six months ago.

Justin and the others chuckled.

‟There is no defense other than to go to ground as far as we know. We can build to withstand the wind, but that takes time and money the company does not like spending, and going into a hole is faster.” Yak said over the sounds of the engines.

‟We are on final approach, lady and germs, strap in for a bumpy landing.” Raj said matter-of-factly. ‟We have crosswinds that are just at the redline, but we have a wide area to put down in.

‟That… That is a wide area?” Honey said, looking at the thumb-nail sized patch of rock they were approaching.

‟It looks bigger when you are on it.”

‟It better, it is nearly microscopic from here.”

‟Don’t look out the window, focus on the descent speed and altitude readouts. You’ll feel less panic then.” Raj sounded as if he had done this a hundred times.

And he had, more than a dozen times over.

‟Quiet please, emergency traffic only while I put the bird down.”

The group fell into silence, as the contra-rotating blades changed speed and pitch, the HummingBird class rescue airship, agile and fast when need called, set down on the landing wheels gentle enough to not spill anyones drink, if they had any.

‟Yak, keep an eye on the doppler and the boilers stoked, old friend, we will be back asap.” Raj said, second in command on the ground, he followed Justin out the back ramp with his backpack and calculators. ‟This is all kinds of farked up to operate in these conditions!” Raj yelled at Justin as they made their way to the linked-treaded construction tank. Brutally spartan in the interior, it was only good for short-range transports of people, in this case, it was a make-shift ambulance.

Technically against any written protocol in civilized areas, here in the wilderness, they did what worked and wrote their own rules without a leader that had any important title. They were Medical Emergency and Trauma Helilift.

‟Justin! Raj! There are some teams we are plain glad to see land.” Lieutenant Robin Wise smiled as the trio of Honey, Justin and Raj walked up with their hardware.

‟Where is our patient?” Justin asked as they entered the tank. ‟And nice to be appreciated.”

‟On his way. Justin, he is hurt bad, he fell on a fence post and it has impaled him, they are having to cut the post off for transport.” She said sadly. ‟Justin, it’s the new sheriff. Do every trick you know.”

‟Oh, damn.” The Paramedic in Justin kicked in, the new Sheriff had moved from the southern hemisphere and gotten control of the corruption that had crept in, the area had become a seed of crime that the leaders had decided that the current sheriff that had a drug problem and needed replacing. A decision that backfired, multiple arrests of community leaders, police officers, a minister later, the miniature crime wave came to an end.

The heavy link-treaded tank clanked along the path that served as a road to the sub-rural area, it stopped and lowered the ramp, allowing the flight-crew to enter.

Tomatsu Kia was well liked, an encyclopedic knowledge of the law made him respected by politicians and criminals, and his good looks made him popular with the women when he was on patrol, his manner would have made a doctor jealous.

Today, after falling off the roof of his own house, the pointed post of the gate entered just below his left ribcage and out just on the opposite of his sternum, piercing his left lung in two places and as Justin assessed the Sheriff, he found that Tom’s right lung also sounded diminished.

‟We have an eighty-kilo male, blood pressure has been steadily de-compensating.” The EMT told Justin. ‟We have him splinted as well as possible with vacuum braces, one-hundred percent oxygen by non-rebreather mask, his nail beds blanch and take a long time to come back to color. More than five seconds.”

Justin nodded, more than just lungs were an issue, then remembered the nurse, Honey.

‟Raj, put a cuff on him so we can get an auto-bp on him asap when we get to the bird. Honey, start an IV, I’ll spike the bags. Please reassess the lungs, give me a report”

Honey nodded and as Justin held out to packages of IV tubing he asked which one.

Laughing inwardly, he was making her give orders and she chose the tubing most used in surgery that this patient would need.

‟Let’s get him to our gurney, we do everything on the way after I get the first IV in, Justin, you do the second one at the same time.

Smiling and nodding. Justin knew she had it handled. Her orange-red hair was nearly white in the starlight of the orange-dwarf star, jokingly refered to as Sunkist in stellar traveler circles.

‟Oxygen saturation is down below ninety percent.” Raj said.

Tom was grunting with every breath.

‟Honey, we need to do something. What would you like me or Raj to do?”

‟We need a chest tube placed.”

‟Sorry, fresh out. How about something in protocol that won’t get us put in jail and our license shredded.” Justin pulled out a package and broke open the seal.

‟Thoractic decompression! Yes. Let’s do that.” Honey jolted from her stuck moment.

‟Copy that.” Justin said as he applied a silicon flap-valve to the end of the large catheter he punctured into the side of the Sheriff.

‟I have mine leaking blood.” Honey’s voice was tight and high.

‟Afirmative, Yak, toss us some towels, would you please? Honey, what do you think to begin transport to a definitive care center for Top-Gun Tom here? He is one of my fave souls in this part of the planet, hate to have him bleed out with this fence stuck in him.”

‟Yes, Raj, get us off the ground and to Challenge Medical Center. What is our ETA?”

‟Forty-minutes at conservative speed.”

‟We were enroute here for ten-minutes from time of call,” Justin gave a time report of their current call. ‟It was another five to seven minutes for someone to call and another two minutes to get the call to us. We have been on the ground six minutes, twenty seconds. Of our golden hour before irreversible shock sets in, we have now have used twenty-five plus a half-minute of the sixty we need to get him to a surgeon.” Justin nodded to Honey.

Taking his math into account, Honey looked at Raj.

‟What is our ETA on emergency speed?”

‟Twenty-five minutes, but we will be on vapors when we get there and the engines will be too hot to shut down straight away.”

‟Let’s do it.”

‟Yes, ma’am, code-3 it is.”

The jet engines turned up the contra-rotating blades, Raj adjusted the pitch and they lifted off the ground as if the airship was anxious to leave, the machine knowing that a life was in the balance and time was short.

‟Lady and gents, sit down, shut up, strap in and hold on.” As he buried the throttle to the edge of the top if its scale, after a minute of acceleration, Raj pulled the throttle sideways until it clicked and pushed it forward slowly, the sounds of the airship changed from one of ducted fan to one of jets as the fans disconnected and feathered into ring-shaped wings.

Justin directed Honey to call through the recorded communications system to the emergency department at the medical center. Several stuttering starts, Honey hit her stride on painting a picture of the patient’s condition and communicating with the surgical team at the trauma center.

The gentle increase in felt gravity, kept at a perceived vertical by the gimballed treatment area that the team and patient was in. A new feature to the Hummingbird class vessel, during acceleration or deceleration, the treatment area’s perceived vertical did not change. The emergency team would sit, strapped, in moving seats that prevented falling during treatment procedures.

****

A tone sounded after the automatic blood pressure cuff cycled, Tom’s vital signs were diminishing. His blood pressure had fallen below the normal values and he was hypotensive— low blood pressure— and his heart was beating faster at over one-hundred twenty beats per minute. His body was losing the fight to stay alive, even with the fluids that where initially used.

‟Honey, he is leaking faster than we can put in, progressive shock, if we do not increase his body’s ability to transport oxygen to the tissues, he will go into refractory shock.” Justin said calmly. ‟What is your plan of treatment now?”

‟He needs to have vasopressers.”

‟Hm.” Justin pulled at his ear. ‟Something more immediate that we don’t have to measure. Perhaps Syntheglobin? It has balanced electrolytes and a variety of other needed components that he is losing.”

‟And coagulants?”

‟We have that partially covered with the application of Quickclot bandages, we do not administer that intravenously, don’t even carry it. That is a hospital med only.”

‟Okay.” Honey nodded. ‟Hang two bags of Syntheglobin and infuse it wide open.”

‟Bags already spiked, wide open for infusion.”

‟Justin.” It was Yak on the intercom.

‟Yakkity-Yak, please talk back.” Justing gave a wink to Honey.

‟Information only, a wedge tornado touched down right after we left. There are casualties, they are declaring a multi-casualty incident.” Yak’s voice was grim, but professional.

‟Pilot copies.” Raj said. ‟We are unable to go any faster, as it is we have a required cool-down time on the engines of twenty minutes after landing, then we have to refuel.”

‟Ugh, copy that, Raj.” Justin said. ‟Yak, please keep us posted on the incident and weather.”

‟Affermative.”

‟ETA to the Trauma center, ten minutes.” Raj informed the crew. ‟Clear air between us and them.”

‟Copy, Raj.” Justin said. ‟Honey, what is his oxygen saturation reading?”

‟It’s showing only eighty percent!”

‟Correct. Using the artificial blood it has difficulty in picking up the new blood’s oxygen capacity. It is clear and the translumination of the red light on the probe will not pick it up, we have to change probes that are compatible. On the shelf marked ‟Synthe” pick out a probe and let’s place it on his ear, there is a special clamp for that.” Justin nodded.”That will give us a true reading now that he has had…” He looked at the bags. ‟Two and a half liters of Syntheglobin, and this flavor of Synthe is four-times the oxygen capacity, there is another kind of Synthe out now that has double that, so we can use less of the blood replacement for each victim and use the normal saline for the balance. Hospitals are liking it as they can then use different electrolytes without overloading the patient or having some other challenges.”

Honey nodded, getting a little glassy-eyed.

‟How, I mean, where. That is, how do you keep all that in your head?”

‟I wear earplugs to keep it from leaking out.” Justin shrugged with a wink.

‟He knows all that useless crap.” It was Raj’s voice. ‟We just need to plug holes and run. Only the doctors need to know it by memory, the rest of us have our data pads. But Justin, he’s just annoying.”

‟Well, keeps us where we are.”

‟ETA 5 minutes.” Raj’s voice changed instantly to all business.”

‟Assess his lungs again.” Honey told Justin. ‟Monitor shows his heart-rate dropping, below one-twenty.”

‟Good, three liters of Syntheglobin in. Sensors on the I.V. catheters show a blood ph of seven-point-four-two, we have slight alkalosis, but in good shape.” Justin said. ‟Tom, are you still with us?

‟Yeah, I keep going to sleep, though. I don’t feel so good.”

‟Well, according to my rule-book, you are not supposed to. You have a hunk of bronze stuck through you, best I can tell, you have missed your heart, spleen and other organs.”

‟But you said it punctured my lungs?”

‟Ah, you weren’t supposed to pay attention to that. Yeah, but you’re in good shape, we are putting down on the tarmac now. You’ll be in and out in no time.”

Justin looked at Honey. ‟Time?”

‟What do you mean?”

‟Of our golden hour, how much is left?”

‟We have, if our time is correct, eighteen minutes.”

‟Awesome, let’s get him out, swap things over to the portable and let us get this show on the road to the Emergency Department.”

Rolling the stretcher to the edge of the Hummingbird, it fit the waiting emergency room gurney tightly with clips that fit into the frame of the wheeled table and they walked quickly through the doors where the surgical team waited them.

Tom lived long enough to make the golden hour and would live to come home.

Reports made, the crew of the hummingbird headed for home, lifting above the clouds of the storm, Yak said it was overcast with showers, but no major storms in the area when the computers on board illuminated with information and a computer generated voice chimed in on the pleasant converstions…

‟Incident assigned.”