Random SF snippet…

It’s late, I didn’t have a post prepared, so you get another chapter of the WIP…

Comments/ recommendations appreciated as always… This one is hot off the computer, so I’m SURE there are issues… Sigh

Chapter 15

The mover slid to a stop and Danny jumped off, yelling his thanks over his shoulder as he pounded down the module to the ship. Efrot was standing guard and looked up as Danny ran up. “Welcome back, Captain. Is there something wrong?”

“Essie said we have a situation with a bunch of Hydra and more coming.”

Efrot shrugged. “No problem, other than Gronk being a woman.”

Danny stared at him. “Gronk is… a woman?”

“Yes, according to Ish, the senior Hydra. He is waiting for you in the mess.”

“Ish? Senior Hydra? What…”

“Estrella will explain. We have a contract you need to sign so we can depart.”

Danny shook his head and stepped by Efrot, then said softly, “What is going on Estrella?”

“Ish is waiting for you in the mess. He has agreed to contract us to carry the remains back to Hydra for burial.”

“How far… have you calculated how long that will take? Hydra is halfway across the galaxy.”

“Standard routing is forty-eight days each way. Ish has deposited half the charter fee in our account already.”

“But, I… we, I wasn’t here.”

Estrella said gently, “I have talked with Mapper, he agrees, and the sooner we get underway, the fewer fights there will be on the station.”

Danny stepped into the mess, realized he wasn’t really at his best, since he’d been in the same shipsuit for now three days, and he really needed to hit the fresher, but one look at the old Hydra meant he had to handle this now. The old Hydra stood painfully and bowed, catching him off guard. “I am Ish. I am the senior Hydra present,” he said formally. “It is my world’s wish to charter this ship to continue the journey home for our brother and sister. I have signed the contract,” he pointed with one upper arm at the documentation lying on the table. “Also, I have deposited the standard fifty percent fee in your account. All that is needed is your approval, Captain.”

Danny made a tentative bow back and said, “I need to discuss this with—”

Estrella interrupted, “The crew is in agreement, Captain.”

Danny shook his head and smiled. “I guess I’m out voted. You have a contract. Let me get my holo stamp.” He shook Ish’s hand and added, “I will be right back.” He walked out of the mess and turned toward his cabin asking, “Essie, what do we need to add to the provisions?”

“Already done. Including the special foods the Hydra require for the penitents. Fuel is topped off, and Ish has submitted a flight plan to GalPat.”

“Ah, okay.” Stepping into his cabin, he quickly hit the fresher, grabbed his holo stamp, and hurried back to the mess. Stamping the contract, he said formally, “Estrella, please file this contract with the appropriate authorities and file a routing to Hydra.”

Ish smiled, or at least that’s what Danny thought he did, then said, “If you will allow me, I will function as your navigator.”

Danny could only nod. “I would be honored, sir.”

“Estrella, would you please file what I presented to you earlier? I believe we should be able to get underway by eighteen, if my calculations are correct.”

“Submitted. Squirted departure time to all crew. Both Zuckie and Adrion are currently off ship. They acknowledge receipt and will return on time.”

Danny mumbled, “What do you even need me for?” Then said loudly, “If you will give me a couple of divs, I would like to show you the bridge and discuss how I like to operate.”

Ish bowed again. “As you wish, Captain.”

“Now if you will excuse me, I need to clean up and get up to speed, since I’ve been off ship for a couple of days.” Ish nodded and Danny slipped out of the mess. “Essie, what can you find out about Ish?”

He could have sworn Estrella was laughing at him when she replied, “I wondered how long it would take you to ask that question. Ish is one of the most senior Hydra off world. He is a master navigator and has been one for over fifty years. He is the most senior Hydra navigator in the galaxy, and Gronk is his youngest daughter. And yes, he can speak for the government of Hydra. He has sent a few deeply coded messages since his arrival. He also assures me there will be no fights on the station.”

Danny grumbled as he stripped down and stepped into the fresher, setting it to rejuve. “Why am I the last one to know? And who is really running this ship?”

What he did not hear was Estrella’s soft comment. “I am, somebody has to protect you from yourself.”

***

Mrs. Jacson called Daniella into her office and pointed at the chair. Daniella sat and started to ask a question, but Mrs. Jacson said curiously, “Dani, do you know any Hydra, and what do you know about Hydra’s world?”

Daniella looked at her for a few seconds. “Um, Gronk is the only Hydra I’ve ever met. It came to me… yesterday about some special cooking requirements.” She shook her head. “As far as Hydra, only what I learned in school. It’s… on the far side of the galaxy from us, and it’s… wet.”

“Hmmm. So, you’ve never interacted with anyone from the government of Hydra?”

Mystified, Daniella said, “No. Not that I know of. And… what’s this all about Mrs. J?”

Mrs. Jacson sighed and leaned back. “I’m looking at an official request, duly verified, from the government of Hydra for you, Daniella Freyja Halvorson to be humanities’ representative at the ceremonial burial of two returning Hydra.”

“What?” Daniella squeaked as she gripped the arms of the chair and shoved forward. “I… that can’t be. I’m not… that’s diplo, I don’t… are you sure?” She asked pleadingly.

“Come around here.” Daniella got up and came around the desk as Mrs. Jacson pointed at the holoscreen. “That’s you, isn’t it?” Daniella gulped and nodded. “Then I guess you’re it. I hope they send you some information on what to do and how to act. Oh, you’ll continue to receive your regular pay, since this is larger issue than any of us knows how to handle, and you have four divs to be at the ship. It’s in twenty-three Mod six.”

Daniella stumbled out of the office in a daze, went back to her office, picked up her data comp and waved distractedly to her assistant. “You’re in charge. I’ve… been… got something I have to go do. I don’t know when I’ll be back.” Her assistant nodded and she made her way back to her quarters in a daze. “I don’t know what to take, how long, or anything,” she wailed at the mirror as she yanked a bag out of her closet. Mumbling, she searched through the closet. “Mourning clothes, dark dress or pants? Gah. Screw this, I’ll take both.” She punched up the infotainment system and called up weather for Hydra, shivering as she looked at the predications. “Lovely. Cold and wet. And I don’t even own anything for weather for Gnu’s sake, I live on a frikkin station for a reason!

Grumbling she threw a few more clothes in her bag, then her personals from the fresher. She looked at the station clock on the infotainment system, punched it off, and picked up her bag and brief and went out the door. She stopped by the Lounge and told Elliott she was going to be gone for a least a couple of months. Elliott nodded and told her that her job would still be there. Mapper waved her over, and she stalked over and plopped in a chair. He looked at her and asked, “What has your hair in combustion today?”

She looked at him and sighed. “I’m on my way to Hydra, wherethehellever that is.”

Mapper cocked his head even as he typed on his holo keyboard. “Hydra?” He glanced at his holo screen. “That’s halfway across the universe. What are going to do there?”

“I’m supposed to be humanities’ rep for some Hydra that are being buried. Apparently Captain Ortega brought them back from wherever he was.”

Mapper grimaced and she looked at him curiously, “What is the big deal?”

“Hydra go back to their planet to die, that’s why you never really see any old Hydra. They almost never die in space, and if they do, the people of Hydra will move heaven and stars to get them back to Hydra, doing penitence the entire time until they are buried. To be a representative is normally a high government function. Why you?”

“I dunno.” She shrugged. “I mean I only know Gronk. It’s the only Hydra I ever met. It asked me a couple of days ago about some strange concoction and how to best prepare it. Some kind of… an unleavened bread, and a… dish, I guess you’d call it, of seaweed and some other stuff.”

Mapper was typing again and mumbling something about shiva. He sniffed and looked directly at her. “You were asked how to prepare their penitent food. That is all they are allowed to eat until the Hydra have been returned to the planet. And it is served cold and at least a day old.”

She wrinkled her nose at that. “Gronk didn’t say anything about that. Cold? Old? I’m not sure how well…”

“Matzo?”

Daniella smiled. “I gave Gronk both Matzo and Chapati recipes and how to cook it. But I don’t think it will find a stone oven on any ship. They’re both unleavened flat breads. And we used to serve a sort of seaweed salad dish in our restaurant, since we had so many Asian ethnicities in the colony, since there were a lot of seas.”

“Well, other than the weather, you should be right at home on Hydra. It’s seventy percent oceans. But it rains a lot, and it’s… windy.”

Daniella rolled her eyes and glanced at her wrist comp. “Damn, I need to go. I’ve got to get out to the ass end of the station. Twenty-three Mod six.” She got up and picked up her bags before Mapper could respond, but he smiled as she walked away.

***

Daniella looked at the nameplate on the module and cursed under her breath. “Really, you have got to be shitting me. I have to spend God knows how long on this damn ship. I’ll be they are going to want me to… cook… damn them.” She stomped aboard by a surprised Adrion with a frosty nod. “I’m your passenger.”

Adrion called quietly, “Uh, Cap’n, we’ve got a passenger coming aboard.”

Danny was deep in discussion with Ish on the bridge and really didn’t register Adrion’s call as he looked at the track in the holo tank. “I’m… I would have never thought of that routing. I mean going basically all the way out the rim, hemstitching Dragoon territory like that. I just hope we don’t run into any traders or warships out there.”

Ish made the gargling sound Danny had come to associate with a Hydra laughing and he said, “Captain, there are many ways. Very few know all of them. All Hydra share knowledge of navigation. We know ways that are not… how you say… normal. This way we cut almost thirty days off the transit.”

Danny shook his head. “I didn’t think that was possible. And some of these jumps—”

Daniella stomped onto the bridge. “You… you sonofabitch! I should have known you’d have a damn hand in this. I am not going to cook for you. Period. And don’t bother asking for help with anything else, either!” She glared at Ish, then turned and stomped off the bridge, still in high dudgeon.

Danny just stood there with his mouth open as Ish gargled again, then said, “Ah, she lives up to her name.”

Danny said, “Her name?”

“Freyja. And she is in the goddess of war mode.”

Danny glanced at him. “Uh, her name is Daniella.”

Ish gargled again. “Her middle name is Freyja. I will go to her and explain that I am responsible, not you. But first, let us get this course programmed.” Ish finished the programming and Danny started downloading it. Ish asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to back it up to the autopilot.” He brought the autopilot up on the main visplate and Ish gargled again. “De Perez Shipwatch Four. Interesting.”

Danny turned and looked at him. “You know what it is? Gronk didn’t and didn’t trust it.”

Ish smiled his version of a smile. “I know it well. I worked with Roberto De Perez many years ago on the programming. It uses a bifurcated system to cross check itself, just like we do up here,” he said.

Two divs later, checklist complete and 8 day clock wound, Estrella said, “We are cleared to depart on the div.”

Danny watched the clock and when it hit the top of the hour, he gently bumped Ghost out of the dock. “Underway on ship’s power, time eighteen.” He hand flew the ship to the entry for departure corridor one, looked over at Ish and asked, “Are we ready?”

Ish replied, “We are ready.”

Danny took his hands off the control pads. “Estrella, you have control. Fly route as planned.”

Estrella answered, “I have control. This is an interesting route. I will get to see places I’ve never seen before! Oh boy, oh boy!”

Ish jerked up and stared at the holo tank, then turned to Danny, eyes wide. “Your AI…”

“Estrella is a good AI. She was abandoned for somewhere around ten years until I found her.”

Ish made a strange motion with his head and said, “I need to go check on the penitents.”

***

They were four days into the transit before Danny ever saw Daniella, and that was in the mess kitchen on first shift. She was doing something over the griller and concentrating, so he eased by the hatch and punched up a meal from the autochef, along with a bulb of coffee. Zuckie came in segs later, stuck his head in the hatch and said, “Morning Daniella.”

She said distractedly, “Give me ten segs, and I’ll get breakfast on. I have to finish this bread for Gronk and the other penitents.”

“No hurry.” He turned and saw Danny, came over a sat down, scrubbing his bristle of hair. “Captain, do you have any idea where we are?”

Danny chuckled as he sipped the bulb of coffee. “We’re about to jump to the rim in a couple of divs, then pretty deep into Dragoon territory after that.”

“And you’re not worried? I mean the rim and Goons…”

“Ish says it’s safe and I’m not about to doubt anyone who’s done this for fifty years. Plus he’s cutting almost thirty days off our transit.”

Zuckie looked up at the overhead. “How… is that even possible?”

Danny shrugged. “Tricks of the trade? I don’t know other than experience. And Ish has that. He’s the senior Hydra navigator in space.”

“Huh, guess that explains a few things.”

Danny made a motion with his hand and Zuckie continued, “There hasn’t been a single peep out of any of those Hydra. Even Gronk is quiet. Still hard to believe she is a she.” He shuddered. “I can’t imagine…”

“Don’t go there. That is a memory I want in my head.” He quickly finished his meal and dumped the remnants in the recycler, waved to Zuckie and headed for the bridge. Stepping into it, he saw Ish flashing through screen after screen on his vidscreen. “How are we looking?”

“One point five divs to the rim jump. Power is nominal, course deviation is nominal, and what you’ve done to this ship is interesting.”

Danny nodded. “Thanks, I put a lot of credits and sweat equity into the ship. I’ve got the bridge.”

Ish got up and bowed. “Captain has the bridge.”

Danny watched him limp painfully to the hatch and disappear aft, then scanned his viewscreen, the viewplate and the holo tank. “Everything on track, Essie?”

“All nominal, Captain. Why is Dani mad at you?”

Danny shrugged. “I have no idea. She blamed me for this trip, said there was no way in hell she was cooking, stormed out, and I haven’t seen her since. And it’s not my fault she’s here. Ish had something to do with that.”

Estrella said softly, “Yes, and he explained that to her, but she still appears to be angry. There is also a message from the broker at Mars. Both hyper drives were accepted for a total of thirty-eight million credits.”

“That’s good. Has anything come in on Olafson? I still have no idea what happened to him.”

“The only thing medical released was that he had suffered a stroke. No prognosis by the time we left.”

“I wonder if he has family?”

Estrella asked, “Why are you concerned? He was spying on us.”

“He is still human, and he didn’t ask to have a medical issue. As far as I’m concerned, he still gets a share.”

“I’m not sure the rest of the crew will agree.”

Danny said abruptly, “I don’t care if they do or not. If I have to, I’ll pay it out of my share.”

Estrella asked, “Not out of the ship share?”

“No, not out of ship share. That is inviolate. That is for operating the ship, and before you ask, yes, I’m cutting you a full share.”

She asked, “Why? I am the ship.”

Danny looked up at the camera. “Simple. Because you are also part of the crew and because I said so.”

***

Three jumps later, Danny was yawning and waiting for Ish to come take the bridge as they came out of hyper. As the holo tank stabilized, he looked at the track and saw they were skimming the asteroid belt in this galaxy when Estrella suddenly said, “Pirates. We are being hailed, they are ordering us to stop or be fired on!”

Danny snapped awake as the adrenalin hit him. “Where?” A flashing red icon popped up a hundred thousand miles below them and he made an instantaneous decision. Keying the PA he said, “Pirates. Everyone, and I do mean everyone strap in and prepare for rapid maneuvering. Do it now!” He placed his hands on the control pads. “I have control Essie. Tell the pirates to fuck off, they can’t catch me. Zuckie, give me full power, twenty G limit on the maneuvering.”

“Those words?”

“Those exact words.”

Zuckie reported, “Full power. Engineering secured. Efrot is aft.”

Ish came hobbling onto the bridge and slid into the navigator couch, buckling the restraints as quickly as he could. “Where are they?”

“Hundred thousand down. Red strobe. I’m going for the stroids.”

Adrion called, “Strapped in, all four counter battery missiles spinning up.”

“Roger.”

Estrella said, “Message transmitted. They are accelerating at twenty Gs.” A projected track popped into the holo along with an intercept point and Danny shifted Ghost’s course to more quickly intercept the asteroid belt.

Danny asked, “Estimated range on their missiles?”

“They can fire now. Accuracy estimated at ninety percent at this range due to the stroids above us.”

“Run random number generator. Give me eight numbers less than thirty.”

“Six, twenty-four, twelve, seven, twenty-nine, twenty-one, nineteen, three.”

“Standby for maneuvering.” Danny shifted course right twenty-four and up six, held it for ten segs and shifted to the next pair.

Ish gargled his laughter. “Just long enough to give them a new base track. Very nice, Captain. How do you intend to approach the stroid belt?”

Danny was concentrating on the tank and answered absently, “Five Gs, somewhere between forty and sixty degrees off orthogonal. Oh, and Essie, activate full shields.”

“Shields activated.”

Ish asked softly, “Isn’t that… a bit deep?”

“No, I want them to chase me, if they dare.”

Two more course changes and Estrella suddenly said, “They’ve fired a spread. Six missiles inbound. Estimate seven segs to impact.”

Danny expanded the tank, mumbled to himself, “Here we go.” And jerked the Ghost onto what appeared to be a collision course with an asteroid. Skirting it by less than twenty miles, he immediately reversed course and went to 20 Gs, then killed all acceleration and skewed to yet another course, pulling 5 Gs.

“Missile impacts. All hit asteroids.”

Danny nodded but didn’t answer, sweat beading his forehead as he concentrated intensely on the tank. Another course change, more G loading, more course changes continued for almost a div with Estrella giving periodic updates on the pirates. He finally said, “Essie, dump that decoy in tube nine in three, two, now! Transponder off… now

Ish saw what appeared to be a large explosion in the main viewplate on the other side of an asteroid as they skimmed past it. Segs later, Estrella reported, “They finally peeled off, it appears they believe the explosion was us.”

Danny leaned back and said, “Crew and passengers are released for…” He changed course once again and gently increased power. “Nine divs. Adrion, standby on the missiles. Zuckie, you have the plant back. We will go back through the stroids to get to the next gate in nine divs.

Ish unstrapped and sat up, then faced Danny squarely. “In all my years, I have never seen flying like you just did. Not at the speed, not at the G levels. Augmented or not, what you just did I would have believed impossible had I not been here.” He nodded his head in the equivalent of a formal bow. “If you desire, I have the bridge, Captain.

Danny’s bladder reminded him that he needed to go and now, and he got up. “You have the bridge, Nav.”

 

Comments

Random SF snippet… — 18 Comments

  1. Good character work, nice action, and a buncha ton of teasers. The Hydras popped out as a great plot twist. Nice!

    It’s a good thing that Danni and Estrella hit it off well, and are in meat and cyber spaces. How many wives does a captain have, when the ship and AI are two, and the girl should be three? You’re having great fun with the hoary adage about women being bad luck aboard ship. It’s his bad luck that both want to care for and civilize him. Uh, piggyback is weighing in at about three e-books.

  2. Should it be “isn’t” instead of “is” in the
    sentence about an image in the captain’s head?

    Otherwise it all seems fine, eh?

  3. This is missing the “not

    “Don’t go there. That is not a memory I want in my head.” He quickly finished his meal and dumped the remnants in the recycler,………….”

    More, please.

  4. Military SciFi. Right up my alley!

    Good read and I suggest removing the word “now” in the sentence “…since he’d been in the same shipsuit for now three days,…”

    And I suggest adding one more “Oh boy!” in the sentence, “Estrella answered, “I have control. This is an interesting route. I will get to see places I’ve never seen before! Oh boy, oh boy!” because I think it has a “tell me three times” vibe.

    Pirate attack.
    I’m thinking the pirates would disable the ship for capture, but the pirates could have been destroying the ship once capture was off the table to prevent the ship from disclosing the location of the pirate attack.
    Maybe a bit more exposition?

    Eagerly waiting for more.
    Thanks.

  5. I’ve enjoyed this series and somehow missed the last one. I usually RSS your blog so I don’t comment much but wanted to say this has been very nice to read.

  6. As a throwaway, the Chinese idogram for conflict/ trouble is two of the idiograms for “woman” under the idiogram for “roof”.
    Love the book the characters, and the possibilities that this universe offets for your writing, and my enjoyment.
    Money plus on the way for a signed “Sunset”. Thanks, John

  7. I read slow so I catch fast typos, e.g.

    “Oh, you’ll continue to receive your regular pay, since this is larger issue than any of us knows how”
    — Suggest ..
    “this is a larger issue ”
    — Or just drop “issue”.

    ***

    “to be gone for a least a couple of months.”

    “at least a” ?

    ***

    “I’ll be they are going to want me to”

    “bet” ?

    ***

    Zuckie —
    “saw Danny, came over a sat down,”

    “and sat” ?

    ***

    “Don’t go there. That is a memory I want in my head.”

    “I don’t want” ?

    ***

    Must start earlier.

  8. Bob- 🙂

    John- Thanks!

    Frank- Good catches, fixed em… My problem is my fingers can’t keep up with my mind… sigh

  9. You must be a mind reader!

    I made it a couple of paragraphs in, and thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was a back-link to de Perez and the development of Jace in the Estrella story-arc?”

    Next para – there it is. This is going to be gooood!

  10. Hey Old NFO;

    I finally had a chance to read the blurb and the “I want in my memory” is still there.
    Don’t go there. That is a memory I want in my head.” He quickly finished his meal and dumped the remnants in the recycler, waved to Zuckie and headed for the bridge. Stepping into it, he saw Ish flashing through screen after screen on his vidscreen. “How are we looking?”

    I started reading it yesterday and had to leave before I got 1/4 way into it. Excellent read 🙂

  11. Sendarius- Ask and ye shall receive… LOL

    Bob- Thanks! And yes I fixed that error… stream of consciousness writing DOES lead to missing words. I know what I’m ‘thinking’ but the fingers can’t keep up… sigh

  12. A couple of word useage observations: Humanity, all of us, possessive humanitys’. Humanities, area of study, humanities’, pertaining to that area.
    Doing penance, the acts of a penitant. Punishment for error.
    penitant / penitent not sure, perhaps English vs American.
    “Penitants’ food” because is is the penitants, not the food, who are condemned to suffer.
    John in Indy

  13. John- Thank you! Penitents because they are suffering the ‘punishment’ for those who did not fulfil their duty and return before dying.

  14. “Shut up and take my money” seems appropriate here.

    Really looking forward to this one.