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.”

 

Happy New Year!!!

Wakey, wakey… Time to be up and about… Now go forth and screw up those checks… 🙂

But I do have a few questions…

I haven’t found out who let the dogs out…where’s the beef…how to get to Sesame Street… why Dora doesn’t just use Google Maps…Why do all flavors of fruit loops taste exactly the same, or how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop……why eggs are packaged in a flimsy carton, but batteries are secured in plastic that’s tough as nails…what does the fox say… why “abbreviated” is such a long word; or why is there a D in ‘fridge’ but not in refrigerator… why lemon juice is made with artificial flavor yet dish-washing liquid is made with real lemons… why they sterilize the needle for lethal injections… and, why do you have to “put your two cents in” but it’s only a “penny for your thoughts”?Where’s that extra penny going to… why does The Alphabet Song and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star have the same tune… why did you just try to sing those two previous songs… and just what exactly is Victoria’s secret? and where is Waldo?… Can you hear me now?… Now my mind is hung up on how much is that doggie in the window? Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Best wishes to each and every one for 2020!

NO Intarwebz…

Go read the folks on my sidebar… Sigh…

Posted from my iPhone.

Year in review…

Well, I have my health, ‘most’ of my mental facilities, and I’ve got some writing done.

Two novellas published, one full length novel published, a short story published in an anthology, and another submitted for another anthology.

NOT as much as I’d like to have done, my goal was two books this year, but that didn’t happen.

I truly appreciate my readers and those who give me reviews, both on Amazon and personally via email. I’d also like to give a shout out to my alpha and beta readers, you folks have truly made my novels better through your attention to detail, and the myriad of your experience.

And I cannot fail to mention both Tina and Steph who do the covers and final edits. You ladies have bailed me out from my own stupidity every time and there is no way I can thank you enough for your patience and understanding!!!

It has been an interesting year travel wise, got to two writer’s conferences and was honored to be a panelist on various panels at both of them. I know I’m not an alpha list author, but I DO try to give back to the writing community. If I tell you my mistakes, maybe you won’t repeat them and be a step further along the ladder than I was. I am also thankful for our local groups that get together and bat ideas back and forth. Some of those have turned into ‘something’ at least part of the time.

One of the bigger ‘negatives’ this year is Farcebook… It’s a helluva time sink, and I’m trying to stay off of it most of the day, only occasionally checking it AFTER I finish writing.

On the political side, all I can say is TEH STOOPID IT SHOULD BURN!!! Gah… We elected these assholes??? What were we thinking?

But I have my health. As I get older, the creaks and pops increase and I find that I’m missing all those naps I turned down as a kid. Sadly, I’ve lost a few friends this year who have passed on mainly due to age/illness.

As 2019 comes to an end, I just want to wish everyone the best for 2020, may you be healthy and successful, and 2020 be a better year for us all. I’ll leave you with this-

If you’re REALLY bored…

LTUE has put up two videos of panels I was on last year…

They run about 45 minutes each. Not professionally done, but pretty good, all things considered. These are done for writers, things for them to consider for their characters/books/backstory.

First up- Fundamentals of Self Defense

Next is one I moderated on Grieving, Death, and Chronic/Long-term Illness

We get nothing for these, and have to pay to attend the conferences. And of course we end up against panels WE wanted to see… sigh

You have to go out…

You don’t have to come back…

Unofficial motto of the USCG Rescue units. That big guy in the middle of the picture exemplifies that.

He swam at night through 80 knot winds, ripped through a roof without the aid of a chainsaw and was repeatedly hoisted more than 100 feet into the air while battling turbulence and dangerous power lines around him as he aided in the rescue of 59 others in Houston, Texas, as Hurricane Harvey battered the area in August 2017.

For his heroic feats during Harvey, Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Gantt, a Coast Guard aviation survival technician, or rescue swimmer, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross — the U.S. military’s oldest aviation award for heroism in flight — during a ceremony in December at the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama.

Full article and link, HERE.

He clanks when he walks, and he’s not the only one. Kudos to ALL of these heroes for the lives they saved!!!

Random MilSF snippet…

As always, comments/recommendations appreciated. This one is still being driven by the muse, so I have no idea where it is going… Sigh…

Chapter 12

Danny groaned and raised his head enough to puke yet again, pulled a bottle of electrolyte to his lips and squeezed it, getting only a few drops. He flopped back on the couch and heard a rattling noise. Rolling his head to the side he saw Gronk, now an interesting shade of green, with all four arms trailing on the deck. Its chest rose, and the rattling noise happened again.

Hoping against hope, he said, “Estrella?” She didn’t answer and he continued, “AI, talk to me. Location?

A dull male voice answered, “Unknown location.”

“Shit,” he mumbled to himself then rolled off the couch with a groan and staggered to the safe. Extracting the cube Mapper had given him, he staggered back to the couch and inserted it. “AI, plot location based on cube data.”

Moments later, the holo changed and rippled into the same presentation he’d seen the last time he was here. “Hold current position if safe.”

“Action initiated.” He felt the bumps of thrusters stopping the motion of the ship and winced.

He punched the PA on, cleared his throat and said, “All stations report.”

Efrot was the first to report. “Captain, power is nominal. Momentary loss of power at penetration. Lost AI connection at the same time. AI is not answering commands.”

Dammit! “AI, five, no, six crew aboard. Monitor vitals, respond to commands.” He keyed the PA again. “Understood Efrot, AI is… in a reduced status. It should respond to you now. Anyone else?” He saw status monitors pop in on a side panel, with only he and Efrot green. Zukie was a dark orange, Adrion was a yellowish green, as was Gronk, but Olafson was a pulsing red. “Efrot can you check on Zuckie, please? And I may need help with Olafson.” Getting up, he said, “AI, autonomous mode. Steer one-six-zero, plus zero-niner-three. Limit accel to three G. Pilot is off couch. Intercom if response is needed.”

“One-six-zero, positive zero-niner-three, three G acceleration. Start time and duration?”

Danny sighed, “Start immediately, end point ten thousand miles from anomalies.”

He swayed as the ship apparently went immediately to 3Gs of acceleration, and snapped to the new course, stressing the inertial grav plates. He limped slowly toward Olafson’s cabin, then said, “AI, status of medbox?”

The flat voice replied, “Nominal.”

Better safe than sorry, “Prep medbox for crewman Olafson.”

“No data on file,” was the flat reply.

Danny scowled angrily. “Prep for human male, five feet nine inches, one hundred sixty pounds. Age… forty-eight standard years. No known allergies. No implants.” Danny activated the hatch and stepped in, seeing Olafson strapped into the bunk, with blood stains on the pillow, his face, and his ear. He looked up at the ceiling. “AI, activate PA, grav sled to my location.”

The AI responded, “No grav sleds available. No inventory conducted.”

He heard a rusty sounding voice answer over the PA, “Where… are you, Captain?”

“Olafson’s cabin.”

“On the way.” Danny finally realized that was Adrion’s voice and wondered how he’d come back to consciousness so quickly. Two segs later, Adrion pushed the grav sled through the cabin door, looked at Olafson and winced. “That ain’t good, Cap’n.”

Danny nodded. “Let’s get him on the grav sled and into the medbox, maybe it can sort him out.” They struggled to move Olafson’s dead weight onto the grav sled and finally got it done, then moved as quickly as they could to the medical area. Another struggle ensued getting him from the sled into the medbox, but Danny was finally able to close the medbox lid and punch the activation sequence.

It cycled through its various diagnostic routines, then the lid cleared again. Danny and Adrion saw that Olafson was now, for lack of a better term, wired for sound, with probes in his temple, and what looked like IVs running into both arms. Danny said, “Patent status?”

The AI replied, “Patient is comatose. Med is not capable of repair. Recommendation is stasis until superior medical treatment is available.”

Adrion looked at Danny in wonder. “What the hell? I thought this was a class one medbox?”

“It is… well, was under Estrella. Now, I… don’t know. Apparently it’s as dumb as the AI is.” He looked up at the camera. “Authorize stasis until patient can be returned to port. AI confirm.”

The lid went opaque again and the AI said, “Beginning stasis.”

“PA.” He waited and then said, “Efrot, status on Zuckie?”

Zuckie answered testily, “I’m alive. That shit was not fun. What’s going on with Olafson?”

Danny shrugged. “Not sure. Something… let go in his head? Maybe? He was bleeding out of his ears and nose.”

Adrion asked, “What do you want to do about Moose and Squirrel?”

“Fuck. Launch them. And drop a recorder with them. Static position on the recorder, stealth mode.”

“Did you decide on duration?”

Danny shook his head in frustration then winced. “Screw it. Sixty days. Spiral search.”

Adrion reared back. “Sixty? We’re not—”

“No, we’re not staying sixty days. I’ll come back and get them. Hell, I can’t afford to pay for them.”

Adrion chuckled. “No, you can’t. I’ll punch them now.” He left medical and headed for his station, as Danny took one last look at the medbox, then walked out shaking his head.

***

Four divs later, the remaining crew met in the mess. Gronk was, to put it mildly, extremely grumpy, and not yet back to its normal pinkish color. It’d rounded on Danny as soon as he came into the mess. “Gronk no like. AI is dead. What is running ship?”

Danny held up a hand. “Let me explain.”

“What is to explain? Ship dead.”

“No Gronk. The ship is not dead… there is… a basic AI running. It’s got a map of the galaxy here, at least as far as light sources and anomalies—”

“Not possible. Gronk knows only one AI can be installed.”

Danny said pleadingly, “Let me finish. This ship is… different. Essie, Estrella doesn’t work in this galaxy. This happened the last time I was here too. This… AI… is the ship for now. It works for basic functions, and I—”

Gronk interrupted, “How we get back? If AI no program.”

Danny finally lost his temper and snarled, “Because I programmed the fucking autopilot which is not connected to the fucking AI. It got me back, and somewhere in that clusterfuck, Estrella came back to life, okay? I told you this was not going to be fun. Now we are… about twelve divs out from a shit pile of dead ships. You wanted salvage, go do your damnest. And get dataplate or name info on anything you find. We owe it to those who never left here.” He turned and stomped out, headed aft, and broke out his two bots, checking them end to end and making sure they were fully charged. Once that was done, he went to the mess, dialed up a meal, ate it, and went to the bridge.

Settling in the couch, he said, “Captain is on the bridge.”

The AI’s flat voice replied, “Captain on the bridge. Captain has the helm.”

Danny stared at the holo, mentally discarding various approaches, and finally settled on one that parked Ghost roughly halfway between the ship he wanted and the pack of wrecked ships. It was way too tight, not even close to legal, with a questionable AI, but it kept his crew from doing something stupid, he hoped. Three divs later, he dropped into an exhausted sleep, only to awaken when the AI roughly stopped the Ghost at the specified location. Danny eased the ship into the parking location he’d decided on, carefully maneuvering to miss the extraneous bits of debris that floated out in an expanding cloud from the mass of ships.

He keyed the PA, “I’ve parked Ghost halfway between the ship I’m interested in and the stack. If you’re going to salvage, hard suits only. I don’t want to lose anyone to a puncture since I’m not sure we could rescue you in time, and the medbox is already in use. Standard protocols, if anybody had a malfunction and goes dutchman, activate your pinger immediately. If you have an emergency, call the emergency, then activate your pinger. I will remain aboard but operating a bot remotely.” He clicked the PA off, got up and said, “Captain is off the bridge. Maintain position.”

“Maintain position.”

Danny went back to his cabin, hit the fresher, and climbed into his haptic suit with a groan. Carrying the gloves, he went aft to the bots, unplugged Mini-me, and walked it through the airlock hatch after he checked the functional connection to his haptics. He closed the hatch, cycled the airlock, and commanded the outer hatch open.

Going back to the bridge, he slumped back into the couch, put Mini-me’s camera on the vision plate, activated the haptics, and sent Mini-me on the way toward the Helios. Gotta get pictures for Mapper. Guess I can do a fly around and then go after whatever that rig was I saw on the bridge. He activated both the cameras on the bot, and did a slow fly in, then flew around the ship twice, once high, and once low. Satisfied that he’d gotten enough pictures for Mapper, he sent the bot through the hatch that he’d discovered before, then all the way back through the ship to the bridge. This time he located the body, trained the cameras on it, and got pictures for Mapper.

Then he turned the bot, maneuvered it to the nav table. Sure enough, there was another one of those rectangles drifting in the vacuum, tethered to a larger box shape on the nav table. He moved the bot around to get a different angle and saw that the larger box was also connected to some things with more cords. Danny started to shake his head in frustration, and stopped quickly, cursing under his breath.

Meticulously moving the manipulator arm, he tugged on first one cord, then the other. The second cord came loose, and Danny thought it was probably a power cord. Letting it go, he tugged on the first cord again, and it didn’t move. He reoriented the bot and saw that the cord went into a junction box, so he clipped it with the manipulator. He pulled then pushed the larger box and saw it move slightly, so he slipped the manipulator under it and pried up. The box came free of the table and started drifting off and he had to move the manipulator arm quickly to catch it by the cords. He reeled in the data cube as he thought of it, and stuffed it in the collection sack, but the larger box wouldn’t fit. He finally came up with a way to secure it with the manipulator arm itself against the body of the bot.

After almost a div of cautious maneuvering, and multiple corrections due to the increased weight, Mini-me was back in the airlock on the Ghost and he was exhausted. He shut down the haptics, and hobbled back to his cabin, stripped off the suit and stepped into the fresher. Ten segs later, he felt good enough to go retrieve the bot, the box, and the cube. He walked the bot over and plugged it in, noting that he’d used 75% of its battery during that evolution. He picked the box and cube up, then scooped up the cords and carried all of it back to his cabin.

He went to the mess and ate, then went back to the bridge and brought up the holo, plugging in the locator beacons for each crewman. Efrot and Zuckie were apparently on a ship near the back of the pack of wrecks, Adrion was up near the front of the pack, and Gronk’s locator was intermittent, in the middle of the ships, Wonder what they’re after? He yawned, stretched, and sat up slowly. Damn, I’m on here by myself with Olafson, who’s damn near dead. How long have they been gone? He looked up at the ship’s clock and was surprised to see that five divs had passed since he released everyone. They gotta be getting low on air and power.

Keying the comm to Zuckie’s discrete channel, he asked, “Status?”

A distracted voice came back, “Uh, twenty percent left. Are those big bays in the starboard hull open?”

“Yes, why?”

“We’ve found two MK-Thirteen hyper drives over here that are in decent shape, and we can cut them loose without too much trouble.”

“MK-Thirteens? What ship?”

“Dunno. Front and mid-ship are pretty much crushed. Looks like it dumped through the gate and right into the pile with enough speed that they were hulled immediately. Efrot thinks both units went into auto shutdown before they failed, based on his examination. If he’s right, that’s forty-mil worth of credits right there!”

Danny whistled to himself, then asked, “Are you pulling the shielding?”

“Hang on.” The comm clicked, then clicked again a seg later. “Not unless we have to. Can we tractor them outside?”

Danny said, “Standby.” He punched up ship status, and said, “AI, status on tractor beam system.”

The AI replied, “Centerline tractor system operable. Nine-seven point six-eight percent capable.”

Danny switched back to the comm channel, “Centerline tractor is up. Don’t know how much weight it can stand, or if that stuff will stay tractored as we go through the various rifts.”

Zuckie sighed. “Roger. We’re on the way back, need a break and some more tools and cutters.”

Switching to the telescopic view screen, he tried to figure out where Adrion and Gronk were, then slewed the telescope back, centering on an odd looking protrusion sticking out of the mass, That looks like… a turret? Somebody lost a warship over here? Zooming in even further, he carefully maneuvered the scope, tracing the lines he could see. It’s old. Maybe a hundred years. I think… I think that’s a damn destroyer sized ship in there! He leaned back in the couch, zoomed out and continued panning, then focused on a ship near the back of the mass. The front half of the ship was compressed into the mass, but the aft appeared to be fairly undamaged and he looked at the lines, Huh, unless I miss my guess, that’s a Trader ship or at least a Trader design. I wonder how the hell they got here? If that is Traders, there is probably some gold onboard.

He went aft and fired up the second bot, checked the haptics, and walked it into the airlock, then headed back to the bridge. He activated the haptics, launching it toward that Trader ship. Thirty segs later, he found an open airlock and eased through it, checked that there was no pressure on the other side of the lock, and activated the emergency handle. It swung open and he eased the bot into the ship. Moving slowly forward, he saw a couple of desiccated human corpses, then saw a bigger corpse. Thinking of Gronk, he counted the arms, and it only had two. He touched it carefully, and almost recoiled when it spun and he realized was looking at dead Dragoon.

After he calmed down, he looked more closely at the area of the ship he was in, and determined it was cabins. There was one hatch open near the corpse, and he moved the bot gingerly through that hatch. It was a cabin, apparently for the Dragoon, as the bunk was oversized, along with everything else in the cabin. He saw a desk, and above it, a panel that was open. Easing over to it, he used the manipulator arm to pull the panel open. There were four bars of metal glinting dully in the bot’s lights, and he inhaled sharply, causing the bot to jump a bit, Gold, it’s fucking gold! That’s a million eight hundred thousand credits sitting there! He used the manipulator to pull the four bars out and slide them into the catch bag on the front of the bot, then maneuvered it out of the cabin, trying each of the hatches on either side of the passageway. Of the eight hatches, five opened, and two more had Dragoon corpses in them.

Once inside, he went confidently to the panel above the desk, but it was closed. The manipulator didn’t have the leverage and he couldn’t pry it open, frustrating him. Disgusted, he went to the second hatch, entered that cabin, and saw the panel was partially open. Trying not to rush, he moved the bot smoothly to the panel, opened it, and saw seven more bars gleaming in the lights. He started to pull them out, then stopped, Weight. I’ve already got four bars, a little over a hundred pounds. I can’t put much, if any more, on this bot. It can’t handle the weight. I… screw it, I’ll get the bot back, and go over myself.

Having made the decision, he backed the bot out of the cabin and maneuvered it carefully back to the airlock where it had entered. Getting it back to the Ghost was an exercise in frustration, as the extra weight kept throwing the trajectory off, and by the time he had the bot in the airlock, he was drenched in sweat, physically wrung out, and angry with himself. He shut down the haptics then headed aft again. Stepping into the mess, he saw Zuckie and Efrot, heads down over some kind of diagnostics or wiring diagram on Zuckie’s data comp. “What are you planning?”

Zuckie looked up in annoyance. “Trying to figure out how to get those drives loose and get them close enough to tractor them in. I was thinking of mass drivers, but there aren’t any aboard large enough to do the job. The two small ones might get the job done, but they’d have to be refurbed before we could use them again.”

He glanced at Efrot. “Are they worth the trouble?”

Efrot nodded solemnly and his GalTrans spit out, “They are not new, but in very good shape. The internals can be used on newer hyper drives, so worth lot of credits.”

Zuckie said, “Didn’t get the name off the ship, or a data plate, but we should be able to track it once we get the drives, as they are tracked items. You have any luck?”

Danny chuckled. “Oh yes. Good luck.” He punched the autochef for an electrolyte drink and continued, “I’ll be back in a few with some of that luck.” He picked up the bulb, took a deep drink, and continued aft leaving Zuckie and Efrot looking at each other. He got the bot through the airlock, walked it to the charging station and shut it down, then lifted the four bars out of the pouch. They felt almost greasy to his touch, and while he couldn’t read the stamping, he was confident these were the real deal, just based on their weight. After a couple of trys, he managed to get them all in his grip, and started back forward.

Adrion intercepted him in the passageway asking, “Is that what I think it is?”

“If you’re thinking gold, yes.”

Adrion’s eyes got big and he whistled. “That is a nice find! Bout two mil worth of credits that you can hold in your hand. Need me to carry a couple of them?”

Danny gratefully handed over two of them, then led the way to the mess. Zuckie and Efrot were still huddled over the data comp, and he slipped one of the bars next to the data comp without saying anything. Zuckie bit off what he was saying in mid-sentence, reverently rubbed the bar and said, “Yes, good luck!”

Efrot asked curiously, “Can it be handled? The little bit of gold we recover is so radioactive it cannot be touched.”

Danny stared at the overhead, then cussed, “Shit. We’ve got to go back through radiation to get home. I’m not sure… Dammit. Unless we can protect the gold, it’s not going to be worth shit.”

Adrion and Zuckie, almost simultaneously said, “We can figure something out.”

Gronk stomped into the mess interrupting them with a string of curses and confronted Danny. “I find bodies of my kind. Two so far. We must take them home.”

Danny held up his palms out. “Okay. We’ll do what we need to do to get them back to the Station. Did you—”

“Gronk put bodies in, what you call, bags. I store them in cabin.”

“Uh, Gronk, what are you looking for?” Danny noticed that it was in a soft suit, minus the helmet. “I thought I said hard suits! Did you go out in a soft suit?”

“Gronk too big in hard suit. Gronk much better in soft suit.” Gronk dropped a pouch on the table and various things spilled out including what appeared to be charts. “Gronk finding navigation data. All ships I will check. Gronk will know more than any other of my kind.”

“If you don’t kill yourself first,” Danny muttered softly, then said, “Okay, everybody is down for eight divs. We don’t have to get everything done today. Eat, hit the fresher, and eight divs down.” Adrion started to say something and Danny reiterated, “Eight divs down. Period. We will go on duty shift tomorrow at zero eight. Watchbill will be posted when you get up.” He glared around at everyone, then picked the bars up and headed for his cabin. Once there, he shoved them in the small safe, stripped off the haptic suit, sniffed and shoved it in the cleaning unit. After a half hour in the fresher, he dragged himself back to the mess, ate a quick meal, and collapsed on his rack.

 

The day AFTER Christmas

I’m still full from yesterday… sigh…

Feel for the parents out today hunting more batteries for the kid’s toys…

The Day After Christmas

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
Every creature was hurtin’ even the mouse.

The toys were all broken, their batteries dead;
Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.

Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor,
While upstairs the family continued to snore.

And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans,
I went into the kitchen and started to clean.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a little white truck, with an oversized mirror.

The driver was smiling, so lively and grand;
The patch on his jacket said “U.S. POSTMAN.”

With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox.
Then quickly he stuffed them into our mailbox.

Bill after bill, after bill, they still came.
Whistling and shouting he called them by name:

“Now Dillard’s, now Broadway’s, now Penny’s and Sears
Here’s Robinson’s, Levitz’s and Target’s and Mervyn’s.

To the tip or your limit, every store, every mall,
Now chargeaway–chargeaway–chargeaway all!”

He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work.
He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.

He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road,
Driving much faster with just half a load.

Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer,
“ENJOY WHAT YOU BOUGHT…….
YOU’LL BE PAYING ALL YEAR!”

And you can file this away for next year…                                                                               

image001According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December.  Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth  in the spring. Therefore, according to EVERY historical rendition  depicting Santa’s reindeer, EVERY single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a girl.

We should’ve known… ONLY women would be able to drag a fat-ass man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost.

Guess I’ll go look in the fridge to find what’s left from yesterday’s dinner to munch on today… 🙂

It’s THAT night…

The Department of the Navy issued orders today to Adm. S. Claus, recalling him to active duty, with a report date of Dec. 24, 2019. A reservist, with 1,742 years of service, this Naval Aviator specializes in vertical delivery of high-value items. He is carrier flight deck qualified. He is also a Public Affairs Officer.

Also recalled, were Lt. Cmdr. Dasher, Master Chief Dancer, Senior Chief Prancer, Lt. Vixen, Cmdr. Comet, Lt. Cmdr. Cupid, AW1 Donner, and AW1 Blitzen, Individual Augmentees from the Naval Reserve. Ensign Rudolph is also authorized to report for duty; however, he must first successfully complete Carrier Qual training, which he has failed three times.

Although the above Sailors are on orders for only 24 hours, it is anticipated that they will submit a travel claim for 24,901 miles at .56/mile, using a POV. Suitable government transportation is not available.

As a special operations unit, each member is granted a high level of uniform flexibility, as well as relaxed grooming standards. Per diem is authorized and has been modified to include large quantities of hot cocoa and cookies.

shoexmas

Carrier Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, And up on the roof,

No Hoover was stirring- nor Shadow, nor Stoof.

The aircraft were fastened, To tiedowns with care,

In hopes that come morning, They all would be there.

The air wing was nestled, All snug in their racks,

The flight deck was closed, 60 knots at our backs.

So I slumped over my desk in Flight Deck Control,

And settled down comfortably, hearing nary a soul.

When the radio lit up, With noise and chatter,

I turned up the scanner, To see what was the matter.

A voice clearly heard, Over static and snow,

Called for clearance to land, with a green deck or no.

He barked his transmission, So lively and quick,

Couldn’t hear him too well, But think his call sign was “St.Nick”.

I called up to Pri-Fly, To turn up the lights,

The better to welcome, This magical flight.

The radio then squawked, and I heard his faint call,

“St. Nicholas One, Santa’s callin’ the ball!”

And then to my wondering eyes, There did suddenly appear,

A Lockheed-built sleigh, With eight G.E. Reindeer!

With vectors to final, Down the glide slope he came,

As he cheered on his engines, He called them by name.

Now Buda! Now Growler! Now Yukon and Slash!

On Monkey-Butt! On Connie! ” I hope they don’t crash.

While FDCs were sittin’, And scratchin’ their head,

The Boss phoned my office, And I heard it with dread.

The message he left, Was both urgent and dour:

“When Santa’s tied down, tell him Merry Christmas from the tower.”

He landed like silk, though the tailhook was sparkin’,

I thought to myself, where the hell do I park him?

He raised up his hook, and was ready to go,

clearing the landing area, with a “Ho-Ho-Ho…”

He stepped out of the sleigh, But before he talks,

I ran out to meet him, With my best set of chocks.

His red helmet and goggles, Were covered with frost,

And his beard was all blackened, From Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, Gone slightly stale,

And he puffed on a pipe, But didn’t inhale.

His cheeks were all rosy, And jiggled like jelly,

His fight boots were as brown, As a cropduster’s belly.

He was chubby and plump, his suit as red as can be,

And he asked me to “fill it, thousand pounds of JP.”

Then he came dashing in, From the snow-covered pump,

I knew he was anxious, For drainin’ the sump.

I spoke not a word, But went straight to my work,

And I filled up the sleigh, But I spilled like a jerk.

He came out of the head, And sighed in relief,

Then he called the weather guessers, For an updated brief.

And I thought as he silently, Scribed in his log,

These reindeer could land, In an eighth-mile fog.

He completed his pre-flight, From the front to the rear,

Then he put on his headset, And I heard him yell, “Clear!”

Then he keyed up his mic, with a voice that just roared,

“Hey Boss, this is Santa, I’ll need a 52 board.”

He taxied up to the bow, and a Cat 1 spot,

he saluted the yellow shirt, he was ready to be shot.

He launched off the cat, The best of the best,

“Your traffic’s an S-3, Inbound from the west”

Then I heard him proclaim, As he climbed thru the night,

“Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight.

TSO brings the goodness…

I hope this night finds you safe in home and hearth with family. Say a prayer for those in the military on duty world-wide who protect our freedoms, and the LEOs, Fire/EMS, and many others standing the duty tonight…