November 21, 2012 in Uncategorized
Wanted to remind everyone of the fresh shortstories (or, as Col pointed out on my WP blog, some of them are not all that short) on P’kaboo.net.
Just an off-the-wall thought:
Remember that old clichee, “I don’t only love you for who you are but for what you bring out in me” ? Deep deep thought. Really deep thought.
Anyway here’s a bit of a Wednesday read.
“Ironic,” commented Federi as he swung the Probe in the direction of the Solar Wind.
“ ‘s the way pirates go,” he said, grinning at Perdita. “The Devil in person comes to fetch them!”
Perdita smiled and shook her head. Federi was peering critically at her.
“Federi,” she asked, “when did you meet Dana?”
“Never really,” said the Tzigan. “Hired killers don’t often actually meet their employers. ‘s risky for the employer. Assassin’s always a double-bladed sword.”
“Uh-huh,” said Perdita with a little smile. She’d been wondering. “And what made you default from your assignment?”
“Hah!” Federi snorted. “Speak for yourself, Perdita! Would you have, after meeting Captain?” He shook his mane. “Don’t answer that, actually.”
“Execute the Executioner,” said Perdita cynically. “Trigger-bleeding happy man that.”
“Not really,” replied Federi. “You haven’t known him all that long, Perdita. He… barks a lot.”
“Perdita, he’ll come round,” said Federi.
“Back off!” snapped the terrorist boss. Federi bared his teeth and nodded.
“Sorry.” He stared at the sea, and the Solar Wind that… failed to come into view. “Flying stars, what the hell is that thing?”
“Danaan Battle Maiden,” said Perdita. “They can carry up to three hundred petites. Most vicious soldiers New Dome has. Destroy everything on sight. The bigger carriers can take two or three thousand at a go, but the Battle Maiden is a favourite where Dana travels with an entourage. The ship itself is a weapon.”
Federi stared at the huge black metal ship.
If a giant manta ray had solidified into metal; if a Stealth had been forged to look like the meanest scimitar ever designed; in short, the thing looked as though it, the ship itself, had been designed to hack and slash and rip holes into other vessels. Like a ragged, notched blade. Its top, except for a saurian ridge of barbed hooks, was smooth and black.
The bridge was on the underside. Federi took the Probe lower, dipping and immediately lifting her away again. He veered away, hoping they hadn’t yet been seen.
That was the nastiest design for a warship he had ever seen. Underneath the manta ray-shaped wing hung the body of the ship, ridged with more saurian lines of massive hooks and barbs. The thing looked as though it had been cast in one piece, with no seams at all. The compounding body of the Solar Wind wouldn’t last a second if that metal spaceship should decide to take a jab at her. Not even counting those huge chutes that were clearly for launching missiles or maybe hooks, and those other things that looked like oversized nozzles, for shooting – what? Fire? Burning acid?
And if that monstrosity decided to drop by only a few metres, it would crush the Solar Wind’s rigging. And a few more, and the whole Zephyr would be pushed down under the sea. And run through with those spikes. Ye Gods!
Clearly diplomacy was the only way. Negotiation was in order.
“Does it have any weak points?”
Perdita shook her head. “It wasn’t designed to have any. That’s seamless tempered titanium.”
Federi nodded grimly. “They must have seen us! Why aren’t they shooting?”
“Firstly,” said Perdita with a smug grin, “you’re on one of my jets. They are invisible. The only way the petites can see us is visually. Then, secondly, they don’t have reason to shoot us… they can’t know that we’re connected to the Solar Wind.”
Federi nodded again. “They’ll know in a moment,” he commented and activated the com. “Who’s on the bridge?”
“Johnny Anyhow, sir,” came the sharp answer.
“Ah,” said Federi. “Habla Espagñol?”
“Si, si,” said Johnny.
Perdita grinned. If the petites were listening in, they might understand English, because Dana would have trained them for that; but never Spanish! Full hit for the gypsy!
She kept her hands poised over the console, ready to take a flying leap with the Probe into the upper stratosphere if it needed to be. All deflector shields were up. It should take a few punches before the Danaan could make a dent; but then again she wasn’t sure how much further Dana had advanced her weapons since she had left New Dome.
“The thing above your head,” Federi went on in Spanish, “is a Danaan space shuttle. Don’t ask,” he forestalled. “And Johnny, here’s what you do.”
Perdita watched in fascination how the Solar Wind furled her sails, pulled in her rigging, secured it automatically to her own deck, and then sank away into the depths of the sea.
“Brilliant, Federi! In the ocean, too! They’ll never find them now! The seawater fudges the reading!” She grinned broadly. “Had no idea the Solar Wind could do that!”
“You’ve never been submerged before?” asked the gypsy, surprised. “You didn’t know about it?”
“It’s one of those things about Radomir Lascek,” began Perdita and lapsed into silence. Damn Radomir Lascek!
“Why do you say, seawater fudges the reading?” asked Federi, intrigued. “Doesn’t this craft use sonar?”
“Albitrino tracing,” said Perdita. “Different technology. Renders sonar obsolete.”
Federi nodded. He’d get the details from her! Or better, he’d tell Wolf to get the details. “Perdita – what petites? Little whats?”
“Girls,” said Perdita with a sigh. “Always little girls. None younger than fifteen; none older than nineteen. Dana trains them to a vicious edge.”
Federi grinned. “And they break everything?”
“They bring stuff with them… chemical stuff, bombs… there have been rumours of biological stuff, even…”
“Orcs and trolls,” quipped Federi. And he shuddered as his gypsy radar sounded a low warning bell. A death toll.
Wolf had taken a bullet for him. And he was going to be taking a bullet for his Captain… except that it wasn’t a bullet… “What biological stuff? Any virus?”
“No. Disease has been dealt with by the Danaan long ago. In fact…” She trailed off, a calculating gleam in her eyes.
“Are they human?” asked Federi.
“I believe so,” replied Perdita. “Is Rushka human?”
“She’s Hungarian,” said the Tzigan. “That’s different.”
Perdita laughed. Federi tagged the Probe onto the roof of the Battle Maiden. “Show time!” He handed Perdita an atomizer bottle.
“Virus?” she asked.
“Paean told you?” Federi asked back.
Perdita opened a special compartment in the Probe and threw a lightweight, bullet-proof Sancho vest at him. Federi caught it but passed it right back.
“Already wearing one,” he replied, opening his shirt just enough for her to see. She also saw the curl of Paean’s hair dangling there on its chain. Over the vest.
“And that bit of hair?”
Federi buttoned his shirt back up and said nothing. Perdita turned her back and put the bullet-proof Sancho vest on herself.
“Spray-gun in left, gun in right,” the Romany instructed, pulling a Federi special out from somewhere in his clothing and handing it to her. She shook her head and pulled a Perdita special out of her belt. The guns were both Sancho brand and nearly identical.
“Think they’ve spotted us?” asked Federi.
“Nah – they’re too busy looking down, wondering where the Solar Wind has gone!”
Following Federi down the ropes from the roof of the Battle Maiden, in under its wing, Perdita wondered if he were a cat burglar in one of his many clandestine lives. The Tzigan was fully equipped! With two ropes and his special glue they made their way in below the Battle Maiden, and to the side of its body. Perdita pointed out the hatch.
Federi first made a whole lot of extra loops of rope against the body of the craft before he ran his hands along the sealed seams and across the latch.
“How does it open?” he asked in a hushed voice. Perdita moved into some of those loops. Handholds and footholds. Good thinking!
“Electronics,” she said. “Authorized genetic signatures only.” She dug in her pocket. “But I may have…” Federi examined what she was holding out to him. A tiny patch of plastic explosive.
“Last resort,” agreed the Tzigan. “Put it away, Perdita! We’ll try not to damage her too much, first.” Interesting that she carried such stuff with her! Almost, she reminded him of himself! He grinned at the Sancho woman. “Always so much more fun actually commandeering something like this!”
He pulled a little card out of his pocket and ran it over the latch. Nothing happened. He shook his head and dug deeper in his pocket. Perdita watched in fascination. She understood suddenly why the gypsy dressed the way he did. It was all functional! The parts that weren’t designed to cook a person’s psyche were for storage and similar. Spaces to conceal weapons and equipment. Nearly, she thought, like Perdita!
“Hah,” said Federi softly, grinning. “Got it!” He pulled something small and electronic-looking out and positioned it over the lock. He pushed a button. The little machine whizzed and squee-ed, and then there was an electric fizzle, some acrid smoke rising, and a pop. Federi grinned at Perdita and sank the machine back into his pocket. He gave the latch one sharp tug. It opened suddenly. He sprayed a mist into the inside of the ship and ducked out of the way behind the door. Instinctively Perdita hugged the side of the craft as well, clinging onto the handholds Federi had made. Seconds later, a few shots ripped out of the hatch. But not many. And then, silence descended.
Federi sighed a small breath of relief and stuck the other vial he’d been concealing in his hand, back into his pocket. The aliens had been knocked flat with Paean’s green virus. He wouldn’t need to poison them.
“Ace,” said Perdita admiringly. “What was that gizmo you used to open the hatch?”
“Powerful electromagnet,” said Federi. “Hotwires just about anything. Last resort, because it breaks the lock.”
Perdita nodded. She was making notes. The assassin’s shady background was showing. And a feeling for flair! She had to give it to him – the magnet was a less messy solution than her explosive would have been. Though the lock was as broken.
“We go in now,” said the Assassin, “but carefully. It won’t have got to all of them yet.”
The Danaan petites were beauties, every last one. Carefully stepping over them, Federi mulled about that special beauty that went with sleeping children. Children? Yes, he thought, his torch beam flicking over their faces. There was something about these that was younger than the equivalent Earth teen. Their features were still more childlike, their eyes larger in proportion to the rest of the face. Little aliens.
“Now what?” asked Perdita, shining her torch beam on the dead console. The short-circuit of the latch had blown the whole system out, lights and all. The daylight that fell in through the space-darkened glass was barely enough to prevent them from stumbling over sleeping bodies; not enough to see much other detail.
“We put them in a boarding school in Dublin,” grinned Federi. “How strong is the tag on the Probe?”
“Strong enough to tug this,” replied Perdita. “Unless… We’ll have to override the positioning system, that’s clearly not – Federi, what would you have done if the Battle Maiden had crashed into the sea?”
“Made a plan fast,” said Federi.
“And if she had impaled the Solar Wind?”
“Solar Wind’s long since moved out under her,” replied the Tzigan.
“They’ll try to get back to Dana,” warned Perdita, nudging one of the petites with her boot.
“Ginavis then,” decided the gypsy. “Under Jodi Callum’s matronly supervision. Perdita, you go and find the weapons and make a list. Want to know what she’s brung with her.” He eyed the compiled hostages with worry. “Dana’s not amongst them, is she?”
“Dana’s most likely already on the Solar Wind,” said Perdita. “She’s none of these. You’ll recognize her.”
“Rushka’s mother,” said Perdita vaguely. She wasn’t going to let on what a bad fright she’d had the first time she had seen Rushka.
Federi activated his wrist com.
“Johnny, how far have you moved the Solar Wind?”
“Bout half a mile,” said Johnny.
“You can surface.”
“Got you, Federi!”
“What now?” asked Perdita as she and Federi finished tying up the thirty petites with whatever was at hand – for which purpose they had ripped out the thin glass-fibre lighting tubes. Federi used his special glue to secure these impromptu handcuffs.
A force of only thirty. It looked as though Dana expected no resistance at all. But Perdita was not fooled. The rest of the fleet was in all likelihood lying ready just beyond the Interstellar Leap Node…
“We have about three hours,” said Federi, finishing off. “We’ll get back to them. First have to check on the Solar Wind. Chances are Dana is on it.”
“She is,” said Perdita with certainty.
(C) Copyright Lyz Russo 2008