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Young Writers Society
'The Odin', Part One: Finding the Odin
Mon Aug 24, 2020 1:06 pm
For years the crew of the Odin terrorized the galaxy. They were uncatchable, robbing ships of everything they could before disappearing, leaving only mangled wrecks behind. They outsmarted and outfought everything the galactic law enforcement could throw at them before disappearing without a trace.
But that was twenty years ago
Now, the crew of the Odin are Scattered across the galaxy. Some have reformed, using the money they stole to set themselves up in comfortable retirement; Others used the money to create business and start families; still others are living large, spending huge sums of money with no thought as to how they will repay them.
Meanwhile, a young couple working for the galactic law enforcement have been tasked with bringing them to justice.
And on separate sides of the galaxy, two bounty hunters are racing to take each member of the crew and claim the immense bounties on each of the members' heads.
Now, forced by a diverse array of circumstances, the crew of the Odin, older and more desperate than before, return to their old ways. All the while dodging enterprising bounty hunters and law enforcement determined to finally rid them from the galaxy.
Finding the Odin
After the crew of the Odin get together they’re ready to return to interstellar space, plundering unsuspecting ships and making the galaxy tremble again. There’s just one problem: someone sold their ship. Now they have to track it down.
both are done by
Annadanelsa Jasmine Kastellen Sadie (Anna for short)
Kaitlyn Rose Kastellen (Kate for short)
Fletcher Thinkle (@HGsomeone)
Sun Sep 13, 2020 6:04 am
Rain and wind lashed at the towering buildings and the figures hurrying to and fro along the streets. Bursts of lightning, accompanied by peals of thunder, lit the spaces between street lamps with light bright as day.
Blaze strode on, heedless of the biting cold. His coat lay snugly around him; the water slid off without soaking it, and he was as dry as a desert. He checked to make sure his crossbow was safely wrapped as well, and was not disappointed.
The building in front of him wasn't as large as the others. If his informant had been right, it was just a mechanic's shop. No ordinary one, of course, but Blaze had expected something... bigger. The bigger buildings were fun to break into.
he looked around, searching for some way to reach the windows on top of the building, where the ex-pirate's office was supposed to be located. A rusted fire escape caught his attention, and with a pleased smirk, he headed for it.
The door of the last level was locked.
Blaze felt a moment of sharp irritation, then swung off the fire escape. He grabbed on to anything that looked solid, and made his way across the side of the building to the nearest window. Once there, a look inside confirmed nobody was present.
Blaze waited for lightning to strike again, and timed his kick. When the thunder roared above head, his leg swung into the glass, shattering it and allowing him in.
In the dim light of an old bulb, he observed his surrounding.s
Some kind of storeroom, I see.
He opened the door out, only to walk right into a young woman. She gaped at him, but he only hesitated for a fraction of a second before striking out at the back of her head. The blow stunned her, and another knocked her out. He dragged her into the storeroom and tied her with a few pieces of cord from his belt before heading out again, more cautious this time.
A well-lit corridor pointed the way to the manager's office, and he hurried along as silently as he could. At the door, he waited a few heartbeats to make sure no one else was inside, then kicked it open, crossbow in hand.
The ex-pirate had not hesitated. The moment the door was throw open, he had rolled off his chair and out of the way and dashed towards a cabinet to the side of the room.
A crossbow bolt thumped into the wood, nailing the drawer to the cabinet.
John turned around slowly, fists clenched. The bounty hunter had to admire him; he stood without a trace of fear, his body still as fit as could be.
If he's afraid, he hides it well.
"John Taylor, I presume?"
The pirate's eyes darted to the door before settling on Blaze's white mask again. ""How do you-"
"Doesn't matter. I know who you are, pirate. I grew up hearing stories about the devastating defeats law enforcement had to deal with. The captain of the Odin himself... I'll admit, it's an honour." Blaze dipped his head ever so slightly.
"Are you hear to kill me?" the man's tone was iron.
Blaze considered him, then shrugged. "I could, couldn't I?" There was no answer, so he continued. "A few weeks ago, I was approached by a man in disguise. A poor one, at that; he was clearly part of the law enforcement. He offered me a deal - find and kill or capture a certain John Taylor, captain of the Odin, and you get (
I don't know the currency in this system, and how much would have been offered; let me know, and I'll edit this.
). A tempting offer, wouldn't you say?"
Taylor still hadn't said anything.
"Do you know who I am?" Blaze asked quietly.
"I may have heard a thing or two," Taylor said coldly. "You're the one they call Blaze, judging by that mask and outfit."
"Always good to be recognized. Let me tell you something, Taylor; I don't
the galactic law enforcement. A good deal of them are corrupt liars who would happily sell their own mothers to make a profit. Not that you may not do the same, of course." He chuckled. "But, like I said, I admired you. You were a ruthless, fearless man, a brilliant strategist from what I've heard; not someone I would like to kill."
"What do you want, then?"
"To give you a warning," Blaze said, his voice becoming as icy as Taylor's. "To tell you that the galactic law enforcement hasn't forgotten the Odin, Taylor, or who killed hundreds of their people. They're taking no chances this time, if they're pulling my kind into this. And they sure as hell won't stop."
Taylor remained silent. Blaze was irritated; he didn't like talking so much.
"Listen to me,
I could kill you now, and take the sum they offered me. But I'd rather not. No one knows I tracked you down here. No one knows we met. I don't mind keeping it that way. But I'm not here just to pull you out of the frying pan, Taylor. If you have even a shred of dignity and honour, I expect some payment in return. Preferably around as much as enforcement offered me." He paused. "Your whole crew is in danger, Taylor. The next time we meet, I don't think we'll have time for a nice chat. In fact, if we do meet again in the near future, you aren't a man to be admired anymore, and I'll have no qualms in killing you." Lowering the crossbow slowly, he stared dead into the man's eyes, knowing his blank mask would unnerve him at least a little. "I don't care what you do, but I expect payment eventually. You have a week before I begin tracking you down again, and this time your only shield will be money. Keep that in mind. Here's a little reminder to keep you on your toes." Blaze dug into his pocket and tossed a little white disc onto Taylor's desk. A flame was carved into the smooth whiteness. "Goodbye. Oh, and one of your clerks is dead. You ought to know."
Without further ado, he walked out of the room, leaving the bolt buried in the cabinet and the disc on his desk.
In the storeroom, he sighed regretfully at the unconscious woman. He reached out to snap her neck, then thought better of it. She had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So he hauled her up and onto his shoulder before opening the fire escape and leaving the building.
"I believe a man does what he can until his destiny is revealed to him."
Sun Oct 04, 2020 1:49 pm
John always checked to make sure his knife was in his right pocket before he left his house for work. It had been twenty years since he had done anything disreputable, but he had heard of bounty hunters who stalked their targets for longer; he needed to keep his guard up.
The night always made him weary: the two large moons, even when they were both full, offered more shadows than light. He felt his left pocket. There were two things in that pocket: his keycard and a book of poetry. He kept the book of poetry to read when the night business was slow—as it often was—and it kept him from needing to go back to his bedroom when he had finished reading to his daughter, where he would inevitably step on just the wrong floorboard and make the room echo with a sound like a swine being tortured and wake his wife.
He was comfortable enough on his route down the pavement to reminisce, though, and he let his mind wander to the first night he and his family had spent in the apartment. After they had read to Charlotte, their daughter, taking turns sitting cross-legged on the floor next to her slightly tattered futon. Once she had fallen asleep, he and his wife had taken their futons from where they sat outside the door and brought them to the master bedroom.
When John had opened the door and taken the first step he had heard the screech. It sounded at seemingly every other step, and as he and his wife lay their futons down she had joked that it had sounded like a man dying. There was a short silence after that—a tense silence—before John spoke. He knew what a man dying sounded like, he had told her, and it was quieter. She had let out a hesitant laugh then. He hadn’t been joking, but he never told her that. Dana was a strange woman; John still found it hard to believe anyone would knowingly marry someone like him, but here he was: with a family who was asleep now, safe in their third-floor apartment. I wish I could feel so safe. He thought. As the wind blew chill against his face he was glad he had decided to wear a jacket. He had chosen a pale blue fleece one that his daughter had gotten him for his birthday. He allowed himself to be lost in thought, only bringing himself out to stop at curbs and look for traffic.
He almost ran into the glass door of the office section of his garage—the garage he had bought ten years ago, with what little money he had left after bribing the police to leave him alone. He saw the greeter wave at him. He waved back with his right hand as he put his left into his pocket to pull out his key card. He swiped the card through the reader and the door swung open.
“Hello, George.” John returned her greeting as he sidestepped the closing door. John had heard the name he had given himself enough time to keep from wincing, but only barely. He did not like the name, but it was what he could pull out of the air in the moment when the official at the immigration station had asked for his name. “Did you hear? There’s supposed to be a big storm coming in in a little while.” John sighed.
“I guess all I can do is hope it doesn’t wake my family.” John said.
“How is your family?” the attendant asked, “How’s Rhea,” Dana had come up with the better name, John had liked it so much he had asked her if she would officially change her name. She had slapped him; it had been a light slap, one whose sting lasted barely a moment on his cheek, but it was enough to ward off further conversation on the topic. “last I heard from her she was sick, it's always worse if you’re new to the planet and you get sick—never know what might happen.”
“She’s doing well,” John answered “She’s getting better—just a few extra hours rest. She’ll be better soon.”
“How’s Charlotte?” the attendant asked, sounding as if the possibility of some catastrophic event had just occurred to her, “she isn’t sick, is she? I’ve had friends from other planets who’ve told me about their children getting sick with something from a different planet and...well—they...” she trailed off. John was quick to reassure her.
“Charlotte's fine,” he said, “don’t worry.” He realized after a few moments the conversation had dried up. The air filled with an awkward silence. “I should be getting to work,” he said, “come up and get me if you need anything.” He walked towards the hallway at the back of the lobby without waiting for a response.
John kept his office on the second floor, where the smaller crafts would land—the kind he could repair himself if he was feeling particularly able when he came in on weekends. He was not a young man, but he kept himself fit enough. John let the door to his office close behind him as he made his way to his desk. It was a large touchscreen set on four metal legs.
The most eccentric part of his office was the wooden shelves that lined the walls, each one filled by manually locking drawers. The wood was his own preference, the drawers were a precaution: anyone with a half a brain could figure out how to hack a lock and keep the typical computerized drawers from opening. It was hard to do that with a piece of circuitless wood.
He checked the only unlocked drawer in the room: the one in the fourth tier on the left wall that held his pistol. After checking to make sure no one had touched it he sat down in his chair. It was a battered old thing—the one item he had kept from the Odin before he had let Lolita run off with it, not believing any of her vehement promises not to damage his ship.
He set to work, enjoying the quiet as he tapped away at his desk, taking correspondents and looking over the results of the day’s work. Looking away from the screen for a moment
Soon enough the storm came: a quiet pattering at first that quickly grew into an uncomfortably loud pounding. If he hadn’t weathered storms like it before he would have been worried. He had weathered worse than storms: he had been beaten, stabbed and shot at, but he was able to fight back; it was hard to fight against raindrops. A message popped on the screen:
[Just received something I need to show you. Coming up. —Cali]
A few moments later he heard something over the pelting rain: footsteps. Pounding footsteps. His mind whirled—he hadn’t locked his door. He shot out of his chair, sending it rolling out to the other side of the room. He sprinted to the drawer where his pistol was; he flung the drawer open but before he could take his pistol out something shattered the shelf and sent his gun clattering onto the floor somewhere behind him. He spun to face his attacker.
He was a tall man in black robes. He wore a strange white mask and was pointing a crossbow at where the drawer had been.
John Taylor, I presume?" The man’s booming voice sounded strange with the mask.
""How do you-"
"Doesn't matter. I know who you are, pirate. I grew up hearing stories about the devastating defeats law enforcement had to deal with. The captain of the Odin himself... I'll admit, it's an honour." the man lowered his head slightly for a moment in what John could only assume was respect
"Are you here to kill me?" John managed to keep his tone even. He had faced death in many forms throughout his life and come out the other end alive––this was no different. That’s what he told himself, doing his best to ignore just how defenseless he was. One wrong move—one misstep he could have a bolt through me, then it’s over. He did his best to stay above his thoughts.
The man shrugged. "I could, couldn't I?" John stayed silent, searching the man for any potential weaknesses "A few weeks ago, I was approached by a man in disguise. A poor one, at that; he was clearly part of the law enforcement. He offered me a deal - find and kill or capture a certain John Taylor, captain of the Odin, and you get ten million chips. A tempting offer, wouldn't you say?"
John stayed quiet. He wouldn't risk betraying his fear
"Do you know who I am?" the man asked quietly. John frantically searched his memory, doing his best to keep himself expressionless, the moments seem to drag on infinitely, but he finally put a name to the form.
"I may have heard a thing or two," he said coldly. The first step to controlling a situation is sounding as if you already control it. "You're the one they call Blaze, judging by that mask and outfit."
"Always good to be recognized. Let me tell you something, Taylor; I don't like the galactic law enforcement. A good deal of them are corrupt liars who would happily sell their own mothers to make a profit. Not that you may not do the same, of course." Blaze chuckled. "But, like I said, I admired you. You were a ruthless, fearless man, a brilliant strategist from what I've heard; not someone I would like to kill."
"What do you want, then?" John asked, keeping his tone as cool as he could manage. He moved carefully—slowly enough to seem sure without being dangerous, fast enough to not seem terrified—to stand in front of his desk.
"To give you a warning," Blaze said, his voice chilling to match John’s. "To tell you that the galactic law enforcement hasn't forgotten the Odin, Taylor, or who killed hundreds of their people. They're taking no chances this time, if they're pulling my kind into this. And they sure as hell won't stop."
"Listen to me, pirate; I could kill you now,” John thought he heard frustration coloring the edges of his words. “and take the sum they offered me. But I'd rather not. No one knows I tracked you down here. No one knows we met. I don't mind keeping it that way. But I'm not here just to pull you out of the frying pan, Taylor. If you have even a shred of dignity and honor, I expect some payment in return. Preferably around as much as enforcement offered me." He paused. "Your whole crew is in danger, Taylor. The next time we meet, I don't think we'll have time for a nice chat. In fact, if we do meet again in the near future, you aren't a man to be admired anymore, and I'll have no qualms in killing you." The man lowered his crossbow. "I don't care what you do, but I expect payment eventually. You have a week before I begin tracking you down again, and this time your only shield will be money. Keep that in mind. Here's a little reminder to keep you on your toes." The man took something out of his pocket. A white disk with a flame carved into it landed on John's desk, he recognized it as a custom holo-disk. "Goodbye. Oh, and one of your clerks is dead. You ought to know."
That last remark pinned John in place as the black-cloaked man left. Cali! Oh god, what will I tell her family! I need to get out—they’ll start looking into this, even if I deal well with everything. He’s shown he’s not above killing civilians. An idea occurred to him: the man could be lying. Quickly, John checked the CCTV cameras. Sure enough, there was the man, carrying an unconscious—unconscious but breathing—Cali on his shoulder.
He spun around and sprinted to the back wall of his office. Stopping, he bent down and fumbled through the pile of rubble for his pistol. After a few moments, he found it. He made sure the safety switch was still on as he picked it up; the switch had been jolted between off and safety positions. John clicked it off with his thumb as he stood up. He turned and ran out of his office, snatching the white disk off his desk as he went. The man had disappeared from the hallway with Cali. They must be outside, then. He rushed down the stairs and out the door.
John turned the holo-disk on, without waiting for the image to materialize he growled:
“I know where you are; return Cali or I will shoot you.”
“So that’s her name, is it?” Blaze’s voice answered back, clear over the rain and the thunder. “Not a bad name, nice and short for the ransom note.”
“I know where you are,” John growled again. He heard Blaze chuckle.
“If you knew where I was,” he said, “then you wouldn’t be standing in my line of vision.” John’s heartbeat quickened and he whipped his head up and frantically searched the rooftops around him. He saw Blaze on the roof of one of the taller buildings, his cloaked form illuminated by lightning for heartbeats at a time.
“Let her go, taking her won’t give me any more incentive to find your money and she had no part in this,” he said, trying to sound unshaken. That crossbow could be pointed at me.
“Very well,” Blaze said, “I will expect extra payment for this.”
“That’s fine,” John said, growing frantic “just leave her on top of the building.”
There were no more words. John watched the rooftop where he had seen Blaze. He saw the blinking hull-lights of a ship lower from the clouds. The bottom of the ship opened and in the light that beamed down from the porthole, he saw Blaze jump into his ship. The porthole closed. John’s fragmented thoughts took a moment to collect themselves. He would tell Cali there had been a break-in, an attempted robbery and kidnapping, but he fought back and managed to force the perpetrator to leave empty-handed, yes, that would work. Exactly what I wish had happened. He thought wryly as he ran over to the building where Cali was laying. He threw open the door and ran. The thought to use the stairs lasted only long enough for John to discard it; Cali was safe and running up floors and down hallways where people laid sleeping would do him no good.
The elevator doors opened at an agonizing pace and rose even slower. Had it not been him in his situation, John would have laughed. As it was, he simply held himself ready and switched his pistol safety on before depositing the weapon in his jacket pocket. He kept his eyes on the floor numbers. It was on floor four he began to feel the chill of his clothes. By floor eight he had begun pacing, by floor eleven he was having trouble ignoring the chill. He was relieved when the elevator finally crawled to a halt at floor twelve.
He walked out of the elevator and down the hallway with measured steps. Soon he reached a door marked ‘roof access’. He opened it and ran up, letting the heavy door slam shut behind him.
He made it to the top of the stairs a moment later and pushed the door open to see the form of Cali. She was on her knees now—likely disoriented, but alive. John ran over to her.
“Geor—wha—who,” she looked like a hunted animal “why’d—” she slowed her panting enough to gasp out “where am I?”
“You're on top of a building,” John answered in a calm, deliberate voice. “Do you need help getting up?” Cali nodded hesitantly and raised a trembling hand. John took it and helped her to her feet.
“There was a robbery,” he lied. “The man tried to kidnap you but I managed to fight him off.” Cali nodded shakily. “Can you walk?”
“I think so,” Cali answered. He held her arm just in case. He was glad he had decided to do that when Cali tried to take her first step and nearly fell down. “C—could you help me?” She asked. John nodded.
Helping Cali had offered him a diversion from the rain, but now he could feel the chill of his soaked-through jacket on his back. He tried to keep his mind off the uncomfortable weight as he helped Cali down the stairs, keeping one hand on her arm and gripping the railing tightly with the other. They reached the bottom after what seemed like an eternity. The reached the bottom of the stairs. Cali seemed able to walk on her own, albeit quite slowly, down the hallway to the elevators. Despite her slow pace, John stayed just behind her.
“My head!” She groaned as she brought a hand up to her temple.
“Don’t worry, it goes away after a little while.” John mentally kicked himself for speaking up. He braced for whatever questions she would ask. None came. He followed Cali into the elevator in relieved silence.
“What now?” Cali asked as the elevator doors opened. John thought for a moment as he stepped out onto the first floor.
“We should probably head back to the garage,” he said. “Do you know anyone who can bring you home?”
“My boyfriend,” she answered, “but he probably won’t appreciate me waking him up so late.”
“You’re welcome to stay in the garage, if you want, but whatever you do I wouldn’t recommend driving until you’ve rested a little.”
“You seem to know a lot about this sort of thing.”
“I’ve had… experiences.” John said as he stopped at the door to the garage and fumbled in his pocket for his keycard.
“Are you going to call the police?” John shook his head as he swiped his card through the reader.
“I can handle this on my own--the police won’t be much help anyway.” it was nice to tell her at least one truth.
They parted ways once they entered: Cali heading to the lounge and John returning to his office to survey the damage. By the time he made it there, though, he realized he would be doing something more: he would be disappearing. He opened one of the drawers on the wall of his office and pulled out his holo-disk. He flicked through the contacts until he found the one he was looking for: Daron Lawson; he was a friend from John’s army days, they had last met at John’s wedding. Daron had been his best man.
It was there he had Daron had agreed to take up whatever business John had should the police find him again. He pressed the contact button and waited. Soon an image flickered up. It was hard to see Daron's face clearly, both because of the light and the strange negative of the hologram, but John could make out his general features.
“John!” Daron smiled. “how’re you doing!”
“You had another child?”
“No. A bounty hunter came here an hour or so ago—nearly kidnapped one of my employees.”
“Oh shit.” Daron's humorous tone melted away. “Guess now’s the time, then.” John nodded. “Anyone you want me to keep an eye on?”
“Cali.” John answered.
“When do you need me in control?”
“By ten thirty Aethire eastern time at the latest.” Daron nodded grimly.
“I’ll see what I can do.” he dissolved. John set the holo-disk on his desk and set about cleaning up his office. There was a spare set of clothes in one of the drawers and he changed quickly. Then he began going through his drawers.
The first one had a key on top of a large stack of files. He took the key out and locked the drawer. The next drawer had hard drives and digital records, hackable records. He took them out and placed them in a pile behind him. He continued like that at a frantic pace, locking every drawer with files and taking out all the digital records. By the time he had finished there was a sizable pile of hard drives behind him. He moved them over to his desk one at a time and began clearing them feverishly. As he worked, his mind began racing again. How am I going to make all that money? I can’t take it from the garage, the police’ll be able to trace it and then I’ll be dead regardless. I could try running, but blaze will find me, I know he will. I can’t chance my family on something evading someone. I could… No, he couldn’t do that. He had left piracy behind, he had reformed, if he hadn’t been so wanted he would have made amends. Not any use to the hundreds I’ve killed, but it would give me peace of mind. But as he thought about it all other options disintegrated. He would have to come out of retirement, make a new crew if he had to. It was time for the Odin to return. He felt chills run across his body. When he was on the second to last hard drive a message popped up.
[Called my boyfriend, should be bringing me home soon.-Cali]
John sent a quick response then returned to his work. He finished in a few minutes. The storm had abated. Another message came through.
[He’s here. Leaving now. have a good night. -Cali]
[You too. -george]
He went to his window and watched as the car came, then left. After he was sure they had left he disposed of the hard drives, dumping them three at a time into the repair bay’s trash disposal. He replaced everything in his pockets, except the book of poetry. He left that on the reception desk with a hastily written note on the interior cover:
This is yours now—the book—I’ve handed control of the business over to a friend of mine. You’re in good hands, don’t worry.
John had a feeling the book would be of little use to him. He walked home. Rhea was sleeping fitfully and he was sorry to wake her, but he did.
“We’re leaving tomorrow.” He said. Rhea shot up.
“It’s happened, then?” John nodded.
“Well then, we’ll need to—” she broke off into a fit of coughing.
“Shhhh,” He said. “I’ll deal with it.”
“You think—” she hacked as she got out of bed. “I’ll let you mess up our luggage again? No, I’ve learned my lesson.” She coughed again.
“You really should get some rest.” John said. “You need it.” Rhea brushed his arm away as he brought it up to her shoulder.
“I need a cough drop.” she retorted. John just sighed and went over to the dresser, where he kept his private holo-disk, he flicked through the contacts. There they were: his old crew-mates, one call away.
“Have you ever wanted to see what it’s like to be part of ‘The Odin’?” Rhea had dressed: she was wearing a pair of pants and a t-shirt.
“No,” her voice was hoarse. “But I get the feeling I’m going to find out.” Despite the situation, John couldn’t help but smile grimly as he began making calls.
Mon Oct 12, 2020 8:39 pm
Peter Retep, or Lucky, was standing in a field of grain the moment Blaze has been heading towards Captain John's business. Of course, Lucky had no idea that his old Captain had a business, or even that his old Captain had married. At that moment, Lucky was arguing with a robot. Specifically the one overseeing the farming of the land.
You see, Lucky had become a farmer, and no longer went by Peter
Lucky, but rather by Archer. Mr. Christopher Archer, husband of Mrs. Dorothy Archer, parents of five boys and three girls. The oldest of the boys was a little over 23 and Mr. Christopher Archer was quite sure he would at least be able to see his oldest son marry on their beautiful farm. Unfortunately the universe had other plans for him.
So there he was, standing in the field arguing with a robot.
"Sir, I assure you, we will be able to finish harvesting the crops by next week."
"K-1991, You said today
wants it by next week. We don't have time!"
Just as the robot was about to reply, his wife's face flickered to life on his wrist watch, "Honey, it's time for lunch. Stop arguing with K-1991, and get over here. The kids want to show you something."
So Peter glared at the robot, but headed towards the big home of their big farm, which was right next to their big storage barn. As he entered the house he could smell some delicious food cooking and the usual clamor and sound of his eight children. He stepped into the dining room, and boomed, "Well what do you kids want to show me? Your mother called me over just to see whatever you rascals have done."
Dorothy Archer, whose true name was Julia Retep, somehow appeared behind Peter, and smacked him with a spoon, "No, I called you over to eat lunch, you buffoon. What the children have made was simply encouragement to get you over here."
"Oh so you've made me something, eh? Well out with it!"
Smiles were exchanged, and finally his oldest son, Trevor, stepped towards Peter with something in his hand. It was neatly wrapped in some unknown fabric which was the color of the sky. On top sat an innocent looking red bow. But Peter never got things from his children unless it was his birthday or some other holiday, so this was quite suspicious behavior. Peter cautiously took the present. He then removed the bow. He breathed in deeply and noticed everyone staring at him intently. So Peter slowly unwrapped the gift, and dropped the fabric on the ground. On his palm lay a small package of those chewable breath fresheners. They were a good treat as well, one rarely bought. His children definitely hadn't
this. Peter looked around. All his children stared back at him not even blinking. His wife was back in the kitchen doing something. Why did his children have to inherit his good poker face? He looked back at the package in his hand and attempted taking a piece of the treat out. Peter yelped as a shock ran through his finger. And then the room exploded in laughter. Peter shook his head, covering a smile, and sat down at the table.
Night soon fell over the farm. Despite Peters constant worries over his family and homestead, the days were good. Sometimes he would long for his pirate days again. On those days some money might disappear from the bank, or some gold might disappear from the Mayors office, but those days were few and far between. Most days he lay next to his wife in peace, glad that he was no longer running from the police or government.
Tonight he watched as his wife let down her long chestnut hair and laid next to him, and they both smiled at each other happily. What a nice life they led.
But of course it didn't stay peaceful for very long. When Peter was almost asleep, he heard a buzzing noise. He attempted to cover his ears, but it just continued, over and over and over again. So Peter got out of his bed angrily, certain this was his children's doing. He followed the noise around the room carefully, to a secret cabinet hidden in the wall. Peter had installed it to hold belongings from his previous life, and he groaned when he thought of the only thing that could be buzzing in there. His old holo-disk. With a few secret combinations here, and a few secret combinations there, Peter got the cabinet open, and grabbed the holo disk. It was his old Captain - Captain John Taylor. Peter hesitated. He didn't know what the Captain wanted. He could hear his wife stirring in the bed behind him. He was scared. But he answered. John's familiar voice echoed around the room, "Lucky? Lucky! This is an emergency. I'll keep it short and simple, a bounty hunter visited me today, and let's just say that the law enforcement wouldn't mind us dead. And were being given a head start. I advise-"
Julia sat up in the bed, glancing at Peter with wide eyes. Peter brought a lip to his mouth and shook his head. They would talk about this later.
"-at the old rendezvous, alright?"
Peter frowned "What about my family, Cap? And my farm. I understand the need to get away as fast as we can, but I have eight children now."
John let out a low whistle, "Trevor was born while you were with the crew. Bring him and your wife. I don't know about the rest of your children, though."
Peter nodded calmly, attempting not to get too shaken up, "Alright Cap. I suppose there's more calls that need to be made, so I'll let you go. When do we meet?"
His Captain let out a sigh, "In three days, Lucky, and you know where."
"Roger that. See you soon Cap."
And just like that Peter's life was changed. He sighed and got all his old things out of the cabinet. Then he turned to Julia.
"It's happened, hasn't it? And I thought we'd be perfectly fine forever. I'm too optimistic. Or maybe I just jinxed it."
Peter smiled at her sadly, "Yes, it has happened. Now continue with our plan. We get Trevor ready, and call C-43 to take over."
Julia got out of bed and quickly changed, and began calling different numbers, to tell them that they were going somewhere, etcetera. Finally she called C-43, their trusted and loyal robot of many years. In the morning, Peter and Julia and Trevor all said goodbye, reassuring the younger children that they just had another work trip to go on and that their aunt and uncle, and grandparents, and favourite robot would all be there to see them.
And so Peter set out, worrying a little about the harvest, and worrying very much about his life.
Hi, the name is Jasmine, but you can call me Jaz! Nice to meet you
Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:18 pm
The desert was cool. The sun had yet to rise, but Vie was already wide awake, sitting on the front steps of his house. He sat on the top step, his bare feet resting two steps below it. A thin breeze was blowing, bringing the smell of chlorine from the pool nearby to Vie's nostrils. He breathed deeply.
It was peaceful, to be awake so early. Vie didn't mind waking up before dawn; in fact, it had been just another part of his routine when he was a slave. And even after that, he still woke up earlier than most on the Odin to make repairs and stay in shape. During this time, this moment, when no one was awake, there wasn't any emotion or conflict or even movement, save the sun climbing over the horizon. Vie had learned to live with that moment. Before, on the Odin, he longed to fill it with activity, always working or making himself busy to avoid spending time with his own thoughts, his own tumultuous feelings. Now, he was still, content to let those thoughts roll in.
A lot had changed since those years. Vie still thought about them all the time. The thrill of a chase, the tension of a heist. The danger, the excitement. Above all, Vie remembered his anger, his passion. He had been young, he had been reckless. He had felt like he was unstoppable, and if anyone did try and stop him? Well, he would get rid of them. But times had changed. He wasn't that person anymore. Still, he couldn't help but reminisce about those years, the things he did, the people he was with.
Here, though, on the planet Hast, things were nice. Vie couldn't complain about the climate; it was dry, warm, and had cool nights, the weather he liked. (Though sometimes it reminded him a bit too much of Bliemi.) There were many different races and people from across the galaxy. Some were rich, looking for a vacation; others were runaways, seeking a safe place to call home; still others had lived on Hast their entire lives, their parents from different planets themselves. It was civilized; many people had pools, and in larger cities there were shopping centers and thriving urban communities. It was socially structured well; unlike on Bliemi, there weren't castes or strict social classes, and anyone had the potential to be anything. And it was safe; generally, at least on the part of the planet Vie was on, discrimination and hate crimes were kept to a minimum, and crime in general was low.
Vie lived on the edge of a smaller town, which was close enough to the city of Bassete. The town was quaint, the type of place where everybody knew everybody. It was also the type of place news doesn't travel swiftly to. When Vie arrived, most people didn't have a clue what planet he came from. They couldn't guess his background, his story, the life he left behind. Despite this, though, they still welcomed him into their community. He bought a small house, well-constructed and with plenty of land, on the outskirts of the town and settled down. Every morning, he had an unobstructed view of the sunrise.
And now, as Vie watched the horizon, a sliver of pink highlighted the sky, the air around it softening from darkness to a lighter green. Around him the sky was starting to open up, the numerous stars dissipating as the lime color drifted into cognition. Vie kept his eyes on the sun as it grew, starting as a line of color and blooming into a flower of yellow and orange. It hurt to look at with bare eyes, so he shut his translucent eyelids for protection and kept watching.
It seemed mere minutes, but suddenly the sun was all the way above the horizon, glowing circular and lighting up the air around it. Vie could feel its warmth on his face and sighed contentedly. The day had begun.
The house Vie lived in was full of windows, each holding broad views of the green, cloudless sky and the desert around him. Some views held others' houses, and during the night the lights from their windows shone into his home. It was bothersome. He drew the curtains on those windows when it got dark. Now, in the morning, Vie opened them.
The houses around his were about the same size as the house he owned: not large, but not oppressively small either. They were not high-tech, but they were very serviceable. Over time Vie had made modifications to his house's software, making its functions and energy usage more efficient. Now, when his windows were open in the morning, the house knew to shut off the artificial lights.
The kitchen was a short walk away from the door, where Vie had watched the sunrise from. Breakfast was a small glass of thin milk, two eggs, and a cut of meat from last night's dinner. After eating, Vie brushed his teeth, washed his face with the damp towel he used exactly for that purpose, and walked down to his basement. There, he worked out, lifting weights and doing physical exercises without keeping track of the time. By the time he finished all the exercises he had set out to do, the sun was high off the horizon, and the sky was vibrant and clear.
Just as Vie sat down in a chair in his living room, using a rag to wipe the minimal sweat off his brow, he felt a buzzing in the back pocket of his cargo shorts. Vie furrowed his brow. People normally didn't call him. He barely left town and had no very close acquaintances. And he was the one who usually reached out to other previous members of the Odin. After the crew broke up, Vie had tried to stay in touch, and had mostly done so with John, but the rest of them often ignored his attempts to reach out.
In the moment that he reached for the holo-disk in his pocket, Vie felt a flash of hope. Maybe someone from the Odin had decided to reach out to him at last. Maybe Lucky, or Harpy. Maybe it could even be Lolita, probably in a drunken stupor. Vie smiled at the thought. Maybe one of them had finally decided to talk to him. Maybe they wanted to hang out for a while.
But when Vie took the holo-disk out of his pocket, still buzzing, his hope faded. It was a call from John. Immediately Vie felt guilty, then angry at himself. John was his friend, his companion, with him since the beginning. There was nothing wrong with getting a call from him; in fact, quite the opposite. It was just that Vie had expected another one of his friends, one he hadn't heard from in a long, long time. John, at least, communicated with him somewhat regularly.
He answered the call. "John?" he said, his voice coming out deep and slightly gravelly.
"Vie! Listen to me." John's voice was grave. Vie immediately straightened in his chair. Something was wrong.
"I'm listening," he said, focusing on the holo-disk.
"This is an emergency," John said, his voice urgent. "I was found by a bounty hunter. A guy named Blaze. Long story short, law enforcement wants us dead. They sent the bounty hunter."
"Then why aren't you dead?" Vie asked.
"Because Blaze gave me a warning about all this, and a head start. He wants money, Vie. We give him the money, he shuts up about our whereabouts."
Vie sat back in his chair. He could see where this was going, and with that realization he felt a bit of frustration bubble up. "
whereabouts. He knows where
are. Not me, not Lucky, not anyone else."
After a brief pause, John spoke. "Look, maybe that's true, but if he found me, who's to say they aren't going to find you too? They're turning to bounty hunters. They want to find us."
"Still." Vie crossed his arms. "So you want to get the Odin back together to pay this guy?"
Once again, John sighed. "You knew that this would happen eventually, Vie. Law enforcement is coming after us. Right now, it's me. Soon, it'll be you guys. When that happens, it'll be better if we stick together."
It was Vie's turn to sigh. It was true; he did know that this was bound to happen. The Odin had been notorious. That sort of infamy didn't just disappear. His frustration had faded, now replaced by a flicker of that old passion. If John wanted everyone back together, that meant he would get to see everyone again, in the flesh. Lucky, Harpy, Lolita.
Truth be told, he had missed them.
And if Vie was in the situation John was in, he would help him without question. They had been together since the beginning. They relied on each other.
"All right." Vie leaned forward towards the holo-disk. "I'm in. I got you, man."
"Good," John's voice came through the disk. "I'll meet you in three days. You know where to go."
"Yeah." Vie reached to end the call, then hesitated. "It's good to hear from you, John."
The voice on the other end paused, then spoke back. "Yeah. I just wish it wasn't under these circumstances."
Vie smiled wryly, then ended the call. He stood up and stretched his shoulders. The sweat across them had dried.
Time to get back into action.
(you may call me she, if you please)
Mon Oct 19, 2020 6:32 am
In. Out. In again. Exhale. Calm.
Gradually, Harpy felt her breathing slow as she leant against the door. She didn't remember running, her memory jumped straight from standing at that market stand to slamming her front door closed only moments ago.
She shook her head. She had run after seeing something, what was it? The image was fading from her mind like a dream that turned to wisps in the morning light.
Pushing off against the door, she moved across to her flat's kitchenette and filled a glass with water.
It had been a picture, she was sure of that, what else would it have been at the picture stall?
Harpy closed her eyes, holding the glass yet undrunk. In her mind, she saw it. Amongst the portraits of flowers, snapshots of sunsets and mountain landscapes, the image of a white orb floating in space; a moon, one of seemingly thousands around it. Pearls hanging in the dark.
There had been a small tag on the picture, telling where it had come from. The type made of tape and written in a thick smudging pen, stuck absentmindedly onto the corner of the frame. Harpy shook her head, she should remember what it had said, she had been staring at it for at least a full minute before the stall-keeper had asked her for a price.
She opened her eyes and saw the glass of water shaking in her hand. Why was she worrying about this? It was a picture, it didn’t matter.
What mattered now was her life, here on the planet of Nain, where she didn’t have memories to bother her. What she needed was calm.
Downing the water in one gulp, Harpy set the glass down heavily on the bench top. It was time for some yoga.
Her apartment was small, this meant there was less of it to stress about as well as that it was never hard to find anything.
The city she lived in was small too. The planet Nain had no larger settlement than a quaint market centre surrounded by a spread-out complex of streets that ended as soon as you lost sight of the town hall. No one came to Nain for a holiday, its basic landscape of endless grasslands didn’t distinguish it as one of the more excitable planets. Instead, it drew a much slower crowd, the kinds of people who didn't find any interest in adventure.
Harpy slid her yoga mat from under an armchair with space for only one person and strolled across to the door of a room where her mind felt most at ease.
Inside, darkness reigned as all the windows had been shuttered closed. The only light came from what little was reflected off a hundred images of moons adorned across the walls. Unrolling the mat, Harpy sat down it with her legs crossed over each other and her pale grey hands resting on her knees.
She breathed. Long slow breaths that seemed to move with her soul.
The world was still. The planet had stopped moving, and as one, the stars had each gone out. Harpy felt a smile uncoil across her lips as her mind slurred as well into that muted stillness.
She stood on the edge, the edge of her memory. It was a field as a bus rattled off behind her, and in front a path wound its way to a city sitting in the distance. The three suns had been bright, causing her to shield her face; too much light hurt her eyes.
In the pockets of her plain black jeans there were a hundred chips, just enough to last a week, and a holo-disc. She had never bothered to turn it on. The past was stressful, Harpy didn’t like stress.
A sudden bleep jerked her from the field.
Harpy spun and stumbled to the door, rushing through it before yanking open a cupboard that she very rarely opened. The incessant bleeps continued to taunt her as she rummaged through her mess of stuff, pulling aside old shirts and scrap pieces of paper until she uncovered a grey disk. Her holo-disk.
Harpy drew out the device and stared at it as a name flashed over its surface.
John. Did she know a John? She couldn’t think of any John’s and yet the name seemed to stir the ghost of a memory. What did ‘Cap’ mean?
She touched the screen to accept the call but almost dropped it when a desperate voice echoed in her palm.
Harpy stared at the disk, not saying a word
“Harpy? Are you there?” John, she assumed, tried again.
There was silence and for a moment she thought John would hang up, but something made her clear her throat and say, “hello?”
“Harpy! You’re there!” she heard a sigh of relief on the other side, “Listen, I have a problem, we all have a problem.”
Through the disk, John’s voice grew faster and more frantic. “Law enforcement, turns out they haven’t forgotten about the Odin’s little antics. They’ve got a bounty hunter on my back now and it’s only a matter of time before they’ve set one on the rest of you too.”
Harpy nodded slowly, her mind was blank.
“I think we do have a way out of this though, but it involves money, a lot of money. So, unless you have ten million chips laying around handy can I count on you to meet us at the old spot?” John finished, she could hear him breathing as he waited for her response.
“Who is this?” Harpy asked.
There was a pause. “It’s John, doesn’t it say that on the disk?”
“Yeah,” Harpy replied. “but, who’s John?”
“Harpy cut it out, this is serious. My family is in danger and I need my crew.”
“Crew? Like pirate crew?”
“Yes! Now stop messing around and say if you can meet up or not,” John’s voice was rising again in urgency.
Harpy stared at the disk. She didn’t understand any of this. Who was John? What was the Odin? What was this thing about a pirate crew? She didn’t like this, this stress of not knowing. It frightened her.
A sudden pain exploded in her mind and she grit her teeth, clutching her head. Her vision slid about, slurring into a haze, she could see nothing but red, like fire, like blood, like rage.
Through this vermillion veil, she snarled at the disk. “Long time and no see, what a shame it would be to change that. The Odin is gone and so am I.”
What followed was an instant where sense swirled away from her. She groaned, sliding to the floor, the disk still in her hand though no sound came from it. John was gone.
Harpy stared upwards, head back against the wall, blinking slowly after her sight turned bleary. Her mind felt light, like dandelion fluff, her thoughts just as scattered. Someone had called her, someone who knew her, did she know them? She wasn’t sure. Perhaps for a moment she did. Yes, there had been one moment when she’d known that voice like her own name, but now that memory had slipped away like so many of her others.
Her gaze slid down to her hand which had been curled into a fist without her noticing. The skin was pulled tight across her knuckles and the grey pallor had flushed black.
Harpy rubbed her eyes and rose from the floor, using the wall to support her. She closed the cupboard, replacing the holo-disk to be lost again in the mess, and drifted through her small apartment again towards her yoga room. Her encounter with the voice through the holo-disk, John, was already blurring in the back of her mind as she opened the door.
Perhaps this was for the best. He had been from her past and she didn’t care about her past. Why should she when it would only make her worry, worrying was bad, it made her lose control.
She sat down on the mat and inhaled deeply. She wouldn’t worry, instead she would forget and let the darkness numb her mind.
Harpy smiled and relaxed.
Mon Oct 26, 2020 2:17 am
After a couple of shots of whiskey and an overflowing glass of wine, Lolita's head was pounding and her stomach felt like it rotting. Nothing that wasn't normal. Maybe she'd throw up later, but right now she was too deep in the moment to worry about a thing like vomiting. Her friends were laughing, she was laughing, they were all drinking, and now Darla was pulling out a plastic bag of white stuff.
"Ta-da!" she yelled over the conversation the rest of them were having, throwing the bag onto the table they were all sitting around.
Frex screeched with delight. "Ooh, YES!" she crowed, reaching towards the bag.
"I have straws in my kitchen," Jacklyn said, setting her wine glass and cards down unsteadily.
"What the hell
that?" Asia demanded, flipping her cards towards herself.
All of them stared at her. Then they burst into laughter.
"Holy sh-t, that's funny," Lolita cackled, hiccuping between the words. Her arm trembled as she laughed, and a few drops from her glass spilled on the poker table.
"Just try some, honey," Frex giggled, pushing the bag over in front of Asia. Jacklyn rose from the table and left the room, walking a bit crooked.
Putting her cards down, with everyone at the table watching, Asia grabbed ahold of the bag with two fingers, lifting it up eye level. The rest of them started giggling again, this time Asia joining in. Even though she probably didn't know why they were laughing.
The bag swaying in her hands, Asia opened the seal and poured out the white powder onto the poker table.
"NO!" the rest of them gasped, laughing again, Darla snatching the bag away from Asia. Then they were snatching at the powder, Frex smearing it towards herself, Lolita joining in, Darla trying to fit the bag over the heap and failing miserably.
"I have straws!" Jacklyn announced, walking back into the room, a cluster of plastic straws crushed in one fist. Lolita stopped moving. So did everyone else.
Jacklyn stopped dead in front of the table, jaw dropped. The poker table was a mess. There was powder everywhere. Asia was relatively clean, but it caked Frex's hands and Lolita's too, and Darla somehow had some on her face.
"What the f-ck?" Jacklyn said.
Lolita and the others looked at each other. Then they burst into laughter... again.
"Oh my god." Jacklyn sat back down in her seat with a flop. She threw the straws on top of the biggest heap of powder. "Just get on with it."
Lolita sniggered, though it could barely be heard over the others' giggles. As she reached for her own straw, there was a buzzing in her back pocket. It was her holo-disk. Right.
She ignored it and just reached for her straw.
It'll just stop buzzing eventually, little sh-t.
But as soon as it stopped buzzing (after ten seconds, during which Lolita had grabbed a straw and was poised to take a hit of whatever drug Darla had illegally bought), it started again, this time louder. Lolita moaned in frustration.
"What?" Darla asked, her words coming out on top of a sigh. She had just hit. So had Frex and Jacklyn, probably.
"Someone is calling me.
" Lolita grunted and took out the holo-disk from her pocket. She had to squint to read the letters glowing on it.
Lolita's eyes went wide. John. Captain Johnny Boy. Calling
Why? They hadn't talked in ages.
Cappy, cappy, cappy,
Lolita thought, rolling her eyes.
Dammit, Cap, why are you calling?
"Gimme a sec, guys," she said, her voice coming out in a growl. She rose from the table, taking her wine glass with her.
"Wait, what?" Frex said, leaning back in her chair. "Why you going, Lo?"
"I gotta take this," Lolita grunted, walking out of the room. She ignored the groans and calls of protest that followed her as she walked into Jacklyn's kitchen.
She opened the call.
"What a surprise, Cap!" she exclaimed, fake enthusiasm dripping off each word. "Why do you wanna chat, huh?"
"Lolita?" John's voice came through the holo-disk. He sounded strangely... sincere? Was that the right word? Serious, maybe?
"Yeah, it's me," Lolita retorted, taking a sip from her glass. "I don't know why you want to call me, though." She hiccuped.
"Lolita, listen to me. Someone--" John stopped mid-sentence. "Lolita, are you drunk?"
"So?" Lolita hiccuped again. "I was about to get high, too, but you
"Where are you right now?"
"In my friend's kitchen," Lolita said, swirling her wine around. "Do you mean what planet or something? I'm on Herot, the Eburgine continent, in Jasper City. Do you want to know if anyone knows who I am?" Lolita's eyes narrowed. That had to be it. John was just paranoid that someone had figured out her
dirty little secret.
That she used to rob people. And kill them, too, sometimes. With a bunch of crew mates. "Oh my god, Cappy, this planet is in another system than the one we terrorized. I used the Odin to get here, remember? So I'm fine. Have a good day--" here she hiccuped again "--have a good life, yeah--"
"They haven't stopped looking for us, Lolita."
Lolita squinted at the holo-disk. "What do you mean? We disappeared. It's not like they know where we are--"
"They know where I am." John's voice was stone-cold serious, urgent.
That was the word. Or a word, anyway. "Law enforcement sent a bounty hunter after me. And he found me. If they can find me, they can find all of us."
For a second, Lolita was almost sober.
They found John.
That single thought circled inside of her drunk, empty mind for more than a few seconds.
"So, what?" she finally said. "You want us to get back together, outrun 'em? Or bribe them to get off our tails?"
"Something like that," John said. "We have to meet at the old rendezvous point." He paused. "You remember where that is, right?"
Lolita froze. "Uh, yeah." Slower than molasses, she sifted through her memories and thoughts to see if she could find any mention of the special "rendezvous point." "I totally know where it is."
" John asked again.
"Yeah, yeah, I do." Now Lolita remembered. "I'll be there... um... two days. Two days? Maybe three days?"
"Three days. No more." John's voice seemed slightly relieved, if still serious.
"Yep." Lolita stopped the call with her pinkie finger. Slowly, she put down her wine glass on the kitchen counter.
Should I still take a hit of Darla's stuff? Dammit, probably not.
She sighed. She hated responsibility. It was easier to just get stoned.
Maybe Lucky or Harpy'll have something we can sniff together.
(you may call me she, if you please)
Mon Nov 30, 2020 11:53 pm
“Happy birthday to you!”
As the final verse of the song was drawn out in a long slow chorus, Fletcher Thinkle gazed at the faces of his family huddled around him at the kitchen table. It was a small family, his sister, wife and child. But it was a happy one, each beaming face set aglow in the candlelight.
With a quick breath, he blew out the small flame dancing atop the number ‘56’ and tipped his head in a slight bow as his 7-year-old son started clapping with enthusiasm.
“What did you wish for? Did you make a wish Dad?” asked Michael, leaning closer and staring wide-eyed at the wisps of smoke that now drifted above the store-bought cake.
Fletcher shrugged. “That I don’t wake up with you jumping all over me again like this morning.”
His wife, Liana, chuckled and squeezed his hand before rising from her seat. “I’ll go get some plates and a knife.”
“A knife? Plates?” Michael stared after her with mock horror. “Mother! Can’t you see this a cake? You don’t use such primitive tools for a cake such as this!”
“Oh, is that so?” said Fletcher’s sister Elise, ruffling her nephew’s hair, “what would you suggest instead?”
Michael rolled his eyes as if the answer was plainer than the two moons in the sky and pulled the cake towards himself.
“With these of course,” he said and held up his two hands, wiggling his fingers, “We have them for a reason, y’know.”
But before he could give a demonstration, Liana returned and pushed the cake back into the centre of the table and set down four plates. “Maybe some other time darling, I think your father would prefer to keep his hands clean. He still has to open his presents remember.”
Michael slumped, head in hands, when a bolt of energy seemed to jolt him from inside. “Wait here,” he said, jumping from his chair and running from the room.
“He put a lot of effort into it this year,” said Elise, rising herself to walk to the collection of wrapped boxes piled on the living room couch next door. “made it himself in fact.”
They heard a series of crashes and grunts come from a distant bedroom and Fletcher cast a glance at his cake.
“I suppose we better wait for him before we start with this,” he said and stood up to join Elise, Liana following behind.
“This one is from me,” Elise presented a plain, rectangular box tied with a bow.
Fletcher opened it to discover a folded map. Laying it across the table he was awed to be met with a tapestry of ink in silvers and golds that charted their small niche of the universe, shimmering strings outlining different constellations.
“It gets better,” said his sister as she ran a finger across the bottom of the sheet.
At her touch, the ink lifted into the air as a projection, offering a fully dimensional view of their little solar system. Elise waved her hand through the image and the map moved, zooming in and out as she pleased and detailing all corners of the galaxy as well as beyond it.
“It’s,” Fletcher gaped, “it’s beautiful.”
He turned to his sister, how had she afforded this? Why would she have spent so much effort on him?
Elise shrugged, “I’m glad you like it. Please don’t ask about the money, it’s fine, you deserve this after all that’s happened.”
Fletcher shook his head but was unable to form any words.
“Hey,” said Liana, wrapping an arm around her husband’s shoulders, “she’s right, it's just good to have you home.”
She picked up another box, more square this time with plain olive wrapping paper. “Here’s mine, it's not as flashy but I didn’t realise there would be competition.”
Still slightly dazed, Fletcher unwrapped it to discover a photograph with a simple wooden frame. The photo pictured himself, dressed in his old law enforcement uniform while his family stood beside him, Michael barely one year old and bundled in Liana’s arms. It was the day of his retirement, six months or so after he had been officially cleared to return to work after spending fifteen years of on and off again psychotherapy treatments. It was only a month ago that he had said his final goodbye to his weekly therapist and been able to return to life with an easy mind.
Fletcher looked at the photo and then again to the map still resting across the table with the stars shimmering before their eyes. He engulfed his wife and sister in a hug, they had been so good to him after all that had happened.
“Hey now big brother,” said Elise patting his back, “you haven’t even said thank you yet.”
Fletcher grinned weakly and released them, turning away to wipe at his eyes. Before he could turn back, Michael burst into the room hugging a ball of paper to his chest.
“I found it!” he said, shoving the paper into Fletcher’s hands, “It’s all wrapped, all good to go!”
The balls of his feet bounced up and down on the wooden floor and his fingers twitched, interlacing over and over again as he watched Fletcher pull the paper apart. What emerged was a circle of black plastic, cardboard and coloured shining ornaments, with a stuck on the pin on the back.
Fletcher blinked at it. It was a badge, an imitation of the badge for an officer of the Galactic Law Enforcement.
“Do you like it?” asked Michael, going still, “I had to look a little at your old one, but I think I got it right. Is it right?”
Fletcher pinned it to his shirt and knelt down to Michael’s height. “It’s even better than that old piece of metal, I never want to take it off.”
“Yes!” Michael pumped his fists in the air in triumph, then paused he paused, a new expression across his face. “Does that mean we can have cake now?”
Fletcher perked his eyebrows, “go on.”
The young boy scrambled from the room, eyes alight with devilish delight. Fletcher turned to see Liana gazing after him with a look of worry.
“I should go stop him before he dives headfirst,” she said, running after him.
Elise swung herself onto the back of the couch, glancing at the presents that remained. “Which one are you going to open next?”
Fletcher shrugged and set to work. Most of the gifts were from old pals in the force, a watch, some new pairs of socks and a writing set. His parents had sent him another tea set, he was beginning to think they were getting a bit obsessed as he placed it beside the one from last year and the year before that. Soon all that remained was a package wrapped in standard postage grey.
He noticed Elise staring in the direction of the kitchen and nodded his head. “Go ahead, there’s only one left, I think I can handle it alone.”
“I’ll save you a slice, if I can,” said Elise, hopping off from her perch and moving away.
Fletcher picked up the package, his name was printed on the front and there was no clue of where it had come from. Tearing it open, he discovered a glove, black and simple; it was about the size that nearly any hand could fit.
Fletcher stumbled and fell back onto the couch, but he kept his breath steady, lips pinched shut to avoid any sound escaping. He’d seen this glove before, he’d been the one to discover it. It had come from the crew, the only thing they had ever left behind in their pirating reign.
From inside the glove, fell another slip of paper with a number printed across it, the number for a holo-disk.
Hands steady, Fletcher slipped out his own disk and typed in the number before holding it to his ear as it buzzed gently, waiting for the call to connect. He didn’t know why he was doing this, he had put ‘the Odin’ long behind him, it had ruined him. But still, he waited until there was a click and a voice spoke on the other end.
“Took your time,” the voice was low and distorted as if spoken through a mask or more likely a voice changer. “I was beginning to worry.”
“Who are you?” Fletcher asked, whispering so as to not draw the attention of his family.
“I’m someone who would like to do a bit of business, I need an investigator, the very best investigator.”
“I’m retired, now tell me who you are.”
“Please consider my proposition while I’m still asking nicely.”
Fletcher paused, “what?”
“I remember hearing you were one of the lead investigators of the Odin, a tough job but I hear you worked at it tirelessly. Pity they disappeared without a trace, seeing as you were so passionate.”
Fletcher didn’t answer.
The voice scrapped in his ear like a knife across concrete. “I was hoping you’d be up for reopening the case, you see, I have some unfinished business with the crew.”
Closing his eyes, Fletcher grit his teeth but still didn’t say a word.
“I can assure you, there would be a hefty reward if you succeeded. Say, ten million chips if you-”
“No.” Fletcher tore the disk from his ear and ended the call.
The holo-disk from his hand and looked down to see that it was shaking. He brought his hands together and pushed them to his forehead. The Odin was gone, it had probably been some elaborate prank. But how had they got his home address? Only his family and the force knew exactly where he lived.
He breathed deeply and gradually gained control again over his nerves. Whatever it had been, it was over, behind him now like everything else. He stood up and turned towards the kitchen to re-join his family, blocking the past from his mind.
Tue Dec 01, 2020 8:20 am
Kaitlyn and Annadanelsa Kastellen
It was dark. They were stuck in the vast expanse of space, with nothing in any direction they could see. It was literally the middle of nowhere. Lasers and shells flew in all directions, forming a deadly hail that wiped out anything that got in its way. It was a true dogfight and they were right in the middle of it.
One massive starship, its canons firing round after round with no care in the world, several starfighters circling the ship, trying to take it down. Their formation broken long ago by the sheer volume of projectiles being launched, it was every ship for itself.
Anna clutched the steering column of her starfighter, knuckles white from how tightly she'd been holding on. Beside her was her copilot, partner and wife, Kate, holding onto the firing control. Anna dodged and swerved around the starship, doing her best to stay out of the path of its canons. Kate fired volley after volley into any weakspot she could see.
Around them, several of their colleagues were doing much the same. It was a deadly areal ballet, and one wrong turn, one missed shot would mean certain death. And on top of that, the starship didn't seem to be slowing down or running out of ammunition any time soon. The shield on it were tougher than anything Anna had ever seen before, nothing seemed able to get through. They were fighting a losing battle. It wasn't a matter of if they would be hit, it was when.
And then it happened. Anna saw it happen almost in slow motion, as if she was watching a movie that she had no control over. One of their fellow officers wasn't fast enough to dodge. A massive steel railgun round embedded itself in the craft's wings, and it went into a deadly spiral, spinning out of control.
Anna swerved, trying to avoid the fallen starfighter, but it was too late. The ship grazed the edge of their own wings, sending them careening to the side. A laser beam sliced through the emptiness in front of them, headed right for their windshield. The concentrated heat sliced their ship clean in two. Anna turned to face Kate.
She saw her mouth the words "I love you", the sound dying in the vacuum of space. Then everything went black.
Anna sat up suddenly, heart beating wildly. Everything was blurry and dark. Her breaths came in short bursts. She fumbled behind her pillow. Her hand hit something cool and metal. She grabbed her glasses and slid them onto her face. Her surroundings came into focus.
The lovely blue curtains, drawn shut. The television just off to the side, packed next to an oversized walk in closet.
Her senses came back to her, the blanket now draped around her lap, the soft bed beneath her. It had all been a dream.
Just a dream Anna. Kate. Find Kate.
Anna gently slid her hand over to the right side of her bed, no their bed. She smiled at the thought. It had been almost a year but it still felt impossible that she'd actually married the woman of her dreams. Someone had actually noticed her and cared about her enough to want to spent the rest of her life with her. It still brought a goofy smile to her face.
Her hand ran into an empty bed. It wasn't even warm. For a moment, fear flooded her brain before she took a look at the clock on her nightstand. Half past seven. She'd overslept. Again. She stumbled out of bed and straightened her pajamas. She must have looked like a mess, covered in sweat, hair all over her face.
The delicious smell of coffee was coming in from the kitchen. Kate had probably finished making breakfast already. She made her way towards the kitchen, her heart still beating erratically as her mind slowly relaxed.
"Good Morning, Sleeping Beauty," came a voice as soon as she set foot in the kitchen. Kate was setting down two steaming mugs of coffee on the table. Two plates of bacon, eggs and toast lay their already.
Kate looked up, and gave her a brilliant smile. Once again, Anna wondered how she'd managed to end up with such an amazing woman.
"Morning," said Anna, her voice a bit strained. Kate frowned.
"You alright, Anna," said Kate, walking over to her.
"Bad dream," she mumbled, allowing her wife to pull her into a hug.
"Oh poor you," said Kate, giving her a small kiss on her forehead. "What happened?"
"We were fighting this massive ship, its a little fuzzy but it looked like pirates, and then we got shot down. Our ship was sliced in half and you..." Anna trailed off with a quick shudder.
"I'm here Princess," said Kate, hugging her tighter, "and I'm not going anywhere unless you're coming with me."
"How did I end up with such an amazing wife again?" asked Anna, cuddling into her. She felt like a five year old hugging her mother but she didn't care, it felt good.
"Because you're the sweetest person I know," said Kate, before adding with a wink, " and you're very dangerous with that knife of yours. You know what they say, keep your enemies closer."
Anna playfully smacked her shoulder. She was a good half foot shorter than Kate and she could barely reach her face. On the bright side, it was perfect for snuggling.
"Feeling any better now?" asked Kate.
"Perfect," said Anna, "now that I have seen your smile first thing in the morning."
"You're are so full of cheese," said Kate.
"But you love me for it," said Anna, finally letting go to grab her mug of coffee. "Thanks for cooking by the way. I promise I will make dinner."
"We'll see about that, now go get ready, or we'll be late, again."
"On it, Chief," said Anna, with a quick salute. She walked back to their bedroom, hot coffee in her hands and feeling much better than she had a few minutes ago.
The next half hour flew by in a blur, she quickly changed into uniform, tucking away her weapons securely before joining Kate for breakfast. After a quick but delicious meal the two of them headed for their garage where their starfighter was parked.
It was a top of the line model, issued to them and a few others from the law enforcement. It was currently in its land based mode but it could travel through almost any kind of terrain. The ship itself resembled a long fork with wings, with its sleek cigar shaped design, large delta wings. The three large ion engines sticking out the back making it look like a fork.
Anna yelled "shotgun" and tossed the keys to Kate, who caught them with a smile.
"Sneaky," said Kate, as the two of them climbed inside through the twin airlocks.
Anna winked as she strapped herself in. Kate rolled her eyes and ran a quick check to make sure all the control surfaces were functional. She put the key in the ignition and pressed the button to fire up the engines. Throttling up gently, she pulled out of the garage and out onto the road.
It was an uneventful drive and the two of them were soon pulling into the parking area set aside specifically for their division. They shared a chaste kiss on the lips before the duo made their way into the building.
The Prince of Darkness
Never give up hope no matter what. A battle that you turn up to is a battle that you've already started to win.
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Sun Jan 24, 2021 12:04 am
Dana had never liked the name Rhea: she had chosen it on impulse, and she had always insisted that John call her Dana whenever he could. But as she shepherded her daughter into the ship, struggling to keep herself from doubling over hacking, she wondered if being called Rhea would have been so bad. John was already in the cockpit, swearing at the controls as if he could frighten them into becoming more familiar. The ship didn’t look nice, but it was all the shopkeeper—a man whose whole demeanor made her take a diagonal step in front of Charlotte, more to censor her daughter’s view than to obscure the man’s—was willing to offer for sale with no questions. She barely managed to her peace, suffering in silence as the man did his best to allow minimal change to the exorbitant price he had set. Her anger certainly did little to alleviate her lightheadedness.
“Shit! Where the hell’s the hyperspace nav?” She heard John’s shouting clearly, even though she was standing at the opposite end of the ship, where he was grunting with the effort of heaving the suitcases onto the shelves. “There it is! The fuck they put it there for?”
“You shouldn’t say those words!” Charlotte scolded her father, sounding scandalized, “mommy says they’re bad”. Dana found herself laughing as she secured the suitcases.
“Go check out the cabins, will you?” she said, letting herself continue laughing. Charlotte seemed so calm: there had been no sputtering when she had been woken up and ordered to pack up her belongings, no crying when she had walked to the spaceport; it was enough to make Dana want to weep.
She’s been running since before she could walk–– she shouldn’t be used to this, she shouldn’t shrug her shoulder when she realizes she’s leaving her friends forever. It isn’t right for a child to live like this–– for a child to be content living like this.
She fell into the copilot’s seat with a sigh, as if the act of sitting down had deflated her.
“Who’d you piss off this time?” Her halfhearted attempt at lightening her tone only made her exhaustion more apparent.
“No one. A bounty hunter tracked me down. I’m not sure how.” Dana’s breath caught.
“Is Charlotte in danger?” Her voice was more hoarse than a whisper would be alone.
“He only wants me. I’m the only one who’ll bring him any money. He may threaten you, but if he’s smart he won’t do anything else more than that. If he kills you…” John trailed off. He let out a breath and furrowed his brow. “If he kills you—if he kills Charlotte—well he won’t get his money. I’ll make sure of that.”
“I call the left room!” Charlotte’s voice rang through the starship, irreverently dissolving the tension.
“Is it the larger one, honey?” Dana asked.
“Yeah.” Charlotte answered sulkily.
“Then it’s mommy and daddy’s.”
“When you have children you can do the same thing!”
“Alright Charlotte!” John shouted “we’re about to take off! Get up here!”
“Fine.” Dana heard her daughter groan.
Now where would she sit?
Dana strained her head to look behind her, first at the wall to her right, then the one to her left. There was what looked to be a fold-down seat attached to the right wall. She stood and, carefully dodging the control panels, went to the wall and began working at the seat. She began by working at the locks on either side of the chair. As she pulled the chair square panel down, she saw Charlotte's head out of the corner of her eye. “Where do I sit?” she asked. Dana wasn’t sure which was more frustrating: Charlotte’s whining earlier or her present businesslike demeanor, inquiring with a tone that made her seem like a miniature adult.
“Here, once I can get the damn thing down.” she grunted as she brought the armrests out of the bottom of the panel and placed them in an upright position. After battling for an embarrassingly long time with the constantly collapsing chair, a task made all the more herculean by her dizziness, she was finally able to step away from it without it collapsing down and folding back up to the wall.
“I brought some bags,” Dana found the back of her hand being tickled by the corners of perhaps twelve plastic bags as she tried to catch her breath and regain her balance.
“Thanks, love.” she made a supreme effort to keep the sickness out of her voice. She would not make her daughter worry for her—she could barely conceive such an inversion of what should be without finding herself on the brink of tears. She fell into her chair.
“Buckle up!” She forced energy into her voice as she followed her own command. Once she had buckled her seatbelt she began tearing the tops off the bags. Her stomach had never agreed with space travel, and given the amount of the previous three weeks she had spent bent over a toilet retching, she did not expect the trip to be a pleasant one.
“Will you be able to take copilot controls?” John asked quietly. She shook her head. “Do you think we should let Charlotte try?” Tense silence, then a nod. She unbuckled and switched places with her daughter. The process seemed agonizingly difficult as she was forced to turn one way then the other as mother and daughter attempted to negotiate their way through the cramped cockpit. It really was a bad ship.
Dana tuned John out as he gave Charlotte the purpose of each of the myriad buttons, opting to focus her attention the small pile of bags in her lap. She set about the herculean effort of removing the tops from the bags. Despite the pale blue words atop the dotted line ordering her to ‘tear here’, the tops were quite difficult to remove. She swore at the irritating slips of plastic more than once, each instance met with a scolding from her daughter.
“Right, so you think you can remember that.” John's change in tone made her focus on his conversation with Charlotte again.
“Yeah.” Charlotte’s response was echoed by another nauseous spell. The world spun and Dana felt her head spinning in the opposite direction.
“Okay then, let’s get this fucker in the air!”
“Let him have his fun,” Dana managed to get out, using what strength she wasn’t already using to keep herself from vomiting to keep her tone cheerful. She barely managed, but she would not let her daughter be the one worrying over her. “Let him have his fun.”
“Fine.” Charlotte muttered. Dana heard Charlotte say something under her breath, but she let it be.
When the ship jolted alive, Dana felt the familiar shock of adrenaline, fear, excitement--life-- she always felt when she flew with John; he was the ship, each turn of the ship would be reflected in the slight turn in his torso. Dana’s stomach was turning. She was going to vomit. She scrambled one of the bags into her hands and wretched into it. Her mouth tasted awful. She suspected this trip would not be pleasant.
Wed Jan 27, 2021 12:41 am
“Why do adults use so many bad words?” Charlotte muttered, exasperated. Why did
have to be the one to keep everyone on the straight and narrow? You would think the adults would do that themselves, but no, they had to give that job to the child. It seemed irresponsible—the adults didn’t have to worry about school, did they? Whatever they did have to worry about, Charlotte doubted it could be as hard to deal with as language arts homework—what use were the main idea and passive voice anyway? She was perfectly content with numbers—why not give her more of those?
Her mother started vomiting and the sickening sounds scattered Charlotte’s thoughts. A tension forced itself down her throat into her chest. It wasn’t that she had never heard her mother be sick before (she always got sick on space flights—but she had always managed to keep herself on the controls most of the time), but it didn’t stop her worrying: adults weren’t supposed to get sick—kids were.
“Focus,” Her father’s voice unfroze her.
I’ve done this before. One wrong move…
She remembered her father’s words when she had frozen another time they had gone on a flight.
One wrong move and we could be blown to pieces.
She began working at the buttons and switches and rattling off the status of half a dozen different instruments and mechanisms in quick succession. She didn’t stop to make sure her father understood her—she couldn’t stop: if lost focus for even a half a second she would falter. “Hyp nav op check.” She flipped the little lever on. Light green.
“Nav op Affirm.” She rattled out.
Quick look at the altitude gauge. “Rapid.”
“Grav gen act.”
Orders continued to come, each spat out and obeyed with equal rapidity. Then they were in space. Everything went faster. Her mouth was dry. As she went through the coordinate calculations in her head, she was almost able to think. If focus wasn’t the only thing keeping her tethered on the knife edge between survival and oblivion, she might’ve even enjoyed the work. As it was, she rattled off the equations as quickly as she solved them, spitting out corrections whenever they came up—no one was perfect.
“Hyp enj warmup.” She pressed the button and switched the confirmation lever in synchrony with her father. The five minutes that followed were the most intense. Her father always told her hyperspace was easiest. She didn’t think so. She was always amazed at the easy work her father made of the hyperspace equations, with their microcoordinate alterations and balanced infinities.
“Hyp enj act.” She pressed the button, confirmed. Then there was a jolt, as if something was trying to flatten her. Everything out the windows was a blur: the history of everything, the future of everything, and all smashed into an incoherent blur of images. She found a book once about observations of time in hyperspace. She had taken it out of the library and read it before bed. It was the only time she had fallen asleep with a book in her hands.
“I’ll take it from here.” Her father said. “Need you for landing though. Ten minutes.” She nodded, trying her best to be a pilot like her father—pilots didn’t worry, or groan over waiting times, they worked when they needed and rested when they could.
Even so, she hated waits like that, waits that seemed agonizingly long when you did nothing, then seemed over in a heartbeat when you tried to take advantage of them. She breathed deeply and regretted the action almost immediately as the smell of sick entered her nose. Her Mother was still retching, but nothing seemed to be coming up now. Charlotte knew her mother would have a bad headache when they landed, more from dehydration than anything else—her mother rarely suffered from pressure sickness. Only now did it occur to her to ask what was going on. She would save the question for when they landed.
“Hyp off.” her father’s words called her back to her the present and she reprised her role immediately, lurching forward to shut off the hyperspace engine. An instant later, the stars were around her again, and she found herself staring at a planet more moons than she could count. “Standard enj act.” ended her wonder and she lost herself in equations and orders, barely registering the changes outside the ship: space, then misty atmosphere, then the stars were gone behind the noon sky, then clouds, then, finally, buildings. When the ship finally turned off the air seemed empty.
“Woo!” Charlotte couldn’t help but cheer, there was something about landing a ship successfully that made her heart race. Her father relaxed, peeling himself away from the wheel, panting. He turned his head, then suddenly scrambled out of his chair. Charlotte followed his eyes, shot out of her chair and rushed over to her mother. Her head was slumped to the side. Charlotte’s breathing grew ragged and her mind whirled as she struggled to choke out the words: “is mommy alive?” As John took her pulse, her ragged breaths became the beginning of sobs.
“She’s fine.” John breathed, repeating the last word three times. Charlotte felt lightheaded; she struggled to steady herself. “Just fainted. We need to register the ship and bring her back something to drink.”
“I’ll come with you.” Charlotte said.
“Good. Just give me a minute to write mommy a note…” he trailed off as he took a paper and pen out of his pocket and, using the wall as an improvised desk, began to scrawl out a note. Charlotte strained to read the words over the wall of his shoulders:
Getting someth. F/you to drink. Locking you in—only keycard coming w/me. Sorry. Thought it would be safest. You always did say you wanted to try something kinky.
“Daddy!” Charlotte was sure she was blushing. “You can’t say that!”
“Can’t say what?”
“That last part!”
“You can read that?!”
“Yeah, no matter what you say, I don’t need glasses.”
“You shouldn’t even know what those words mean.” John sighed, sounding exasperated. Charlotte matched him. After he left the note on the control panel, Charlotte followed him out of the ship. It was light out, she guessed around noon. The fact only made her more tired. The air was hot.
Most of the ships, she observed as she walked down walked through the maze of aisles, were in just as bad a shape as the one she had just landed. What did it matter if one or two of them were a little shinier? All that meant was that their owner actually cared for their ship (father always said that was a good sign). It didn’t change the fact that they were obviously out of date, their long, thin wings just barely supporting comically huge engines somehow managing to stay attached to the pill shaped hull. Ships weren’t built like that anymore, father had told her, they were built to fly up directly; they were shaped more like pill boxes than the pills themselves, with curved roofs and engines built onto the back rather than on the wings. When he had explained that, he had ended with a mutter about something called ‘Odin’.
She had picked up hints of something father did—something bad, she guessed. She didn’t like puzzles, sometimes they were missing pieces. Math equations never were, all the pieces were there, and all you needed to do was find them, the puzzle was almost finished, all she needed was one last piece, puzzles were different, it was like an equal sign and a number, the blank spacing on the opposite side practically yelling ‘figure it out stupid!’ Father held the door open for her.
The mirrored glass doors slid open as her father came close, letting out a cool draft. The alien behind the registry desk looked like a lizard. Charlotte took a seat near the doors and sat down with her head turned towards the glass panes as she idly started out at the people, seeing but not really processing them as they passed in and out of view. She turned to look over at the registry when she heard the alien’s voice.
“Hello, welcome to our shipyard—it’s the safest one here on Laika, and we’re glad to have you here and whether it’s your first time or you hundredth, we hope it’s your best.” her father remained silent as he rattled off the words, managing to sound as if he meant perhaps a quarter of them.
“I would like to register this ship, please.” her father answered, curt and slightly soft, but polite.
Whatever it is must be serious, he’s never like this—I’ve only seen him like this once before and that was with the police.
It worried her, for all her scolding of her father, she hoped he never stopped being him. The day that stopped would be the day the universe ended.
“Sir, this isn’t licensed under your name, I’m going to have to ask you to verify--” Her father cut him off.
“Do you know who I am?” she heard her father growl, “I can kill you, your family--anyone you love—and I can do it with ease. So, will you register the ship under the name ‘Jeff’ or will you not.” The only answer Charlotte heard was a whimper. She wanted to whimper, too—to cry, whether from fear at seeing her father act so strange or out of sympathy for someone being threatened like that when they so clearly didn’t deserve it. “Good,” her father said a moment later. “Thank you.”
He turned sharply and walked towards the door. Charlotte swung herself up and walked by his side.
“That wasn’t nice, daddy.” She said when the doors closed behind them.
“I know, I know,” he muttered “and now he’ll have a reason to mention us,” she heard her say to himself, then, under his breath, “shit, shit, shit.”
They walked around for a while until they found a restaurant. It was a dirty little place but it had a menu of edible things, and it had water; that was all they needed. Her father bought three waters and they walked back, only getting lost twice on their way back to the ship.
When her father swiped the keycard through the reader, the door slid open to reveal her mother staring at them in a poorly kept-up performance of fury.
“Mommy!” Charlotte ran up to her mother and threw her hands around her mother’s waist. The action was marked with a pained grunt-groan from her mother. Her mother dropped her act and began to choke out weak, breathy laughs. She backed away and her father took her place.
“Got you some water, love.” He said.
“Thanks.” Her mother’s voice was hoarse and ragged. “Fuck my head hurts.” As Charlotte let out an exasperated sigh, she heard her mother whisper something to her father. She could only make out a few syllables, but they were enough to make her want to know the whole thing. She walked into the ship with her parents.
“Charlotte,” her father said when the door closed. “could you wait in the back room for a moment? I need to talk to your mother about something.”
“Okay,” Charlotte said. She went to the backroom, closed the door, and strained her ears to catch as much as she could, only catching snippets when one of the them got too worked up to keep a measured tone.”
“—But we can’t just tell her that!” that was her mother
“Not much of a choice.” her father
“I wish…” her mother again, in a quivering voice that dissolved into crying. That catapulted her racing heart into her throat. Mommy never cried.
The rest was too low for her to make out the words, just a buzz of low voice, occasionally stopping, occasionally responding, occasionally overtaking each other. Leaving her to wonder.
What’re they so worried about? It’s not like they’re pirates or anything, what cold they have done that’s so bad they have to keep it from me?
“You can come out now.” her father said. She pressed the button and the door slid open with startling speed. She walked out.
“There’s something we need to tell you.” Her mother said in her serious voice.
Besides, if you want perfection, write a haiku. Anything longer is bound to have some passages that don't work as well as they might.
— Philip Pullman
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