Hi to all my peeps! A quick line – and a story post.
This time of the year one needs a strong mind, or at least a firmly anchored mind. Else it might just drift away…
Decifix. A lot of decifixed books. (That’s that horrible clear plastic you are forced to stick onto school books or else your children feel the wrath of the teachers. Honestly, some teachers need to enter the 20th century, in order to get to the 21st eventually.)
Also, demoing for my studio. Yesterday consisted of zooming all over the show in my sister’s little “zippy” bubble car (as my stately Old Jetta was in for repairs) getting flyers, schedules and fee structures printed at the best copyshop in town; picking up kiddies from their first day of school after an overly long holiday; and then talking to 20 000 parents about how my violin lessons work (ok, ok, I’m probably exaggerating now, it was probably only closer to 18 000). Knowing that *sigh* they collect information from all the extramural people there like butterflies collect nectar, and then they go home and pick: Eenie meenie miny mo… catch the cheapest and the sports. Today I zipped around at the primary school where I’m the resident extramural violin teacher for the past 8 years; handing out the remaining flyers and introducing myself at the prep school across the road. The Prep school is actually a remedial school for kids with learning problems… I’m sorely hoping for a few takers from there, because violin is so good for them!
Both “Everywhen Angels” (P’kaboo) and “Arcana” (Honeymead) ought to be available on Amazon really soon (I’m just waiting for them, now).
“Shawney!” she squealed as she stormed at her younger brother.
“And Wolf too,” added Federi as he turned, with an approving nod at the nuclear engineer who had teleported in next to Shawn. And Nica was there as well, and two fluorescent tobuskies. “Wolf, you’re currently in direct breach of your Captain’s orders, I hope you realize it. Welcome aboard. Coming to join my crew?”
“Not entirely,” replied Wolf. “Federi, I couldn’t believe Captain’s weird decree! I’ll make sure you guys are safe before I return to Captain’s rules.”
“Bit mutinous that, don’t you think?” prompted Federi with a smile. “You’re welcome to join my crew, Wolf, that’s a standing offer.”
Wolf grinned his thanks, and glanced around. “Why is it so dark here?”
“Generator’s gone,” explained Federi.
“Not good,” growled Wolf. “I want to have a look in your machine room!” And he followed his seafarer’s instinct to where he knew the machine room to be, followed by a fluorescent tobusky.
Federi glanced at Shawn and Nica. “Shawn, what’s with the gypsy girl?”
“She’ll be joining your crew too,” said Shawn decisively.
Federi’s eyebrows went skywards. “Oh? Really? On what grounds?”
Shawn paused, a bit worried. “Er – on behalf of being a gypsy?”
“Donegal, you’ll have to get used to not trying it out on me,” said Federi seriously. “Of course she’s a gypsy. How does that qualify her to hold her own aboard a dangerous, unseaworthy vessel?”
“She can cook,” said Shawn quickly. “Really well!”
“She can’t even peel potatoes up to speed,” laughed Federi. “According to her own sister. And she refuses to babysit her younger brother! Like you refuse to babysit your nephews!”
Shawn gnawed at his bottom lip. Federi grinned.
“Good. You’re both hired!” He exchanged glances with Paean and was rewarded with a radiant smile. “Sweetheart… First Mate Paean, to the bridge! Keep the Star on an even course.”
“She’s not moving anywhere at all, Federi,” replied Paean gently.
“Then just keep her from capsizing,” said the Pirate. “Point her nose into the surf.”
She nodded. “Aye-aye, Captain!” And with a grin, she left.
“Able pirates Shawn, Nica -” Federi paused, surprised at how commanding his own voice sounded on his own ship. “Get the lay of the vessel, familiarize yourselves, pick cabins – or a cabin, who cares –“ He glared at Shawn. “Two cabins, you scurvy louts! Shawn, if you lay your filthy little paws on the gypsy girl…”
Shawn grinned. “Don’t worry, Federi! I won’t pull a Ronan! I’m only thirteen!”
“Ha!” grumbled Federi as he led the way to the machine room. “You’ll be surprised! Dangerous age, thirteen.” Shadows danced across the dirty-grey corridors where he and the two youngsters followed the glowing tobusky amidst the green bioluminescence. He couldn’t wait for daylight. And he was going to re-coat those drab walls with a cheerier colour. That was a given.
“Why?” asked Shawn, amused. “What did you do with thirteen, Federi?”
“Murder Unicate scum and run from their dogs, anna bottle,” retorted the gypsy moodily. He shooed them to find cabins, and continued to the machine room. And he brightened up as he descended the stepladder. The water hadn’t risen too significantly. It was as yet only ankle-deep. His neomer sneakers squelched into the water, and he shone the rum lantern with its wavering flame around the bilges. Ah! His very own leaky crate! Where the heck was the Stun Gun?
It was quite urgent that Wolf managed to resurrect the generator. They needed to activate the pump so the water could be removed from of the bilges.
It wasn’t half as much fun knowing that if it became really dangerous they could simply lift the ship out of the water via Virian. Somehow he’d have to get his mind round ignoring her various possibilities and thinking of her as merely crew – and in times of life-threatening crisis, a handy life-boat.
What hey, they could ask Virian to shape herself into a sail, and… he grinned and shrugged off these ideas. Poor Virian!
Wolf was waiting for him with an accusing glare, holding up the dripping cable-ends that were failing to connect the generator to the fuel cell, and to the drives. “And this?”
“Virian,” said Federi. “I ordered her to disable everything she saw.”
“Not clever,” commented Wolf Svendsson. He crouched down with water sloshing around his knees as the ship rocked, and took a closer look. “Let me put Humpty Dumpty back together again for you. Will need a towel. Hair dryer, better.”
He peered at the waves sloshing around his feet. Now they were at his knees; then, as the ship pitched, they receded completely again. He wondered if he could employ his Mystifier to turn the whole lot into vapour.
“Think you’ll get all this dried up with a hair dryer?” asked Federi quizzically.
Wolf scowled. “Federi, this place is dangerous.”
“I won’t be long.” Federi found a hook to hang the rum-lantern onto, left the engine room and went looking for a towel, a Paeansy glowing-stick in his hand despite the eerie green bio-lights he’d installed against the bulkheads earlier. Where did this ship keep its linen? The storage cubicles were in the same spot as on any Pursuer, only – there was nothing in them. Raided. Looted! Blasted rats!
He returned to the bilges, pulling his bandanna off his head and painstakingly picking all the arsenal off it. “Can you use this?” he asked, launching the square of cloth at Wolf, who caught it with his left hand.
“Sheesh, Federi, that bad? There’s nothing else?”
The gypsy shook his head.
“This ship was in the wrong hands,” growled Wolf angrily. “They’ve stripped the stun gun out of it too, as you see. Only bare essentials left. Federi, are you sure you want to go through with this?”
The Tzigan shrugged. Wolf glanced at his friend. And remembered.
The Solar Wind, shot full of holes by the forsaken Unicate, battling her way to Hamilton Port with only the outer deck and bridge still above water. Diving in the dark of the machine room, with all electrics having cut out, trying to fix at least some of it – a hopeless case. And Federi – as he’d told him later – in the rigging with Rushka – the girl not yet fully sixteen – trying to tack the enormous sails manually. Jon Marsden out comatose on the bridge, poisoned; Doc Judith holding the ship on course and keeping an eye on Jon at the same time…
It couldn’t get worse than that. That had been the absolute rock bottom. This little fighter of a Unicate ship wasn’t half as badly damaged, and while they were low on crew, nobody was dying.
“I’ll do my best,” he promised. “Wolf’s honour.” He grinned and started drying down the cable ends with the bandanna.
This was going to be tricky. Were these wires live? He followed them to where they connected into the generator. No – they weren’t; the generator had fused altogether, melted into one heap of mismanagement as a result of live ends dangling in salt water. Wolf stared at it with a stark frown knotting his uni-brow.
Could it be fixed? He tested it at various points. The machine was stone dead; PUPS’s and other cryolaterinic doodads had quietly imploded into themselves, and the whole thing wasn’t going to start, no matter how many wires he reconnected.
So much for the generator then. They’d have to work their way into port without one. And the drives?
Here, too, Wolf found cables cut and dangling into the water. He inspected them. He didn’t want to open the drive casings; the chances were that the hydrogen drives were sound and no water had infiltrated them yet. Unless Virian had somehow got in there. He sighed. Telling her to disable everything she could find… of course this had been before Federi had decided to take the ship over! This was disastrous.
He sat back on his haunches, water sloshing around him. He was reluctant to reconnect the drives even after drying down the wires with Federi’s bandanna – how effective could that be! If anything went wrong and they shorted out, not only might he himself end up fried in this water; but Federi would then truly sit without drives.
Of course Federi had Virian on his crew. Technically he could simply ask the young alien girl to teleport them to a harbour. But he wouldn’t; Wolf knew it.
He frowned and sat back in the luke-warm tropical seawater, trying to think of a plan for Federi. The real problem wasn’t the processor, or the ship sinking. The processor was finished; this ship would have to be controlled manually. The problem was the steering, and the drives.
He’d have to try to resurrect the drives. The solar drives were bound to be depleted. That left the fuel cell drives. Wolf peered at them. How had Virian managed to disable these?
The bioluminescence threw a dismal green glow over the bilges. At least there was light. He glanced at the lake around his knees. His prime concern tonight was to keep them from sinking; in the daylight, things might look different.
There was a kind of compounding that you strewed over a leak like sugar, and that combined with the existing surface and expanded with the seawater to make a coating. They sometimes used this substance to repair leaks on the Solar Wind. If he could bring Federi some of it…
The pumps were another problem. Firstly they had to be reconnected, too. Secondly they depended on at least a drive working; probably, on the CPU. Which was fried from the water, and from Virian disabling it. Without the CPU, no pumps. Without pumping the water out of the bilges, no CPU. Oh dear!
His mind was going in pointless circles as he watched the water swish from one side of the bilgerooms to the other, erratically like someone rinsing their mouth. By the movements of the ship he knew it without having to go above the deck: There was a storm building, probably hundreds of fluffy white clouds in the moonlight at this point, mirrored by hundreds of wriggly little white heads on the choppy waves. They could converge within minutes to a real hell-raising hurricane. Federi and crew were in for a rough night. There was no way he was deserting them in this crisis. Ailyss was doubling up for him on the Solar Wind; she’d agreed to let him know when to teleport into the heads and emerge innocuously as though he’d never left the ship.
He glanced up at the unlikely man without bandanna who was watching his movements intently. Federi had done it again: Been so good at observing that he’d become practically invisible.
“Captain,” said Wolf, “this is close-on irreparable.”
“You’re not allowed to ‘captain’ me,” Federi pointed out, “unless you’re joining my crew.”
Wolf laughed. “You are Captain Federi now, you understand,” he said.
Federi smiled. “Say, Wolf. That thing you were inventing. That mist-creation machine.”
“The Mystifyer,” growled Wolf. “Completely pointless invention that!”
“Why do you say that?”
“Captain sure doesn’t want it!” He noted with surprise the slyness that crawled over his friend’s face. “Why, Federi?”
“So he won’t miss it? Want me to test-drive it for you?”
“You want it?” asked Wolf in surprise. “I’ll bring it! Whatever for, Federi?”
“You’ll see,” smiled the Pirate. “Think you could build me a really big one? I’ll pay you well!”
“I’ll do it for friendship!” said Wolf.
“Then I’ll give you a cash gift, out of friendship,” replied Federi. “Our own devices, Wolf. If I buy it, I own the device. Right?”
“Right,” grinned the engineer.
Virian looked up from the bridge which she was holding together with Paean. Federi had appeared behind the two girls so stealthily that she’d almost caught a fright. Gosh, he moved as quietly as she did!
The Tzigan leaned over the dark screen. “Holding” the bridge meant sitting on the bridge staring at the sea, no more, no less. Even the steering of this vessel was connected to the processor. He’d have to change that, somehow, make it more manual.
“No improvements here?” he asked, more to himself. “Magically?”
Anya Miller had been in this position, on the Hun. Except, in Federi’s case it was self-induced. He grinned and shook his head.
Anya had had calm seas. And she’d sat in the middle of a trade route. He peered moodily at where the Solar Wind lay on the choppy waves. The sails unfurled and snapped open into the wind, and within seconds the white Zephyr was pulling away, off into the West. Leaving the crippled Shooting Star bobbing on the impressive swells behind her.
To be up in that rigging now, with the wind around his ears and the first drops splashing down… Federi shook himself out of his rêverie. Captain’s ship and Captain’s command line. The short moment during which he’d been in charge of the Solar Wind – i.e. during the Peace Talks – he’d been constantly challenged by young Ronan Donegal, on behalf of Captain. No, thanks.
The Shooting Star was going to get sails, and that was that. And at times her Captain would be clambering around in the rigging, sitting in the Crow’s Nest and playing on a tin whistle and so on. As a Pirate Captain he could afford to be eccentric. Nobody would question him, for fear of… being deported to the Solar Wind.
“Federi,” said Paean, “this is a Pursuer, right?”
He nodded. Fastest ship in the Unicate Navy, when in working order.
“She doesn’t have sails,” mentioned Paean, gesturing at the deck.
He shook his head gravely. He missed having sails. It was almost an ache.
“And you’ve disabled the electrics, so she doesn’t have drives either,” added Paean, stared at him – and giggled. “And the steering – Federi – how does the steering work? It’s also connected to the dead CPU, am I right? Because it doesn’t budge!”
“Exactly,” grinned Federi. “Bummer, ni?”
“So I was going to tug her into port with the Comet,” said Paean. “Right?”
“Uh-huh,” agreed Federi.
“Except that Captain has forbidden me the use of my own Comet,” she added with a flourish.
“And you won’t allow Virian to teleport us, either,” she finished. “Because you, Captain Demonos, are a stubborn mule!”
“That I am,” he agreed proudly.
“There’s a storm building,” she pointed out.
He held up his hand. “Don’t forget your bottom-line rule.”
“You’re with Federi, sweetheart. Nothing can happen to you.”
She nodded. “Oh, I wasn’t worried. I just thought – ironic, ni?”
“Er – Virian, would you come along to the machine room please? Paean, please hold the bridge?”
The Irish redhead chuckled softly. “And you’re too polite for a captain,” she commented. “Let alone a pirate captain!”
“You’ll be surprised,” replied Federi darkly as Virian followed him off the bridge.
© Lyz Russo, 2014