Quarantine Day #1 – Fires rage out of control. The TPocalypse has left countless dead in the streets, their backsides unclean. Your grandmother was right: you should have put on clean drawers this morning. Rice and beans have climbed in price, and we’re prying the silver out of our own fillings, just to eat. Darkness covers the land. The Wee Horde rampages. Drums, drums in the dark.
Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but it’s pretty bad. Wee Dave and Wee-er Dave are home. For six week. SIX weeks. Six WEEKS. SIX. WEEKS. Fortunately, Mrs. Dave’s superiors are also working to make things a bit less heinous for all involved, so she’ll be spending more time at home. Which is AN ENORMOUS RELIEF to yours truly. I’m pretty thrilled, honestly.
I don’t know how much writing I’ll be able to do during this time. I hope y’all are putting your self-isolation time to good use. I will definitely be doing that. I just don’t know how much is going to be writing. I can report that my plan of aiming low is starting to pay out, not counting these last few, chaotic days. Consistency may be or may not be the hobgoblin of small minds (I know that’s not actually the correct quote, but roll with me a bit), but when it comes to writing output, it may well be king. Anyway, here’s the fruits of my labor.
ED: For those interested in reading my ongoing space fantasy from the beginning, start here. I’ll be going back through and adding a link to the next chapter at the end of each.
Getting to my feet was a bit of an ordeal. I staggered as I pushed off the medcouch, lost my balance, and fetched up on the door jamb. I blinked as the alert lights stabbed at my eyes. I edged through the door, keeping my shoulder to the wall. I forced my knees straight, and even then, my muscles shook as though I’d marched all day in full AC kit.
A crumpled mass at the dogleg of the medbay drew my eyes. My eyes narrowed as recognized in Chief Ferrer’s unconscious form, and then widened at the voice that sounded around the corner of the medbay.
“You, you aren’t even supposed to be here!” The deep voice had taken on a grating rasp since I’d heard it last. “Didn’t you see the lights? When the lights are flashing, you’re supposed to be somewhere else! And you,” the voice went on, “taunting, always taunting. You never leave me alone! Go, now, move!”
The sound of a blow striking flesh. The figure which staggered into my view wasn’t the one I expected. She tripped over Ferrer and fell heavily to the floor. Doctor Corama wore her usual white jumpsuit, but her normal confidence was absent. I could see her shaking where she lay.
“Get up!” Crind roared, striding into view. One hand clutched his control rod in white-knuckled fingers. With the other, he pulled the doctor to her feet. “Get on your feet, bitch! Now you’ll learn!”
Jaem’s mad dog pushed her forward a step. When she didn’t move quickly enough for him, he turned the control rod on her. Without, apparently, reducing the power. The doctor’s body locked hard. Her arms snapped in against her chest, her hands twisted into claws. The muscles in her jaw bunched. Breath hissed between teeth bared in a rictus snarl as her eyes rolled up in her head. She collapsed like a string-cut marionette.
Crind gaped, held his control rod up a handful of centimeters from his face, and swore. Tears of rage and frustration leaked down his face. He still didn’t see me, his manic gaze fixed on the unconscious woman at his feet. She’d curled into a fetal position on the floor, and I was surprised to see her eyes open, if fairly well devoid of coherent expression. I’d been on the business end of a control rod more times than I liked, and I’d always felt scrambled after.
Crind looked up. His eyes, washed of color by the emergency lighting, widened until his sclera glowed all the way around. His brutish jaw worked, but only a whimper came out. His surprise was almost comical.
I decided to take the initiative. What the hell, it’d worked for me so far.
“Didn’t anybody ever teach you how to treat a lady, asshole,” I growled. It was pure bravado. I could barely hold myself erect, let alone take on the guard. I had to do something, otherwise Crind was going to put his control rod to use, and it’d be over for all three of us. He’d torture me, but I had the feeling Doctor Corama would get the worst of it. Crind didn’t strike me as particularly gentle at the best of times, and he was almost insane, now.
“Y- you! You’re dead! I saw you die!!”
Doctor Corama stared at me from the floor, her eyes as wide as Crind’s, but with stunned hope instead of horror. I’d take it.
“Funny thing: when you left me to die,” I said, and reached up to push myself off the door jamb, “I didn’t.” I made to let go of the wall, and a hint of movement out of the corner of my eye drew my attention. A quick glance showed nothing there, and I lowered my arm to my side. Standing up was interesting. I didn’t think I had the wherewithal to fight off a brutal sadist, let alone a-
Crind’s jaw locked open in a rictus, and a scream of hate and rage ravened its way out of his throat. My pulse raced in response. For one, nothing approaching a rational thought showed in his eyes. For another, though less immediately concerning, his raucous noise was sure to alert somebody, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t even fight of Crind.
Quick as the snake he was, Crind snapped his control rod up to point at me. Looking at the nondescript end of the device, my heart stopped. His snarl transformed into a triumphant leer, and his arm tensed as he triggered the rod.
I nearly fell over as nothing happened. I looked at Crind. He looked at me, then looked down at the rod. Shock and dismay melted the smile off his face.
“Something wrong with your rod, Crind,” I asked, putting as much scorn as I could muster into the words. In for a penny, in for a pound. Whatever those were.
He flinched, and stared at me. His eyes were full of my death, now. His thumb moved on the rod, and his lips peeled back from his teeth.
“Fine, then: a killing charge!”
He thrust the control rod at me again, and triggered it. This time I felt a slight tickle, which was uncomfortable for several reasons, chief among them the incongruity of tickling in a life and death situation. Quick on the heels of the tickling, a wave of energy swept over me.
My eyes widened as breath whistled into my lungs. I felt spots of bright heat at the back of my neck, and a, a sudden lightness. I felt as though I could leap through the ceiling. Somehow, I intuited my suit transformed the impulse of the control rod into a form of energy my changed body could use. I grinned, and Crind’s jaw fell open.
“Well,” I said, drawing the word out, “thanks.”
Whatever his faults, Crind was no slouch. The now-useless control rod dropped from one hand as the other flashed to his waist. For the first time, I saw he wore a holstered sidearm. His hand whipped back up filled with the stubby slug-thrower, but by then I was moving.
I managed two steps before Crind’s gun whined. Normally, he’d have been armed with a Seigen Industries low energy projectile thrower. Most people just called them burp guns, for the sound they made when fired. Crind’s gun, from the sound of the coils spinning up, was a handheld sabot firing coilgun. While the handheld version lacked the power of its larger, rifle sized cousin — let alone the far more massive versions the Theban Assault Corps mounted on vehicles — it could put a five gram dart through my body and into the duraplast wall behind me. Of course, the capacitors that powered it were only good for a handful of shots before a reload. It was an odd, little weapon, and not much used.
All this raced through my mind as I charged the sick bastard. I surged forward, driving off bare feet, striving to cross the dozen odd meters between us before he got off a shot. Crind’s eyes widened in disbelief as he brought the gun into firing position. I moved faster than either of us expected, and I almost made it.
Crind’s gun coughed, and spat a round at me. A cloud of vaporized sabot hung in the still air, lit a bloody red by the emergency lights.
It felt like somebody kicked me in the side. My body twisted to the side and I grunted in momentary anguish. But my blood was up, and while I staggered, I still managed to get a hand on Crind’s arm. I pushed, and he triggered the next round into the ceiling.
He snarled at me, and I could smell the foulness of his breath. Then his eyes tracked down, and went wide in horror. Distracted, I followed his stunned gaze. A thin, silvery tendril extended from the cuff of my jumpsuit, across our hands, and slid over the grip of Crind’s gun. In a matter of seconds, two more joined it. The three whipped around the butt of the gun and slid into a crack between the capacitor housing and the grip.
Crind’s breath rasped in his throat, and a bubble of snot formed in one flaring nostril. His olive complexion went a pasty gray-green, and for a bare moment his muscles went slack. As we both stared, the threads connecting my garment to his weapon visibly pulsed and thickened. At the same time, the back of my neck burned, and I felt a surge of energy.
Crind’s eyes went blank, and the whistle of his breath changed to a keen. A keen that built quickly in volume. He bucked suddenly, and thrashed. His torso twisted back and forth with desperate strength. I did what I could just to hold on.
His free hand flashed to the small of his back, and came up with a blade in an icepick grip. The thing was short, wicked, and its edge blurred with a hum to rival the mad dog’s howl. With an expression of insane triumph, Crind raked me from the point of my right hip up and across my abdomen. We both looked down, expecting to see my guts hanging in loops from a rent in my suit. I think we were both surprised to see undamaged silvery material shining in the crimson emergency lights.
The tendrils pulsed again, and I could feel new strength flow into my muscles through the heat at the back of my neck. I snarled at Crind, and my free hand snapped up to seize his knife hand. I squeezed his fingers around the knife hilt, and felt them grate together. Pain and shock ripped a wail from his lips.
Another pulse, and more strength. I yanked Crind close, and my forehead met his nose with a crunch. His cry bubbled through the blood sheeting down his face, but I was already moving. I released his hands and gripped the front of his jacket. I planted a foot behind me, and bodily heaved Jaem’s thug the length of the medbay. Crind’s despairing shriek ended against the far wall with a meaty crunch of broken bones.