Friday, May 18, 2018

Flash Fiction #303: Catch Can/Part 5


"Not bad for a mostly not working ship," Lisel admitted.  "Can we go home now?"

Tana glanced at her boards.  Only one screen gave a slight pulsing red light, as though faintly trying to yell for help.  Okay, she could take a hint.

The rest of the fighters had arrived and took on the other weres.  It hardly seemed worth the effort to take out the one craft that slid their way, trying to escape two different fighters.

She destroyed it anyway and grinned, thinking about the curses from those two other fighters.

"Heading home," she said and heard sighs of relief from Lisel and Krisin.  She almost smiled.

The flight wasn't without a few moments of worry, but they slid into the same bay and prepared to face to the bay master's rage at the marks they'd left behind.

The man scowled, but he didn't berate them.  Not yet, at least.  "Captain wants you up on the control deck right away."

"All of us?" Lisel asked, a slight hiss of surprise in his voice.  Catchins rarely got to the control deck for any reason.

"Yes.  Immediately."

Tana started away, Lisel and Krisin following.  They said nothing, know this could be good or bad.  Under the circumstances, she had no way to tell.

They found an incredible amount of activity everywhere they passed, which was only natural given how close they'd come to disaster.  Tana tried not to snarl, but her leg hurt, and she didn't want to think they were in trouble for ... well, for any number of things they'd done today.  Bringing Alika back -- yeah, that had been stupid.

They were let straight into the control deck and then escorted to the captain's office.  Tana could see glances their way, and probably some longer stares at Lisel.  She didn't look back, but she suspected that he strutted a bit.

Good.

Captain Dundas looked up from her desk when they entered and keyed the door closed behind them.

"We have a problem.  So far, I've kept Alika's presence mostly a secret.  A medtech was taking care of her down in a cell.  Then Alika died.  The poison was implanted, and there was no way to have stopped it."

"Damn," Tana said with a shake of her head.  Others could see through the glass wall to where they stood.  She wondered what they thought.

"News about her is bound to get out soon, despite my warnings to everyone who saw her.  Meanwhile, I'm afraid others think that you and your team, being daring and a bit stupid, led the enemy our way.  We think a mothership might be following."

"Hell."  That had not occurred to her.  "Can we move?"

"We had to take out the were fighters first.  Good job there, by the way, but it's lucky you couldn't hear what others were saying."

"I had that feeling."  She looked at Captain Dundas and frowned.  "What about the other one?"

"Everything related to that position has been erased -- constantly erased -- for as far back as I can find.  The person here on the ship had to be prepared for this work.  I can't begin to figure out how to track them down.  The position isn't on a strict rotation, either, since there are other similar boards and people take the one that's open."

"We don't get a lot of new crew," Lisel said.  "And this person had to have come in after Alika disappeared, don't you think?  I suppose they could have had someone in place and waited to grab one of the fighter crew -- but then they'd have to tell the person on this ship that they were ready.  I suspect that someone would have noticed."

Captain Dundas gave a quick nod and began keying up information.  Tana shifted slightly, hoping her leg hadn't started bleeding again --

"Sit down," the captain said without looking up.  "All three of you sit down. Get your ears up, Lisel.  You make security nervous when you look like that."

They dropped into chairs, all three of them worn and worried.  Tana glanced out the window and then gave a wave to those who were staring.

"Stop antagonizing my bridge crew."

"I was friendly."

"Right."  She keyed a few more things and frowned.  "Down to five people who all came at the same time.  That doesn't seem likely, does it?  It would be difficult to slip someone in a group -- oh."

"The entire group," Krisin said softly.  "And we better move fast because I get the feeling they're already going to be moving."

"They're spread out," Captain Dundas said as she leaned back.  "Two are in security.  I don't dare try to call up a force from there to hunt the rest.  None of them are showing on the trackers."

"Do you have pictures of them?" Tana asked. 

"They're IDs when they first boarded.  Nothing lately.  They can't have changed much.  Two in security, but the other three aren't permanently assigned anywhere.  They're listed as comptechs."

Captain Dundas turned the screen.  Tana leaned forward and then sat back.  "We have a problem."

"Yeah," Lisel said.  "And we had better move fast because he's already working at something."

Captain Dundas gave a quick glance past the glass wall.  "Damn."

"Lisel --"

"Yeah.  I can get to her the fastest.  Key the door open.  Order us out, Captain."

Tana wasn't sure the captain was going to take an order, even a wise one, from a catchin. 

But she did.

"We need all the fighters out there we can get," she said as she opened the door and stood, following them out into the open area.  "Otherwise, I'd deal with you right now.  When we clear up this mess --"

Lisel didn't waste time.  He had made a half turn to the Captain and turned that into a leap at someone most of the way across the room.

It was up to Tana, Krisin, and the Captain to keep security from killing Lisel outright.

There were always complications.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Flash Fiction # 302: Catchin Can/ Part 4



The fighter should have waited for bay crew to turn her before Tana headed out.  Instead, she checked on where the Captain had gone, waiting until she was sure the bay's airlock had cycled and trusted that everyone else knew enough to stay clear.

Tana fired side engines and angled them so that she pushed the fighter out without turning.  Fancy maneuvering and probably no one on the ship appreciated the finesse it took.  They popped out of the shield, and she used the ship itself as a base to fire the engines against.

Someone would have something to say about that one. Good thing the communications remained out.

"How do our weapons look?" Tana asked as she turned the fighter toward the distant line of were ships.

"Funny time to ask that one," Krisin replied as he hands moved over the controls. 
Lisel also began shunting power here and there, but the boards weren't all live.  She didn't know what worked and what didn't.

"Well?" she said again.

"We have weapons," Krisin replied with a bit of a shrug.  "I won't guarantee how effective they are because the power isn't stable."

"Should we go back?" Tana asked and even meant those words.  She should have thought this through a little better.

"What? And ruin our reputation?" Lisel asked.  "I say we stay out until at least a few more fighters can come out.  How many weres do you count, Krisin?"

"Fifteen," he said -- a steady answer, despite the insanity.  "They're coming in fast, too.  I hate to mention this, but I wonder if bringing Alika here was always what they wanted so they could trace her to the ship."

"That's a hell of a depressing thought," Tana replied. She shifted her wounded leg and grimaced.  Well, at least this battle was going to be quick, no matter what.

"There will be another three fighters launched in the next five minutes," Krisin said.  Tana wasn't certain what he saw on his screens since she couldn't get anything out of the ship.  "Since we can't communicate with them, I don't think we need to even consider what they'll do.  We might as well act as though we're on our own."

"Nothing new there," Lisel mumbled.  I looked to see his ears up, his eyes large, and that look of excitement that she had come to recognize and even to appreciate.

Krisin didn't look nearly as happy, but that was normal, too.  Tana sometimes thought Krisin must think he was the one in charge and responsible.


Tana brought the fighter around, making an arc toward the distant ships.  Not close enough to be a real danger yet, at least.  That gave her time to think about an approach that might not get them killed right away.

This was no time to be too cautious.  In fact....

When Tana told the others what she planned to do, they both looked shocked.  She took that as a good sign.

The little craft had obvious problems.  Tana suspected the weres could pick those up and understand them after so many years fighting the humans.  She tried changing some of the settings, but only ended up cutting power to just about everything.

"Tana, keep your hands off of everything," Krisin warned.  "You might survive to get back to the ship."

"Just trying to make things interesting," she mumbled, but she did keep her hands off the computer controls.  Krisin knew what needed to be done and Lisel sat close over his controls.  They were ready.  She just had to get them there and not get them killed.

"There are at least four fighters coming up behind us, but they're some ways out," Lisel said.  "We're still on our own."

"We don't want them getting in the way anyway.  Okay. This is it."

They were just within range of a were craft.  The little fighters were half the size of the human ships and with no visible ports.  Though they'd taken in the wreckage of a few of these ships, the engineers could make no real sense of them except for their power sources.  They were not as powerful as human fighters, but they were faster.

They had more powerful weapons, too -- but they were not as accurate as the human's weapons, nor as quick to track.  Tana counted on that fact.

"They're locked on," Lisel warned.

"I hope you're ready."

Tana gauged the weak gravity wells of the area and fired the fighter engine at full force.  They darted mostly forward -- a bit more to the right than she wanted, but still within a degree or two of running straight into the line of four were ships that had been turning on them.

The weres had no time to react.  One did fire a weapon, the blow glancing against the side of the fighter, but doing little more real harm.

Lisel had control of the weapons today.  He chose his shot and fired into the mass of enemy ships.  He hit the first, missed the second -- that won a growl -- and hit the third.  By then the first ship had already come apart.  They'd seen this happen before, but usually, the other ships had a chance to get out of the way.

They did not this time.  Two shots and four craft down.

"We are going to hit some debris," Krisin warned.  "And our shields are iffy at best."

"I was right," Tana said.  "Side shots.  They don't seem to have a lot of protection there."

They were in the midst of dust, metal, the were equivalent of plastics, and then out the other side and coming at the side of three more were craft.

"They always form a line when there are several of them," Lisel said.  "Some sort of instinctive maneuver to protect themselves?  This may be more important than just for our fighter battles."

"Yes," Tana agreed.

And they took out three more craft.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

2YN Class 71 for FB People

Hello!

Because you cannot insert graphics at various points in a post on FB, I'm going to post class #71 here and put a link to it on FaceBook.  The rest of you need not pay any attention to it.  I hope that this works out for everyone!


Week 71: Second Draft, Part Six
Continuity and Timelines/2

Getting the Time Right

There are several aspects of time, some of which we've covered already (but I will go over again), that can affect the way you tell your story. Having a file which includes the timeline of your story can be an essential tool, especially when you are working with multiple characters in various situations, some of which overlap and much of which happens simultaneously. If like me, you tend to add in more secondary plots in the rewrite, it can also save you from dramatic mistakes.  Before you create a working timeline for your story, you have to take a couple thoughts into consideration.

1. What units of time are you using?

If your story is sf or fantasy with no connection to the world as we know it, then there is no real reason to use things like weeks, months, years. What we consider normal (seven-day week) hasn't been the standard for all places and all times even in our own history.

Many pre-industrial societies used moon-based and harvest-related calendars. The phases of the moon are steady and easy to follow, and agricultural communities have always been attuned to the changes of seasons and especially the best times to plant. The rest of agriculture is mostly self-evident. You can tell when the crop is ripe, for instance, but you will likely still have something like a harvest festival if only to bring people together to help with such work.

'Weeks' may be non-existent or be shorter or longer than seven days. Months may disappear in favor of four seasons. Years may not exist as we know them, though this seems unlikely since seasons indicate a circle of time.

But what about a science fiction story based on a ship? Would they still use the same sort of time keeping? Maybe not, though quite likely (in my opinion) if the society is not far removed from Earth they are still going to use Earth-related times on a ship, mostly because it is convenient and part of the general culture. My own sf universe uses a basic 'Earth Standard' time for ships, and local time on the planets.

Daily time is also affected by the society. Industrial age societies live by the hour, minute and second. Pre-industrial age societies did not. People did not meet at half past ten in the courtyard. They gathered at midmorning, and there was a far more fluid idea of meeting times. Dawn, midday -- or in a society with churches and temples, they might meet at first bell, third bell or something similar. Churches often kept the time with specially measured candles which burnt for one hour. Obviously, they were not the most consistent way of keeping track.

The twelve and twenty-four-hour method of timekeeping (along with sixty minutes and sixty seconds) has evolved from the Sumerians. Since almost everything else in our world is based on a ten number system (much easier to keep track of with the hands), it and the 12-inch foot is something of an anomaly. However, it's a good example of how things can be different, even in our own world.

2. How Much Time Does Your Story Take?

And epic tale might span years, a mystery might take three days. Both might require the same number of words to tell -- though epics are generally known for being very long and mystery novels for being short, quick reads. Both, however, can be faced with the same sort of problem when it comes to dealing with the 'dead' time between scenes.

You cannot tell a tale and spend every single moment with a character. The readers will get bored. Even the most exciting characters have their downtime; no one can be in the midst of an adventure for any sustained amount of time.

The longer the timescale of the novel, the more 'dead time' you'll have to cover. A novel covering years is likely to have entire months brushed aside in a few words. A mystery novel covering days may only have a few sleeping hours to cover where absolutely nothing is going on.  For both tales, a lot of the other time will be summarized as well.

Leaning how to present those dead time passages is often very hard and has something to do with the tone of the novel and your own voice.

For instance, here are four different ways to cover a three day time period while the main character waits for someone to arrive.

The three days passed quickly in a rush of cleaning, day job, and sleepless nights.

From the moment the letter arrived time crawled forward, filled with unnamed dread until I heard the knock on the door.

Three days passed before she arrived at my door.

I read the letter and sat it down on the desk, worried. Three days later, I waited on the steps watching the car drive up the road.

What you don't want to do is drag the three days out if there is nothing worth mentioning going to happen in them. Don't purposely try to fill the days up with non-story line related material. If the story is about how the MC gets the letter and three days later has to deal with something from the letter, then head straight there.

On the other hand, if the MC receives the letter, but you want to bury the importance so that the reader loses track of it, have essential plot complications arise at the same time. Not just any plot problem -- it should, as always, be as closely related to the main trouble of your story as you can manage.

How you write your passing time periods is entirely up to you and has to do, as I said before, with the tone of the novel and your own voice. In some novels, you may want to 'timestamp' your chapters. This can be very helpful if you are writing a 'real world' novel, and especially if you have multiple MCs who have things going on at about the same time. A simple date (and time, if needed) can put the reader in the right time -- and place can also be added.

Chapter One -- Mary's House, Monday Morning

Chapter Two -- The Police Station, Monday Afternoon

You can do this with a calendar system you have made up as well, but make certain the reader has a clear conception of how much time you are actually covering. In some cases, it's wise to put tags in place if it's not obvious.

Chapter One -- Day One: Festival Day, Year of the Starchaser

Chapter Two -- Day Ten: Dark Moon Day, Year of the Starchaser

And so on. When you can, use terms that will at least give your reader a basic idea of time passage. Your 'days' may not be the same length as Earth days, but they serve the same purpose.

Don't get carried away with these designations, though.  Keep them simple enough so the reader can glance at the chapter title and get a precise idea of the time and place.

Building a Timeline

A timeline is an outline where the time of the events takes precedence over the grouping of events. In other words, things which are not related thematically, but do occur in the same time frame, should be grouped together. Such a timeline can be helpful in making certain everyone is in the right place at the right time, and they can also help when working on submission packages.

A simple timeline written out on a word processor might look like this:

Day 1 (Morning):

Dave heads for town.

Mary loses job.

Day 1 (Afternoon):

Dave argues with bank manager over a loan.

Mary draws out last of her savings to leave town.

The more complex the plot, the more entries you will have. You might find you need to break down the morning by the hour ( or even smaller increments) and account for what each of the two characters does as their paths continue to cross, and the reader knows they are on a collision course somewhere. If Mary stops to have coffee at the corner coffee shop can she actually be crossing the street ten blocks away a few minutes later as Dave looks at his watch and nearly runs her down? If not, then one of them will need to adjust their time scale or location.

Keeping track of what's going on at what time during your story can help you find glitches you didn't see before you mapped the timeframe out. This week I'm going to show you some easy timelines and how you can manipulate them to help you with story problems. While I am doing these in Excel, you can do the same sort of thing in a lot of other programs. The important part is to figure out the data you want to have at hand, and the kinds of things you need to check to see that everything is flowing correctly.

For this post, I'm going to pretend I'm writing a story called Hail to the New Queen. It's the story of Princess Olma and her fight to keep the rule of the country after her father is assassinated. This will be a story told in an imaginary country, but without magic. Perhaps a sort of late Middle Ages culture, though a dual religion of a God and Goddess. Time is kept via the ringing of temple bells -- those of the Goddess during the day and of the God at night.

What material might you want to have on the timeline?

1. Time

2. Scene/Chapter

3. Location

4. Event(s)

5. POV

6. Other Characters

The easiest program to use for this is Excel or a comparable program. (I usually do my outlines on Scrivener now, but this worked pretty well and has some advantages for sorting things.)






This timeline looks pretty much like a simple outline, really. But here's where you can start seeing what the story needs. Is this the story of Princess Olma? Odd....





By having the program sort alphabetically based on the POV column, I have a list of all the scenes by POV character. It looks to me as though Clanis is the real person behind this tale. The Princess has only two scenes out of 15 in the opening. She may be the focus of this story, but at this point, she is not the person who is going to tell it.

It's possible you didn't realize this since the Princess is present in a number of other scenes. Maybe you want to see how many times she's really around. (In Excel a Control+z will return the file to the previous line up). Do a find for Princess Olma, and it will take you through five cells -- two POV and three Other Characters. She's still not around nearly as much as Clanis. So perhaps you want to give her a couple more scenes, especially right off the opening because it is important the reader knows the main character as soon as possible, and you don't mislead them into thinking this is a novel about Clanis.


 



There -- I've inserted two more scenes I can add in during the second draft phase. Now at least she has more scenes than the assassin, and they could be compelling scenes as she watches her father die and then takes over, and later having her first argument with the Lords over who is in charge.

This will make Princess Olma a more powerful character and give her more 'on-screen' time to show her strengths.  These scenes are also directly related to what is going on in the story.  If you are adding scenes in, you want to find ways to connect them as intimately to the earlier material as you can.  Having a scene where Princess Olma has breakfast wouldn't be as powerful unless you have something drastic happen during that time.

I don't like this setup, though, especially the way it drops the 'Day' parts to the bottom when I do a check on the people. So here's a better way. Give each 'day' a color as well as the header for it.

 




This looks much easier to study. So maybe now I want to know how many scenes have taken place at the palace. I do the same 'sort' as I did for POV.

 



This shows that 8 of the 15 scenes take place at the various areas of the palace.

When working with something as small as fifteen scenes, this really isn't such a big deal. For a novel with 30 chapters and over 100 scenes, it might be an entirely different matter. You might discover Clanis, who dominated the first half of the timeline, suddenly drops to next to nothing toward the end, when the queen goes into exile and Clanis is no longer with her. This might be something you want to rectify one way or the other, so the readers who have become attached to Clanis don't suddenly feel let down when he disappears. You can cut down the number of scenes in the first half, or you can give him new opportunities in the second half -- he can go with the queen, or he can remain behind and still focus on things going on back at Court where Lord Terit is the ruler.

A timeline allows you to look at the events and see who was where at what time. In a book with multiple POV characters in different areas acting at the same time, you might want to set things up a little differently, as I have for this science fiction novel.




As you can see, some of the events in chapter two take place on Earth and occur at the same time as some of the events in chapter one on Mars. The N/T entries mean there is no text -- this bit of the timeline in this location does to appear in the novel. It doesn't mean things are not happening -- only that they are events which will not be directly covered in the story.

In this one, I have only two POV characters, and I don't have to worry about who is going to get more 'face' time since I would likely do this as an alternating POV story and they would each get the same number of chapters. My main questions would revolve around who is where and when. Even if Collins moved off to the moon, I would likely keep his timeline to the EST reckoning, since he would not quickly change anyway, as anyone who has traveled to a vastly different time zone can tell you. I dropped 'Other Characters' to make the picture manageable, but it might be a good section to have as well. (And no, I didn't bother to set up a real Mars clock for this little bit of an outline.)

If I had a large series, a number of events are going on in different areas so I might be tempted to do this entire process in Microsoft Access instead. Access has far better tools for entering and extracting data, but it's not a quick project, either. However, if you have a large universe filled with stories and people to keep track of, it can be a great way to track everything.

Timelines can catch problems you don't realize you have until you see it laid out and see that you need more time here, less time there, etc. They can also make certain you don't have too much dead time for one character while another is hogging all the glory.


Assignment:

Work out the timeline for your story.  You can do this in any format and program you like.  Write it in whatever way you find useful.  This is an important editing tool.

Example 1:

Resolutions of Trust

Resolutions should take place over a one month period -- although there are some events in the original which would not be practical in such a short time. The reworked version will take care of this better, compressing the events into a quicker timeframe in order to create a faster pace.  Here is a quick break down of events as I see them happening:

Week 1:  Original Disaster and immediate aftermath

Week 2: BriTerra cover-up begins to unravel

Week 3: BriTerra's more drastic steps

Week 4: Emil takes chances to bring down BriTerra

Example 2:

Darkness Falls

In Darkness Falls, I have two characters at odds with each other, even when they are not in the same place at the same time.  I might want to chart out their conflicting actions and know what each is doing at any given time.

De and Jake are plainly on a collision course throughout the book.  De has held back from it, which is not always the right thing to do, as evidenced by the things Jake does as soon as he thinks he can get away with it.


De Captured by Holy One  -- Jake begins secret meetings with friends


De finds sanctuary in alien enclave  -- Jake tells servants they will no longer deal with anyone but an elite


De begins mastering his feelings toward the world -- Jake finds out he can't win the leadership as easily as the thought, even with De gone



Friday, May 04, 2018

Flash Fiction #301: Catchin Can/Part 3



Tana waved the others away, and they backed up in haste, probably thinking they had serious damage to the fighter.  Or perhaps they saw the look on Lisel's face, with his ears back and his teeth showing.  The catchin wasn't in a good mood.

Tana hurried to the communit sat on the wall, too far from the fighter.  Tana hoped Krisin could hold Alika and keep any of the bay workers away.  Lisel paced in a small circle behind her, glaring at anyone who even appeared in the distance.

Tana keyed in a link straight to the command deck.  One of the junior officers answered, her eyes narrowed and a frown on her face.  "Yes?"

"I need Captain Dundas to come down to the bay right now."

"The Captain does not come running for a fighter pilot --"

"Well, at least you know who I am.  So here is what you need to know: if you do not relay my message to the captain, I'll be certain that everything that happens because of this delay will be on your head."

Lisel growled.  Loudly.

The woman sputtered and then moved aside in haste. The captain appeared.  "Do you really need to upset my command crew?" she asked with an exasperated sigh.

"We need you down here, Captain," Tana replied, and she let some of the desperation through.  "Please."

"I'm on my way."

The line went dead.  Tana turned around and hurried back to the fighter, Lisel at her side.  He might have grinned now and then.  It had been a good show.

"Now we can only hope that people think it is a problem about you, Lisel, and not something else.  Or about the weres in general.  I don't want Alika's partner to realize that we have her."

"I suspect they'll think it is a catchin problem," he said.

"Yes.  You did excellent with that show."

"Show?"

The Captain was not long in arriving.  She came alone, which was good.  Tana wanted to trust people on the ship, but Alika's partner had to be someone of some rank or else they couldn't have easily gotten messages back and forth.

Or a fighter who went out and sent messages that were not intercepted by the ship. That idea gnawed at Tana because she hated the idea of mistrusting the rest of the people she flew with out there.  The universe was dangerous enough without trouble among their own kind.

"Captain," Tana said with a proper salute.  Lisel did the same.  "This way, please."

Captain Dundas looked at Lisel.  "This is not a catchin problem."

"No," he said.

For a moment she looked relieved -- and then not.  She walked with Tana to the fighter.  A few faces peeked in along the edge of the bay and disappeared again.

"I have a plan on how to keep what we show you quiet," Lisel said softly as they neared the craft.  "Say we had picked up something dangerous --a message from one of the lost ships -- that seemed to hint at treachery on the Belgium.  We wanted you to see it first."

"Yes?"

"It's true, but the message is odd," Tana offered.  They reached the fighter and Krisin keyed the door open.  He'd moved Alika to the edge of the door, and Dundas moved forward, surprised.

"This is the fighter, Alika," Tana said, in case the woman didn't quite recognize her.  "We found her in an asteroid, tricked out with all the best in were technology.  She admitted to picking off fighters.  And she admitted to having someone on the Belgium who has been helping her.  She may have even taken a few prisoners and handed them over to the were."

"Damn."

"Yes, ma'am.  We wouldn't have gotten free if Lisel hadn't brought the ceiling down.  I'm not sure how you did that."

"Shield roof," he mumbled.  "But if you hadn't convinced her that I was still recovering from that last attack on the ship -- which Alika knew about, by the way -- then those bots of hers would have noticed.  I had the impression they were linked to her."

Captain Dundas had put a hand to the fighter's hull and stared at this gift.

"I think we'll find our traitor in the Fighter Staff," Krisin offered.  Alika moved a little -- almost conscious and listening.  "Someone who directs the ships to the areas where they should go.  The person will not be showy, but someone has put fighters in Alika's direction."

"Let me see who sent us," Tana said and climbed up over Alika. She didn't much care that she kicked the woman in the head, either.  Alika's eyes were open, and though she still showed signs of being drugged, she also showed signs of rage.  Not a smart woman, given the situation.

Tana did some quick work, careful to stay off the ship's main computer.  "All I can get is Station 6," she finally said.  "You'll have to take it from there, Captain."

"And what do we do with her?" Captain Dundas asked, a snarl in her voice.

"I am sure there is quite a bit she can tell you about the weres, right?" Lisel said, leaning in closer to the woman.

Alika made a snarling sound, but she looked worried.

Captain Dundas nodded.  "This isn't something we can keep quiet anyway.  Let's see if we can catch a traitor --"

Alarms screamed, starting Tana to reach for the fighter's weapons, even inside the ship.  Krisin shoved the still drugged and bound Alika out of the fighter and Lisel scrambled back in.

"Get to cover!" the catchin shouted at the Captain.  "Out of the bay!  There must be weres coming in!"

"Tracked us?" Tana asked, almost sick with the idea that they'd led them here.

"No. Tracked her," Lisel said as he keyed the door closed.  The Captain grabbed Alika's arm and dragged her away.  "What the hell are we going to do?"

"Fight."

She didn't mention the problems with the fighter.

To be continued....

Friday, April 27, 2018

Flash Fiction #300: Catchin Can/Part 2

(Continued)
Tana felt rock and dust brushing against her and gave a startled cry.  Alika looked up and screamed in fear, throwing herself away from the equipment as a wall of rock came down.

"Back -- back to the fighter," Krisin ordered. He grabbed their lasers and pulled her away.

"The ship is trapped --"

"Have to hope the equipment is damaged --"

"Do more than hope.  Give me my laser, Krisin!"  Then she dropped her voice.  "Did you see Lisel?"

"No."  He stopped and looked back where the rumble of rock had started to lessen.  "Damn."

They went back.  Tana mostly ignored the pain in her leg, grateful that Krisin hadn't insisted she go to the fighter and wait.  He might have been right to do so because she slowed him down.

She could, however, shoot.  When something with odd flashing lights started to crawl out of the rock, she shot it.  More than once.  And the next one as well, while Lisel left her leaning against a boulder half the size of the fighter where she could shoot to her heart's content.  Being in a bad mood and having things to shoot at helped.

Where the hell was Lisel?  Not under the rock.  He wouldn't have -- unless he thought it would save them.  Tana didn't like that thought.  She shot at rocks.

She wasn't certain what Krisin was doing until she saw he had a scanner in hand and ran it over piles of rock.  The way he shook his head made her fear that they would not find --

Rocks fell from the top of the pile.  Tana aimed and fired --

"Will you stop shooting at me!" Lisel shouted.

She grinned with delight and watched as he poked his head out, ears laid back and eyes narrowed.  When he saw she'd lowered her weapon he squirmed out and began pulling something behind him.

"Lisel --" Krisin began.

"Here. Take this."

Alika rolled out and slid down the pile of rock, tied up in cloth and cords, a gag over her mouth.  Her eyes stared at them, wild and angry.  Accusing -- they had, after all, lied to her.

Lisel quickly made his way down as well.  He looked bruised and blood showed in a few spots.  He favored his right hand, and she thought some of the claws had been torn off there.  Krisin had taken up Alika and gave her a vicious shake when she tried to pull away.

"We had better go," Lisel warned with a glance at the rock.  "If I set things up properly, we're going to lose gravity soon.  And air, shields, probably the stability of the rest of the rocks --"

Tana turned, a hand on the rock beside her.  Krisin pushed Alika ahead and Lisel, despite his own limp, got hold of her. They hurried, but even so, the rumbled of disaster started before they reached the fighter.  Alika looked back with open fear and stopped fighting, which allowed Krisin to push ahead and get the fighter open.

Tana still didn't think they'd make it.  The wind had started, a sign of lost atmosphere.  She gasped at the air, an involuntary reaction, like falling into water and wanting one last breath.  Krisin's hand held tighter and he pulled her along -- not that she fought, but the erratic wind and failing gravity made it hard --

Oh, they reached the ship.  Lisel had shoved Alika back behind the seats -- not a comfortable spot.  Good.  Krisin shoved her in and across to the controls.  She hit her leg and nearly blacked out, but the sight of the rock falling and explosions made her grab Lisel in and key the door shut.

Rocks hit the canopy. A small crack -- but they had no choice. She keyed the engines on, powered them up to full, and shot out of the trap as fast as she could.  Behind them, the asteroid exploded, sending more rock after them.  It pinged and banged, and she watched the crack grow a little wider.  So far, it did not give way.

"Part of the controls are out," she said, tapping at the board.  "We're going to be flying without any scanners or communications."

"I have faith you'll find the way home," Lisel said from behind.  He handed up the first aid kit.

"Thanks."

A medpad to her leg helped dull the pain and allowed her to concentrate.  The one thing neither of them mentioned was how there was likely weres in the area.  She kept them close to big asteroids when she could, doing the computations in her head, aiming back toward the sector where they'd left the Belgium.  It would not be in exactly the same place, but she hoped it hadn't moved far.

Alika made some sound of protest in the back of the fighter.

"You would be wise to shut up," Lisel said with such a snarl that Tana felt the hair on the back of her neck rise. 

Alika went silent again.  Tana didn't trust her, though. She opened the first aid kit and handed back a hypo.  He gave a quick nod and then rather ruthlessly jabbed it at Alika's arm.  The woman protested for a moment and then went silent.

She was coming back around again by the time Tana finally spotted the Belgium.  Their craft was not responding well by then.  With no communications, all she could do was aim for the bay and hope for the best.  Lisel knocked Alika back out again when she started to kick and snarl.

"Good work," Tana said.  "This is not the time.  We need to get her in and get the Captain.  We don't want a lot of show before word spreads."

"Leave her here," Krisin said with a glance back.  Brave man since they were just going in the bay.  "Call the Captain to us."

"I don't know --"

"She'll come to us," Lisel said.  "Or I'll go get her."
That sounded like trouble ... but they had trouble anyway.

"Let's do it."

To Be Continued....