Friday, June 01, 2018

Flash Fiction #305: Catchin Can/7

Tana preferred lifts or ladders, but right now the descending corridor was the fastest way to reach engineering, which sat just above the engines.

Captain Dundas did not say anything.  Tana had wanted to curse, but she held that feeling inside and even let Lisel help her when her leg threatened to give out.

Dundas glanced her way and then slowed.

"No.  We need to go faster," Tana said.

"We need to decide what we're going to do," Dundas corrected. She ran her hands through her hair.  "I never thought we'd have this sort of trouble on the ship."

"Why would humans work with them?" Lisel asked.  He sounded as though this really bothered him.

"Promises of something better," Dundas replied.  "Wealth, power ... it's rarely for the betterment of humanity.  People who go to an enemy rarely have any consideration for others."

They went in silence for a few more yards, already drawing near to their destination.

"No clans," Lisel said suddenly.  "No prides.  Individuals, even when you are named crew."

"Took you a long time to figure that out," Tana said.

"Maybe so.  One more turn and we'll be there.  I need to go first.  They won't know me."

"You are rather famous on this ship, Lisel," Captain Dundas said.

"My name is known, but most people can't tell one Catchin from another, you know.  We'll use that to our advantage.  All I need to do is get in and find our person.  We'll need to improvise from there, depending on where he is."

The Captain nodded agreement.

"Be damned careful, Lisel," Tana added.

Early on in the history of the fleet, those who created the designs had been forced to make one significant concession to those who ran the ships.  Engineering dared not be sealed away in an area where people could not get through a locked door if they needed to.  They'd lost three ships in four years to crew who turned out to be rabid earthers who thought they should not be out in space, let alone out fighting aliens.

Now anyone could walk in, but the controls were under strict code and palm locks.    Only fifteen people on the entire ship had access to any of those stations, and the Captain was the only person who could open up all five.

Or close any one of them that might be a problem.  The ship apparently had trouble, but Tana could tell Krisin still had his hand in it.  She hoped that would have unsettled whomever they were after here.

She hoped Lisel found the person fast.

"I prefer to do battle with a fighter," Tana said with a bit of a growl.

"I prefer to have you and your crew on a fighter and not creating havoc on the ship," Captain Dundas replied.  "But I am glad to have someone here I know I can trust."

Loud voices quickly turned to shouts.  No more time.

The next few minutes were so frantic that Tana couldn't believe that only six minutes had passed since she and the Captain rushed into the chaos Lisel had created.  He did so on purpose, and he did it well -- yowling and knocking people aside as he worked his way toward the station where the last of their were-friends was busy pounding at a keyboard with a look of such frustration that he must not have even noticed the Catchin at first.

He did notice when Lisel leapt over the top of the station and onto him.   Tana rushed around the side to help, but Lisel had the man in hand -- but he didn't look happy.

"Communit," he said, tearing the unobtrusive equipment from around the man's neck.  "He was reporting to someone.  Short range, on this ship.  We're still missing someone."

"Damn," the captain said.  She turned to the others.  "Back to work!  Krisin can't keep everything going from the control deck.  We're transferring all controls to here.  Martin, come to this station and tell me what the hell this fool did."

Martin was the chief engineer, and she knew her stuff.  They had everything sorted out quickly enough, but I was watching the sensor screen where the line of were craft and something much, much, larger edged in along the far quadrant.  I was not the only one watching.

We had no power to move.

Krisin arrived at a run, security guards behind him -- but they were warning others away.  Krisin darted straight to the board the other man had worked at and threw himself underneath, Martin kneeling beside him.  I felt the growing tenseness.

Then we had power.  Captain Dundas directed the flight from there.  Krisin kept working at making certain we had power and Lisel held onto the enemy.  I was feeling pretty useless until I saw a woman lift a laser pistol and aim at the Captain.

I plowed into her.  Yeah, that was better.

We got away.

Several hours later, Krisin, Lisel, and I had breakfast with the Captain in the cafe near the control deck.  They didn't see Catchin up there too often, but they were polite, and a few even smiled.  We had saved the ship, after all.

"We are bound to have more troublemakers on the ship," Dundas said.  "And until I'm sure we've located them all, we're going to keep our own company.  No new crew, no meet up with other ships.

That gave Tana a little shiver, the thought that they were out here on their own.  Ah, but it really wasn't so different.  They'd been out on the edge for a few years already.

"Some people are due to go back home," Krisin said softly.  "They're not going to be happy."

Tana wondered and worried that he was one of them.

"We are here to protect the earth," Dundas replied.  "We'll do what we have to.  We're not going to let anyone connected with the weres infiltrate elsewhere through us.  Eat up, my friends.  We have work to do."

(The End -- for now.  I'm sure Tana, Lisel, and Krisin will be back for more adventures!)

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