The Pirate’s Kiss: The Tavern Etudes p.III

Originally published January-March 2015 by L.Brown and HGW. Copyright 2015 L.Brown (SiriusMoonlight) and HGW.  Used with permission.

Winter was on her ninth Hashtaaleen boilermaker.  The drink steamed, bubbled, and fizzed as the bartender warily set it in front of her.  She watched it blearily for a moment.  Grace was in animated conversation with a being that looked like it wore a refrigeration device on its head.  Grace glanced over at Winter and frowned as Winter gingerly took another sip from her drink and laughed at something on the tabletop display.

“Honey, are  you gonna bleed all over the floor, ’cause I got patrons that want to attach a straw to your head and finish the job.” The cranky waitress attempted to stare Grace down.  Grace narrowed her amaranthine eyes at the gray skinned server and snatched a duracloth napkin off her tray.  She blotted the blood off her head and wrist with it then took a clean glass off the bar back.  She squeezed the blood into the glass and placed a round cherrieberry on the rim.  She stabbed a colorful parasol through the fruit and handed the cocktail to the startled waitress.  All three of her black spider eyes widened at the offering.  “Tell your patron that one is on the house, but no more than that, with my complements.” Grace snapped.   The server scuttled away quickly.  Grace stepped away from the conversation and approached Winter’s table.  Her frown deepened as she saw the conversation scrolling across Winter’s display.  “I think I found a few things of interest.” she said as she cautiously sat down.

Winter waved her hand negligently in Grace’s direction.  She blew steam off the top of the insulated container.  The transparent mug appeared to glow vibrant cobalt and hissed slightly.  The chime on the tabletop call command bonged softly as Winter took another cautious swallow of the bubbling drink.  She read the message, as Grace fiddled with her commset, and laughed.  Grace cocked her head and wondered if Winter was drunker than she previously thought.  The laughter had a harsh sound to it like hysteria and sawdust.  Grace pulled the portal computer out of her pocket, and pulled up a screen before setting it in front of Winter.  “Look in the mirror, over the bar.  What do you see?”  she said as Winter glanced over at the portal.

“I see that one of us is in need of a drink and that the other one is not nearly drunk enough yet.  Some mierda is actually trying to pick me up, would you believe?”  Winter gestured to the tabletop message display. “He said our ship is fixed and that he’s heard a rumor that there is a plague ship inbound from Droxtil or somewhere near there. I told him to find someone else to bother but he seems impaired or oblivious to sarcasm, one of the two.  He wants me to put on my ITD.”   Winter snorted and picked up her drink for another sip.

Grace pursed her lips.  “According to the information I got from our friend over there, ” she indicated the alien refrigeration unit with her chin, “there is a plague ship inbound.  Your admirer is well informed.  Perhaps putting on your interactive temporal device and indulging him would yield more intelligence?”  Grace signaled the bartender to cut Winter off while she downed what remained in her tanker.  Winter seemed in no hurry to take her up on the suggestion.  Grace growled in frustration and reached into Winter’s jacket pocket to retrieve the ITD.  She put it on but yanked it off after a moment or two and slapped it into Winter’s palm.  “Your buddy there has become tight lipped and refuses to talk to anyone but you.”  She flagged down another bar waitress, ordered a drink then gestured at the mirror.  “We’ve got a prize under our noses.  That is what I wanted you to see.”  She sat back in the chair with her drink and took a small sip.  “Let me know what your mystery man says before I tell you about the package delivery offer we’ve got.”   Grace stood and departed for a nearby empty table.  Winter blinked down at her ITD, bemused at its sudden appearance.

“Your friend is looking at Boroni Atchulkto.  He’s wanted in three Hotel systems, and at least two in Suburbia.  The bounty alone would be worth it.  But, we’ve heard he’s carrying something he wants smuggled into Montague Ivoryhelm.  We don’t know a discrete route into that system, else we’d take the job ourselves.”  Winter frowned as the words scrolled across the small screen in front of her retina.  The interactive temporal device was hardly bigger than a pair of wire framed glasses.  The jack fitted behind her ear and filtered out the sounds of the bar and helped enhance her visual neural cortex.

Winter sighed.  “Why don’t you just save some time.  Come sit down so I can beat you up and be done with it.”  She peered at what was left of her drink and sighed again.  “Who’s we anyway?”

There was a discernible pause, as if there were a conferral taking place at the other end of the conversation.  “My name is Auric.  My brother Argent and I ask you to switch to your live feed.”

Winter sighed again, and just for the hell of it, took the suggestion.  “Winter! Come in, dammit!” Fred shouted in her ear and she winced at the volume.

“Cool your jets, toaster.  What’s doing?”  She replied.  Instead of an insulted acidic retort or critique of her fractured ancient terraspeak, Fred immediately started babbling.  “They finished an hour ago…refitted…new vanes…muck off…need to leave…plague ship…”  Winter shook her head to clear it.  “Wait, what? You’re fixed?  How?”

Fred started to babble again as Winter slid off her barstool and motioned to Grace, who has been chatting up Boroni.  The floor wobbled alarmingly before she regained her balance.  She staggered up to Grace and listed a bit to one side.  “Time to go.” She muttered.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They both stopped and gaped at the Fred sitting calmly with the other surface to space ships.  His metal gleamed faintly in the twilight.  The muck and dirt haf been erased from his hull.  The faux registry letters glowed as the paint appeared to still be drying across the metal skin.  The gravity well vanes were retracted and the large dent in the nosecone from an asteroid broadside is gone.

“You didn’t let them near the torpedo tubes did you?” Winter hissed at Fred. He babbled more about official seals and other rot. “No.” he said.  Winter tuned him out after that.

Winter turned to Grace as she was settling into her communications chair.  “Tell your friend to get his cargo over here.  We need to leave before they figure out they fixed the wrong ship.”  Grace nodded and signaled Boroni’s ship from her newly refurbished bridge console.

“The new decks are totally nova!  Someone didn’t spare any expense.” Grace smirked.  Winter rolled her eyes and continued with the preflight check.  “Boroni’s ship signaled back. They are ready for us to take delivery of the package.  Care to let them in …”  She trailed off.  Winter was already out of her seat and jogging down the corridor to the cargo bay.

“So, what do we owe you for this tip about Boroni?  And why do you use texttype?”  Winter thought hard as the ITD transcribed her words into Galactic Standard and sent them to Auric.

There was another brief pause.  “I’m the con officer.  We deal with a lot of aliens, so it was easier for me to have a halo implanted.  I only use my voice on rare occasions anymore.”

“If you are the con, then your brother is Captain?  What ship?”

Winter caught the faint impression of laughter from the other side of the conversation.  “The Dirty Bitch.  Boroni’s almost there.  We will turn him for his bounty.  Thank you, Captain Winter.”

Boroni appeared out of the haze of lifting ships and handed a crate marked “Live Animal” to Winter.  “It is friendly, “He remarked.” Eats pretty much anything.  No grapes, onions, garlic, chocolate, sattrap, or Naidian chucqsa pops.  Those give it gas.”  Boroni made a face.  “The rest is on the reader chip on the crate.”  He thrust the crate into her hands.       ” Good luck.  He’s a sweet little fellow.”

Boroni disappeared down the gangplank and Winter signaled to Fred to retract and iris the hold doors shut.  Grace hit the thrusters and left the ground far behind.

The Pirate’s Kiss: The Tavern Etudes p.II

Originally published January-March 2015 by L.Brown and HGW. Copyright 2015 L.Brown (SiriusMoonlight) and HGW.  Used with permission.

Winter frowned and checked the CORE status.  Life support and cryogenics appeared as green lights on her display board.

“Fred?” She inquired again.

“My apologies, Winter. Internal and external diagnostics temporarily shut down my voice command. We have sunk six feet into the marsh, and there are several angry villagers outside.  They are asking to speak to the Captain.”

“Great.” Winter muttered. “Good thing she’s not here then.”  She unstrapped herself from the navigation console chair and turned to Grace.  “Let’s get this over with shall we?”  Winter stood, tugged the armrest compartment open on her chair and withdrew a pouch of credit vouchers.  She slapped it shut, and made for the bulkhead doors.  Grace checked her spine sheath and tucked the handle of the long bladed knife up under the hair at the back of her neck.  Her waist length braid swung into place, effectively concealing the blade.  She stood and strode after Winter.

Winter neared the airlock and slowed down to punch in the code that would extend the walkway.  The airlock glowed green but the ramp stubbornly glowed red.  “Malfunction!” chimed the door unit. “Ramp hydraulics damaged.  Unable to extend ramp.  Warning!  Warranty expired standard Galactic date …”  Winter brought her fist down sharply onto the control and the warning ceased.  “Fred?  Over ride the door please so we can at least get out.  Seal it behind us and keep the ship locked.  Also, keep an eye on that cryotube and keep a continuous monitor on it.  We don’t want our permanent guest to thaw any time soon.  Notify us if there is a problem.  We’ll be at the Don’t Arrr!”

“Affirmative, Winter.  Are you certain going out there now is a good idea?  They seem angry enough to kill the Captain…” Fred trailed off, uncertainly

“They can get in line.” Winter growled, “I get to kill her first.”  The airlock glowed blue as the blast shield around the portal activated.  The gears of the gangway ground partially extending the ramp six feet but no more.  The mechanism overheated and a shower of sparks caused the gathered group to retreat up the crater formed by the crashed ship.  The iris shaped airlock opened and Winter stalked down the gangway and jumped off into the muck.  Grace followed behind, her hands hovering over the knives concealed in the thigh pads of her flight suit.  Winter stomped through the cloying goo and turned around to help Grace wade through the murk.  A villager, perhaps more brave than possessing common sense, approached her and began dancing up and down waving his arms excitedly.  Winter translated his outraged diatribe in her head while  Grace pushed disgustedly at the glop on her suit.  Her fingers ghosted over the concealed knives as she watched the villager carefully.

Winter sighed and pointed to the field.  “We plowed it for you.  Consider it an early planting gift from the Goddess and us as her emissaries.”  The village farmer was not assuaged and continued his harangue a minute more.  Winter smiled slowly, showing her sharp, elongated canine teeth.  The farmer glanced at the tattoo at her throat and strangled on his words.  Winter grabbed Grace by the arm and flipped a golden coin at the farmer which he deftly caught and dubiously bit.

“Sorry for the mess.” Grace smiled brightly as Winter propelled her past the milling crowd and out of the crater.

The Pirate’s Kiss Episode I: The Tavern Etudes

Featured

*note: This work is copyright L. Brown and H.G.W. Original improv version published February 5, 18th, 2015 Used with permission

Roll credits and theme song:

Yo ho ho and a Pirate’s Kiss, we might have a bit of a hit or miss, but to continue, without a crew, seems like Winter and Grace, are in a bit of a stew!  So of we go, yet again, into the blackened void, and among pirate friends…

*******************************************************************************************

The interior of the Fred is filled with smoke and steam.  Winter is under the console swearing in a  mishmash of galactic languages, and Grace is wrestling with the pilot’s controls as the ship bucks wildly in a steep descent.

The ship’s computer, an artificial intelligence named Fred for his flamboyant manner, drones a series of reports and updates almost faster than the human ear can process.  “The Navicomp is offline, hydraulic systems failure in sections three, six, and twelve, main sublight engine overheating, external hull pressure rising, carbon clay skin stress at …”

Winter snarls, bangs her head on the console and interrupts the litany of disasters.  “Basically, we are crashing again. We get it.  Shut up!”  She turns to her crewmate, and longtime friend Grace, and says, “Did you reach command Alpha on Taverna?  Do they know we are coming in more than just a bit hot?”

Grace’s pallid face reflects stress of the last few hours. Her violet colored eyes squint at the view screen in front of her and tiny lines around them show the depth of her fatigue.  “They’re aware.  The Fred isn’t going to make tractoring us into a reasonable landing easy.  We over shot the station due the hiccup in navigator controls.  We’ve got too much damage and I need  your help with the controls”  The Fred twists and attempts to somersault as the levelers short out.  Winter curses again and bangs around a second more, attempting to stop the cascade failure in the Fred’s systems.  She resumes her seat at the navigation console and straps in.  She spares the empty Captain’s chair a brief glance and bares her teeth.

She stabs at the controls but they appear to be dead.  She stands and levels a kick to the upper portion and the lights flicker on and stay on.  “Well, here’s a bit of good news.  There’s no hiss of escaping atmosphere.”  She said over her shoulder.

“Yet.” Grace muttered.

Fred patches through the voice of the AI Harbour Master at Taverna ELL Five.  The voice is dry and flat with no trace of a planetary accent.  “Unregistered flight, we are able to tractor to surface only. You are in violation of Taverna traffic controls and are asked to cap your radiation leakage to twenty thousand units. Is this the Fred?” The voice suddenly becomes a great deal more animated.  “Dude, you own me money!”

Winter quirks an eyebrow at the bulkhead cameras. “I played poker with him last time.  He cheats.” Fred mumbled, sounding distinctly embarrassed.

Winter shook her head. “You fly with pirates but you haven’t learned not to play poker with one? Fred, I’m disappointed.  I really am.”

Fred mumbles something unintelligible and then intones, “Estimated one minute forty-six seconds until impact.”  The console atmospheric alarms begin to sound. Winter slaps her hand over the cutoff and the caterwauling stops immediately.

Grace loops her arm through her safety harness and braces her feet against her console. “We’re heading into the atmosphere! Could you stop worrying about his poker face and help me keep us steady?”

Winter waves her hand in acknowledgement.  To Fred she murmurs, “Retract all vanes and deploy the emergency balloon heat shield and pillons.”  She pulls on the straps of her safety harness and double checks the linkage to the bulkhead chair.  She slides across to grab the lateral control joystick as it tries to jump out of her hand. “Fred, deflector’s to full capacity double front and full repulsor control aft and bottom.  If we skip like a stone, I don’t want the hull all scratched up?”

“Please tell me you aren’t worried about the paint job, for Jubliee’s sake?” Grace muttered under her breath.

Winter’s ears twitch as she ignores Grace’s remark. Instead she says, “Well, things are  heating up nicely.  Think we’ll be in time for happy hour?”

Grace rolled her eyes and tried not to snarl.  “We are burning up in the atmosphere, possibly crashing to an explosive death, and you’re worried about discounted drinks?”

Winter shook her head. “We’re not possibly crashing.  We are crashing.  I thought that was readily apparent?”

Fred chimed, “One minute, nine seconds to impact.”

“Unregistered flight, your radiation levels…” The station AI sounded vaguely concerned, almost alarmed.

Grace decides to take her ire out on the AI.  “Yes!” she snapped. “We are the Fred. Now are you going to tractor us or we going to go down in a literal blaze of glory and take out half that blasted village of scum and vile reprobates whose innards should have been fed to maggots half a tinabrum ago?”

“Gracie love, I’ve missed you.  You know how I love it when you talk dirty to me.  Commencing tractor.  Stabilize your descent.”  The AI bubbled.  Grace grimaced.  Winter pursed her lips and tried not to laugh.

“Not funny, Winter!”

Winter shrugged and replied, “Gallows humor.”  The stick in her hand stopped vibrating wildly as the tractor beam locked onto the ship.  “I just wonder how much this is going to cost us.”

The Fred is enveloped by something akin to St. Elmo’s fire.  Ghostly blue light flickers over the hull as the ELL five station master manipulated the station’s tractor device to capture the falling ship.  Warning lights still flash aboard the Fred.  The front stabilizers short out and without the tractor, the ship would have tumbled end over end in an uncontrolled fall. The beam acts as a cushion as the ship falls through the upper atmosphere.  A rush of viridian and cyan rush past the interior projection screens as the ship hurtles across the landscape.  Aqua gives way to more greens and browns as the ship grazes the ground once and tries to flip end over end.  Grace and Winter strain to keep the ship as level as possible as the ship bounces three more times and finally carves a long muddy stretch through the lush tall grasses.

Periwilderbeasts run in terror as the blunt nose of the ship comes through the grass.  The Fred finally comes to a steaming stop at the edge of a farm pond.  The intense heat of the crash vaporizes the water instantly and steam, spilled fuel, and oil mix a muddy ooze that threatens to consume the ship.

Winter blinks and licks the salty stream pouring from her forehead.  She looks at Grace, who is holding her nose as violet blood drips down her torn flight suit sleeve.  “Well.  That was fun.  Mai Tai?”

Grace coughs out a mixture of hot air and smoke and croaks, “I could use a drink.”  She swivels around and releases the harness.  “I like being right side up this time.  My hair kept getting in my mouth the last time we crashed.”  She glances at the bulkhead wall where the Fred’s nerve center is located.  “Fred?”

Fred does not reply.

Winter and Grace both frown.  “Fred?”

edit 3.3.15