Warp Riders – Chapter 45

Later, while the Bosun and the Stowaway properly emptied Lucy’s remaining things out of her bunk, the Captain limped in her splint down the hall to the helm, where the Navigatrix sat, contemplating not one, but two weightless orbs. She looked up as the Captain entered, a little wary.

The Captain leaned back on the console beside the orbs, and stared at her hands for a moment. Her right knuckles were darkening from a greenish yellow to a very, very deep purple.

She inhaled, and looked her time wizard in the eye. “You have got to stop pulling heroic stunts like that.”

“You first,” said the Navigatrix. She reached out and took the Captain’s right hand, stared at the bruises. “I don’t think I’m solely responsible for this whole mess…”

The Captain nodded. “I’ve been an asshole for a while.” The Navigatrix tilted her head. “And I’m sorry.”

That got a smile.

“You thinking of changing your ways, Captain?”

“Not much. Just have some small adjustments in mind.” She grabbed the Navigatrix’s other hand and held them both. “If you’re interested.” 

The Navigatrix smiled at her. “Try me.”

“Well, what if we… took a break.”

“A break?”

“Just .. just you and me.” The Navigatrix was grinning. “Pick out a nice warm planet to lounge around on.” Was it working? Was it actually working? “Maybe go visit some cheesy cafes and theme restaurants?”

The Navigatrix laughed and pulled her Captain into her lap. “You know, I think I could make time for that.”


~ e n d ~

Warp Riders – Chapter 44

After they had coaxed her back into the makeshift infirmary for a proper walking splint and some ice for her fist, she said, “Find the Stowaway.”

And then she was reclining with her leg up on a chair in the galley, staring at a very sullen, utterly beat up looking kid.

They’d managed to convince the Navigatrix to join them. She still cradled the new Orb in the crook of her arm, but she looked attentive.

The Captain addressed the kid:

“You are going to have to explain yourself really, really well, because I normally toss assassins out the airlock.”

The Stowaway smirked, an expression they had definitely picked up from the Bosun.

“Great, that’s gonna go real fucking well for me.”

Then their eyes widened. And everyone leaned in just a little, and the Captain exhaled, like she had been betting on exactly this.

“You assholes can understand me now.”

“We sure can.”

And they stared at her, silent, for a full minute; and then shrugged, laughed, and told them everything.

They told the crew about the Witches, and their curse, and the time catalyst arrow they’d carved from that statue; and the prophecies, all eight of them, how they knew the way to unlock their ship, and the exact moment to pull it out of time and down to the moon. About the Chronomancer, and the Orbs, and the galactic rain of fire they’d been sent to prevent.

And the Bosun had her own questions, and so they told her about their life before, being angry, being a hired gun for the worst people they could find, never really hoping for anything, not even thinking about getting off planet. And even before that, their exile, the petty theft that had started it all.

After all of it, the Captain had more questions.

“Do these Witches want us dead?”

They shook their head. “They said one of you would get the Orb away from the Chronomancer; they didn’t say anyone would die.” 

“But you figured someone might.”

“Seemed possible.”

The Engineer was watching them carefully, chewing her lip, clearly conflicted.

“Are they going to send any more child assassins after us?”

The Stowaway snarled at the accusation. “I’m not a child.” The Bosun snorted. “They just wanted you to deal with the Chronomancer. That’s all I know.”

The Captain looked over at the Navigatrix, who had put one protective hand on her new Orb.

“Are they likely to decide they need someone to deal with our time wizard, too?”

The Stowaway turned to the Navigatrix.

“You saw what he was like. That moon was his tomb! They showed me – he raised a whole civilization to build it for him, and let them starve while he slept.” Their eyes were haunted. “You want to turn into that?”

The Navigatrix looked a question at the Captain.

“Yeah, I think we’ll notice if she starts talking about crushing civilizations under her heel. We’re gonna be rationing Orb use a little better, going forward.” The Captain leaned in towards the Stowaway, an elbow on her good knee. “So, knowing what we all know about each other now, should we toss you out the airlock?”

“No! I’m finally free!” Their eyes were wide. “Fuck, just drop me in a city somewhere, I don’t care. I’ll start over; change my name, no one will find me – and I won’t tell anyone where you went.”

“Those’re the magic words, kid. I might even believe them.” The Captain remembered the calm with which they’d hauled her out of the tower rubble. “You know what, why not. We’re missing our fifth; you seem competent. How do you feel about a little space piracy?”

The Stowaway looked a little stunned, and that was enough to let the Captain know she’d made the right call. Everyone else also looked stunned, but they’d come around.

Warp Riders – Chapter 43

The tide was pulling out, and the current of the rushing water had pushed them away from him, and the Captain was doing her best to grow the distance. The Navigatrix coughed and seemed to come back to herself, pulling one hand out of the Orb to keep herself afloat. She stared at the Captain for a moment, a strange look on her face.

No time for that, though.

“That was my only plan,” said the Captain. “You got any idea how to get us out of here?”

The Navigatrix’s eye caught on the wizard, hovering mostly out of the water now, five arms tying the scraps of blue glow into a long whip.

She looked down at her new Orb and a queasy look crossed her face.

“This is going to look extremely cryptic, Captain.” Then she pushed the Captain away, yelling loudly for their crewmates on shore, “get to the ship! the ship!” and then stuck both hands in the Orb again and sunk.

The Captain didn’t have time to yell about it before a pink and orange glow bubbled up from below the water, pulling it down into a trough that connected the shore to the ship. As soon as the Navigatrix’s head was safely above water, the Captain did as she was told and swam for her life.

The water was lowering quickly as she swam and she wasn’t at her fastest with one leg out of commission, but she was nearly there by the time she had to settle down onto the sand. Behind her she could hear the Bosun yelling instructions at the Engineer, and then the Engineer had her by the arm and she managed to get up and hop.

As the Engineer unlocked the door, the Captain stared down the shallow trough that the Bosun was pulling the Navigatrix along. The horrible wizard had slid over into the trough and was screaming with rage while he strode unstoppably forward on too many legs towards them.

With the door open, the Engineer turned to grab the Captain, and seemingly from nowhere behind her the Stowaway landed hard in the shallow water and ran through the door.

The Captain swore once and the Engineer stood stunned.

“How did they know..?”

“Doesn’t matter,” shouted the Bosun. “Get out of the way!”

And the trough the Navigatrix had somehow summoned was visibly collapsing in the distance, the wall of water racing towards them. The four of them barreled through the door, and the Bosun slammed it shut as the water hit.

The Captain had landed hard on the sloped floor of their poor broken ship; the Engineer had her face to the porthole, and the Bosun had pushed the Navigatrix into the leaning bench.

“He’s still out there.” The Engineer confirmed; “Something there is still glowing blue.”

They all turned to the Navigatrix. She stared at them, exhaustion on her face.

“What the hell do you think I can do?”

“You’re also a time wizard,” said the Bosun. “Time wizard us out of here?”

The Navigatrix closed her eyes and sighed. “He’s calling himself a chronomancer. I’m a navigatrix, not a chronomancer.”

The glow appeared at the window, and they could hear stones scraping along the hull. The whole thing shuddered as metal bent and scraped and twanged under the pressure.

The Engineer slid down to join the Captain on the floor.

“I wish we’d never crashed on this cursed moon in the first place.” 

The Captain put one hand on her shoulder, trying desperately to summon any sort of further plan, when the Navigatrix inhaled sharply. She said firmly,

“Hold on; this is going to feel very strange -” and then she closed her eyes, both hands in the new Orb, and a soft green glow drifted out of it, spreading, never quite touching them all as it climbed the walls and seeped through the closed doors.

And the ship began to move.


And the Captain watched as the crushed door to the helm slowly unfolded, and they lifted up, back, higher, faster, and the sky outside the porthole darkened, until they were all weightless, floating inside their ship in space.

The Navigatrix opened one eye to look at the Captain.

“You’re going to have to take it from here.”

So the Captain grabbed the Engineer and pushed the doors open, and they swam as fast as they could onto the bridge, where the original Orb was pulsing in time with the green glow as well.

The Captain fell into her seat, checked the controls, switched everything to manual, and yelled down the hall: “Ready!”

Time came back like a sunrise, gentle and slow and then suddenly painful; the ship was back in freefall towards the moon.

The Captain signaled the Engineer, who released the manual lock on their emergency rockets, which kicked in like a hit to the face, and the Captain pulled them off course, much sooner than she had before, when they didn’t know they were back inside time until it was almost too late. This time, they only skimmed the edge of the atmosphere of the moon, heat glowing on the viewport, and then, miracle of miracles, they were safely out of its gravity well.

A few clumsy tweaks with the emergency rockets, and the Captain had them safely orbiting the gas giant, far away from any moons.

Warp Riders – Chapter 42

No one was responding, no matter how loud the Captain shouted. She had the distinct sense that bad things were happening, and she had one working leg and a foggy useless mind and a face full of dust, and she was angrily scooting her way up the side of a fallen stone on her ass.

A clap sounded from above her, and she nearly slid back down as she whipped around to look, mouth full of curses for the Bosun who had just left her there – but it wasn’t the Bosun.

“Well what the fuck are you trying to pull now?”

The Stowaway barely flinched, just tossed down a rope.

“You think I’m gonna trust you to get me out of here safely?”

They shrugged, and started pulling the rope back up nonchalantly.

“Fuck, fine, hold the hell on.”

They must have tied it off somewhere, because they let the Captain put her full weight into it as she clambered up.

From the top of the pile of fallen stone, she took one look at the Navigatrix, striding stubbornly forward inside that blue beam, and knew what she had to do.

“Get down there, and find me a crutch.” They tilted their head. “I can get myself down, you shit. A good crutch, not that emergency one, and fast.”

And when she slid finally down to solid ground, bruised and very, very angry, they were waiting for her with not the emergency crutch, but the Navigatrix’s 54″ precision plasma gun.

The Captain had to admit, it was sturdy. “She’s going to kill me for this.” And then she booked it.

She was wheezing when she got to the water’s edge, and the Bosun stepped up and offered her arm.

“She’s got a goddamned deathwish, Captain.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna kill her for this.”

“Gotta get her out of it first.”

The Captain and the Bosun went silent as the Navigatrix reached their antagonist and stepped into his spherical aura.

The Captain whispered “is that our Orb?”

“No, he brought his own.”

And then the Navigatrix shoved her hands into the uncanny Orb too, and then suddenly all this unholy noise started to pour into the world.

The static and the howling and the searing sparks flying off the edge of the blue sphere made the water ripple strangely – and then that blue glow started to throb, green and yellow shooting through it, then orange and red and purple, a spectrum of colours that seemed to each pull different things into being.

The Navigatrix was stretched into an unnatural pose, arms quivering and face staring into the Orb.

They could barely hear her over the noise, shouting at her adversary;

“I can do this all day!”

– then the static growled in the air and the colours ran faster in the glow – and she seemed to put her back into it, hair standing on end, and she yelled

“Do your worst! I know my way through time!”

and then the horrible wizard seemed to twist the Orb, bringing her to her knees, and she was just yelling animal noises of rage at him.

The Captain didn’t think. She just shifted her weight back onto her makeshift crutch and stepped onto the path the rainbow glow was carving through the water. Things were changing rapidly within that glow – cobblestones appeared and disappeared, sand grew around her feet and receded.

She felt like she was phasing in and out of existence, but she focused on her Navigatrix’s voice, shape, silhouette; and step after step brought her closer. She could almost hear the shouts of the Bosun and the Engineer, but the winds of time were in her face and the static and the whistling cries were too loud.

Closer, with each painful step she was closer. Ahead, the Navigatrix wasn’t letting go of that horrible Orb, and the Captain knew she couldn’t keep that up forever. Each step was surreal; grass grew around her feet, withered and died, and was replaced with lava which immediately cooled and became sand.

Until finally she was standing behind the Navigatrix.

She put one hand on her shoulder for balance, tossed the raygun onto the sand, pulled back, and punched that fucking wizard right in the face.

Two things happened – first, her hand screamed with pain, like she had punched a metal girder instead of a man; and second, he slipped up – he let go of the Orb.

As the glow rushed back into the Orb she held, the Navigatrix slumped against the Captain, and then the water rushed back in, knocking them head over heels, and the Captain was suddenly treading water with one good leg, trying to keep ahold of the Navigatrix and her Orb.

The wizard was screaming with rage, and he seemed to will himself to float half out of the water, but his arms and face were suddenly fixed and unchanging. Five arms, one ancient face with horrible eyes. Each hand was clenched around a tiny scrap of that blue glow.

Warp Riders – Chapter 41

The Bosun climbed over the fallen stones to find them lying on their backs staring at the sky. “Good job not dying.” The Navigatrix’s dusty face was streaked with tears and she was laughing, or crying, or both; and the Captain looked stunned. She blinked and looked at the Bosun.

“You’re gonna need a rope for me.”

The Navigatrix wiped her face and crawled out of the gap they’d hidden in. “I’ll get one.”

She climbed up beside the Bosun and waved at the Engineer on the ground below.

“How did you do it?”

“Camp stove plasma cannon!”

“My plasma? For my guns?”

“All of it!”

The Bosun laughed at the Navigatrix’s expression. “It was desperate times. You’ll forgive us someday.”

But the Navigatrix had quickly turned deadly serious. She was staring towards the water. The Bosun and the Engineer both looked quickly, and there they were. The Stowaway.

“What do you want, you little shit?” The Bosun could see that they looked much worse for wear.

They were staring at the Navigatrix, and when they had everyone’s attention, they lifted an arm and pointed out into the water.

The Engineer was already stomping their way, pulling her hair back. The Bosun wasn’t going to stop her, but the Navigatrix stepped back in horror, and yelled with an unholy rage, “NO!”

And then she leapt precariously across the huge fallen stones, to land on the ground unsteadily and start running towards the water herself.

The Bosun, the Engineer, the Stowaway all stared as she ran, full tilt, into the water, eyes on something in the middle of the lake. As she got closer she yelled with audible rage;

“Stay the fuck away from my ship!”

And that fucking time wizard reappeared from a glowing point of floating light.

The Captain was shouting for information from deep within the ruins, but the Bosun grunted at her to hold tight, and scrambled her way down to run to the water’s edge.

The time wizard didn’t look quite the same as before; his blue aura was diminished down to a sphere around him that made the water fizz and disappear; and he stood on dry lake bottom, cobblestones just visible at his feet. In his many hands, that weird inverted Orb writhed and throbbed with awful light.

The Navigatrix pushed herself through the water, to her knees, to her waist, deeper still.

He turned and watched her approach, and the Bosun was impressed she kept going, because the expression on his many changing faces was pure murder.

But the Navigatrix was egging him on. “It’s my Orb! You’re not worthy! It won’t listen to you! Don’t you dare turn away from me!”

The Bosun looked at the Engineer, and she shrugged, an exhausted kind of confusion on her face.

“She’s gonna get herself killed,” the Bosun whispered.

The Engineer nodded. “Can you stop her?”

The Bosun sighed, and handed the Engineer her last few electrified knives.

But she barely had one foot in the water when the Navigatrix managed to finally really piss off the time wizard.

He shoved four, or seven, or eleven hands into that cursed Orb and shot that blue aura in a beam right at her, and for a moment, the Bosun thought she disappeared.

The water around the beam boiled as it grew in height, touching lake bottom, and then the Navigatrix was there, inside it, some magic wind pushing her soaked hair into her face, as she slowly and steadily walked through the blue towards the wizard.


Warp Riders – Chapter 40

The second the sound hit them, the Navigatrix flattened herself against the Captain, in what was both the best and the worst version of this scenario that she could imagine. First the heat wave and the wind pushed around the tower, whistling but not, thankfully, getting inside; and then in the same moment the blue glow disappeared, throwing them into darkness, and the first of the plasma slugs burst through the wall, screaming with white electric heat, slicing up the tent and carving effortless holes through the stonework.

The Captain’s arms wrapped around her and they just held on to each other until the plasma stopped boiling on the stone and the camotech and the tent lay in tatters around them, sparking and sizzling in the swirling fog.

The Navigatrix buried her face in the Captain’s hair in an effort to filter the smell of vaporized stone and burning copper wire, and didn’t look up until the Captain shook her shoulders;

“Nav – we gotta go-”

– and the tower was already swaying.

She leapt up, throwing off strings of canvas and sparking wires, up to her ankles in static fog, and pulled the Captain up with her.


The Captain pointed to an ornate archway in the colonnade; “That’s our best bet.”

And the Navigatrix saw the top of the tower above them leaning farther and farther, and she threw the Captain’s arm over her shoulder and together they awkwardly, desperately, painfully legged it towards the archway.

Gravel and dust fell faster and thicker, and the creaking sound of stone on stone turned into a sinister grind and rumble, and for the last few yards the Navigatrix lifted the Captain and half-threw her into the archway, diving in afterwards.

The sound of the stone tower, immense and hubristic as it was, collapsing – well it felt like it took over her mind and body. The air filled with wind that whipped up electricity and sand and grit, and the earth shook.

The arch they were under creaked and fell into itself, but not completely; in the lean-to of stone it had created, they were both curled up into balls, coughing into their sleeves and holding onto the ground like it was going to tip and toss them off.

When the dust settled, the sparking fog was gone, and green dawnlight streamed in.

The Navigatrix rolled onto her back and looked up at the seafoam green sky.

It was incredibly quiet.

He was gone! He had left – without the Orb, she was sure of it.

She started laughing again, just unbelievably relieved.

Warp Riders – Chapter 39

The Engineer had rigged the camp stove into a very, very clumsy plasma cannon, stealing everything the Navigatrix had from her rayguns and sealing up leaks with expanding foam.

“The odds of this working as intended are not great,” she whispered. They were hiding behind the tower.

The Bosun shrugged.

“I’ve played worse odds.”

The Engineer rolled her eyes. “Sure, well, I haven’t, and I don’t like them, and I don’t like that this is where we’re at.”

The Bosun didn’t offer any other comfort, just shrugged.

“Let’s do this before I lose my nerve.”

They carried it between the two of them, keeping it very level, inching slowly around the tower until they could see where their antagonist last stood.

But he wasn’t there.

“Shit shit shit shit..!” The Engineer slowly lowered her contraption. “Where is he?! Is he inside?”

The Bosun was scanning their campside for him, cussing, and then smacked the Engineer’s arm.

“Look, he’s going for the ship-”


“OUR ship!”


And they hoisted the makeshift cannon back up and crabwalked as fast as they could to get closer.

The time wizard, as the Bosun called him, was moving in a clear line through the landscape towards their ship. And it was very literally through the landscape – the blue forcefield he seemed to be manipulating was reversing all the flora back into the ground, and as if in a simulation, paths and structures were being rebuilt from the ground up around him. They stopped suddenly, however, at the edge of that blue glow.

The Engineer checked and indeed the forcefield extended back in a ribbon all the way to the tower he’d built.

Unlike all the buildings they’d seen rising and falling in his wake as he sped towards the camp, he wanted this tower to stay standing. He was trapping the other two intentionally!

She opened her mouth to tell the Bosun, and instead put a foot wrong and stumbled, dropping the camp stove.

It made a variety of unsettling crunching and rattling noises, and she and the Bosun made silent eye contact while she waited to see if it was going to explode…

And after a five second silence, she exhaled and nodded and they picked it back up.

They crab walked up within maybe twenty feet of the wizard, but he didn’t acknowledge them in any way. While the Bosun lined up the shot, the Engineer checked what hastily soldered seams she could and tightened a few screws.

“What number plan’d you say this one was?” The Bosun wore a worried smirk.

The Engineer knew her expression had to be at least as uncomfortable.

“Plan H, I think? But we might as well call it Plan Z, because I’m out after this.”

“Guess the Captain really was pulling her own weight.”

“I’m sure we’d get better at schemes if we had time to practice…”

She’d nearly died 3 or 4 times with this crew. What, she asked herself, was the difference today? Press the button, hope for the best, and so far it had always turned out fine.

The Bosun wasn’t as hesitant – she shoved the Engineer’s hand out of the way and pressed “ignite”.

They both leapt back a few feet as the camp stove-turned plasma cannon warmed up, interior mechanisms spinning up and a glow coming from the combustion chamber. But it didn’t fire. And it was getting brighter.

The Bosun and the Engineer locked eyes, and turned and ran.

The plasma explosion first vaporized everything within a few yards of the camp stove – the stove itself, the disturbed stones of the earth, foliage – and then the heat wall flew out and flattened a good thirty foot radius. Then the plasma itself shot out in a chaotic starburst.

The women were thrown to the ground by the force of the air from the heat wall, but somehow they dodged the plasma projectiles, and as soon as the wind started blowing back in towards the camp stove, the Bosun pushed herself upright and scanned the horizon. 

She whooped with delight; “He fucking ate it!”

She was right. There was no sign of the wizard, no blue forcefield – there were plasma channels cut through the walls he’d raised, and the stones were wobbling and collapsing back down without him. 

The Engineer yelled loudly. “Plan Z! It actually worked!”

Then the Bosun said “Shit, no-”, and she turned quickly to see that the tower, inside of which were trapped her Captain and her Navigatrix, was also riddled with plasma channels. There was no more blue glow stabilizing it, and the top was swaying in an invisible wind. But before either of them could even start running in its direction, the whole thing crumbled and fell over, like a tree felled at its base.

Warp Riders – Chapter 38

The Captain watched the eddying gas swirling around the floor of the tent, gently frying their mugs, one of them the souvenir from that cafe on Ereb, and dancing all over the metal coffee percolator, and her shoes? When had she taken her shoes off? Had someone else? This whole injury business was much more overwhelming than she’d previously imagined.

At her back, she could feel the Navigatrix taking slow, steady breaths. How was she calm again already? Only moments ago she had looked like she was going to cry – and now they might end up trapped forever in this stone tomb being slowly shocked to death.

Some wheel in the Captain’s mind spun up and told her that no, this was not a calm Navigatrix. Calm people didn’t breathe in to a count of four and then out to a count of four, like an air cycler. A calm person’d make small talk, or discuss their escape options, not silently stew.

Well. Okay then. Maybe she could fix this.

“I’m not .. I don’t hate Lucy.”

The Captain kept her voice low this time. The Navigatrix stilled behind her, listening.

“I wish she was here. I – if she walked up right now I’d take her back, no question.”

“Back to the same routine?”

“Back to normal – yeah.”

The Navigatrix had gone from still to stiff. The Captain tried to look at her over her shoulder without making the pallet shift and stir up the electric fog, but it was awkward. The silence stretched out.

Finally she caved;

“Why? Is normal bad?”

The fog gently sparkled.

“Not bad, just..” The Navigatrix took in a deep breath. “Maybe normal wasn’t good enough anymore.”

“Well she never told me that!” The Captain cringed at her own voice. “I gave her everything she asked for.”

The Navigatrix didn’t say anything.

“She wanted to travel? We traveled. She wanted to man the helm? I bought her that ship piloting course. She wanted that one pastry on Ereb? I fucking trekked all over that planet till we found it in that novelty cafe, even after we got arrested!”

The Captain had so many of these, so many things that felt unappreciated now.

“We trekked,” the Navigatrix added, voice low. “You and I.”

“Right? Whatever she wanted – I wanted her to have it.” The Captain could picture Lucy, still just a teen, sitting at the helm, eyes shining. “Even when it was hard. That was the whole point.”

The Navigatrix’s pause sounded like a question.

“When we brought you on -” The Captain could picture the orbital dock, Lucy and her waiting to meet their new Navigatrix – “when we just had that little two-engine rig – and you walked up looking like the hero of some galactic adventure flick -” were her eyes pricking? oh no – “she pitched a fit the night before you moved in. She didn’t want anyone else; she just wanted it to be me and her against the whole galaxy -” the Captain sighed and rubbed her eyes before anything incriminating could happen there. “She made me promise her. Promise her that I’d never let anyone else get between us. Her and me, first and always.”

Her ears were ringing with the memory.

A barely perceptible sigh escaped the Navigatrix, but she didn’t say anything.

“Look, she was my responsibility! She was just a kid back then. I promised her we had each other and – no one else really counted.” The ringing was so loud. The Captain remembered standing at the helm, hands still bloody from carrying the Navigatrix back to the ship, pulling up the note Lucy had left. “I kept my promise. And she still left.”

The Navigatrix was perfectly still, perfectly silent, like she was holding her breath.

“It’s .. it’s stupid,” said the Captain, “but when you went and got yourself shot, it was my worst nightmare. And that meant I’d fucked up, because losing Lucy was supposed to be the worst.”

“And it wasn’t?” The Navigatrix’s voice was off.

“No. No. I’m mad! But I’m fine. And I know she’s fine. Of course she’s fine.”

“For a while there, Captain, we were all fine.”

The Captain looked around the tent, the smell of gently cooking canvas acrid in her nose. “Yeah, well, I’ve sure fucked that up.”

The Navigatrix did not laugh like she’d expected her to.


“Captain.” Her tone made the Captain’s neck hair stand on end. “What did you do, that night after you hired me, that made Lucy so upset.”

“Oh, I, uh-” She was sure she didn’t blush, but she could feel her face making the effort. “I told her, I, I said that you were -” this wasn’t supposed to come out this way, but oh well “- you were easy on the eyes.”

“Easy. On the eyes.”

Damn it all.

“That’s what you said?”

“Fine. I said you were everything I’d ever dreamed of, and if you were any good at your job I was going to marry you.” Silence. The Captain coughed once, her throat and chest much tighter than she was prepared for. “It was .. I was just excited about–”

“Am I any good at my job?”

Now? This was happening now?

“Captain, am I good at my job?”

“Yes, fine! Yes! You fucking mapped time!”

Was she laughing?

“Fucking be a shit about it then. I’m sure I’ll die soon anyways.”

The pallet was shaking with the Navigatrix’s muffled laughter. The Captain wanted to lie down in the sparking fog.

The laughter escalated, the Navigatrix wheezing and gasping and shaking, until she buried her face in her arms and let loose a loud, muffled yell. The Captain spun around, suddenly afraid again, but the other woman also spun to meet her, and pushed her down on her back – she was crying, and she looked like a vengeful goddess, and she shook the Captain’s shoulders as she hissed, “we had all the time in the world – all of it! – and you let a teenager talk you out of it?” And the Captain couldn’t understand, but god she looked beautiful–

– and then, the explosion happened.

Warp Riders – Chapter 37

The Bosun had learned some pretty unsettling things about their antagonist.

First, he – because there was indeed a person at the center of the blue glow, a full-on wizard, with a beard and robe and too many arms – also had an Orb. That was probably the most notable information.

Because whatever he was doing to attack them with an Orb, it was much, much scarier than the gently inert Orb she was used to.

The second, possibly obvious, equally as upsetting fact, was that he was doing some sort of bullshit with time.

She’d watched this aura of his un-grow trees back into the sand. He was pulling ancient buildings back up out of the ground beneath them, and while his glow held them they looked newly built. She found herself hanging from one by one hand as it shot up into the sky, and though she let go immediately and took a hard landing, her hand – well now it had a lot less scars on it than she remembered.

Not worth thinking too hard about, though. Just don’t touch the blue stuff.

The good news was that all the tasers and fuzz grenades the Engineer’d hacked out of scraps were doing SOMETHING at least. They’d driven him in a wide arc around camp by channeling him on either side with fuzz grenades and motion triggered taser mines.

They weren’t doing anything as far as slowing him down, but he didn’t seem to want to cross the live charges, and that wasn’t nothing.

Thing was, they were running out of anything that could generate a charge. And they’d been running hard – she could see the Engineer ahead, head between her knees as she tried to get it together. This was not going to work.

“It’s time!” she shouted; “get the stove! I’ve got him!” 

And that did get his attention; he was definitely driven by sound. He turned towards her, and she threw a line of kitchen utensils into the earth in front of him; the Engineer’s hacked zappers were live, and they all sparked.

The blue tendrils winced back, and he roared, and for a moment it looked like she had driven him off the path a bit, and she whispered “Thank fuck!” – but then, behind her, raised voices came from an invisible, camouflaged tent, and his horrible changing face whipped around, and the Bosun had to leap out of the way of an arrow of that blue aura, which withered her electric fence to dust as it pushed out towards the camoteched tent.

“Hey!” – but he wasn’t listening to her anymore. She saw the Engineer, pouring raw plasma ammo into the camp stove’s modified fuel chamber. “Watch it! The tent! Grenades!”

The Engineer saw the glow, saw its target, pulled out all the fuzz grenades she had, and one by one, threw them expertly onto the ground between their attacker – this fucking time wizard – and their crewmates. For a split second she thought they’d done it – and then the glow split itself in two and drew a large circle around the fuzz grenades. It fully surrounded the tent. Almost immediately, stones were piling up, columns and walls, and the Bosun watched that goddamned time wizard walk – or float – or whatever, right up to it.

“Shit. Shit!”

The building rose impossibly high, each block torn from the soil around it, and she had to push back to stay away from the blue. The pop and crackle of the fuzz grenades fully activating was audible behind the stones.

“We’ve fucking trapped them with the taser fog.”

The Engineer limped around the rumbling stone tower, the camp stove held carefully level in front of her. They looked at each other. 

“We need the Navigatrix out here.” She looked at the Bosun with a wild look in her eye.


“But she’s in there, maybe getting electrocuted.”


The rumbling settled as the final stones were lifted to the top of the tower, and the time wizard walked around it to stand with it at his back. The Engineer gently put the camp stove down.

“I have an idea, but it’s a terrible one.”

Warp Riders – Chapter 36

The Navigatrix’s head was ringing; what was she supposed to do now? The Orb was howling; whoever was attacking them was roaring in return; all of this on frequencies she was pretty certain her ears weren’t really supposed to be able to hear.

The worst of it was that, while before the orbsong had been wordless, mysterious and soothing, now, their attacker was using the same language to shape parsable words. It was utterly destabilizing; and oh, how he wanted the orb.

Was he in this stone mausoleum with them?

Or had he trapped her in here while he went to tear their ship apart for the Orb? Had her hesitation trapped them all on this moon to die? Was it already too late for the Engineer and the Bosun?

She could hear the fuzz grenades ignite, and saw the gas, green in the blue light, start creeping under the tent flap. Quickly she leapt up, and saw the Captain making the same decision, pulling her bad leg back up onto the pallet and shifting down so there was room for her too.

“No fucking air circulation in here.” The Captain was staring at the coffee pot they’d left on the ground, which had started sparking along all its edges in the charged gas. The electric fog was rising one inch, two, swirling in little eddies from under the bottom of the flap of the door. “Any chance we could disarm them remotely?”

The Navigatrix shook her head. “The Engineer made these from god knows what scraps; they’re just mechanical.” If the Engineer had tossed these in to help them, then she’d been alive at least a few minutes ago. “They can’t stay charged forever.” 

The Captain huffed. “Guess not.”

The Navigatrix’s head still rang with the vibration of time and the demands of their attacker; but sitting back to back with the Captain, she felt the chaos of her mind start to settle. It couldn’t be over yet.