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.

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