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 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 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.

Warp Riders – Chapter 35

The Captain, upon being shaken awake, would not agree that she’d had worse. The world was fuzzy, her head was swimming, and she was having trouble staying focused while the Bosun explained the plan to them. The Navigatrix was nodding very seriously, though, so that was good.

But then she and the Bosun left the tent together, and the Captain was alone. Time started slipping around, and she couldn’t tell if she was alone for hours, or only seconds, because she fell asleep again, and the Navigatrix had to shake her awake a second, or maybe third time.

She managed to connect a hand with her face and rub her eyes. 


“Captain, we could really use your tactical mind right now.” The Navigatrix got an arm under her shoulder and pulled her to sitting. 

The world wobbled a bit as the blood rushed to the Captain’s head.

“Please tell me you’re more awake than you look.”

The Captain squinted at her face. Had the Navigatrix gotten any rest at all? Her eye mask was perched crookedly on top of her head like a fascinator.

“Of course I’m awake.” Was that her own voice? This was bad. “Coffee?” she managed to yawn.

“Brewing it already. Double strong.” She managed a half-smile. “Can I tempt you with some cold leftovers?” 

The Captain’s stomach lurched. “Yes. No. Maybe.” She frowned, desperately trying to focus. “What’s the situation?”

The Navigatrix held the bowl and explained while she ate.

“Can we get to the ship?” The Captain did feel more lucid with food in her. “It’s taken worse hits than falling stones.”

“It’s not low tide yet – but maybe we can dance around until then.” 

That meant they’d barely gotten more than a few hours of sleep. No wonder she felt untethered.

“Let me grab the coffee. See if you can get your feet on the floor.” The Captain slowly maneuvered herself around, stretching out her good leg first, then the bad one. The splint was doing its job; she could rest her foot on the ground. The ground was vibrating? Was there an audible noise? Maybe?

“How close is it -” 

The Navigatrix held up a hand with two mugs in it, the other holding the percolator, and whispered; “Too close for comfort. The Bosun’s been able to distract it off course with loud noises; so keep your voice down.”

The Captain took the proffered cup.

“She’s drawing fire for me?” That felt wrong. “I need to get out there.”

The Navigatrix had a hand on her arm immediately.

“No. You stay put, well hidden, till they come and grab you.”

The coffee was working quickly. The Captain’s brain started ticking again.

“Till they do? –”


“What the hell are you planning, then?”

The Navigatrix looked furiously at her own mug, and quickly downed half.

“It’s… cryptic.”

“Cryptic as in secrets of the universe? Or as in not telling your goddamned captain what’s going on.”

That didn’t help. She only looked angrier.

“I am allowed to do the right thing sometimes, Captain.” Her voice was very, very quiet. “And you can be as mad as you want after, if I don’t make it back.”

“Back from what?!”

“I’m going to go get the orb.”

“And do what with it?” The Captain could feel the coffee and the meds stewing into something like a manic hangover in her brain.

“I can hear him calling it. So I’m going to take it to him.”

Did she miss something? “To who? Who’s calling?” 

The Navigatrix gestured vaguely.

“Is this like the orb talking to you?”

A bitter smirk. “Yes, actually.”

She stood up. “I see that you can’t hear him, but that’s probably for the best.” Her face was the hardest the Captain had ever seen it. “I hope you’ll forgive me eventually. I wish you’d forgive Lucy.”

The Captain felt like she’d missed a step on a ladder. “Why are you bringing Lucy into this?”

They both stared at each other for a moment. The Navigatrix looked close to tears.

“She loved you, Captain. She thought you were the smartest woman that ever lived. She was so proud to be your sister. And now you hate her?”

“I don’t – I don’t hate Lucy–”

“She didn’t want things to stay the same – she wanted something more – and–”

“I don’t understand! She never said that! And I don’t like your plan!” The Navigatrix flinched. “And I’m the captain and I say you stay put and we see this out together!”

How loud had she just yelled that?

In the awful silence that followed, they could both hear the tone of the rumbling change. It swept in a horrible circle around them, and they could hear the Engineer yelling as if from very far away, and then a loud hiss as fuzz grenades hit nearby.

The Navigatrix swept the tent door open, and they stared out onto an architectural marvel.

A ring of colonnades, stacked high beyond their line of sight, perfect and untouched by time. Behind them, walls were growing, bricks larger than their trike being pulled up from the ground and floated overhead; and then even the light from the planet was blocked out. All there was now was a blue glow and a low, musical, uncanny noise that the captain could no longer ignore. She watched the Navigatrix stand for a moment in the door of the tent, then she let the flap fall back in place, and crumpled to the floor. 


Warp Riders – Chapter 32

The gig that had given them the Stowaway had been suspect from the start.

The Captain had done a fair bit of sweet talking to get it, including going back and seeding some ideas a few years earlier; it was a bit confusing managing a reputation across time, but it’d worked.

In the end it was supposed to be a simple grab-and-go; they landed in the crepuscular zone of a tidally locked planet, drove over to the night side, set up watch from an abandoned skyscraper, and broke into the museum between shifts.

But it hadn’t been a museum.

They’d checked it in the future, they’d checked it in the past, but at the exact time they went to rob it, it was instead an active temple. It felt so disorienting, like the time stream had changed just as the Bosun and the Captain pushed in through the service doors.

And with Lucy gone, there was no one on the ship to check up on things from the high res scanners; they’d been relying on the portable screeners, which so often were blocked by different metal alloys and even just people’s bodies. So not only was it not the same layout, people inside were much better armed than they had predicted. 

And in a frighteningly specific way. The Bosun’s knives were no good against the aramid gloves and vests; and the Captain found her fists kept busy with what could best be described as a giant in a steel helmet.

With the interior layout changed, the Engineer’s charges did not take out any safe doors or structural walls, and the Navigatrix had no real sightlines from eight floors up the skyscraper. When the earpieces lit up with the curses and swears of the Captain and the Bosun, she and the Engineer had to improvise, and they’d come down to street level to try and get a handle on the situation.

The Captain was three or four rooms deep at that point, not wanting to leave a job undone, and the Bosun was covering her back as she dug through the temple, looking for their mark.

But the old statue they’d been sent to grab wasn’t there; and they’d ended up pinned in the basement, and someone got the Bosun’s shoulder with a lightning bullet, leaving her twitching, and the Captain’d fallen down under that asshole in the helmet, calling him all kinds of names, and so, of course, the Navigatrix had kicked in a door and snapped the focal tube off her precision ray gun and just started spraying plasma rays in an arc across every room they ran through, and the Engineer’d kept the exit open with the fuzz grenades, filling the air with charged gasses, and when they got into the basement she saw the Navigatrix pull that asshole in the helmet up by his belt and crack his collarbone with the focal tube like it was nothing. The Captain was up in a split second, pulling the shockdart out of the Bosun’s shoulder and tossing it like the electricity was nothing to her and yelling at them all to bail, call it, fuck off, get the hell out of that place. And they’d started pushing back out of the building, up one floor, into the central hall, just a few more goons to knock out of the way, but then that armored knife fighter caught up with them – and the Navigatrix had been behind, re-arming the Engineer’s fuzz grenades, and the knife had caught her right below the ribcage, and they’d almost been through the door when she managed to buzz the alarm on the earpiece.

The Captain had picked up a live fuzz grenade and smacked three goons in the face with it on her way to grab the Navigatrix. They got her into a locked piggyback and onto a ground effect cart they jacked and then very, very quickly back to the ship. The Captain flew them through the warp and out of time, and the Bosun did a little light surgery, and then, once the Navigatrix was moving around the ship with only a little wobble, they found that cursed Stowaway in Lucy’s old bunk, carving a strange piece of wood into an arrow, and covering the mattress in wood shavings.

The Engineer was pretty sure it was the closest call any of them had ever had. She’d never forget the look on the Captain’s face as they laid out the barely conscious Navigatrix in the galley-turned-infirmary. That woman translated almost every emotion into anger, and she had been incandescent with rage.

Bringing the Captain back into camp, the Navigatrix had looked almost the opposite – not a shred of emotion on her face at all. Given her usual easy calm, and the Captain’s comparably mild injury, the Engineer was feeling a bit off balance. But it definitely made her take the potential threat – either the Stowaway, or whatever was in that cave – very seriously.