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 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 31

The Stowaway was exhausted. They were baiting the Chronomancer like he was some rabid beast, staying ahead of him, shooting arrows and flinging stones and yelling to keep him focused on movement; he kept pausing, tendrils spreading out around him, pulling time backwards and rebuilding impossible structures from the ruins at his feet; and they had to stop him before anyone at camp saw anything new on the horizon and had time to prepare.

They thought, after meeting the Witches, that they’d seen everything, but his uncanny face, the noise he made, it felt like a hole in reality. All the subtle horror of the crew’s experience drifting into and out of time was magnified in this cursed man-turned-god, and honestly it was making their mind feel frayed at the edges. 

And they knew, viscerally, that those blue tendrils could deal a lethal dose of time if they were caught by them, and there was no rest to be had as they danced in and out, ahead and back, luring him closer, and closer, and so slowly and inexorably closer to the campsite.

All they could think now was how badly they wanted it all to be over.

Warp Riders – Chapter 28

The Stowaway had pulled themselves up one of the alien trees within eyeline of the cave mouth. They’d watched the two of them crawl out and leave, and they knew that meant that he’d be coming out too, hunting for the person who dared disturb his tomb. They’d need to be smart now.

The Witches had been very clear about the signs; it was going to have to be the Navigatrix. Honestly they weren’t really even that sorry; they’d never really liked her. The Stowaway would describe her, at best, as overeducated. Maybe all navigators were? Or just ones with Orbs?

But to lead him to the Navigatrix, without getting caught by either party, well, this was going to take some creative cat and mouse work.

Which was, they had to admit, their specialty. They pulled their homemade bow tight, salvaged arrow notched, and aimed above the crevasse.

The sound was getting louder; and despite the rising planet’s light, they thought they saw a bluegreen glow in the darkness of the tunnel. Just stay focused, they thought, aim at something that will make some noise, that brick will do, let fly as soon as he’s within earshot….

They weren’t ready, even after everything the Witches had told them.

He emerged, blue tendrils of time sweeping the ground ahead of him, withering plants back to seedlings, back into the ground, then reversing, growing them too fast, then abandoning them to fall over from age.

He looked like an old man, or a young man, or possibly a withered corpse; there were too many arms, uncountable, with nimble hands, pulling power into and out of an Orb so dark it glowed, so bright it was a black spot in the world.

The roar of time was musical and horrible.

A tendril was sweeping down the slope, and the earthquake-like shudder as a nearby tree shrank to nothing backwards in time shocked the Stowaway back to themselves, and they drew in a breath, held it, and let their handmade arrow fly.

It rung like a bell as it hit that brick.

The universe held its breath for a moment, and then he turned uphill. The tendrils swept ahead of him, organized now, pulling time back and clearing his path, revealing the monumental architecture that had once stood before where the Stowaway clung to a limb in horror.

He moved slowly, inexorably, up, over, through the ridge, buildings rising around him and falling to ruin again behind, pointed like a terrifying arrow directly towards the camp.

They had done it.

They had called the Chronomancer back into time.

Warp Riders – Chapter 25

Just like she scaled the stone pillar, the Navigatrix climbed the cliff surprisingly quickly, pulling herself up hand over hand, feet braced on the wall of ruined bricks. The Captain switched between watching her progress and eyeing the growing glow, which was spreading like ink.

The noise the Navigatrix had mentioned was now audible to the Captain as well, a strange, musical, rolling soundscape, vibrating up through the water. It was clear she could hear it too, most of the way up the wall – she turned and stared into the dark before finally reaching the lip.

“I’m going to set up the other rope!” The gravel rattled down to the water as she climbed to her feet in the tunnel. “Be ready to go!”

The Captain was staring into the glow now, and only managed a grunt in reply. It wasn’t moving like ink, it was moving like conscious tendrils.

The colour of it hurt her eyes; it felt like the colour you saw behind your eyelids after a bright flash. And it was reaching up to the surface of the water, wrapping around the stone pillars and testing the far wall and it was sinister how clearly it was searching for something.

And worst, it was getting closer.


No answer. The Captain watched as the roiling, curving, glowing feelers swept systematically closer and closer to the raft. The center of the flowering glow was moving as well, as if slowly walking along the lake floor.

And then the flare in the Captain’s hand started to sputter. “Nav…!”

And mercifully from up in the tunnel; “Almost ready, Captain!”

A brief moment of relief, and then the flare flashed and went dark.

The darkness made the glow feel even stranger; the line between water and air felt invisible, and the Captain was surprised when her hand broke the surface of the water as she leaned over the raft to stare down.

Was there.. a person? At the center of the glow?

The Captain leaned further over the edge of the raft without thinking, desperate to see what this strange thing was, and shocked herself with a wave of water. And just as she felt her eyes start to drift back to the approaching tendrils, the Navigatrix yelled “Heads up!” – and the rattle of falling gravel announced the rope, lowering quickly down from the tunnel with a lamp attached.

The Captain hauled herself up on her good knee, grabbing it as soon as she could reach it, and hooking her harness into the hardware.

“Let’s go!”

She felt herself hauled up out of the raft with surprising force, and spun to brace herself with her good leg and arms against the wall as the Navigatrix hauled her up.

Below, the swinging lantern light made the glow seem even more malicious, rippling the water with shadows.

It found the raft, drifting away from the wall, and the Captain watched in fascinated horror as it seemed to wrap around it from underneath and pull it down into the water. There was a loud pop as the seal on the raft broke, and the splash from the explosion shot up the wall.

The Captain could see light coming from the tunnel now, nice mundane light, and as the incline became less vertical, she started pulling with her hands and her good foot, pushing herself up inches more between hauls, laser focused on getting out of this cursed cave.

Until finally, sweet daylight – sweet lurid green sunset daylight, and a fresh breeze, and she was pushing herself backwards out onto the sandy slope, and the Navigatrix collapsed beside her, both of them breathing hard and dizzy from effort.

“Fuck,” said the Captain. “I coulda died.”

The Navigatrix half-smiled as she huffed out, “but you didn’t!”

Warp Riders – Chapter 24

The two of them looked at one another in the light of the flare.

“Shit aim, thank god.” The Captain sighed. “Do you think they sabotaged the rope?”

The Navigatrix was frozen, thinking.

“Nav. Can we get up this rope?”

She snapped back to the Captain.

“Sorry, I thought I heard something.” She handed the flare back to the Captain. “Let me test it.”

And so she was four or five feet up the rope, really putting her weight into testing it, when she froze, staring–

“Captain. Behind you.”

The Captain turned, and stared into the darkness of the cave, and at first all she was was the flare reflecting in the ripples of the water, but as her eyes adjusted, it was unmistakable – something had lit up in the depths of the subterranean lake.

“Is that where the water came in?”

The Navigatrix’s voice had a sharp edge to it. “I don’t want to find out, Captain. I want to get you out of this cave.”

The light was bright enough now it had a tint – maybe it was a faint teal? No, it was red, magenta, really – no, both.

The Captain tore her gaze away and looked up as the Navigatrix made her way back down to the raft.

“We’re going to have to trust this rope, Captain. I’ll get you hooked up, and then you get up as fast as you can, and I’ll follow as soon as you’re steady.”

“Nav, I can’t climb.”

They both looked at the Captain’s bad knee, visibly twice the size of the other one.

“I can’t bend it.”

The Navigatrix stared into the middle distance with visible distress on her face, and then snapped back to the Captain.

“There should be a second rope up there.”

“You’re gonna drag me up this cliff on your own?”

“The Engineer sent instructions. I can do this. Just…” and the Navigatrix turned to look at the growing glow as she put a hand on the Captain’s arm, then made eye contact again. “Just don’t die.”

The Captain nodded. “Go!”