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 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 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 34

The Engineer was condemning the Navigatrix’s gun maintenance from inside her tent when the noise reached her. She pushed her way out of the tent and looked up at the Bosun, who was frozen, staring towards the ridge.

“What’s happening?”

“You oughta come look.”

The engineer could feel the rumble pushing up through her feet, like someone was operating an oversized rock tumbler. As she clambered up beside the Bosun, she saw something impossible.

In the distance, through the forest, enormous stone buildings were rising from the ground.

Blue light haloed them as the stones and mortar flew up from their bed below the sand and the trees to construct architectural skeletons of immense size – and then the blue glow would die away, and they would collapse back down.

The worst part was they were getting closer.

“This’s a first for me,” said the Bosun.

The Engineer made some sort of noise while her mind did calculations. The sound was still subtle, mostly ground vibrations, and the stones they’d seen in the ruins were huge, so it wasn’t … it wasn’t THAT close.

“I’d give it less than an hour to reach us.” She looked at the Bosun. “Any ideas?”

“You’re the one with the grenades and the tasers and the smoke bombs – can we drive it off course?”

The Engineer sat down and looked at the smaller raygun in her hand.

“Maybe. I want a few minutes to try something risky.”

The Bosun nodded curtly.

“You want me to watch it, or wake up our two sleeping beauties?”

“Probably a good idea to get them moving now; you really dosed the Captain.”

The Bosun snorted. “She’s had worse.”

Warp Riders – Chapter 33

The Bosun didn’t want to impugn the intelligence of her fellow crewmates, but there was no way the Stowaway had botched an assassination attempt in that cave. The kid had the eyes and the reflexes of someone who knew where the body’s soft spots were, from experience.

But something fishy had gone down, and whatever their intentions may have been, the Bosun wasn’t going to give the Stowaway the benefit of the doubt.

So after the Engineer had hidden the incapacitated half of their team in the camotech tent, rendering them fully invisible, the Bosun settled herself on a slightly higher pile of rubble to keep watch over the camp and assess their resources.

They hadn’t, it turned out, grabbed that much weaponry from the ship. For one, some of that tech could be pretty dangerous if shaken too hard in a bad landing. And secondly, it really hadn’t looked like they’d need much. The moon was so benign, so empty even of megafauna, that she’d prioritized comforts on her recent trips into the supply rooms. So at this point, she had a few knives, some construction tools, the camp stove…

She’d have to get creative.

The Engineer had always had a slightly more paranoid approach, and she was angrily working electrical charges into her otherwise benign perimeter sensors.

“If that fucking child tries to put an arrow in me they are going to be feeling every nerve in their body for the next year.”

She handed the Bosun a few things to attach to her knives. “These’ll zap them even if you can’t break skin.” They both took a moment, remembering their last big foray.

“D’you think the Navigatrix has any of her guns on shore?”

The Engineer raised an eyebrow.

“You said, and I quote, ‘I don’t fuckin pick people off from a distance.’”

“Well, might not be people, right?”

“You think a mysterious blue glow seriously climbed out of that cave and is tracking them straight to camp?”

The Bosun shrugged. “Maybe.”

They worked in silence for a bit, and then the Engineer stood up. 

“Fine, I’ll check her tent, but I’m not shooting anything with her rayguns; they’ve got brutal kickback.”

“More fun for me,” grunted the Bosun.

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.

Warp Riders – Chapter 30

“So they tried to kill you.” The Engineer had a very dark look on her face.

“And thank god they’re shit at assassination!” The Captain had been given some proper pain medication and it had not yet knocked her out.

“They did miss us by quite a bit,” added the Navigatrix.

“And then they just… gave up and ran away?” The Bosun had taken a skeptical tack. “If I had the high ground like that, two targets literally sitting ducks in a raft right below me, I’d shoot till I finished the job.”

“Well maybe they haven’t taken quite the same career path as you–”

“No,” the Bosun said firmly, “I’d put good money on them having the exact same career as I did. You see that kid with a knife?” 

The Engineer growled. “I’ve been working overtime trying to help them and they pull this stunt?”

The Captain leaned over to her and shook her fist. “They’re lucky they didn’t try and come at me face to face.”

“Captain, I think you’re the lucky one.” The Bosun stood up. “If that kid meant to kill any of us, I think they’d just do it business-like with the kitchen knife.”

The Navigatrix had to agree. But not out loud.

“Whatever they were doing, it didn’t help us get out of there faster.” She stood up. “And I’m as worried about them showing up as I am about whatever was in the water.”

The Engineer gave her side-eye. “You sure you two weren’t sharing a little stress dream?”

The Captain spluttered and attempted to drunkenly explain the glow, the tendrils, the noise, but it was clear they weren’t taking her seriously.

“You must agree we should set a watch, at least?” All the Navigatrix wanted, suddenly, was a nap, and some pills for her own bruises.

They were able to agree on that, and the Engineer agreed to set up perimeter alarms and get their remaining camouflage screen working on one of the tents. She and the Bosun lifted in the Captain, and the Navigatrix grabbed her own bedroll and squeezed in beside the pallet.

She pulled on her sleep mask and was so, so close to properly drifting off when she felt the Captain shifting around, and a fumbling hand tapped her on the arm.



“Couldn’ve asked for a better rescue, y’know.”

She smiled, just a little. “I do know.”