Thursday, December 31, 2015

Nano-Fic: The Gentleman Scoundrel (9)

“I've lost two pumps already, Zag.” Ipa Sam’s voice sounded thick under the effects of microgravity. “We cannot accelerate any faster. We won't be able to keep this up much longer.”
    “Distress message sent.” Ruku said from Navigation. “Any Imperial forces near the Janus should get it, but they won't be able to do anything to help us.”
    “They can smash these damn locals for us.” Sagkal responded. “We've burned the last of the missiles out. Capacitors for both turrets are charging. That ship out there probably has twice as many lasers.”
    Zag grinned, “If this works, it won't help them. Hey, new soph, How's Vakh?”
    “Name's still Kura.” Canto came to the door that led to the Master's Cabin. “I wouldn't play cards against his luck. He should have a broken neck; as it is, he'll miss...whatever's about to happen.”
    “He strapped down?”
    “On a backboard. Secured to the bunk.”
    Zag nodded. “Then get yourself strapped in. This could be bumpy.”
    The key to Zag Essuru’s plan was actually simple.   The Gentleman Scoundrel, powerful as his engines were, could only move his mass at a single standard gravity - or two, with Ipa Sam in the Pump House on Deck Nine personally nursing the propulsion mass through opposing gravitational fields and repairing the inevitable damage.  The Scoundral could realistically accelerate no more.
    His Boat, at a svelte 130 tons, could accelerate its mass at six gravities.
    The plan that occurred to Pilot Zag Essuru was inspired by her upbringing on a planet similar to this one.  A planet where fossil fuels were in widespread use.  A planet where rockets use boosters, are disposable, and missiles are the primary weapons.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Nano-Fic: The Gentleman Scoundrel (8)

    “Can't we go faster?” was all the greeting Acting Master Essuru received when she stepped into the cockpit.
    “We're maxed at 2 Gs,” she said, “Ipa's already floating down there; any faster and the pumps fail. What do we have?”
    Ruku piped in, “There are six missiles inbound, moving at 5 gravities. Vector suggests they're sub-orbital rockets; should be easy enough to zap once they're in range.”
    “Well, that's something, anyway.” Zag said.
    “Just stay on the following vector at max acceleration and they'll be ballistic by the time they're in range.”
    “Wait,” The crew of the Gentleman Scoundrel looked as one at the floor, where Canto tended Master Vakh.
    “What happens if we slow down?”
    Sagkal shot Canto a strange look. “Why would we do that? It would give those missiles time to hit us before we could burne all of 'em.
    “Where does this vector we're on take us, exactly?”
    “Out of this shit-planet's orbit, that's where!” Zag Essuru answered. “Sorry uh, Kurto, but you'll have to forget about us heading back into that mess.”
    “It's Kura,” Canto corrected absently, “But is our vector towards or away from the Janus? Or Leviat? It's the system's only gas giant.”
    “I know that!” Zag spat. “Now do you mind? I have actual work to do.”
    “We're vectored away from the Janus.” Said Ruku Mat. “Night side always faces the Janus. Levait's far enough away that it doesn't matter, we could just shape an orbit.”
    Canto stood and moved to the unoccupied console – Vakh's. “What's out there?”
    “Who the Hell do you think - “
    “Zag,” Sagkal's voice couldn't help but interrupt. “I got heat. A lot. Patrol Cutter at least.  Look's like it just came out from behind the Moon.”
    Canto swore and so did Essuru. “How did you know?” she asked.
    “The fire pattern of those missiles.” Canto said. “They're too fast for us to avoid an intercept, yet they can't maneuver once in laser range. But they can force us to accelerate at max on a specific vector.”
    Sagkal growled. “They bracketed us!”
    Canto nodded. “Can you change vector before that Cutter's in range?”
    Ruku left her seat at Navigation.  There were three doors in the cockpit; the hatch that led to the lift, one to the Master's cabin, and a third next to it that Ruku went through, to the Computer Room.
    “We can't go back down, can we?” Sagkal asked.
    Zag Essuru scowled. “Scoundrel has to land in water or on a prepared surface. Why did they fire on us, anyway?”
    “I could guess,” Canto said. “This planet is mostly at the fossil fuel stage. Internal combustion, chemical rockets, that sort of thing.”
    Zag shrugged. “So? My homeworld's like that and we don't fire on Traders!”
    “They don't actually have any fossil fuels anymore. They have to get them imported from some moons in the outer system. Transported by Gravity Drive.”
    “So the Imps are selling the locals their own gas?” She asked.
    Canto nodded. “There have been rumors - Rebels in the interior, locals doing nothing to stop them. This is only Imperial affiliated port on the planet, and that Cutter up there could've been the only Naval asset in the whole system."
    “You think the locals hijacked an Imperial Cutter?”
    It was at that moment that Ruku returned from calculating their options. Her face made it plain that they would find out about the Cutter soon enough.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Nano-Fic: The Gentleman Scondrel (7)

     Ipa Sam wiped water from her eyes and considered her options. The water was not falling from her sopping hair; it was pooling and breaking, like oversized beads of sweat. This close to the Drive the paragravity was becoming weaker as Zag increased the acceleration. In the center of the open compartment,  X-mat, the negative mass tha drove the ship, pumped from the upper tanks to the lower, pushing the Scoundrel further into space. The Power Deck was surrounded by feed pipes and valves, pressure gauges and pumps. Each one a finely tuned assembly. Each one a potential disaster.
    Ipa looked around and again shooed a ball of water from her brow.             “Well, girls, it's just us for now, isn't it?”

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Nano-Fic: The Gentleman Scondrel (6)

     Canto heard the word even two decks away, and didn't hesitate to throw himself down. The entire ship, some 1400 tons, moved several meters starboard. Canto rolled painfully into the dining area's anchored chairs but avoided serious injury. Old skills, practiced until they reached the level of instinct, began to make themselves felt. A glance around the passenger deck had shown that the ship's infirmary was across from where he had stood for his interview. He crawled across the deck, mindful of more sudden shifts, until he reached the sealed hatch. Canto stood and slid inside, one hand on the safety handle next to the hatch. It took only a moment to find the intercom, a moment more to signal the
    “Deck three: No damage, no casualties.”
    Canto heard an unnaturally deep voice. “Who's that? Wait - You the new Medic?”
    “I suppose I am. Seeing as how we’re in the air and all-”
    “-Then grab a bag and bounce up here, we've got wounded.”
    Master Aru Vakh had neither been strapped in nor braced when the Gentleman Scoundrel was hit. The slight man had been tossed like a rag doll into the viewport above the control stations and came to rest in a crumpled heap between Sagkal and Ruku.
    “Hey, Zag, you're in command.” Sagkal spoke into the intercom.
    “Then where the Hell's my damage report?” She demanded.
    Ipa Sam joined the conference on the intercom. “We took a hit in the cargo bay. The gastights are locked between decks 4 and 9. I'm cut off down here for now, so I can't assess the damage. We may have a fuel leak.”
    Canto tuned out the chatter. These sophs would either fix the ship or wouldn't; they would either be shot out of the sky or they wouldn't. Canto had no control over these things, so he put themout of his mind. Master Vakh was unconscious and bleeding. This Canto could do something about. He put on gloves and began working. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nano-Fic: The Gentleman Scoundrel (5)

     “-be that as it may,” Vakh all but sneered, “I would hardly equate the duties of a restaurant manager with the duties of a Ship's Steward. A Hotel manager, perhaps, but – what is this?”  The Ship's Master half-stood in alarm as the deck began to vibrate. The unpleasant sensation of being on a rolling sea while at the same time still made Canto Kura frown for the first time.
    “We've raised ship. We're in the air.”
    “Obviously. Wait here. Do not leave this lounge.”
    Aru Vakh was livid by the time he floated up to the cockpit. “Why under heaven are we in the air! I gave no order!”
    Ruku huddled into herself. “I tried to tell you...”
    “Hostiles on the surface, sir.” Sagkal turned in his oversized chair. “It was lift now or not at all.”
    “Nevertheless, I must be informed first. We still have a local on board!”
    “They have tanks, sir.”
    “Zag Essuru overstepped her authority”
    “And rockets, sir.”
    “Why must I constantly remind you all that I am Master of -”

Monday, December 21, 2015

Nano-Fic:The Gentleman Scoundrel (4)

“Whadda ya mean, you didn’t tell him?” The voice rumbled from deep within, like the growling of a great cat made of stone. It was an apt description, for the creature Sagkal.
“He kicked me out!” Ruku pleaded. Even at her height, barely 155, Sagkal had to look up slightly to meet her eye. Since he was nearly a meter wide, and all of it blocky muscle covered with a hide that was more metal than skin, Sagkal had no problem with dealing with those taller than he. Especially the shrinking Navigator, Ruku Mat.
“Kicked you – just get in the Chair!” Sagkal all but tossed the diminutive woman into her control seat in the cockpit and lurched into his gunner's Station. “Zag, you there?”
          A burst of static crackled from the intercom. “I'm hooked in from down here. You got my six?”
          Sagkal resisted the urge to smash his fist on the thin metal console while waiting for the CRT monitor to warm up. When active, the screen showed a near panoramic view from the starship's dorsal quarter, as seen from the wide lens of of the Scoundrel’s top laser emitter.
         “That's not good,” Sagkal muttered, louder than some people shout. “I'm looking at about a thousand ground pounders and maybe five tanks. If I can see them, they can see us. And if the infantry has anti-tank rockets, we won't be able to shoot 'em down this close.”
         “I've got another four or five tanks on my side.” Zag Essuru said. “Boss give clearance to raise ship?”
         “Ruku didn't even ask 'em.”
         “He kicked me out!” Ruku protested.
         The intercom crackled again. “Well, I'm not going to die because Mat's too polite to interrupt his Holiness. Get Ipa out of the shower; we boost in two.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Nano-Fic: The Gentleman Scoundrel (3)

Canto Kura had numerous faults, from a certain point of view. He smiled too easily, stood too proudly erect, and spoke in a manner that was far too relaxed, in the mind of Aru Vakh.
    “The first order of business,” Vakh said, “is your Certs. Unless they are current to at least Imperial standards, there's little point in continuing the interview.”
    Canto smiled yet again and produced a plastic card from his shirt pocket. He was far from elegantly dressed, but even in plain clothes the man managed to look sharp.
    Vakh took the card with a sniff and examined it. “Janoi certification?” Such accreditation allowed its bearer to practice anywhere accessible by a Janus, which was essentially anywhere a ship could travel.
    “Yes, sir. I was in the Diocese Navy briefly.”
    “Did military life disagree with you, Kura?”
    “I was discharged after an injury, sir.”
    “I see.” Aru Vakh leaned back in his chair at the First Class dining table. The fact that lounge – indeed, the entire passenger deck – was empty was not lost on Canto Kura. Unfortunately.
    “The realities of private enterprise mean that many of a ship's crew must perform in multiple positions.” Vakh began. “For example, a ship's Medic is rarely needed, but nonetheless required by Janoi shipping regulations.”
    “Which would leave said Medic plenty of time to act as Steward to any First Class passengers aboard.” Canto finished the line of reasoning with another smile.
    “Yes,” Vakh scowled, “exactly.”
    The door to the lift tube opened with an unnecessary hiss, getting the attention of the two men.
Vakh's Navigator, a slight and timid female, floated out of the tube and onto the deck with a slight stumble.
    “Uh, excuse me, Captain?”
    “Ruku Mat,” Vakh said, “I have given explicit orders not to be disturbed during interviews.”
    “But, sir-”
    Very explicit.”
    “Yessir, but -”
    “Get out, Mat.”
    The young lady disappeared into the lift with a squeak.
    Vakh sighed and absently smoothed an eyebrow. “Where were we?”
    “I believe you wanted to know if I had any experience with taking care of guests.” Canto Kura offered.
    Do you?” Vakh asked.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Nano-Fic: Gentleman Scoundrel (2)

“Halt! Who goes there?”
    The voice blared through speakers on the outside of the Gentleman Scoundrel. They addressed a young man that stood on the upper deck of the landing pit – already twelve meters off the ground – and stared
at the massive Trader before him. Enormous bay doors stood open, exposing the interior of acavernous cargo space some four storeys tall. Mechanical cranes continued to load containers into the
guts of the ship. But there were no porters, no dock hands, and no officials from the starport present.  With the exception of Kura, the landing pit was deserted.
    “Up here,” The speakers blared again.
    The young man craned his neck up to see a small glassed-in cabin fifteen meters over his head. He could just make out a waving arm behind the glass.
    “Just talk normal; I got a mike aimed at you.”
    “Uh, Canto Kura – here to interview for the Ship's Medic position?”
    “You're late,” The voice almost sounded amused.
    “I barely got past the XT line. There seems to be a riot or something at the gates-”
    “Whatever. Lift tube's on the aft bulkhead. Head up to Three; the Boss is waiting.” The owner of the voice, Ship's Pilot and First Mate Zag Essuru, switched off the exterior comm and leaned back in her seat
on the Quarterdeck. Riot at the gates?  Zag tuned her console into the Port Authority’s main band, and received nothing but static.  Switching to the intercom, Essuru called the crew deck.
“Mat, Sagkal, somebody get eyes on the XT line, would you?” There was a brief acknowledgement, far too high-pitched to be Sagkal, and then silence.  Zag Essuru was not inclined to fret, but neither was she patient.
The same squeaking voice sounded on the intercom a few moments later.  “Uh, Zag?  We’re gonna want to leave soon...there’s something serious going on.  Like, tanks serious.” 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nano Fic: The Gentleman Scoundrel (1)

I haven't fallen off of the face of the Earth, RocketFans; In this one month period, we have three birthdays, Christmas, and over a dozen holiday clogging performances (my daughter's in the Nutcracker!).  In addition, we've all five of us had the annual holiday stomach flu.  So no, I haven't been working on the blog too terribly much.

But I have been working.  Here is a little sample of some fiction I've done in the Hard SF Space Opera univese I've told you all about.  Hope you enjoy.

“How can you call this ship clean when it smells like this?”
    The Master of the Gentlemen Scoundrel, a sometime-trading ship, had a nasal voice that graded on the nerves of his Engineer, one Ipa Sam.
    “It smells like this because the scrubbers need to be replaced. They should have been replaced a thousand hours ago.”
    Master Aru Vakh looked down his thin nose. “Those scrubbers are rated for indefinite use, with proper maintenance. You have been performing proper maintenance, yes?”
    Ipa scowled and collected her tools from the vestibule floor. “As much as I can on your budget. We should have another tech for this. And we have to get a medic before we can carry passengers again.”
    Vakh dodged a suspiciously tossed grease rag and glared. “I don't need the plumber to tell me how to run my ship. It just so happens that I'm interviewing a prospect today. Probably the only decent prospect on this rock.”
    “Then I'll leave you to it.” Ipa Sam stood up, too close. “Permission to bathe, sir?”
    Vakh dismissed his Engineer with a wave and strode from the Airlock vestibule, past the lift tube and into the First Class Lounge. Nearly the whole of deck three, the part not taken up with the fuel scoops and the docking cradle for the ship's boat, was set aside for first class accommodation. A half-dozen staterooms, all single occupancy and including their own ‘freshers, a full service galley, and a medical bay formed a ring around the central lounge. The air here was musty and still with disuse. A single long table with eight chairs, perfect for formal dining, sat empty in the center of the lounge with a pair of comfortable couches flanking. None had been used for far too long. Each trip, the empty deck lost Vakh a hundred and twenty thousand in potential revenue. A Medic, especially one not above doubling as a cook and steward for First Class, should only cost a small fraction of that. If one could be found that met Aru Vakh's standards, that is. Given the conditions of this benighted planet, The Ship's Master could be able to hire a decent prospect for a good deal less than standard wages. Finally, Vakh allowed himself a thin smile.