Here Comes That Sinking Feeling
“What’s taking so long back there?” Wolf hollered out of the flight cabin door.
“Sorry I can’t run out and pick up parts that haven’t been invented yet,” Holly replied, “If you looked up ‘jury rig’ in any textbook this would be the cautionary example. I’m also going to be repurposing all unessential power. That includes your stereo.”
“I need it to able get a signal strong enough to overcome the gravitational influence of dust. Otherwise, we wait for them to bridge in, get on the roof, and wave flashlights.”
“Even if we do contact Ray,” Luna said, “How long is it going to take to convince him?”
“I assumed it would be 600 years easier,” Wolf replied, “I don’t know, we met his past self, shouldn’t he remember that? Holly, wouldn’t he remember that?”
“Beats me, dad.”
“You’re supposed to know shit. That’s why we feed you.”
“Time travel has never been done before.”
“If Ray time traveled from 600 years ago, doesn’t that mean time travel has been done before.”
“Dad,” Holly barked, “I’m trying to repair a long-range communications device that operates on the principle of quantum entanglement with parts I got from a 21st-century Radio Shack. Could you please, let me think?”
“I'm just saying you had 600 years to catch up on this, 900 really, if add our…”
“Mom, do something,” Holly called.
“Wolf, you’re bored. Find something to do,” Luna called back from the lounge.
Wolf stared out the window into black, empty space. He began nodding his head in shallow downbeats. His hands joined in, drumming out irregular rhythms on the console. He hummed and the hum became a disjointed scat, which gave way to, “Are you almost done?”
“Constant requests for status updates won’t make this go any faster,” Holly put her tools down and mumbled, “It’s done.”
“You estimated you’d have it done in an hour. You got it done in 47 mins. The whole time I was requesting status updates. Cause. Effect.”
“I’ll cause your effect,” Holly said under her breath.
“Nothing. I sent the message.”
The console bleeped and the computer hummed, “Incoming transmission from Parthus.”
“Connect,” Wolf said.
A holographic image of Ray’s head appeared above the console.
“Hey, Ray whaddya say?” Wolf said, “You wouldn't happen to remember me, would you? Maybe 600 years ago?”
“Identify yourself,” Ray replied.
“It wouldn’t be that easy, would it? How about, we come on behalf of Sophie Fischer of Earth?”
“How do you know Sophie Fischer?”
“Look, we don’t have time for complicated backstories. What you need to know right now is Yaldabaoth is on Earth and Sophie is about to go toe to toe with him. You, from 600 years ago, is also there and you brought along Abigayle Rosenkreuz and Cletus Wensleydale.”
“Look, I don’t know who you are…”
“Look, Ray, if you don’t believe me see for yourself. What’s Sophie Fischer doing right now?”
Ray squinted his eyes. His floating head was replaced with a turning Great Seal of Parthus. After thirty seconds the turning seal was overtaken by flying toasters. Ray’s head returned.
“I’m assembling a wing as we speak and heading for Earth. Expect my arrival in…”
“Wait, wait, wait, Ray. There’s a Draconian fleet waiting in ambush for you.”
“The wing just got a lot bigger. Where are you?”
“On the edge of the heliosphere.”
“Send your coordinates, we’ll rendezvous at your location. Then we’ll see about some Draconians.”
“Different time, same Ray.”
“Bridging in ten minutes.”
“It will be an honor to work alongside the version of Ray that was still the galaxy’s number one distributor of wolf tickets.”
Ray’s head frowned and flickered, “Since you know my name, how about yours?”
“Wolfram and Luna Jones of the Starcrossed.”
“Ahem,” Holly coughed.
Holly slapped the back of his head.
“Okay, Joneses, see you in ten,” Ray’s head said and disappeared.
A few moments passed.
“Dad, you sure you don’t want to ask Ray for a status update?” Holly asked.
“Holly, Ray is a professional and needs space to work,” Wolf replied.
“Mom, can I punch dad?”
“I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Luna said, behind a magazine.
As they waited, Luna stared out the window and counted the stars she hadn’t been too yet. She had just gotten to the belt of Orion when it looked as if a round slice was removed from the star field and replaced with a view from another, distant region of the galaxy.
“He’s here,” she said.
Three battleships that dwarfed the Starcross shot in like rubber bands, their attendant destroyers and cruisers flocked in swarms around them, as well as wings of corvettes hovering in formation.
“He’s not fucking around,” Wolf said, looked out at the fleet array before the Starcrossed.
“Incoming transmission,” said the computer.
“Put it through,” Wolf replied.
“Okay Commanders Joneses,” Ray started.
“Congratulations, you’ve been deputized. You’re in command of the first corvette wing.”
“Oh, no no no. I’m more of a lone wolf, no pun intended. We do much better in the wildcard slot.”
“There’s no room on my battlefield for a lone wolf, Commander. Group with your wing and wait for my signal. Uploading the attack stratagem into your ship computer.”
“I’m not really command material. If you were three hundred years older, you’d know that…”
“You can either fall in with your wing, Commander, or you can sit it out.”
“Well, that’s even less fun,” Wolf looked at Luna and shrugged.
“Falling in, Cap’n,” she said to Ray.
“Stick with your better half, Jones, you’ll go places,” Ray’s head disappeared.
“I have no idea what he wants me to do,” Wolf said.
“Just follow directions, easy gig,” Luna replied.
“This is dad we’re talking about,” Holly said.
“Not helping, sweetheart.”
“Man your station, yeoman,” Wolf said to Holly.
“Yeoman?” Holly protested.
“Congratulations, you’ve been deputized. You’re engineering for today’s event.”
“Of course I’m taking care of engineering, but yeoman?”
“Commanders Joneses, the rest of the fleet has their orders. I want you sweeping the battlefield, picking off stragglers, and watching our flanks. Keep your eyes and ears open, you see a situation going pear-shaped anywhere on the field, get in and tip the balance back toward us. We have the drop. Let’s keep them on their heels.”
“That’s probably what I would have done anyway,” Wolf grumbled.
“This isn’t my first go at this, you know? Wait for my command,” Ray’s head was replaced by a spinning ‘please stand by’.
“Operation Darkmoon is now underway,” Ray’s voice rang throughout the fleet.
The ships lit their engines and lurched forward into the solar system. As they approached the moon, Ray broke off a small contingent to lure out the Draconian ambush. The bulk of the fleet would hang behind and wait for the Draconians to ambush the detachment, then hem them in from behind. The bait drifted passed the Draconians and they rushed out to attack. As the Draconians drew within firing range the small contingent whirled around and opened fire.
“Did they know we were here?” Blaylock asked Vijeda, as their ship jolted.
“They’re too small for that to matter,” Vijeda barked, “Shields. All weapons fire.”
“Look, if they knew we were here, they could have prepared for us. You could be walking into…”
“Does that pathetic lot look prepared to you?” Vijeda hissed in Blaylock’s face.
“Frankly, yes,” Blaylock stepped toward him, “Are you even watching your ass?”
“You dare tell me how to command my…”
The ship jolted again, this time much harder than Ray’s tiny corvettes could deliver to Vijeda’s battleship.
Yalda held his hands up and clapped them together, “And that was your ass.”
“What was that? On screen,” Vijeda shouted at the bridge crew.
On screen was shown the bulk of Ray’s fleet, energy blasts streaking in and sparking against the Draconian shields.
“How is this possible?” Vijeda whispered.
“My first guess and last guess, because it’s correct,” Blaylock leaned in Vijeda’s reptilian face, “Somebody told them. Hey, just maybe it was those leather fetishists from the future that weren’t supposed to be a problem?’
“Scan for the Starcrossed,” Vijeda shouted again.
“Admiral?” a crew answered.
The screen showed the Starcrossed wheeling through a formation of Draconian gunships. As it passed, the gunships popped in blooms of sparks. The projectiles hurtling from the ships soared past the Starcrossed and stuck the ship opposite and tore through its hull.
“Put me in contact with the Starcrossed,” Vijeda said.
“It’s the dreaded rear Admiral Vijeda,” Wolf’s voice filled the bridge, “Ready to negotiate surrender, already?”
“You think destroying a few ships makes a difference?”
“I didn’t destroy shit. They shot each other.”
“I believe that,” Blaylock sighed.
“Watch how you speak of my fleet, ingrateful Seraph.”
“What exactly should I be grateful for? Fucking up my plans?”
“Is that Yalda Blaylock?” Wolf said, “Now we know where to focus fire.”
“Oh, fuck me,” Blaylock pinched the bridge of his nose, “What kind of shit show did I get myself involved in? If I vow, right now, really hard, to never time travel, will all of you disappear? Does it work that way?”
The ship rocked and groaned.
“Is there any form of personal conveyance I can steal to get far away from this clusterfuck?” Blaylock said.
“You lack faith in Draconian might,” Vijeda said and called to his crew, “Activate the Komodo.”
A vessel appeared out of hyperspace, blocking the view of Earth. It was a vessel of severe, angular architecture, with a hull so large it could house all the ships at battle. Gun barrels jutted out the front, hundreds of kilometers in length and several kilometers wide. They began firing torpedoes, half the size of Ray’s largest vessel. One tore through the middle of a Seraphim battleship breaking it in two.
“I’ve seen the light,” Blaylock smiled, “I stand corrected, Admiral.”
Vijeda grinned back.
“Joneses?” Ray’s holographic head hovered over the console, “You said you’re from the future. Ever seen one of those?”
“Nope,” Wolf replied.
“I’ve analyzed its shields,” Holly said, “Energy weapons are going to be useless.”
“Are we going to shoot it with pistols?”
“If you had a strong enough pistol. The hull is remarkable, but not impenetrable. It looks like they blew the whole budget on shields and firepower. In fact, there’s some weak spots. Notably, the heatsinks over the generators. I’ve mapped out the areas.”
“Wolf, you think you can get us close?”
“Best pilot in the galaxy, Lu,” Wolf grinned.
“You better be,” she stood and kissed him on the head.
“Where are you going?”
“For a walk outside.”
Luna stepped out onto the hull of the Starcrossed, her mag boots jerking her feet to the surface. She lifted a sundry bit of shoulder mounted artillery and peered through the sight. The Starcrossed weaved passed Draconian corvettes. She crouched, as they rained a rainbow hail of electric gunfire sparking off the shields of the Starcrossed. Wolf dove the ship in toward the vessel and Luna stood, firing a rocket into the heat sinks. An explosion tore away an area around the crater that once house a generator. Unprotected Draconian soldiers fired on Luna until they asphyxiated in the vacuum of space.
“One down, three to go,” Holly’s voice rang in Luna’s helmet.
A swarm of corvettes had grouped and were wheeling back to aim at the Starcrossed. The console beeped.
“They’re on to us, Lu,” Wolf said.
“You’re the one driving.”
The ship accelerated and Luna’s boots began to slide. She rotated herself as she slid to see her pursuers. The swarm had taken on a wedge formation as it raced to put the Starcrossed in range. Luna fired a rocket into the center of the formation, tearing a split down the middle. The ships that weren’t caught in the rocket’s wake, swerved and collided with the adjacent ship, causing a ripple breaking up the edges of the formation. She then fired another rocket into the Kodomo, leaving another smoking tear.
“The corvettes are regrouping,” Wolf said.
“I only have two more rockets,” Luna said, “I won’t be able to fend them off again.”
“We’re coming up on the next one.”
The corvettes could be seen reforming and wheeling around for another run. Luna concentrated on the hull of the Kodomo as it sped past, waiting for her next shot. The heat sink came into view and she fired. Once again the hull of the Kodomo flung burning plasma and glowing shrapnel into space.
Luna saw the corvettes dip under the explosion and swoop back up, like a gliding sunfish. The corvettes were locked in a unison that them appear as a single entity. Luna could see the next heat approaching as the corvettes were gaining.
“Slow down just a bit,” Luna said.
“Are you nuts?” Wolf replied, “Why?”
“I’m trying to draw the hypotenuse of a right triangle.”
Luna watched the corvettes draw closer and open fire.
“Perfect, just like that,” she said.
She fired a rocket at the heat sink and watched it sail off at an angle as she continued on. It stuck the heat sink and the explosion engulfed the corvettes. The Kodomo went dark and its cannons fell quiet.
“Good work, Commanders Joneses,” Ray’s voice said in Luna’s helmet, “Let’s mop up the rest.”
“Wolf, could you do me a favor?” Luna said.
Yalda laid on his back, clutching his ringing head. His head cleared and gave way to the return of the agonizing pain of Vyx’s fingers driven into his shin. Yalda broke Vyx’s hand from his arm at the wrist and tried to stand, with Vyx’s hand still gripping. He put weight on his foot and howled. He saw Sophie, Cheryl, and Hunter running from the museum and fired on them. Vyx held his wrist to the hand still attached to Yalda’s shin. Brackets on levers swung from his arm and clamped onto it. Articulated wiring reached out like vines and inserted themselves into vacated sockets. He released his grip on Yalda’s leg and punched the back of his knee. Yalda tipped backward and smacked his head against the marble floor. He let loose a long, pained groan that sounded like a screaming goat. He tried to aim his pistol at Vyx but was only able to wave it around in front of him.
“I hope they show you mercy,” Vyx hissed.
“Better than wasting good hope on me showing them any,” Yalda gargled.
Yalda pulled the trigger until one of the blasts stuck Vyx in the chest. Vyx put his head to the floor and gasped one more breath. Yalda kicked him until he was convinced Vyx had expired. He leaned back and settled on the floor panting, entertaining the notion of taking nap.
“Demiurge,” Vijeda’s voice buzzed.
“What is it?” Yalda grunted.
“The Seraph Raphael has arrived.”
“He arrived with a much larger fleet than you told us he would.”
“You’re Draconian for fuck's sake, don’t you people live for the fight or some shit? Destroy him.”
“They took us by surprise, half the fleet is crippled. The Kodomo is crippled.”
“Joneses,” Yalda seethed.
“You said they wouldn’t be a problem,” Blaylock said, “You said they’d be gone by now. Erased from existence.”
“They would have been, but your puppet picked a hell of a time to stop being compliant. I was a lot dumber and sloppier in my youth than I remember.”
“Or maybe I lose a few steps in my old age.”
“Fall back, Regroup.”
“You still think you’re calling the shots here.”
“I said, fall back.”
“Sure, fall back, regroup, that’s a no-brainer. But then we hit them hard. No more cute revenge fantasies. We do this my way.”
“You’re not in charge here.”
“The way I see it, you won’t kill me because that’s it for you too. On the other hand, if I kill you. Well, that’s not much of an issue for me. I’ll just avoid doing what you did in 300 years. So either get with the fucking program or take one in the head, but you’re not going to be in the way anymore. You tell me this day went pretty sideways the first time. How’s this time compare so far?”
“It’s not over. We haven’t lost and we’re not going to. I just…”
“We’re not going to because I’m taking over. Try not to die before we get a chance to pick you up.”
“Is that what I have to look forward to?” Blaylock said to Vijeda, “Get your ships out of here. We have to regroup.”
Vijeda stood silent, looking at Blaylock askance.
“Do you have a problem, Admiral?”
“Does this constitute as a mutiny?”
“I’ve been wondering that myself. I mean you’re still working for the same guy, right?”
“It stands to reason,” Vijeda said, after a moment of consideration, “All stations, routing maneuvers.”
Rising into the view from the bridge window, was an owl mask and a middle finger, standing on the hull of the Starcrossed. The owl lifted her gun to her shoulder and fired into the bridge. Blaylock and Vijeda ducked as the rocket tore through the window and hit the other side of the bridge, tearing a hole into space. Draconian crewmen were yanked out the hole and cartwheeling into space.
“Seal the breach,” Vijeda yelled, his arm wrapped around the railing as debris slashed at his face.
The commotion stopped as the holes into space were plugged up with energy shields.
Blaylock looked out of the hole in the bridge at the owl on the back of a ship. She was tapping her helmet, then pointing at him.
“Put her through,” Blaylock said, “You failed to kill me, Jones.”
“That was just a love tap,” Luna said, “When I get my hands on you, I’m going to tear your throat out with my teeth.”
“Listen, cosmic girl, the space dominatrix thing might get most guys off, but honestly, darling, you’re not even making it move.”
“Good, don’t move,” Ray said, standing behind Blaylock.
“You know what I am referring to, right?” Blaylock grinned.
“Always good for a giggle, Yalda,” Ray turned to a Seraph soldier, “I want him and the Draconian commander in custody. The rest, process as prisoners of war.”
“So, it’s war, Ray? Drama queen.”
“Looks that way. I hear you learned a new trick; time travel.”
“Not me per se.”
“I’ve heard that too. Joneses, if you wouldn’t mind, I could use a lift to Earth.”