Character development

The Conclusion

Start from the beginning Part 1

Part 11

The Conclusion.

By Jamie Burns

The years spent traveling through space were my best years. It was when I finally found who I was and where I was meant to be. The answers: April Norian and in the sky, out seeing the Universe. A nomadic life of new adventures, it was my perfect fit. Now I was feeling like the whole of the Galaxy was pulling me in as it’s own. I saw an innumerable amount of stars fill every bit of my vision. I was ready to accept the fate that I had been given by the cold hand of death, also known as Tom.

I was ready but I guess the galaxy didn’t want me like I thought.

 

Feeling returned to my limbs and I sensed cold metal under me. I opened my eyes to a dimly lit room that I had been in before. It was the galley of the Lamplight, and I could see Nathan fiddling with something in one hand at the counter. His other arm was in a messy bandage and sling, his shirt underneath still covered in his blood.   

“Hey bro…” My voice cut out. Pushing the words out felt excruciating.

Nathan flinched at hearing my voice. “Oh thank God. You’re awake” He said as he dropped whatever he had been holding and walked to the table beside me.

“Wha… happen..” I managed to force out.

“You should try not to talk.” Nathan instructed me as he brought me a cup of water in his good hand.

“You were passed out cold when I got to you but still breathing. The sounds of the gunshots must have drawn some attention because some of Cryton's men started to head back our way. When the Lamplight showed up without Clara I was sceptical but I didn’t have a lot of options.”  

“After we broke orbit and I wrapped up my arm, Lucinda told me who she was and about your plan. She said it didn’t go exactly right, but we’re all alive so I’ll take it. We aren’t sure what happened on Clara’s end. We are on our way to the rendezvous point to meet her and the Thestrious.” Nathan sat down and gently adjusted his poorly made sling.

We were on our way to the Thestrious. The thought made all the pain I was feeling in my body ebb. I took as deep a breath as I could muster and slowly exhaled it though my nose. I let my body relax and rest till I felt like I could sit up without passing out. Then I rested again.

 

Slowly with rests between most moves I was back up and moving freely. I worked on replacing Nathan’s hastily done bandages. Luckily the bullet had gone all the way through. I fixed him up with a clean shirt, clean bandage and a much more effective sling. I didn’t want Clara seeing him all covered in his own dried blood. As we finished up Lucina called over the intercom.  

“We have a visual of Clara and your ship, we’ll be docking in about 20 minutes.” She said.

Nathan and I made our way to the bridge. Nathan moved slower but I would have run if I could have managed.  I wanted to see her, The Thestrious. Was she still in the shape she had been in when we were forced to part? Had they cannibalized her? What kind of repairs would she need?  I wouldn’t feel totally at ease till I saw the damage.

I stumbled onto the bridge and Lucinda gave me a sideways glance. Like her sister, Lucinda was sometimes hard to read.

There in the distance was my Thestrious. Looking none too worse for the wear. Yes it looking like a few things were missing but I had prepared myself for much worse.

 

The Lamplight was docked and the air lock between the two ships opened. Clara was waiting on the other side for us. At the sight of Nathan you could see Clara’s body relax. She ran to him and then slowed and gently hugged him over his sling. Nathan pulled her in for a kiss and the contentment on their faces said all they needed to say.

After Clara and Nathan parted she walked over to me and threw her arms around me, I returned in kind.

“Thank God ya’ll are alright.” Clara said.

I smiled and wanted to say something similar but my throat still felt like I swallowed a bag of nails. I was using my words sparingly but I made a note in my head to tell her later how grateful I was. I made for the corridor, eager to walk the ship and see the state of things. Just before I stepped out of the room I heard Lucinda.

“Well Clara Bug, this is where we part again.” she said.

I turned and Lucinda was holding out her hand to shake Clara’s

“Come wait in the galley with us.” I rasped out.

“She’s not waiting for a ride April.”  Said Clara

“Your men aren't coming?” I asked.

“No need my ride’s right here.” Lucinda said and pointed a thumb over her shoulder toward the Lamplight.

My heart sank. The private conversation Lucinda and Clara had, the one where Clara convinced her to help us. She hadn't convinced her at all, she had payed her. Clara had traded her ship for my ship and Nathan’s life.  I knew that for the rest of our lives I would always feel indebted to her.

Clara pushed past Lucinda’s outstretched hand and hugged her. It was brief but fitting. Lucinda headed back toward the Lamplight and tossed a few sacks that had been laying by the door into the Thestrious.

“Here’s your things… and Clara never come back to this planet again.” Lucinda said and she closed the Lamplight’s air lock.

I closed the Thestriouse’s air lock and the light on the control panel switched to green. We felt a slight jar as the Lamplight broke free. I watched out the small window as the Lamplight grew smaller. I was sure Clara was devastated, but when I turned to look at her she was walking with Nathan back toward the corridor. Unconcerned about the arrangement and seemingly fully content with it’s outcome.

 

Over the next few days we made our way back from Exodus, making plans for the future. I asked Clara if she would be willing to stay on the Thestrious and act as my second in command. Technically I owed her a fortune, between the money I had promised at the start of the journey and her losing the Lamplight because of it, I would never be able to repay her. Clara didn’t seem to care much about my outstanding debt and happily accepted my offer.

Nathan asked if I would mind if he stayed as well, which I saw coming. I agreed, as long as we set ground rules about his gambling and that he would be required to start paying off all the debt he had laying around the galaxy. By the time we made it back to a civilized planet life on the Thestrious was starting to feel like the new normal.

I sat on the bridge alone in my large, soft cushioned pilot's chair. The sound of the engines whirring down and an electric hum in the air coming to a close. With a deep breath I could smell hints of oil and the leather of my chair, smells that remind me of my dad. Once again it was clear to me who I am and where I’m meant to be.

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Part 9

Part 9

By Jamie Burns

It was early Christmas morning, I woke up feeling awful and promptly ran to the bathroom to throw up. I felt a hand rub my back and then put a wet washcloth on the back of my neck. I expected to look back and see my mom but it was Nathan. I was only seven years old but then again so was he. When I was feeling ok to move he helped me to the living room, he put me on the couch, gave me a blanket, turned on the Christmas tree lights and made me a cup of tea. We sat there looking at the twinkle lights of the tree, some blinking slowly on and off, others steady. I drifted in and out of sleep. Nathan all the while sitting beside me making sure I didn’t need more tea or a bucket if I had another bout of sickness. Two hours later when my parents woke up they asked why we hadn't woken them and I remember saying “Nathan took care of me.” That’s all I can remember from that particular Christmas.

I hadn't thought of that in over sixteen years. As we sped in the Lamplight toward the rendezvous point the words stuck in my head. “Nathan took care of me.” Throughout primary school, high school and well into flight school Nathan took care of me. I helped him with homework, studying and even would cover for him with mom and dad on occasion. It was what we did. We took care of each other and I was determined to keep the tradition alive.

I landed the Lamplight a few miles from the rendezvous point. Clara and Lu both walked on to the bridge. Lu was dressed in some of Clara’s clothes and they had pumped up the volume on Lu’s blond hair. “Alright, this is the best spot.” I said to Clara and headed to the back of the ship expecting her to follow. When I realized she hadn't I turned back around. Clara and Lu faced each other awkwardly. Clara held out a hand, “Thank you for your help.”

Lu took Clara’s hand and gave it a firm shake. “You’re sure it’s worth all this?” She asked.

Clara said nothing just gave her head one firm nod.

Clara and I walked to the back of the ship, she opened the hatch to the cold air outside. We both looked out then at each other. “Remember watch your back at all times. She’s going to be a lot heavier than the Lamplight so don’t be timid. Don’t be afraid to push her around, just get her in the air and head to the place Lu setup.” I told her.

“It’s gonna work.” Clara said it as if she was trying to convince both of us.

I dropped the hard tone in my voice, allowing myself to be genuine and vulnerable for a moment. “Please just be careful Clara, I don’t want to have to come save you too, but I will if I have to.” I gave her a weak smile but it was all I could muster. Clara pulled me in for a hug. “We’ll get him back.” With that she turned and set off.

I closed the hatch and the moment it was sealed the Lamplight rose back into the air.  On the bridge I found Lu at the helm, looking confident and at ease.

“No wonder they could never catch you.” I said as I sat in the co-pilots seat. Lu just smiled and pulled back on the helm sending us higher into the gray clouds.

We arrived at the rendezvous ten minutes ahead of the dead line. How we managed that  seemed like an act of God or a lot of happy accidents all in a row. Either way I was grateful. Instead of landing the Lamplight in the spot that had been clearly left open for us it dipped low and I tossed the rope over the edge of the hatch and slid down to the ground. Once my feet had touched I raised my hands showing I was unarmed and the Lamplight quickly gained in altitude again. I walked to toward the crowd.

Turned out the rendezvous was yet another shipyard, but this one had far more security and was much busier than the one we had been in earlier that day. The ships in this yard didn’t look like the junk that was in the other shipyards.  Here they were larger, well built, with weapons, no rust and some I would even call shinny. It felt more like a showroom than a shipyard. I recognized the ship the crowd was gathered around. The last time I saw her she was flying away from the planet Cierra with the Thestrious flying away beside her as I could only watch from the ground.

Hands still up I kept walking toward the crowed. Some of the men had their guns raised while others looked on relaxed, in the middle of them was Cryton. He was wide in the shoulders and seemed fit for a man that looked like he was in his late forties.  All the others seemed to look to him for cues on what to do next. It made me wonder how bad a man you have to be to have others fear you on a planet like Exodus. I pushed the thought down because it made me more nervous than I liked. Cryton on the video had seemed charismatic and likeable for a kidnapper. That's what made me so nervous about him. He was a kind of bad man made worse by his good lies. Not that I didn’t have a lie or two up my sleeve.

“Well there she is boys, the little sister.” Cryton called out. With a flick of his finger the men with guns advanced towards me.

I watched as they encircled me. “Yep that’s me… where’s my brother?”

“Oh he’s close by.” Cryton said, him and his men chuckling at that. I instinctively took a step back.  Cryton eyes narrowed in on me, “What’s your little gal pal doing up there? Tell her to land.”

I had to laugh at this one. “So you can kill all three of us and keep the ship. I don’t think so.”

“You know I could just shoot that match box out of the sky if I wanted to.” He was getting more frustrated.

“I’m sure you could, but you don’t want to.”

He paused and let out a breath. “No, I don’t but if you’re up to something fishy I might just change my mind.”

“Where is Nathan?” I asked again.

He looked back toward his ship and waved to the men waiting there. A moment later two men dragged Nathan down the dock and dropped him next to Cryton. Nathan slowly stood to his feet, I was sure he couldn't see much with his face swollen to it’s current size.  I called to him. “Nathan it’s ok I’m here.” I walk a bit closer to get a better look at him. The sound of my voice didn’t put him at easy. If anything it seemed to make him angry.

“April? Why? I told you guys to leave.” He was scared and angry and I didn’t really blame him. He forced his eyes open and looked right to where I was standing. “Why can’t you ever listen to me?”

“Alright now little sis you tell blondie to put her ass on the ground now.” Cryton demanded.

“Give me Nathan, then she’ll land in the distance. You’ll let us go while you head to your new ship.” I called out sounding as confident and forceful as possible.

Cryton stared at me for a moment in shock, I guess at my demands. Then a slow smile spread across his face and he looked around. His men nervously looking back at him. He started to laugh, the men looked at each other, and started to laugh as well. Though it was clear they weren't sure why.

“I don’t think you understand little sis, this is not a negotiation.” He said then he pulled his gun from his holster and turned Nathan toward him. I knew I was to far away but I still lunged forward, Cryton pressed the barrel against Nathan’s shoulder and pulled the trigger.

I could have sworn that I felt that bullet. I felt the shockwave flow through my body and weaken my knees. At least that’s what I thought at first. Then I realized everyone was looking up. In the distance behind Cryton’s ship was a plume of black smoke. The massive explosion had socked all of us. I saw Nathan lying motionless on the ground my heart sank and I looked  back to the plume of smoke now lit by the fire that burn beneath it. My face must have been white as a sheet as I wondered where Clara was.

Part 4

Part 4

By Jamie Burns

 

The “Security” around Michael's cruiser ship was laughable. I guess he thought no one on the outer rim would be crazy enough to steal from a major company that’s backed by the Universal Government. I usually wouldn’t be that crazy either but, I couldn’t resist crippling Michael’s ship and ego.

The two men he left to century the ship seemed to be pretty comfortable as they drank and sat around outside of the ship’s hull. The large ramp that lead into the cargo bay of the cruiser ship sat open. The men had used some of the cargo crates for a makeshift card table and chairs.

Clara, Nathan and I peered from around the edge of a nearby ship parked in the same hanger. “So, how do we get past them? Knock them out?” Nathan asked.

“We could,” I said with hesitation. “Or…” I looked to Clara and raised my eyebrows at her. Clara was confused for a moment. I looked her up and down, then nodded my head toward the men.

“You want me to…” Clara dropped her hands at her sides in a way that made me a little sorry I even asked.

“Fine it was just that it’s our best option.” I said. I looked back around the edge of the ship to start thinking of a plan B. Then I hear Clara take a deep breath and sigh.

“No, you’re right. It’s the fastest and easiest way. It shouldn't even be that hard by the looks of those two.” Clara said in surrender.

“Great! Maybe you should undo some of these buttons.” Nathan said as he moved his hand towards her chest. The sound of Clara slapping it away echoed in the hanger. I quickly looked to see if the men had noticed. Thankfully they hadn't and they still sat playing cards, laughing, and drinking.

Clara shook out her bouncy blond hair and gave it a tussle before she walked out into view of the guards. Nathan and I made our way in the opposite direction to circle around the ship. We moved toward the cruiser hidden from the view of the men. As we moved I could hear Clara’s footsteps as she shuffeled toward the men.

“Oh My, well look what I found.” Clara said, she made her voice higher than it usually was and much more playful. “You gentlemen wouldn't happen to know were a girl can find another drink would ya?” She finished with a soft hiccup. Playing drunk was easy for a woman that owned her own bar. The men quickly invited Clara to have a seat with them and poured her a drink. Nathan and I could have simply walked right inside the cruiser. No stealth necessary with Clara around them. But we still needed to move quickly, no telling what kind of men my slimball Ex employed. So best not to leave Clara for too long.

Michael might have been the all star, golden boy at flight academy but he was never very good at following common procedures. The ship was totally devoid of any crew. Any captain worth their salt would know, you never leave a ship this big with zero crew abord. Alway have men that patrol the corridors. There’s too many places to hide, you end up with stowaways, assassins, or like us thieves. I guess I should just be greatful Michael was a bad student. We made our way to the engine room and I pulled out the list of things I needed to scavenge. Nathan was mostly there to hold things and be my lookout. I yanked the last part we needed from it’s home and tossed it in the sack we brought.

“Ok, let’s get out of here.” I said.

“Wait, what do you mean? We can’t leave yet.” Nathan looked at me in shock.

“What are you talking about we have to go?”

“If you think we are leaving before we pay a little visit to the captain's quarters you’re crazy.” Nathan said with a wild grin on his face. He grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the engine room. Moments later we were standing in Michael’s quarters. Nathan handed me something from his pocket. It was a plastic bag with some kind of white powder in it.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I got it from a herbalist in town this morning. It’s supposed to make you breakout in this crazy itchy, scaly rash anywhere it touches, so be careful when you pour it.” He said.

“Pour it?” I wasn't totally following my twins line of thought here.

“In his sheets.” Nathan said and threw the blankets off the bed.

“Nathan! That’s childish. I can’t do that.”  I said it to myself as much as I did to him.

“April, it’s not like it’ll kill him or anything, it’ll just knock him off his high horse for a couple weeks.”

I stared at the bag of powder. All of a sudden I felt like we were 9 year old again, when Nathan convinced me to eat a piece of my cousin’s birthday cake before the party even started. Mom was not happy. I wrestled back and forth with my conscience. As much as I loved the thought of Michael covered head to toe in a hideous rash it was a little too crazy Ex-girlfriend for my style. But a smaller scale would be nice.

“No, not the sheets, it’s too much.” I tossed the blankets back on the bed.  Nathan sighed in disapintment, only to have the widest grim spread across his face a moment later, when I opened the compartment to the captains privet restroom. I left a nice thin line of the misterious poweder around the rim of the toilet seat, and with the grease left on my hands from the stolen parts I left a message on his mirror.

"Thanks for all the memories.

                                 Love- AN"

 

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED