space ships

Part 10

Part 10

By Jamie Burns

 

The scene in the shipyard changed dramatically. Some of the men running away from the explosion, others running towards it. Panic and chaos took over like a flash flood. My ears still had a ring in them from the sound of the explosion. As it dissipated I could hear the air was filled with yelling, the sound of a blazing fire, falling debris crashing back to earth and in the farther distance screaming.

The men that moments before had me surrounded at gunpoint were gone. Infact, almost all of Cryton’s men had gone, swept up by the commotion. Which lead me to think that the explosion must have been close to their base of operations. The thought of Clara being there when it happened was scary but more over the though she might have been the one to cause it was no more comforting.

All who remained in our standoff now was myself, Cryton, (his gun now trained on me) and two of his men who had been standing slightly behind him to his right and left, suggesting they must have been his most loyal, and his right hand. The last soul left in the clearing was Nathan still laying on the ground, thankfully yelling in pain. I wasn’t happy he was in pain but I was happy to see he was still alive.

“What did you do!” Cryton yelled, and I could see the spit fly from his mouth as he raged at me.

“That wasn't us!” I wasn't totally lying because I really wasn't sure if it was Clara who was responsible for it or not.

I stepped closer to them and Cryton shot a round near my feet, causing me to freeze instantly on the spot.

“So you’re saying this is all a coincidence?” Cryton waved his gun toting hand around at the scene.

“How would I have done that?” I pointed to the smoked out area behind him. Cryton had no response. He looked down at Nathan then back to me and finally up to the Lamplight that was far in the distance behind me. Much too far away to be responsible for the explosion.  He was at a loss, the plan might not have been going exactly like I had thought but the main principle was still holding. He thought it was just the three of us Nathan, Clara and I.

Nathan still writhed on the ground but had managed to stop yelling.  Over the radio that was attached to Cryton’s belt a voice called out, “Boss, boss we need help over here! This place is going up like a candle!” The radio cut out and Cryton looked more annoyed than concerned. He pulled the radio off his belt and tossed it to the man on his right. “Go tell those idiots what to do.” He barked. The man was off towards the blaze and then there were two. Only two men stood between me, my brother and freedom.

“Come here little sister.” Cryton said, motioning with his gun to stand in front of him. I cautiously approached but stopped just out of his reach. He pointed the gun back down to Nathan. “Now tell Blondie to LAND!” He screamed the last word at me.

“As soon as you let him go.”

Nathan was now weakly pulling himself to a sitting position.

Cryton just looked at me, once again sizing me up. Without taking his eyes off me he called over his shoulder. “Tom, go get Sheila.” Cryton pointed his gun at me. The man hesitated for only a half a second then headed into the open dock of the ship they had pulled Nathan from.

“Who is Sheila?” I asked.

Cryton only smiled.

It took only a moment for Tom to return. My surprise that he returned alone was brief before the despair set it. He might not have returned with a person but he had brought what I was assuming was Sheila. An over-sized portable ground to air missile launcher. Then right there on the right side in large messy white paint I saw her name Sheila. Tom hosted Sheila up onto his shoulder and waited for instruction.

Nathan and I looked at each other. He had now made it onto his knees. He held his sagging blood soaked shoulder, and I saw his eyes twitch toward Cryton then back to me then to where Tom stood. The smallest of actions that told me all his thoughts. It wasn't the plan I had come up with but desperate times called for desperate measures. I casually straitened my index finger of the hand at my side telling him to wait for my signal.

Cryton pulled his shoulders back and looked up to the Lamplight. “Now shoot Blondie out of the sky.” He said.

“Wait!” I took a step toward Tom.

Cryton held up his hand to keep Tom from firing. “Are you ready to tell her to land now?”

Then I saw it, a shadow moving in the smoke filled sky over the explosion. My plan had mostly come together, maybe even better than I had hoped.

“No, I have to tell you something.”  I said to Cryton.

“And what’s that little sister?” He mocked.

“Taking my ship was a mistake.” Then I let the slight grin I had been holding back spread over my face.

The loud rumble and rush of air from my low flying ship tore over our heads from behind Cryton. Clara was definitely not in the explosion. The air pulled Cryton and Tom unexpectedly off balance along with the shock of seeing The Thestrious in the air. I clenched my hand into a fist. In unison Nathan and I acted. Nathan threw himself to grab at Cryton’s gun and I sprinted with all I had toward Tom.

I was sure the man had more than a hundred pound on me, but I was sure as hell not going to stand there and let him shoot mine or Clara’s ships from the sky. I aimed all of my weight at his torso and knocked him and Sheila to the ground. I heard the metal hit the ground a few yards away and had a small sense of relief.  No Shelia, no missiles. The victory was short lived. Tom had easily thrown me off and was then over the top of me. I kicked with my legs trying to keep him at a distance but it was useless. I held my arms over my face as a shield but that too was useless. I felt his hand grasp my throat like a vise.  I wasn't even sure he was using both hands.

I looked up into Tom’s face and found no anger or emotion, just a stone expression that made me think he had been doing Cryton's dirty work a long time. I started to feel a burning in my chest and a pressure behind my eyes. Tom’s face grew black around the edges. With whatever I had left I tried to dig my nails into his hand. Then I felt the feeling leaving them and thought about the fact that Tom’s hand seems very soft for a strangler. I let my head roll back and I caught a glimpse of the sky and a large gray object passed overhead.

The last thing I heard was the sound like a gunshot. The pressure around my neck was released and replaced by what seemed like a 200 pound man laying on top of me. This pressure was quickly removed as well.

I saw the world through a pinhole. My small and tiny world. My brother, the sky, the Thestrious, darkness, then stars and the universe.

 

 

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 7

art 7

By Jamie Burns

 

The white letters burned bright in the dimly lit bridge of the Lamplight. “9 O’clock ladies.” Clara and I stayed glued to the screen till it once again went black. Clara turned in her chair to face me, her normally rosy cheeks were as white as paper. I could see a rising panic in her eyes despite the fact she tried to fight it back. “We can’t leave him.” Clara said in a determined, this is set in stone kind of way.

“Well of course we can’t.”

Clara’s face softened and her shoulders relaxed.

“You didn’t really think I was going to suggest we leave my brother here?” I asked.

“Well no… I just.” Clara’s voice dropped off.

I put my hand on her shoulder and mustered up a small smile. “It’s ok, we will get him back… somehow.”

“9 O’ clock is less than six hours away.” Clara said. “What do we do? Just hand over the Lamplight?”

“No, we can’t do that, all three of us will die on this planet if we do.” I started pacing the floor of the bridge, trying to inspire my brain into some kind of brilliant idea.  Clara leaned back in the chair trying to do the same.

“Could we buy the guy off?” Clara suggested

“We don’t have enough for him to even consider it. Plus all my money is on my ship, the ship he has. For all I know he has already found it, either way we don’t have it.” I spoke as I rubbed my temples and paced.

I tried to think of a plan but nothing came, what did come to me was guilt and anger. The guilt, why had I said yes to splitting up? When had I ever let Nathan come up with the plans? It’s always been up to me to look out for him and I just let him go off alone. Then the anger, he managed to get himself caught, and ruin another one of my plans. This was all his fault to begin with. I stopped pacing, this was a poor waste of the short time we had.

Five minutes had passed when I finally dropped down into one of the seats. “This is impossible, every idea I have needs at least three people to attempt.” I complained.

“We need help.”

“Yes, we need help. In a place we know no one, and no one we do know would come. Even if they would, there’s no time.” The word hopeless came to mind.

In the softest tone her deep southern voice could manage I heard Clara say. “I might know someone.”

My head snapped to look at her. “Who? Are they trustworthy?”

Clara hesitated to speak, “No, she’s not trustworthy, and I’m not totally sure where she is, but it sounds like it might be our only option.”

“Clara,” I said slowly “Who is it?”

“My sister.”

 

Despite Clara’s obvious hesitation and concern, I was overjoyed. I jumped out of my seat and rushed over to Clara. Quickly pulling her by the arms out of the pilot's seat and took her place. Firing up the engines of the Lamplight.

“Good gracious, April what are you doing?” Clara asked.

“We need to find her right now. On the way you can tell me what went down with you two and I’ll tell you the plan.”

“I don’t know where she is.” Clara said

“Well we have a little over five hours to find her, convince her to help up, and hope she doesn’t screw us over.” I  lifted the Lamplight into the sky and headed in the direction of the nearest populated area. Looked like we would be getting to know Exodus better than we had planned.  

...

Clara hadn't spoken to her sister in six years. Her sister Lucinda Bell had been convicted for murdering her husband, who, according to Clara was no winner himself. While he was alive Clara’s sister and her husband had led a life of regular criminal activity. Traveling around robbing people and evading the authorities. Eventually something went wrong between the two of them, and Lucinda’s husband was found dead. She was caught and convicted of the murder but before she was taken to prison she had escaped the authorities once again.  After two years without word Clara received a video message from Lucinda telling her she was alive and on  Exodus. Six years had passed and Clara had hoped to never contact her again. But today was a very special circumstance.

The only thing Clara knew about the location of her sister was the quadrant of the planet the message was sent from and that was a six-year-old message. Since it was all we had to go on that’s where we started. Thankfully Exodus was a small plant, Clara and I both watched every minute tick by, it took us forty of them to get to the area. I started formulating a plan B, for if we couldn't find Lucinda. Plan B was not looking so good.

Once on the streets we started asking around about Lucinda. Most of the people in this area seemed to be on some kind of drug that made them a starry eyes mess, seeming incapable of understand words. Another twenty minutes passed and the tightness pulled at my chest.  I was about to suggest we move to the next quadrant when out of the mess of starry eyed dope heads a man started walked towards us. I pulled out my gun, not sure what to expect. When he saw it he stopped his approach. I saw then he was a young boy probably in his mid-teens, he looked strung out and wiry, he was on something different.

“I just want to talk.” the boy said as he coward a few yards away from us.

“About what?” I asked.

The boy looked around. “Who you’re looking for.”

I looked back at Clara, and she returned a ‘might as well’ look to me. I nodded my head toward an open ally off the side of the street. The boy made his way in and we followed, once inside I raised my guy in case of ambush.

“You, you don’t need that.” He stammered.

“Well I feel pretty when I hold so I’m just gonna keep it, kay.” I masked my nerves with sarcasm as always. “What do you know?”

“Well I want to tell you but…”

“But what?” I asked.

“I can’t tell you for free.” He said as his nervous form looked around the ally.

“Really? You’re going to try and give us the shake down? I have you at gunpoint.” I was already sick of Exodus.

“I, I don’t think you know how to use, use that.” He stammered.

Without warning I shot an empty can that sat next to his left foot, causing it and him to jump into the air. “Is that so?” I asked.

He hunched himself over even more.

“Look kid, we are in a time crunch and if you really know anything you better say it right freakin’ now!” I was losing all sense of patience. My watch said we only had another four and half hours, and it would take 40 minutes to get to the location we were to meet Cryton.

“Ok, ok.” He backed up to the ally wall and slid down to a seated position.

“Well?” Clara said.

“You’re, you’re looking for Lu, right?” he asked.

I looked back at Clara. “Yes.” She said, her eyes growing bigger.

“She’s in the Brice quadrant.” He said as he dropped his head into a slump, realizing his sad attempt to make some money had failed.  My heart leapt, the Brice quadrant was not far and it was even the direction we need to be going. We might still have a bit of hope left, if I didn’t think about the fact we only had four hours and fifteen minutes to save my brothers life and get the Thestrious back.  

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED