Chapter Ninety: Foggy Dew

In the galley, Irian was clearing the dust from his eyes when a slumped form crossed his vision.  Namid lay in  the litter on the floor, blood streaming from nose and ears.  After making sure that she still breathed, and that someone nearby knew she was there, he rose and made his way back to his room.

He shuffled through papers, plans and charts looking for anything, anything at all to carry in the name of making who did this pay.  As he knelt to look under the bed, a sound rang out that made even he stop from his mission and rush toward it-the piercing cry of a hurt infant.  He bolted down the corridor that separated the chambers of he and Namid from those of Hariel and Elanor, not even bothering to work the door mechanism but simply tearing it from its hinges and heaving it behind him.

Within, a small, squirming infant with a scalp laceration wailed as hard as it could, as its dazed (but conscious) mother and more severely injured father attempted the best they could to comfort it.  Hariel bore a piece of rafter in his shoulder, a clear effort to keep the falling ceiling off his child.  Elanor’s neck was growing dark, as he could see she had a cut on the back of her head from throwing her body over the child as well.  The look in the eye of Hariel as he surveyed his small family’s distress matched that of Irian at the thought of his wife unconscious and battered by the attack.

Hariel caught sight of Irian a moment later, and simply nodded-if there was any thought that bygone woes would shape their actions it fled in the rolling of the ship.  With Elanor able to take care of their child, he motioned for Irian to follow him.  Down to the ship’s armory they passed, clearing anything in their way with a fire normally reserved for those possessed of the gods.  No obstacle stood in their way, and no human would dare try-both of them shone with the laeth-fraoch, the warror-light, the werelight of those who will fight till death if the need be, and on beyond until the foe falls into dust at their hands.  At the armory, Hariel retrieved his massive sword, which they used to pry up the bulkheads that had fallen in front of the laboratory and assemblers.  Hariel led, Irian following without a clear understanding of his purpose, but a clear understanding that he knew something that Irian didn’t.  What it was could only be helpful.

Inside the laboratory chaos reigned.  Hariel ignored all in preference to a shrouded table at the back.  Under its covering, two slender tubes and a large irregular mass lay.  Hariel handed the first two to Irian, and then activated the overhead light to show him the last item.  The two men sat to render it functional as the ship wailed on around them.

It didn’t take them long, and then they ran as fast as their feet would carry them for the decks of the ship.  Thor was in the doorway ready to search them out, but they turned him around and bade him travel with them.  The three men hit the deck like the Aes Sidhe themselves, their anger burning in them like a furnace.  Irian motioned Hariel to the main rigging and Thor to the anchor lines, then he leapt up to the wheel, assisted by the final gift of the Prince-his own lift wings, completely reworked to fit Irian’s enhancements.  As he drew his blade, Hariel raised full sail and Thor jerked the anchor lines clear onto the deck.  The dazed crewmen stood in awe momentarily, but they caught the message quickly.  Each man turned to his work, those attending the wounded continuing on around them.  Irian turned the wheel toward the place the shockwave hit, and Hariel pulled the sails taut.  James and Ssanyu made it to the deck just as they wheeled the ship around, and James simply nodded.  “To your tasks every man!  Lay course as you see fit, Irian!  I give the helm to you!  I can do more below than I can here!”  The pair retreated below decks to continue their mission of mercy.

With eyes half-lidded with fury, Irian called to the crew, “Each man calls that shore home.  The Harvest would take that home from each of you.  I say that the only thing they will take from me is casualties!”

Hariel’s voice rang out in the opening words of a ballad that Irian knew of old.  As the ship picked up speed, the song picked up voices, each man singing in his place as the ship began to function as a single unit, a waterborne messenger of fury whose clarion call rang out against the sea’s roar.  As Irian finalized the heading, he began the sequence to unlock the ship’s cannons, and his strong Irish tenor finished the ballad as the crew bent their backs to the task of bringing the ship up to full speed.

“As back through the glen I rode again and my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men whom I never shall see more
But to and fro in my dreams I go and I kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, when you fell in the foggy dew.”

“For every bloodied nose we will take ten times what we were given!  Raise those guns!  Targeting take your places!”

As the massive cannons broke the deck of the ship, the conversion to full speed finished, and the ship’s rigging fell down.  The masts of the ship disappeared into the hull, and in its place sat targeting systems for the massive three-barreled cannons.  At the console was Ilyana, blood streaming from a cut over here eye but planning trajectories as if it weren’t there.  Crewmembers filled the seats, every person working in concert to aim the cannons as accurately as possible to maximize the Harvest’s woe and minimize the danger to civilians.

“I’ve got a Damocles signal!  ETA is six minutes!”

As Irian asked what a Damocles signal was, Ilyana shouted him down.  “Main batteries fire now!”  The guns swung skyward, and she slammed her hands down on a row of firing buttons.  Particles like fireflies glowed as the cannons gathered energy, then they broke forth in noonday brightness.  Twin beams, each with the power to level mountains lanced up into the night.  Ilyana watched the counter on her screen spool down, as she waited for the confirmation.  As the beams struck home, the entire sky lit up rosy-red as the Damocles pillar was burned up and the beam broke straight on through to the satellite itself. 

Irian clapped her on the shoulder.  “I thought you were a translator.”

Ilyana turned to face him.  The cut above her eye still poured blood, azure against the red-purple of the exploding night sky.  “I had to deal with my brother’s worst mistake.  He’s not here to do it himself.”

Irian shuddered with realization, but he turned instead to the crew.  “Set course for the point of attack-I tire of sorties, let’s give them what they really want!”  Inside, Irian couldn’t make sense of what he had just seen.  If Ilyana’s blood was blue, was she Harvest?  What were the Harvest, anyway?

Published in: on July 29, 2012 at 1:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Deployment and Usage of the Damocles LEO Weapon System Introduction Booklet

*This text was found lying on the floor in James’s cabin, scribbled upon in places, with large amounts of formulas depicting potential energy and trajectories.  It had been studied almost to the point of falling apart.*

The Damocles LEO (Low Earth Orbit) Weapon System offers a heavy initial strike that most opponents will never see coming-indeed, who can fight the heavens?  By utilizing tungsten rods dropped from a low earth orbit, we can avoid such incidents as the 1945 bombings in Japan, the 2014 “dirty bomb” attacks on the Eastern US or the 2021 obliteration of the Indian peninsula.  This system utilizes no radioactives save the same ones that power almost all of our technology-and those only to control the satellites that do the work.  Without the issues of nuclear fallout, a shock force can be deployed immediately after the drop, with subsequent rods ready in as little as fifteen standard minutes.

The shock and awe factor is not to be denied here as well-with the rods achieving velocities of Mach 10, no explosives are necessary to wreak total devastation upon multiple targets.  If compatibility with ground troops is needed, the Damocles LEO platform also carries smaller versions of the ordinance that can be mass-dropped, offering significant damage and loss of life while leaving terrain mostly intact (in the case of protecting a bunker, for instance.)  As this is a simple familiarization guide, the main specifics are presented, while the more in-depth information is covered in the deployment and launch guidebooks. 

Salient specs for the Damocles support satellite are found within that specific deployment manual.  Exact loadout and field configurations are covered by the manual for such systems.

Damocles heavy weapons satellite general information:

Main projectile: Thermal coated tungsten pillar, 120cm x 6m.  Average number carried is three.

Secondary projectiles:  25cm thermal coated tungsten spheres, 120 to a core, 12 cores per satellite.  10cm x 2m thermal coated tungsten rods, 60 to a core, 24 cores per satellite.  Silver iodide carriers, two rings that detach and disperse silver iodide over a wide area, ensuring cloud cover and poor visibility in areas planned for bombardment.  Average number is three, one per pillar.

Damocles is designed as a first-use weapon of aggression-with its wait times and low capacities, it must therefore be used as an opening assault.  Studies of attempts to use it as reactionary fire often have shown the number of casualties on both sides to be 100%, so it is recommended that no troops be in the area you wish to fire upon. 

Those scientists who have contributed to Damocles each have their own take on the weapon-

*The document is torn, and the rest of the pages are missing.  On one margin towards the end is the line “where is it?” which undoubtedly references James’s attempts to stop the bombardment before it happened.*

 

 

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter Eighty-Eight

Below decks, chaos reigned.  Fires blazed in hallways, pieces of ship structure were splintered and hanging, and just as above souls clung to life in bodies that would not support it any longer.  James and Ssanyu were already on the move, administering what help they could, whatever it meant to the sufferer.  James was a skilled healer, but what Ssanyu lacked in skill she made up for in strength and zeal-even shifting bulkheads herself so that James could rescue those pinned under them.  He pushed himself as fast as he could go, his metal fingers working to their utmost dressing wounds and stanching blood.  When he ran out of supplies his shirt was the first thing to go-torn up to bandage the wounds of his crew.  The system of straps and buckles that held on his arms was coming loose from his back, as he kept putting more strain on them than they could carry.  Eventually Ssanyu grabbed a piece of rope and tied the overstretched straps back together.  He never stopped working though, as he tried to personally make sure that all of his crew were safe.  When he met a poor soul whose spirit was caught in the ruin of its body, a simple injection carried them beyond the door in peace.  James had a surgeon’s skill and a field doctor’s speed.  Ssanyu, in a brief moment to rest, asked him where he learned his craft. 

“I never think about it any more.  No, actually I do.  I lament the fact that I wear instruments of death and captain this ship, instead of dedicate my life to this.  When you think of what you have lost to the Harvest, count this too.  Once I was simply a doctor.  But none can stand by against them.  I have a sinking suspicion that I know what did this.  If I’m right, then this isn’t the beginning of the trouble that we’ll see.”

“What do you mean, not the beginning?”

“Don’t play coy with me.  I saw your stunt with Irian, goading him into showing his strength.  You’re absolutely brilliant, or I wouldn’t have asked for you when we picked you up.  Think, what happened to your cities?  Where are your honored elderly?  Where is your childhood home?  What took them from you?”

Her face grew pale as ash.  He reached out a hand to steady her, one that offered reassurance, and possibly even a slender hope.

“I thought you knew this weapon.  Somewhere close by was struck with Damocles.  We may be next, if I can’t get a crew moving in time to get us out of here.  But Christ as my witness, I’m not going to just give up.”

She nodded, the tears that flowed freely from her eyes cutting twin paths through the dirt and smoke on her face.  She had seen it before.  And she wasn’t about to let it happen to another place.

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter Eighty-Seven

“You know, that would have been a lot easier if you still had your sword.”

“Yes, but the important thing is that we came back with something.  You need to eat.  If not for you, for your passenger.”

“You say the oddest things.”

“Of course I do.  I was raised by a sword, not by people.  And if you don’t eat, our child will be the same way.”

“Fine, fine.  If I don’t stick around the child will be drunk before it can walk.”

“No, they gave me something approximating coffee first.  Alcohol was later.  I could definitely walk by then.”

“I can just see our child full of coffee, lugging Cairbre around and pulling his ears.  This will not end well, I tell you!”

“Well then you had better stick around to keep me from influencing our child.  That doesn’t sound right…”

While Irian and Namid continued to banter back and forth, the rest of the crew watched.  Irian had visited death’s door, but had turned back at the final step.  After, he’d retreated so far into the cup that they weren’t sure he knew which way was out.  But he’d survived that, as well.  Now he was almost as much machine as man, and they were trying to catch up for lost time.  But any person knows that you could just as much hold onto the wind as recapture time, and they knew it as well.  Sometimes all you can do is live right here, right now.

While they said a lot about nothing, elsewhere across the ship people were involved in something a lot more substantial.  Ssanyu was looking over topographical charts in James’ cabin, as he was adjusting the pair of pistols he carried for combat.  Hariel and Elanor fussed over and doted upon their new child.  Thor, some fugue come upon him, sat on the prow of the boat, a dangerous perch indeed, and looked out across the waves.  He had been there for a long time, and he didn’t look like he was moving for another long time, if you asked the deckhands.  But his eyes were focused out across the horizon, where heat lightning flickered over the shore.

Something about the lightning disquieted him.  He knew heat lightning all too well here, far from his frozen home.  He never could get the knack of reading the weather like Hariel.  But he was sure that when the snows fell, that he’d beat Hariel with knowing how to use them and how to survive them.  Small comfort, in a world where they had love and family, and as always it was he and his hammer.  And while it was lonely, it was also right.  He had other dreams of his own, and they didn’t follow the path that theirs did.  At least here he was under the same stars as home.  A falling star raced toward the horizon.  He gave a thought to exchanging his eye for wisdom as did the Allfather, when he realized that the falling star didn’t actually make it to the horizon.  A few moments later, a massive wave nearly rolled the ship.  Thor hugged the prow for his life as the deck was covered in sea creatures and weeds.  The surf behind the wave was still pounding, concentric rings of water lashing at the already damaged and foundering ship.  He could hear nothing for a few minutes as the pressure wave had temporarily deafened him, but the sounds that filtered back in as the deafness left him were not encouraging.  Deckhands were already scrambling to retrieve those tossed over before they were crushed against the ship by the receding waves.  Apparently, it wasn’t fast enough, as the next wave deposited broken bodies on the deck.  Some should have been dead, but weren’t.  Thor saw to the ones he could-some were too far gone to call back to their bodies.  Some begged for release themselves.  He helped those to Valhalla-he would place one of the knives on his belt into their hands, and then he’d end the suffering that no doctor could heal.  But as he worked his way across the deck, he heard a sound that made his blood run backward.  Amidst the shouts and screams, the piercing scream of an infant in pain filtered onto the deck.  Even the dying lifted their heads to see the cause of the sound.  Not even death prevented them from the human instinct of attending a screaming child.

 

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter Eighty-Six

“So what was that?”

“A remnant of a time before us.  Fyrdraca are huge, heavily armed, nearly unkillable, and always hungry.  I didn’t feel like becoming some creature’s snack.  We’ll find better hunting down the coast.  This guy might have been the last of the large animals.  Either it’s getting ready to sleep again, or it’s still working its way down the food chain.  By the end of that they’ll take anything that moves-I’ve seen one chase frogs and eat them.  Imagine a mountain chasing frogs.  You have a semi-accurate idea of one.”

“As I said, I thought we wiped them out.  But surely someone knew of that one, it’s far too big to be there by accident.”

“Yes, of course it is, and yes, someone did.  Well, once upon a time someone did.  He’s still there, and apparently fatter than the last time I saw him.  My family guarded this place, until the Harvest killed them.  We kept him as a weapon, one that nothing short of a god could stop.  If it came to it, I wonder about that, too.  Hariel, you seem quiet.  What bothers you?”

“Plenty.  How could it hide from my senses?  Irian, you’re stronger than a bear but nothing out here passes without my knowledge.  Surely I should have felt a disturbance in the feeding patterns out here…”

“I honestly don’t know the answer to that.  You’re the closest thing to the Green Man I think we’ll ever see, so if you can’t sense it, we need another way to tell where it is.  Ssanyu, what could you tell by the tracks?”  It was evident that Irian was becoming agitated by both the creature and their lack of being able to account for it.  If it was here, they were almost on top of his childhood home.  How had his parents known about it?  He couldn’t remember-the surrounding memories were too difficult.

“Large, but used to moving lightly anyway.  It’s like it’s sneaking.  I don’t know your fyrdraca, but I know something possibly like it.  We call it emela-ntouka.  It lives in lakes, but you never see it come or go, but you know if you’ve angered it.  It can kill elephants if it wants, so we would be nothing to it.  Does this sound similar?”

“Yes and no.  How does it hunt?  Claws, teeth, what?”

“A large horn on its face, with which it impales what offends it.  Its claws are worth little more than to grip the dirt when it’s out of the water, and it tears what it wants from its prey with its teeth or swallows it whole.”

“There’s a difference then.  These are much like cats hunting, if cats had six legs and were somehow able to manipulate fire.  Also if cats were as large as our ship.”

“I take it you mean the wingless ones, the ones that excel at hunting.”

“Yes, exactly.”

“Then I see why you broke off the hunt.  We should try somewhere else then.  This will make a decent night’s meal, and we need the ship’s information on what’s out there.  I think we could track it with its machines, correct?”

“I believe so.  And as I understand, your people are excellent with calculations as well.”

“We are, and we are proud of it.”

“Rightly so, I think.  Will you help me locate it?  I think I have a use for it yet.”

“Your idea interests me.  I have seen a bit of the computers of the ship, but I had hoped to examine them further.”

“Why not put them at your command?  I’ll show you what you need to know.  I think I could use another mind with some of these problems anyway.  We’ll need to hurry though, I’d rather this meat didn’t spoil.  Terrible waste of an elk.”

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 6:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapter Eighty-Five: That’s No Deer

“The tracks lead this way.”

“That they do.”

“So where are you going, strange one?”

“Watch.”

Irian jumped straight up twelve feet to an overhanging branch and motioned for the others to hide themselves.  It was well he did, because even with their aether-charged bodies they were stunned by Irian’s new ability.  Just as they hid themselves, a gigantic elk passed under the branch Irian was sitting on.  Irian calmly balled up his fist and knocked in the top of the elk’s skull.  The massive animal, all 12 feet of its rack first, crashed to the ground.  Ssanyu hissed in surprise, a short, quick sound that startled the two men still watching.  He was not blessed by Cernunnos, but he could down an elk barehanded?  Hariel felt small and weak in the face of Irian’s new abilities, even though he knew that in reality he wasn’t far off his prowess-and Irian had those artificial limbs.  Huntsman Himself, he thought, he’s looking more and more like them.  Hariel had seen animals with melds like Irian’s, though no humans.  He didn’t want to see a human with melds like Irian’s if he had anything to say about it.

Irian observed their slack-jawed aping, and shouted at them, “it’s not all that special.  No feeling, and the fun tricks are all voice-operated.  At least I think they are.  I think I’m spotting some features that weren’t in the spec.  I’m sure they’ll be something I just don’t need, or even better they’ll fall apart when I need them.”

“You said tricks?  What tricks can an arm do?”

“Raise your hammer, Thor.”

“All right, but I see no point in attacking you.”

“Too right, but watch this.  Airgeadlamh, shield function!”  A glittering liquid poured out of the arm, solidifying into a buckler on Irian’s metallic arm.  The edge glowed an intense blue.

“Swing at me.”

“More the fool I am…”  Thor swung.  The shield vibrated, then a hairline crack threaded its way across it.  “Ha! A telling blow.  You see, you got soft in that chair, Irian.”  He swung the hammer back to his side.  “Fancy, that arm.  I’ll take my hammer any day.”

“Even when I do this?  Airgeadlamh, retract.”  The shield flowed back from whence it came.  Crack was gone, no visible sign of damage.  “Interesting thing I learned about in the ship’s records.  Apparently they called the stuff ‘nanotechnology.’  Works well enough for me.”

Ssanyu had had enough of the show-and-tell session.  She hefted the elk over her shoulder and made her way out of the clearing in search of more tracks.  She was tired of fish, even if they weren’t.

She hadn’t walked twenty feet, however, when she saw a massive scrape across the landscape.  She whistled for the others to join her, when Irian said, “Leave that be!  I know that mark.  Hunt’s over.  So are we if we don’t vacate the area very, very quickly.”

“Is this what I think this is?”  Hariel shifted his blade from shoulder to shoulder.

Fyrdraca.

“I’m getting out of here.  You can stand about or you can join me.”

Thor seemed nonplussed.  “We wiped them all out, right?”

“Not here we didn’t.  And that’s a big one, from the size of the mark.  Time to go.”

Ssanyu wasn’t impressed.  “Wiped what out?”

“Something I hope you never see close up.  Or if you do, may you be at peace with your gods when you do.”

She hoisted the elk back over her shoulder, and they made a retreat toward the ship.

Deep in the undergrowth, something hungry watched her.  Something large and hungry.

Published in: on May 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Chapter Eighty-Four

A few days later, Irian was perched on the rigging, enjoying the air.

“Get down, what if you fall!”  Namid’s voice rang out across the deck.  Even unmarried seamen knew the tone of voice she was using.  “We’re not replacing your arm again!”

Irian laughed and climbed down.  His confidence was coming back with the new limbs.  The ship was in sight of land, and they were getting ready to go hunt, since everyone was tired of fish.  With no major activity in their part of the world, everyone was less on guard.

Thor and Hariel were already on deck.  They were joined by a tall, thin woman with ebony skin and a shaved head.  In her right hand she carried a short but rather sharp-looking spear.

“Irian, this is-”

“My name is Ssanyu.  You are this Irian I hear about.  Lay about and drink and do genius things with computer.  We all hear about it.  I think you go soft.”

The crew was collectively holding their breaths.

“Well then, if you feel that way, the largest animal back to the ship wins.  Thor, Hariel, do you want in?”

They both shook their heads.  Clearly, this was between them.  Both seemed fine with the thought.

“I think they’re afraid.  I am not afraid of you, metal man.  We kill many of your kind, another is no problem.”

“I don’t know what you mean, I’m from this Earth.  Erinna, we call it-you would probably know it as Ireland.”

“You, from here?”  She made a noise of derision.  “Where the arm from, then?  Or the leg?”

“I was injured.  James had them built to help me.”

“Well, you look like the ones from somewhere else.  Where is your weapon?”

“The last I checked, under a hundred feet of water.  I have my hands, though.”

“Hands, hah.  And what of a beast?”

“They’ll do.  Mayhap I’ll find something along the way.  If not, I’ll make myself something.”

“I think you are a fool.  A brave fool, but a fool.  But I like you.  We will work well together.”

The crew released the breath they weren’t aware they were holding.

“I’m glad you think so.  The two behind you were getting nervous, though.  Did you beat them up?

Behind her, one shook his head while the other nodded.

“That answers that, then.  You two, as well.  We’ll hunt better as a team.  Even the deer are strange now.”

Published in: on September 15, 2011 at 5:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapter Eighty-Three

James stood in the doorway of their shared cabin.

“Did he tell you about rummaging in the pantry while you were out?  We’ll have to put ashore to get more food,as he spilled a good amount of what we have getting that mouse.  Would that he didn’t have those wings.  We can’t catch him since he flaps off when he’s caught himself one.”

“Well, friend, it sounds like you need some shore leave to stretch your wings.  As do I-though Manadwydan may have blessed me, he didn’t give me fins.”

“Well, that makes three of us,” Namid interjected.  “I’m well tired of fish.  I could stand to do some hunting.”

“Last I checked, you’ve been removed form active duty.  I’ll consult the healers to see if we can allow that, but I do believe Irian would be up to the task.  How do you feel, by the way?”

“He feels like death, right?”  Elanor wheeled into the room, carrying a small red-faced bundle.  She held it close as she wheeled over to Irian.  “It’s hard to believe, but you were right.  The nerves and blood supply were enough.  But you’ll hurt for a long time while you’re getting used to it.  Bother me not, I’m in your cursed chair.  I simply came to check on my patient.”

“And to show off your daughter, I see.”

“And what of it?  I think she’s a marvelous accomplishment.”

“I agree completely.”

Irian stood up.  There was no trace of weakness in his stance.  “Then it’s settled.  We go ashore.  Where are Thor and Hariel?”

“They haven’t made it in yet.  They’re in meeting with the newest member of our mutant family.”

“She’s right there in Elanor’s arms.”

“I meant the new strategist we brought aboard.  We think there’s hope in Africa.  A place to make a stand, to make sure humanity isn’t overrun.”

“So I take it our new recruit is from Africa, then?”

“Yes.  You’ll meet her soon.  In fact, a little shore leave together might help you two bond.”

“I do have a question for you, though.”  Elanor leaned close to tap the arm’s silver layer.  “Why silver?”

“Two reasons.  The first is cleanliness-silver kills most bacteria, or so your data told me.”

“And the second?”

“Prince Nuada’s favored weapon is an arm made of silver called Airgeadlamh.  Seemed a fitting name, as I’m left handed.”

“You say it as though it’s a fact.”

“Dragons.”

“Maybe we should feed you to it.”

 

Published in: on September 15, 2011 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapter Eighty-Two: Aes Sidhe, Aes Sidhe…

Somewhere in the fog of drugs, Irian saw sunlight.

Unfortunately, he may as well have been hung over when he opened his eyes-the painkillers were as rough as the usqueba he kept on hand for these headaches.  He stumbled out of bed, found the door to the privy, and did his business, then wandered back outside in the same fog.  It was only when he wiped his eyes and realized that one hand felt different than the other that he realized that he had two arms and two legs again.  He also realized that they hurt like fire, and set himself to looking for the jug of poitin he had been working through.

After ten minutes of searching, he decided to wake Namid to ask her where it was.  The headache was getting worse.  He shook her gently.

“Not now you idiot, I’m trying to sleep.”

“Namid, where’s my alcohol?”

“Irian’s gonna kill you if you drink it all, Thor.”

“That explains that.  So is it all gone then, love?”

“Who are you calling ‘love’ anyway?”

“My wife.  Open your eyes, Namid.”

Irian sat beside her on the bed, stroking her hair with his natural arm.  He looked like he’d gone a few rounds with the basilisk again.  But there he was, able to move on his own.

“You’re finally awake!”

“Well, exactly how long was I out?  Long enough to be out of alcohol, I see.”

“You’ve slept long enough that we didn’t think you would wake up.  We finally started feeding you through a tube.”

“I don’t see any tube.”

“It interfaces with your back now.  Interesting little thing.”

“So how long was that, exactly?”

“Long enough that Elanor had a girl.  We think the stress of running the assemblers did it.”

“Bet Hariel’s proud.”

“He had to be dissuaded from toting her around the ship showing her off.”

“And everyone else?”

“Ouray has handled my duties.  Musashi locked himself in his quarters, and we’ve smelled incense, which is prohibited on Ship, but you know him.  James continues to examine the course of the ship, and to try and figure out our next course of attack.  And Thor has taken up with a strange person talking strategy and battle.”

“Strange?”

“Her skin is black as coal, and she has no hair!”

“Ah, they took my advice then.”

“Your advice?”

“Africa has been cut off from the rest of the problems of the world.  It’s a fresh viewpoint on our problems.  Plus, aether touched there just like everywhere else.”

“Forgive me, I’ve just never seen anyone like her.”

“Few have.  I don’t know her, I just know of her people.  There’s talk they were close to computers when the Harvest arrived.  Certainly, they’re more than able to work our machines-and improve them as well.  I was afraid they’d withdraw into their borders and leave us to our fate.”

“So what now?”

“I’m starving.  And where’s Cairbre?”

“I’ll call for food, and I don’t know.  He moped for days when they brought you back.  I hope he’s all right.”

“We’d better find him.  He’s trouble.”

“You’re telling me, I had to chase him for more than a month!”

And, true to form, Cairbre was off getting into trouble.  The TALLREDONE was hurt, and he wouldn’t wake up, no matter how hard he purred.  The TALLBROWNONE wasn’t leaving him, so someone could watch him if he went looking for help.  The fact that Cairbre was a kittychicken, and not a doctor, was completely lost on him.  He knew what would wake the TALLREDONE up-a crunchywarmfood!  It always got him out of the sunbeam and nosing through the cabinets!

Cairbre, following that train of thought, was currently banging around inside the pantry.  Every time he thought he had it, it found a new place to hide.  Just as he caught it, a familiar set of hands reached in the cabinets and grabbed him.  He was covered in flour from ears to stump of talk, but he caught the crunchywarmfood for TALLREDONE.  As if the universe nodded agreement, the set of hands deposited him into the room he shared with them.  He exploded in a cloud of flour, fur, feathers and squawk when he saw Irian awake.  He shed flour everywhere as he flapped over to Irian’s shoulder and perched there.  He dropped the crunchywarmfood into his lap and looked at him as if to say, “I KNEW this would wake you up!”

Irian scratched the strange creature under the chin.  “Well, old friend, are you trying to fatten me up?  How about you take the mouse, and I’ll order us some tea?  Much has changed, and we need to discuss it all.  Yes, yes, I know, I have to get your report first.  What can you tell me that I’ve missed?”

“Squawk!”

Published in: on July 28, 2011 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapter Eighty-One

Elanor bent over the panels of the assemblers.  Each one took matter, ripped it into subatomic particles, and reassembled it into the element and shape needed.  Hence the name “assembler”.

Trouble was, it took a lot of raw material to get something like that going, and the process got wasteful.  Seawater just did something to the assembler innards as well, so though they were surrounded by matter, most of it didn’t work.   Paper scraps, rope ends, tar, and netted fish had all been dumped into the assemblers to get them going.  Wasn’t any worse than when they geared up to leave their Earth and diverted sewage flow into the ones they had assembled on the sly.

Irian was sleeping on the table as the first assembler swung into place.  Its job was to create the neural and vascular connections that the limbs would need to gain power and control.  It was a risky proposition, and likely to hurt for a long time afterwards, but it would give him full use immediately, and not years from now.

As the machine spooled up and began to spin nerves another hummed to life and began creating a new shoulder joint.  It would be interfaced directly into bone, and the bone around it would have to be reinforced.  This work Elanor did as the machines quietly pieced together the machinery that made it all possible.  She worked in concert, testing each link as it was assembled, checking the math they had all worked repeatedly in the weeks since the accident.   Each one she checked was perfect.

As the two machines hummed around the table, a third machine hummed in the corner.  Every so often she would check it, test a part, and tell it to keep going.  It was a part of this, and yet it wasn’t.  What it did would keep, for now.

Layer by layer, myoelectric fibers built up artificial muscles, layered on bones of complex ceramics.  Tubes to connect the fibers to his aether-rich blood snaked through like blood vessels, though these required their own pumps to return to the bloodstream.  A scrubber was installed on his shoulder blade to clean the incoming blood.  She made modifications to both collarbones to support the weight of the artificial arm-while it wasn’t much heavier than his real one, it was enough to unbalance him.

As she set the assemblers to run the final layers of ceramic and aether glass armor over it, she couldn’t help but wonder about the composition of it.  She understood the armor, and the glasses, but over many of the plates was a thin layer of aether-alloyed silver.  Tough, thin, and bright as the sun n the water.  It didn’t make any sense.

She didn’t truly pay it much mind, though.  She still had his leg to attach, though that was a lot simpler to accomplish.  It didn’t need as much effort-the assemblers had already been programmed while she was doing his arm.

Many hours, a pot of coffee, and three trips for extra raw mass later, she undid the straps that held Irian to the table, and Thor and Hariel moved him into his bed.  Elanor administered a last dose of painkillers, and Namid tucked him into bed and made herself ready to wait on him to awaken.  Nothing more could be done now except to wait for what happened when he finally opened his eyes.

 

In the darkness of the abandoned operating room, the three assemblers worked in concert on a dimly lit stand.

Published in: on July 28, 2011 at 4:18 am  Leave a Comment