Rogue Wave

Part 10

Dev sat quietly in her seat, all her prechecks done, waiting for her passengers to finish boarding and settle into their seats in the carrier.  She relaxed and folded her hands across her stomach, watching the activity outside in the landing bay as the other two carriers prepared to depart as well.

There would be no light fliers this time, just the carriers, and the gear they needed to complete their mission.

Jess was already seated in the gunner station, wearing her hoodie and work pants, with a serviceable hand blaster hanging at her hip. Behind her were Keko and Kevin,  Doctor Dan, Security Mike, and one of Mike’s lieutenants who had a old school long gun cradled in his hands.

At her side, Brent was seated in her jumpseat, looking pale but well, his hands resting on his knees.  He glanced at her. “Hurry up and wait, like always, huh?”

Dev grinned a little bit. “Yes.” She admitted. “I think we are just waiting for Chester to reset a mod, and then we should be ready to go.” She regarded him. “Did you get good rest?”

He nodded. “That’s some comfortable beds they got.” He said.  “Better than med. Got me a good sleep in.” He tapped his thumbs on his kneecaps. “Better than base.” He added after a brief pause. “Less yakkin.”

The overhead announcements.  Dev nodded in agreement. “Yes, they don’t use them here, just local comms.”

“Like it.” Brent concluded.

“I as well.” Dev saw the status lights shift on one of the neighboring carriers.  “Jess, we are now prepared to depart.” She sat up and tightened her restraints, switching on the flight beacons and watching as their reflection blared across her landing pad.

Siddown and strap in.” Jess ordered, pulling her restraints on over her head and fastening them. “This ain’t a transport.” She looked around warningly at the rest of them.

The order wasn’t really needed as her passengers were already getting ready to go, settling into the bare metal seats that had been installed and tightening the hastily rigged retaining belts without any hesitation.  The security lieutenant propped his long gun against the sidewall, and attached it’s woven plas strap to one of the cargo holds to keep it in place.

Then most looked up and around in bright eyed expectation, as though ready to enjoy a treat.  Only Dan Kurok met Jess’s eyes with a look of wry amusement, folding his arms over his chest and leaning back.

Dev sealed the hatch and ran the engine prestart as the doors to the landing bay were shoved open and the darkness of the very early morning appeared ahead of them.  The rumble of energy surrounded them, mixed with the faint rustle of the Bay chop outside.

Brent pulled on his restraints, and locked them in. “Feels kinda weird.” He muttered.

Dev finished reporting her flight plan to Bay ops, then turned off her mic. “Going to the base?”

Raidin it.” He said, wryly.

Dev glanced in the reflective surface over her station, and confirmed her passengers were all secure, then she boosted up on the landing jets ready to start for the exit. “The first day or so were very strange.” She admitted. “But now I think I am all right with it, as utilizing material left behind seems both useful and correct.”

“Before someone else does, yeah.” Brent had to agree. “Just feels weird.” He braced back against the floor as the carrier drifted forward, responding to Dev’s deft touch on the controls. “Guess I’ll get over it.”

They emerged into the outer curve of the Bay and Dev took them out over the calm waters, the fleet nose to pier along the far wall, and the navigation floats small and lightly bobbing underneath them.  It was hours until dawn, but there were already power craft moving across the water, heading for the entry to the docking caverns.

“Bay operations, this is Bay Flight, we are preparing to depart.” Dev glanced to her right and left as the two other carriers drifted out and formed up with her. “We will be traveling at speed.”

“Bay Flight, we got cha.” Bay Operations replied in their usual casual tone. “Got booms coming.”

“Yes.” Dev switched to the sideband. “Mark 10, depart.”  She spooled up the engines and boosted skyward, arching up over the top of the Bay cliffs and then curving out to sea, leaving the night work lights and the boats behind, accelerating past the speed of sound in a smooth surge with the two other craft on either side.

It was a mostly quiet flight.  Jess was leaning back in her seat with her hands folded over her stomach, and the rest stayed in their seats, watching the darkness going back out the curved nose window in front of Dev, the rumbling sound of the carrier’s engines vibrating the metal skin.

Winds had come down, and it was an easy flight for Dev.  “Thirty minutes to target.” She murmured into the sideband link between her and the other two carriers.

“Ack.” Chester responded.

“Ack ack.” Doug echoed him.  “Met’s a go.” He added. “Storm offshore but heading east.”

Dev was glad of the wind sheer dropping.  She’d worked out a script to sync the three carriers in their effort to lift the massive door but the weather was still a factor, as enough fluctuations would make impossible to keep the giant panel steady, and things could get suboptimal quite quickly.

But so far, so good. “Vector twenty, mark.” Dev spoke quietly, a short time later, as they cruised at speed over the ruffled surface of the sea below them.

“Ack.” Doug responded.

“Ack.” Chester echoed. “We crossed over a group of three fishing vessels, heading southwest.” He said. “No alerts.”

Jess let her head rest against the back of her chair, watching the scan return screens on her boards. So far everything was clean.  There were no returns or echoes, nothing being picked up landside as they skimmed over the water towards the Base.

The ocean surface below them was empty, and ahead of them she could already see the curve of the promontory range that came right down to the sea, and the crash of waves against it that would take them along the curve of the walls to where Base 10 was.

They were within scan range.  Sensors hadn’t picked up any returns, and there were no hails.  But that really meant nothing, Jess knew.  Someone could be in there, just waiting for them, not stupid enough to advertise that, but aware of them because they were actively scanning.

Double edged sword.  Jess had considered going in scanner blind, but given they were flying at night, the risk had been deemed worth it, and so here they were, three bright beacons of signal in a coastal wasteland for anyone to see who could.

At ten minutes out, she straightened up a little in her seat. “Devvie, give me some juice.” She glanced forward, catching the reflection as Dev looked up and at her and their eyes met in the mirror over her head.  Then her boards came live and she reached up to take hold of the triggers, pulling them down and settling her fingers.

“Trouble?” Doctor Dan said, from his seat near the hatch.

“Maybe I want to make some.” Jess responded with a brief grin. “Just pays to be ready.” She turned up the targeting arrays, and watched the wiremap draw, the carrier recognizing its surroundings and coding in the sounding buoys and nav markers that marked the approach to the base.

“Automatic signal received. “ Dev reported. “It’s on repeat, as it was the last time, Jess.”

“See it.” Jess swung her head slowly right and left, taking in all the metrics, comparing them to what she remembered from the last time they’d approached, opening her instincts up as Dev made the banking turn in towards the shore.

The Base escarpment was mostly dark.  There were external halons on at the sea-level viewing platform where a year and ten thousand lifetimes ago she’d shown Dev the sea for the first time, and as they got closer, they could see the landing bay door hanging open as it had been, the worklights left on inside reflecting out at them.

“Zero output.” Dev said. “Scan shows systems still offline, no returns on energy exchange, no local signals.”

“Huh.” Brent was watching over her shoulder. “Man, that’s creepy.”

“Yes.” Doctor Dan was leaning forward, studying Jess’s screens. “That it is.”

“Stand by for approach.” Dev told the two other carriers. “We are active armed.”

“That should scare em.” Jess remarked.

“That was sideband, Jess.”

“I know.” Jess snickered. “I was talking about the kids. They’ve seen me aim.”

That broke the somewhat somber silence.  “All right. Let’s get a move on.” Security Mike said, with a chuckle.  “No sense trying to find a wave where there aint none.”

“Max would tell ya, never turn your back on the sea.” Jess chuckled softly, watching the targeting scan intently. “It’s the rogue wave you never see coming.”

Dev came flight even with the opening and then slowed their forward momentum, focusing every scanner she had on the landing cavern and its surroundings as she made her approach to the opening.  The crippled door was just as they’d left it, and there were no biological returns on any level, save birds in the cliff face, and deep below, some fish.

Aware of Jess’s live weapons prickling around her Dev cautiously entered the docking cavern, feeding everything her intake was getting into the targeting scan for Jess’s review.   She took a fast full visual scan, then compared it. “There have been changes since our last entry.” She stated. “Tac 2, Tac 3, remain in pattern, do not enter”

“Ack.” Chester and Doug answered together.

Everyone jerked a little. “What changes?”  Jess asked, her fingertips twitching a little.

“Boxes that were on the ramp are missing.” Dev slowed now to a standstill, the carrier hovering in midair, her hands on the controls, ready to shoot them into reverse. “There is debris near the lift station.” She added. “There is energy dispersal in the surrounding underlying ground coverings.”

“Scavengers.” Jess concluded. “Someone’s in here mooching.”

“Yeah.” Doctor Dan murmured. “That’s how I read it. Those were crates of rations that we left behind, on the assumption nothing here was going to be appreciated back at the Bay.”

“Any life signs, Dev?”

“No.” Dev shook her head. “A seagull has made a nest in the corner of the instrument loft. But it is empty at this time.”

“Okay, so tell everyone be careful.” Jess said. “If there were scavengers here, there might be more after they bring back some haul.   Go ahead and land on the top platform, Dev. Keep the guns pointed down that slope to the lower entry.”

“Yes.” Dev passed the orders along on sideband, then she slid the carrier sideways while rotating it neatly in position, landing it on the platform Jess had indicated with its nose pointing towards the ramp. “I think we should proceed with our tasks as quickly as possible.”

“Something you see?” Jess paused halfway standing, her restraints released.

“No.” Dev unclipped and got up, removing her work pack from the back of her chair and sliding it onto her shoulders.” I just think it’s a good idea.”  She handed a second pack to Brent. “We will start with your vehicle.”

“Rock on, Rocket.” Brent took the pack and slid it over his shoulders. “Never thought I’d be so glad to see that old damn bus.”

Jess undogged the hatch. “We should stay just in the cavern.” She said. “Lets just get done what we need to get done.”

No one argued, and Jess didn’t expect them to.  She followed them all out of the carrier as the other two set down nearby and paused to step to one side and expose her own senses to the air in the large space, breathing in with both her nose and mouth and tilting her head to one side to listen.

Dev was already off the platform with Brent at her heels, and as they passed the platform April’s carrier had landed on Doug hopped out and leaped off to the ground to join them, a toolpack on his hip.

Doctor Dan stood quietly next to Jess, his eyes scanning the inside of the bay.  “The game is afoot.” He commented cryptically. “Though I think your guess about scavengers is right, Jess. There are three large containers missing, but they are all consumables.”

“Not mech.”

“No.” Doctor Dan pointed. “That cabinet there, it was too big for us to carry onboard, but it’s got stacks of useful parts. Wasn’t touched.” He half turned. “Lads, lets get those plasma cutters put together, all right? Up there on the ledge, so we can cut through that lower track.”

“Yes, Doctor Dan. We understand.” Kevin waved at him, as he and Keko joined the bios and mechs from the other two carriers and began removing the sections of cutter that had been stored inside.

Doctor Dan tipped his head back and looked at the ceiling. “Now this, on the other hand.”

“Yeah. That’s gonna be a bitch.” Jess stood next to him with her hands on her hips. “Gonna have to go in sections.”

Kurok sighed. “I’d say it’s idiotic, but it’s a damn good idea and I’ve thought of so many bloody useful things we can do in that back section now I don’t want to let go of it.”

“Ah. We’ll figure it out.” Jess dismissed the challenge, surprised when Kurok started laughing.  “What?”

Doctor Dan let the chuckles run down. “Echo from the past.” He patted her shoulder.  “I’ll go give Dev a hand. I want to see that routine she wrote in any case.” He turned and made his way down the steps from the platform and headed towards the other side of the bay.

Jess remained in her elevated position, slowly scanning the inside of the bay from side to side as the crews dispersed, the bio alts hauling the cutter up to the opening level and Security Mike roaming a slow perimeter of the cavern with his long gun, his lieutenant going counter to him on the other side.

Chester was inside his carrier, watching scan, while Mike sat on his guns, it’s landing pad providing a good view of the inside of the landing bay, all as they’d planned.

It was as safe as it was going to get, Jess considered.  Maybe they would get lucky. She scanned the interior again, making note of the shadows, and the echoes coming to her ears, and the scents surrounding them to make an imprint in her head.

A motion caught her eye, and she looked up to spot a seagull gliding in, coming to land on the nest Dev had spotted. She watched the bird turn and settle down in the sea wrack at the corner of the shelving structure, opening and closing it’s beak as it looked back at her.

Didn’t take long.  Jess looked away and suppressed a grin. Not for nature or scavengers. They saw an op, they took it.


Dev was sitting on the platform cross legged, the carrier umbilical draped over her shoulder, concentrating on her handheld scanner.  She tuned the signal she was observing again, then she looked up thoughtfully at the carrier, before she made an adjustment.  “Please attach this.” She shrugged the umbilical a little.

Doug was there first, lifting it off her and crawling under the front landing skid, ducking around and pausing. “Straight in?”

“Yes.” Dev shifted one of the clamps from the other end of the umbilical leading to her scanner and made another adjustment. “It’s a bit tricker than yours was.”

“Okay.” Doug pushed the connector in, while Brent crouched at Dev’s side and reviewed her screen. “Cause of that mod we did, right?” He gave the connection a twist. “It’s in.”

“Yes.” Dev tapped quickly on her screen and recompiled the routine she’d designed. “This will require some revision.”

“Have you rerouted the security probe?” Doctor Dan was kneeling behind her, watching over her other shoulder. “Ah, yes you have. Very clever.”

Dev smiled but kept her eyes on her screen. “I have record of the ops codes.” She said. “So, I am just using one of those, and the carrier expects it.”

“It sounds so easy, right?” Doug said, with a mock sigh.

“Well really, when you have the central code repository, everything is rather easier.” Doctor Dan remarked. “The clever bit is to realize you need it and capturing it before you don’t have access to it any longer.” He patted Dev’s back. “Well done, Dev.”

“Thank you.” Dev redirected the response she had just crafted to the carrier’s control systems and paused, glancing aside at it. “However, we should wait to see if this is functional before the work is approved.”  After a moment, the sound of the locking mechanism for the hatch cycled. “Brent, please try to access.”

“Yup. Heard that.” Brent reached out and touched the side of the carrier, and after a second, the hatch lifted up and swung aside, revealing the inside of the vehicle. “Sweet.” He got up off his knees and climbed into the carrier. “Home sweet home.”

“Yes.” Dev got up onto her knees.  “Now is the difficult bit on the inside.”

“Brain transplant time.” Doug lifted his kit. “Lets go.”

They moved into the carrier behind Brent. “Please don’t touch any controls.” Dev warned. “It might get suboptimal.”

“It might blow up.” Doug translated. “Which would be a bummer.”

“It would, indeed.” Doctor Dan removed a hand light from his pocket and moved around so he could see the control panel main access. He twisted the light on and directed it at the panel Dev was settling in front of. “Astonishing how they really have not changed much in these things.”

Dev took out a set of retractors and attached a probe to the panel. “I think the mods have altered.” She tuned her scanner. “They have several times just in my participation time here.”

“Well yeah, you altered yours.” Doug said. “So you should know.” He gave Dev a slight nudge along her shoulderblade. “Don’t be so modest.”

Dev cleared her throat slightly.

“I certainly hope they’ve changed since my time.” Doctor Dan said. “But where they put them hasn’t, apparently.” He edged over a bit so he could get a better look at Dev’s screen. “Though really, would it make sense to move things around? If someone’s in here opening panels you’ve got big problems to start with.”

“True that.” Brent grunted. “Anyway, guess they thought the stuff they got back west is a lot better than these are. S’what they said.” He glanced at all of them. “Cause I asked, y’know?  Why they’d said to just leave em.”

“We all asked.” Doug said, sourly. “Assholes just laughed at me.”

“This was the pointy end of the spear. Why hadn’t they sent the new ones out?” Doctor Dan asked, leaning on one elbow with his back pressed against the pilots console.  “It’s been the battlefront for a damn long time. Leaving these old piles out here makes no sense.”

Brent just shook his head. “Scam.” He said, briefly. “S’what Jase kept saying. Some scam.”

“That’s what April figured.” Doug handed Dev a probe, as she delicately shifted the frequencies she was balancing. “After they told us, that night.”  He scratched the side of his nose, watching the screen. “Just felt like a play, you know?”

“Yes. That occurred to me too, after I had a moment to stop cursing at the stupidity of it all.” Doctor Dan said, slowly. “Ah, there you go Dev.” He saw the sine wave coalesce. “Very nice.”

Dev quickly sent her instruction set into the command mod in the carrier, releasing it from stasis and unlocking the retaining panel. It thunked and popped out, exposing the mod to her and she clipped the probe to it. “Excellent.”  She pulled up the changes she’d put in her own and the other carriers and started to reprogram the internal brain of the vehicle, chewing the inside of her lip a little.  

“Right.” Doctor Dan nodded. “I think I’ve got the idea.” He clipped the light to the side of the pilots seat and got up. “Let me go see if get started on the next one in line.” He dusted his hands off. “Or maybe go across the way, hm? In case I goof up.” He winked at them and stepped around Doug on the way to the hatch of the carrier.  “No sense in blowing us all up, now is there?”

“That’s nuts.” Doug watched him hop off the platform and disappear. “But hey if it gets us outta here sooner… g’wan up in the saddle, Brent.  She’s almost done I recognize that much of it.”

Brent got up and went around the pilots seat, dropping into it.  “They’re jacked about Rocket.” He said, briefly. “Them suits. Had some big plan or something. They wouldn’t talk about it to us but they were all hot about you going west.”

Dev looked up at him. “Me?”

Brent nodded. “They told Jase they wanted to get you out of there. He told em they were idiots.” He pondered. “Maybe that’s what the mixup was on the transport… they were goin off to try and grab ya.”

Dev’s brows hiked up. “That would have been extremely non optimal.” She frowned.

Yeah no kidding. Especially for them.” Doug eyed her. “Jess would have whacked em.” He said. “Just for thinking about it.”

“Oh yeah for sure.” Brent nodded. “Dumb idea.”

Dev went back to her scanner and put in the final commands, shaking her head as she completed her task and told the mod to recompile. It spun through it’s new routine with no complaints and a moment later the internal systems of the carrier lit, and the boards starting coming online.  

She regarded the results. “I’m glad they decided to just exit.” She said, as Brent started checking in sequencing. “However if it was when they were preparing the transport, we were already in our carrier.” She concluded. “They would not have located us.”

“Jase told em they’d never find ya.” Brent reached over and removed the commset from it’s attachment on the console and slid it over his head in an automatic gesture. “Wish he hadn’t gone with em. Figured he could talk it down or somethin.”

“Not people that dumb.” Doug picked up the pack. “C’mon, Rocket. Let me carry your bag to that next bag of bolts over there. Faster we get done with these, faster we can get outta here before my partner gets any more crazy ideas to take the place over or finds some other honking humongous thing to swipe.”

He stepped down out of the carrier and went along the platform, appearing in the forward window on his way to the next one in line.

Dev closed up her scanner. “It should go through the standard routines.” She told Brent. “Ops is offline, but I restricted the umbilical to power only.”

“Heard that.” Brent was studying his readouts. “Looks reg.” He glanced at her. “Course it does.”

Dev grinned slightly in acknowledgement of the compliment. “I am glad you came with us. It’s excellent to have another person here who understands these vehicles.”

Brent looked at her for a long moment, then he grinned a little. “Yeah, I’m glad you let me come out.” He said. “Just wish I knew what the hell was goin on.”  He then admitted, making a vague gesture at the inside of the cavern around them. “Just feels weird.”

“Yes, it’s confusing.” Dev nodded. “However, I am confident we will figure it out.”  She slung her scanner over her shoulder and got up off the floor of the carrier, glancing up as the carrier rocked a little to see Jess entering. “Hello.”  She greeted her partner with a smile.

“Done?” Jess stuck her hands into her hoodie front pocket.  “You teach the doc how to do it? Saw him heading over to that next bus.”

Dev assumed a deprecating expression. “Doctor Dan watched me do this one, then went to take care of that vehicle.” She said. “I don’t think I taught him anything.”

Brent laughed shortly.

Jess moved over to stand next to Dev, tilting her head to avoid banging it on the ceiling. “They got one side of the track off already.” She said. “Figure another two hours and we’ll be ready to lift.”  She regarded Brent. “You up to flying point while we try this insanity?”

He nodded. “I’m all right.” He answered briefly. “Mike said he’d fly the back seat in case we need shootin.”

Jess grunted softly in agreement. “Yeah, we all are for the rest of the crates. More people who can fly these things than work the guns without blowing someone’s head off.”  She acknowledged.  “Like usual.” She paused and studied him. “Hey.”

Brent looked at her, in question.

“If you rather take off from here, and go west, you can.” Jess said, unexpectedly.  “No one’s gonna make you stay if you don’t want to.”

Dev’s brows lifted a little but she remained silent, watching her colleague with interest.

Brent looked at Jess for a very long minute, in equal silence. “I don’t want to go out to there.” He finally stated in a somewhat thoughtful tone. “Figure if it’s trouble, it’ll come here. We’ll find out what the scam is sooner or later.”  He glanced away then back up at Jess. “Anyhow I like your place.”

Jess just briefly grinned. “Yeah, me too.” She said. “Okay.”  She put a hand on Dev’s back. “Lets go, Devvie. Your buddies are waiting on the next one.”  Her eyes went back to Brent. “You want to go fly a rec, g’wan. Place is giving me itchy shoulderblades.”

Brent nodded. “Ack.” He turned back to his console. “Heard that.”

“Heard that.” Jess echoed softly as they stepped down from the carrier deck, looking down the line of craft that now showed additional lights on, returning a sense of life to the bay.  Overhead, the plasma cutters were working their way across the massive opening, lending the scent of ions and hot metal to the air.

All seemed to be going well. Jess walked alongside Dev as they headed for the next carrier.

Never a good sign.


Dev was on her back, her head up inside a console when a soft alarm went off on her scanner.  She quickly looked at it, keeping her hands in place on the component she was handling.  “Doug, please communicate there is a biologic reading approaching, multiple. From the shuttle landing platform outside.”

Doug was already on comms, one hand cupped over his ear. “Ack ack.” He chattered into it.  “We got company.”  He went to the door of the carrier. “Glad this is the last one.” He hopped outside, waving at April who was now racing across the cavern at top speed.

“I, as well.” Dev commented in an undertone, as she continued working on the console. “It would be optimal if they all functioned as intended.” She shifted position a little, and the small light at her temple moved to cover the integrated panel she was working on. “And if they did not have odd anomalies.”

Behind her, she could hear voices outside the carrier and she reached over and tuned comms, putting in on audible to hear what was going on.

“What we got?” April said to Doug as she arrived.

“People, coming in the shuttle landing pad. That door’s half open.” Doug said, half to her, half to the sideband channel.  

“Heading over.” Brent’s voice broke in. “S’all quiet round the rest of it.”

“That’s where they got in I figure.” April said. “Lets wait for .. there she is.”

Jess vaulted up from the lower level to the platform they were standing on. “Trouble?”

“Visitors.” April said. “Shuttle door.”

“Sure.” Jess said. “it’s the unsecured area.”

“Visitor’s entry in fact.” Doug agreed. “Brent’s coming over the top to check it out.  Dev said it was multiple targets.”

Lets go check it out.” Jess said. “Dev still wrenching? Stay here.” She instructed Doug, then waved everyone else off the grid and towards the ramp towards the inner halls, as Security Mike and his lieutenant arrived to follow.

“Sure.” Doug gave them a little wave. “You guys want to go play with Brent? Maybe there’ll be something to shoot at?” He told Chester, as that carrier’s flight beacons lit.  “We’re almost done here. Rocket’s on the last bus.”

“Ack.” Chester agreed. “Clear pad?”

Doug looked over at it. “Clear.”


Chester’s carrier lifted up on it’s landing jets and elevated to the level of the opening, then moved outbound, clearing the entry and moving into a fast bank upward.

Doug watched the vehicle disappear, then regarded the work site.  The doors had been fully separated from their track, and were balancing on the edge of the entry somewhat precariously, with the three lift points with their solid heavy rings welded on and waiting.  ‘Not sure repelling an attack on this old barn wont’ be easier than that lift.”

The plasma cutters had been carefully disassembled and stored, and the newly woken carriers were being checked over by their somewhat apprehensive, but eager pilots.  Doug walked down the line of them, stopping at one and sticking his head in. “You hear?”

Kurok was in the pilot’s seat, with a diagnostic panel open. “I did.” He said, looking back over his shoulder.  “Seems like the problem we all expected actually materialized. What fun.  Real trouble?”

Doug shrugged. “Depends on who and how many.  I’m guessing it’s probably not more than our peeps can handle.”  He glanced up at the doors.  “Worse comes to worse we can drop that on them and be done with it.”

“Mm.” Doctor Dan eyed the portal. “Well, let me make sure these are all ready to take off then.  Not that bad so far, but goodness these things do need some work.”

Doug nodded. “Yeah, it was rough getting anything for em.” He said. “But we had Rocket, so that was okay you know? Stuff we didn’t have she could make.” He paused. “She and Clint put their heads together and I figure they could make whatever.”

Doctor Dan smiled his gentle smile. “Yes, Dev is definitely a significant asset. I’m not surprised that Interforce realized that and offered her citizenship. “ He said. “And of course they wanted to remove her contracted bio alt ties so they could deal directly with her and not have all those legal ramifications around.”

Kinda scummy.”

“Not really.” Doctor Dan said. “Practical. I might have done the same myself in their place.” He wiped his hands of some silicon grease. “Except of course I am, or should I say was Dev’s contract holder and would have shot them if they’d really had a go at it.” He turned and headed back to the line of carriers, shaking his head a little bit. “Muppets.”

Doug smiled and turned back to the last carrier in the row. “Thanks for the heads up, Rocket.” He remarked as he entered it, picking up his own scanner and sitting down behind the pilot’s station. “The whole gang’s out there checking it out.”

“Yes, I heard the comms.” Dev said, her voice slightly muffled. “Whose vehicle was this?” She asked.

“This one?” Doug pondered the question. “Might have been… no,  I don’t really remember whose. It was one of the junk spares… oh. Wait.” He said. “Yeah, whatsisface was going to get it. You know, the jerk. He was bitching and bitching about what a piece of crap it was.”

“Hm.” Dev continued working. “I see.”

“He was messing with it the day we came back that last time.” Doug craned his head to look inside the panel. “Did he screw it up? Figures he would. Looked like the type. You know, thinks he knows more than he does.”

Dev removed a card, somewhat irregularly shaped, and with red gold leads traced across it. “Could you place that in a static container? I would like to look more closely at it later.”

Doug looked at the card, taking it from her and turning it over. “Looks kinda new.”

“Yes.” Dev inserted a mod from her vest pocket into it’s place. “Possibly it was brought with the new agents, since they came from locations with newer materials.” She fastened the mod down and activated it.

“Maybe.” Doug put the card into a carry bag and tucked it into Dev’s pack, hanging on the back of the pilot’s seat. “Yeah, maybe he brought it so he could show off.”  He tucked his ear bud more firmly into his ear, listening to the background chatter on comms. “Guess he’s back where he wanted to be now.”

“Possibly.” Dev finished the installation, and then pulled her scanner over and recompiled a routine.  “The controls are reset, I think this vehicle is now finally ready.” She slid out from the console and closed the access hatch, then boosted herself up into the pilot’s seat and triggered the startup sequence.  “Yes.”

“Great.” Doug reported the work done into the comms channel.  “Any luck out there?”

“Still hunting.” April answered tersely.  “Having to haul these doors open all the way down.” Behind her voice there was a screech of protesting metal.  “Brent, you see anything?”

After a moment, the comms crackled. “Just got down into the shuttle channel holy crap.” Brents voice came back. “There’s a crap ton of people here, with pallets and hand carts and I … hey they saw me.”

“Oh boy.” Doug looked at Dev, who had paused in mid motion and was listening. “That’s…”

“Non optimal.” Dev finished for him. “We should prepare to fly.” She got up and urged him out ahead of her. “Our vehicles might be needed.”

“Might be?”


“Knew it was too quiet.” Security Mike shifted his grip on his long gun, as they shoved open the main door leading to the shuttle entrance a little further on. “I can hear em.” He said. “Ain’t no sneaking around here going on.”

“Brent said it was a crap ton.” Jess mused. “That pads big.”

“Should we just go back for the rigs?” April asked. “Wide hallway out there.” She evaluated the space. “We could hold here but it’d be a pain.”

Jess paused as she shoved the door into its wall pocket, looking past it to the hallway beyond. “Yeah.” She said. She turned and looked back they way they came. “Lets shut this back up and wedge that table against it. Lemme go up and get Dev to get me a shot in that ingress.”

“We’re not gonna shoot no one?” Security Mike’s lieutenant sounded disappointed.  “We go a…ho watch it!”

Everyone ducked behind the doorframe save Mike, who dropped to one knee and lifted his gun, tucking the stock under his arm and bracing as he fired, the powerful projectiles thumping across the hallway as a line of bodies came rushing in at them.

Jess drew bead from her spot near the edge of the door and shot the gun out of the hands of the one closest to them, the second and third going down from Mike’s projectiles.

Todd, the security lieutenant, dropped to his belly and squirmed out into the line of fire,  propping his gun up as he leaned on his elbows and letting off a barrage. “Hah!” The fourth attacker went down in a crumple of shattered bone.

April got her blaster around the doorframe at Jess’s knee level and focused on the hallway beyond the initial surge, sending blasts against the wall to ricochet along the angle of the wall past the entrance, hearing yells and bangs in a flurry of panicked confusion.

“Hold on! Hold on!” A man’s voice yelled out. “Stop movin! Just stop! Ever’body stop! These ain’t scroungers.”

“Hah.” April muttered. “No we aint, jackasses.”

“Who’s in charge there?” Jess let out a bellow. “Who’s talking!” She repeated. “Identify yourself or you’re all gonna end up fish food.”

There were four bodies on the floor, and flickers of motion behind the corner in the hallway, and they could hear hear heavy breathing and soft cries of pain. Burnt flesh scent wafted through the hall. 

Then a tall, bearded man with curly light brown hair slowly came out from around the corner.  He was dressed in the common worksuit of a shore collector, waxy indeterminate color, thick knee high boots, and a heavy protective overjacket.

He had battered, worn fish pike pole in one hand, and a long knife in the other.  “Tom Weathers.” He said, with an almost arrogant jerk of his chin. “Who’s you?, yelling woman?” He added. “Whats you business doing in here?”

Jess stepped into the hallway to face him, holding her blaster with a casual, easy grip, the muzzle just touching her ear. “Jesslyn Drake.  I used to work here.” She studied the cluster of figures now edging out from behind the angle of steel to stare at her.  “As an enforcement agent, in case you were wondering if I knew how to use this.” She wiggled the weapon. “I do.”

Hold,  hold.” April was saying into comms. “Don’t blast anyone yet.”  She came around the doorsill and stood with her hand on her gun, staring dourly past Jess. “Yet.” She added with a humorless smile, as Security Mike and his lieutenant came to join them. “F’n civs.”

The shoreman shifted his grip on his pike. “Blackies.” He finally repeated. “Thought you all from here done left.”

“Not all of us.” April stated. “So what’s your game here, scraper?”

Two figures, a man and a women dressed in much patched, almost colorless coverings typical of those that lived outside came warily into view. “They left it open.  We look to take it for shelter.” The woman said. “Got a lot of us round here.” She added. “Lot of us brought stuff in here for them, so now what are we gonna do?”  She asked, “Nobody else to trade with. They didn’t let nobody settle near here.”

Jess lowered her blaster and put it back in it’s sling at her hip. “You take those cases of rat bars?” She asked Tom, in a crisp tone.  “We don’t want them back.” She said, when he hesitated. “Just want to know what the score is. We’re just here scavenging ourselves.”

The man who’d come around the corner looked at the ground. “They dead?” He looked up at them, a man dressed in the same clothing as Tom, with a long scrying knife belted to his waist. “You kill them?”

“We don’t shoot at no kneecaps where we come from.” Security Mike had gotten to his feet and come forward, cradling the long gun in one arm. “But you shoulda figured on that, busting your asses into a Interforce base and hauling on people you don’t even know without askin first.”

Thought some other gang’d moved in ahead of us.” Tom said, reluctantly. “Weren’t gonna let that go just like that an they said all you’d left.”  He added. “Weren’t no one here last time we came lookin.” He eyed them. “Cause we looked good around before we came on in.”

More of the intruders were now clustering into the hallway, filling it and the doorway to the shuttle pad that was braced wide open.  They were all carrying something that could be used in a fight, and were in heavy clothing, carrying sacks draped over their shoulders.

They all looked haggard.  Their skin was chapped and roughened, most had scrapes and old bruises on their hands, and they had a close on the edge of desperate look in their eyes that was at stark contrast to the four people holding the hall against them.

Comm crackled in Jess’s ear, just as she was about to answer. “Jess, It’s Dev.”

The voice tickled her, and she put on hand up to her ear to cup it. “Hey Dev. What’s up.” She stood braced in the middle of the hall, her eyes sweeping from side to side as she listened.

“We have a meteorological alert.  The front is arriving before we expected it.” Dev said. “I think we should perform this activity quickly.” There was a pause. “Is everything optimal there?”

Jess exhaled. “No.” She answered briefly. “But I’m not sure hanging around here’s going to make it any better.” She closed the channel.  “Weathers.” She addressed the man. “How many you got out there?”

The woman was the one who answered. “Bout five hundred.” She stared somewhat insolently at Jess. “All them folk who depended on this here place. Bet the likes of you didn’t know nothing about that.”

“Wasn’t our job to know that.” April shifted her grip on her gun. “So don’t be an asshole about it.”

Jess made up her mind. “Yeah, okay. Here’s a deal.” She said. “Bring em in. You all want to bunk in here, have at it.  We don’t want it.”

They eyed her suspiciously. “Could you stop us?” The woman asked suddenly. “You ain’t got so many people here. Why should we deal with ya?”

Jess grinned suddenly, and April laughed outright.

“You all are some stupid people.” Todd shook his head.  “Don’t mess with the Drake, yo?” He told the woman. “You want dead? You’ll get em, yah? That’s how we do it at the Bay.”

That seemed to click something, bodies shifted and almost instinctively April took a pace closer to Jess and lifted her gun.  Jess herself let her hand rest on her blaster and tensed, hoping they really weren’t going to have to shoot their way through five hundred scrapers on the cusp of a storm.

“The Drake?” Weathers asked, “Hold on. From that Bay? Thought you were inservice.”

Jess shrugged. “Before I ended up at Interforce, I came from somewhere, that somewhere was Drake’s Bay.” She said. “That’s where we’re going back to.  So you want to camp here? We want mech out of here, and we’ll be coming back for it. Leave it alone, the rest of the place – have at it. Deal?”

The woman came around him and already started looking around the hallway. “This real?”  She asked. “You ain’t fooling with us?” She stared sharply at Jess. “Ain’t a game?”

The sound of boots coming from inside the facility made both April and Jess turn, but the space behind them was soon filled with bio alts holding prybars, Dev with her scanner and Dan Kurok with a long gun cradled in both hands.

“Cavalry’s here.” Jess remarked in a wryly humorous tone. “Make up your minds, cause now you’re in real trouble.”

“Ah, hello.” Doctor Dan strolled in and came to stand between Jess and Security Mike. “My goodness, what have we here?”

“Civ.” Jess said, succinctly. “Scavengers who used this place as a dropoff.”

“I see.” Kurok studied the group. “That explains the missing supplies, hm?”

“I told em to camp out if they keep on eye on things for us.”  Jess concluded.   “What’s the met scoop, Devvie?”

Dev showed her the scanner screen.  “It’s a very large system.”  She explained to Tom, who had sidled over and was taking a glimpse at the device. “Its excellent that these people will be able to shelter here, Jess. But we need to lift now if you want to remove that door.”

“Right.” Jess said. “So you in with this?” She addressed Tom, and the man and woman who had confronted her.  Yes or no? We’re outta time.”

“Yeh.” The woman said, forestalling the other two.  Ain’t no real choice anyhow.”

Jess nodded and made a circling gesture with one finger to the rest of her group. “If you know how to tidal trap there’ s a cavern on level 5 down you can get catch out of.”  She told them briskly.  “I got bored with mess snacks.” She took Dev by the shoulder and turned her partner around, “Let’s go.”

She guided Dev out and Mike and April quickly followed with Todd walking backwards after them, watching everyone with a skeptical eye.

“That’s that, lads.” Doctor Dan told the sets. “Now lets get back to our ships, shall we?” He clapped Keko and Kevin on the shoulder. “Next time we stop by I’ll bring schematics of the place.” He told Tom, with a wink. “Not much is working here but the power, but it’s a lot drier than shore caves.”

Ain’t even got that here.” Tom said. “We just use plas.” He looked around. “Megan, lets get a move on.”  He told the woman. “Jesar, we can fix it up later on just get every’body under cover.” He looked at Kurok. “This all real? You from here too?”

Doctor Dan regarded him, the long gun still clasped in his hands. “Long story we don’t have time for right now.” He said. “Take it as it comes – I can tell you that was the Drake of Drake’s Bay, and she’ll do what she says she will.”  He ushered the bio alts out ahead of him.  “Do yourselves a favor and don’t poke her.”

The three scavengers watched them leave, heading up the long sloping hallway lit with a blare of piercing halon light.  “Don’t like it.” Jesar said. “Everybody knows that Bay place aint nothing but trouble.”

“What ain’t trouble?” Tom said. “Anycase we got shelter tonight at least. Lets get a move on it.”

“We do now got.” Megan agreed. “Lets see where it goes.”


“That a good idea?” April asked, as they made their way to the landing bay. “Letting those scroungers in here?” She walked along at Jess’s side as they crossed between halls, moving through the security doors they’d forced open.

“I don’t have time to kill all 500 of them.” Jess responded absently. “And it’ll piss off anyone who comes back here.” She led the way into the chamber and leaped up onto the nearest landing platform.  

“Point.” April conceded. “Could cause us a problem getting stuff out though.”

Jess glanced at her. “One of a thousand things that could cause us problems, and not the most lethal.” She glanced around at the walls. “And anyway, when you really don’t have a choice it’s always good to make it seem like you made one.”

April pondered that as she climbed up after her, then just chuckled under her breath, lifting one hand in a second,  visible concession and letting it drop. 

Then she turned her attention to comms, opening the sideband channel they’d kept open. “Scoop is, we’re moving.” She told the sideband that had Brent and Chester on it. “Get ready to get getting. Rocket says the weather’s goin skank.”

“Ack.” Chester responded. “I’m dropping down to let Mike off.”

“Ack.” April said. “Brent all good out there?”

“Ack.” Brent said. “Thought they were gonna start throwin rocks at me but its all right.” He said. “Was up over the pad just watchin, but on the way back over to that side now.”

“Got it. See ya.” April arrived at Jess’s side, next to her carrier.  “Who goes where? Those bios probably can just get these things airborne.”  She asked Jess. “Can’t do nothing tricky with em.”

The carriers around them were all lit up, lights flashing as they went through various startup testing, hydraulics pumping a little as they shifted on skids.   The air of the cavern was filled with offgassing, and the scent of warming metal.

Jess put her hands on her hips, looking around the cavern. “Yeah, leave Dev, Chester and Doug alone so no one’s messing with them.” Jess said. “They’re not going to be able to maneuver anyway.”  She watched Chester touch down, and Mike emerged from the carrier with his pack on his back.


Jess pondered. “You’re the best shot. You want to go with the doc? He can fly.” She suggested. “Might argue with ya though.”

“Think he’d rather have you.” April said, in a mild tone.

“Maybe, but he’ll argue with me too.” Jess’s eyes twinkled a little bit. “He knows I like to mess with him.”

“Truth.” April assented. “Let me sit backseat with Brent.  You go with the doc, put Mike in with.. what’s his name, that one that came from here. One of the K’s.”

Keko.”  Jess nodded. “Yeah he’s got the best shot at it. Flew light recon in those Killian class.”  The carrier she was standing next to suddenly shifted on it’s platform and it’s flight beacons flashed on, the soft rumble of the engine prestarts audible to them.  She stuck her head inside the hatch. “You ready to go, Devvie?”

Dev was in the pilot’s seat with her comms kit on, her boards lit on either side and the front windscreen slid back to give her a good view.  She turned her head to look at Jess. “Yes.” She said. “We are prepared. Doug has exited into position.”

Jess stepped back and patted the hatch. “G’wan, Rockstar. We’ll meet ya back at the Bay.”  She saw Dev still watching her.  “Be careful, huh?”

Dev smiled. “You as well.”  She replied. “I will miss having you here.”

Jess only just prevented herself from climbing onboard. It was a weird and uncontrolled feeling that should have been profoundly uncomfortable and yet was not. “Awww.” She finally managed to get her tongue untied. “Thanks.” She ducked outside and stepped back. “Clear.”

The hatch sealed, and both Jess and April retreated from the craft and then jumped off the platform to get out of the way as Dev took off, sliding sideways to clear the rest of the landing areas and then moving forward and through the opening in the wall.

Outside they could see the cloudy sky, still dry, but darkening in the north, and the winds were starting to pick up, bursting fitfully through the bay and blowing debris around them.

Lets go.” Jess watched the carrier disappear and then return in the sky.  “Before it gets wild.”

“Ack.” April headed for the highest landing pad, where Brent was settling to land to pick her up. “Cept all our days are wild.” She remarked to herself, heading up the ramp to the pad. “But I think I like that.”

Jess walked along the deck to the carrier Dan Kurok was standing outside of, putting a hand on the edge of it and vaulting up to it’s surface to join him.  “Your kids ready to go?”

“As can be.” Doctor Dan gave her a wry look, as they went inside. “Now lets hope we beat this weather.”

Lets hope we beat the weather, lets hope those steel cables hold, lets hope we don’t take out the loading dock dropping that door in… “ Jess settled into the gunner seat with a sigh.  “Can’t possibly have a smooth ending to this day.”


“Drakes Bay operations, this is Bay Flight.”  Doctor Dan’s voice echoed through comms.  “We are on initial approach.”

“Drake’s Bay Ops acknowledges your presence.”  A bio alt voice promptly answered. “Welcome back, Doctor Dan. Scan registers ten vehicles and one large object.”

“That is correct.” Doctor Dan agreed. “Seven additional Bantam class carriers that will need landing pads, and the three we took started out with, who will be maneuvering over the landside access corridor. Please have everyone clear of that area.”

“Yes, Doctor Dan. We understand.” Ops responded. “The space is prepared.”  Behind the comms, there were whoops and cheers audible in the  background.  “Ground operations confirms all is secure. “

“Landing those carriers is probably going to be what turns out to be the most dangerous part of this flight.” Kurok said to Jess, who was relaxing in her seat behind him. “Tremendously noneventful travel.  Quite surprising.”

“Scary” Jess agreed. “I don’t like it when everything goes smoothly. It makes me itch.”  She looked past the pilot’s seat out the uncovered half circle windows on the front of the craft, watching the curving coastline slowly resolving into the outthrust she knew was the Bay. “But here we are.”

“Here we are.” Doctor Dan glanced to his right and his left. “Our new pilots seem to be doing well.”

“Nothing crashed.” Jess observed. “Yet.”


Jess looked up to see him watching her from the reflective surface over the pilots station. “Hey, I expect perfection after my last experience with your work.” She grinned briefly. “I remember coming out of that first flight we did and flipping out.”

“Ah, well. They’re good lads, but they’re not Dev.”  Doctor Dan conceded, checking his screen to see the three burdened carriers in the center of the wide sphere of the rest of them at staggered flight levels.  

The three experienced pilots were flying in a triangle, with Dev at the front point, long cables depending from their structures down to the huge cavern door dangling below them.  “That’s a once in a lifetime result, I think.” Kurok mused. “I really don’t think I could duplicate Dev.”

Jess grinned in reflex. “Yeah.”  She put her hands behind her head.  “She’s for sure unique. Not sure I’d want you to try.”

“Dev probably feels the same.” Doctor Dan made an adjustment then sat back in the pilot seat. “Though I know it’s a bit difficult when you aren’t like everyone else around you, as she was, when she was growing up.”

“I felt like that at Canon City.” Jess said. “So I get it.”

“Did you?” Doctor Dan half turned to look at her. “You know, there might be something in that. Before this all happened I made a trip out there as I had some questions.”

Jess looked at him, head half cocked to one side. “You went to school?”

He nodded. “I did. I brought your nephew a present from home. A picture of the Bay, actually.” He said. “As an excuse to let me get at a comp console and pull your records.”

Jess blinked. “You went and hacked Canon?”

“Yes.” Doctor Dan nodded mildly. “Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to look at any of them since it was on the way back from there I got told of that message from Interforce and we’ve been a bit busy since then.” He said “But I wanted to see what their records showed because you are a bit different than a lot of agents I knew.”

“You just flew out there and walked in and hacked them?” Jess repeated.

Mmhm.” His eyes twinkled a little bit. “I’ve never been very conventional, I’m afraid.” He admitted. “Gotten me into all sorts of trouble over the years. But in this case, it was relatively simple as I was hosted in the administrator’s office with a cup of tea next to his console while he went to get Tayler for our chat.”

Jess started laughing.

“Incoming new vessels in Bay Flight, please use landing bay one, two, and three, they are prepared for your arrival.” Comms echoed suddenly.  “Tech Brent, please land on pad 2, in bay eight.”

“Roger that.” Brent answered readily. “Headin over.”

“Right.” Doctor Dan adjusted course again. “Here we are. Let me take this one in.” He banked and set a course for the lowest of the landing bays. “Now Keko, follow me to landing bay 1.” He instructed into the sideband. “I am going to land on pad 1, you take pad 2.”

“Yes, Doctor Dan.” Keko agreed. “This vehicle is handling well. I do not see any difficulty.”

“Kevin, you and Karl take landing bay 2, you take pad one, Karl take pad 2.”



“Bet Mike’s glad he didn’t have to get on the triggers.” Jess commented. “But I know Mike from Security was hoping he’d get the chance.”

“Mm. I’m certain that’s just a matter of time.” Doctor Dan made an adjustment. “Kerin, you and Keith take bay 3, pads 1 and 2.  Now take it slow into the bays, we don’t want to cause any fuss. Come level, and then reduce speed until you’re just drifting in. Just a touch of jets once you’re inside.”

“Yes, Doctor Dan.” A chorus of voices, eerily the same, with just slight inflection differences answered him.

Jess felt her ears pop as they lost altitude, then the outside sensors turned on and the sea bells chimed in, echoing loudly as they came in over the wall and entered bay waters.   She could see a flurry of activity around the landing caverns, stacked up the rock wall from near water level to the top of the cliffs.

In the past, only one or two were used for the working light fliers that belonged to the Bay, and they were small, nothing like the massive hangar Base 10 had kept.  

Now the three upper level and three lower level had their access doors spread wide open to the Bay frontage to allow the incoming carriers to enter and land on service pads just large enough to accommodate their much larger bulk.

“Bay flight, we are going to proceed over to the landing zone.” Dev’s voice cut in. “We are detecting wind speeds increasing.”

“Confirmed.” Ops answered. “Met topside agrees this is a good course of action.”

Below them, Jess saw vessels heading into the inner ship docking cavern, and a quick glance showed the long slips on the large vessel piers being secured. “Docks are full again.”

“Mm.” Doctor Dan was slowing his forward motion further. “Either that or outrun the storm.  I saw the pressure gradients on that front, it’s not to be trifled with. So let’s get ourselves inside before it becomes an issue.”

He leveled out and approached the lowest landing bay, its steel doors flung wide open, two Bay workers on either side watching them approach, the winds fluttering their overshirts and sending their hair into wild disarray.  They raised their arms and pumped fists as the carrier drifted gracefully past them, crossing the threshold as its landing skids extended and locked.

A moment later and they were settling on the left-hand side pad, with two bio alts and one Bay resident waiting with connections for them.   Doctor Dan shut down the engines and popped the hatch open, turning in his seat to watch Keko coming in to land on the right-hand side pad. “Easy now.”

Jess was already loose of her restraints and at the open hatch, watching the other craft land in a gingerly, but relatively competent way, settling on it’s skids on the metal grating with an almost audible mechanical rattle. “Not bad.”

“No.” Doctor Dan ran a routine on the boards and slid the pilots seat back. “Not at all, for some basic instruction. When I get that programming rig operational, that’ll be an advantage.”

The door of the other carrier opened and Mike Arias emerged, pausing to look behind him inside. “Good job, K-Man!”  He called back, giving a little wave before he emerged and walked over to the edge of the platform to face Jess. “Nice ride.” He said. “Everybody did good.”

Doctor Dan climbed down after Jess and came over, hoisting his pack to his back.  Yes that was exceptionally successful so far.”   He glanced across as Keko emerged, looking a bit drained but happy. “Keko, excellent work.” He complimented the KayTee. “Really well done.”

The bio alt produced a tired, but pleased grin. “Thank you, Doctor Dan! It was hard, but I enjoyed it very much. These craft are much more interesting to fly than the others.” He looked at the carrier, as one of the mechs came over and attached a power lead, then reached out to give it a pat on the hull. “Optimal.”

“Excellent. You spend some time shutting things down, and we can schedule more SIM time.” Doctor Dan said, as he hastily followed Jess and Mike to the inner hall and its spiral staircase as they headed for the rear of the stakehold.  “And shut that outside door!” He yelled at the bay mechs.


Dev inched her seat forward a bit, leaning against her restraints as she angled the carrier just a trifle, giving her a better visual look at the cliffs now moving slowly underneath them.   She could feel the tug of wind against the carrier’s skin, and the engines rumbled on either side of her as the craft worked to move the heavy weight dangling beneath it.

It was hard.  Dev was looking at all of her consoles, her head moving back and forth as she kept track of their progress, the target they were aiming for, the rapidly approaching weather front, and the sync program that was running on the three carriers keeping it all in place.

So far, it had worked. Each carrier control system was taking signal from hers, using her gyros to plot course with, keeping them all moving in concert so they didn’t drift off course and cause too much strain against the steel cables connected to the massive door.

They had sideband up, and both Doug and Chester were making small talk, which Dev was only half listening to.  The most difficult part of the activity was rapidly coming up, and she checked and rechecked her plots, as they slowly drifted over the tall range that held Drake’s Bay, moving along the top of the ridge towards the rear escarpment and it’s jagged surrounding walls.

“Hey Rocket, we got what, now ten knots aft?”

Dev glanced at her met station. “Yes.” She responded. “We are five minutes from mark. Ideally it will not get stronger before that time.”  She drew in a breath and exhaled. “Please stand by to maneuver.”

“Roger that.” Doug agreed. “I can see the tracking… looks good.”

“On target.” Chester chimed in. “Man, I can’t believe we got this all done without that being a shitshow back at base.”

“No kidding, and six.. no seven other busses?”  Doug practically chortled. “They may be old, but damn, that’s a scoop for sure!”

“Yeah, great idea April had.” Chester said. “Freakin useful crates. Nothin they had here coulda lifted that door. Even the transport couldn’t – but these big ass donks had no problem.”

“True that.”

Dev triggered the delivery program, and felt the carrier slow, and then start to drift downward, bringing them forward and lower towards the gap in the cliffs.  Below her she could see the wind whipping the ground, and several alerts went off, as the carrier shifted. “Wind sheer rising.”

“Oof.” Doug said. “Yeah, plus two. C’mon, Rocket, land this puppy and lets get back in the barn before we get blown over.”

Dev looked at the comms panel briefly. “Programming is in work.” She responded, as they shifted sideways in unison. “Please be prepared to take control of the vehicles if autonomics do not perform.” She warned.

“Got my hands on the rockets, Rocket.” Doug said. “But man I hope I don’t have to I’m gonna fly this crate right into that wall for sure.”

“Yeah, that last gust was no joke.” Chester sounded worried. “Look at that damn sky.”

The dark clouds, always present, were thick and darkening, moving in rapid sequence from the north and the tops of the cliffs the Bay was part of shredding some of the lower level ones.  Dev could feel the carrier shifting against the pressure, and she got her hands on her throttles and her boots against the thrusters, studying the flight dynamics intently.


Out of parameters.   With a breath, Dev reached out and deactivated her program, taking back manual control.  She immediately felt the pressure against her hands as the wind drove against the front of the carrier and her body made automatic adjustments, trimming the control planes on all three machines.

Driving a single carrier in these met conditions was a bit difficult.  Dev had all three under her control though, and she watched the two readbacks from the other two vehicles closely as she navigated over the gap, seeing the space cleared below them of all obstructions.

“Got it nice and clean, hah?” Doug said. “Nice.”

Dev carefully edged them forward, trying to judge the extra movement from the wind as it pushed against them, and more urgently, pushed against the giant door dangling underneath them.  The bottom of it cleared the cliff and then they were dropping down again, moving towards the angled gap the door would fit into.

Dev swallowed, and licked her lips, feeling a bit anxious and more than a little stressed as she took all the inputs from three scan systems and tried to judge how to move their huge burden across the pass.

“Don’t drop it, huh Dev?” Chester said. “We’ll have a hell of a time getting it back up.”

“Yes.” Dev said, shortly. “Please do not disturb the controls at this time.”

There was a brief silence. “Uh oh.” Doug muttered softly. “You’re on manual aren’t you?”

“Yes.”  Dev said. “Stand by, wind speed is increasing.”

It got a lot harder then and she had no time to discuss it.  She felt the carrier shift under her and immediately reacted, applying side thrusters as they twisted, shunting the craft into the wind to reduce the drag as they approached the drop point.

There would be no second chance.  Dev understood that at once.  She added power to the carrier’s engines, feeling the rumble as they responded, and the three craft moved faster towards the gap, traveling rapidly over the ground just as the winds started to push them into the cliffside.

“Dev!” Doug yelped. “Yow!!!”

“Be calm.” Dev called out sharply. “Stand by to lift and maneuver.”

“Oh shit.”

Dev hit the landing boosters and all three craft shuddered and lifted up in unison, bringing the huge door now swinging in the wind up and over the outcropping just inside the gap the door would go into. Then she hit the engine reverse hard, sending them all backwards, while the door swung forward, and then dropped, its edge slamming into the ground.

She shifted the engines into forward and then they were coming up and over the top of the door, pulling it upright and into place just as alarms went off as they were in winds too high for the carriers to handle.  “Releasing load.” Dev called out, hitting the cable controls and freeing them from the doors.

“We can’t get back over!” Doug yelled back. “It’s a hundred knots!”

Dev still had control of all three vehicles. “Please hold on.” She slammed all three engines into emergency mode and drove them forward, and then up, catching the wind and using it to force them aloft and then tumble them head over tail in the air.

“Yah!” Doug yelped.

“Oh shiiiiit.” Chester responded.

“Be calm.” Dev wrenched her throttles around and booted the thrusters as the outwash slammed against the rock walls and brought them upright and enough in the lee of the rock to regain full control.  She directed the three craft into a landing spot near the inner wall and quickly set them down hard, the skids barely extending in time to catch them as they slammed into the earth.

The wind grabbed them and nearly tumbled them all out of her control and for a moment Dev felt things slipping out of her grip.  She threw herself forward into the console and kicked the side thrusters hard, the carrier shuddering and alarms flaring all around her.

Then they were all down fully, and the storm came overhead, cutting loose with a thunderous wall of rain that rocked the carriers violently, skidding them across the ground and bumping each other until Chester’s thumped against the rock wall.

That, and the solid door they’d just landed behind them cut enough of the force allow them to settle, alert lights flashing in the dim gray light outside.

“Oh. Crap.”  Doug groaned. “What the hell was that we just did?”

Ooof.” Chester managed to cough into his mic.

Dev released her throttles and leaned back in her seat. “Hello?” She spoke tentatively into comms. “Are you all functional?”

“Thank f’n eff I was in restraints.” Chester responded. “Ow.” He added. “Gotta nosebleed I think.”

“Pretty good here.” Doug added. “I think.”

Dev concluded that was a reasonable assumption both her companions had survived her aerobatics and their hard landing. “Excellent.” She exhaled, looking around at her protesting boards. “But something less than optimal.”

 She started a check of systems, running through the alerts that were lighting the inside of the carrier in an offended red color, turning off and acknowledging all the flight alarms that had kicked off belatedly far too late as she’d rotated the carriers in space in a way they’d never been designed to either perform or tolerate.

“Holy crap.” Doug’s voice echoed through comms. “Did you really take all of us upside down Rocket?”

“Yes.” Dev finally got everything quieted down, then another soft alert sounded, scan noting a bio reading.  Quickly, she looked out the front plas at the sheets of water, spotting something moving in their direction.

Dev coded a scan in a rapid motion of the rain obscured blur, and then she grinned a little, hovering her hand over the hatch trigger as the carrier rocked in the wind.   She waited until the figure got closer and became recognizable as it fought hard against the gales, the force of the wind almost impeding it’s forward motion.

Almost.   Then it lunged for the ground, using an odd, crablike motion to duck under the wind sheer in a swift and powerful move directly towards the carrier refusing to bend to the weather.

A moment later Dev hit the release, and the storm burst into the carrier, bringing a wild howling and a blast of icy cold rain in, along with a tall and extremely wet figure that slammed across the floor and hit the wall, bouncing off it as Dev resealed the hatch and sealed it again.

Then Jess was sliding sideways and landing on the jump seat, spraying Dev with a fine shower of stone scented rainwater coming off her skin. “Dev!” She got out in a gust. “That was freakin awesome!!!”

“Hello.” Dev regarded her with a smile. “Are you okay?”

“Everyone.” Jess said. “Is flipping their damn lids inside.”

“I see.” Dev removed a dry piece of cloth from her kit and reached over to wipe Jess’s face off. “I have no idea what that is.” She admitted. “Was it suboptimal? I don’t think we damaged anything too badly.”

Jess laughed her silent laugh.

Dev could feel the chill of her damp skin against her fingertips but the sparkle of those eyes made her smile again, and she laid her palm against Jess’s cheek to warm it. “And you could have called me on comms, Jess. You didn’t have to come out in the rain That must have been very uncomfortable.”

“I didn’t want to call you.” Jess took her hand and kissed the back of it.  “Can’t do this over comms.”  She smiled back. “You nailed it.  Was that the program? It wasn’t right?” She asked. “Wasn’t the script?”

“No.” Dev admitted. “That was written for the expected weather. Not what we experienced. I switched to manual control as we came over the top of the wall there.” She pointed through the window, at the back side of Drake’s Bay. “There wasn’t really any time to discuss it.”

Jess kissed her hand again. “What was there to discuss? You were flying.”  She grinned. “Whole homestead’s in there talking about it.”

Dev made a face. “I didn’t do that on purpose, Jess.”

“Aww Devvie.” Jess leaned her long frame back against the wall, gazing fondly at her. Then she looked down at her drenched pants, plucking at them. “And yeah, I coulda just raised you on comms. Whole stakehold must think I’m nuts running out here like an idiot and nearly getting my ass blown into the wall.”

“Actually, I’m glad you did.” Dev admitted, with a smile, as Jess looked up at her in surprise. “I felt like I did something difficult and scary and possibly incorrect, and I wanted to talk to you about it.”  She continued to wipe the droplets of cold rain off Jess’s face. “I hope I did the right thing.”

“You did the perfect thing.” Jess finally found her tongue. “You kidding me? Wait till you see the vid.” She said. “You landed the door and all the buses and nobody croaked. It was awesome!”

Dev’s nose wrinkled up into a wry expression. “I don’t think it was very comfortable for Chester and Doug.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s all good.” Jess assured her confidently.  “Those guys know you’re legit a rockstar.” She paused, thoughtfully.  “Hey, that’s what we should call this thing.” She patted the jumpseat.  “You like that? Dustin wants to paint it on the outside.”

“Um. What?” Dev was looking at her with that adorably bewildered look that made Jess grin all the wider. “Jess, what are you talking about?” She finally asked, in a plaintive tone.  “He wants to paint what where?”

Jess flicked some droplets of rain off her hands and extended her long legs across the deck crossing them at the ankles. “This ain’t Interforce anymore.”  She stated. “We gotta play by Bay rules.”

“Yes.” Dev agreed. “But what does that have to do with painting something on the outside of this craft?”

“They want to give these old crates Bay names, for comms.” Jess explained. “Dustin wanted to know what I wanted to call this one, so he could put it on the outside, like our names.  All the ships have em.”

“Oh.” Dev considered that. “Can’t it just have a number, like it did there?”

“Nope. Ops likes names.” Jess told her. “Like the doc’s flyer. It’s Bay Alpha.  Bay A.”  She bumped Dev’s knee with her own. “What do you think… Rockstar?”  Her eyebrows hiked up invitingly. “C’mon, it’s cute.” She paused. “Like you.”

“Um. Okay.” Dev conceded. “I suppose that is better than some other possibilities.” She added, with slightly knit brows.

Jess snickered.

“Ack ack.” The comms channel opened “We got winds coming down to sixty knots, Rocket.”  Doug said. “We’ll end up drier if we fly over to the other side.”

“Yeah, got this thing to stop bitching.  We could maybe fly out in like ten?” Chester chimed in.

Dev reached over and released the sync that was linking the carriers and reset her boards. “I have unlocked all the controls.” She reported. “I agree it will be more comfortable exiting into the landing bay.” She paused and regarded her passenger. “At least, for myself.”

Doug chuckled. “We saw Jess haul in.” He said. “Thought she was going to get airborne there for a minute.”

“I thought so too.” Jess spoke up. “You all okay?”

“Roger that.” Chester answered. “Now I know what it’s like going upside down.” He said. “Got the blood all cleaned up. Banged my face on the console.”

Dev grimaced.

Oh hell I knew better.” Doug said. “Had every strap in this thing wrapped around my ass.  Great ride, Rocket.” He sounded cheerful. “Super glad it was you on the stick.”

“Yeah, sweet flying.” Chester agreed. “First mug’s on me when we get inside.”

Dev felt her face heat.  “Thank you.” She finally said. “it’s excellent it turned out well.” She gave her head a little shake, then looked over at Jess, who was watching her with a grin on her face, her wet hair in remarkable disarray. “I think I should establish that this activity is neither regular or optimal.”

“Me too.” Jess agreed. “Otherwise you won’t get a damn thing done cause everyone’s gonna want you to give them rides in this thing repeating that little trick.”


“Think I’m kidding?”


Continued in Part 11