Rogue Wave

Part 20

Dev navigated through the passageway, glancing back and forth between her scanner and the ground, which was uneven and rocky and required some care.

She was glad she had her new boots on, they were flexible enough soles to accommodate the rubble strewn ground and very supportive of her ankles, better fitting than her previous pair of work boots had been.

Inside the cavern, at least, the wind had dropped and she was able to move quickly along, following the direction finding on the screen of her scanner, it’s wiremap giving her a reasonable outline of her path.

She could detect the defunct training carrier ahead of her, at the far end of the lopsided passage she was in where it’s crumbled nose was buried in shattered rock rubble where Josh had driven it in his ostensible flight from…

Dev paused, and considered.

What she had thought was a training carrier as she recognized from Clint’s comment that it possibly was not the case.

Thought the readings she had fit that description, she trusted his experience with the machines and if he said it was something else, she would take that seriously, and assume when she arrived in the cave that there would be something to find if she looked for it.

And so, if the training carrier was nothing of the kind, then what part of Josh’s story was truth? He had told everyone he was a cadet who had taken a test flyer out for a joy ride, wanting out of his commitment to Interforce.

So if that was not true, was anything? Dev frowned. If he was not what he said he was, then what was he?  Coming to a halt, she took a moment to compose a squirt message, simple text, and connected back to the transport to invoke comms and send it.  Then she continued on.

It was quiet in the caverns.  There was the sound, somewhere off to the left, of water trickling, and if she concentrated, she could hear the scuff of boots against rock.  Behind her, the wind was thrumming across the entry, but inside she could only feel puffs of errant gusts penetrating at her back.

Her scanner picked up the fighters and Clint ahead of her, and she angled her steps in that direction as the sounds of motion and low voices became more clear.  The opening widened out into the central cavern they’d found the carrier in and then she was there, reaching over to turn on her light.

“Dev.” Clint spotted her as she emerged from the gloom. “There ya are.”

Dev didn’t feel that required any response, so she merely crossed over to where the group was searching, lights clipped to the sides of their heads with makeshift headbands. She looked at Clint in question, then at the carrier behind him.

He waved her forward.  “So.” He said, as they walked towards the carrier embedded and half crushed in the rock wall. “No idea how that guy survived this.” He said, shaking his head at the destroyed vehicle. “Not if he was in the front seat, anywise.”

Dev nodded. “It seemed unlikely to me as well.” She agreed, tuning the scanner. “But as he was obviously functional I did not spend time discussing it.”

“Well, sure.”  Clint got up next to the crushed hatch, and gave it a hauling tug, yanking the metal back with a complaining metallic crunch. “Now look here.”

Obediently, Dev knelt as Clint got up under the hatch, bracing it against his back.  She followed his pointing index finger, and found herself looking at a set of locking brackets.  “Those are retaining clips.” She noted mildly.

“For the door, yah.” Clint agreed. “Never would have em on a trainer.” He stated confidently. “Not at Canyon City.  Would’t let em be locked out, that bunch. Those kids’ll be up to anything, y’know?”

It was so matter of fact and so obvious that Dev’s eyebrows hiked right up. “Interesting.” She commented. “I can’t say I would know from personal experience but based on what Doug has said about his classes there I have to agree.”

“Right.” Clint nodded. “You’d never’d seen it, you weren’t never there.” He said. “I’m surprised the kids didn’t catch it, or Jess.” He added. “I guess it was a little crazy that day.”

Dev looked aside, her eyes losing their focus as she internally recalled that day, and the relative chaos around the activity. “We did not spend a lot of time inspecting this vehicle given it’s condition.”  She finally said. “The searching party intervened and we had to engage in that activity.”

Clint nodded again. “Sure.” He said. “Why even look? I just noticed it myself when I was pulling the V ident off it, see if there was any parts I could scrounge.”  He pulled out a small plas board and a graphite stick and showed her the number. “And the ident’s in the reg sequence.”

“Interesting.” Dev said again. “So it was a vehicle that was used in service.”

“Zactly.   When I get back to the barn, we can check and see if the ident shows up in that dump the doc brought with.”  His eyes twinkled. “Got a touch with the mech, does the doc.”

Dev smiled. “Doctor Dan is very skilled at collecting useful information.”

‘Yeah, anyway, thought you’d want to see it.” Clint concluded. “Not much else to see on it. We can take the engine cowling off here, good for spare for ours.” He backed up and let the hatch down again, as Dev rose to join him.  “How’s the mud slinging going?”

“We are about finished.” Dev looked around, watching the fighters idly exploring the cave, and pausing to watch one of them standing in front of a solid rock wall, looking at it.  She glanced down at her scanner, but it showed just the rock surface, and the odd discordance she’d seen in the cave before.

Curious, she walked over to the scrub and stood next to him.  “Hello.”

The scrub eyed her. “Yo Rocket.”   It was Evan, who had ridden before in Dev’s carrier.  “Sup?”

“That is what I was going to ask you.” Dev said, straightforwardly. “Is there something interesting about this wall?”

The other scrubs heard her, and drifted over to where she and Evan were standing, while Clint edged around to listen, starting to disassemble the engine cowling with a wrench.

Dev scanned the wall, and found, as before, nothing of interest, so she looked at Evan in question.

He stuck his hands in the front pocket of his Bay hoodie, the mottled green blue fabric framing his head.

He had, Dev noticed, that squared, angular structure of jaw and cheekbone that was common at the Bay, and that she’d come to associate with Jess’s genetic marker.  His hair was dark, and had a bit of a curl to it, and he had attractive light amber eyes.

He was perhaps her age, or a little younger. He had a vaguely unfinished look about him as though he was not quite finished growing.

Instead of answering, Evan took his knife out of it’s sheath in his mid calf boot and reversed it so that the end cap was forward.  Then he went to the wall and tapped on it, cocking his head to listen.  The crisp sound of the metal hitting the rock echoed back faintly, and on it’s fading end, there was the barest hint of a reverb.

Dev put down her scanner and slid it around to rest on her back.  She took a step back and studied the rock wall structure.

“Somethin.” Evan made a little face and shrugged. “Dunno.”

One of the other scrubs came over and put his hands flat on the rock and leaned against it, tilting his head to one side. “Make a whack up?”

Evan complied, tapping the hilt of the knife against the same spot. “Yo, Bri?” He asked. “Sup?”

Bri’s face twitched, and his brow creased. He lifted his hands off the rock and flexed them visibly groping for words to describe whatever it was.

Dev briefly wished Jess were there.  This odd thing that seemed to be something common to the Bay born was far more intelligible to someone who also had it which Dev certainly did not. “Do we think there is a passage behind this surface?” She finally asked. “Or something else of interest?”

The scrubs turned to regard her. Bri lifted his hands and crooked his fingers inward. “Somethin.” He said. “Just… “ He shrugged his shoulders. “Can we bust it up?” He turned and looked at the surface.

 “Well now.” Clint paused in his work. “How bout we get the loader, if they’re done out there, and yank this wreck back a little.” He suggested. “Maybe the front of it busted a hole already you can look at? Gonna take time to get a cutter from the Bay to get into that.” He nodded at the wall.

“That’s an excellent idea.” Dev said. “And also, possibly we can use the loader to bring out the parts you are retrieving.”  She indicated the pile of cards and random parts that were laying at his feet.

“Yo.” Evan nodded. “Lemme go grab it.” He turned and headed out of the tunnel, dancing a little as he walked and disappearing into the darkness.

“What do you figure’s in there?” Clint asked Dev.

“No idea at all.” Dev said. “But it will be interesting to find out.”


Jess stood in the armory, surrounded by now a dozen yonks, her hands on her hips as she regarded the huge roll of plas material.  “That is a big ass chunk.”

The yonk nodded. “Toldya.”

“You did.” Jess agreed mournfully.

“What’cha doin with it, cuz?” Dustin asked, his hands tucked in the front pocket of his hoodie.

“What am I doing with it.” Jess exhaled. “What I’m gonna do with it is make a big ass plas curtain to keep the damn snow and ice out of my bedroom.”

That drew immediate interest. “Yeah?” The girl said. “Hole in the roof?”

“No. Some idiotic Drake tradition.” Jess took a step back and then she swiveled, looking around the inside of the armory.  “Damn place has a hole a carrier could drive through out to a balcony shelf.”

“Yeah?” Another scrub eyed her.

“Yeah.” Jess turned around in a circle, looking around the armory with a thoughtful stare.

It was a huge space, at the back of the Bay’s southern wall full of a massive junkyard’s worth of old military equipment ranging from personnel carriers to missile launchers, and it smelled of old canvas, old metal, oil, brass, and the tang of what Jess knew was gunpowder.

Had come in handy, during the attack. It had provided eager Bay residents with blunt weapons, helmets, ramrods, shields and a crap ton of other things they used to beat back both the other side, and Interforce, including the projectile weapons they had very limited ammunition for.

Used to plasma guns, and energy weapons, the sudden attack with explosive rounds had given them the edge, and the wild abandon of the Bay attack had done the rest.

Now, the armory doors were open all the time. No one wanted to seal it up again, just in case, and Jess got that given what it’d taken to get them open the last time so she’d agreed to removing the lock down and the long servicing tables and old platforms were now used by the mechs for workspace.

The big personnel carriers were being worked on right now, matter of fact, the ring of hammers and the whine of power drills loud and discordant in the space as Clint’s teams were patiently recommissioning the old hardware, aiming to provide a purpose for it.

There was at least some floor space to work with since some of the mech had been taken out and refitted and were now in use as loaders outside the walls. “Okay.” Jess exhaled. “We need to get that on the ground, and a big chunk cut out of it. I need to get that up to my crib.”

“Gonna need a plas cutter for that.” The girl stated. “Josh, you got one over there?”

“Got one.” A yonk headed off, shoving a cleaning rag into their pocket.

Dustin went over and got on the driver’s perch of an ancient ammo carrier. “Lemme clear some space.” He started it up, the engine spooling with a loud whine. “Look out.”   He drove the mover with some skill over to a huge crate of parts and locked on to it.

Four more went to the nearest set of work tables and picked them up bodily, the metal tops flexing as they moved them over.

Jess issued a satisfied grunt, as she measured the floor space with her eyes, backing up until she went up against a servicing station. “Gotta move this.”

Six yonks wheeled around and came over to take hold of it, and pick it up, sturdy bodies shifting under their hoodies, happy to be here doing her bidding, as happy as she was to be accomplishing something that would surprise and delight Dev.


Jess watched them step the station out of the way, and then Dustin returned with the loader and moved another crate of supplies out of the way rapidly clearing space for her project.

A smile appeared on her face, and she nodded to herself in silence.

She headed for the roll of plas, waving them all over. “Lets get a grab on.”

The roll had a bar at the front of it, and a brace with a hook up on both ends that was intended to fit into an overhead crane that here did not exist. 

This had never been intended to be moved by people, but people was what they had.   Jess reached up and got her hands around the bar and waited until she had a dozen other sets of hands along it, tall bodies like hers easily able to reach.

She leaned back and pulled, and getting the idea, the rest of them leaned back with her, and the bar rolled down to their chest height. “Let’s go.” Jess dug her boots in and started pushing backwards, and for a minute it was like pulling her carrier would have been.

Idiotic and potentially embarrassing.

She felt the strain come on her arms and shoulders and then everyone caught up with her and the huge roll, three times their height, started grudgingly moving, unrolling a layer of plas in front of it as they pulled it backwards.

“Ho yah!” A yonk let out a yell, stomping his boots in a one two rhythm.

“Ho yah!” The rest answered.  “Lets go!”

They took a step at a time, and someone started a chant to keep the rhythm. “Boom. Kaboom. Boom. Kaboom.”

Other voices took it up and after a minute of silence, Jess joined them, feeling her body fall into that same rhythm, as the reel of heavy plas unrolled step by step, boots thumping against the rock floor in unison.

It was weird and yet somehow it felt satisfying.  Jess kept a measure with her eyes on the floor, and when it was rolled out to what she felt was the right length, she let out a whistle, and after another two stomps, they stopped.

It went quiet.

“That’ll do.” Jess said, into the silence. “Now I need some pipe and a pipe bender.” She added, her hands still on the rail. “And a power drill.”

“No prob.” The yonk next to her dusted his hands off. “Yo, Georgie, s’go. Dock’s got pipe.”

“Does.” Georgie agreed. “Got some nice long ones. Aint’ gonna give us crap neither cause it’s for the Drake.” He winked at Jess, and they trooped off.

“Yo, cuz.” Dustin said suddenly. “For the ledge, yo?”

“Yo.” Jess agreed. “Gonna put up a plas curtain, like the cold freeze.”

“S’nice out there.” Dustin said, basking in the envious looks of the other yonks at his personal knowledge of the spot. “Like that bench.”

Jess walked around the roll of plas and examined the surface of the unrolled portion. “Thanks.” She looked back at him. “I made it.” She added, almost as an afterthought.  “Not a big deal, just repurposed some junk.”

All of the remaining yonks came around the back of the roll and joined her on the rolled out portion. “Yeah?” The girl from the lower cavern said. “So.. can we see it?”

Jess looked up from the plas. “Sure.”

“We got a bunch of trash and junk.” The girl explained. “Need stuff for the cribs, yo? You make stuff? Show us?” She watched Jess’s face alertly.

“S’cool bench.” Dustin said, his hands in the front pocket of his hoodie. “Swings.” He rocked forward and back.

“Oh, cool.” One of the male yonks said. “Got a table in my new crib, nothin else.”

“Uh.” Jess said. “Yeah, sure.” She added a little awkwardly. “We can figure something out.”

“Cool.” The girl said. “Yeah I mean it’s cool having the space, you know? But I ended up sleeping on the ground last night.” She grinned briefly. “On my sack.”

“Yeah.” The nearest of the males agreed.

Dustin was silent, rocking back and forth on his heels but refraining from commenting.  His new space had come with furniture.

Jess’s eyes twinkled as she regarded him. “You learn fast.” She commented.

“Yo?” His eyes widened a little. “Sup?”

“Oh yeah.” The girl grinned. “I heard you got a sweet crib, Dusty. Sup with that?”

Dustin looked at Jess, who remained silent, then he grinned back at the girl. “Yeah, s’cool.” He admitted. “Firs level.”

The girl nodded. “You’re Drake.”

Dustin nodded back. “Yeah.”

The rest also nodded in understanding, and gave him a thumbs up.

“So no problem.” Jess finally addressed the question. “After we get this cut up and dragged upstairs I can show you what to do with the junk. I ain’t no fabber, but it’ll be functional.” She said. “Like this.” She indicated the plas. “Aint’ gonna be pretty, but I ain’t gonna have ice on the floor.”

Now everyone gave her a thumbs up. “Sweet.” The girl concluded with a satisfied expression.

They then all fell silent, as footsteps and there sound of metal pipes hitting each other and the stone walls indicated Georgie and JC were approaching with their load.

Dustin wandered over and started looking through a tool box, pulling out this tool and that and putting them back inside. 

Jess wondered how the clay expedition was proceeding.  She rocked up and down on her heels, hoping her curtain would be done before they came back.


The loader was hooked up to the destroyed carrier, and chains from the transport had been attached to it as well, each one with a pair of fighters ready to help pull while Clint drove the powerful little loader.

Dev heard footsteps approaching and she paused in her work on her scanner  to look at the entry, as Abe and Adrian appeared, spotting her and heading in her direction.   “Hello.” She greeted them cordially.

“We are finished securing the substance load.” Abe reported. “So we are here to see if there is any assistance needed with this activity.”  He glanced over at the chains. “May we help the natural born with their task?”

Dev pondered that. “I think they might need some assistance in pulling. The task is to move the vehicle in here away from the rock embedding.”

“Oh.” Adrian’s brows lifted. “Are we going to take it with us?”

“Not exactly.” Dev pinched the bridge of her nose. “We would like to see if there is something behind the vehicle in the rock.”

“I see.” Abe said. “Do we think there is something?” He glanced at Dev’s scanner.

Dev cleared her throat. “I cannot detect anything. But this rock substance has proven to interfere with scanning.” She admitted. “However, the natural born feel there is something to be observed.”

“I see.” Abe repeated. “May we assist?”

“Leave several on the transport, to watch the scanner there and report if they see anything approaching.” Dev instructed. “Yes, bring the rest in here, to assist.”

“Excellent.” Abe said. “This is a very good day of work.” He motioned for Adrian. “Lets get the others.”

They trooped off, and Dev went back to tuning her scanner again, trying another set of sine patterns to try and work around the odd discordance in the material. 

“All right we are about ready to start pulling.” Clint came over. “Now, I think you should get on back away from there, Dev, in case pulling this thing jogs some of that rock overhead loose.” He indicated the cavern ceiling. “Don’t want you getting hit.”

It seemed prudent. “The others are coming in to assist.” She told Clint as they walked over to where the loader was crouched. “In case we need additional traction.”

“Those Bay kid’s’ll be insulted.” Clint chuckled. “From their view they can pull the mountain out from around the rig.”

Dev went to the entry of the cavern and stood quietly as Clint resumed his perch on the loader.  Behind her she heard the sets approaching, their boots quiet and rhythmic as they walked along, the hand lights they were carrying sending beams down to dance past her shoulders.

“Ah.” Dev said, suddenly, as she tried yet another iteration of sine waves.

“We are here.” Abe announced as the sets filled the opening. “We are ready to help.”

“Excellent.” Dev turned her attention from the scanner. “Please go to where the chains are, and take hold of them to assist.”

The sets advanced at once, crossing the rubble filled ground to where the fighters were standing, lightly clasping the heavy chains.  They filled in the gaps between them, and got a grip on the metal, as the fighters grinned.

“Yo.” Evan greeted Adrian, who had stepped in just behind him.

“Hello.” Adrian responded. “We would like to assist.”

“C’mon.” Evan waved him in.

“Just don’t let one of these guys fall on ya.” Clint warned, as he spooled up the puller engine. “Ready? I’m gonna take load on first, then you guys start pullin.”

Dev took a few steps to one side so she was out of the path of the activity.  She pondered taking up a spot on the chains, but reviewing them, there was not much space and it seemed there were sufficient helpers.

“Ready.” Evan called out. “S’go!”

Clint put the engine in gear and it rumbled forward, putting strain on the central two chains that were attached to the back of the carrier chassis, and immediately there was the sound of creaking metal as the struts took the weight.

“Go!” Clint yelled out, and the two lines of bodies surged forward, the fighters letting out a yell in response, the sets in mild silence, everyone leaning forward to put pressure on the chains to drag the wreck forward out of its stone encasement.

For a very long minute, there was no movement at all, except for the straining people and the engine, the grips on the loader’s tracks skidding a little on the gravel covered floor.

Then with a sodden crack, and the tumble of stone around the front of the destroyed carrier it started to edge and inch forward, grinding and screaming as it scraped against the stone.

Dev watched the roof carefully, but after the first cascade of stones it just remained a dusting of debris raining down, and she glanced at the scanner, to reset her latest sine configuration and restart the testing.

The edge of the crushed cockpit creaked from it’s stone encasement, amidst a cascade of rocks that covered the ground and bounced almost to where she was standing, but she ignored them, as the scanner returned a response.

She looked sharply at the wreck. “There is something behind that coding biological readings.” She said, suddenly, in a voice loud enough to cover the engine’s rumbling, and catch Clint’s attention.

“What?” He said, looking over at her.

“There is something alive behind the craft.”  Dev clarified. “We should investigate what that is.”

“Fuuu.” Evan, first on the chain closest to her heard her. “No crap?”

“Move it kids!” Clint yelled loudly, putting the engine into overgear. “Pull your asses off!”

The carrier skidded forward, and Dev dodged the pullers, running past them and ducking under the askew wing, jumping onto the pile of rubble and dodging the falling rocks as the fuselage slid past her, almost knocking her sideways.

“Hold up and get after her!” Clint hollered. “Live may be dangerous, damn it! This was an Interforce ship!”  He shut down the loader and scrambled off it, and the fighters dropped the chains and moved with him, moving in a mob to the gaping hole now exposed in the stone.

“Now what?” Adrian asked Abe, who was standing next to him.

“We should be ready to assist when they return.” Abe said, in a decisive tone. “There is not enough room to follow them.”

“Should we move this vehicle then aside?”

Abe went and hopped onto the loader, putting it into gear. “Lets do that.”


There had probably never in it’s history been a time when the stakeholder’s quarters at Drake’s Bay were quite so full of people and activity.

The scrubs had grown to a group of twenty, and the front doors to the housing were propped open as they were dragging the cut slabs of flexible plas up the steps and across the outer rooms, the wind coming in from the opening at the back thrumming through the halls with an audible howl.

Near the large gap at the rear the large hallway had been set up with a pipe bender, and rattling through the stone was the sound of a power hammer setting a bolt into the wall.

Jess was outside on the ledge, with a handful of others escaping that noise and enjoying the view of the curling wall of the Bay visible and the choppy surface of the water two stories below.

“This’s cool.” Was the general consensus as they wandered around the ledge and looked over the railing.

“You jump down off here?” Kirin turned and asked Jess.

“Yeah.” Jess nodded. ‘It’s deep there.” She walked over and looked down. “Like a powerwash going in. The oyster bed I found the ones with the pearls in are down under that half ledge.” She pointed at the base of the swirling waters, ignoring the light drift of snow still coming down.

“This is sweet.” Kirin turned around and regarded the swing. “See what you did there.”

“Yeah. Just some pipes and chain.” Jess agreed. “You can make things.” She regarded her work with her hands in her hoodie pocket. The metal angle structure was moving a little under a gentle push from a nearby scrub, it’s plas seat dusted with snow. “That was from the junk store.”

They had put sturdy spare boxes on either side of the swing as makeshift tables, and at night they would light up, along with the border lights on the wall and it was a nice spot to just sit and enjoy a cup of heated grog while they talked about the day.

Dev liked it, despite the chill. Jess pondered that, reviewing the swing and wondering if there was some additional work needed on it.  Could they heat the swing maybe?

Nah. She concluded. It would melt the plas.

“Anyway lets get this done.” Jess turned and went back into the housing, where pipes were being bent to match the curve of the wall.  “Yeah, like that, and past the edge of this.” Jess moved over and touched the wall an arms length past the opening. “Put that other bracket here, Chuck.”

“No problem, Drake.” Chuck, a burly man in docking cavern coveralls hopped down off a splay ladder and dragged it over.  He had a belt with the power drill in a holster in it, and a pouch with bolts to balance it on the other side.

The curtain, in the end was a simple device.  The pipe would be heaved into place and put into the fitting and then the plas sheets hauled up and attached to it, one end bent over the pipe and then sealed into place with a heat gun.

They would hang down slightly overlapping each other, and at the bottom they would be attached to a bunch of discarded fishing weights to keep them in place.

Very basic.

“Coulda rigged a door up here.” Kirin commented. “Be a mess with putting a pocket in the wall though.” She amended. “No real space to swing in or out.”

“This is faster.” Jess said. “And.. we like the light coming in.” She admitted, with a smile. “Just makes it an icebox in here and it ended up sheeting ice all along the floor.  “I ended up taking a header and sliding on my ass to the edge.”

“Boh.” Dustin was round eyed. “Woulda been a crazy ride down.”

Jess grinned. “I caught the rail.” She said. “Wasn’t in the mood to plunge.”  She took a step back and regarded their progress. “All those strips in here?”

“Yup.” Kirin nodded. “Back in the big room. Want em up here?”

The sound of metal cranking as the pipe was bent sounded loud for a moment. “Yep.” Jess nodded. “Lets get it done.”

“Hey Drake?” Chuck looked down from his splay ladder. “Like what you did with that desk.”

The scrubs ears all perked up. “In the front?” Dustin pointed in the general direction of Jess’s office. “Oh yeah… s’cool!!!”

“Nice way to use pieces of rockfall.” Chuck nodded at Jess in approval. “Got em all stacked up down the caves, yo?” He suggested, with a meaningful expression. “Could use the space.”

Jess blinked, then caught on. “Sure.” She waved the strips forward. “Next on the list.”  She glanced outside at the sky. “Day’s getting on.”


Dev leaped up onto the rubble tumbling down from the movement of the destroyed carrier and ducked past it, into the void her scanner had now easily picked up.  The light affixed to the headband wavered with her motion but then she was able to see past the dust and into the darkness beyond.

It smelled of blood and human presence, and she swung the scanner around as she came past the edge of the rock and into the space, stopping suddenly when she felt the splash of a pre aim on her skin and the scanner alerted urgently.

Programming surged.   She ducked out of instinct and the  splash went past her then refocused as her light shone on a figure propped up against the wall, staring with fixed eyes at her and holding a blaster in both hands swinging back to target her again.

He was obviously injured, his face was covered in dried blood, and there was blood on the stone, dried puddles of it her light flashed over, and his dark gray overall was black with it, his hair stained so dark she had no idea what he actually looked like.

The pre aim hit her again and Dev was against another wall and could move no further, and without real thought she drew in a breath and barked out a set of syllables, crisp and clearly enunciated as the aim wavered on her chest and his fingers tightened to shoot and take the energy recoil.

The figure went still as the echo of her voice faded, and stared at her now in some incomprehension as the aim moved off her to the rock wall.

Then the entryway was filled with moving bodies and a moment after that Evan was coming past her and at the figure so fast Dev didn’t even have a chance to call out or stop him as he threw himself at the danger.

With a thump he hit the figure and sent the blaster flying to crash against the inside of the rock wall and the gun let out a strident alert of its own.   

Coded weapon. Dev caught the alarm on her scanner.  “NONOPTIMAL!” She yelled. “We must leave this location RIGHT NOW.”

Evan had the figure against the wall, and it was now obvious he was not meeting any resistance. “YO?” He looked around at Dev. “Sup?”

“Bring him please.” Dev was already scrambling for the entry, her hands ahead of her as she reached the other scrubs who were trying to get inside. “Move! Move!”  She pushed them backwards. “Leave urgently!”

“Crap!” Evan grabbed the figure and put him over his shoulder and took off after her, and the rest of them got the idea and hauled themselves backwards over the rubble,  emerging just as Clint was  barreling at them at full speed. “Yo!”

“Get out!” Clint yelled. “That’s a..”

“YES!” Dev yelled back at him. “Do not speak, just RUN.”  She called out past him at the sets who were turning to stare at them. “NONOPTIMAL! Exit to the transport!! NOW!”

The sets didn’t hesitate. They dropped the chains they had been pulling, the wreckage now all the way  back near the wall, and started running for the entrance, obeying the urgency in her tone without question.

“Go Go GO!” Clint was racing with them, understanding the alarms blaring from Dev’s scanner. “Forget the loader! Just f’in RUN!”

Dev put on speed and got to the entrance as her scanner let out another loud blaring alert, one she had expected. “That is the carrier power system.” She said, to no one in particular, as she bolted towards the transport.  

“FUCK!” Clint howled. “RUN!! RUN!”

April and Doug had landed and they were heading their way, and she waved them off.  “Please launch. Security event in progress!!!” She yelled at Doug. “No option discharge!!!!”

“Oh shit.” Doug turned and started running back towards his carrier.

“What the hell?” April started after him. “That was an f’n trainer!”

“It wasn’t!” Clint sped past her and headed for the ramp. “MOVE!”

“Take that person to the carrier.” Dev yelled at Evan.  “They will need med.”

“Yeah, croaked pretty much.” Evan remarked as he changed direction and bounded after April and Doug. “Aint’ helping being hauled.”

Dev didn’t slow down. She headed for the transport as fast as her feet would carry her and hit the loading ramp at full speed, bolting up it and towards the pilots seat as sets poured in after her. “Everyone get secured quickly!”

She yanked her flight helmet off it’s hook and slammed it on her head, pulling off the headlamp with her other hand while she was jumping over the pilots console to land in the seat.  “STAND BY FOR FLIGHT!”

The ramp was thundering with boots as the rest of the sets came in and threw themselves into seats, followed by three of the scrubs, who found spots in the tie downs and clipped in to them, taking the spot the loader had been in.

“SIT DOWN.” Dev’s hands were moving over the console panels in a blur as she counted down in her head from thirty seconds.  She had the engines spooling when Clint scrambled into the other seat and pulled his restraints on.

Twenty seconds.

“We are all aboard, Dev.”  Abe called out calmly. “The hatch may be shut.”

Dev had just triggered the hatch, regardless and it swung shut and sealed as she hit the boosters, throwing power at them and willing the transport to come off the ground. 

Ten seconds. The transport lifted up and surged skyward in an awkward angle, and she checked her surroundings, watching the carrier take off a moment later and come past her on the right, the much smaller craft moving faster.

That cleared her airspace and she took advantage of it, readying the planar surfaces for the stress she knew was going to come.

Five seconds.  “Please HOLD ON.” Dev set the throttles and hit full power, and the transport, with it’s heavy load, rumbled skyward and towards the top of the ridge, coming over it just as her mental countdown stopped and a huge sound shattered the air behind her.

She kept the power shoved to full, wanting air between them and the ground and they were moving at a steep angle just as a wave of energy slammed into them from behind and she she felt the transport lose lift as the engines wavered in reaction to it.

She hit the landing jets to augment the mains, and after a long and frightening moment when she feared they were going to go into a powerless dive, the upward motion reluctantly continued and they were over the ridge and away from the escarpment, leaving behind them a fireball that was now rolling out over the plateau behind the ridge as they headed in the opposite direction.

“Shit!” Clint was watching the boards. “That nearly tanked us.”

“Yes.” Dev ran analytics, relieved to see the profile of the engine returns coming back to normal.  “Bay B to Turtle, report please.”

“Sheetballs!” Doug’s voice came back on the sideband. “That was freaking close! Holy crap, Rocket!”

Dev interpreted that to mean that her colleagues were doing all right.  She ran another diagnostic, and relaxed a little in her seat, glancing at there reflector to see all the sets strapped in correctly, watching with expressions of interest.

The scrubs were kneeling on the transport floor watching out the front window with wide, fascinated eyes.

“Bay B, to Bay Operations.” Dev switched channels. “Be aware of a level six energy discharge from our landing location. Both Bay B and Turtle are secure.” She continued to gain altitude, and turned on a set of sweeps, checking the area for any response to the explosion.

“Bay operations to Bay B, we confirm the discharge, it was picked up on the new relay.” Bay ops responded calmly.  “We have notified Cooper’s Rock. Can you advise on source? Doctor Dan is asking.”

Absolutely that would interest Doctor Dan. “Yes I can.” Dev tuned the scan, and turned on a heading for home. “We located a crash survivor from the escarpment, and extraction caused the triggering of a class 4 bio assigned blaster and carrier energy pack security destruction event.”

There was a brief pause. “Acknowledged.” Bay ops finally answered. “Glad everyone is secure.”

“Is that what happened?” Doug said, in a conversational tone over sideband. “This thing we got here reg Interforce? Thought that bus was a trainer.”

Dev regarded the comms. “His weapon and the craft certainly were reg.” She said. “He was not wearing blacks, but he responded to a break code.”

“No shit! Hey April, you hear that? You were right.”

In the background, Dev could hear April laughing. “She strapped his ass down even though he’s out.” Doug said. “Takes one to know one I guess.” He continued. “Looks pretty bad.”

“We should get him to med quickly.” Dev agreed. “It might be interesting to see what information he has.”

“We’re moving.” Doug said. “Jess is gonna be pissed she missed this one.”

That, Dev reasoned, was likely very true. She adjusted course slightly and pushed the throttles forward, feeling the tension slowly relax, as she thought ahead to what might come next.

So many things to wonder about.  Why was he left behind? Hadn’t Ryan known what happened to him? This was obviously his partner.  Wasn’t it?   Maybe he could provide the answers to so many things.

Or, she exhaled, aware of Clint watching her from the corner of his eyes, maybe it would just all lead to yet more questions.


They were in the small conference room near the back of the mess.  April and Doug, and Jess and Dev, and Clint with a wide eyed Evan leaning against the wall nearby, and Abe standing next to him, hands clasped behind his back.

“Roll that past me one more time?” Jess asked, looking intently at Dev. “You did what?”

Dev was seated next to her, with a steaming mug of tea on the table at her elbow. “I picked up biologic readings as they pulled the carrier back from the rock, and it exposed a void.” She said. “I went to examine the source of the readings.”

“Right.” Jess nodded. “Then?”

“As I entered the void, the man inside targeted me with a class 4 blaster.” Dev reported, in a mild tone. “My scanner alerted, but also I could see the targeting light on my clothing.”

“Without you doing anything?” Jess said. “You didn’t go at him.”

“I did not do anything.” Dev agreed. “Except enter the void. I moved aside from the pre-aim, but he retargeted me so I used the stop sequence.”

Jess blinked. “And it worked?”

Dev looked at her, then looked down at her intact person, then back at her, and raised an eyebrow. “Yes.” She agreed. “And then Evan entered and disarmed him.” She concluded. “Then my scanner picked up the alarm from the weapon, and I knew it was going to destruct. I also knew based on the location that it would trigger the carrier self destruct, so I encouraged everyone to leave.”

“Yelled at us and told us to move.” Clint confirmed. “But I’d gotten the sound of the alert and I didn’t need no encouragement cause I knew what that was. We hauled our asses out of there fast as we could and we just got off in time before it let loose.” He added. “And lemme tell ya been anyone else driving that transport we’d be seagull chow it was that close.”

Jess stared at him, then swung her head around to look at Dev, brows hiked.

“The implosion and energy release disrupted the engine out flow for the transport.” Dev nodded placidly. “I boosted with the landing jets to disperse it, but it was very near stall, and we were too close to the ground to likely recover.”

“It was excellent that Dev directed the escape.” Abe commented, his first of the session. “We all felt very confident that we would be safe.”

Jess turned around and looked at him. Then she produced a brief grin. “Yeah, I been there.”  She returned her attention to the group around the table. “What made ya mess with that wreck?”

“Parts.” Clint responded. “I wanted some boards from the rig. I started yanking stuff off, then found the retaining clips on the hatch door.” He watched Jess’s brows hike right up again and her eyes widen. “Right?”

“No trainer.” Jess understood at once.

“Right.” Clint said. “So I told Dev to come take a look, then we saw those guys sniffing around the wall.” He made a gesture at Evan. “They thought something was there.  So we hooked up the loader and started yanking.”

Jess looked at Evan.  He shrugged his broad shoulders. “Just felt squiggly.” He said. “Didn’t know what.”

Jess considered all that in silence for a minute. “That kid was in there since the crash? How is he still ticking?” She wondered. “Saw that crack in his skull. Surprise you yanking him out of there didn’t splat him.”

“Went out when I whacked him.” Evan agreed. “Lots a blood and stuff.”

“Well, that’s a question for the doc.” Clint concluded. “But I’ll tell ya, that was a reg Interforce rig, we knew it before it blowed up.” He paused. “Something’s goin on.”

“If he took the stop code, he’s reg.” Jess said, bluntly. “That gets put in after you clear the Point, before they hand you real guns, that safety.”  She glanced at April. “You’re grad with that, even if you aren’t on station yet.”

“Yep.” April nodded. “For sure.”  She said. “This whole thing’s fucked up, between that kid with a bio alt collar and this kid aiming here, no way this is all chance, Jess.”

“No way.” Jess agreed at once. “There’s a game going on.”

“Game.” April nodded again. “What kind of crazy game - who knows.” She spread both hands out on either side then laid them on the table. “But there’s something there.”

Jess slowly nodded. “Something there.” Then she looked at Dev, and then, reached over and put her hand on Dev’s knee. “Good job, Devvie. All the right stuff.”

Dev was drinking her tea, settled back in her chair with her mug between her hands.  She moved the cup down and smiled in pleasure at the compliment. “Thank you. I had excellent response from the persons who were part of the activity as well. They also did all the right things.”

“Damn good thing they all listened to you.” Jess swung her head around and looked at the rest of them.

Abe regarded her with a mild expression.   Evan snorted.  Clint just chuckled. 

“Okay.” Jess leaned back in her own seat. “We ain’t gonna get anything out of this kid until he’s conscious if he makes it.”  She said. “So I guess…”

“Time for mess.” Evan concluded. “And they got bugs I seen em.” He made a little wiggling dance against the wall.

“Time for mess.” Jess repeated. “So lets go.” She waited for the rest to hasten out, and then she looked at Dev, who was finishing her tea. “Damn sorry I missed it.” She said, in a tone of genuine regret.

“Everyone thought you would say that.” Dev told her. “And I am sorry as well, as I felt the activity lacked your presence.”

Jess’s face relaxed into a grin. “Didja?”

“Definitely.” Dev said.

“But you did great.” Jess protested nonetheless. “Everyone did what you told em.”

“Yes, that’s true.” Dev agreed. “But I missed you.” She looked gently at Jess.  “Was your project a success?” She asked, watching Jess smile at her.

“Project?” Jess murmured, her brow creasing, then clearing. “Oh!!” She chuckled a little sheepishly. “Yeah  I guess… wanna come see it?”  She asked, hopefully. “I think it works.”

“Yes.” Dev put her cup down. “I would like to, and also to change clothing as this set has a lot of mud on it.” She looked at her knees. “And also..” She glanced at Jess. “What are bugs?” She asked, a touch diffidently. “Should I bring some fish rolls to the night meal in case?”

“Giant shrimps.” Jess reassured her. “C’mon, you’ll be fine.” She stood up and held a hand out, and Dev took it, standing up to join her as they left the conference room, and headed out into the hall.


Dev recognized the difference as soon as she entered the housing and the big door slid shut behind them.  It wasn’t that the space was warm, it was not, but for a change, it was not colder than the hall she’d just left behind.

There was also a lack of wind pressure against her, and the door closing did not come with the howl of that and the compression of air the pass through of outside flow had caused.

That seemed optimal. Otherwise there was no sign that activity had taken place, the housing seemed quiet as it usually did, the big gathering space with it’s odd and mismatched furnishings neat, and slightly warmer from the warming pad set in the wall.

She could feel that against the backs of her hands as they went past, and the side of her face but it was fleeting, and the room itself had the look of being freshly swept.

She also could, though, detect the scent of recently penetrated stone, which she had come to recognize, and the smell of plastic fabrication she knew well from her own workshop.


Intrigued, she followed Jess through the hallways until they reached the far end, and turned the last corner before the gap and then they stopped, and Jess took a step to the side, so she could see what they were looking at.

“So that’s what I was up to while you were saving the planet again.” Jess remarked, in a self deprecating tone, as she put her hands in her hoodie pocket, leaning back against the hallway wall.

Dev blinked. Covering the opening to the outside there was something new.   She walked forward and inspected it, her eyes growing wide with interest. “I see.” She murmured as she took in the construction. The plastic material was thick, at least as wide as one of her fingers, and it was stiff, but pliable. 

The sections, even and regular, were laid out so that the edges overlapped slightly, giving a uniform rigidity to the installation, and they were looped over a new neatly bent piping that followed the line of the rock wall and was firmly fastened into it.

Explaining the scent of powdered stone she’d detected, and the fastening of the plas had been heat bonded, which explained the second thing she’d picked up.  So that was that. Dev mentally dusted her hands off and went on to continue her evaluation.

The plastic extended past the opening on both sides, and the effect, though it was segmented, was of one sheet of material that was flat to the wall, making a competent seal against the outside.

Jess watched her in some mild apprehension,  “What do ya think?” She finally asked. “Kinda jank, huh?”

Dev walked along the layer of plastic, running her hand over the sections until she reached the end of it, then pushing gently against one of the middle sections and sticking her head out into the chill of the night.  She then turned around. “Jess. This is amazing.” She responded sincerely.  “Really excellent.”

Jess regarded her. “It’s a plastic curtain.” She said. “Basic?”

“Yes.” Dev agreed. “But It’s brilliant engineering.” She turned and ran her hand over it. “The way it’s layered? And the shape? It’s amazing.”

One of Jess’s dark eyebrows lifted up. “It’s a plastic curtain.” She repeated in a doubtful tone. “You messing with me?”

“If you mean am I saying that untruthfully, no.” Dev grinned briefly. “It is a plastic curtain. But it’s an excellently designed one, that covers this opening perfectly and performs the function intended really well. It’s amazing.”  She turned. “The way this is layered, like this…” She touched the sections that overlapped slightly with each other. “Keeps it in place, and prevents the air pressure from shifting them.” She knelt down. “And the weighting here is done very well.”

“They’re fishing weights.” Jess admitted. “Lumps of iron, we wrapped the ends around em and melted the crap out of them until they fused.”

“Excellent.” Dev examined one, sealed in the bottom of the plas strip. “And covered with this substance so they do not make sounds against the floor.” She looked up over her shoulder at Jess, who now had her hands in her pockets and an encouraged look on her face. “Thank you Jess.” She stood up. “This will make it very comfortable here.”

Jess produced a grin in response, her shoulders relaxing as she bounced gently off the wall. “Glad you like it.”  She nodded. “Yeah, it’s better not having the wind shoving all that rain in here.” She concluded in satisfaction. “Wish I’d thought of it before now.”

Dev came over and gave her a hug. “Well I am glad you did in any case.” She said. “And it will prevent the ice from covering the floor.” She said. “Which is also excellent.”

“No kidding.” Jess relaxed, returning the hug. “My ass still hurts.” She exhaled in satisfaction. “Glad it was productive. Still wish I’d been with ya.”

“Yes, me as well.” Dev said. “But as you were not, this is an excellent result from you not being there.” She gave her another hug. “You are so amazing Jess.”

Jess absorbed the affection, and smiled wryly over Dev’s head. “Thanks Devvie.” She said. “And you really did kick ass today. Everything right on target.”

“Yes.” Dev nodded her head. “I had programming for all of that, I was just apprehensive that I could direct everyone.” She felt Jess rubbing her back and it felt wonderful. “But there was actually not any time to be concerned.”

“Nah, it was go time.” Jess replied placidly. “Anyway you knew the bios would do what you told em.”

“Yes, I am their senior.” Dev agreed. “I suspected that Doug would, as he knows this danger as well.”

“April mighta kicked.” Jess said. “Clint mighta.”

“They did not, as it turned out. Clint also knew what was happening.”

“Damned good thing they all got it.” Jess said, suddenly and in a thoughtful tone. “I should… ah, that’s for tomorrow. Lets go get a shower.” She concluded, turning Dev around and bumping her towards the sanitary chamber. “I think I got plas shavings in my underwear.”

“That does not sound optimal.”

“Pokey, and they itch.”


“Lucky they were in dock.” Brandon commented, as the trays started approaching from the mess kitchen, steam rising from their contents. “Froze those suckers hard, they had to dump em.”

“Our luck.” Big Mike poured himself a cup of grog from the pitcher on the table and sat down. “Win win. Doc traded em a bunch of crates of stuff that’ll last. They can use it going out long when they head out tomorrow.”

‘Maybe they’ll bring a load back sometime.” Brandon winked at him. “We’re getting a decent rep.”

“Heard that.” Big Mike lifted the cup at him, and grinned. “New times.”

“New times.”

The mess was full and loud, and two tables over from the head table the AyeBees and BeeAyes that had accompanied the mission were being celebrated, surrounded by other sets eager to hear the story about what had happened at the escarpment.

Dev was in her accustomed seat next to Jess, their backs against the wall of the mess hall so she had a good view of both the room and the approaching edibles, starting with the pots of liquid that started any meal at the Bay. 

The emotion in the room was evident, she had heard there were raves planned for later on, and there was some dancing going on at some of the further tables while they waited for service. 

She noted the swirl of attention around Abe and his set mates and gave them a wave, trading a thumbs up gesture as well.

There was spice on the air, the typical smell she had in general related to the circular animals she liked, so she was interested to see what variation this might be when it eventually arrived.  In the meantime, she just made her observations, listening with one ear to Jess talking to April on the other side of her.

Cathy came in and took her seat, and smiled at Dev and Jess. “Doctor Dan will be here soon. He’s just cleaning up.”

“How’s the catch?” Jess asked her. “He still kicking?”

“Oh yes.” Cathy said. “They got him stabilized.” She explained. “He had a very marginal status when he arrived, but Doctor Dan worked with Jerad and they got things turned around.”

Jess had no idea what that actually meant, but she nodded anyway. “Good. I got questions for him.”

“I think everyone does.” Cathy said, in a sympathetic tone. “I know Doctor Dan certainly also does. It was really well done to get him out of that situation and here to med.” She smiled at Dev. “I heard Dev was the hero of the day.”

Dev produced a non committal expression, but then smiled as Jess put am arm over her shoulders and shook her gently. “Yes it was a successful effort.” She conceded. “We achieved a full load of the clay. I do not know what the condition now of that area is. We will have to see if a second is possible.”

“After the big bang?” Big Mike asked. “Mighta done ya a favor. Dug up more stuff.”

“Might have. We’ll have to go back and check it out.” April was seated on the other side of Jess, leaning back against the wall. “Who knows? At least that damn thing didn’t blow off the sensor we planted.”  She folded her arms. “Still putting out. The boom drew in a few spectators, but they took off when they saw it was still smoking.”

“Not stupid.” Mike Arias said. “Patrol was quiet today. Weather sucked so bad everyone stayed out of it.”

“Except you.” April eyed him.

“Hey I like snow.” Arias shrugged. “I liked the white, y’know? Even the Pole.”


The servers came over and thumped the soup pot down on the table, tossing a stack of bowls down with a tangy clatter.  “Yo.” He issued a succinct greeting. “Sup?”

“Yo.” They all took a bowl and with a skillful dip and pour, the server transferred the contents of the pot to the bowls without spilling any on the table. He slid a packet of dried sea wrack sheets from the basket on his back and put it down, then moved off towards the next table.

The soup tonight was creamy seaweed, a mild green in color and thick in texture, and Dev was glad to dip a spoon into it and take a mouthful, pleased at the rich, slightly sweet taste. “This is excellent.”

“Go tell cookie.” Jess was busy with her own bowl, held as usual in her hands as she disregarded the spoon.  “Maybe he’ll cough up some more treats for us.”

Dev just kept consuming the soup, listening to the snatches of conversations around them.  She took a sheet of the sea wrack and crumbled it over the surface of the soup, adding a pleasant crunchy texture, and a deeply briny, spicy tang to it.

The sets were very pleased, she could tell. The ops sets who had gone with them had come back to find an additional stipend attached to their accounts for their good work, and she had heard probably twenty different accounts of her flying escape of the location so far, each with a different exciting spin to it.

She herself had not considered the flight to be that remarkable. Aside from the moment of uncertainty when she had lost power during the explosion, it was a relatively normal lift, given the transports configuration and the heavy load they were carrying and now her thoughts had mostly gone to pondering how she could make the big craft better at that sort of thing.

Leaving it to chance seemed unsatisfactory. Perhaps an additional set of vents to the engines, to redirect energy flow.

Doctor Dan arrived, with Jerad at his side and they settled into their seats.   They both had fresh coveralls on, and Jerad was making idle washing motions with his hands which showed a bit of rawness to them.

“Well then.” Kurok poured himself a cup of grog.  “That was quite a tussle.”

“Looked pretty croaked.” April said, briefly. “Wasn’t sure he was gonna last until we landed.”

“He has a cracked skull.” Doctor Dan said, as one of the servers circled back and stood next to him, with the soup pot and an expectant expression.  “Here you go, lad.” He pulled two empty bowls over, and slid to one side to allow the dispensing of soup. “Cracked skull, and two broken leg bones, one femur, and one fibula, both compound, along with broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder.”

“Pooh.” April let out a sound. “Shoulda croaked.” She concluded, shaking her head.

“Surprised he made it through Evan hauling him head down outta there.” Doug also shook his head. “Wasn’t gentle.”

“Better than being blowed up.” Big Mike said. 

“I am quite surprised he survived the crash, much less for two weeks trapped where Clint described.” Doctor Dan concluded.  “Anyway, a tough lad.” He said. “I think he’ll pull through though.” He glanced over at Dev. “Outstanding job, Dev.  How did you know where to find him?”

Dev put her spoon down. “It wasn’t me.” She said. “Evan told me he was just wondering what was behind the rocks.”

Jess nodded. “Scrubs hunting.” She remarked succinctly. “That’s what he said when I asked him."

“Yes.” Dev agreed. “I think you would have known as well, Jess.”

“Maybe.” Jess set her now empty bowl down and licked her lips. “Good soup.”

Dev resumed consuming hers. “Clint brought the loader back into the cavern and everyone started pulling on the carrier. As soon as it cleared the edge of the rocks, I started picking up patterns.” She took a spoonful and swallowed it. “There were biologic signals.”

Doctor Dan nodded his head. “Yes, that rock has a crystalline structure that’s quite unusual. I took some time to dissect a bit of it before you all arrived back here. It’s synthetic.” He started in on his soup. “That’ why it blocks scans.  It causes the beams to shatter.”

“Ah.” Dev looked up from her bowl, an enlightened expression on her face. “Yes. That makes sense. I was able to adjust the bend parameters and it was getting a little clearer before all of the activity started.”

Doctor Dan was watching her, a smile twitching on his face. “Were you?”

“Yes, but then everything blew up.” Dev concluded. “But it was an interesting problem while it lasted.”

Loud hoots sounded suddenly, and they all looked up to see servers coming back out, carrying wide, square trays, emitting steam.  On them were piles of bright red items, full of angles and spikes.

“Bugs.” Jess said, with satisfaction. “Nice.”

“What the hell is that?” April asked, staring at the trays.

Dev was gratified that someone else other than her had to ask and she glanced at Jess for the answer.

“Lobsters.” Doug was the one who answered, with a pleased look.  “Awesome. Spicy too, from the smell of em. Must have made a big old boil back in the back.” He nodded briskly. “Yum.”

The servers were plopping the big trays on the tables, and instead of bowls, threw a handful of long skewers after the trays and backed off, as the Bay residents dove after them with gleeful abandon.

Their tray reached them and Dev found herself looking at large creatures, the length of her arm with two big claws, an angular, spiky head with big black eyes and a tail that did, in fact look a bit shrimp like in shape if not in size. “Is this… like the crabs?” She ventured hesitantly to Jess. “On the boat?”

“C’mere.” Jess grabbed one and pulled it over in front of her, then stood up and ripped the arms off the creature, putting it’s claws and legs down and slamming her fist on them to make them crack. “Ow.”

Dev jumped at the sound, and now it started to cascade around the room as the animals were ripped apart and broken up. “Um.”  She was aware, in her peripheral vision of all the sets standing up and watching what she was doing, unsure themselves of what to do.

Jess broke one of the claws open and presented it to her. “You eat the soft parts.”  She explained briskly. “It’s good.”

Dev took it and examined it, as the juices, warm and spice ridden, ran over her hands.  She removed a bit of the inside and gingerly sniffed it, then put it into her mouth and chewed it.  “Oh.” She said in pleased surprise. “It’s really nice.”

Jess was laughing. “Yeah.” She went back to ripping the animal apart with her hands, tearing off the tail and then cracking it down it’s length with her powerful grip. “This is the best part.”

Dev held up the cracked claw in demonstration to the sets, who did not hesitate to scramble back to their tables and duplicate the effort, most using their mugs to smack the creatures rather than their hands.

Big Mike pulled his knife out of his boot and used the hilt to smash the lobster he pulled over to his place. “Gonna take forever to clean up in here tonight.” He watched the bits of red shell go flying.

“Here.” Doug grabbed one and pulled it’s tail off, cracking it in half as Jess had and opening it up, to rip the spice dappled white flesh from the inside. He then offered a piece to April.

His partner stared at him, then she looked over at Dev, who had picked up one of the skewers and was probing inside the claw for more of the animal. “What do ya think, Rocket?”

Dev glanced up. “It’s delicious.”  She reassured her. “Really.”

“You don’t trust me?” Doug asked, in a wounded tone.

“No.” April took the meat and took a nibble, then she relaxed and took a bigger bite. “You told me you could eat starfish.” She chewed slowly, watching him out of slitted eyes. “Bastard wrencher.”

“Well you can.” Doug resumed his dismemberment. “You just regret it afterward.” He cracked open the two claws and handed them over to April then started on one of his own.  “Haven’t had this in a long ass time.”

Jess finished smashing a second lobster and sat down, picking up a skewer and sticking the end of it into one of the legs. “We never see em. They go up to Quebec, or the other side.”  She regarded the mess across the table, which appeared as though a big red plastic bomb had exploded all over it. “Probably a good thing.”

“Yes.” Dev finished one leg, then started on the other.  They were a bit like the shrimp, but with a different, richer taste to them, and a slightly different texture. The spice was sweeter than they used on the shrimp as well and very tasty and there was a lot more material to consume.

“A rare treat.” Doctor Dan obviously knew how to deal with the animals, he had one neatly in pieces in front of him, a pair of surgical cutters gripped in one hand. “Not one we saw up on station either.” He fished out a bit of the creature and put it in his mouth.

“Really lovely.” Cathy agreed. “My family is from Quebec. I had this at my brother’s graduation the first time.”  She regarded the mess on the table. “There are things you can get, to crack them easier.”

“And miss on this fun?” Doctor Dan picked up a pitcher of grog and used it to smash one of the leg knuckles. “Nonsense.” He picked amongst the shells and separated out the meat. “A great way to celebrate our exciting day.”

Dev inspected the now empty leg shells and moved on to the tail, which promised a significant payload, giving up a piece of animal that was as long as her two fists put together and wide as her hand.  She regarded it thoughtfully.

“Want me to cut that up for ya?” Jess had been watching her. “Either that or ya just pick it up and chomp it.”

Without commentary, Dev picked up the large item and took a bite of it, pleased when it did not resist unduly and she was able to chew it and enjoy the taste. “That’s very nice.” She said, after she swallowed. “I”m very glad it’s not as spicy as those crabs were.”

“Could be.” Jess told her.  “It’s all in what ya boil em in.”


Jess chuckled deep in her throat.


The final edible was frozen sea grapes, and after all the excitement of the main course it was delightful to just nibble them, Dev thought, their brightly astringent taste clearing out the richness of the lobster from her tongue as pitchers of hot tea were passed around and the worst of the shattered red shells were swept off into plastic bins.

The sets had sorted through their unusual meal and Deg could see Adrian examining the face of one of the lobsters, with it’s stalks and eyes and at a nearby table the scrubs had started an apparent game of using one piece of shell to flip other pieces of shell into a cup.

Dev chuckled silently.  “Jess.” She gave her partner a sideways glance.

“Yees.” Jess was sipping on her cup of tea.

“This was really good, but also, really messy. How do they clean up all of it?” Dev asked, in an undertone.

“Seawater and a firehose.” Jess responded promptly. “Soon as everyone leaves they’ll open the doors to the loading docks lower level and blast everything down that way and into the bay.  It’s all bio.”

“Ah.” Dev said, enlightened. “Optimal.”

“Yup.” Then after she swallowed she stood up abruptly and drew in a deep breath. “Yo!” She let out a bellow.  “Hai!”

It took a minute for the sound to die down, as heads turned towards her.  Everyone’s ears perked up, and they focused with interest on the head table.

Jess lifted her grog cup and gestured towards the table full of AyeBees and BeeAyes. “Good job.”

They all sat up straight, with looks of delighted surprise, and then,  awkwardly, Abe stood up.  “Thank you.” He said, in a clear voice. “It was good work, and we were glad to be included.”   The rest of the sets at the table nodded, and across the room wherever bio alts were seated, they did as well.

“It was.” Jess agreed. She turned a little and raised her cup to the table full of scrubs, who were seated nearby, watching her avidly.  The six who had gone with the group were nearest her.   “Good job.” She told them. “Specially you, Evan.”

They raised their cups back at her. “Yo.” Evan said. “No problem.” He demurred, but with the biggest grin on his face.

Jess smiled and grinned back, and then turned to her right. “Thanks.” She said, to April and Doug.

April smiled back, with that predatory edge. “Always glad to be the point of the knife.”  She drawled.

“Well done.” Jess then said, sincerely, to Clint, at the end of the head table on the far side of Doug. “Enjoy the ride?”

Clint laughed. “Oh yeah.” He returned the lifted cup. “The best.”

Finally,  Jess paused and looked down at Dev, who had put down her chunk of animal and was sitting quietly, watching her. “And you, are my rockstar.”

Dev grinned briefly.

Jess turned to look out at the assembled Bay, who were watching her, some of them in the back standing up at table to see.   She put her hand on Dev’s shoulder. “She speaks with my voice.” She said, into all that interested silence. “Never doubt it.”

Dev’s brows edged up as she watched Jess’s face.

A thunderous “Hai!” Rocked the room and was loud enough to vibrate eardrums.

With a satisfied nod, Jess sat down. 

The noise in the room abruptly resumed, pleased laughter lifting up.

Dev looked around the table, and found Doctor Dan looking back at her with a faint almost mischievous grin and made a note to ask him later what all that had actually meant.  

She picked up her cup and took a sip of the tea then she glanced to her left and found Jess looking at her, and winking.

Then her partner leaned over and took a bite out of her meal.  “You okay with that?” She whispered, their heads almost touching.

“With what?” Dev whispered back.

“With what I just did.”

“What did you just do?” Dev asked, pleased this mystery would not have to wait until Doctor Dan was free to chat about it.

“Now we’re both the Drake.” Jess told her, a twinkle in her eyes.

“I see.” Dev said, after a stunned moment.  She glanced past Jess and saw the sets regarding her with grins and thumbs up approval.  “Interesting.”


Dev could see Jess was waiting for an answer, and she really had no idea what it was she had just gotten herself into. However. “Yes, of course. “ She responded. “I”m pleased to perform whatever activity you decide on, Jess.”

Jess just started laughing. “You have no clue, do ya.”

“Not in the slightest.”

“It’ll be fine.”

Dev held up her tea cup in salute, and then found herself being kissed. It had, she concluded, turned out to be really a pretty good day.


Continued in Part 21