Saturday, May 21, 2016

Serial Western Part two-War Wound

May 21 a bit late in the evening here, the next day in some places but Happy Armed Forces day to all members and ex-members of the Armed Forces.


This is part two and final section, of War Wound, my post Civil war action packed Western.
Even if that is a redundant sentence. :)
Comments are welcome.

I ended up adding over 1,000 words to my original tale. That was after I cut a few sentences and phrases. I added more in descriptions, action and the five human senses to draw people deeper into the various scenes. It's very hard to do that with just one or two senses, even though there are a couple of authors who can. But for most of us we need the whole batch of human senses. Even with that I believe I would have done more of that if I had rewritten this by scratch.

I added a bit from last week to help reorient the reader to what is happening in this week's section.




He figured the something was him. He saw one of them glance his way. 
     John glanced down at his clothes. He cursed—silently again. He had forgotten he was wearing a red plaid shirt. That wasn't good at all, he must be standing out like a Yankee among Johnny Rebs.
    More gun shots.
    *****

 John spurred his horse and raced down the other side of the hill, and around a huge outcropping of rock. He jumped off his horse, opened a saddle bag, then rummaged around in it. He hurriedly sorted though the three shirts he had in it, finding the one that would be the least noticeable in this terrain. It was dark blue with some green in it. Not the best, but at least the green was the same as some of the leaves this far up the mountain, and it would be harder to see in shade. John quickly pulled off the red shirt, popping two buttons as he did. He stuffed it into the saddle bag under the other shirts, than put on the blue one. 
     He leapt back onto his horse and started off, buttoning his shirt as he did. The new shirt was thicker and may keep him warmer too. It didn’t smell of sweat either. One less thing to alert them to where he was. He looked around, listened for birds, squirrels, horse steps or low voices. Now he would take the fight to them. Old instincts came alive as he circled the hill to get behind them. Even his senses seem to come alive. It always seemed that he could hear and see better. And he would notice a tiny breeze brush his arms hairs. His nose functioned a cut above its normal ability.
     Forty-five-seconds later he found that he was now behind and to one side of them. He watched them as they rode on. Now there were five and none seemed to be wounded. Maybe the wounded one was hold up somewhere, too hurt to join in looking for him. He could hope anyway.  
     John noticed that all five were about to ride around a second large outcropping of rock near that hill he had been on. This one had a cleft in it and two tiny trees growing from it. Around the rock there were many trees clumped together. He heard their horses snort and their hoofs hitting the mulch covered ground but they didn’t speak. Not even in a whisper. A heavy breeze blew over him. He thought it was away from them. The only   odors he caught came from the forest: mulch being stepped on and crushed, bird droppings, pine needles. 
     They probably thought he was still running, and would be easy to spot in that red shirt he had been wearing. Their mistake, he thought. Wished he had some mint leaves to chew on to keep his mouth busy.  
    The last man was behind the others by a few feet. He looked young and probably did not have as much experience as the others seemed to have. He wore new solid blue shirt and denim pants too.
     John urged his horse onward. He, even though a gelding, was a good horse well trained in being quiet. He planned to come up behind the man from one side. John debated how to take him out. Shooting would make too much noise this close to the others. Looks like it has to be the hard way.
     The younger man must have sense something and turned to see John right next to him. 
     He looked startled and said, “You're not..."
     John didn't let him finish, before he grabbed him and pulled. Both men fell off their horses. John made sure he landed on top and was up first and punched the other just as he was standing. It was a hard hit, but the other took the punch and threw one of his own. He was faster then expected and hit John on the chest. It hurt, but John ignored the pain and swung again. They traded blows for a few seconds with John landing more hits then his foe.
     The younger man must have realized he was losing for he stepped back and started to draw his gun. John could smell the man’s sweat as his fear grew. John almost nodded because he had expected that action. As the gun cleared the holster and started swinging up, John brought down his hand hard. His hand impacted the top of the gun and the man’s thumb. The force of the blow hurt, but not bad enough to interfere. The weapon flew out of the guy's hand. The man made an automatic reach for the gun, even though it was a useless action. It was a short motion for the man aborted the effort, but John still could take advantage off it. First he jabbed the guy in the stomach hard. The man bent over and as he did John threw an uppercut right into his moving chin. The man's eyes glazed over and he collapsed. John had almost cried out from the pain of the impact, it hurt a lot more than he recalled. 
      Age or out of practice.
     That had taken longer then John had planned. He backed up and smacked into the unconscious man's horse. The horse spooked and took off around the bend. The same curve the others had taken not that long ago. They would be wondering what was taking their companion so long. If they didn't know something was up, they would now. John ran over and leaped on his horse and rode into the trees.
     In scant heartbeats the four riders came back around the bend and galloped into the trees after his own horse’s thundering hoofs. For the next few minutes he and the four played a deadly game of hide and seek. They managed to get three shots off. Twice as he slipped, barely in time, out of a small clearing as one or more of the others rode in. One of those thumped into a tree next to him. Birds took off screaming their fear. Bile came up in Tom’s mouth. The third shot missed be a good distance.
     Finally John decided it was time to end it, in a way he didn't want to, but had already decided to do. He maneuvered his horse though a thicket then in between two trees very close together. The trees had high brush around them and some very low branches. He had his horse ease into a clump of bushes-the bark on either side scrapped his outer legs even though his pants-and stop. He just sat there while waiting for the others. He saw three ride nearby slowly looking though the brush. All three turned to their right and entered a small clear area. He backed his horse out silently, then followed them in drawing his gun as he did. 
     As they were about to head back into the trees, he said, "Hello,". 
     He had his pistol ready and fired one round as he finished saying, "Hello". John moved his arm to his left, firing again. He  kept his arm moving, without slowing and fired once more. 
     When they heard his hello, two had started to twist around in their saddles, drawing their pistols as they did. His first two shots hit them before they could finish the movement. The first one had his gun halfway out of his holster when John's bullet drilled into him. The impact knocked him off his horse. The second  had twisted around enough to see John, but the second bullet hit him before he could even think about aiming his revolver. He fell sideways, landing by his horse's hoofs in a clump. Both men were dead. John's third shot missed.
     John reamed and as he did he noticed that the third man was the one he thought of as the leader of this band. Before he could fire again there was a movement behind he more felt then heard. He did something he hadn't had to do in years, but his body still remembered. He pitched himself off his horse, rolling as he hit the ground. He hit a little hard, but was able to keep rolling. He rolled for a few feet though a small clump of bushes. He finally came up on one knee facing toward the leader, on one side and his horse on the other. There was a fourth rider on a horse behind and to the right of John's horse. He had a rifle pointing at where John had been a moment ago. The guy looked puzzled like he couldn't figure out why John was no longer in his sights.
     John thought about shooting him, but the angle was wrong to get a good shot, so he fired at the leader again. Right after squeezing the trigger, he stood and took off, running in a zig zag pattern. He stopped behind one of the larger trees and quickly reloaded his pistol. It wasn't empty, but he had been taught, which had been confirmed by experience, that he should take the time to reload any chance he got. It was not a good idea to have a suddenly empty gun in the middle of a fight like this one. 
     When he was done he courteously peered around the tree he was behind. The bark dug into his face but it wouldn’t be deep enough to cause bleeding. He had his gun out ready, but John didn't see anyone. Gun smoke drifted and spread out from his original position and he could smell it. 
     With a suddenness that always surprised him, two bullets thudded into the other side of the tree. Neither penetrated all the way though the tree, though. Both John and his wife was glad of that. He pulled back and as he did he realized that from the sound of the impacts, each bullet had come from different directions. So they were trying to come at him from opposite directions, like a pincer. Since he hadn't heard them talking, they were probably using hand signals to communicate. Which supported his idea that they had some experience, probably from the military.
     He spied another hiding place, crouching low, he ran though some underbrush. He ran for some heartbeats before half jumping behind another wide tree. He kept low and peered around the tree. Nothing, he moved to the other side and peered around it again.
    There was one of the two making his way though the underbrush, going from tree to tree. John carefully aimed and pulled the trigger. He thought he hit the man, but in case he hadn't, John dived behind another tree. There was no return fire. 
     Very courteously he made his way to where he had shot the man. No body, not even any blood. That meant he had missed. He froze except for his head. He moved his head around looking for any movement, but saw nothing. They must be waiting for him to move, he thought. He stood there for what seemed like five minutes, or more trying to look in every direction at once. He was in a position he had hated getting into during the war.  
     He finally saw something move. He watched the place for a moment since he could not tell if it had been an animal, or one of the men. On his way through the forest, he had seen, raccoons, squirrels and the like. It could quite easily been one of them that had just moved. In a fast movement, he bent over picked up a large pine cone and threw it where he had seen the movement. It landed and bounced, but there was no further movement. He dived to his right and scrambled on his knees though some bushes. He could feel that the knees of his pants had worn thin with all of this scrambling. He ended up behind a four foot tall, five foot wide rock. Two bullets hit near one side of the rock, throwing up miniature geysers of dirt.
    Tom’s heart rate jumped and he ran in a crouch again, as close to rocks, trees and taller bushes as he could. He made it among a group of trees small very close together. No movement, then a leave rustled on one side of a tree. He ran from the other side of the tree, crouching as he did. At least two bullets buzzed past him and he dived into a roll. 
     He came up on one knee firing. The leader was standing in front of him and to one side. John had seen him, as he came out of the roll, and had his gun ready. John fired three shots at the man. The bullets hit him in the stomach, chest and face. Blood sprayed out of the holes. 
     As the leader went flying backwards from the force of the impact of the bullets, John heard a grasp from behind him. He fell over to his left. He flipped over to his back and very fast pushed with his feet to get his head under some heavy brush. Pine needles, dirt and tiny pebbles poured through the neck hole in his shirt, but he ignored the discomfort. He laid there and tried not to breath hard, and hoping that he was right in thinking that he would not be seen by a standing man. 
     Suddenly something larger than an arm crashed into the brush to one side. Seconds later another crash happened a couple of feet from his right side. He could see part of what looked like a rather large branch. It looked like the last man must have picked up a heavy branch and was trying to smash John with it. He must have lost it when he saw his leader get shot. Again there was a crash, this time a bit further away, near his feet. 
     John saw two feet smash though the underbrush. Dust was thrown up, some settled into Tom’s mouth. He would have to wait to wash it out. He could stand the taste as long as he didn’t have to start coughing to clear his throat.
    The  feet came his way, so he scooted backwards again. This time though his upper half popped out into a clear place. The man and John saw each other at the same time. The man flung the branch at John then drew his gun. The branch landed heavily right next to John's face, but he ignored the crashing branch and more raised dust. John raised his gun and shot the man before he could aim his own weapon. 
     The man just stood there for a long moment then his expression changed from rage and anger to shock. He stood another moment or two, half way bent over, said, "You're not...," then fell forward. John scrambled up and hurried over to check to check the body. He was dead.
     Next John rushed over to the leader. He was surprised to find that he was still alive. The last bullet had just scraped one cheek, probably because the first two bullets had pushed him backwards.
     When John knelt next to him the man looked at him with shock showing, said, "You're not..."
     John said, “You're the third person who has said that."
     "Who are you?"
     John said, "The man you have been chasing for the last few hours."
     The man nodded and said, "You changed your shirt to something that wouldn't stand out so much."
     "Why were you trying to kill me? I don’t know you nor have I harmed you.”
     "We thought you were someone else. Someone who had cheated us, he sometimes liked to dress like you were, and we were told he would be where you were."
     John Adler felt rage boil up, he felt like throwing his gun as far as he could.
     In a voice that was almost yelling he said, "All that death over a mistake?!"
     "It looks like it. In your case it was mistaken hate, with those minors it was just a mistake, we didn't set out to kill them."
     John couldn't believe his ears. He felt even more rage and bought down both hands, hitting the ground hard. He let out an angry scream. He didn't feel the small pebbles and dirt particles dig into his hands. 
    "All of this death! You killed innocent men and you forced me to kill you and it was all over a mistaken identity."
     The man looked taken back by the violent reaction, he coughed in pain, then said, "We've... paid for our mistake. The man we were after pretended to join us, became out friend. He...(cough) he cheated us out of some money and a job we had been hired to do. When we saw you, we thought you were him... two of our younger men started shooting at you. They reacted too soon because of lack of experience. Then when you led us to that minor's camp," 
     He coughed again, swallowed hard, then continued, "The same two men opened up, when they thought the minors were drawing on us. I saw what was happening and shouted not to fire, but it was too late. I really am sorry about their deaths."
     John shook his head in unbelief as the dying leader continued, "You shot the two men over there," 
     With an effort he raised one arm and pointed in the general direction of where John had shot the two men after coming up behind them and the leader.
     John sat back and thought about the death that he had just seen and participated in. He had thought that he had left all this violence behind, far behind in the war, but it had come back into his life the hard way. Over a stupid mistake even. He shook his head again.
     A few seconds later the man he was kneeling next to gasped and died. John checked the body to make sure the man was dead then walked over to where the two men were. He double checked them as well. One had died instantly, but the other may have lived a couple of minutes after being shot. Next he found his horse.      
     After he had brought his horse back to where the leader's body was he went back to the two, than he found the last man he had shot. He dragged all of the bodies together. More dust rose up but now he could drink from his canteen. The warm afternoon weather made the water taste better than usual. 
     A new idea formed. He went though the pockets of the dead men, taking what he thought was valuable. That included their weapons and money. There was not much on the way of jewelry. He bundled what he found together in an old half blanket he had. He then put it in one saddle bag. 
     When he was done he got on his horse and rode to the minor's camp. As he neared the camp, he rode slowly making sure his horse made plenty of noise this time. When he rounded the curve in the trail, he was met by two guns, a revolver and a rifle. He stopped making sure he kept his hands in plain sight.
     Ignoring the weapons pointed at him, he explained that he had seen what had happened and after finishing some personal business he came back to see if he could be of assistance. At first the two surviving minors did not want his aid, but he used a quiet voice and was able to convince them that to allow him to help. They finally agreed and he slowly got off his horse, still keeping his hands in plain view. 
     As he helped dig graves for the dead he talked with the survivors finding out that the two had been off hunting when the others were shot. One had heard the shots and had hurried back. He was in time to see someone ride off, but hadn't get a good look at him. The minor didn't know if he had been responsible for this or not. John, who thought that it was good that he had changed his shirt, just nodded. John also learned that only one of the dead had a wife and child waiting for him back home. One other, the youngest, had two parents and some brothers as well as sisters who would be sad to learn of his fate.
     When the dead minors, were buried and a few words said over each grave, they put the dead killer on the back of John's horse. While digging John had explained the he knew where to dispose of the body. John got on his horse and after a farewell he rode off. 
     As he neared the trees he stopped, and said that he had something he had gotten while taking care of his business. It could go the widow of the one dead man. He fished the half blanket out of his saddle bag, dropped it, then hurriedly rode off. He stopped within the trees though.
     One of the two walked over to the bundle, unwrapped it, stood up in surprise, then called his buddy over. The other came over and grasped in surprise when he saw the money, guns and two rings. They bent down probably to examine the revolvers. One was a fine one that officers used in the army. After a discussion John thought they may have decided that they would sell the weapons and rings and add what they got to the cash. They would then give it all to the widow of their friend. It would not bring him back and it would not be as much, as if they had struck it rich, but it should help ease some of her burdens.
     John rode back to where he had left the bodies of the other killers. He dropped the one on the back of his horse. He then went off to take care of some bodily needs, which including eating. It had been hours since he had last taken a bite of food and even though he was still emotionally upset his body insisted he feed it. That was something else he had learned to do 
during the war. To ignore various bodily needs for long periods of time, but at the same time his body did need fuel eventually. Best to feed it when he could. That had come in handy during this reopening of his war wounds. 
     He had ridden off for a good distance so he could eat without any reminders of what he had just been though. When he was done with everything he made his way back to the bodies. They were gone. He thought he heard some horses riding off in the distance, but still checked the surroundings to make sure no one was around. He found no one, but he did find tracks to indicate that seven horses, all with burdens, had ridden off. He decided not to go after them.
     He rode slowly back down the hill and at one point when he came out into a clearing next to a short cliff on the side of the mountain. As he scanned the terrain he noticed seven horses that were being led down another area of the mountain, two had riders while the others had something laying across their saddles. One of the two looked to be assisting the other rider. John hoped that the wounded man would make it Ok. He wondered if the two would keep after the man they hated so much, he surprised himself by hoping that they would find and deal with the person who had cheated them. The man most have gotten some false information to this gang and that is what had set up this rotten, damnable fiasco.  
     John Adler shook his head, his mind still on the fact that  he had thought he had left all this killing behind. Yet he had slipped back into it as easy as he slipped his pants on every day. True his life had been threaten, but that didn't explain how he easy it had been. He thought he had left it far behind him, but it was still there. At least though it had come in handy for something good. Keeping himself alive and stopping a band of marauders with revenge on their minds. With that gang that was a good thing.
     He decided he would have to live with his abilities and the memories of what happened during the war, for the rest of his life. With both just under the surface. He tilted his head, maybe, just maybe, he could after all. After all during this fight his mind had stayed clear of his memories of war. After another pause he gave himself a one quick nod and decided it was time to head home. His wife would be glad to see him, especially when he told her he would be home for a while. He spun his horse around and started back down the trail.
     

                          The End 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Update-chapter three edits of Learning CurveX

I finished correcting the edits of chapter three. That didn't take half as long as chapter two, which was good. That battle I referenced last time takes up a good bit of three.

Sometimes I shake my head at what I have to correct. Some I may not know or wasn't sure about: as in who and whom. But must and most-I know the difference but still type in the wrong word at times then don't see when I do a revision.

Or like knifes and knives Or rehabilitate and rehabilitation. There's a better example but I can't find it right now.

My editor also tells me when I should use "However" instead of "but" and when not to use a comma. Or when NA should get snarky.

So here is a very short excerpt from the end of the fight:

-Footsteps came up fast. I spun and punched the incoming guy in the face. I had augmented my arm so he went flying backwards to land on the sidewalk in a lump. I may have broken something in his cheek. I didn’t care. I ran—limped over and grabbed the knife that fell from his hands. It gleamed on its own, and tingled when I picked it up. After I looked it over, I searched all of the other men. None were in any condition to stop me. I found three more special knives. They were new, with barely enough V-nergy hooked onto them so they could defeat low powered V-nergy constructs. If I had known their limits, I could have beaten them. However during the fight I hadn’t thought about testing them. I was too busy thinking on other things like being kicked, and not getting cut.
I looked for the leader. He had taken off running toward the street. I threw another bolo and he fell again. Boy, he was going to have a lot of bruises in the morning. I ran to him, again with a limp even though I did better. In the time it took me to get to him, he had tried to cut off the tangled construct around his feet. I had made sure they were extra strings on that bolo though. I kicked his knife hand. The guy tried to grab for my legs, but puppy was there with a loud growl. He pulled his hand back. Puppy guarded him as I searched him. He tried to cast a spell-yes there is a difference-on me, but this time I was ready. With a wave of my hand the spell went wide and hit something on the sidewalk—maybe the mailbox. I finished the search. I took his wallet and took out a hundred dollar bill. He cursed me again.
“Hey, scumbag, you need to pay for my ripped clothes and for my late dinner.” With that last thought I took a five, ten and a twenty too.
“One more lesson. I doubt if you will heed it, but if you do there is a city rehabilitation center around here some place, plus a rescue mission. Take your choice. If you choose neither, something worse will happen to you.”
I stared at him until he quit his obscenities, then I pushed my will into him. -

Saturday, May 14, 2016

New story serial Western part one

May 14 2016

Time for War Wound an action packed Western tale filled with suspense, by me. L. E. Doggett. :)

I originally wrote this one three or four years ago. I have revised it since at least once so I was thinking it wouldn't need that much work. Well, even though it had better writing than the last two stories I posted, it did need a bunch of work. I redid the opening, working for depth, I redid certain scenes adding things to clarify what was happening and so it would make more sense. More of what my hero would do. I also added a couple of animal sightings, more of the five human senses too. Could use a couple more of both though. So in all even though I deleted a few sentences and phrases I added a total of 500 word. And that was just in the first half. 

Over all I think it is one of my better stories with plot and writing but only you readers can say for sure.

I had planned on making this part 2,000 and a couple hundred words but it kept growing, now it is 3,020 words. 

Anyway enjoy:

War Wound

The rider sat on his horse as he surveyed the flat land around him. Nothing but sage, grass and cows. The warm, dry air didn’t bother John Adler even though he kept his hat on to block the sun. He liked to watch the cattle for he enjoyed the quiet out here away from people. Not much to smell out here either, except horse and cow droppings and the sage. Scents from a fire and dinner of rabbit and bread would come later. 
As his habit John and his horse rested still as a snake, waiting for its prey to come into striking range. John Adler had developed the skill, while serving in the Great War. It had come in handy while he carried out special missions behind the Southern lines. John brushed one hand over his blue dungarees, and thought on how his pants and red plaid shirt made him stand out. He shook his head, reminding himself for the thousandth time, that he didn't have to worry about that anymore.
He didn't like to think of the War, but at the same time he was glad he was able to use some of the skills he had developed during that troubled time. 
He slowly moved his head scanning the area. There was nothing, but flat land for miles; without buildings, trees, hills, or even sand dunes to break the flatness. Off to one side was small smudge on the horizon that was a mountain range. 
His horse moved its head up and down, a second later it flipped its tail chasing away some flies.
He straighten his hat, which was a dull light gray, a little darker than the color of his horse. The hat, unlike his clothes, had seen better days. 
On one side of him, far enough away to look one-third their true size, a batch of cows which were grazing. They were part of a larger herd that were located out here in the middle of nowhere.  
John had been hired by the owner to check out the land. It was more a favor John was doing for a friend, even though he was being paid good money. It was the type of job he liked to do these days. Ever since he had resigned his commission just before the war ended, he liked being out in the middle of nowhere. It was peaceful and there was nothing here that would remind him of the war. Much of the fighting he had been involved had been in either mountains and hills, or wooded areas. It was refreshing, for his memories had a disturbing habit of coming to the forefront of his mind when he saw a ravine, or a certain type of hill side. Here they stayed where they should be, in the back of his mind. 
He shook his head, for even these thoughts were enough to remind him of why he had resigned. He had seen too many good men 
die and had killed too many men. Some of the ones he had seen killed came to mind. He had known most personally. There had that kid blown apart by a cannon shot, he hadn't known. He just happened to be looking in the boy's direction when the ball hit him. 
John shook his head again and tired to shake the thoughts by scanning the area again. As he looked in one direction he noticed a very slight movement headed his way. It was very tiny and looked like it was right where the sky met the ground. He sat up and put one hand above his eyes to see if he could get a better look at it. From here it could be anything from a lone rider to a cattle stampede. But as he learned during the war never assume anything. Even here it could be bad.  
As the smudge grew, he began to suspect what it was. He kept his eyes darting back to it, even as he scanned his surroundings to make sure nothing else was headed his way. A minute later his suspicions were confirmed. It was a party of men riding his way, hard. Looked like seven, even though he couldn't be positive. They were too far away for him to be able to tell if he knew them, or not. A few seconds later he was able to see that they rode like an army unit. Either they were the Calvary, or they had served together and rode that way out of habit.
He mentally prepared himself for trouble, even though he didn't know yet if they were friends, a group working for his friend, people just passing though, or if they meant trouble. He thought, by their looks, it would be the last. He had developed that knack on his missions. It had kept him alive more times than he could shake a stick at. 
As they neared him, they continued to ride hard and suddenly one raised an object to his face. It was a long metallic and pointed his way. He heard a slight noise and saw a small puff of dust explode a few yards in front of him. This was immediately followed by two more reports and two more puffs of dust a bit closer as two other riders raised rifles to their face. 
Before the second bullet hit the ground, he had spun his horse around after he decided it was time to leave. They were definitely not friendly-whoever they were. He didn't know why they were shooting at him, but he thought it would not be a good idea to wait around to ask. He knew he would stand no chance against them.
The way they were riding, he would be in their range about the same time he would be able to get his rifle out of its holster. Seven against one was not good odds even if he was a good shot, and he was not the best shot with a rifle. He would hit some but they would get him in the end.
John urged his horse to its full speed, heading for what he thought would be a more strategic ground to make a stand. 
They rode across the plain for half an hour like that. The wind drove past him, just like on many of his missions. Sweat dripped from his horse’s mane. Sweat dripped down his own underarms.  
One lone rider in the lead galloping, just out of rifle shot range, with seven riders chasing him. With quick looks behind him, he still didn’t recognize any of them but the dust that the horses hoofs raised made it hard to make out their faces.  
It didn’t take long for him to increase his lead. His horse was in good shape and it had been rested, while theirs had been ridden hard already. After ten minutes, he judged that he could slow his horse down a bit and still stay in front of them. He didn't want to over tax his horse, it was a good animal. And he may need it later if they acted this determined.
John wanted a drink of water to wash the dust out of his mouth, but had no time for one. He wasn’t that far ahead of them, but he knew how to ignore the needs of his body for a while. He kept an eye on them to make sure they didn't gain on him, nor give up. It would have looked funny for him to be galloping across the plain, like a bat out of hell, without anyone chasing him. Of course he would prefer that to this.
Finally John entered the foothills of the mountains he had seen in the distance. He started up, slowing his horse as he did. They would have to slow also when they reached the hills. The mountains would provide places to hide, as well as obstacles that would make their rifles useless. That was the plan anyway. He knew from experience that plans very rarely worked out the way they were designed to, but they were good to start with. 
As they climbed higher, he slowed his horse even more. He could now smell pine and the dirt his horse’s hoofs tore up. The shade from the trees and large rock made helped to cool him and the horse.
At the first, he had had his horse climb as fast as possible, trying to outdistance them to allow him to lose them. But now it was too steep with too many things to catch a horse’s leg. Two deer took off fast to the right, angling away from his path.
The chasers didn't give him an opportunity to lose them though. He remembered some of the words his team mates used at times like this. These guys were good for they chased him through the foothills and onto the mountain proper. They climbed higher and higher, no matter how far ahead John was, or how long it took, they were not about to give up. Or so it looked to him. 
Forty minutes after entering the mountain, John rounded a very large rock and suddenly entered a camp. There was two fires going, both almost bunt down to goals. The larger fire had a tripod with a large pot hanging from it. There was a rough hewn 
table set up for eating near the fire, along with a smaller table. Four tents had been pitched close to the rear of the camp. Beans cooked from the smell, his stomach rumbled for it had been hours since he had eaten. The burnt wood odors should have warned him earlier. Maybe he was losing it.
It took him a second to look the camp over—he hadn’t lost that ability. Five men sat in the camp. Each wearing thick denim blue pants and thick, dirty gray shirts. All five reacted instantly to his appearance. They stopped what they were doing and faced him, one moved over to where a rifle was laying on the smaller table.
He just nodded neighborly at them and slowed down, trying to act like he was just passing though. Which he was doing.
As he rode passed them his back felt prickly. He knew they were watching him as he rode on. He made sure he rode slow with no nervous twitches to make them think he wasn’t interested in them and their mine. He went around one of the thicker tree therefore out of their sight. A slow, full count to one hundred and he increased his horse's speed a little. When he thought the horse had had a rest he increased its speed again. Out of the camp he could smell his own odors and knew he passed close to where they had dug a latrine. 
A few minutes later John thought he was far enough ahead of the group of men, to be able to find a place to use as a strategic position to shoot it out with them. He could eat some of the bread he had while he waited. He had eaten cold beans, bread, apples while he had waited for the enemy many times too. He sighed, it seemed like he could never escape those thoughts and habits.
That was why he still wanted to lose them eventually, instead of killing them. He had seen too much dying, and had done too much killing to want to do more.
A few seconds after these thoughts he spun his horse around when a shot sounded. Seconds later it was followed by seven, or more real fast. Some were on top of others. 
They had all come from the miners' camp. He cursed as he realized that it was almost the time he estimated that his chasers would have made it to them. He hadn't expected them to shot the miners. There was no reason to, they were after him, not them. He expected them to be more professional then that. Unless of course they were just mad dog killers, who killed because they enjoyed it. There were men on both sides who had to be put down for that reason. But if so why go after him. It made no sense. 
Damn, he needed to make sure. John decided to back track to the camp and see who shot who. It was possible that the miners had overacted after seeing armed men after they had seen him ride through their mining camp. Maybe they fired first. He doubted it but that way he wouldn’t be so responsible for their deaths. 
With three curses he hadn’t used since the War, he left the trail. Even though it had been a long time, the knowledge of how to cover up his tracks came to the forefront of his mind. Once he had left signs that he had gone on and made sure no one would be able to tell he had covered his tracks he headed back to the camp. He rode parallel to the trail keeping himself far enough away so anyone on the trail would not see him. That meant he could not see them either, but he would have to live with that.
When he neared the camp he left his horse just out of eyesight of the camp. Again using skills he had learned long ago he moved closer to the camp. He moved over to where he thought the latrine was. The smell would cover his own and less chance of running into someone. No one was about though, and he finally 
entered the camp itself. The stink of blood was obvious, it mostly over came the burnt beans odor too. He scanned the woods carefully and when he was sure no one was around, he went over to the bodies. All five miners were dead, but so was one of his chasers. Good. As he examined the area, he found evidence that another chaser had been wounded. From the drops of blood, he couldn't be sure how bad, but it didn't look serious.
When he was done examining the ground, he took one more look around. One last look at the bodies he sadly shook his head, and he disappeared back into the trees. He walked back to his horse normally, forgoing the catlike movements he had used, for there was no need. The chasers had gone on, he must have missed them on the way back down. They would soon figure out that he had tricked them and be looking for him.
Mounting his horse John decided that he would have to do something about the men chasing him, after all. Bile came up. He had hoped he could just loose them, but now, after this act that was no longer an option. Of course he probably would have had to deal with them anyway. He had been just hoping against hope, that he would not have to kill again. He would do what needed doing.
He didn't like leaving the bodies like that, but he didn't have a choice right now. As he rode off, he hoped that they didn't have any families that would wonder what had happened to them.
Just before he went in-between two trees, he turn quickly when a twig snapped back at the camp. Had he missed one of the chaser? The wounded one maybe. But why hadn’t he taken advantage of when John had examined the ground. 
Now he thought he saw someone back by the camp and decided it was time to hurry. He spurred his horse to a medium speed, heading the direction he thought his chasers would go. 
A few seconds later he heard a slight metallic noise behind him. He turned in the saddle to look behind him. As he did he saw someone standing near the camp. No, two people. They looked as if they were dressed as the miners had been. John turned his horse slightly and angled away from the camp making sure there were trees between him and the camp. 
On the way to find those who were chasing him John not only kept his eyes open, but his ears also. During the war he had learned that sometimes you would hear something before you saw it. Even a small noise could give away someone trying to sneak up on you. And animals would run. He had seen a few squirrels-the miners might have been eating them-and one deer along the way but they could be bear here too. 
A few minutes later he heard another slight sound behind him, he again angled away from his current course. He urged his horse to increase its speed and aimed it in between to larger trees that were fairly close to each other. The distance between the trees was narrow, barely wide enough to allow his horse fit in between them. Once he was through the trees he made a quick turn to the right followed by a quicker one to the left. He curved around another tree, this one was over two feet wide. 
He heard a small explosion behind him and out of the corner of one eye he saw a tiny spray of bark as something impacted on the tree next to him. He spurred his horse on, going back and forth. He went around one four foot wide tree, went straight for a while then around another almost as big. Once on the other side of that one he rode up a short hill, once at the top he looked down.
He saw three men on horseback who were tying to sneak though the trees while at the same time looking for something. He figured the something was him. He saw one of them glance his way. 
John glanced down at his clothes. He cursed—silently--again. He had forgotten he was wearing a red plaid shirt. That wasn't good at all, he must be standing out like a Yankee among Johnny Rebs.
More gun shots.

end part one

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lucinda's Story Part Four-conclusion.

 May 7  

This one is the fourth and last part of Lucinda's Story. A grand Science Fiction adventure and a story of a deaf young woman who is going off planet to a special conference. The ship was attacked and damaged by parties unknown. Now it is drifting toward a sun.  

Will Lucinda save the ship? Freak out over too much blood? Trip and knock herself out? Totally space out on her instructions? 
Actually that last could happen but...



”All that means we need to fix the engines now, and you’re the only one who can get the computer to unlock. At least we hope you can."
     She shook her head and said, "I can't do it, I don't know 
anything about computers."
     "Captain White made you one of the command crew just like him. As far as I know, he never rescinded that command. That means it will obey your commands just as if you were the Captain."
     "He should do it, I can't"
     "Something happened to him, or he would have done it already. He doesn't answer calls to the bridge. He's either dead or unconscious."
     "But I can't," she knew her voice went up even higher than normal, "I don't know what to say."
     "We will tell you what commands to give."
     "I can't. I'll mess up."
     "Yes, you can, I know you can."
     "I can't, I will forget what I'm supposed to say," Tears were in her eyes, and again her voice went up more then normal, "I've already gotten my best friend killed."
     "Chelsea is still alive, she is in the medical center now."
     Her breath caught hope filled her heart but at the same time  unbelief fought for room in her heart. She knew it all showed on her face. 
    She shook her head started to say something, but Hackney spoke up first, "You obviously couldn't hear it, but they announced over the ship's intercom that she is alive. She and two others are being treated. Your friend was badly hurt. She will live but not if we don't get the drive going."
     He motioned for her to go over to the open panel. She looked inside. She saw what looked like a tunnel-a very narrow tunnel-barely wide enough for her. The first half was lit with flickering lights, but the second half was pitch black. She could tell that most people would have to bend over part way, to be able to walk through it. Every so often there were flat panels on both sides, along with cables and mysterious objects, hanging here and there. She could see debris laying on the floor. Somewhere in the darker section she could see a cable hanging down sparking ever few seconds. 
     The crewman tapped her on the shoulder. Once she looked at him, Neal explained that because of the way the ship was designed this was the access way to get to the computer core, and to certain circuits. At the other end there was another smaller, round hatch leading from the bridge, which she could use to get onto the bridge. 
     She flinched at the thought of going in there, looking back at General Hackney's face she said, "I've never done anything like this."
     "I know, but I know people. You know my background, I can pick people who are right for the job. I know you can do it. You have to do it but as I said you can do it—I know it."
     For a moment tears came to her eyes. Her mind was a mixture of thoughts-she could because he said so. He picked the heroes of that battle. But he didn’t know her, her heart beat faster. Even more sweat popped out on her forehead, down her back. After a couple of moments. She had failed at other things but after what seemed like an hour she nodded. Lucinda watched in dismay as Hackney dropped his head and sagged for a moment in relief. 
     Looking back up at her face he said, "Thank you—you will have to be careful, and we don't know what you will find. The area of the hull where the bridge is took a couple of hard hits, at the end of the attack. The Captain could be dead, if he was at a console that exploded, he could be badly burned, or—there could be blood splattered around."
     She knew she looked sick, she wanted to refuse again, but if Chelsea was alive she depended on Lucinda to do this, her own parents depended on her to get their daughter home. She had to, so she would. She felt her mouth move to a straight line. She would do this. Hackney took Lucinda over to the crew member.
     He said, "This is Neal. He will explain what you have to tell the computer."
     She nodded, then looked at Neal’s mouth.
     The crewman looked her in the face and proceeded to explain what to tell the computer to do in engineering, it had to release one panel, redirect some circuits as well as turning on alternate wiring. She looked confused, but determined.
     She said, "I'm not sure of all the signs, or if I can remember all that."
     "Did you learn the signs you need?"
     "Yes, I think so, but that was years ago, I don't know if I can recall them."
     "You're going to have to remember."
     He repeated the instructions twice more. 
     Than the general took hold of her face again to make sure she could see his lips, "I know you can do it. Remember I know people. We, Chelsea, need you to do it."
     Neal said, "Once on the bridge all you have to do is go to the video pickup and sign what it should do. We believe that pickup was still operational even though the one in engineering was shorted out." 
     After another warning to be careful of loose wires, cables and to avoid that dangling cable, she was ready to go in. Neal  told her to stay low while going through the access tunnel.
     Still looking unsure she nodded. She felt like crying, but climbed into the tunnel. Her foot scrapped the edge of the hatchway but she barely noticed it. Once in she stood a quarter of the way bent over. She smelled electrical arcs, burnt plastic. Coughed from smoke she didn’t see.  
     Before she took her first step though Lucinda turned around and tried to say, "I can't do this, I can't remember all I'm supposed to say," but Hackney interrupted her saying, “Yes, you can, I know it. Remember, Chelsea would say the same thing, that you can do it."
     She knew she looked at him with pain showing followed by resignation. Lucinda turned back around and begun to walk through the tunnel. Just four feet into the tube something fell from the ceiling sparking and almost hitting her. Lucinda let out a short scream, but kept going as a shower of sparks fell behind her. 
     Later Hackney explained how he and the crew member tried to follow her progress and shielded their eyes from the sparks. She soon disappeared into the dark section.
     At one point Neal yelled, "I forgot, watch out for the drop at the end."
     He then cursed looking at Hackney with a sheepish look on his face.
     "I forgot for a moment she can't hear."
     In the tunnel Lucinda made her way through the dark section. A sudden pain shot through her head as something fell on it. It hit hard enough to push her to her knees. She made a sound she couldn’t hear: the floor felt hard on her knees. She couldn't see what fell, but it felt like a panel. She turned half around looked back the way she had come, but than turned back continued. If something larger fell on her she could be in trouble. Thinking that everyone, which included her parents, depended on her, she kept going. The smoke became thick enough for her to taste it, her eyes teared. But memories came up in her mind. When she first met Chelsea when they were four years old. Later when Chelsea showed her that were something called sounds. Her parents had tried to explain but Chelsea did it a way that made her understand. Then Chelsea had learned sign language so she could communicate with her new friend. 
      No matter how much Lucinda’s body hurt or how hard her heart beat form fear she would do what was needed, even if she threw up all that bile that kept coming up she would do it.     
     As General Hackney later explained, the two men heard a short "EEeee" sound 
     Hackney said, "I hope she's ok."
     Neal said, "The drop isn't that long she should ok, even if she landed on her head."
     There was a pause then General Hackney said, "There is no way to check on her, so we wait." 
     They waited and waited. After what seemed to be more then enough time both beginning to wonder if something had happen to her or if Captain White had rescinded the command after all. 
Suddenly the computer's voice blared from the intercom.
     "I’m having the computer speak for me."
     There was a pause then, "I hope it is. I wasn't sure if I could remember all the instructions you gave me, nor if I knew...the signs to get across...what you wanted, so I told the computer to do what the engineer wanted...Would someone tell him…he can now tell the computer what he wants it to do."
     Hackney looked dumbfounded and said, "Good girl, I should have thought that myself. And I think she has just told him, herself with that announcement."
     After a lengthy pause the voice went on, "Captain White is laying on the floor. I don't know if he is alive or not...That is one reason it took me...so long to get here, I checked to see if he was alive...I think he is breathing, but I cannot tell for sure."
     There was a long pause and, "I tried to get the computer to open the door...but it can't. Something is warped or stuck."
     Once done with what she could, the computer said it has sent the message but there was no way for her to know for sure, she knelt next to the Captain again, place a hand in front of his mouth. She couldn’t be sure if the air on her skin came from him or the ship’s air circulation. Her knees ached, from bruises and maybe a cut. The top of her head still felt there could be another one there. Her clothes were sweat soaked. 
     A moment later though she jumped and spun around when something touched shoulder.
    Her heart calmed when she saw Hackney behind her, so he had tapped her shoulder. Her muscles relaxed. Lucinda stepped back so they could check on the Captain. 
     Hackney made a motion with his hands and said while looking at her face, "You did it."
     He then placed his fingers on the Captain’s throat and a wrist. He turned to say that the Captain was alive. 
     Hackney explained that they had used the intercom to speak to Joash in engineering. They had asked him to turn off the power to this section of the ship, now that he could. A few seconds later the shower of sparks stopped, two-seconds later the cable stopped flipping around and sparking at the other end of the tube stopped moving. They both had climbed up into the tube. Once in they both rushed through the tunnel. Once at the other end they carefully exited it onto the bridge. They found it a mess. It looked like that not only had Lucinda stopped to check the Captain, but she had had to move some debris out of her way. 
      She nodded at him and after what seemed like a very long time she saw the crew member say, "They have started the engines."
     Hackney nodded saying, "I can feel the vibrations too."
     He turned to Lucinda and once more looking in her face he said slowly, "You did it. They've started the engines, now you can go back to the med center and see your friend."
     Lucinda did just that. With Hackney's help she climbed back into the access tunnel, and hurriedly crawled through it. Once out she ran to the med center. Halfway there she almost ran into Tommy who was hurrying the other way to see to his captain. Once at the med center Lucinda almost ran into the doors when they were a little slow in sliding apart. She quickly glanced around, recognizing one form on a bed, rushed over to it. Chelsea was asleep though. She noticed Ferdinand in a bed next to her friend. He was awake.
     He moved his hands saying, She will be Ok.
     Lucinda whipped the tears from her eyes.
     Ten minutes later they brought in the Captain. After a quick check, with the help of the med computer, Tommy was sure he would survive but it had been close. If they had had to burn through the door to the bridge he would have died before they could get to him.
     As Hackney had predicted the drives, even at half power, were able to move the ship out of the gravitational pull of the sun and into a trade route. Two days later Lucinda was in the Med center talking to Chelsea. She had been there almost every waking moment. Today her friend woke up enough to be able to sign.
     Chelsea moved her hands in a complicated, and quick dance saying, I hear you were a hero while I was out.
     I didn't do much.
     Only saved the ship, me, and the Captain.
     I was only able to do that because of what Captain White set up. If he hadn't set up the computer to recognize signs or tell it that I was a Command Officer I couldn't have done anything.
     True, but you still did it. That was good thinking with telling the computer to do what the engineer said and than to have the computer repeat what you told it in sign language. I'm proud of you, you did good. Your parents will be proud when they hear of this. You should be proud of yourself.
     There was a pause as Lucinda tried to think of something to say, Chelsea added, I told you that you can do what you set your mind to.
     A month later they were sitting in a lounge of a passenger liner that had picked up their distress call and had rescued them. The Star Traveler was hooked on the larger ship's side by tractor beams.
     Lucinda was glad they had moved here, the liner’s med center smelled too much like so many hospitals she had been in and the couches here were a lot more comfortable.
    Chelsea moved her hands as she said to Lucinda, Looks like Hackney was right we would be picked up once we were in trade route. I just got a full check up by this ship's doctor and he says I am recovering just fine. The Captain is doing good too. He will be able to recover faster with the better med center they have on this ship.
     Lucinda said, I'm glad you're ok, and I'm glad Captain White will completely recover and I am glad this ship came by, and the food is great here. They have real oranges.
     Chelsea said, Thanks to you there was something here for them to rescue.
     Lucinda blushed, signing her thanks.
     Chelsea continued with, Looks like Hackney may have been right about our attackers coming back too. I heard some of the crew talking while I was resting in the med center. Once the ship's engines were fixed the power came back up.
     Lucinda nodded, for she knew that
     Chelsea continued, Not only were the lights, gravity and stove powered, but the weapons also. Twice a ship came by and buzzed us. I don't know if it was the same ship both times, or if either was the one that attacked us, but Neal told Ferdinand that they 'painted' us with sensors. Our ship's weapons were 'hot' and they could tell we had plenty of power, so they went on without attacking us. They didn't help us even with the distress signal going, but they didn't hurt us either. The second time they came around Hackney thought they were going to attack, I'm not sure why he thought that, but he was sitting at the weapons controls ready to use his experience to defend us. Billy and Ferdinand thought that it was his expert handling of the weapons when he followed them as they buzzed by, that gave them second thoughts. Whatever the reason they kept on going. So now we are safe and the ship can be repaired. You really are a hero Lucinda.
     Lucinda blushed again, dumbfounded. She  smiled though, maybe everyone was right she could do what she wanted and needed to do. 

                            The end

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lucinda's Story-Part Three

It's April 30th. The last day of April 2016, soon it will be summer,  And it's time for the third segment of Lucinda's Story 2,536 words. Next week will be the last one and it will be shorter.

This one didn't seem to need as much work as the two previous segments so hopefully I didn't go over it too fast.

Some excitement in this one. For those who may not recall Lucinda is deaf and currently she is having a tour of the bridge she is on.  Captain White is letting her give commands to the ship. Later on something else happens though. 

Enjoy:

White checked a readout then said, "We have changed course one half degree to starboard."
     Chelsea signed You did it.
     The captain turned back to Lucinda and motioned for her to give it more commands.
     She faced the lens and gave it a series of commands that the computer followed. That included causing the lights to flicker, slow the ship, to increase speed again, to change the color of the monitor at each console to a different color. Finally to tell the captain that he is a great guy, very nice and that she appreciated being able to talk to the computer.
     He turned to her and signed, Thank you to her then said to Chelsea, "You two can come back anytime you want so we can talk  more. I might have her do any course changes we need to do."
     During the next few days the Lucinda and the other passengers settled into a routine for the four months it would take them to get to Blearier's Star. She watched and sometimes joined in when the other passengers talked to each other during the meals. Afterwards they played the various games in the lounge, read or talked. Lucinda began teaching Ferdinand more sign language. 
     At one dinner Lucinda’s face burned when she realized that Chelsea was talking about her. 
    "I'm sure you know that because most handicaps can be fixed either in the womb or soon after birth there hasn't been the need for much research and development in special interfaces and programs."
     Jackie asked, "Why go to the conference and not watch it as a recording?"
     "This way she can actually participate in the discussions and ask any questions that she may come up with. The interactive recordings are not as complete as actually being there. And the distance is too great for an instantaneous    video chat.”
     "Why are you going too?"
     "For two reasons. One is that I think the experience would be first star, I would like to learn more too. The second reason is that she wouldn't go by herself. Lucinda's parents can't take off from work for that long, and they thought the experience would do her some good, help her to break out of her shyness, give her some more confidence."
     The others at the table nodded in understanding.
     Nine weeks into the trip Lucinda was awaken by a sudden shaking of the ship. As her eyes popped open the ship was shaken again. It felt like she was in a ground vehicle that had hit a wall. Or that something had hit the vehicle. The lights came on suddenly and she saw her friend standing by the switch just as a powerful force threw Lucinda out of bed. She landed in a heap, tangled in the blanket. Unhurt, except for a couple bruises she pulled on the blanket, kicked at a part that was wrapped around her foot. With a heave she threw the blanket one way and stood up. The lights flickered. She glanced at them to see if they would stay on. They did for the moment so she quickly moved to her friend.
     Quickly she signed a question.
     Automatically Chelsea spoke, "I don't know what's happening," but then she repeated it with her hands.
     The lights in the outer room started blinking red. She signed telling Lucinda that there was also an alarm, but so far no announcement.
     Suddenly, a component in the wall, a foot below the ceiling exploded, sending sparks downward. Both girls threw their hands over their heads and letting out short screeches. When they tried to move toward the door, Lucinda felt a force throw her to one side when the floor heaved upward. She smacked into Chelsea and then into the wall hard. 
     Lucinda leaned against the wall dazed for a moment then realized her body was pressing into something soft. There was only one thing that felt that way so she knew what or who the softness had to be. She quickly stepped away, turning in time to see Chelsea's eyes close as she fell limply to the deck. Lucinda watched in shock as her friend crumbled. A scream tore lose from her throat when she saw blood on Chelsea's face.
     She stared at her friend for a second. What to do? I don’t know how; get help.
     Lucinda looked up at the doorway-that better work. Without further thought she ran into the passageway. Stopped, where to? The tour flashed through her mind, she turned left, toward the medical center. The ship rocked hard twice on her way. Her feet tried to slip, but she wouldn’t let them. She danced to stay upright. If she hurt herself she couldn’t get help. The flashing red strobes didn’t help. Darkness and red; it looked worse than a horror film she saw last year.
     After what seemed to be way too much time she approached the right doors. They were open and a light shone out of the doorway. She ran in and grabbed the first person she saw. She moved her hands in a fast plea for help. The passenger she had grabbed though didn't know what she was trying to say. 
     A second later she saw someone in a ship jumpsuit, and went over to them. She again signed asking someone to come help Chelsea, but again the person didn't understand. She hoped Ferdinand would arrive, but he didn't. Sweat ran down the inside of her arms, she gasped, breathed hard, gasped again. Think but that scene of her friend with blood on her popped into her mind, she couldn’t banish it.
     Of course she could speak, she knew it would be squeaky and the volume not correct but she knew how to speak loud, "Chelsea needs help, she's bleeding, Please Help."  
     One of the crew members said something then left carrying a med kit, and at that moment General Hackney came in helping an injured passenger. He talked to the crew member whom she remembered as George, but Lucinda had no idea what was being said. Suddenly some huge force impacted the ship, tossing everyone around as the lights went out. Lucinda screamed along with two others. It seemed that the vessel tilted then settled back. Gravity went off for a few seconds as did the lights. Gravity came back on, even though at a lesser strength. The emergency lights came up.
     That was the last of the bouncing and impacts. Lucinda watched the others as they got up. Reading his lips Lucinda saw Hackney say something about she's drifting and George nodded his head in agreement. George went over to a small panel on the wall, pushed a button then spoke. Lucinda had no idea what he was saying but he didn't look happy. Her breath came harder as fear built. Had the drives blown up? The reactor overheated?
     More talk, she caught certain words but nothing made sense. It soon became obvious that they decided to go check for themselves. Hackney, George and Jackie headed out the door. For some reason she wasn't sure about Lucinda decided to follow, nothing she could do here and nothing more she could do to help Chelsea who looked—not alive. General Hackney was good at fixing things and he would be able to figure something out. Maybe they would lead her to Ferdinand or the Captain and she could find out what happened as well as find out about Chelsea. 
     On the way Lucinda could barely contain her panic as she 
tried not to think of what happened to Chelsea. The three men went down the corridor obviously headed for the emergency stairs which Lucinda thought were more of a ladder. As she followed them she tried to keep four steps behind so she wouldn't get in their way but would be close enough to see if they turned or went into a room. And maybe they wouldn’t notice her and tell her to go back.
     Once on Deck two they moved quickly down the passageway. Lucinda had problems walking with the much reduced gravity. All three acted like they were used to it but  At times she would take missteps and almost stumble and she felt like she was bouncing. They arrived at engineering and stepped through the door. There was a smell and taste of smoke in the air but no fires that Lucinda could see. Debris was scattered all over the place, but it looked mostly like papers, tools and such. She saw someone dressed in a burnt Orange jumpsuit standing before a console that came out of the wall. The controls where chest high on the man and he was pushing buttons. He stopped and typed something on a keyboard then pushed the buttons again. From the expression on his face she could tell that whatever he was trying to do wasn't happening.
     He turned to face the newcomers then said something. Hackney and the other crew member each spoke but he just shook his head. He spoke again and Lucinda was able to read a couple of the words he said. Something about the computer locked down and the Captain. She thought it looked like he couldn't fix something without the computer and he couldn't get the computer to let him fix it. The men discussed the situation more then Hackney motioned for them to go some where else. Not knowing what else to do Lucinda followed them. Part way to wherever they were going they met still another crew member, this one spoke urgently and took Hackney over to a porthole. Lucinda tried to see what they were looking at, but only saw a sun that looked very tiny. Whatever the man said caused the others to frown, before their expressions all changed—to something that showed determination.
     The General turned and hurried off with all the others, including Lucinda, tagging along. A few steps further and he slowed then glanced at Lucinda with an expression like he was listening. Soon they neared the bridge. One of the crew members led the way to the door leading to the bridge but as he put in a code in the keypad next to the door nothing happened. Lucinda doubted anything would happen for the door was warped, and looked like it wouldn't open. She wiped sweat from her forehead and eyes. The air felt warm and maybe harder to breath. She hoped that last was just her panic.
     They stood around for a minute, then Hackney suddenly turned and took off down the passageway. He went through one door then another, and came out in what looked like a back passage. One Lucinda hadn't been in before for she hadn't known it existed. He went down it a few feet until he found another door. This one was only half as wide as the cabin doors and was set in the wall making it look like another section of the wall It slide sideways into the wall as he pressed the open button. Everyone crowded around the small opening to look in. Lucinda could see sparks from something loose inside. 
     They men talked some more, and it looked like they were arguing. Hackney pointed toward her twice then finally the two crew members nodded obviously convinced about something. General Hackney turned to Lucinda and quickly moved to her. She flinched thinking he was going to be angry at her. He tried to say something to her but she shook her head and put up her hands to sign something. He took her by the shoulders and looked at her face making her look back.
     He said, "I know you can read lips, I have seen you do it, so I know you can understand me."
     She nodded and said. "I read lips a little." 
     "Good, We need your help. Something only you can do."
     She looked puzzled, but she knew her expression showed panic also. 
     "First, all that shaking was caused by someone attacking us. Some lowlife tried to take us out. They gave up, I'm not sure why. It could have been because of Ferdinand getting one, or two lucky hits with his return fire, or something scared them away. Whatever the case, they damaged the ship."
     She said, "Who...why? We aren't important."
     "I don't know who, they never boarded us, so I don't if they were pirates, someone using us for target practice or what. If they were pirates they want to rob us and the ship. And they may want more from you and the other women."
     Lucinda blanched as she caught his meaning.
     He continued, "There should be none of their type in this area of space but obviously they didn't know that. After the attack we are drifting with no power to the engines. Billy thinks he can fix that but the computer is locked down and he can't get in to fix what he needs to fix. He believes the captain thought we were going to boarded so he commanded the computer to shut down all but life support. That means no other crew member, even with security codes, can get the computer to do anything. That was something Captain White programed in case pirates boarded the ship, they would not be able to use the new computer to help them steal the cargo. 
     "We might be able to break into the bridge eventually, but most of the tools we would use for that are locked down too. We have another situation though. You saw Tony show me something out of the porthole?"
     Lucinda nodded.
     "He was showing me a star we are drifting toward. Somehow all the pounding the ship took got us off course and we are now headed for that star. It will take us a week to get close enough to kill us, but unless we are rescued it will happen. Right now we can easily escape the gravitational pull but the closer we get the harder it will be to escape. The part of the drive that allows us to go faster than light is out, totally fired, but we can use the sublight side to get us away from the sun. We would still be under powered, the drive be able to produce half its normal output, but it would be enough to get us away from the sun's gravity. And it would enough to get the weapons up. They're not much, but they could be enough to chase away any normal pirates. We need to get the drive fixed before we get too close to the sun, or before the attackers come back. Once out of danger we can move close enough to a trade route which would allow us to be rescued." 
     Her eyes went wide and she opened her mouth to say something, but he anticipated her question and said, "I said that I didn't know they were pirates. If they are and their ship was damaged or they were scared off by something they will be back. More then likely they know we are drifting so they will be able to find us if they come back.”

End segment