Too Late

A story focusing on another family… This was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s writing prompts.

**

Bertram panted as he hurried towards where he knew Maria was.  He could sense her – feel her distress.  More than that, he could hear her sword ringing as she clashed with the Singers.  However, the clearing had fallen quiet when he finally reached her side.  He stared at the bodies on the ground – at the girl covered in blood.

Her eyes narrowed as she stood up.  “You’re late.”

He gave a shaky laugh.  “Did you take your glasses off before you… summoned your sword?” he asked.  It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that she simply hadn’t been wearing them.  After all, Maria wore contact lenses fairly often now.

“One of them knocked my glasses off my face,” she said.  She glanced around, clearly searching for them.

Bertram found them among the Singers that his sister had taken care of.  He wiped them off and handed them over to her.  She heaved a sigh as she settled the glasses in place.  “I suppose we should get Irene to purify them,” she said.

“She’s with Gilbert and Lukas and they’re on their way.  She should be here soon,” Bertram said, grimacing.  He summoned his lance as one of the corpses shifted.  Stabbing it, he added, “Hopefully before they all reanimate.”

“After all I went through to kill them,” Maria said.  She looked down at her clothes and grimaced.  “Thankfully, the blood goes away when Irene purifies them.  Mom would not be happy if I stained my school uniform.”

“To say the least,” Bertram said, almost smiling.  As Irene and their younger brothers arrived.  Bertram smiled.  “Clean up, aisle one,” he quipped.

Irene grimaced and then sang the purification song.  As the Singers vanished in showers of golden light, the blood also vanished from Maria’s clothing.  Then, Irene shook her head at Maria.  “It’s not nice to start the party without us, Maria,” she said, grinning.

“I tried to tell them,” Maria said, shrugging.  “They weren’t very good listeners.”

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Following Through the Trees

Liese skipped through the back garden towards the playhouse that Teva had built for them.  Frieda was already there.  They were going to have lunch together there.  It was nice to have space of their own, particularly since they had three brothers.

Konrad wasn’t so bad.  He was old enough that he didn’t have any interest in pestering them.  The most he would do was come and get them for meals or check in on them.  Markus was also older than them.  He tended to be more keen on not having them bother him – as if they would!  That left Johannes.

He was younger than them.  Sometimes, he was busy doing his own thing.  Other times, though, he wanted to see what they were doing.  He very much wanted to see what their playhouse was like.  However, Teva had said it was theirs and he could only go in if they invited him.  They never did.  They did girl things there, after all.  He was a boy, so he had no business there.

Liese didn’t feel bad about excluding him from the playhouse.  After all, they didn’t keep him out of their room.  In fact, they often invited him to play with them in there.  There was nothing wrong with having one space that was just for them.  Was there?

As Liese reached the playhouse, she rapped on the door and then peered inside.  “Hey,” she said, grinning at Frieda.  “are you ready for our tea party?”

Frieda nodded.  “It’s not really a tea party, is it,” she said, frowning.  “I mean, we don’t have tea.  We have lemonade instead.”

“It doesn’t matter if we actually drink tea,” Liese said, shaking her head.  She sat down at the little table in the middle of the playhouse.  After a moment, Frieda joined her.  While Liese poured their lemonade, Frieda set out their sandwiches, fruit and vegetables.

While they ate, they discussed their plans for the afternoon.  Sometimes, they would make up plays or put on performances for Teva and their brothers after dinner.  Other times, they went on adventures in the garden.  It was a large enough garden that they could spend a couple hours exploring.

They were just finishing when they heard a sound outside of the playhouse.  For a moment, they just frowned at each other.  It was a scrambling sound that seemed to come from the roof.  Shrugging, they headed outside to looked.

“It’s a squirrel,” Liese said, grinning.  She pointed as the squirrel jumped from the roof to one of the nearby trees. They watched as it scrambled from one tree to the next.

Then, Frieda sprinted into the playhouse.  When she came out, she had their backpacks, a compass and a pair of binoculars.  “Let’s see where it goes,” she said, her eyes bright with excitement.

Nodding, Liese took her own backpack and shut up the playhouse.  Then, they headed through the trees after the squirrel.  It took them a few moments to find the squirrel again.  However, when they did, it was still scampering through the trees.

“It’s heading towards the east,” Frieda said, her voice soft.  By noting which way they were going, it would easy to find their way back to the playhouse once again.

They followed it for some time as it traveled along tree branches.  Then, they broke out into a clearing and the squirrel was scampering across the grass.  The girls paused as it clambered up the railing of a porch.  At the top of the railing, there was a bowl of nuts.

“Some one left treats for the squirrel,” Liese said, lifting the binoculars to her eyes.  She watched as the squirrel stuffed its face with nuts.  Giggling, she handed them to Frieda, so she could see as well.  “He’s filling his face with them,” she said.

Frieda hummed and then gasped.  Lowering the binoculars, she said, “He’s coming back!  Look!”

As she’d said, the squirrel was on his way back towards them.  They crouched low as it ran towards them, so that they didn’t startle it.  It leapt up into a tree.  Then, it was running back the way they’d come, over the tree branches.

They followed it back through the trees until they reached the playhouse once again.  Once there, it scrambled down to the ground of the maple tree that shaded their playhouse.  While they watched in amusement, it proceeded to bury the nuts all around the base of the tree.  Then, it clambered up to the roof of the playhouse once again.

As it scampered away, Frieda looked at Liese.  “I think we can guess where it’s headed,” she said.  When Liese nodded, she giggled. Then, she turned as they heard someone calling their names.  They ducked into the playhouse to leave their things and collect their lunch dishes.  Then, they ran back towards the house.

The Only Thing to Fear

Here’s a nice little vignette with the prompt of: write about a fear your character is ashamed of.

**

“You could go up and get a birds-eye view, so to speak,” Kit suggested.

Calleigh looked sharply at Kit.  “It’s dark,” she said, her voice strained.  She flushed when Kit regarded her with a curious expression.  In a soft voice, one she could barely hear herself, she said, “I don’t fly at night, Kit.  I could damage my wings.”

“It’s not that dark, Calleigh,” he said.  His tone was gentle and reasonable.  He was also absolutely correct.  It wasn’t so dark that she risked flying into anything.  She couldn’t think of any other excuse for not doing exactly what Kit had suggested.

“I could do a spell,” Alexander offered, looking from one to the other.  He smiled at Kit.  “Commander Skyler would see further with a bit more light.  Wouldn’t she, Captain?”

“Yes,” Calleigh said, nodding.  She gave Alexander a weak smile.  “Thank you,” she said, her voice soft.

“Do the spell, Al,” Kit said, nodding once.

Alexander wove the lighting spell and the area where they were – where Calleigh would need to fly – brightened noticeably.  A moment later, Calleigh flew up and got their bearings.  After she’d landed and the spell began to fade, they set off once again.

Alexander let Kit a bit ahead of them and then smiled faintly at Calleigh.  “I’m afraid of the dark too,” he murmured.  Then, he shrugged.  “It’s less frightening when you aren’t alone.”

A faint smile touched Calleigh’s lips.  Taking his hand, she said, “Your secret’s safe with me, Al.”  She knew that he’d keep her secret as well.

In the Basement?

Another fear-prompt story.  This one is sort of related to the monster under the bed – write about what hides in the basement.  Since spaceships don’t really have basements, this is the cargo hold.

**

“I always wonder what might be hiding in places like this,” Schuyler said, his voice faint.  He looked up at Ken and shrugged.  “It’s dark and full of things that no one ever moves.  Anything could be down here: spiders, mice, round furry aliens…”

“Round furry aliens?” Ken repeated.

Schuyler shrugged.  He tensed and pointed.  “What is that?” he asked.

Ken turned to look where Schuyler was pointing.  He could see a pair of huge glowing eyes.  “Not again,” he breathed.  He drew his lightning gun and set it on low.  He nodded when Schuyler followed his example.

“What is it?” Schuyler repeated, his voice strained.

“Fast,” Ken said, as the thing darted to the left.  He fired twice, missing both times.  When the thing ducked under a grouping of crates, he waved at Schuyler to move towards the door.  Then, he wasted no time in guiding the other security man out of the cargo hold.

Schuyler gave a weak laugh as Ken sealed the door.  “Monster in our basement?” he asked, tilting his head slightly.

“Spaceships don’t have basements,” Ken said, as he put a sign on the door saying not to open it.  He glanced at Schuyler and sighed.  “We’ll need some backup when we come back.”  Whatever is was, apparently, they couldn’t take care of it on their own.

Fearless

The prompt was to write about someone who wasn’t afraid of anything.  The first person that I thought of was Gretchen…

**

Gretchen frowned as she listened to the captain’s warning over the internal communications system.  She knew that it was meant to prepare them for the worst.  However, she could only see it as a way to scare the people in her area.

“See here,” she said, as she turned to the other people in engineering.  As all eyes turned to her, she said, “Let’s show these so-called pirates what our little ship can do.”

For a moment, no one moved or spoke.  Then, one of the engineers said, “We can’t hope to outrun a ship like that.  Aren’t you afraid of what they’ll do to you when they catch us?”

Rolling her eyes, Gretchen shook her head.  “Captain isn’t going to let that happen,” she said, as she turned away.  “Focus on your work or you’ll have more to fear that space pirates.”

“You?” one of the other said.

She grinned and arched an eyebrow.  “What do you think?” she asked, grabbing up a wrench.  “Now, get to work!”  She nodded as the members of her team hurried off to see to their appointed duties.  With this team and her captain, Gretchen knew that she didn’t have anything to worry about.

To the Teeth

Another fear-related prompt (write about teeth) for my NaNo 2016 characters.  I babysat for a little girl who did what Isaac does in this story…

**

Kit grimaced as he sat at the table with Isaac.  “Stop, please,” he said, glancing at the little boy.  His son giggled and then the terrible screeching sound came again.  He winced and shook his head.  If he told his son not to grind his teeth, then the situation only became worse.  It became a game.  He had to ignore the sound.  That, however, was easier said than it was done.

There was, of course, another solution to the problem.  He pushed the bowl of apple sauce and the spoon over to where Isaac could reach it.  “Apple sauce?” he offered.  Finally, the screeching sound ceased.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Kit went back to eating his own dinner.  At least until the meal was over and he could give Isaac a different game to play – one that didn’t involve teeth grinding – he just had to keep the food coming.

Applying Percussive Maintainance

I’d actually written this earlier in the month, bit it fit the prompt so well: Write about your character’s most terrifying experience so far.

**

Gretchen growled softly as the ship suddenly slowed to impulse speed.  Somewhere, there was a chirp and she heard the captain’s voice.  “Commander Neary, we’re going to be in worse trouble if we go at this snail’s pace and they catch us.”

“I know that,” she grumbled.  Then, she hit the comm button and said, “I’m doing the best I can, Captain.”  Grabbing her wrench, she released the button and struck the engine housing with all her might.  “Run, you piece of shit,” she snapped.  There was a hum as the starlight engines kicked back in and Gretchen nearly fell over when the ship lurched up to starlight speed once again.

Tossing the wrench to one side, Gretchen heaved a sigh of relief.  They weren’t out of the woods yet, but at least they wouldn’t get caught because the damn ship was creeping along at impulse speed.

 

On the bridge, Kit gave Calleigh a tight smile.  “So,” he said, “we both know those pirates aren’t going to leave us alone just because we’re cruising along at maximum speed.  They’re ship is faster than Hannah.  Give me options, Commander Skyler.”

“We could come about and blast them to kingdom come,” Ken quipped.

Kit looked over at him and nodded.  “We could.  If we had more than two torpedoes left and a better chance at actually making a hit on them, that would be a better course of action than running.”

“What if we increased those odds?” Calleigh said, her eyes twinkling.

A frown touched Kit’s lips.  “Listening,” he said, nodding.

“Come about and run at them,” Calleigh said, grinning.  She shrugged and said, “We can’t miss, even with our weapons’ guidance system down, if we get close enough.”

“They’d certainly never expect it,” David said.  He didn’t sound pleased with the idea, but he wasn’t protesting it as insane either.  That was a good sign.

Kit nodded.  He pressed the comm button to hail the entire crew.  “All stations, prepare to come about on my mark,” he said.  He looked at George and added, “You know what we’re doing.  Lay in the course.”

“Aye, sir,” George said.  His fingers flew over the buttons and after a moment, he nodded.  “Course laid in, sir.  Ready on your mark.”

Kit took a steadying breath and then touched the comm button once again.  “Mark,” he said.  He bit his lip as the ship spun around and then flew back the way they had come.  He looked over at Ken.  “As near as you dare, Commander Holmes,” he said.

“Aye, sir,” Ken said, his brows furrowing.  He had his gaze locked on the screen that showed him the pursuing pirate ships.  Then, he keyed the torpedo button.  “Firing one,” he said.  He nodded.  “Direct hit on closer pirate ship.”  He hit the other button and said, “Firing two.”  His brows twitched when nothing happened.  He slapped the console and hit the button a second time.  This time, the second torpedo fired.

Their ship rocked with the percussive force of the second ship exploding.  Then, it fell quiet and Kit relaxed in his seat.  “All hands, assess damage in your areas.  Any wounded, go to sickbay.  Commander Neary, start repairing systems by priority.”

“That was insane,” David breathed.

Calleigh chuckled softly.  “There’s no denying that it worked, though,” she said.  She got to her feet and smiled at Kit.  “I’m going to check and make certain everyone got through our adventure in one piece.”

Kit heaved a sigh and nodded.  “I’ve got to message Starbright Station and let them know about the pirates in this sector,” he said.  As he got to his feet, he said, “Commander Holmes, you have the bridge.”

He vanished into his ready room and sank into the chair at the desk.  He glanced over at the photograph on the wall.  “That was just a bit scary,” he said, his voice soft.  Pirates, if they’d taken the ship, would have killed him and all the men on board.  The woman, like Calleigh and Gretchen… he didn’t even want to think about it.

“The devil’s own luck,” he said, still looking at the portrait.  “Isn’t that what you used to call it, Sarah?”  He heaved a sigh and reached into his desk to retrieve a bottle of whiskey.  He poured just a bit into a glass and raised it to the portrait.  “To luck,” he said.  Then, he tossed the drink back.  After he’d tucked the bottle and glass out of sight, he began composing a message to his superiors in the Confederation.

From My Nightmare

Another fear-related prompt: write about a character meeting someone who reminds them of someone from a reoccurring nightmare.  I had a little fun with this, since the “someone” is so not nightmare worthy…

**

Julian was used to having dreams and then having them come to pass.  That was one of the things that went along with having precognition.  Sometimes, he dreamed about meeting someone long before he ever came face to face with them.  That had been the case with Captain Locksley and with Robin Nolan, as well as many others in the crew.

However, there was something unsettling about meeting someone who haunted your worst nightmares.  That was entirely different, because those dreams had never come true.  The same person was in all of them, but he played a different role each time.  Sometimes, he was the one that Julian was running from.  Others, he was the teacher that scolded him for not having his homework ready.  He’d been a crazed killer or a mean co-worker.  Julian had never expected to meet the man face to face.  Now that he was, he didn’t quite know how to react.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, blinking at Julian with wide eyes.  He seemed so sweet an innocent.

Flushing, Julian looked away.  “Wrong?” he said, shaking his head.  “Nothing’s wrong.”  He cleared his throat and then shook his head again.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “Was there something you needed help with, sir?”

“Not a sir, just an ensign.  You can call me all,” he said, grinning.  Tilting his head, he added, “Anyway… the lights won’t come on in my cabin.”

“I’ll get to that as soon as I can,” Julian promised him.  He heaved a sigh when Al nodded and hurried out of the room.

Afraid of What?

Another fear-related prompt (write about an unusual fear).  Playing with these is really helping me get ready for NaNo.

**

“Trees,” Ryan said, without looking up from the datapad on which he was typing.  When Donna made a curious sound, he did look up.

She was looking at him with an expression of complete surprise.  “How… can you be afraid of trees?”

He set the datapad on the console.  “I grew up at Windstar Station,” he said, shrugging.  “The first time that I saw a forest – a real forest, not one in a book – I was curious enough to explore it.”  He shrugged.  “I got lost.”

Donna blinked at him for a moment.  Then, she nodded.  “When you put it that way, it actually makes sense to be afraid of trees,” she said.

“It doesn’t help that my father told me about trees that could eat people or, sometimes, do even worse things,” Ryan said, as he took up his datapad again.  “I never could figure out if he was just trying to keep me from doing it again or if he was serious.”

Robin grimaced.  Ryan did not need to know that his father was being perfectly serious about man-eating trees.  In a soft voice, he said, “I’m afraid of spiders.”

The Monster under my Bed

Another fear-related prompt using my characters for next month’s NaNo.  This time, the prompt was, “Write about the monster under the character’s bed.”

**

Alexander woke up just in time to see something – like a shadow – slip under his bed.  He blinked, trying to decide if he’d imagined the thing he’d seen or not.  He blinked again when he heard something moving under the bed.

Rolling over, he nudged Robin.  When his partner moaned softly, Alexander whimpered.  That brought Robin completely awake.  “What’s wrong, Al?” he said, touching the other man on the cheek.

“There’s something under the bed,” Alexander breathed.

Robin frowned.  “Sarah,” he said, his voice soft, “illuminate the cabin, please?”  In an instant, the lights in the room turned on.  Robin slipped off the bed and beckoned to Alexander.  He nodded encouragement when Alexander hesitated.

After taking a deep breath, Alexander hopped off the bed and ducked behind Robin.  He frowned when he heard the sound of something moving under the bed again.  He shot his partner a look and Robin nodded.  Waving Alexander towards the next room, Robin crouched on the floor.

He could see a pair of huge eyes peering at him from the dark corner at the head of the bed, by the wall.  He frowned and then left the room, sealing the door behind him.  Alexander was sitting on the couch in the main room, scowling at him.  “No idea what it is,” Robin admitted.  He shrugged and then touched the internal communicator.  “Security, there’s something with huge glowing eyes under our bed,” he said.

Ken’s response was anything but comforting.  “We’ve had a few reports of that,” he said.  “We’ll have someone down right away.  Stay… out of there for now.”

“Right,” Robin said.  As the comm went dead, he looked at Alexander.  “So… breakfast?”

“Down in the commissary, yes,” Alexander said, hurrying for the door.  Whatever it was under the bed, he didn’t want to be there when the security officer arrived to take care of it.

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