Q

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

Quiet emptiness surrounded the Nebulas Mists free floating form against the backdrop of an endless array of stars and galaxies. The ships drives were silent and the lights that would normally accompany an occupied vessel, dark. The cold metal around the airlock of the Nebulas was open wide and unmoving in the deep freeze of the vacuum seemingly waiting for an occupant.

No tenant came, nor went, for the ships open invitation. The atmosphere inside the ship had long been sucked out, gravity not functioning, and any souls left aboard seemed abandoned without any bodies detectable.

“Dead as the day my brother was born, Captain,” Capelin, Lieutenant Commander on the Luna Navy ship Brigandine, reported.

The Captain, Delvine, merely nodded before exiting the bridge of the ship. He would have to go in for a closer look on the Nebulas. He could send an Ensign, but the truth was, he was itching to get out of the ship himself. The Brigandine had received the report of a rogue ship burning thrust in the Luna port, causing massive damage and currently unknown personnel loss. Delvine had chosen to intercept the vessel who’s current identifying signals were quiet and unresponsive. The drones revealed the name inscribed on the hull of the ship, and it matched the reports from Luna.

“Prep a skiff. I’m going for a swim,” Delvine radioed ahead to the flight deck.

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P

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

     “Parts and pieces! That’s it! We are done, stuck in this dusty rock without a pot to piss in,” Ann yelled at noone in particular. Jabari, Sag, and Jason were all inspecting what was left of Mae’s engine room. Debris and melted wall littered the floor. Ann threw her arms in the air, “That’s it I’m going to get floated, or in jail, I’m going to kill ’em. I’m going to find the Nebulas bastard and I’m going to beat every last drop of life out of ’em!” Ann stormed off to check another part of the ship.

     “Should we…?” Jason asked anyone listening as he watched Ann leave.

     “Nah, let the cheif be, she’ll find a way, always does,” Jabari said confidently.

     “A way?” Jason said, confused by the statement.

     Sag responded, “A way to keep us on the move. Ann has always been the one to keep us moving forward through the darkness, even if it is darker still on the other side.”

     Jason’s brow raised. Jabari jumped in, “What our dear Sachi is trying to say is that our Ann will get us another ship even if she’s got to get an EVA on and chase the bastards down who did this jumping off Luna on the nearest Sat launch.”

Sag nodded, “Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve caught a ride with an unmanned rocket as cargo.”

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O

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

“Oxygen levels are breathable, air quality sufficient enough not to kill you,” the plainclothes officer said, “Still might leave plastic and lead taste in your mouth, though.”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s fine. I just need to get to my ship and see what damage that jackass did turning the entire port into liquid,” Ann replied. 

“Be my guest,” the officer waved her to the corridor he was standing at the entrance of, “just be careful not to fall out a hole in the wall until they get them all repaired.”

The officer said the last a little more upbeat then Ann thought was necessary as she made her way back towards where they had docked. When she reached the entrance to the ship hold she stopped, watching the commotion of three, four, maybe even five dozen workers scrambling to get things back in order. The damage caused by the Nebulas Mists was extensive. The entire system where the ship docked was gone. The damage didn’t stop there though. Ann could see that black and broken walls extended hundreds of feet back. Space shown through pockmarks in the outer shell of the building with temporary patches to keep the air flowing. 

The officer was right,’ she thought as she swallowed enough breath full of burnt wiring to make her cough. Ann looked at Mae, their mid-size freighter ship. Seeing the entire starboard side of Mae riddled with damage like she had been through the last war for Enceladus again didn’t surprise her too much, “Damnit,” she said. There were pieces of Mae where she could see into the interior of the hull, but the worst of it was near the main engine she could see part of the drive destroyed by a piece of flying debris. Ann shook her head and went to board her ship and wait for Jabari and Sag to get here to see what they could salvage.

N

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

Nebulas Mists was the inscription on the side of the run and gun style ship that was docked nearest to where Ann’s freighter ship, Mae, was currently. Ann was admiring the sleek design of the Neb, knowing it would be easier to count the ships that could keep up with it rather than the ones it could outrun. The Neb spotted a fantastic paint job of its namesake, a dark red-hued nebula spread nicely along the sides of the hull. Ann recognized it as the Horsehead Nebula, fitting for the runner.

“She’s a pretty one,” a deep melodic voice cooed from behind her.

Ann was immediately upset that Sag’s friend snuck up on her and the fact that she jumped, only slightly, but noticeably still. “Oy, Jason, make some more noise would you.” She turned away from the Nebulas to face him, “So?”

Jason nodded his head toward the ship she was just looking to, “Sure you just don’t want to try and buy that?”

“Ha! That makes us slaves to the creditors for years, let’s just get out old bolt fixed up. What will it take?”

“Mechanic wasn’t so far off when you include what these union ship doctors get paid,” he conceded, but if it’s just me doing the work I still owe Sachi debts I can not repay, and parts will be near ten thousand credits which are all I would charge.

Ann sighed and turned to the new ship thinking the debtors might not be so bad. “That’s fine, that’s near everything after we pay for the resupply, but that is better than the other option I had. Thank you, Jason. How long?”

“Seventy-two hours, give or take. I can start today if I have permission to get the parts.” Jason replied.

“I’ll have Sag transfer the credits over,” Ann said.

She heard him leave the dock observatory deck through the hiss of an automatic door. Ann watched the Nebulas Mists began undocking from its slip and start the slow trudge out of Luna central station. “Someday,” Ann thought as the primary drive on the Neb started coming alive. Ann furrowed her brow, “They are too close to the…” She didn’t have the time to finish the thought as the Nebulas drive came fully fired only moments after leaving the dock. Explosions and screams ripped through the hangar and over the communications through the station’s speakers. Alarms and lights had filled her ears and eyes before she had the wits to begin running as fast as her troubled mind would take her.

M

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

“Mechanics, my ass, you are racketeers! Twenty-eight thousand credits?! I don’t want a new drive, just fix this one!” Ann slammed the terminal with the quote on it down on the counter.

“Look,” the clean-shaven man behind the counter said with a patient tone, “you bring me a pile of broken bolts and ask me to make it functional, this is what we need to do it.”

Ann growled under her breath, they were running out of time and had nowhere near the amount they needed to get going again. She couldn’t find where Sag had gotten off to and was growing increasingly frustrated. ‘A drink, that sounds fantastic.’

Ann made her way through the main thruways of Luna station to the nearest place she could find to settle her thoughts and figure out where they were going to go from here. She settled on an unremarkable hole in the wall with a flickering holographic sign above the entrance that read “Ethyl-o-Luna.” ‘Cute,’ Ann thought absently as she made her way in.

Sag was sitting at the bar, facing away from her, with a tall, lanky man next to him and they seemed to be speaking. Ann was dumbfounded, “You don’t even drink, Sachi! What are you doing here?!”

The room of twenty or so patrons all turned to her, it was the evening for the majority of the working class, so it was plenty full in the small bar. Sag’s friend was looking at her with a bemused look on his face, Sag himself still sat facing away from her, unmoving. Ann waved away the others and made her way to the two across the room and sat to the other side of Sag at the same time he looked at her with. A small corner of his lips raised in a smirk. “Buenas ibuningu, Annie.”

Ann shook her head and looked at the water in front of him, “Who comes here just for water?”

“Ann,” Sag said as he leaned back motioning to Jason, “this is Jason, I don’t believe you’ve met.”

Ann nodded to the tall, thin man, “Hello, Jason. A friend of Sachi’s then?”

Jason smiled wide, “Ay, my lady, and he’s spoken well about you truth be told!” That melodic voice was thick with an accent she couldn’t place and sounded like it belonged to a man much, much bulkier than he was with how deep it was; the contrast threw her off.

Her brow furrowed, but she returned the smile, “Please, don’t call me that.” Ann turned to the approaching bartend that dropped food in front of the two and she took a moment to order a drink before turning back to Jason. “How did you meet, Sachi?”

“University,” Jason replied as he placed a hand on Sag’s shoulder, “Sag and I here made quite the team in classes with both our engineering focus’.”

Ann raised an eyebrow to him, “So you were both into bio-engineering, then?”

Jason laughed, the tone rumbling and from the gut, “No, no. I couldn’t stand any of that biology nonsense. I was the mechanical sort.”

L

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

“Lemons are universal it seems, Ann,” Jabari said as he turned to face her. “Get it? Universal?” He smiled wide at her.

Ann gave him a dubious look before turning her attention back to the now quiet engine room of their ship, Mae. “You worry me sometimes, Jabi.”

“Ha! I thought it was funny. Regardless, this pile needs some serious work. Not sure where we are going to get the credits to get the tune up it needs,” Jabari said as he went back to the terminal showing the red marks from the diagnostics test it was still completing.

“Without the primary drive it would take months to get to the Palisades, we are up shit creek if we don’t get this fixed. Who knows how long Mars will be there,” Ann said, frustrated as she glared at the engine impossibly hoping her anger at the situation would somehow fix it. Ann sighed as she buried the right side of her face in her hand, “Going to find Sachi and tell him we’re stuck here on Luna until further notice.”

“He will be ecstatic about that I’m sure, considering we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him anyhow.” Jabari’s tone was soft and nearly inaudible.

Ann still heard him as she was exiting the engine room, “You wouldn’t know what to do with yourself without our adventures, Jabi.”

“Stop calling me that!” Jabari called after her as he pushed a few more prompts on the screen to finish running the analysis of what work they needed to be done.

“Just let me know when you get the quote from the mechanics,” Ann called back as she turned the corner towards the airlock.

K

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

“Kuiper belt?” Ann’s tone expressed her anger more than her face. “There is No. Goddamn. Way. No, no, no.” She turned on her heel and stormed out of the lounge. “Damnit!” She cursed as she left the doorway.

Sag took another drink of his water. He practiced closing one eye, and then the next. Again. Then again. Sag shook his head, ‘Odd sensation.’ He still found the feeling of controlling functions in his eyes with his eyelids offputting. His new toys were far from the best on the market, but they had their uses. Magnification, recording, net access, communication, and streaming to an outside source; basic functions, but useful. Sag was still practicing the controls that Rhett had quickly explained like they should be natural to him when a hand fell on his shoulder. Sag turned his head to look at the thick, dark-skinned digits, calloused and scraped. He smiled.

“Jason, old friend,” Sag said.

“Konbanwa Sachi,” Jason’s tone was deep, from the gut, melodic even. He sat next to Sag, “Life te trata bien?”

“Watashi wa ikite iru, my friend. Vivimos así que no estamos muertos. You, daijobu ka?” Sag responded still looking down into his glass.

Jason narrowed his eyes, “You have been seeing her again?”

Sag sighed, “For but a moment.” He looked up to his friend and noticed only a hint of surprise on Jason’s face, and only that because he knew him all too well.

Not much surprised Jason anymore and he smiled, “At least they are the same color, a better one in fact! You hungry, friend? I will fill your belly if I can do nothing else.” Jason slapped a heavy hand onto the counter making the patrons near them jump, and the bartend turned to him, “Comida, for my friend and me, Bartend, onegaishimasu!”

A small smile crossed Sag’s features, more than any had in months.

 

J

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

Jabari sat silent, without thoughts, and unmoving. He watched Luna in the distance coming slowly closer, or rather, them closer to it. The hazy blue in the background that was Earth was an afterthought to the colony city lights in the deep cold of the dark side of Luna shining through the blackness like stars inhabiting the surface. Growing up with the backside of metal walls to look at gave Jabari an appreciation for the simple beauty of space. It seemed that the further we as a species traveled into the deep dark the less appreciative we became of things like views, horizons, and beauty. That’s how it felt to him anyhow being exposed to the wrong side of a station, there wasn’t a readily amount of windows available for the scum back alley rats to gaze out of. ‘If there was a window, it was usually the wrong side of an airlock when you pissed off the wrong mouse,’ he thought.

A soft beep brought Jabari out of his reverie. It was the notification of the security checking in on the clearance of the ship. Jabari opened the channel, and a woman’s voice spoke professional and to the point, “Freighter ship, Mae, state your purpose.”

The name sounded odd in Jabari’s ear, he didn’t refer to the ship by name and had almost forgotten it, “Refresh, refuel, and move on, Luna.”

“Understood. Submit trade and shipping licenses before approval,” the professional woman replied.

Jabari did as she asked and it was only a couple moments before she messaged back only a written communication indicating clearance for the rest of the way into Luna space. “Good to go?” Ann said standing behind him.

“Seems so,” Jabari responded turning the chair to her. “Should be another couple hours with the speed they restrict us to. Should we eat?”

Ann approached the large horizontal, ‘window,’ that faced the direction they were going. In truth, there were no actual windows, only a projection of what was ahead of them. The quality of the projection was near flawless enough to fool any human eye, though. “She is beautiful, isn’t she?” Ann said admiringly.

“Luna? Yeah, a pretty little satellite, truth be told,” Jabari replied.

“Jabi,” Ann raised her brow and looked to him, “Earth, I mean Earth, not that hunk of rock.”

Jabari laughed, “You mean that chunk of Earth with poisoned oceans and boiling air, yeah. Sure is a bute, Ann.” Jabari shook his head, smiling as he stood. “Well, suppose we can eat in the lounge when we get there. I’m going to get some coffee.” He put his hand on her shoulder in a friendly gesture. As he went to leave he turned to look back to her. “Oh, is Sag still in his room?”

Ann kept looking out the projection window and merely nodded with a “Mmhmm,” as her only answer.

“Good,” Jabari said as he left to make his coffee.

I

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

     “Integrity of the hull is intact,” just to contradict, or maybe spite him, the proximity alarm sounded followed shortly by another impact that sounded through the ship. “It turns out getting through these fields is harder than it looks, huh, Ann?” Jabari said lightly. Ann wanted to practice her navigation ability. Not being too attached to the hunk of metal, Jabari didn’t mind her scratching it up a bit. 

     “Shut it, Jabi. I’ve got this,” Ann said.

     He knew she did, and in truth, knew she was quite competent when it came to getting this brick of a ship through its paces. Give them both a decent flier and they would both be fighting over the pilot’s seat. “I know you do, chief. Good thing, too, because you keep calling me that it’s going to be just you and the psychopath running this tin can.”

     A hand softly hit the back of Jabari’s head, feeling more like a tap. He turned and regarded dark green eyes flecked with pixels of light every now and again. “This psychopath still has ears, Jabari. There is no need for petty insults; we are all friends here.”

     “Ha, that’s a good one. You seem to forget that all those times you lose your shit you’re, well, losing your shit, Sag. Hard things happen in those times, people get hurt, and you don’t seem to give to flights about it,” Jabari said accusingly moving to sit in the co-pilots seat, turning away from Sag.

     Sag turned to Ann, “This rendezvous is taking much too long, Ann. We need to be on our way,” Sag turned and left the pilot’s deck, disappearing out the small corridor. 

     Ann shook her head and spun the chair to face Jabari. “He’s right. We need to finish topping off the tanks and reserves then go.”

     “To Ganymede then?” Jabari asked looking to her.

     She shook her head again, “No, Jabari, I’m sorry. We can’t go see your home, yet, we need to make our way to Venus’ Palisades.”

     Jabari sighed, “Never expected to make it there anyway. Might I be so bold as to ask why?”

     Ann turned to look out at the consuming darkness with pin hole hints of light as high and low as she could see, “Mars is waiting for us there, Jabi, we need to make sure he dies this time.”

H

(A-Z Challenge, read sequentially from A-Z! [Hint: Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.] Or don’t, that’s fine, too.)

“Hate seems to be the real unifier, Ann,” Sag said, responding to a question she didn’t ask as he entered the dining area. “Being for, or against it, hate is motivation for the extreme.”

Ann raised her brow looking to Sag over her coffee, “Morning, Sachi. A dream? How’re your eyes doing?”

Sag ignored her, “If the palaces of Venus and the floating islands of Earth forget who they are and where came from, the system, solar and economical, will collapse. Sociopolitical coexistence will become nonexistent.”

‘Seems he is feeling better,’ Ann thought as she took another drink of her coffee, a dark roast with hints of vanilla. She closed her eyes a moment and enjoyed the temporary peace before setting the cup on the table. Sag still stood near the doorway, having stopped after entering the room. “Coffee?” Ann asked.

A combination of mechanical and bioengineering stared back at her, dark green in the iris’ flecked with spots of light inside a face as still as stone. “No matter how deep this goes, you continue to brush this all aside.” Sag’s face became drawn, more sullen than angry.

“Look, Sag, I know you don’t remember, but you, I, and Jabari have had a hell of a couple days. We’ve had to detour and might not end up where we first discussed, I’m sorry,” Ann replied.

Sag’s face turned angry, and he took a step forward pointing a finger towards her, “You will not rescind your promise, Annie Avesta Marishiten. You will help me to bring the islands to heel.”

Her mood soured, and she stood making her way around the table. Without any pretense, Ann pushed Sag hard back into the wall near the doorway. She was nearly a head shorter than him, but she was no stranger to dealing with him at this point. It had been years getting to this point.  When he hit the wall, Ann stood in front of him, pinning him against the wall without touching him with how close she was. Her voice was a whisper, but her threatening tone was inescapably noticeable, “You will never tell me how and what to do on my ship, Sachi Apollo Ghandara, or I will put you out in the cold for the night. You will behave and return to your rooms until I come and get you.” She turned and returned to her coffee and seated herself. “You’re still here.”

Sag’s face turned to stone again as he straightened, lifting himself off the wall and brushing off his torso. “You know as well as I, Ann, that Mars will die. The sooner we act, the better.” He turned on his heel and left the room.