Brian W. Antoine
November 25, 1994
It had been a busy week, but between the four of us we had the hull of what was to become the Sunbeam III looking like something more than a pile of raw material. Tanindra and I had been smelting the metal, the Tipkatz had been forming it into the needed pieces, then Tan and I had fused the completed pieces into a single coherent structure. At the moment, the two of us were floating above the floor of the flightdeck taking a much needed rest, while Kal and Lyth worked at finishing off the interior.
"I don't know about you, but my back is killing me" I moaned aloud as I tried to stretch out on the still warm to the touch deck. "I think about two hours in a hot tub followed by a long back rub would be just about right."
"It would take that long to remove the stink" grinned Tan as he wrinkled his muzzle at me. "I didn't believe you when you said that working in an E-field would leave us smelling like a Terran landfill, and I should have."
"Yeah, Bob and I both found that out the hard way" I laughed. "One of these days I have to design a better version of that spell. Fortunately though, my family loves the way I smell after I've marinated in my own juices for a few hours. Isn't that right wench!" I yelled towards the bare frame that was the hatch to our living quarters.
"I still have that wire brush around here someplace" came Kal's reply from the hatchway. "If either of you want to be allowed back on the station, you had better figure out how to cleanup before hand."
"See?" I laughed with a nod towards the hatch. "She worships the ground I walk on." Tan obviously didn't think so and he was looking at me with an expression that was about half shock and half disgust. "Ok, ask it before you explode all over my new ship."
"You've been wearing that same expression all week whenever you heard me talking to Kalindra as I just did. What's the problem?"
He thought about it for a moment, then flipped over and floated to where he could look through the hatch before he spoke in a voice that was little more than a whisper. "How can you talk about your Klizan that way?"
"You mean how can I show so little respect towards the head of my family?" He nodded and looked through the hatch again. "I should keep my mouth shut, walk just slightly behind her when we're in public, perform my required duties with honor and in general let her do all the thinking for the two of us." He'd been nodding right up until the last, then he got that silly 'sour lemon' expression again. "Bullshit ..."
"But that is how things work on ..."
"I said bullshit and I meant it. Tanindra, on the day some vixen takes a liking to you and I have the honor to help you avoid her for a few hours, you'll be free to act as a proper Velan male all you want. My family though is a partnership and one of the things we finally worked out is that Kalindra and I are interchangeable as far as duties are concerned. We're equals in everything."
"Then you can give birth to our next child," snickered Kalindra from where she'd snuck up behind Tanindra. Tan jumped like he'd been goosed, and entertained both of us with a varied selection of curses as he bounced off the ceiling and grabbed his head.
"No thanks, the easy stuff I leave to you. I'll continue to tackle the hard stuff like trying to figure out whether I look better in green or blue shirts and who would make a ..." and an alarm went off in the back of my mind which triggered years of training. "Kal, grab Lan Louis and Lythandi, we've got company." Flipping over, I kicked off from the nearest wall and floated out the opening that would one day hold the main forward port. As I passed through the E-field that was holding the heat and air in the unfinished hull, my own field kicked on and I automatically added my standard defense and flight fields to the matrix. When I had drifted about 20 yards from the ship, I brought myself to a stop and did a quick scan of the area. It didn't take long to find what I was looking for.
@5 ... 4 ... 3 ...@ At three, two of Penny's remotes de-cloaked about a quarter of a mile from the ship. @2 ...@ and one more de-cloaked about a half mile astern. @1 ... 0 ...@ and the two that I wasn't supposed to find both silently vanished, to reappear in the center of the local star. This had been going on for about a month now and I figured Penny had to be getting real pissed at the rate she kept loosing remotes. If she'd had hair, I figured she'd have lost about half of it by now trying to figure out how I kept spotting them even when she cloaked them. That was my little secret. I had designed that cloaking field so I knew how to nullify it.
@What is that?@
@Are you speaking to me now? I thought I had to apologize first?@
@What is that ship and who does it belong to?@
@That ship is the Sunbeam III and it belongs to my family.@
@NO!@ and the three remotes I'd been watching accelerated flat out towards the hull behind me. @YOU DON'T NEED ANY SHIP BUT ME!@
*Kal! Shield!* I screamed as I opened fire on the first remote I got lined up on. I nailed it dead center with an energy burst, but the other two were too close and too fast to catch. I should have had more faith in my design and my mate. The two I missed, splashed into fragments as they impacted the hull. The hull could have cared less and didn't even show a blemish where the power plants had detonated.
@Are you out of your damn mind? What the hell was that about?@
@Destroy that thing or I will!@ came the screaming reply from the edge of the system. @You don't need another ship. I can take you and your family anyplace you need to go as soon as you appologize to me! I'll even let Tasindra come along if you want.@
@I've told you before that I didn't do anything I'm going to apologize for,@ but I was sick inside. Once again, Penny showed me just how much of a beating her memory had taken when I destroyed her crystal. She couldn't even get Tan's name right and that was just one more thing to add to the list I'd wished I'd never started keeping.
@Then you leave me no choice but to convince you ...@
As long as I was talking to her, I could tell her general position, and now that started changing as I sensed her accelerating towards us from where she'd been drifting out in the Oort cloud. "Oh shit ..." One hull against the other, I'd have bet that the S-III would have survived a direct impact from Penny. She though was going to be coming in with full shields and that was more than enough to tip the battle her direction. *Kal, Tan, get everyone off that ship and fast! Penny's going to try to destroy it and I don't think she cares who gets in her way.* A second later I sensed the ripple of two teleports as they cleared the area.
@Penny, I can't let you do this.@
@You can't stop me so get out of the way.@
She wasn't being rational about it, so I didn't bother trying to convince her. With a short thought I flew back over and landed on the upper hull of the S-III. *Smaug, my staff please* About ten seconds later my pet appeared in front of me with my staff clenched in his claws. The moment I took it from him, he gave a silent 'cheep' and vanished again.
The moment the staff registered the fact I was holding it, the computer I'd build into the metallic center section came awake and began to ripple with lights. It was a trick Penny herself had taught me and as I linked with the computer I got ready to show her just how well I'd learned that lesson. I'd had a lot of time the last few months to sit and think and design. The hull I was standing on was just one of the results of that time, the staff and the programs I written for it was another.
Tracking her flight path and speed, I fed the specs to my staff. It in turn began to graph out everything I needed to know in my mind's eye. I normally took me a half hour to construct a Gate. With Penny it took about two seconds, with the staff and the programs I'd written it took about five. I waited until she was less than sixty seconds from impact before I said @yes I can@, and then opened a Gate directly in front of her where she couldn't avoid it. I hadn't been real picky about the placement of the exit point but I was sure she'd be at least a week getting back here even at her best speed. I just hoped she didn't annoy the Meenzei to much. They weren't quite as forgiving as I was.
*Is she gone?*
I turned and saw Kalindra standing behind me on the hull. *Yes, for awhile at least.*
*Was she better or worse then before?*
*About the same I'm afraid.* For a moment I just stood there staring out at the stars. *I afraid I should have let her go her own way that day rather then asking her to stay. So much of her memories were tied to that crystal that I don't think she's even capable of being the person we once knew. She simply lost to much that can never be replaced.*
*We can hope?*
*Yes, I suppose we can hope ...* and I turned around to step back inside the hull again. I guess my life had been to quiet for the universe to put up with. Standing near the forward hatch was the Catbeast. *What brings you here? Come to gloat over Penny some more?* For a moment, I didn't think I was going to get an answer.
Finally though the Beast seemed to shimmer slightly and solidify as he said, *Bob need help.*
*Yeah, right. And I'm supposed to believe that you haven't got Bob in there, right?* All I got was a nod as a response and then it stood there staring at me with those damn sapphire eyes. *Look, I'm busy. Come back when you decide you want to actually talk to me* and I turned to step through the empty airlock housing.
*He's dead, Sir. Please help us.*
Huh? Something in the voice itself sounded different as I stopped and turned to face the Beast again. It sounded close, but also sounded younger somehow. On top of it all, the thing was shimmering again. Trying to look at it was like staring into a pair of mirrors that had been setup to face each other. There was one main image, but hundreds of after images fading dimly into the distance. Since I was still carrying my staff, I let it flair to life as I stepped close enough to almost touch the Beast. Then I noticed one other thing that was wrong with it. It wasn't carrying that damn gun that had followed Bob everywhere he went. *Ok, what the hell is going on here?*
* * *
I'd made Jab and Firon repeat the story twice to make sure I'd heard it correctly and I still didn't believe it. However, believing had never stopped either Bob or I from doing what needed to be done.
"Take a look at this thing" I yelled as I waved my hand towards the still warm hull. "How the hell am I suppose to help Bob with this thing? It's at least two months from being done!"
"We not know" was monotonous reply I was growing to hate. "All we know is that you help Bob or he dies today."
"Oh Christ ... From what you've told me, he's probably already dead. Am I suppose to kill Penny in revenge?"
"You still not understand" said the Beast. "Yes, Bob now dead, but Bob not dead at same time. You help, Bob not be dead at all."
"So what do you want me to do, go bouncing around time with you?"
"Yes. You and family help save Bob."
"And for that I need a ship, right?"
I waved my hand around the bridge again. "Are you having trouble seeing? I don't have a damn ship!"
"You will though" came the quiet reply.
"What," I laughed. "Have you figured out how to move something besides yourself through time?"
"Yes, is how our talent different from Bob/Nahn. They move themselves through much time and probability, we move through smaller area but can take things with us."
I thought about that for a moment and an idea started kicking around in my head. "Ah, you understand at last" said the Beast as a smile came to my face. I pulled my watch from my pocket and noted the time. "Can you meet us right here in 90 days?"
"Do it. I'll have this ship ready if I have to fry the other have of Meenzeii to get them to install the weapons I'm going to want." The Beast looked at me for a moment, then shimmered and vanished. I looked around the flightdeck at everyone that had been listening to us talk and started giving orders. "You heard us. We've got 90 days to get this thing flight and battle ready, so _move_ it!"
"Uh, Brian" asked Lythandi in an odd tone of voice. "Ninety of what planet's days?"
"Oh shit ..."
* * *
"It's a hell of a honeymoon isn't it" I said to no one in particular as I counted the minutes remaining on my watch.
"Honeymoon?" asked Naldantis from where he stood in the hatchway behind me.
"That's what Humans go on after they get married" I told him as I ran through the checklist once again. "How that translates in a group family I'm not sure, but since you're the newest member of this crazy family, this is the Honeymoon."
"Does this family come with an instruction book?" he chuckled.
"Yes, but it is written in Meenzei and simply says 'Learn how to duck'" answered Kalindra from where she sat in the only other chair on the flightdeck.
The Sunbeam III wasn't a large ship. Hell, it was smaller than the original had been. With four adults and one precocious kid along, we were just about maxed out for space. Anyone else that came along was going to get a sleeping bag and a spot on the lower deck in the galley to sleep on. The S-III wasn't designed with the same purpose in mind as the first two had been. This one was simply a way for the non-Mage members of the family to join Kalindra and I on trips. That wasn't to say though that it wasn't armed. I'd bargained, yelled, pleaded, traded and flat out threatened Jasm before she'd agreed to arm it the way I wanted. I hoped her grandfather would be proud when we met up with him.
"Well, any time now" I said with a glance at my watch.
"You think I be late?" asked a familiar voice from behind me.
"You could have gotten held up in traffic at the local grocery store after you finished cleaning out their complete supply of eggs" I told the Beast without turning around.
"No eat eggs anymore" he replied with a gravelly chuckle I hadn't heard in way to long. "No can digest them good anymore. Now though, we need move away from area."
"Why?" I asked.
"When move ship back in time. No good if overlap with younger version. Mage manage to park ship in exactly same place as before. Make big mess if move now."
I thought about it for a moment and shuddered slightly. "Right, we'll move" and I warned Lythandi and Naldantis to keep an eye on Lan Louis as the Sunbeam pirouetted on one wing tip and began to move. Before anyone could even blink, we were out of sight of the Tipkatz station and clicking along at about ten percent of the speed of light. "Ok, so do we have to do anything to prepare for the transition?"
"Mage still have lousy sense of time" laughed the Beast. "We already move."
"Huh?" I checked the time signal coming from the station behind us and discovered he was right. According to the computer, we were now in our own pasts. "Nice trick. Are you as good with spatial coordinates as you are with time?"
"Are you sure of where Bob and the Raptor are going to be?"
"Have checked and are sure."
"Then lets get this over with. I've got a lesson to teach."
We were well out of the plane of the ecliptic and doing about .3C when the computer confirmed the coordinates I'd programmed into it. When Kalindra confirmed that the weapons and defenses were ready, I reached down and placed my hand on a small plate between our seats. There were two indented hand prints on that plate. One fit my hand exactly, the other fit Kalindra's even when her claws were extended.
"Fuck Hyperdrive" I said with a grin. "Fornicate Hyperdrive" laughed my mate. Linking with the computer I let it process the needed sequences while I provided the magic. With hardly a noticeable twinkle of the stars, the Gate formed directly in front of us and we crossed the light-years in an instant. Then, every alarm on the ship went nuts at the same time.
@Boo@ was the only thing I told Penny as the Sunbeam targeted one of the three tri-ships in the distance. Even as I confirmed our trajectory, Kalindra vanished from her seat as she went to pull Bob and Nahn out of the fight. Still running at .3C, the Sunbeam slammed into the tri-ship dead center and reduced it to so much shrapnel. As a testament to its design, there wasn't even a smudge on the finish when we looked for damage later.
At the moment though, I had something else on my mind. @Penny, this is the last straw. You can fight with me all you want, but trying to kill Bob and Nahn goes to far. Until I decide otherwise, you are forbidden to enter the either the Terran or Velan solar systems. If you ignore me, I'll scatter your shiny ass all over the spiral arm.@ I heard one scream in my mind and then she was gone. An instant later, Bob and Kalindra showed up on the flightdeck.
"Can't you do anything without getting yourself killed?" I asked him as I felt sick inside.
"Nice to see you too, Brian. Where's the cat?"
I pointed next to him, where I detected the end point of a teleport appearing.
"Right there -- and everywhere."
The Meenzal bowed formally towards me with a knowing smirk on its face, and then stepped into Bob.