hares-recovery

Flashpoint

Jadyn E. Tzeki, personal journal. Whatever the date is. Have to fill it in later. EDIT-TBIA: It’s 10 Desca, 2765, you lazy bum.

It’s been five days since we left the Sol system. We’ve been watching Tarioshi carefully for any signs of stress or unease on her first interstellar trip. Days like this can be long and uncomfortable, simply for lack of things to do and close quarters to everyone else on board. I see nothing but curiosity and excitement at what lies ahead. T’bia’s shown her how to run the various simulations on file. She seems to be enjoying my meditation sims - in particular, the Flashpoint tunnel mockup set to music.

It’s good that she’s partially occupied - gives me time to wonder what the Void I was thinking in allowing her to come along. She’s of a culture that hasn’t been exposed to outside influence - correction: off-world influence. Her culture being all of Terra, of course… Not simply the Kitsune race. It’s too late to kick myself now. She’s here, and that’s that. It’s definitely a relief that she is enjoying herself.

We’re in the process of compiling our final report using the various data we’ve collected, both from T’bia’s Internet download and my ‘field’ research. Tari has been very interested in what we’ve collected. I’ve been describing my time hitchhiking and interviewing people; she finds it hilarious that I was so ‘truthful’ in my deceit. Simply telling people to regard me as an alien and describe their culture as though I were unfamiliar with it… And also, what would people think of meeting an alien? What did they think they looked like? Et cetera, et cetera. It was fun at first, but after while it became more and more redundant. But one way or another, it had to be done.

Tari really is a wonderful fem, though. She’s a very special and gifted lady… The information I’ve pulled up about her people, the Kitsune, is vague at best and downright misleading and misdirecting at worst. I can’t say I expected more; they are, of course, shrouded in myth and legend for a reason. I’m hoping she can clarify what’s fiction and what’s fact if she’s allowed to give the details to outsiders. There’s no real hurry, of course. She’ll be here for a while.

I can’t help but think about what it would be like to settle down with someone who’ll be around for the next several centuries. Someone who can understand what I have to live with - going on, watching entropy take friends and loved ones… I’m certain even she’s subject to it, eventually, but she gets more time here than others…

… Damn it. There it is again.

A new warning has cropped up in my mind, now… Every time I think about myself and Tari, in the terms of more than what classifies in this area as friendship, I get the vibe that she’s got a ‘hands off’ sticker of some sort. I don’t quite understand it yet, but it reinforces my earlier alarm of taking her from Terra. Before, it could have been for any reason. Now, with this warning… Someone else is out there for her, someone she needs to meet for one reason or another, and this particular person is on Terra. Somewhere.

The strangest thing, though.. She may have a proximity alarm in my head, but every time I’m in the same room with her this peculiar euphoria bubbles up that I can’t explain. It doesn’t feel like an emotional thing… It reminds me more of hypoxia, oxygen starvation, but it’s so brief… I’m really at a loss about that. Bee says she doesn’t see a thing wrong with me.

Nine days left to Veloria. We should be back within the safety of Aligned space this afternoon.


Jadyn circled past the center of the mat, never removing his eyes from those of his opponent. Candlelight flashed off the blade of his sword as he padded along the edge of the circle, judging his opponent. The cat tapped his own blade with Jadyn’s, testing him. Teasing him. Taunting.

The indigo fox stopped his appraisal, gliding smoothly into an intermediate stance. The cat misinterpreted the move and made a defensive attack; the slash was easily blocked. They exchanged test blows for a time, getting a better idea of each other, then the competition turned into an all-out festival of metal on metal. Blades clashed. Legs and arms flailed as one fighter or the other moved out of the way of a deadly motion. Fists, feet, and tails swung, making blows where swords failed.

Jadyn ducked past a slash that could have easily taken more than a little off the top and kicked the cat’s feet out from under him. The feline’s sword went flying to the side, sticking in the wall, but the cat didn’t fetch it. Leaving the mats would result in a disqualification. Instead, he hopped upright, baring his teeth and claws for replacement weapons. Jadyn took a few steps back, not looking away for even a second. The cat crouched down, glaring at him with a frenzy only matched by that of a berserker tasting blood. He tensed up like a bedspring, leaping with a feral scream.

Too easy, Jadyn thought, falling to his back. As the cat passed overhead, Jadyn thrust his sword upwards into flesh and felt the grip yank free from his hands, earning scratches over his face in the process. The cat landed in a heap a few feet away, disappearing into the air and leaving the blade to fall to the ground.

He stared at his sword for several seconds, then carefully stood up and brushed off his training uniform. Opening his hand towards the blade, it righted itself and floated gently into his grip.

“Aerin, end training program. Put on some normal light, please.” The scene faded away, leaving him standing in the middle of the gym. Picking a rag up off the corner table he wiped his face lightly, noting the crimson on the cloth. “Bah… I’m rusty.”

“Not too bad. I think I could take you, though.”

Jadyn’s ears flicked back at the kitsune’s voice. “How much did you see?”

“Oh, just a few minutes worth. Enough to see that you’re pretty good against a hologram.” Tarioshi padded up next to him, examining his face. “Why do you have it set up for this? T’bia said there’s safeties to keep from hurting people.”

“An opponent who can’t hurt you is no challenge. I get sloppy otherwise… And then this happens. I heal fast, anyway.”

“For someone with no apparent healing gifts, I have to wonder how you do it.”

“I charm the wounds.” He picked up a clean cloth and lightly polished the meter-long blade of his sword. She glanced at the weapon curiously.

“That isn’t holographic?”

“No, it’s the real thing. I don’t practice with a reproduction in my hand. No offense to the system, but I like mine.” From somewhere above them sounded a disdainful snort. He smiled, passing the blade to Tari carefully. She ran her fingers along the edge, eyebrows raising as she studied the craftsmanship.

“Beautiful engraving… Sharp to boot. A little lightweight for the size, but good… Almost seems like it should be a show piece instead of one for use in a fight.” She slipped her hands to the grip, stepping into the empty center of the room and swinging the sword around a few times. He could tell she was no stranger to a decent blade, just by watching her work with it. “This thing is incredible… It feels like it’s an extension of my arms. You can’t possibly balance at the same point I do?”

“Probably not, no.” He grinned, leaning against the wall as she tested the sword. Out of nowhere a training dummy appeared for her to work against. “It’s called a ktsi. This is one of three weapons that were said to have been forged by the Spirit of War Himself. The three respond better to someone attuned to the Art, but anyone can effectively use them so long as the current owner physically hands the sword over, or the sword takes a liking to the new wielder.”

“How do you mean?”

“If this sword doesn’t like someone, for whatever reason, they get a rather uncomfortable wake-up call.” He pointed at the glowing blue gemstone embedded in the base of the blade. “The gem there is known as the Eye of the Light… If the ktsi is simply tolerating you because you were handed it, the Eye just looks like any other gem. That glow it’s got, right now, lighting it from the inside… It likes you. Void, as bright as that is, it likes you a lot. Even if I’m not around it’d let you use it, probably even come right to you if you called for it.”

“There were three like this?” she asked, taking a series of quick swipes at the dummy. Half a dozen pieces scattered across the floor, vanishing with a pop. A new dummy appeared out of the remains of the old.

Jadyn nodded, watching Tari spin around the target and remove its ‘head.’ Where it landed, a new dummy appeared. “Not all three were swords - one was a staff, a xiyndan. They were kept in the hands of three highly respected families as a symbolic gesture to maintain the peace. It didn’t help with orbital bombardment, but we hadn’t had a war among ourselves for well over twelve centuries before that point. A few minor political squabbles here and there, sure… But no bloodshed.”

“Must have worked…” She studied the grip, then padded over and offered the blade back. “Where are the other two weapons?”

“Don’t know. I couldn’t find them. This was my father’s blade to keep safe, and that’s probably the only reason I was able to find it - it wanted me to, as the last surviving member of the bloodline.” He put the ktsi back in its sheath, hanging it carefully on the wall. “I’m guessing the others were lost deep in the rubble or someone else was meant to find them.”

“You haven’t talked much about your home… Keeps sounding like it’s gone. What happened?”

Jadyn exhaled, blowing a lock of hair out of his face. “The super-short version of the story: We refused to open trade agreements with a war-inclined race. They took us out.” A frown spread on his muzzle as he took a seat on the mats. “The full edition takes some time to tell.”

“If you’re willing to share, I’d like to hear about it.”

He nodded, and was just opening his mouth to begin when a sharp jolt rocked the ship. Tari fell down, yelping as she landed on her tails; Jadyn pulled her to her feet before running to the door. “T’bia! What in the Goddess’ name was that?”

“We’re being shot at. I’ve had the cloak offline for all of thirty seconds… They came out of nowhere. No idea how they dodged our sensors.”

“Drop to sublight and come about.” He dashed up the corridor, hearing the kitsune following close behind.

“What’s happening?” she asked.

“Pirates, I’d wager. Bee - Can you recloak?”

“Not yet. It’ll take at least two minutes to bring it back up after that volley of proton charges.”

“They polarized the hull…? How could they know that’d work…?”

The cockpit doors stood open, waiting for their arrival. T’bia had commandeered the helm controls; Jadyn took the seat opposite hers, pulling up tactical displays. The ship didn’t have much for weaponry, but the little they’d installed packed a punch. “Tari, strap yourself into one of those other chairs. This won’t be nearly as fun as those holographic rides you’ve been on. What do we have out there?”

“Three ships, all on attack vectors. They’re coming around for a second pass.”

“Configuration?”

“They’re similar… no, identical to what attacked us the first time. The exact same three. They still have the same blast patterns we left on their hulls.”

“They’re about to become very unlike what we fled last year. Shut down the holographic imaging systems and route the power to defenses.”

Her avatar vanished. “Done. They’re coming into weapons range.

“Communications open. Unidentified vessels, you are breaking Aligned treaties by continuing this course of action. Break off now and power down your weapons. Perhaps we can settle this over a cup of tea?”

Another round of fire assaulted the ship. Tari screamed as a console exploded, spraying debris all over the cockpit; Jadyn hung onto the controls and fired back as the ship bucked under the force of the impact.

Apparently they don’t like tea,” T’bia quipped. “Whatever they smacked us with there hurt. Massive power surges all over the ship. If we take another hit like that, we’re going to have a huge portion of our systems offline.

“They’re trying to disable us… How’d they get through the shields - No. I’m fed up with these idiots. I’d rather not get into an extended firefight after the mess they caused us last time… What kind of shock wave could we produce if we opened a Flashpoint and then collapsed the field?” he asked.

It’d probably take us with it.

“How about sealing them inside it? Highly doubt those three ships have the force needed to punch their way out of a closed wormhole.”

Works for me. I’ll fake our path and hope they ‘follow’ us in. The trio is behind us and closing. Cloak array is back online.

“Okay. Flashpoint startup.” Jadyn punched in a series of commands and watched as a pulse of energy left the ship, blossoming into a fissure of space-time several hundred kilometers before them. It took mere seconds for the event horizon to stabilize, leaving a bright, prismatic cavern in the center of the rift. He ignored the beauty completely for the first time in his life as the wormhole’s maw hung before them, waiting.

The pilot controls beeped quietly as the AI operated them from within. “Laying in first course and engaging. Programming second course…

Jadyn felt the deck shudder as the gravity of the rift caught them and began to pull them in. “Activating cloak… Now.”

Engaging course two.” The rift slid from the center of their view as the ship shook off the gravity well. Jadyn wondered for a half-second where T’bia was planning on moving the ship. He studied the sensor readouts, watching the trio of pirate raiders stop short of the wormhole’s event horizon.

They sat in silence, waiting for what seemed like millennia in their blue-green darkness. Finally, the lead ship moved towards the wormhole while the other two turned back several hundred kilometers. The tactical readout chirped a warning as a new echo appeared on the scans. Jadyn studied the readouts, then ran over them again.

“Bee? If they detonate a mine in the event horizon, we’re going to have a large problem in short order.”

Tarisali’s tails!” the AI cursed. “Laying in escape course -

“If we take off now, they might detect our Displacement wake. We have to wait.”

I was afraid you were going to say that. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, kids.

“Jay…? T’bia…? How bad are we talking here?”

“It’s enough of a blast to vaporize most of your solar system’s inner planets. There’s no way they’ll make it out alive. The leading shockwave travels faster than light because it’s not traveling through normal space, just extending into it. Most forms of FTL in the area are useless for weeks afterward…” He stared at the screen, and added in a whisper, “We’ve never had to outrun anything like this…”

Tari swallowed hard enough so that even he could hear it. “I should have stayed in bed today…”

Better than full Displacement ready, Jay. Here’s hoping the core can handle it.

Jadyn bowed his head in brief prayer. “May the Spirits show mercy. Bee… Your show.”

Dead silence occupied the cockpit for ten full seconds before T’bia gave the word. “The lead ship is targeting the mine. One torpedo away. Five seconds to impact. Routing maximum power to engines. Displacement… Now.

Every light, every console readout, everything in sight instantly went blank as power was routed back to the core. Jadyn swore he could feel the very fabric of reality ripple around them with the amount of energy that the engines had suddenly been given to play with. In all their travels, they had never pushed the engines past fifty percent of their ratings. There had been no need, no reason to stress things. Full Displacement power was simply asking for trouble. Boosting the inputs past the normal ‘full’ was just ludicrous. And yet, ludicrous speeds were now what they needed to soak out of the ship.

You just had to tweak everything, dad… Thanks.

The window filled with blinding light before it shielded them from the exposure, the ship’s biohull forming into one giant mass of bulkhead in front of them. The Serin lurched uncomfortably as untold forces hurled the craft well past its rated maximum velocity, something the inertial dampening system couldn’t completely cover for. The entire endoskeletal frame shuddered with the massive push propelling the ship. Seconds ticked by, every one feeling like an hour.

T’bia finally broke the deafening silence as the forces lessened. “Reducing power to twenty percent for engine cool down… We’re clear of the shockwave and the FTL distortion wave. By the time anything reaches us it’ll be little more than flatulence. I’m… pleasantly surprised… I figured… Well, nevermind what I figured…

Jadyn realized he was holding his breath and let it out in a long, slow whistle. “What was in the area where it went through?”

Nothing but debris, us, and those other ships. Maybe a couple of sensor drones. We’re at the very edge of Aligned territory.

He nodded, running his hand appreciatively over the panel in front of him. “I’d like to never do that again… What I want to know… How did they know we would be going through there? We didn’t broadcast our flight plan, did we?”

“No.” T’bia’s avatar reappeared in the pilot’s chair; consoles resumed displaying information as she ran system checks. “You delivered it by hand. The plans for coming and going were along different routes and randomized so no one could trace where we’d been. This wasn’t the same place they attacked us last time, either. This time, they attacked at the very point we were scheduled to drop cloak and check in with the nearest listening post.”

“Makes zero sense… Twice they’ve known right where we’d be, and when… How could they know unless someone… Someone leaked it. I’ll kill him.”

“Who?”

“T’zran,” he growled. “That son of a -“

“Calm down, Jay. We’ve got no proof.”

“No proof? He had full access to the plans. He contacted us, breaking comm silence, just to ask when we were leaving. I should have known better than to tell him the truth… We’re making a course change. Cloak status?”

“Ready on your call.”

“Get us to Donami. Whatever speed you think we can handle, use it. It’s high time I called in a favor or two.”

The lights faded once again, leaving them bathed in the backlighting. A second later a slight tremor swept over the ship as T’bia pushed the craft back above the light barrier on its new course. He wondered if they had hurt the engine core at all.

Jadyn stood up slowly, turning to look at Tari. She was huddled up in her chair, tails bristled, ears laid back, completely oblivious to everything. He reached out carefully and touched her shoulder; she barked and recoiled in fear. Only the seat harness kept her from falling to the floor. All his anger vaporized instantly. He quietly chastised himself for not checking on her first.

“Tari… It’s over… We’re all right.”

She whimpered plaintively, head tucked down, eyes clamped shut.

“Uh, Bee… Can we spare enough for a site to site transport for two?”

“Yeah. Yours or hers?”

“Hers.”

The transporter cycled, depositing them in Tari’s room. Jadyn knelt beside her bed, stroking the kitsune’s head lightly. Free of the seat’s harness, she had curled up into a fetal position, still shivering.

“Talk to me, Tari… Please…”

A few quiet cries escaped her throat. Something about not wanting to die before she dropped into Japanese… He reached out, running his fingers through her hair slowly.

“It’s alright… You’re safe here…”

Her quiet, restrained tears suddenly burst into heaving sobs into her quilt. She didn’t even seem to notice he was there, but in the back of his mind he knew it was better to be with her and not be noticed than to be noticed missing. He slid his hands down to her shoulders in a smooth motion, rubbing gently to try and calm her down.

“That’s right… let it out…” he cooed to her, feeling her sobs lessen. It was another ten minutes before she was still and only then because she had fallen asleep. He sat beside her silently, watching her light breathing. His thoughts swirled, wishing for things that couldn’t be.

Why not? he asked himself. Why not dump that little premonition thing and do what you know feels right this time?

The answer presented itself as a short but utterly descriptive memory: the last time that he had ignored the vibe - the only time, as far as he could recall - had resulted in the deaths of over a dozen innocents. The event in question hadn’t been a relationship, but the unmistakable warning sensation had been there. It just didn’t pay to not listen.

There was a definite difference this time, though. The past had been a mere sensation, a small tug to move his decision one way or another. This… This was much larger. The more he studied the sensations, the more absolute it seemed - something in the years ahead depended on this vixen meeting someone else. She had a destiny, and it wasn’t to be with him.

Jadyn sighed, easing away from the kitsune and standing up. He watched her for a few more minutes before turning around quietly to leave. T’bia was standing in the doorway, shaking her head.

What? he mouthed.

A small screen popped up next to her, providing subtitles in her own silence. How would you feel if you cried yourself to sleep next to someone, then woke up later to find yourself alone?

He grimaced. She had a point.

I’ll come and get you if anything comes up. She needs you. Get some rest.


The embrace of slumber was slow to lift from the kitsune’s mind. Images from her dreams blurred together with input from her senses. For a moment she wasn’t sure where she was - Japan, America, in a snow bank - completely lost? Conscious perceptions slowly replaced her fading subconscious imagery. Before long she realized she was back in her quarters on the spaceship.

How did I get here?

Tari thought back to the previous night. The ship had been attacked. They had opened some sort of… thing in space. A wormhole… No, what had they called it? A flash point? The other ships had done something to it… After that there was nothing except terror. She shuddered at the fear her memory recalled and pushed it to the back of her mind. How Jadyn and T’bia could live with that sort of thing on a routine basis and not completely lose their minds -

She suddenly realized that there was a warm body lying next to her on her bed. Rolling over slowly, she watched the blue fox as he slept. His face was different; no concentration, no pain, no hiding whatever thoughts he didn’t feel he could share… Almost all the time he had been open with her, sometimes almost uncomfortably so, but certain things caused him to abruptly change the subject. Even that - changing the subject - had sometimes been done with such grace and finesse she hadn’t always realized he had done anything.

Now, though… He was completely relaxed, dreaming whatever he was dreaming. Tari ran her fingers along his muzzle lightly, caressing the short fur that covered it. His whiskers twitched at her touch but he didn’t stir from his sleep.

I wonder how much I don’t remember… What happened last night?

She looked down at Jadyn’s body, noting he was still wearing the fencing uniform. Parts of the cloth had been charred, a few holes burnt through the fabric. Her own clothes were still in place, so whatever had occurred hadn’t been anything she really wouldn’t have wanted to miss.

Gently, she moved closer to his chest, cuddling against him and enjoying his warmth as he slept. It had been a long time since she had been able to enjoy even the simple pleasure of being close to someone. Very seldom had she been able to be in her true form around others, and never like this. It was a refreshing change that she didn’t have to worry who saw her as she truly was. Jadyn was as close as someone could really get to appearing like herself without being a fellow kitsune.

She studied his face quietly, fingers brushing over his whiskers and tracing the contour of his muzzle. He was rather handsome - and somewhat exotic, too, blue furred and all. She silently wished he would make some sort of move. Her own interests in him should have been as obvious as the attack on the ship, but he acted like he didn’t notice. It had been less than a week since they’d met - or was it more? Time was so hard to keep track of with no real day or night. Still, she felt drawn to him, somehow. Every time he was in the room, she felt refreshed, energized… And his evasiveness was only piquing her interest, the huntress and her prey…

At least a half an hour passed before he stirred, moving his arms smoothly around her as he stretched. Rubbing his eyes, he blinked as he saw her face so close to his own, and smiled sleepily at her. “You look better this morning. How do you feel?”

“I’m cuddled up next to a comfortable blue faux-pillow and I feel completely rested. I’d say I feel pretty good. What about you?”

“Well, I can’t argue with what I do find.” He smirked, shaking his head. “Do you even remember what happened?”

Tari sighed. “Not past running very fast from things that went boom.”

“You were completely incoherent after that. We had to transport you down here. I was afraid you’d hurt yourself if I tried to pick you up.”

“Really?”

He nodded solemnly. “I didn’t know what else to do except let you get it out and wait with you. I wasn’t sure if I should stay with you through the night, but I really didn’t want to leave you alone after that.”

“It was sweet of you to stay, Jay… Thanks.” She nuzzled his cheek - kissing only worked well in a human form - then slid out of bed. Stepping to her bathroom slowly, she paused. “I think I’m going to take a shower quick -“

“Alright. I’ll give you some privacy.” He smiled and left her room before she could object to his departure. She leaned against the entry to the bathroom, shaking her head as the doors closed behind the fox.

Would you like to help scrub my back?


 

Trackback URL for this entry