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 » Publicly Accessible » Preview Excerpts » Taking flight - Chapter 1

Taking flight - Chapter 1

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1 Taking flight - Chapter 1 on Tue Jun 28, 2016 12:26 am


Guardian of Chaos
Copyright © David Noe 2011

Picking up Trash

Written by: David Noe & Kieyotie McDermott
Edited by: Laura Loolaid

The forum that was, could no longer support our ideas, there were so many…
I had met Kieyotie at a Firefly fanfic group, and our collaborative ideas soon grew into a new fictional universe of our own. This text is a considerably edited version of the original roleplay notes; there is also a parallel version of the story from Trouble’s perspective. After all the years, the stories, the roleplay, and the new crewmembers, Tucker 9/Tucker X is the place we always return to, even with newer and remixed storylines - this is where it all began!


Chapter 1 – Picking Up Trash

Smoke swirled and rose through the gaps in the rotting ceiling-boards of the bar as the many patrons drank themselves into a relaxed stupor. Work on Hubris was hard. Tucker 9, the desert moon's only real source for crops and livestock, was no exception. Every waking cycle the townsfolk would struggle to create life out of sand and rocks. Their pay-off - a simple, mostly happy life, free from the burdens and bureaucracy of central civilized worlds. Dust rolled in from the street as people came and went. The mixed sounds of horses and charging hover-cars rose up and muted again each time the doors swung back to their rickety frames.

"Another!" The man at the bar uttered a low growl as he slammed his now empty glass down, causing cracks to appear around its base. He wore a large hooded coat that almost engulfed him. Dry blood covered his hair, face and hands.
He was unsure of how he had even ended up in this bar; his whole life up until this point felt like a haze. Impatient, he patted himself down, finding a small tin filled with herbs and smoke-papers in his top pocket. His hands had  passed over a holster and a protruding handle jammed to his left side; he made a note to examine the weapon once he was on his own.
At least the motion of rolling felt familiar. Maybe if he thought hard enough, the rest would come back... His head began to ache again, as if remembering meant a physical ordeal.

The bartender returned with a drink. Placing it on the counter, he lit up the man's smoke. He decided against asking questions, and turned to serve another customer instead.

Alone with his drink, the man looked down at himself in an attempt to gain some answers. His eyes jumped from bloodstain to bloodstain, provoking more questions. Besides some obvious knuckle damage, he seemed in good enough shape, just in need of a good clean-up. He took a deep lungful of smoke, and let his gaze slowly explore the room, avoiding directly looking at anything - or anyone - in particular. The bartender gave him an occasional sideways glance but left him be. The man slammed another empty glass down on the bar, stubbed out his roll-up, and got to his feet, using the stool to steady himself.

Rubbing his head, he slowly made his way towards the bathrooms. The pain he had awoken with gave way to numb discomfort. The door to the bathroom swung open. He squeezed himself past a heavily intoxicated patron, and quickly locked the door behind him. The smell almost knocked him out, and the floor welcomed him with a puddle better left unexamined. Yet for now, these were the least of his concerns.

He rested for a moment slumped against the door, trying to gather his thoughts. He still wasn't sure how he'd come to arrive here but one thing was certain - it had taken some struggle. Slowly, he made his way over to one of the more intact mirrors. It was missing a corner, and had a large crack running all the way through. He stared at himself, turned on the cold tap, and let the sink fill.

As he gripped the sides of the basin, his eyes wandered back to his reflection.
'Who am I? 'Why don't I remember?'
He stared some more.
'Nothing, huh... How about a name?'
He took a deep breath and plunged his face into the freezing water; after giving his noggin’ a merciless scrub, he stood up with a deep gasp. His dust-brown hair still showed streaks of blood, but his face had cleaned up, revealing a slightly washed-out copper tone. The only evidence that he'd been in a fight were his scarred knuckles, and the state of his clothes.  
He removed his coat, and took a moment to examine the weapon it had been hiding: the piece was a rickety, short-nosed automatic. His gaze crept back to the mirror and he saw his frail lips forming the words, “Who are you?”
A bang on the door caused him to jump and brought him back to his senses.
"Hurry up will ya?!"
"You don't wanna come in here."
“I’ll just go piss in the alley then shall I pal? Thanks!”
Ignoring the distraction, he filled the sink with hot water, and splashed some on his coat to wash off the worst stains.
His sleeve brushed against the steamed up mirror, and he found himself staring into the clear spot. On a whim, he drew his finger over the mist, and wrote up some names.
He watched his reflection uttering the name with trembling lips.
A hot wave of recognition washed over his body.
He had to admit it suited him.

His half-smile faded in the mirror as he caught sight of the grid of circular scars covering his inner arms.
His mind screamed broken scenes and images, all strange or distorted. He gripped his head and let out a helpless yelp. One vision stuck out among the blur. A person... Strapped down... Tubes flowing with unnaturally tinted fluids. Breathless, he staggered to the nearest stall where he emptied his stomach with a violent shiver. Avoiding the mirror, he cleaned himself up again, and returned to the bar.

   * * *

A few miles out from the settlement, long repeating rows of workshops and garages extended towards the horizon. One workshop stood out from the others - among the dent-covered rental units and cluttered share-slots, this one showed the meticulous care of a proud owner. The long daylight was baking its interior, and bounced off the polished sides, blinding anyone careless enough to approach without shades on. A glimpse through the large hangar doors revealed the wreck of a small ship, its origins unclear due to the heavy damage. Around the wreckage, blueprints and tools covered the floor. Three sweat-covered, grease-stained men were working with determination on their weathered faces. One stood near a workbench overlooking a set of plans. Occasionally, the other two would look to him in search of counsel.

Trouble Van Wyngarten was a veteran from the Independent Rystar System. His wrinkled skin and greying hair hid the fact that he was the youngest retired soldier of his day.
One of the men let out a sigh, "Sure isn't like the toys we used to have..."
"But then nothing is.” Trouble ran his fingers along the brim of his hat and looked back over at the heap they had in-front of them.
“Don't worry. When we're finished this thing will handle like a charm." He gave the other a reassuring smile. "Trust me."

Fatigue was setting in. They packed their tools away; two of the men headed for their bunks while Trouble took off towards the settlement. He parked his battered cruiser outside one of the town's many bars, pulled his rucksack off the back-seat, kicked the door shut, and headed inside. It didn't take him long to find a seat. Some locals had heard rumours of his exploits and willingly gave up their places. He settled down and thanked the man, promising to pay for his next drink. A quick scan around didn't reveal anyone of interest except for a tattered stranger with blood stains all over his clothes. Trouble observed the odd man who was drinking and smoking in quiet solitude. The man had an air of anger about him, and judging from his clothes, whatever he'd been through had ended badly for him.

Trouble looked up and saw that his drink had arrived. He reached for his wallet but came back empty handed. “I'm sorry, I've left my credits in the buggy. I'll be right back."
Back at his cruiser, he reached into the storage box, and mumbled to himself: "I remember my bag, but not my cash..." Trouble sat, absent-minded, for a moment. Something felt off … unfamiliar sounds were gradually taking over the town’s usual quiet. The noises were growing louder, and Trouble looked up. His eyes widened in recognition: it was unmistakably the sound of a failing thruster.

The silhouette of a damaged ship broke through the thin veil of clouds above the nearby crater's brim, heading straight for the town. A litter of fly-away parts and a tail of smoke accompanied its rapid descent. It was an Arabian vessel by the looks of it; in pretty bad shape, and coming down hard; its likely crash site – the end of the street. Trouble grabbed his wallet and hurried back inside to warn the others. He flew through the bar doors, frantically shouting, although it was hard to hear him over the sound of scorching from outside, accompanied by people screaming and shouting.

Corey had just settled into another drink but looked up as the commotion began. There was a grinding crescendo that seemed to go on forever; and a crash before a shock-wave sent everyone in the bar to the floor and shattered most of the glass. There was a tense moment of silence. Then came the shouting and screaming, accompanied by the high pitched discharge of energy weapons. Corey's eyes shot open and he snapped to focus. That sound - somehow he knew it, and it put him on edge. The last thing he needed was to be shot at - especially by Reclaimers and their high-tech arsenal.

Most people were trying to get back on their feet although Corey and Trouble knew to stay low. Looking around, Corey saw some of the patrons grouping up, making plans or shielding one another. Others were running to retrieve their weapons from the bar.
"Get back down!” He growled. “If they see you, you're dead!"
He didn't care for these people, his logic was - the less noise, the less of a target you were likely to be. At first only a few agreed with him but soon the rest of the patrons followed their lead; only the most stubborn stuck around for the fight.

With most of the crowd heading to the bathrooms for cover, Corey got on his knees and slowly moved over to the guy with the rucksack. He was pulling parts for a rifle out of his bag and screwing them together.
"Listen...” Corey said, “You're the only one here who looks like they know what they're doing. I'm not about to just rush out the fucking door so we need a plan."
The floorboards outside gave off a tell-tale creak drawing Corey's attention. He pulled back his coat to grab his rifle, checked its chamber, and signalled to the opposite side of the door.
The creaking became louder as Corey set up under the window. He nodded, counting down in time with the footsteps.
The doors flew off their hinges, landing at the back of the bar.
Corey clenched his teeth, and fired a couple of rounds into the hooded figure that appeared in the opening. Trouble popped up from behind an overturned table. He watched the first intruder fall and took care of the next two.

"Actually pal, rushing out WAS my plan."
He moved up to the door and fired two shots into the street, "Let's get outta here!"
Corey smiled in appreciation as he watched his new gun-buddy kill four Reclaimer raiders and expertly dive out the door. Trouble hit the ground behind a water trough where he could see the street. A good place to provide cover fire, allowing Corey to move around the side of the building.
From their position they could see an Arabian vessel sitting in the remains of a building. That end of the street was home to two establishments, the settlements bank, and the post office. And the post office was still standing.
Several Reclaimers were tearing through the wreckage screaming commands, shooting at anyone who moved. From behind the scattered street furniture and gaping holes where windows had once been, the townsfolk were shooting them right back.
Trouble moved to a better position. He took cover behind a freshly wrecked hover-car and steadied his rifle on the charred rear. He paused to assess the situation and started to fire again. As he was returned upon,  he  ducked down again and reloaded his rifle. The click of a fresh magazine sparked an idea. Trouble could barely contain himself as he shouted over to Corey. "Let's steal their ship! Leave ‘em stranded! The locals can handle ‘em! Besides! We can fire on 'em with their own guns!"

Trouble moved out, firing. Determination clear on his weathered face, he made sure nearly every shot hit its mark. Corey had heard his companion over the gunfire but didn't give it much thought. His shots were less considered, but they eventually hit their marks. Corey’s gun was as loud as Trouble’s was accurate. It drew attention which allowed his new friend to move up as he needed. After taking cover for a much needed reload and a short breather, Corey considered the suggestion that they steal the Reclaimers’ ship. After another deep breath, he moved out from behind the bar wall and made a run towards the main street. He spotted the vessel before being forced take cover behind a wall.
He could hear fragments chipping off the other side and considered his next move. "Get to the rear of their ship!” Corey said over the continued noise. “Should be a lock we can break!”

He peered over the wall once more and caught sight of a lone Reclaimer. This one wielded a sword and strode directly towards Trouble who, oblivious to the incoming threat, had ducked down to reload. Corey raised his rifle and took a careful aim; he watched all the bullets pierce the Reclaimers chest. It had been the cleanest kill he'd made all day. Before he could celebrate, the Reclaimers retaliated with a barrage of fire. He managed to dive out of the way quickly enough to only suffer some minor hits, but the pain quickly overtook his senses. Corey fell to the ground shivering; His mind screaming in anger.

The smell of burnt skin and clothing helped him get a grip of reality and gather focus. Corey crawled towards one of the small alleyways off of the main street with his rifle clasped tightly in his hand. He tumbled into the shadow of the passageway and made his best attempt to overcome the pain. He checked how many magazines remained in his pocket. One, two. A bout of harsh coughing muffled the swear words in his throat. Corey placed the butt of his rifle in the dirt and pushed himself up. He started a tortured run back into the street, emptying an entire magazine as he went. He glanced back to his prior position and saw the building crumble into a pile of debris. A blinding cloud of dust and sand erupted from its epicentre. Corey raised his hand to cover his face; nevertheless he still ended up with a mouthful of dry dirt. He spat and took a few seconds for a reload he so desperately needed. After an attempt at getting his bearings, he made his way towards where he believed the ship to be.

Trouble was still stalking down the street. He joined small groups of locals where he could, letting them do the shooting, while he progressed towards the ship. As the dust settled, Corey hurried to find something to hide behind. Peering out from his new cover, he realized he'd run too far. The bank was about thirty steps behind him. "Mother Fucker!!" He cried to himself. An energy weapon blast hit his arm and he tumbled backwards. He clenched his teeth, and his eyes began watering up. His fingers were contracting uncontrollably and smoke rose from his sleeve. His rifle met the ground with a quiet thud; Corey followed with a louder one.
Eventually Trouble got to what was left of the bank and made his way through the ruins. He saw a couple of Reclaimers winching the bank's safe into the hold. He kept his distance and edged forward quietly. When he got within earshot, he set up his rifle and took out the two Reclaimers he could see. Released from their hold, the safe tumbled down the ramp.

Trouble shouted to Corey, "Hey pal! If we're leaving now's the time!" He slung his rifle over his shoulder and went to check the safe; the Reclaimers had opened it with their own tools. His inspection was interrupted by shots fired in his direction. He took cover and fired back. Whoever had been shooting at him went down and Trouble used the break in the fight to dig through the safe and stuff his rucksack with cash.

Corey’s eyes shot open. He screamed in pain and lurched for his weapon. He strained as he pulled himself to his feet and charged for the bank. He had to keep low; the remaining Reclaimers were still firing at him. He was breathing heavily and bleeding all over the place.
"Going for the command!"
Trouble disappeared into the ship, Corey nodded quietly to himself and used his rifle to hold himself up, stumbling towards the bank's aid box.
“Bandages… Wipes… Where’s the good stuff?”
He noticed one of the bank raiding Reclaimers stirring in the corner. He reached across to his arm as if nursing a wound; there was definitely enough blood around him. A flicker of movement drew Corey’s attention; he flinched, but it was too late. The thin blade sliced through his coat-tail with ease and plunged into flesh. Corey followed it with the sharp jab of a medi-bot injector.
Waves of slight euphoria and renewed strength flooded his body. With a shudder, Corey’s world came into focus again. He watched his assailant charge towards him, his hands gripped his rifle as he brought it up to aim. He fired three, calculated shots. The Reclaimer flew past Corey to end up a lifeless heap behind him.

"Hey buddy!" Corey barely recognized Trouble’s voice through the ship’s intercom. "Get up here and run some fire control!" Without the time to patch himself up properly, he pulled the med-box away from the wall and started towards the ramp. As Corey headed up into the ship, he too noticed the cracked safe and took a moment to stuff his pants and coat to the brim. He made his way through the cargo bay and sealed the huge door behind him. Trouble ran a quick scan over the controls and lit up the engines. It took some work to pry the wreckage from the rubble; at least one engine blew and another one overloaded in the process. Corey tumbled into the command centre, stepping over a body. He was about to land in the co-pilots seat, but was able to stop himself at the last moment. He reached around to his backside, closed his eyes, inhaled sharply, and yanked the blade out. He eased into the seat, and started warming up the lasers. The console emitted a buzzing, and a row of warning lights flashed as Corey tried to key-in commands. “Drop that engine; it’s just dead-weight now.” 'Drop that engine?' Corey blinked, caught off guard by his confidence to make such a call.
There was a soft thud from outside. Trouble made an odd noise drawing Corey’s attention. He pointed at his monitor, “Landed on his fuckin’ head! Talk about unlucky!”

Corey turned back to the console and tried to gain access to the ship’s weapons. Trouble was checking the flight controls functionality. The Reclaimers left on the ground began firing up at their escaping vessel. Warnings messages popped up all over, and the dim red glow of the emergency lighting flooded their faces. Trouble struggled with the controls, barely able to steer away from the danger, and made his break for atmo.
"What da’yek did they do to this thing?" Corey shouted as he tried to lay down some fire. "Lasers still only a quarter charged?!"
As he reached for the controls to switch between weapons, another explosion rocked the ship and threw them from their seats. It was quickly becoming clear that they couldn't afford to take much more damage.

Corey scrambled back to his seat, finding the missile system already active. When he fired, a warning he couldn’t decipher popped up but he could hear the missiles hitting something outside. Frustrated, he turned to Trouble, "I should fly, you should gun. We can argue the finer points later." He managed to fire another missile, making a small crater near the bar’s remains. Trouble stabilized the controls, and swapped seats with Corey. "Careful, it tilts to the left pretty bad." Corey took the helm and began sealing off sections of the ship, dumping another destroyed engine. Trouble settled into the weapons console and managed to get a positive response from the system.

Corey stabilised the ship and finalised the launch procedures. He started mumbling vague pleas that the heap would hold together. A lot of panelling from the nose and lower deck along with most of the landing gear tore away in their ascent. Grinding through the final layers of the atmosphere cost them some more external components.
Then, silence.
Corey realized he’d been holding his breath. He leaned back with a sigh as Tucker 9 became a small dot on the nav-console. Trouble lifted his hat and wiped his forehead in disbelief. They remained at their consoles, prepared, just in case something else went wrong. Once it was clear they weren’t being followed, Trouble decided to tour the ship. He was going to secure any unsafe areas and look for former occupants.
Corey was working on sealing the engine bay so he could go and assess the damage. He found the emergency override and sealed off the less damaged engines. Despite lacking in language skills he was able to work through the interface basics.

To his delight, Trouble found the ship was empty. It was in pretty bad shape though. None of the previous owners had been willing to give this scrapheap up without a fight and it showed. There were bullet holes and bloodstains throughout the entire vessel. What he found unnerving was the lack of Reclaimer equipment on board. His prior experience told him that they didn't usually steal a ship to do one time jobs with, but he could only see Arabian décor and the original owner’s belongings. Also, the Reclaimers they'd run into just now were pretty underwhelming compared to those he'd encountered before. No evidence of their usual abilities, mass-capture techniques, tactical superiority, nothing. Pondering over his discoveries, Trouble returned to the command centre.

"Trouble Van Wyngarten.” He took his seat and considered his next sentence. “I'm a... former soldier. And you are?"
Corey held on to the controls as he looked up.
"Corey... Just Corey. I'm an engineer… Er, I guess. Pleased to meet you.” He turned back to the navigation screen, absent-minded, an unlit smoke hanging from his lips. He tapped a few buttons and his lips eased into a smirk.
“The nav-com works... barely. We won’t crash into anything and we just might make it to a safe transit point. We should be fine for now.”
Corey grabbed a length of disconnected wiring and used it to tie the steering to the seat. Unsure of the contraption, he maintained a steady grip. "We've got some bad leaks on the portside, that’s what’s making us tilt. I'll need some tools to repair it." He hesitated and let go of the controls. The ship was still off balance but he adjusted the wires accordingly. Aside from a little irregular tug, the ship maintained its course. "Fixt!" He was quite proud of himself.
Corey reached for the med-box and took out a pack of burn-gel and another medi-bot injector before passing the box over to Trouble. He then relaxed back, closed his eyes and waited for the treatments to take effect. “Need to check on those engines,” he muttered to himself. “That’s a right din."
Corey slowly opened his eyes, pulled himself up and stumbled towards the door. Trouble shouted after him, "Hold up, where are we headed? We need to get rid of this scrap-heap!"
Corey paused and reached for his lighter. "Navcom puts nearest accepting port in Ar-Kaos. Wouldn’t rely on that computer though..." He lit the roll-up hanging from his mouth. "Look, that wire contraption won’t hold forever, best keep an eye on it. I won't be long."

The ship was eerie, almost lifeless. Were it not for the horrific noises coming from the engine bay, it could have easily been taken for a ghost ship. The lights in the engine room were mostly busted. Corey found the engineering locker at the entrance. He found a small torch and illuminated the wrecked machinery.
"Well...” He rubbed his forehead. “This looks like shit." One of the engines sat in a pool of oil that was growing with every second. Corey was sure that this was the source of their imbalance problem. He set about looking for a way to seal up the leak. After a brief inspection, he found a ruptured pipe. He returned to the locker for some metal tape, and patched the leak as best he could. He stuck around while the pressure was building up, keeping a cautious eye on his mend-job. It held for now and the ship’s thrust balanced out.

Corey made his way back to command. He slumped into his chair and took a hold of the controls. "We should land somewhere soon, my fix won’t last long." Trouble shifted his feet around on the console, his gaze fixed on the space-display on the monitors. “Course set to Ar-ko four. Transit active in about two kilo-sekunds.”
Corey set his eyes on the display as well. It was going to be a long ride.

Last edited by fafafabigben on Tue Jun 28, 2016 12:43 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : dashes, yo!)

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