DIVA: Captain Calamity #2: Core Connections

deucexm deucexm at gmail.com
Sat Jan 28 18:12:34 PST 2017

Guess who's back with another tale of things!

This one is a bit further in the future compared to the last one, as you may note 
- that's entirely intended.  :)  But enough of this!  Feast upon my creation:

Captain Calamity: A DiVerse Alpha Chronicle
by Colin Stokes

#2: "Core Connections"


"Have you ever stopped to consider," Aile began, bracing her shoulder against the
underside of the pushed-over table, "how all the choices you've made in life have
led up to a situation you're in, and then wondered 'where did I go wrong'?"

The pieces of a chair arced overhead and crashed into the back wall as T.L., her
dinner companion, just grinned widely and shrugged.  "If I got time to look back
for more than a glance," the muscled man-mountain replied, "it just means either
things aren't as bad as they seem-"

The table shook as something heavy thudded into it, probably one of the restaurant

"-or my head's not where it should be," T.L. finished with a laugh.

Her last day on the job at the construction site, Aile had announced her intention
to become a pilot; one of the workers had given her T.L.'s contact information and
told her it would be 'a good thing' to connect.  So, after a few back-and-forth
chats, she'd come to this little bar on the outskirts of town - well beyond it,
actually - and met up with him in person.

Everything had gone precisely according to plan, except for the part where a clan
of space pirates came calling right in the middle of the meal.

"I'll keep that in mind," Aile murmured, one of the tables close by cracking and
splintering as a fusillade of... whatever the pirates were using hammered into it. 
Their weapons seemed better for bludgeoning instead of slashing or piercing, and
she said as much.

T.L.'s silvery eyes twinkled.  "Good catch, Safety Lass," he returned.  "They're
looking to intimidate, to stun or incapacitate - not to kill.  So they're in the
mood for causing a little ruckus, maybe looting and plundering, but not taking
lives.  Smart of them, and good for everyone."

"How is this /good/?" Aile hissed, trying to keep her voice low.  "This place is
nearly destroyed, I've lost my hopes of a nice quiet dinner and conversation, and
now I might get /robbed/, too?"

Pointing his thumb at the table they were up against, T.L.'s face grew somber.  "A
matter of perspective.  You can replace the goods, food, or ships you lose, but a
life is a one-time deal.  Unless you got some mighty big favors to call in, when
the Lady in the Mist comes for you... there's no second chances."

"I know," Aile returned flatly.  "Mom lost her life to pirates.  I didn't get to
that point in my life story before I got interrupted."  She let out a soft sigh. 
"Dad never told me /which/ pirates.  Either he doesn't know or he doesn't want me
to go chasing off after them, which is fine, but... I still /really/ don't like
them, whether they're trying to kill me or not."

T.L. nodded neutrally.  "I can see that.  But first, let's talk options," he added
with a sly little grin.  "'Know your foe', as the Spearhead says.  What kind of
odds are we facing?  Can we fight, can we run, can we hide?  What's your assessment
of the situation?"

Aile closed her eyes; or rather, she closed two of them, and opened the Third.

Over time she had refined her future-sight with constant practice, so it was a
relatively simple matter to see what she would see if she peeked out from behind
the table in various places, without actually exposing herself to danger - or
moving at all, for that matter.  Looking all the way across the restaurant made it
hard to pick out specific details, particularly since it was right at the edge of
her sight range, but-

"Four at most, maybe three," she murmured quietly as T.L. leaned in closer.  "Can't
tell what's up with the fourth one.  There's still a couple tables drawing their
attention for now, but the pirates are between the front door and everyone else...
and I don't see another exit."

"It's usually behind the bar if anywhere," T.L. returned just as softly, "but I
didn't see one either.  Place isn't up to code, is it, Safety Lass?"

Aile suppressed a snicker, though she did smile a little.  "No way to tell who or
what's outside though," she continued, "so fighting probably isn't the best route;
they might want that anyway.  Can't run either, so we'll just have to hope they
don't come looking over here."

"And if they do?"

The girl's jaw set.  "I didn't see any casters, so I'll just go for their hands
with my silverware.  Can't use a weapon if you can't hold it, right?"

T.L. grinned.  "Let's hope they don't come over, then.  I'd hate to get blood on
these fancy pants of mine."

Aile looked at her companion's weathered brown cargo pants, covered with patches
and stitches of all sorts, and shook her head.  "Indeed."

They waited for several long, tense moments, and eventually the sound of firearms
died out, replaced by the scuffling of boots and muttered threats that gradually
diminished.  Aile took one last look with her future-sight, and then opened her
eyes and nodded to T.L., who lifted his head up over the edge of the table.

"Mm.  Looks like we're in the clear," he murmured, his heavy boots crunching
something as he stood up, "so as long as we don't make any rash-"

Aile was already dashing across the room toward the exit, vaulting over and off of
the bar furniture with ease.  With nothing and no one to stop her, barely seconds
passed before she was pressed up against the doorframe, Third Eye wide and looking
outside for trouble - in this case, trouble to get into.  "Tell me," she began, her
voice still quiet as T.L. came over to her at a reasonably brisk pace, "what's the
best way to disable those- those /things/ they're riding?"

He grinned.  "Oh, first time seeing a Rackett?  They're something else, that's for
sure."  The man squinted a little, rubbing his chin in thought as he watched that
Eye focusing in and out.  "Easiest way to cobble those up is a nice solid hit at
either the engine nozzles or the connection ports.  Either of those are a pain in
the tux to repair, so they'd likely stop and fix them planetside; it's possible to
launch and then do it in space, but I wouldn't want to try if it was me."

"Then that's what I'll do," Aile returned firmly; then, after a moment, and a
little less firmly, "if I can find a weapon.  I don't suppose you have one I could

T.L. laughed and shook his head.  "Afraid not, lass.  But I like your attitude! 
Maybe we can work something out."

Aile tensed up for a moment, and poked her head out of the doorway.  "So there's
only three of them, the fourth is... did they kidnap someone?  Is that something
pirates normally do?"

"That's my son."

She turned around to see an black-haired, ashen-faced man with a gash in his
forehead, blood streaming down over one eye he'd shut, steadying himself on the
remains of a table.  He seemed alright otherwise (it was a surface wound), though
he sounded somewhere between shocked and furious.  "They know he's sick and won't
last long without his medicine.  Once this planet gets another medical upgrade, it
won't be a problem, but until then, they're going to try to squeeze me for money."

Aile's eyes narrowed.  "That's /despicable/."

The man grimaced as he straightened his rather nice jacket - something sprained or
bruised or broken, or possibly all three, the young Calamity couldn't tell which. 
Even her Third Eye couldn't see everything, as she'd found out early on.  "They're
pirates," he returned flatly.

"True," T.L. interjected, "if there's profit to be had, most pirates don't think
much about the, er, ethical questions.  Certainly not the legal ones.  But if you
plan to act, lass, you'd best do it quickly."

"Rifles, pistols, anything," Aile returned without hesitation, her eyes flashing. 
"Anything with a decent range and sound.  Everyone hear that?" she continued,
raising her voice to address the rest of the bar.  "I need enough of a distraction
to keep these pirates off-balance.  If you could lend me a hand, or a weapon, I'd
appreciate it."

For someone so young, she already has an impressive voice of command, T.L. mused. 
A handful of still-mobile patrons made their way to the front of the bar, each one
bearing a weapon or two - their own, or someone else's, it didn't matter at this
point.  "So, er, what's the plan?" one of the braver ones ventured.

"When we get outside, you all make noise and keep firing," Aile returned, rapidly
scanning the stack of firearms until she found what she was looking for - an older
but still serviceable Mage Blaster.  The medium-range magitech pistol had fallen
out of favor with most professionals, but it was reliable enough to be used in
self-defense; with a little modification, it would serve her purposes well enough. 
"T.L., which is more valuable to these villains: a Rackett and its pilot, or their

T.L. arched an eyebrow as Aile ejected the power cell and started hastily flipping
switches and turning knobs on it.  "Almost sure it's the hostage, unless the group
itself owns the Rackett.  But most pirates own their own ships, so that would just
mean one less way to split the profits."

"So if we disable his ship, they'll leave him to fend for himself?"

"It could happen that way, sure," he replied cautiously as the teen finished her
modifications and locked the power cell back into the blaster with a look of grim
satisfaction.  "But we also don't know what kind of firepower he could be packing. 
And even if you separate him from his crew - if they'd even use the term," he added
with a little snort, "the other two will just take their prize and vanish."

"That's what I'm counting on," Aile returned.  "I've read a bit of Spearhead too. 
'Keep them guessing about your aims,' right?  If they run, we have the one pirate
at a disadvantage - and if we can overpower him and take /him/ captive, we can
access his ship... and its sensor logs, navigation, communications... whatever it
could possibly have that might lead us, and more importantly the authorities, in
the right direction."

T.L.'s eyebrows shot up.  "All this, just for a /chance/ at information?  It's a
risky thing you're asking of these folks, lass."

Aile half-smiled.  "That's why I'm only asking you, T.L."  She glanced back at the
doorway, briefly, then looked at the six volunteers, each one with a weapon or two
in hand.  "As soon as I take my shot - and trust me, you'll know when that is - I
want you all to get back inside the bar as quick as possible, alright?  No playing
hero while I'm around."

No one objected, and seeing the nods, she turned her attention to T.L.  "Do you
think you can get the drop on him, sneak around from the other side of the, uh,
Rackett?  It only seems to have one entrance, so unless they're particularly well-
coordinated, I think it should at least be possible..."

"A bold move," T.L. declared, with a sparkle in his eyes.  "I like it!  Let's see
how this plays out."

Aile glanced around one more time - white knuckles, set jaws, sharpened eyes - and
nodded.  "Quite."  And without preamble, she dashed out the front door of the bar
into the bright sunlight and dropped to one knee to steady her aim for the single
shot she would get.

The volunteers made quite a distraction indeed, fanning out and firing at the trio
of ships - close enough for them to hear the pirates' angry swearing (albeit
barely) and the pings and poings (and occasional magical crackle) of small arms
fire bouncing dangerously off the hulls.  T.L. cracked his knuckles - wielding a
wooden club now, Aile noted with interest - and waited for the two lead pirates
(plus hostage) to get into their Racketts before he started crossing the hilly
terrain toward the trailing ship, making sure to stay in what cover he could find.

Her Third Eye open wide and her other two eyes closed, Aile scoured her target's
hull, looking for- ah!  There it was, a squarish port she recognized immediately
from the schematics in ground school.  A small target at this range, especially
with the now unreliable weapon, but she was used to chancy shots by now.  A quick
glance told her T.L. was in position, and she took aim, bracing herself as best she
could.  "Firing!" she half-screamed to be heard over the din of weaponry, and took
a breath and let it out, and then gave the trigger just the right pull-

-and nearly fell over backwards as a gout of pinkish-orange fire burst violently
out of the comparatively tiny pistol, like a tiny star being born (not too far from
the truth, actually), and spiraled unerringly toward the back of the craft.

The volunteers were quick to follow Aile's orders, vanishing back into the bar with
shouts of alarm that might or might not have been feigned.  Either way, the plan
had worked; as she propped herself up on her elbows, she could see the glowing
metal scar on the back of the one Rackett, and the engines of the other two firing
as they vacated the premises with all due haste.

Her head still spinning, the young Calamity tried to collect her wits while she
watched T.L. creeping up toward the other side of the damaged craft.  The Mage
Blaster's battery had ruptured (as expected), so she laid it gingerly in the grass
before it did her any more harm.  Her Third Eye was already starting to hurt.

'Come on, Aile,' she chided herself.  'Focus.'

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