Forward and Back
Forward and Back
“Damn.” Ty Steis hit the small throttle with both hands as the lights faded inside his small cockpit. The faint glow of the control panel flickered and then went black. For a minute everything was silent. Ty gritted his teeth, tightened his jaw, smacked the right side of his panel box and pushed the throttle all the way in with all his might. His tiny pod, a dingy he called Peddles, shook slightly and then began a wild decent.
He was in the far reaches of Glaxci section 109 running ahead of the fleet Mainstay. As he flew off, trying to evade capture, his starboard side received a blow and Peddles could not recover. Limping through hyperspace Ty managed to leave the fleet behind but he had no idea where in the blackness of space he was.
And now Peddles was failing him. “Come on. Come on baby. You can.” Said through tight teeth and squinted eyes. The small craft began to roll and spin. Before Ty could even attempt control the ship was pulled into the gravity of some unknown planet.
With no power and no option Ty tucked his head ready for the crash that would come sooner than he wanted. He tried to scan the world he was smashing into but his spin was so fast he couldn’t tell if the damn thing worked or not. It seemed everything, all his interments failed. In blackness his last conscious movement was to pull the level and release his tracker.
It was a splash more than a crash and Ty finally had a bit of good luck. The bad luck had been piling on for the last solar days. Separated from his squadron at the end of a crushing defeat, Ty attempted to draw the Mainstay’s fire and allow at least some of his men to retreat. The way his luck had been running he wouldn’t count on that being much of a success. His arranged surprise attack was a surprise to no one. Well, except maybe him who was surprised they were waiting.
Even though he was lucky enough to land on water the front of Peddles smashed and crushed into his lap. His head hit the panel, or more that the panel crashed up and hit his head. A blast of light and then just blackness
He wasn’t sure how long he was unconscious, but water was up to his waist. He pushed away wiped the blood from his eyes and unbuckled. With a struggle but a sense of urgency he grabbed his pack, his weapon, flares, put on his breathing sack and released the hatch.
Peddles was boding in a lake the strangest color of sea green. Ty could see the shore and it wasn’t that far. But he paused looking into the strange waters and judging how deep, how far, and what it might feel like. No matter, he thought, as he jumped in.
It was a heavy swim. Ty wasn’t sure if it was because he carried too much, because he was more injured than he wanted to know or because of the water, or whatever it was. He made it finally. And he laid on the edge in a patch of something pure white, soft, but cold, trying to stop his heart from beating so strong and calm his heavy breaths. He couldn’t even really look around. He was just still, trying to gather his strength.
After a time he opened his eyes and stared up to an endless bright blue sky. No clouds and not a warming sun that he could see. He shifted gradually, and put his gloved hands through the white ground cover beside him. Still wet from the swim he felt heavy as he stood. He should pull out his monitor systems and see what the makeup of this place was but he didn’t want to take the energy to unwrap his pack just yet. He’d find a spot.
He looked up and he saw it, a small shed or shack of some kind all alone. Nothing much that he could see beside it. Ty stood slowly and smiled, his luck had to be changing.
Madeline was a deep sleeper; it was a fault she hadn’t been able to shake since childhood. Her family used to go on and on about it, ribbing her and teasing her and she had borne it, sometimes with good humor, but more often with ill humor. So it was that when something disturbed her sleep that morning, long after she should have been awake, she lingered abed. The dreams she’d been having, dreams filled with Mama and Papa, Lacey and most of all, Tom, drifted away once something called her back to the waking world. She resented whatever it was, she loved those dreams. She didn’t have them often enough and though they were poor company, there were all the company she had. As she lay in bed seething with some small resentment over the loss of such dreams and sleep that might still have been granted her by the aging morning, a thought that perhaps she might just want to investigate what might have caused the disturbance crept into her consciousness. Though it was an unwelcome thought it was enough to spur her into action.
With a sigh she threw back the patchwork blanket her Mama had made her, the one with the “Maddie and Tom” carefully stitched into every other square in a rainbow of colors, and slipped her feet into cold leather boots with a wince and tromped outside in nothing more than her white cotton night gown and a foul temper. Maddie Ames was of medium height, with curly brown hair that was doing its level best to work its way out of her braid, soft doe-like brown eyes, well toned muscles, more than a little temper and a practical air that hid the soul of a poet. But as she was not a morning person, all that she presented to the world just then was the air and manner of a thunder cloud. Her fury evaporated in an instant as she looked out at her Algae pool, nearly ready to harvest and send in for processing, a year’s worth of work only to find it spoiled.
“No!!” she yelled into the morning, conscious of nothing but what this would do to her account and her plans to get off this lonely rock. She focused only on the thing in the middle of her crop and wanted to weep. She dropped to her knees and stared at the metal thing and missed the figure slowly coming to shore towards her.
“No.” she said again weakly as the poet’s soul won out and tears began to fill her soft brown eyes.
Ty was looking at the small structure and didn’t notice anyone until he heard a cry, or a moan, or some strange sound. As the thing that made the noise fell to the ground Ty lowered his body and tried to slink closer.
His feet were wet and his boots, that were supposed to keep anything out, were filled with green stuff. The soft synthetic leather boots were tied tight over his gray pants just below his knees with a red band. Not that it kept the water out. He was concerned the being could hear the squash and squeak of mush between his toes. His gray pants were wet and clung to his legs unlike his jacket, which seemed to be the only thing that worked like it should. It had three clasps in the front and a red broad strip down one side. His breathing mask just slipped over his nose and mouth. It was an previous model and the Mainstay Fleet had redesigned it several times. So of course he had the pitched old ones. He had on old goggles that had a thin slim film over them that made it hard for him to see. He wore gray tight fitting gloves. He had a sling over his right shoulder that harness a sting ray 272 short shooter, his favorite old time weapon, and a pack on his back. Even the only part of him that showed, his bright red hair, was caked and covered with bits of thick green gunk. So as he lunged at the being that was on the ground making a strange noise he must of looked like some strange creature from space. Well, he was.
Ty didn’t have his weapon drawn; he just lunged at the white robe from behind. With one hand he pressed against the mouth to cover the noise, but also to feel if this being took in air. With his other hand he quickly crossed over its chest to feel for lungs, or gills or any part that might suggest something different used to adapt to this planet.
What he felt surprised him. It was a woman. Thick hair tangled around his fingers as he moved them from her head to her mouth. He could feel the shape of her body under the thin cloth robe she wore. He almost let go in surprise. He almost just threw her to the ground. But he was afraid she would alert the others. Instead he pulled her up and began to attempt to drag her to the structure. He would hold her and make the others let him inside.
Last edited by tirgesfu; 07-23-2011 at 05:09 PM.
It wasn’t enough that her crop was ruined, a year’s worth of work gone, but her hopes of ever leaving this rock were set back to nothing in an instant. Just as the crushing reality of it hit her was grabbed and assaulted. A rough gloved hand clamped over her mouth and she choked back a scream and tasted the copper sweet taste of blood as her teeth were mashed against her lips. She started to draw in a breath to scream, not for help, she had no nearby neighbors to hear in any case, but to protest the act. Her scream was cut off as her breath was driven from her by the rough and frantic scrabbling at her chest by the other hand. Thoughts beyond the ruin of her algae flooded her mind and she felt panic fill her anew as the being dragged her towards the hut.
Her mother had told her horror stories about the way things had been on Siggurd, with the crowding and the lawlessness, how her Aunt Bess had gone for a walk and hadn’t been seen for months, only to turn up in one of the midden heaps where the illegal brothels dumped their worn out girls. Such tales were the reason her parents and grandparents had signed on so eagerly to come out to Endymion, despite the strict contract and the obscene interest attached to the contract. It was here that Madeline was born and so the horrors of a distant world were made worse by a complete lack of context. But the feeling of fear that flooded her just then brought those tales sharply into focus and her struggles increased as did her tears. Maddie was strong, but she had no skills in this area and so her efforts amounted to little, her blows and kicks falling wide of their mark, her efforts to wriggle free of no avail.
By the time she was forced into her own home she was frantic with fear and worry, her heart racing beneath her thin nightdress. She looked around her cabin for something to defend herself with. It looked like what it was, a primitive one room hut with clearly delineated work and sleeping areas. With the exception of the communication box on one wall the cabin looked like nothing so much as a cabin in the infancy of America back on far away Earth.
Weapons weren’t allowed on the colony so she’d have nothing as easy as that, but the tools of work were permitted and there she might find some aid. Her axe, that was out in the shed and would be of little help to her there. Her knives were across the small one room hut in the kitchen area as were her pots and pans. Sitting not too far from the door were her knitting supplies and scissors and she made a lunge for those, her desperation augmenting her strength. She miraculously pulled free and grabbed the scissors with desperate gratitude, stumbled with the effort, spun and confronted the figure, her hands shaking her lips trembling and tears streaming down her face as she shakily demanded,
“Who are you? What do you want?”
Once inside the building, hut really, his goggles fogged even more and he couldn’t see anything. She must have known because she spun right out of his flimsy hold. Inside his breathing mask he mumbled a curse at his inability to restrain an unarmed woman. Damn.
Not even watching her he ripped off his goggles and tore off his gloves. He tossed both hard enough that they hit the wall with a smack. He glared at the woman as something ran down her checks. She said something. He looked fiercely at her. She was speaking and breathing. She looked human. Ty slowly pulled at his breathing mask and lifted it from his mouth and nose. He took a small breath as if tasting the air. He paused and then took a deep breath. He didn’t’ fall over so he ripped the mask off his face and threw it against the same wall. Another smack.
He spread his arms and lowered his stand, a fighting or attacking position. His eyes studied the weapon she held. Wait. What was she holding? He stood up and pulled his gun from his side. He pointed the tip of the ray gun at her head and held out his hand, wiggled his fingers trying to tell her to give him the primitive weapon.
“Hey,” he spoke for the first time in the language of the ruling fleets of Orionia, “Hand it over. Give it to me.” He wiggled his fingers again. “Come on now; don’t be a comet’s spit.” He took time to look over the room slowly, “Where are the others? Oh wait, wait.” He kept his gun aimed at her but with one hand slipped his pack off his back. While keeping an eye on her he reached inside and fumbled around for a minute before he pulled out a small thin rectangle. “What language?” He press his thumb on the thin pad. A screen lit. Then it went black. “Damn.” He shook the mini interpretive computer. He looked at her and took a step back; keeping his gun sort of pointed in her direction he managed to open the back of the computer. Green slim dripped out. “Crap” He shouted and threw the thing at the same wall as hard as he could. It shattered.
“As you might be able to tell I am not in the best of moods.” He was sure she would not be able to understand him as he slipped into his native tongue, a new world English. He looked at her and noticed the tears running down her face. Tears. How long had it been since he has seen tears? A long time, a very long time. He stood still for a time just watching her. His bright green eyes went from their stern fierce look to a softer gaze. He dropped his pack by his feet. He lowered the point of his gun and wiggled his fingers again. “Just give it to me.”
Maddie winced each time he hurled something at her walls, each impact left a mark, each mark would be added to her bill, her tether here on this planet. But that wasn’t a true concern, not then, not when he had a gun pointed to her head. It looked different from the ones the company men wore when she had dealings with them but it was unmistakable and her mouth had gone dry at the sight of it.
He’d looked strange and terrifying when she’d first gotten a look at him, his face strange and unreadable in the dim light of her cabin. But he’d removed first one and then another of his face coverings and hurled them into the wall. She’d realized with shock that he was human. It only eased her mind a little since humans were more than capable of doing harm to other humans. But it eased her some to know that it wasn’t simply some monstrous being she faced, it gave her confidence that she might get herself out of this predicament. But she wondered where he’d come from. His coloring was odd, not like the company men or the colonists she was acquainted with. Browns and blacks where the norm here, she’d never seen red hair and it alarmed her some. But clearly he was human. Which opened up the question where the hell had he come from? The only ships allowed on and off the planet were company ships, bringing in supplies and more colonists and taking off the raw algae to be processed elsewhere.
When he’d first spoken the words seemed like a jumble to her, tangled syllabus she couldn’t make out and fear tightened again in her. Clearly frustrated he pulled out something from his pack, keeping his gun pointed at her, and checked it. With a snarled work he hurled it where it smashed it into the wall along with the others and spoke again. This time a few of the sounds made sense to her, as if he were speaking with very heavy accent. Her brain tried to find rhythm in them, make sense of the sounds. Her eyes narrowed as she concentrated, but the scissors remained firmly in her grasp and pointed at him. After all he was the invader here. He spoke again. This time, expecting to understand him better she followed along with more ease.
“give them me” was what she got and that was clear enough.
She firmed up her grip on the scissors, shook her head firmly and said slowly and deliberately her own voice husky.
“No, get out, this is my house.”
She moved then, slowly shifting sideways, her eyes darting to the kitchen despite her determination not to give away her goal. Language barrier or not, she though as she looked at the pile of broken things along the wall, emotions were easy enough to get across.
“This is my house; you assaulted me and invaded my home. I will not give you my damn scissors even if they won’t do me a lick of good because I’ll be dammed if I die with my hands empty. So you want them you will have to shoot me first.”
She lifted her chin then, her messy brown curls falling softly about her face but didn’t hide the fury in her soft brown eyes.
He tried to listen to her. It seemed the sound of her words were somewhat familiar. What language was that? Before, all this, Ty’s father studied dialects and pressed the information onto his son. But that was a lifetime ago. Right now he was faced with a woman with tears and some sort of weapon defying him.
“All right.” He unhooked the clamps on his jacket. “All right.” He slipped one arm out and then the other, passing the gun from hand to hand. He took a step to the bed, placed the gun on it and then his jacket over the gun. He wore a sleeveless light brown shirt that was light weight. The gun was the first hint that Ty was military in some way. His body was the second, tight muscle that moved as if he had spent time toning and using them. So as he put his weapon down and turned to face her it was not as if he was unarmed.
“I don’t know what you said exactly. Not that it matters.” He took a step toward her his eyes letting it known he was not going to back down. “But I can tell by your stand you’re a saucy sore. I sort of like that. I’ve been tossed around too long and look forward to a little tussle.” He actually smiled but his eyes narrowed and he moved them to up and down her to judge her better.
“Let’s get on with it.” With that said he lunged to her. Both hands shot to her hand holding the weapon. He grabbed her wrist and pushed her back all the way to the wall hard enough for her to feel the hit. He pulled her hand high above her head and with one hand held it there. With his other he reached under her arm and lifted her up off her feet.
His face was close to hers only inches away. “Let it go and I’ll let you down.” This close to her he could smell her. It was a fragrance of sweet sweat and soft hair. His fingers could feel the hard work from her hand and yet the softness of her arms. To his shock he almost put his nose into her hair just to feel and smell even more.
“Damn!” he cursed himself and his inability to keep things in perspective. He pulled his head back from her still keeping his hands on. “Just drop the thing!” He shouted angrier at himself for being wrecked on some strange place inside some hut with a woman who will not let go of some old time weapon. Angry that he liked pressing himself against her.
He took a breath and moved his face closer to her again, “Listen. I can’t let you keep whatever that is in your hand. I can’t. I’ve got to survive this. You can too. Just drop it.” He put his lips right up to her ear and whispered, “Don’t make me hurt you.”
She watched him suspiciously as he divested himself of his jacket and moved over to the bed where he placed the gun and then dropped his jacked over it onto her bed where the green slime of her ruined algae crop began to stain her precious bedspread. She felt tears prick at the back of her eyes, angry hot tears that made her fingers wrap tighter around her scissors and his list of things to account for grow. She had so few things she treasured and that quilt, made by her Mama, made for her and Tom was one of the most treasured of her things and he was ruining it.
She watched him, not trusting this obvious display. That he was well muscled made her even more suspicious. Muscles earned by hard labor never looked like that, those were the muscles sported by the thugs who came out with the company men each time a contract came up. Those men were meant to intimidate and this one was clearly meant for that as well. She backed up a little her face keeping the angry expression despite the tears that still trickled down it. She was furious and terrified and saw no way out of this was would be pleasant for her. Part of her wanted to run and hide, but the thought of this man chasing her down almost made her throat close in terror. Besides, where would she go? This was her home and she had no place on this world if she had no home, no crop, no use.
He spoke again and she tried to follow it, but her heard was beating fast and her mind was racing and it seemed too much just then to concentrate on anything else beside defense. He smiled and it was not in the least reassuring and he kept moving forward. She stepped back when he did and hated herself for it. She was letting him herd her! It rankled but she was so out of her league she couldn’t help but step back when he stepped forward.
He lunged suddenly and she let out a hoarse cry and instead of jabbing at him with the scissors which would have been the sensible thing to do she tried to turn and twist away. But he’d caught her wrists and held them high above her head and then hoisted her up off the ground so that she was pinned to the wall and helpless. She struggled and cried and wondered if soon she would be waking up and laughing at the things her sleeping brain made up. But no, this was too real. His arms around her, his hard body pressing into hers, his mouth next to her hear whispering dark things she couldn’t understand into it, his breath a moist wet tickle that had her squirming in his arms. He pulled back and shouted then, his words angry, his face twisted with it. She understood two words, drop and thing, and at her comprehension she shook her head vigorously and said back with equal anger
He leaned in close and spoke again, his words softer almost as if to try to lull her, as if that would work after the fright and the rough treatment. His words kept coming and they made her uncomfortable because of their proximity and the near comprehension she felt. It was so aggravating to feel like she should understand but didn’t and that seemed like a very silly thing to be concerned with just then. Another few words broke through; she understood both them and the quiet menace with which they were said.
“Don’t make me hurt you.”
She whimpered then and hated herself for the pathetic sound. She was tough, she’d survived the fever that killed off her whole family, her fiancée, she’d been making this farm work all by herself even though it was meant for more than two hands and here she was whimpering because a stranger promised violence if she didn’t comply. But she wasn’t that tough, not really. She’d been stretched too thin for too long and this was beyond what a reasonable person could be expected to tolerate. Toughness was gone, she was fresh out and so she was left with one thing.
“Please….” Her eyes locked on his, her soft brown eyes, filled with her hope, her humanity and her terror. She didn’t want to die, she didn’t want to be hurt but she couldn’t back down.
It was her eyes. They were not surrendering. They were not begging. They were managing somehow to show her fear and her strength all at the same instant. She couldn’t really fight but she couldn’t give in either.
The realization of her position hit Ty like a sledge hammer crushing his chest. He was invading her home. His reasons were not important or even known to her. He was positive his position in the scheme of things was more important than hers. The ends justify the means. He had become his enemy.
Everything he fought against, the Orionia disregard for his families’ lands and his plant’s sovereign rights, he had become. He stomped into her house, tried to take control of her things, because he needed them. He did not ask. He demanded.
And now, for the first time he understood the conflict he had spent years inside. He already gave her reasons to hate him, to fear him, to mistrust him. If he lets her keep the weapon she will use it as she should. She has no reason to offer assistance and more reasons to plan his demise. Just as the Orionias who now try to eliminate the whole plant, his home, because they can find no way out of the battle.
He slowly lowered her to the ground keeping hold of her wrist. “I am sorry.” He mumbled, in a breathless manner still shocked at his new revelation. He pulled her wrist in the front of her body, waist height and looked at the object she clung to. He had never seen scissors. She held them so tight and he knew if he tried to pull her fingers apart she would fight him and he would hurt her. How much of an enemy does he want her to be?
He looked at her face, her eyes, and his melted from the fierce warrior to the doubting man. He took a step back and at the same time slowly loosened his hold on her wrist. He didn’t release her. He still had his fingers around her but the hold was not tight. He couldn’t let go and let her assault him with her weapon. “I am sorry.” He repeated and he closed his eyes for just a second before he opened then again and said, “I was under attack and have forgotten who I am.”
It was past the point where she would honor his words. His action spoke so much louder. So he finally let his fingers relax. He still had them around her but she could break free. He took another step back and pleaded with her in his eyes.
His eyes changed, turning him from a terrifying enemy to a man filled with a mixture of doubt and regret. His slow release of her body and then the loosening grip on her wrists confused her. She could feel reflect upon her face this suspicious confusion that was welling through her. His words though, they cut through, the first two at least. “I’m sorry” that would have been understandable even if they had not even this hint of a language in question.
She considered that and wondered what he was sorry for. He’d released her so perhaps it was a sorry for the past, sorry for what he had done and not a sorry for what he was about to do. But she couldn’t bank on that, her life and her livelihood were all at stake. She felt his fingers loosen their final bit and saw the pleading in his eyes. She made her move; she could only count on herself and her own actions. She pulled her hands and her scissors out of his grip and sprang.
She sprang not towards him but away. She wasn’t a fighter, not in that sense and she wasn’t going to escalate things. She stumbled back with a gasp and a sob and righted herself, pushing her tangled brown curls out of her face so she could keep an eye on the threat. She stared at him from the increased distance and idly put one of her sore wrists up to her chest. Her other hand still held the scissors, an angry red band encircling her wrist. She regarded him and wondered what the next move was and who would make it. He could have grabbed her as she spun past, he had moved fast enough before and he’d had her backed into a wall after all but he hadn’t made a move to touch her.
She stood there, her breath slowly settling back into some normalcy and her racing heart slowed but the tension that was in her limbs remained, the threat was not yet over. She thought then about the words she had understood and speculated that they might just share a language, albeit heavily accented and slightly changed. Would the written language be as changed?
She took her hand that was resting on her chest and patted herself deliberately and spoke as clearly as she could.
“Maddie.” She then pointed to the bed upon which rested her beloved bedspread covered all over with careful stitching in a rainbow of colors each square read, Maddie and Tom.
She tapped her chest again and said clearly, “Maddie.”