Warnings : Yaoi,
angst, OOC, language, slightly bastardized characters, Duo POV.
Thanks to Christy for beta reading above and beyond the call of duty!
Thanks to Aya and Yume for opinions rendered.
Feed-back is a dream I have...
And I don't own anything in this series, either.
So is there anybody out there who didn't guess that I would end up in
the salvage business? I mean, what the hell else was I going to do? Run
back to L2? I don't think so; if I never saw that place again as long
as I lived it would be entirely too damn soon. The Preventors? Seemed
perfect for Heero and Wufei, but when the war was over, that was the last
thing I wanted; more intrigue, more fighting, more pain. I couldn't handle
it. Quatre had offered me a position on his staff, working as a consultant
to his security team, but I knew he'd only done it to be nice. I loved
the little guy like a kid brother; but charity is still charity and damned
if Duo Maxwell needed any handouts.
So off I went, running back to Howard and the Sweepers. I worked with
them for a while, taking various second jobs at night until I accumulated
enough money to buy myself a small ship, then branched out on my own.
For a time, I threw myself into the task of building my own reputation
apart from the Sweepers, letting it be my whole focus. I christened my
ship 'Maxwell's Demon' and set out to take on all the jobs that nobody
else would touch with a ten-foot pole. I didn't bother with an apartment,
but lived on my ship and spent every waking moment that wasn't taken with
the job working on her.
It allowed me no time to think beyond the moment, allowed no time to reflect
on the past.
I worked with Howard's crew sometimes, when the job was bigger than my
small ship could haul. There were no hard feelings between the Sweepers
and me when I left to start out on my own. I wasn't taking business away
from them after all; the jobs I took were ones that Howard wouldn't touch
It took me a couple of years
of throwing myself at suicide jobs but I finally developed a reputation
as the pilot who could bring back anything. So, in those years that things
were getting lean for most salvage operations, I was still doing all right
That's what brought me to Howard's office one fine day, contemplating
a job that my former mentor was calling insane. Calling insane even as
he was trying to figure out how to accomplish it. As I said... times were
"That's a hell of a job offer, Howard," I told him, my eyes
drawn to pick out all the strange little pictures on his horrendous Hawaiian
shirt. Was that a picture of a flying pig in a grass skirt?
"If I was nuts," he retorted, passing me a bottle of beer from
the little fridge he kept in his office.
"Well," I drawled, accepting the bottle with a grin, "we've
both been accused of that before."
"I'm not sure even I'm that crazy." He sighed; opening his own
bottle and dropping wearily back into his creaky, old desk chair, the
one with duct tape holding the stuffing in the arm rests.
"Then, do you mind explaining what I'm doing here?" I smirked.
It was him after all, who had called me.
There was another heavy sigh and he tilted the bottle back and took a
long drink. "The business is in trouble."
I glanced back down at the specs that lay on the desk in front of me,
oddly intrigued and knowing what an asinine thought that was. "And...
?" I prompted.
An almost angry look crossed his face, not directed necessarily at me.
"I guess I just wanted another junk man to tell me how crazy this
job is. I need somebody else to tell me how stupid it is so I can stop
thinking about how I could keep from going out of business if I took it,"
He was being tempted to take an incredibly lucrative, totally suicidal
job as a last minute, desperate act... and wanted me to tell him "No."
I swallowed a gulp of beer and looked at him soberly, "I could do
Howard does not have the kind of face that should ever gawp, it isn't
pretty, but that's just what he did. That and spit beer.
I laughed from the sheer fun of watching him. That and seeing the hope
begin to glimmer that he might be able to pull this off and save his ships
and his yard from bankruptcy. I did, after all, owe this man and his crew
a couple of times over.
"Duo... "he muttered, wiping beer off his front, "don't
be an ass."
"Not with my 'Demon',"I told him, setting down my beer and picking
up the papers to leaf through them again, "But if you could supply
the ship... "
That was generally how we worked together on the occasions when we did;
he brought the equipment and the manpower to the table and I brought the
piloting skills and the... total lack self-preservation tendencies.
"The fuel alone... " he murmured and I grinned at him, knowing
that he'd started considering it despite himself.
"I was thinking about that," I prompted. "If we used a
slingshot launch... "
He cut me off with a scowl, "That would add two weeks to the out
"So?"I leaned back in my chair and tilted it on two legs, propping
my feet up on his desk; I knew I had him. He would end up letting me do
this; I would save his business, clinch my reputation and make a tidy
profit to boot. Assuming I pulled it off.
"That would make it four weeks in space, total. The target is in
a damned dangerous area, in an erratic orbit. It's crazy Duo... "
I could tell he was trying to convince himself now, though, and not me.
Yeah, it was a nasty looking little job. One of the last left over from
the war. You could say that much about wartime, it had made a damned lucrative
pastime out of salvage. But the pickings were getting lean with almost
three years gone. This one had lain untouched all this time because nobody
had been inclined to go after it with easier spoils available. But there
she was, a small command cruiser abandoned in the asteroid belt when her
engines had been damaged in battle. There was more than just scrap metal
there; there was data as well. That was what prompted our soon-to-be client
to offer the hefty salary for bringing her back. They didn't care about
the ship itself, which meant the material salvage would be pure profit.
I shrugged off Howard's concerns, "What's a month in space?"
I asked, "I don't have plans for the weekend and dangerous territory
is what I do."
He gave me that look that tells me he'd like to smack me up the side of
my head. Howard has a tendency to treat all his men like adopted sons.
"You won't have a lot of contact," he informed me. "No
real backup; the communication window is only going to be about an hour
I tilted the beer bottle up and drained it to cover the grin that was
trying to spread all over my face; I'd won. I heard it when he went from
'could' to 'would'. We were about to cut a deal. "You know I work
alone," I told him when the beer was gone.
In the end we agreed on a fifty/fifty split, though Howard didn't want
to take that much. He outfitted his best ship and agreed to dock my 'Demon'
until I got back, with the understanding that she was his if I didn't.
So, a week after our little talk, I packed my books, my music and my own
vacuum suit and climbed aboard Howard's primary ship, the 'Randy Wench'.
I more than felt the weight of the hopes of the entire Sweeper gang on
my shoulders. My success or my failure would mean their futures in the
business. Howard's second, Kurt, was the last man out the lock before
lift off. He paused there, his face hesitant and embarrassed. I'd learned
a lot of what I know about ship repairs at this man's elbow.
"Duo," he muttered, fidgeting with something in his hands, "the
guys and me... we want you to know that... well, we appreciate... "
Appreciate... and felt guilty as hell that none of them could bring themselves
to make this run with me. But that was what I was here for, damn it; they
all had families and responsibilities to go home to. If something happened
to me, there wouldn't be any hysterical widow or orphaned children left
behind. Not even an abandoned dog. So I cut him off with a grin, "Hey,
man; I'm getting a cut of this profit too."
He ducked his head and only cleared his throat; I apparently didn't have
any of them fooled about the real reason I was making this run. That was
another lesson I had learned from this group of guys; the value of friendship
and that you did what you had to when people needed you. Suddenly he was
thrusting something into my hands.
"We wanted you to have this... for luck." He was gone before
it quite had a chance to register what it was he had shoved into my hands.
Howard and his men had served during the war, maybe not as full-fledged,
commissioned enlisted men, but kind of behind the scenes; as far as I
was concerned, where it really mattered. Kurt had lost a leg not six months
before the damn war was over. Dangling from my fingers on a leather thong
was his special service award. He wore the damn thing like I wore my cross;
I'd never seen it off him. I felt cold standing there holding it in my
hands; it was like some kind of damn sacred trust. His way of assuring
himself that I'd come back in one piece I supposed. I slipped the medallion
around my neck and tucked it inside my shirt beside Father Maxwell's gold
cross and vowed to bring it back to him.
We had settled on the slingshot launch, using gravitational fields to
send the 'Wench' outward, toward the asteroid belt that was my final goal.
It would save on fuel costs but cost more in time. The trip was a week
on boosters, but three using this method. I really didn't care. It's not
like anybody was racing me to the salvage site. I had all the time in
the universe and then some.
For the first couple of days,
the communications channels were just fine and I talked to Howard or one
of the guys fairly frequently. Spacers don't like the idea of a man on
his own for extended periods. Some guys just couldn't take it; drove 'em
stark raving mad. Free-fall fever they called it, or vacuum disease, or
spacers madness. Used to be worse in the early days of space travel, when
the trips between the planets took freaking years instead of weeks
and months. You never went by yourself; every ship had at least a pair
or trio of partners. I think it unnerved the guys that when I had gone
out on my own I'd never picked up a second. But then, I don't suppose
they ever stopped to think about the rarity of personality types that
could stand being cooped up with me for extended periods of time. Ask
any of the guys who used to share safe houses with me; I am apparently...
an irritating sort.
Howard would continually give me last minute pointers and little reminders
of things to watch out for. Kurt, at least would play games of chess with
me. He had a board set up and would call the moves as he made them, moving
my pieces as I called my moves. He thought I had a board set up on the
ship; I didn't tell him I was just doing it in my head. That kind of thing
sort of unnerved them even when we were all living together. I figured
out early on that you just kept some things to yourself. The fact that
I could comp a launch trajectory in my head was not something they needed
to know, so when I wasn't by myself, I used the computer to do it. Maybe
that was one of the reasons I didn't want a partner; it was kind of nice
not having to worry about people watching me. I didn't have to keep up
appearances out here. Nobody to fool meant I didn't have to keep up the
I'm honestly fairly used to spending my time alone; I have my books and
my music after all. So I let them think that I slept a lot more hours
than I actually did so that I had some time to prowl over the 'Wench',
learning all her secrets. A ship really is like a lover. If you want to
be able to count on them in a pinch, you have to expend some effort building
the trust. The 'Wench' is an... interesting ship. Mechanically as sound
as anything in space; all of Howard's ships are. But her innards showed
the hand of a group of very diverse guys. The galley, for instance, is
painted the most God-awful shade of canary yellow. What? You were expecting
austere steel gray? Come on; when you may have to stick a crew in a ship
and leave them there for weeks or months at a time they need those little
things like color. The galley on my 'Demon'? Since you asked, it's painted
like a cloud scudded blue summer sky and the floor is green so that every
meal is like a picnic. Well, that was the intent anyway. The effect might
be better if I spent the funds to stock it with more than military ration
So I spent the out trip getting to know the 'Wench', listening to Howard
advise me on how not to get my ass killed, and playing chess with
Kurt. Until the communications window began to fade and I was down to
that hour, then the chess games stopped.
When it wasn't my designated hour of check-in, I had my music on the speakers
and it flowed through the whole ship, with me where ever I went. I don't
mind the being alone part, but I do mind the quiet. Voices come to fill
the silence if you don't fill it with something else first. So I played
my music and talked to the 'Wench' and read my books and sailed on. I
can't wait until they advance things enough to make a voice response system
for ships. Like in that old vid-show. I will program in the most kick-ass,
sexy voice I can find and record the most smart-ass remarks. I entertained
myself for an entire quarter cycle thinking up tag lines for different
"Wake up, sunshine! We're about to hit the biggest damned asteroid
you've ever seen!"
"You call yourself a pilot? Watch where you're going!"
"What do you mean we ran out of fuel!?"
"The stuffy air you are noticing would be because somebody
needs to clean the air filters."
But then I started think about who the sexy voice would actually sound
like and all the comments started to have the word 'baka' in them. I quit
After I'd been over the ship pretty much from end to end, I spent most
of my time reading. I was working my way through the classics; had just
finished everything written by Dickens and was starting on Poe. The contrast
was rather amusing; though by the time I got through the 'Tell Tale Heart'
I was starting to long for something a little more... lightweight. Poe
was a seriously deranged man.
Howard laughs at me and my books. Doesn't understand why I don't just
use electronic copies like everyone else. But I like the feel of the books
in my hands; it reminds me of growing up in the orphanage. Any material
that passed through there had to be real, bound books. Father Maxwell
could never have afforded anything as expensive as a computer. He and
Sister Helen treated anything that came to them with a certain reverence;
books were a luxury and very few of them came our way. I had devoured
whatever I could get my hands on, determined to learn everything I could
of the world outside the hellhole I lived in.
I bought my books in batches, as I could afford it, but you can't keep
a lot of that sort of thing when you live on a space ship. As I finished
them, I packed them off and donated them to several orphanages on L2.
Shipping was a bitch but it made me feel better thinking that I might
be giving some little kid a window on another world. I had sent off the
Dickens collection just before I had lifted off. The collected works of
Poe was with me, and aboard my 'Demon' waited Rudyard Kipling and Lord
Tennyson. After a week of Poe, I was starting to wish I had brought the
The last couple of days before I hit the turn-around point and began my
deceleration, I think that Howard was starting to regret the whole thing.
His voice when we talked sounded strained and I think if he could have
aborted the job, he would have. I didn't get to talk to anyone else during
that hour anymore. Howard was on the whole time and spent most of it making
sure I didn't forget anything crucial. I usually had a headache by the
time the window closed.
"You're sleeping ok, right?" he questioned. "You have to
be at a hundred percent when you get there... there's no room for mistakes."
"Yes Daddy." I tried teasing but most of it went right passed
"She's a soft touch on the boosters, did I tell you that?"
"Only about fifty times so far." 'I tried to just lay back and
let it wash by me; I really didn't need him making me nervous right now.
"You retest all the tether lines, you hear me?" I could always
tell when the hour was almost up from the faint rise in his voice.
I resisted the urge to say, been there... done that, and gave him
a hearty, "I'll get right on that."
It was two days to target; there would be only one more communication
window before it all came together. Howard was not handling the strain
of this very well.
"Duo... you be damned careful; you hear me?" He sounded really
upset. "I... I shouldn't have told you about this damned job... I
wish I'd never... "
I was shocked; this didn't even sound like the Howard I knew. The last
minute was ticking away. 'Howard. Calm down, I'm fine. What the hell's
wrong? We speced this all out together... everything is going to be...
The clock told me that he probably didn't hear anything after everything.
I sat in the pilot's seat for a while, too stunned to move. What in the
hell was going on with him? Howard is a worrier, sure, but this seemed
a little extreme. Yeah, it was a dangerous job, but that had been my specialty
for the last three years. Even when I was still with Howard's crew full
time, I had been the prime pick for the delicate jobs. The guys used to
tease me about my 'gentle touch' on the controls. I found that I was not
looking forward to tomorrows talk with Howard.
I spent the rest of the cycle making sure everything was stowed and battened
down; wouldn't do to have one of my books come sailing through the cock-pit
at some critical moment. I went to sleep a little early, just to appease
Howard, and ate a decent breakfast when I woke. I sat down in the pilot's
chair at the designated time with a heavy sigh and a pouch of strong coffee.
It wasn't Howard's voice I got when the window came clear though;
"... .Duo?" It was Kurt, sounding... a little strange.
"Hey buddy!"I almost crowed, relieved that I might escape the
hour-long lecture I had been expecting. "What's up?"
He chuckled, "What's the matter?" I could hear the wide grin
even through the static and across the miles, "Expecting Howard?"
"Well... " I chuckled in return, "he has been dominating
most of the conversations."
"The guys and me, we thought we'd... rescue you." I could hear
that there was an underlying story here.
"What have you done?" I queried in mock severity.
"Drugged Howard's beer."
I laughed so hard I almost spit coffee all over the controls.
"You have to be kidding! He's going to kill you!"
His reply sounded rueful and I could imagine the hangdog look on his face.
"I know. But he's making himself crazy worrying over this."
The laugh wound down to a chuckle and I sighed, "Tell me about it."
Howard would throw a fit when he woke up. Tools would be hurled. Curses
would be delivered. I knew Kurt would take sole blame, because he's about
the only one of the crew that Howard wouldn't fire over it.
"Thanks, man," I told him and tried to put the warmth in it.
"But... what in the hell has him so damned edgy?"
There was the slightest hesitation. "He's been having nightmares.
He feels guilty about letting you go." I could almost hear the shrug,
"He found out that we aren't the first crew to go after this wreck."
For a minute I thought he meant I was racing someone else to the job site
but then the tone of his voice hit me and I knew what he meant.
"Why the hell didn't he just tell me?" I blurted.
Kurt sighed heavily. "He knew he couldn't convince you to call it
quits and was afraid it would just make you nervous."
"Who was it?" I asked, most of the people in the business know
all the other people in the business.
"Sanderson," he told me; a small, family run team that had folded
and gone under about a month ago.
"Was this the job that took them down?" I knew even as I was
asking, that it had to be so.
"Yeah," Kurt confirmed. "Lost the oldest and the youngest
son. The old man just didn't have the heart for it anymore."
"Damn," I muttered, the Sanderson crew had been a decent lot.
Had beaten me out of a couple of jobs early on. Old man Sanderson was
a hell raiser from the word go but had been proud as hell of those boys.
That would have left him with just his daughter. I didn't envy her.
"Listen Duo," Kurt was saying, "me and the guys want you
to know that we'd understand if you turned back... "
I snorted. "Hell Kurt; I'm almost there. Might as well at least scope
He sighed again; he wasn't surprised. "Well, don't tackle it if things
look too bad. Just walk away from it, understand?"
His voice was gruff; Kurt was not a guy who had ever gotten all emotional
about things. Even when he lost his leg, he had just gone on, sure and
"I thought you drugged Howard to save me from the lecture, Papa Kurt,"
I observed dryly and he laughed.
"Ok, squirt," he chuckled, calling me by the much-hated nickname
the Sweepers had used for me when I first started with them, "I give."
We just talked for a bit then, about nothing in particular and I was able
to relax a little. When the hour was winding down I was actually sorry
for the first time in days.
"Tell Howard that I checked all the tether lines, got a good nights
sleep and went potty before I got here."
He laughed for me, "Will do." But then the laugh was gone, "You
be damn alert out there, Maxwell; we expect to see you back here in a
"And I expect at least a steak dinner when I get there."
If he had a reply, it was lost in the static.
Then it was time to buckle down and get serious. Time for Duo Maxwell
to do his job.
I was still a couple of hours
out but the location was finally within sensor range and I pulled up every
aspect of it I could. I put visual on the main view screen and ran scans
on every level imaginable. The heat scan showed nothing untoward. Radiation,
just the normal smattering of natural phenomenon out here in the belt.
Audio found the looped distress call still playing after all these years.
Meant the ship still had a bit of power in her, which might make this
go faster. Scans for mass and gravitational pull came up a little nasty;
there was something out there with a lot of pull that was causing a 'wash'
that was effecting the path of everything around here. Like putting a
bump in the road. Or maybe more of a pothole. I also found the scattered
debris field of the Sanderson ship. Ouch. There wasn't enough left to
go after. If I had to guess, I'd say either they hit the wash and got
thrown where they weren't expecting or something else hit the wash and
found them. Either way, they had to have taken a direct hit to the engines
to have blown the ship to shrapnel like that.
Erratic orbit didn't begin to describe what the target ship was doing.
It came closer to aimless wandering. I almost wished I had brought my
'Demon' after all. Just gone in for the data and gotten the hell out.
Hindsight and all that.
I finished my scans and didn't find any other surprises. Time was ticking
down; I went to suit up.
This was going to take flying by the seat of my pants to a whole new level.
Back in the pilot's seat, secure in my vacuum suit, I settled in and took
over control of the ship.
"Ok, 'Wench' it's time to play," I addressed the console in
front of me as I switched off the autopilot.
I'm always vaguely disappointed when the ships I fly don't answer me.
I think Deathscythe was the only thing I ever piloted that I would have
sworn, sometimes, voiced a quiet chuckle at my cracks. It didn't stop
me from holding up my end of the conversation with whatever I was in the
seat of though.
"Wench sounds so... disrespectful." I made a couple of minor
adjustments to my course, as much to get a feel for the way she handled
as anything. "Mind if I call you Randy?"
I hit the jets and slowed further, alternating between watching the visuals
and watching the radar. The asteroid belt is a truly sucky place to fly.
There was the beginning of the hiss of dust scouring the hull; not the
universe's most pleasant sound. It would only get worse.
I needed to catch the damn thing; get close enough to grapple onto it
and pull the ships together so that I could get aboard. Top priority was
the data and I was heartened by the distress signal that was faintly broadcasting.
If the ship still had some power I wouldn't have to waste a lot of time
trying to trundle emergency generators over there to get things up and
The crew, when they abandoned her, had tucked her in tight to a large
chunk of asteroid; she was orbiting around it while it made its own irregular
way through space. The asteroid had afforded her some small amount of
protection from other objects and though I could see that she had taken
more than one hit over the years, she was surprisingly intact. She wouldn't
hold an atmosphere but at least I wasn't trying to pick up pieces.
"Ok, Randy my girl; let's go make a living."
I had a side screen displaying the gravitational fields in a lovely blue
and green spectrum and I checked our location compared to the gravity
wash. I spared a moment to key in a five-minute proximity alarm, "Don't
let us hit that, Ok M'lady?"
Then it was boosters and jets, curses and sweat, and I didn't have the
time to tell 'Randy' much of anything. Closing on the asteroid was fairly
easy compared to what I had ahead of me yet; no worse than flying inside
a damn pinball machine. You've seen all those old space opera movies?
They came pretty damn close to getting the asteroid belt right. Except
for the dust. I'd never seen anybody get that part; that constant, almost
static hissing sound. I settled at length into a parallel orbit near my
target and took a break, just spinning through space sucked up tight to
that big honking piece of rock out there, and watched the other ship tumble
along beside me.
Target. Other ship. I tried to dredge up the name of the damn thing; it'd
been military, it was something pretty flat and expressionless... ah;
'The Londonderry' that was it.
"Randy... meet Derry," I muttered and wished I could wipe my
brow. In the back of my mind I could hear Howard screaming for me to get
the hell out of here. And honestly... I should have. This was going to
get nasty; Kurt would be telling me to walk away. I'm not really sure
why I didn't. My shoulders were already aching with the strain and I hadn't
really even started yet. I glanced at the chrono and sighed. Two hours
into this; couldn't back out with a two-hour investment... right?
He was tumbling... no, not all ships are girls. Derry sounded like a guy's
name and besides, Randy prefers men, and since I was planning on practically
mating them together, Derry was going to be a guy. Standard procedure
said the next step was to stop that tumble. It requires getting a grappling
tether on the target and using the boosters to counteract the spin. I
didn't get a warm fuzzy thinking about that. One of the little voices
in my head kept whispering that they didn't like the idea at all. I zoomed
in the visual and looked him over; I could make out the damn serial numbers
on the hull at this magnification, then I finally saw it; there was a
broken tether line attached near the stern, trailing along behind Derry
like a tail.
So, the Sandersons had gotten that far. That far and no farther. They'd
followed the book and tried to stop the spin and their ship had been ripped
apart. No one will ever know just what it was that went wrong; the evidence
was months scattered and irretrievable. Had something hit them? Or was
it just a simple miscalculation? I couldn't even guess. But it confirmed
for me that I wasn't going to follow the book on this one. I wouldn't
try to stop the spin... I would match it.
That was two lines, simultaneous attachments and a feather-light touch
of the boosters. No big deal... really.
"What you think, Randy? Care to dance?" I watched Derry turn
lazily beside me and settled on my attachment points. I would follow his
spin, trailing slightly, launch the lines and then pray like hell.
No time like the present, I reasoned, and tapped the jets, lining us up.
"Cross your fingers, hon. We're goin' in."
My heart was pounding in my ears so loud that I wouldn't have heard it
if the damn ship had replied. I won't ever tell this to anybody,
because I don't think I could ever explain it right and I'd just come
off sounding like I needed to be locked in a loony bin somewhere. But...
I miss the war. Ok; not the war. The adrenaline. The rush. The feeling
of being something to be reckoned with, something to be respected. That's
why I do what I do. There aren't a lot of things left that will give you
an adrenaline kick in the ass after you've piloted a Gundam into overwhelming
odds and come out on top. So I threw myself at these impossible jobs because
the only times I felt like I was truly alive was when I was flirting with
the ragged edge of disaster, every part of my body tingling with electricity
and I felt like I could just fucking do anything. And the voices
in my head stilled while every ounce of my attention was on the job.
The hiss of dust intensified for a moment to an almost hail. I waited
for us to pass through it before I prepared to fire the tether lines.
I marked my attachment sites and watched them spin by under/in front of
me for several rotations until the timing was as much a part of me as
my breath. My sight was tunnel vision narrowed to the screen in front
of me, my shoulders were on fire with the tension. Again, I wished I could
wipe sweaty palms on my pants leg. Five... four... three... two... launch!
I watched the lines streak out in twin arcs, my finger hovering over the
release button in case I didn't get two good connections. They hit as
perfectly as I could have hoped and I had my hands wrapped around the
yoke fighting to maintain the distance and not get snapped off into the
belt somewhere. There was the thrumming feel of the lines drawing taut
and I nudged and babied the boosters, crowing with delight as the two
ships decided they just might like each other after all... and then the
proximity alarm screamed in my ear. Shit! Five minutes to the wash. Shit.
I ground my teeth and cursed. I had no choice; I was not riding out a
trip through a gravitational flux tied to a dead weight. I hit the release
button and pulled back to a safer distance. Well... this would be a different
It was exactly like hitting a bump in the road. Going a hundred miles
an hour. Randy bucked and fought me, wanting to answer the siren call
of gravity. In my mind's eye, I could see the Sanderson ship caught in
the flux, tethered and trapped, smashed against the asteroid itself most
likely. I could hear the voices of the two brothers screaming their last.
Not a real spiffy way to go. No thank you ma'am.
"You don't want to go there, Randy-girl," I growled and wrestled
with her, boosters and jets, sweat and curses.
It was over in a matter of minutes and we were out the other side. I adjusted
my orbit, verified that Derry was still with us and collapsed in the damn
seat. Ok, I hadn't been expecting a cakewalk out here but I have to confess
I was starting to wish I had a partner. Somebody to rub the back of my
neck, if nothing else.
"Don't suppose you do massage therapy?" I sighed and watched
the Derry with dismay. The orbit had been altered subtly and I was going
to have to completely realign.
It took me upwards to three more hours. I had to jockey and adjust to
get the two ships back into alignment then pick an entirely different
set of tether positions. Neither of my next launches were as perfect as
the first one, and it took two tries before I had the ships tied together,
turning languid circles around each other. My hands were shaking and my
knees felt weak by the time I made it.
"Son of a bitch; but I'm getting to old for this shit,"
I murmured and had I been in Deathscythe, that would have won me the shadow
of a ghost of a chuckle. Randy refrained from comment.
to Sunhawk's fic]