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The Challenger – Prisoners Of The Sky – Chapter 2

The Challenger repeated his speech for each compartment of the aircraft, and thanks to the pacification field his armour was generating, there was no panic, no stampede. The people were agitated, and a couple of times one or two people did try to leave their seats, but Mrs Campos’s team did their jobs splendidly, without having to call upon the pacification devices the hero had handed out. Trouble was most likely to come from the first-class compartment, as the evacuation began.

Lee gave the speech one last time, omitting the part about why the front compartment was going first. There seemed to be little point to it. Again, the pacification field did its work – the passengers would only start getting worked up once they were out of its effective range, but thankfully, there were no scenes or sounds of panic as the last of the first-class passengers filed through into the next compartment, disappearing behind the curtains. Now, Lee could get to work…

(Continued)

The Challenger – Prisoners Of The Sky – Chapter 1

Above the Atlantic Ocean…

“Aphrodite Airways Flight Two Seven Two, this is Foxtrot Delta Leader, of the United States Air National Guard”, repeated the F-22 pilot. “Flight Two Seven Two, you have departed from your filed flight plan – do you require assistance? Over.”

Again, there was only silence – or at least what seemed to be silence. Captain Seth Rashell put what he thought he had heard down to the stress of the situation, and there was stress aplenty. Any time now, he expected to be given the order to fire upon an uncommunicative commercial aircraft, a plane full of innocent people, sending them all to undeserved deaths…

He had to be sure. “Foxtrot Delta Two, this is Foxtrot Delta Leader – get a look in the cockpit, as best you can. we need to confirm whether this is a hijacking, or something else entirely. Over.”

“Roger that, Foxtrot Delta Leader”, said the other pilot. “Taking up position for visual reconnaissance. Over…”

(Continued)

The Traveller: Sorrow Has The Swiftest Wings – Chapter 7

It isn’t her, Jason told himself. It can’t be her. Just focus on what’s certain, what’s real – that Suya needs you…

Jason stepped forward. “There’s no need to hurt her”, he called out to the impossible figure on the rocky ledge. “Let her go…”

(Continued)

The Traveller: Sorrow Has The Swiftest Wings – Chapter 6

The control room of the Lo’Khang’Kar shook wildly. Slammed without warning against the underside of the engineering console, The Traveller spat a profanity, and shouted “Can you people not run into any more mines for just two minutes???”

“That was no mine”, responded Officer Duoan. “That was a main transfer conduit!”

Duoan went to one of the engineering data-screens. “I was afraid of that”, he gasped. “We have a breach in the starboard transfer interface, and plasma-fires on the board on decks five, six, seven…”

A heavy sigh came from under the engineering console. “Dear sweet Darkhawk, please, just one small blessing…”

The adventurer reached deeper into the “guts” of the space-liner’s computer systems, thankful for the infra-red option that was part of Mariella’s visual systems. Delving into the forest of wires and plastic tubing, he stretched for the interface housing that he hoped would contain the components he needed to modify – and his fingers fell short by maybe no more than an inch.

“And Mariella’s shorter than me”, he sighed. “By the height of the heels of a pair of Gucci boots – and her arms are just that little bit shorter than I’m used to…”

Darkhawk was, of course, absent – and it seemed that she was no longer hearing any prayers…

(Continued)

The Traveller: Sorrow Has The Swiftest Wings – Chapter 5

The Ula’Tora system…

“So, what’s the rush?”, asked Sleek as the Pride Of Kraan II decelerated from hyper-light speed, several million miles clear of the “slick” of discharged waste. “It’s not as though this stuff’ll reach an inhabited planet for, say, decades – and surely we’re not the only people around who can deal with this. What about that Emergency Intervention bunch? This is exactly what they do…”

We received the call, so we’re responding”, Jason told her. “And as far as the time-scale of the threat is concerned, the longer the waste has to spread, the longer it takes to clean up, and it’s already a hazard to navigation. If the Ula’Tora system gets a reputation for dangerous spatial conditions, their economy could end up going straight down the tubes.”

“Anyway, you’ve been wanting to see some action”, added Suya. “Consider your wish granted – unless you’d rather we carried on cruising around, scaring away all the trouble.”

The complaining ceased, allowing Jason to set out the plan of action for the team. “First of all: containment”, he began, calling up a three-dimensional diagram of the situation. “We need to extend our shields to form a ‘scoop’ so that we can gather up the waste. If we have support ships in position to act as anchor-points, that’ll be a big help – ‘Snake, Sleek, that’s where you two come in. Take the Bon Scott and The Black Arrow, and take up positions here, and here…”

The Traveller, now back in command of Mariella’s body, watched and listened intently. The plan seemed a good, and effective one, but all the time, his mind was devising improvements, alternate approaches – there was absolutely no point in standing around idle…

(Continued)

The Traveller: Sorrow Has The Swiftest Wings – Chapter 4

Finding a conference room with a stunning view of open space, Jason and The Traveller sat down opposite each other. Jason, facing no objection from The Traveller, spoke first.

“I read the files”, he said. “I know why you’re here; to retrieve the shards of the ‘crystallised consciousness’ of the daughter of The Goddess and Overlord Guixander. Three of said shards give the local hero ‘Doomstone’ his power – and have probably influenced his choice of name – and with them, he has done a lot of good…

I know“, sighed The Traveller. “Darkhawk’s report from this region went into considerable detail concerning this individual. I know what he represents.”

“Peace. Freedom. Hope – for millions“, interrupted Jason. “Only when you live that life do you understand its power, its potential…”

“Yes, and we are dangerously short of Overlords“, reminded The Traveller. “The daughter represents a possible opportunity to reset the balance of power in the universe – and most likely beyond. You know Vaarla D’Yanu – do you think Mistress Vaarla should be swaggering around with the majority of the combined powers of the Overlords unopposed?

“Vaarla isn’t an absolute monster…”

“…but can you guarantee she won’t become one?”

(Continued)

The Traveller: Sorrow Has The Swiftest Wings – Chapter 3

***Don’t say it***, begged Mariella, from the edge of The Traveller’s mind. ***Please – not with my mouth…***

***Why not?***, replied The Traveller as they both gazed in wonder at the image on the view-screen of The Endless Sunrise. ***There couldn’t be a more fitting moment for it…!***

“Well”, The Traveller said for all to hear, “all” being “her”, Mariella and Irinati, “that most definitely is something you don’t see every day.”

(Continued)

The Traveller: Sorrow Has The Swiftest Wings – Chapter 2

The trading post on Baxam-Col-Vree…

“Excuse me, but we’re looking… for…”

For at least the tenth time, one of the inhabitants of Baxam-Col-Vree walked past The Traveller as though she was invisible, or her words beyond the range of their hearing. It was almost more than the explorer could stand.

“It’s because I’m a woman, isn’t it?”, she muttered to Irinati, as the girl sat on top of a short post, intently studying one of the local coins. “I should’ve known this was going to happen… now where did you get that?

“Man gave it to me”, murmured the girl. “Said I was pretty – why did he have to pay to say that?”

“Better not to ask”, said The Traveller, nervously. That was another negative aspect of his new form – two women attracted a lot more undesirable attention than a man and a woman.

Trying to figure out another approach, The Traveller’s mind went back to his earlier exchange with Mariella, and the mention of the customisation options available to the young woman with the artificial body. Could I perhaps make myself at least appear more… male?, the adventurer wondered. Only for a short while, of course…

“I better not mess about with Miss da Silva’s body”, he sighed out loud. “I don’t want to change something I can’t later undo. So, what else is there…?”

(Continued)

The Traveller: Sorrow Has The Swiftest Wings – Chapter 1

“Here we go”, said The Traveller, drawing a hearty breath into his borrowed, artificial lungs. “Baxam-Col-Vree, in Consolidation of Species territory – almost on the very edge of the Tai-reh’taran galaxy…”

The air was warm and fragrant, laden with the scents of the lush forests surrounding the small trading station – The Traveller made a point of savouring every sensory experience, for he was very glad to be alive… after a fashion.

(Continued)

Prequel: Unlocking The Impossible…

Earth…

Samantha Darrow had been dreading going through her grandmother’s possession ever since the news from the hospital that the told lady had not had the strength left to survive the operation, but life had to go on, and setting things in order was the last great hurdle. It had to be done, and one Sunday morning Samantha made herself go to the house, and make a start on the heartrending process of distilling a loved one’s past into “keep”, “sell” and “throw out”…

It wasn’t the most productive of day, but Sam had at lest made a start, rearranging the two unused bedrooms in the old house so that she could go through the clothes and old books without tripping over something and breaking her neck. As long as she kept busy, she found that her emotions could be kept in check – she could save any crying for when she got home.

(Continued)