Cynos Union Databank

 

 

1: This Knackered Old Tug

“So, why is my ship on fire?” said Jacob Green, captain of the civilian cargo ship, Diomedes. Every day. Every bloody day. There was always something. “Winnie, have you been doing that thing on the drive core, again? You know the thing I mean. Don’t make me say it, it’ll only have Dave waggling his eyebrows at us.”

Lisa ‘Winnie’ Frye, ship’s engineer, ignored the muffled titters of her shipmates, and focused on putting out the flames that lapped around the ship’s ghost drive, the phase-bridge drive core, the thing that let them stick a huge middle finger up at the ‘nothing can go faster than light’ rule.

The rule was in full effect now, though, but it had less to do with the laws of physics, and more to do with the fact that the engine room was aflame.

“It was only that one time,” said Winnie, quickly, and the one Green had called Dave started to laugh again. “It just gets lonely out here. Anyway, it wasn’t me this time!”

“I don’t know why you can’t just do that kind of thing in your bunk, like Marlon does,” said Green. He glanced up, hiding a grin, as the first officer, Marlon Coles, snapped his head round.

“I do not!” protested Coles. Green and the man they called Dave looked up, straight at Coles.

“Yeah you do,” they both said, in almost perfect unison, before going back to trying to ensure they didn’t burn to death in the middle of empty space, far, far away from the trade routes.

Coles hated it when they did that. They were both of Scottish heritage; it got a little creepy to hear them talking in unison. Besides, he was sure they were ganging up on him.

It took a while, but they managed to get the fire under control, before finally putting it out completely. White clouds of carbon dioxide slunk across the deck, oozing through gaps in the floor plating.

“Well, that was exciting,” said Coles, leaning against a bulkhead. “So, who broke it that time?”

“Yeah, don’t you go looking at me,” said the man they called Dave, full name: David Rymack; position: ship’s cook and general shouty, punchy bastard. “I was in the kitchen, makin’ dinner.”

“And what a dainty dish it’ll be, I’m sure,” said Green. “So, Winnie, you’re sure there’s nothing you want to tell us?”

“I told you, it wasn’t me!” wailed Winnie. “Look, I’ve run a diagnostic, and everything! The plating failed on the plasma transfer systems. The cut-offs kicked in so we didn’t get, y’know, vaporised, but we need to find a replacement. I can give you one more phase-bridge, then the drive core’s offline till we fix that transfer system.”

Green rolled his eyes. There was always something…

“So we now, in fact, have a starship with a maximum range, after which point, the ship will stop moving altogether and we’ll all die,” he said. “Fine. Marlon, what planets have we got nearby?”

 

* * *

 

Kandul-4 basked in the warming glow from its star. That star was, unsurprisingly, Kandul, and it was even less surprising to find out that Kandul-4 was the fourth planet in the Kandul system. It didn’t have a particularly inspiring name, but at least it saved arguments.

That was because Kandul-4 was a multi-species colony, founded by a coalition of humans, yowason and n’kaf. Having such an obvious name saved the yowason and n’kaf arguing, quite frankly; despite the sunny demeanour found in the average yowason, happy-go-lucky squids that they were, there was something about the n’kaf that just rubbed them up the wrong way.

Perhaps it was the average n’kaf’s general uptight nature, although in truth, it was more likely to be the fact that the n’kaf ‘saw’ with sound, instead of light. They entirely lacked eyes, instead using a combination of infra-red-sensitive pods on each side of their long faces, and a big, round melon organ, sat atop their heads.

Essentially, the n’kaf ‘saw’ using sonar, and the yowason had sensitive skin that reacted rather badly to sonar.

When the two species had first met, the n’kaf sonar sight had been interpreted as an attack, and it had damn near precipitated a war. It was only the intervention of the lanky, humanoid vossarulls that had prevented a vicious and bloody conflict.

Kandul-4, then, was a joint effort between the two species, with the intent of fostering an ongoing peace between them. Humanity had joined in, as well; after the Abyssal War, during which humanity had come close to extinction, they’d felt a distinct need to make sure all their eggs weren’t in one basket. Spreading to new worlds made the species less fragile, and so, when the Cynos Union had been formed, humanity had set out on a mission to build new colonies, to build new homes, and of course, to ensure that their species couldn’t be wiped out all in one go.

The Diomedes emerged from its phase-bridge tunnel, ghosting back into phase with the material universe. She left a trail of rapidly cooling vapour as she flew, a symptom of her leaking plasma transfer system.

“We’re here, skip,” said the pilot, turning round in her seat to look at her captain. Her name was Karen Ross, but woe betide anyone who ever actually called her Karen. She insisted, instead, on being called Albert, for reasons best known only to herself. “Where do you want this rustbucket setting down?”

“You mean we have a choice?” said Green, looking past her, out of the ship’s forward viewport, his gaze falling upon the green lands and cyan seas of Kandul-4.

He couldn’t help but notice they were coming in at quite a steep angle.

“As long as you’re quick,” said Albert, rubbing the sweat from her ebony-skinned brow, brushing aside long strands of thick, black hair. With a dodgy plasma transfer, it was getting really hot in the ship. “Otherwise we’re coming down over an area three miles across.”

“A landing zone three miles across? Any chance of being more accurate?” cut in Coles, from near the entrance to the pokey bridge.

“Why, yes, yes I can!” said Albert, smiling sweetly. “When we land, we’ll be three miles across.”

“Oh.”

“Because we’re going to explode,” Albert went on, peevishly.

“Yes, you can stop, now, thanks,” said Coles. “Just fly, please.”  

Into tiny little bits, like a big firework, and-

“Albert, bring us down near New Doncaster,” said Green, quickly, cutting her off before it got out of hand; she still needed to concentrate on landing this heap, after all. “Gently, please. This knackered old tug may be old and, well, knackered, but she’s all we’ve got. And let the port authority know we don’t have the legs to get to the spaceport, will you? The n’kaf go mad if you don’t tell them what’s going on.”

He looked out over the rapidly approaching planet once more.

“Time to go and get fleeced,” he muttered.

Back to Books by Mark W. Bonnett

buy this book now!