Silverfish: Chapter 24

“Your accent is passable, Jerin’s may be problematic.”  Jakob exhaled.  “I suggest you let us do the talking.”

“You do remember that he’s security and I’m espionage, right?”  Jerin grinned at Jakob. “I know how to avoid military attention.”

(more…)

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Silverfish: Chapter 23

Kyle felt the man next to him start to slide out of the bed and pulled him back.  “Where do you think you’re going?”  He smiled as he leaned in to kiss the back of Jakob’s neck.  “Shift doesn’t start for a couple hours yet.”

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Silverfish: Chapter 22

It felt strange to be in civilian clothes.  Even stranger to be wearing Alliance fashions.  The long sleeveless jacket flared a bit as he walked.  Next to him, Anson was dressed similarly.  Julian selected a ripe fruit from a vendor, then a second one.  He tossed one casually to Anson before leaving a credit piece for the merchant and continuing on.

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Silverfish: Chapter 21

“No, look, you’ve got it up too high.”  Kyle adjusted the bar holding the pot over the flames.  He glanced at Jakob.  “I take it you never learned to cook over an open fire?”

“I never learned to cook.”  Jakob shrugged before settling himself back down onto the sand.

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Silverfish: Chapter 20

“You really didn’t know.”  Anson leaned in the door of the infirmary’s office.

Doctor Narel was sitting at the desk, his head bowed, and his hands clasped behind his neck.  “I thought it a defensive facility.”  He didn’t look up.  “Not an offensive…”  He took a deep breath.  “Not an offense.”

He entered, shutting the door behind him.  Then he took a deep breath of his own before sitting down across from the doctor.  He removed the datachit from his vest pocket and set it on the desk halfway between them.  “I downloaded their…”  He sighed.  “Pull the information on the vaccines and treatments off this, then dump the rest.”

For a moment, Jakob stared at the chit.  He slowly lifted his head to meet Anson’s eyes.  “Commander?”

“I…”  Anson swallowed.  “Would appreciate it if this stayed between us.  We can tell them it was separate files, or the rest got corrupted, or…”  He shook his head.  “I can’t take the chance some asshole with more rank than decency will get notions about poetic justice and…”  He shrugged.  “Can you do that, or should I dump the chit entirely?”

“If anyone learns of this, Anson…”  Jakob picked up the datachit.

“Fuck…”  Anson twitched his shoulder and managed to smile.  “What’s a little light treason between friends, right?”

Jakob laughed softly.  “It was a spur of the moment operation, chance rather than planning.  You grabbed what little data you could before the Alliance came to investigate…”

“And blew the place to deny them a resource.”  Anson nodded.  “Not like we had orders regarding it to disobey.”  He leaned forward again, resting his arms on the desk.  “You alright, Doc?”

“I am…”  Jakob nodded.  “Reevaluating ideals.”  He looked away.  “I did not pick up a weapon, Anson.  Yet I gave orders that may have resulted in deaths.”

“You gave information.”  Anson shook his head.  “I gave the orders.  You let me —”

“It does not work that way.”  He rubbed his neck again.  “There was a time I believed all lives had value.  That all lives were worthwhile, worth saving.  That everyone deserved to live.”  He set his arms on the desk.

“Being in command means having to make decisions.  Kill one man to save ten.  Let ten men die for the chance to save a thousand.”  Anson swallowed.  “Order one man to die, so the rest might live.”  He reached over and put his hand atop Jakob’s.  “Don’t lose sight of those ideals, Doc, because they aren’t wrong.  Our job in all this is to save as many as we can.”

The other man’s hand turned over to briefly grip his own.  “Yes.”  Jakob nodded.  “Our job is to save as many as we can.”

(more…)

Silverfish: Chapter 19

“A decrypted intelligence core.”  Mateo stared at Anson.

“A hundred years from now, when kids are learning about this war in history class…”  Anson folded his arms.  “Jerin and his boys are going to have a full paragraph dedicated to them.”

“Not unless we get it through the barricade.”  Mateo swallowed.  “Holy shit.” He exhaled.  “How are they?”

“Doc kept Lukas breathing.  He’s still too messed up to leave the infirmary, but Doc said he’ll make it.”  Anson sighed, then twitched his shoulder.  “Doc can’t promise a full recovery without more supplies.”

“And Yasir?”  Mateo raised an eyebrow.

“Pushed the limits on the shield, but came through without complications.”  Anson let his arms fall to his sides.  “Captain…”

“If we stay out here, we are going to die.  And cost Palindor the best shot it has had since this war began.”  Mateo nodded, then turned to look out the viewport.  “I know.  And I am very open to suggestions on how to get past that barricade.”

“I’ll toss it out to the crew.”  Anson squared his shoulders.  “See if any of them get a sudden burst of genius.”

(more…)

Silverfish: Chapter 18

Mateo stepped into the office attached to the infirmary, and frowned.  It was empty.  “Captain?”

The voice behind him made him start.  “Doc.”  He looked around the infirmary.  “I could have sworn you weren’t in here a moment ago.”

Jakob sighed, then held up a scanner.  “I was just recalibrating one of the operating tables.”  He shook his head, then gestured at the leftmost one.  “Again.”

“It’s malfunctioning?”  He walked over to see the open display.  “What’s wrong with it?”

“Standard wear and tear.  Unfortunately, the correct parts are not available.”  Jakob set the scanner down on top of the table, then began closing it back up.  “If we could refrain from having more than six crewmembers seriously injured at once, I would greatly appreciate it.”

“Yeah.”  Mateo nodded.  “Me too.”  He shrugged.  “I was just checking in, doing an informal inspection.”  He looked down at the operating table.  “Guess you just answered my question.”

“I am certain you are receiving the same answer in every department.  We are running low on both critical supplies and methods of working around those needs.”  Jakob shook his head before looking around the infirmary.  “This style of ship was not intended for long term missions.”  When Mateo glanced at him, Jakob gave him a half smile.  “Commander Anson has provided me with military training manuals and readings.  It is not the most scintillating reading material I have ever been assigned, however we both felt it was important I have the knowledge expected of an officer.”

“Anson is usually right about that kind of thing.”  He sighed.  “We are going to have to make planetfall soon, one way or another.  Check the local systems and note any planets we don’t have the proper innocul…”  He trailed off as Jakob handed him a datapad, then smiled.  “And in the proper format too.  You’re getting the hang of this.”

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Silverfish: Chapter 16

Mateo looked surprised to find Anson in his office.  “Anson?”  He frowned.  “Something wrong?”

“I don’t know.”  Anson exhaled.  “Back on Triton, Doc offered to let me leave him and run, then when the tables turned he refused to do the same.  He kept his head in a firefight, and kept his nerve during the escape.”

“Anson…?”  Mateo raised an eyebrow.

“If he’d wanted to betray us, he could have.  He could have left me to the Alliance and returned to the ship with Velik and Adan and you’d never have been the wiser.  He didn’t, and…”  He shrugged.  “And I can’t quite figure that guy out.”

“Explain.”  Mateo folded his arms.

“He clearly doesn’t want to be here, but he’s not making noise about leaving.  He doesn’t do much mingling unless his husband or I drag him into it, yet he seems a friendly enough guy.  He doesn’t like violence or confrontation, but when he decides to stand his ground he doesn’t budge an inch.  He was scared shitless down there and he pushed it aside in a heartbeat when I got hit.  He walked us through heavily armed PeaceKeepers without losing his cool and Captain…”  Anson inhaled.  “I don’t know if he had anything to lose by being caught.”

“Anson?”

“Sir, either he is an ice-cold balls of steel liar with an exquisite gift for mimicry and physical deception…”  Anson gave a slow shake of his head.  “Or whoever he used to be, I doubt there is the slightest chance the PeaceKeepers would have dared to lay a hand after establishing his ID.”

“You think he’s an actual noble?”  Mateo nodded, then played back the previous conversation he’d had with the doctor.  The man was young for the amount of skill he showed in the infirmary.  The upper crust got access to the best education and training.  Anson’s conclusion fit, and…  “He didn’t exactly deny that when I spoke to him.”

“Captain…”  Anson rubbed the back of his neck.  “There is a risk if we take him back with us and someone does run a proper ID on him, he’d be in more danger from our side than he was from those PeaceKeepers.”

“Yeah…”  Mateo slowly nodded.  And yet he still couldn’t afford to let the man go safely about his way.  “Yea, I see your point.  Can you fix that?”

“Yes.”  Anson shrugged.  “Sir, it would be easier if we made him part of the crew officially.  That way anyone inclined to take a casual look would assume he’s already been vetted.”

“Let me think about it.”  Mateo nodded.

(more…)

Silverfish: Chapter 15

The chronometer chimed a third time before Kyle finally let him out of the bed.  Julian staggered a bit as he rose, and had to catch himself on the wall.  Kyle’s ‘discipline’ of the previous evening had left deep bruises.  He exhaled before reaching for his small healing kit.  “What are you doing?”  Julian froze at the sound of Kyle’s voice.

“I have a shift in the infirmary today, Kyle.”  He turned toward the man.  “I will need to be functional to undertake my duties.”

“Yeah, alright.”  Kyle nodded before climbing out of the bed.  “You can uh…” He gestured to the healing kit before catching Julian by the back of the neck and pulling him forward for a kiss.  “I love you.  I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”

“I know, Kyle.”  He made himself smile and stroke his fingers through Kyle’s hair.  “I love you too.  I am sorry I did not tell you earlier.”

“It’s alright, Jakob.  Just be more careful.”  Kyle smiled at him.  “I can’t protect you if you don’t do what I tell you.”

“Yes, Kyle.”  Julian nodded before turning and injecting himself with the nanites.  It was strange to realize it had been almost a month since the last time he’d used them.  Still, they did the trick.  A few moments later, the dull throb from the beating had faded.

He headed into the refresher unit, only for Kyle to follow him.  The big man pressed him back against the wall, kissing him as the hot water poured over them both.  Julian put his arms around Kyle’s neck, letting the other man lift him slightly before shifting to put his legs around Kyle’s waist.  Kyle groaned as he claimed Julian’s body again, lowering his head to nuzzle Julian’s neck and shoulder.  Knowing what Kyle liked and expected, Julian moaned in response, arching his back to allow Kyle to drive deeper into him.

Kyle braced himself on the wall so as not to stumble when he came a few minutes later.  He set Julian down before pressing another kiss to him.  “CSO wants me to run through some simulations after my shift, fix some of the holes in my training.  Shouldn’t take me more than a couple hours.”

“I will see you then.”  Julian stood up on tiptoes to kiss him again before going to get dressed.

(more…)

Silverfish: Chapter 14

“We don’t have a choice.”  Mateo sighed.  “Without fuel and supplies, we won’t make it past the blockade.  Triton is probably our best bet.  It’s a neutral planet, with enough clout that the Alliance at least pays lip service to respecting its stance.”

“Which is exactly why the Alliance will be looking hard at it, watching all traffic in and out.  They’d be waiting…”  Anson trailed off, then suddenly brightened.  “Actually, sir, it won’t be a problem at all.”

“You…”  Mateo blinked at him.  “Changed your mind rather quickly.”

“We have a civilian shuttle, sir, one not tied at all to the Onager.”  Anson smiled.

“The doc’s shuttle.”  Mateo nodded in realization.

“I may take Doc with me on the supply run.  I don’t know what he needs to stock up on, and I’ll have no way to radio availability back to him.”  Anson took a deep breath, then met Mateo’s eyes.  “I suggest leaving his husband behind for this mission.”

“Right.”  Mateo nodded.  “Make sure the doc actually returns with you.”

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Silverfish: Chapter 13

The captain checked in on him midway through his first day as a Palindor medical officer.  “How are you settling in there, Doc?”

Julian looked around the infirmary.  Despite the damage the ship had suffered, the equipment was in good repair, and was of fairly good quality.  “Some of the equipment is different than I used previously, however I should be able to adapt.”  He frowned, then indicated a particular machine.  “I am concerned about your anti-viral unit.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty much a relic.”  Captain Mateo sighed.  “We’re mostly operating on prayer when it comes to that.”

“Actually, it is a decent unit, it has simply been misaligned.”  Julian gestured to the display.  It hadn’t taken long to figure out the problem.  School lab equipment often had similar issues, as things were broken and jury-rigged until they could be replaced.  Some such repairs, however, were better than others.  “The control unit was meant for a different model, and cannot calibrate the current unit correctly without modification.”  He looked up at the Captain.  “Does this ship have an agricultural scanner?”

“Yeah, I think.”  He frowned.  “You’d have to check with Dougal to be sure.  Why?”

“I can use the sensory unit from that to communicate the feedback correctly to the control unit.  That should take care of the issue until the opportunity to get the correct model presents itself.”  He shrugged, and pointed at where a woman was organizing items for him.  “One of your crew, Jenna, performed admirably as an assistant during the previous crisis.  With your permission, I would like to provide her with additional training to facilitate her ability to function as an emergency medic.

“Doc…”  Captain Mateo chuckled, then clapped his shoulder again.  Since he’d seen the movement coming, he managed to cringe away from the touch.  “Tell your husband to give you a big kiss from me, alright?”

(more…)

Silverfish: Chapter 12

Julian leaned against the wall, and took a deep breath.  He felt a hand on his shoulder and opened his eyes expecting to see Kyle.  Captain Mateo stood there instead.  The captain’s green eyes were looking at him with concern.  “You alright there, Doctor Narel?”

“I believe everyone is either stable or…”  He glanced at where three men were laying near the back.  He wasn’t sure how the captain was going to take the news he was about to give, but lying would be a worse option.  Better to offer no hope than to rip hope away.  A lesson he was learning all too well.  “I am sorry, Captain.  They received lethal doses.  Even if we had a full medical facility, all we could do would be make them comfortable.”

Mateo swallowed, then nodded.  “How long?”

“I would estimate no more than a couple hours.”  Julian observed the captain.  The man’s eyes were wet as he looked at his dying crewmembers.

“Time enough for them to say some goodbyes.”  He sighed.

“Several of the patients still need considerable medical care.”  Julian glanced down at the datapad.  “They are stable for now, and you should have time to get them to a medical facility.”

“And if I can’t?”  Mateo’s voice was quiet.

“Pardon?”  Julian raised an eyebrow.

“Guessing you haven’t looked at the newscasts recently.”  Mateo sighed.  “We got hit, bad, and we are currently on the wrong side of a blockade.  We can’t fight our way through, so we either have to hold tight while our people send reinforcements to retake the territory, or take the long way to get past the Alliance ships.”

He was…  “That is…”  He was in Alliance space.  Right now, at this moment, he was in Alliance space.  Surrounded by Alliance forces.  On a Palindor warship.  “Unfortunate.”

“Doctor?”

Revealing his identity would give Mateo a bargaining chip to get his injured people to safety.  And yet he had no idea what kind of man Mateo was, nor what could happen if he put himself at the captain’s mercy.  The man had just lost a considerable number of his crew to Alliance forces, and was about to lose three more.  He wasn’t sure that was the kind of thing anybody took well.  He swallowed.  “Your equipment can be modified to handle cybernetics, though I will require assistance from those more skilled at engineering.  Delicate work must wait, however we should have sufficient resources to solve the life-threatening matters.  I…”  He caught himself stifling a yawn.  “May need some sleep before I can begin.”

“Right.”  Mateo nodded before patting his shoulder.  “I had quarters arranged.  I’ll grab your husband and he can take you.”

His… Oh.  Kyle.

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Silverfish: Chapter 11

Kyle looked over the inventory list.  Maelon wouldn’t have the best price for the stolen items, but they could stop at Halivar first.  He should be able to get a good deal there, and then they could hit Maelon in style.  The ident cards he’d acquired would hold up under most scrutiny, especially since the newscasts were reporting the destruction of the Silverfish.  Nobody would be looking for Julian anymore, and it wasn’t like anybody actually had an accurate roster of the crew anyway.  They were safe and free.

He was settling back with a smile when an alarm in the cockpit started beeping.  “Oh.”  He stared at it.  “Shit.”

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Silverfish: Chapter 10

Kyle half-carried the shuddering Julian to the shuttle.  Hearing the guy trying not to scream in pain was brutal.  He quickly dumped him into a chair and slid into the pilot seat.  The sooner he got out, the sooner he could get that thing off.

He gunned the engines as the launch bay doors opened, sliding out as soon as they had room.  As soon as they were clear of the ship, he engaged shields and hit the course program before whirling around.

The multitool nicked Julian’s wrist as it sliced through the cuff.  “Sorry.”

“Not…”  Julian panted.  “Complaining.  I —”

A beeping sound signaled that they were being hailed.  Kyle turned back around to the pilot’s display.  He hit the comm unit to hear the Captain’s voice.  “… the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Sorry, captain.”  Kyle shook his head.  “I quit.  Effective, well, now.”

“Turn your ass back around, Olesen, or I’ll open fire.”

“That would be a mistake on your part, Captain.”  Kyle growled as he noted someone on the ship was trying to override the autopilot, and flipped the controls back to manual.

“Olesen.”

“Back off, Captain.”  He glanced at the small unit he’d brought with him.  A readout told him the Silverfish was powering weapons.  “You fire, captain, and I’ll retaliate.”

“With what?”  Her voice was mocking.  “First shot takes your shields, second shot your engines.  You power down now, Kyle, I’ll hear you out.”

She was lying.  He knew that with crystal clarity.  He glanced over his shoulder at Julian, who was giving him a wide-eyed look, then turned back to the control.  “Captain, final warning.  You shoot.  You die.  Just let us go.”

“You’re a fucking idiot, Kyle.”

The first shot made the shuttle shudder.  Shields dropped, but he knew he could get them back up in minutes.  They weren’t going to get out of range, not in time.  He took a deep breath.

Then he detonated the mines he’d carefully placed.  Take out the shields, the weapons, and the engines.  Leave the Silverfish dead in the water.  It would take them at least a day to be able to limp somewhere for repairs.  He’d considered signaling a warship, revealing their location.

Maybe he still would.

The view screen showed an explosion on the bow of the Silverfish.  Shields were…

Another explosion.  Then another.  Then…

Then the Silverfish broke apart.

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