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.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 16

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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.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 15

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.”

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 14

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?”

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 13

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.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 12

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.”

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 11

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.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 10

Silverfish: Chapter 9

Captain Laria glanced at Kyle, then glanced at him again.  “You shaved.”

“Itched.”  Kyle waved a hand.  “Besides, we’re soldiers again. Seemed time.”  He shrugged.  “Hey, I was thinking if we hit…”

“Kyle…”  She chuckled, then patted his shoulder.  “I don’t need you thinking, I need you shooting.  Gear up, we’ve got a target.”

He grinned.  “Yes, ma’am.”

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 9

Silverfish: Chapter 8

His hands shook as he injected the nanites.  In school, they’d lectured about the things.  Potential complications of overuse.  Damage to organs from repeatedly forcing them to heal quickly.  Malfunctioning nanites cannibalizing parts of one system to repair another.  Taking two doses in quick succession resulting in the nanites tearing the body apart as they fought each other.

Julian watched the burns Frank had left on his body start to heal and vanish.  He hadn’t been ‘lively’ enough a ride, so Frank had pressed the glowing end of the decontamination device to him to get him to buck and jerk beneath the other man.  He’d heard his skin sizzle, smelled the burned flesh.  It made his stomach roll.

By the time the nanites finished, there were only faint red marks to show where he’d been tortured.  Those too, would fade.  Within an hour there’d be no physical signs left to show what he’d endured.  At least, no visible signs.  He looked down at the cuff, the clinical part of his mind noting the vital signs.  Blood pressure and pulse higher than they had been before his capture, but still within normal ranges.

Without better diagnostic equipment, he had no way to tell if the repeated injections were shortening his life.  It was a bit disconcerting to realize he wasn’t sure he cared.  The possibility wasn’t enough to make him risk enduring the doctor’s punishment if he refused to use them.

And they made the pain stop.  He clenched his fists.  At least, until the next time the door opened.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 8

Silverfish: Chapter 7

War.  They were officially at war.  Kyle watched the newscast.  It seemed unreal.  Palindor had finally become weary of being pushed around.  He knew on some level he couldn’t return to being a soldier, but Palindor would need black ops specialists.

“You heard the news.”  He looked up to see Rand leaning in the door.

“I did.”  Kyle grinned.

“Soon, we won’t need to hide anymore.  We can start taking out real targets, get a hero’s welcome.”  Rand spread his hands.  “We can go to an actual bar.  Not a backplanet dive.  A bar.  Where they actually sanitize the cups more than once a decade.”  His eyes widened.  “Where all the dancing girls are actually women.”

Kyle laughed.  “Rand, we could take out the entire council and no decent bar would let you in the front door.”

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 7

Silverfish: Chapter 6

“You’re talking about full on war.”  Leon’s eyes widened as he stared at his grandfather.

“I fear it is not merely inevitable, Leon.”  He sighed.  “It has already begun.  Palindor warships engaged our vessels in the Kyer system several hours ago.”

“What?”  Leon blinked.  “Why?”

“From what we have learned thus far, a freighter had an engine failure and drifted across the border.  Whatever it was carrying…”  Vendral shook his head.  “Palindor apparently didn’t want our ships to get their hands on it.  When Alliance vessels moved in, Palindor warships crossed the border to drive them back and recover the ship.  They destroyed an Alliance vessel in the process.”

“Surely we can…”

“It was the Harmonium.”

“Oh.”  Leon let out his breath.  Captain Regin’s ship.  Captain Regin, whose father was one of the loudest voices on the council.  “Survivors?”

“Most of the crew, Captain included.”  Vendral’s eyes narrowed just a little.

Leon started shaking his head.  “You think it was intentional.  You think Regin moved in with the intent of getting the Palindor warships to fire upon him.”

“What I think at this point is…”  Vendral sighed.  “Irrelevant.  Palindor is claiming we invaded, and their own warships are massing.  With the council up in arms…”  For a few moments, the Prime Minister vanished and it was only his grandfather standing there.  “Regin is claiming Julian’s abduction was a sanctioned operation and that the only reason I am advocating for peace is that the Palindor government is —”

“You’re going to write Julian off.”  He stared at his grandfather.

“Leon.”

“You’re going to write Julian off and go to war to protect your position.”

And the Prime Minister was back, eyes cold and hard.  “Captain Vendral.  War has already begun.  I expect you to do your sworn duty.”

“Yes, Prime Minister.”  Leon glared back at him.  “I will do my sworn duty.”

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 6

Silverfish: Chapter 5

Leon sat down, burying his face in his hands.  Three weeks, and no leads on his brother.  For all he knew, Julian was dead.  He sighed, and looked down at the report again.  The situation along the borders was fraying.  The truce between the Seven Star Alliance and Palindor was not going to hold.  It was likely Julian’s abduction had been intended as the catalyst.

Except the President of Palindor was denying their involvement, and had in fact promised to turn over the crew of the Silverfish to Alliance justice if they were captured.  A false promise most likely, but enough to stop things from getting out of control.

It was a bitter irony.  Of all the people they could have taken, they took a voice active on their behalf.  He’d been waiting for a call telling him his brother had entered one of the zones as a protest measure.  The zones had sprung up as a response to violent protests, and there were still violent people within.  Agitators and provocateurs, attacking PeaceKeepers along the border.

The zones were a brutal necessity.  Until the Alliance was in control of all systems within its borders, they had no other option.  Once that was done, perhaps relocation or…  Hell, it would serve Palindor right if they just dumped them all in Palindor space.  That was a problem for politicians to solve.

In the meantime, his little brother was still missing.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 5

Silverfish: Chapter 4

The door opened.  He couldn’t quite suppress a chill when the captain walked into the chamber.  She gave him a long look, and he felt his skin start to burn.  “Captain.”

“The crew say you’ve been cooperative.”  She smirked.

“You made the consequences of behaving otherwise abundantly clear.”  Julian nodded.  Sooner or later the Silverfish would cross paths with another ship.  He might get lucky enough for it to be an Alliance vessel, but frankly even a Palindor vessel would do at this point.  They could leverage his rescue into getting some of their own people out of the zones, if not some other grand concession.  He just had to stay alive until then.

“They also say you’ve got a smart mouth.”  Her eyes narrowed.

“I suppose it was too much to hope they’d appreciate a clever ton —”  He was cut off by a backhanded blow that left him staggering.

Her hand closed around his throat and she shoved him into the wall hard enough that he saw stars.  “Do you actually think you can talk your way out of this, boy?”  She laughed.  “You’re kind talk and talk.  Always so arrogant.  You’ll talk yourselves right into the grave.”  She flung him to the ground.  “There is something I do want to hear from you.”

“And what would that be?”  He remained where he was, certain if he tried to rise he’d only incur more violence.

“I want you…”  She reached down and grabbed his hair.  “To tell me you love being my ship’s whore.”

“I do apologize, Captain…”  He swallowed, trying to put on a braver face than he felt.  “But my parents taught me not to lie.”

Behind him, she started to laugh.  Then she hauled him back to his feet and threw him face first into the wall.  “But that’s the point, boy.  I’m not going to stop hurting you until it’s the honest fucking truth.”

He cried out as her belt hit him across the shoulders.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 4

Silverfish: Chapter 3

The captain gave him a shove into the room.  At first glance, it looked like standard crew quarters.  A second glance revealed that restraints had been added to the bed.  Julian swallowed.

“Your door only locks on the outside.”  He heard the captain’s voice, and couldn’t bring himself to turn around and face her.  “So, you won’t be leaving, and anybody who wants to come in for a visit can.”

“Will they at least knock first?”  He caught a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror, and tore his eyes away from it.

“Probably not.”  She pointed.  “Refresher unit is there.  Entertainment unit is there, but I shut it off.  Maybe you can think up some way to earn that privilege.”  He could almost hear her smirk.  “You get one channel on the comm, and that’s to the medical bay, case someone plays a little too rough.”  She folded her arms.  “Resist or fight, and well…”  She chuckled.  “You got a taste of that already.”  She left, closing the door behind her.  He heard the sound of the lock engaging.

She hadn’t said, but he was sure the quarters were bugged.  If he threw himself down on the cot and wept, someone would get a good laugh out of it.  He looked around the chamber again, and then sank into the chair next to the small desk unit.  He went through the drawers and found them all empty.  Not so much as a writing pen.  The cabinets and wardrobe showed the same.  He sighed, and caught another glimpse of his reflection in the mirror.  He made himself meet his eyes, but couldn’t hold the gaze for more than a few moments.

He was about to sit back down when he heard the lock click.  The door opened, and the woman who’d been the one to drag him out of his quarters on the liner entered.  She looked him over, and then pointed.  “Get on the bed.”

Part of him wanted to attack.  To fight, to run.  Another part of him told himself not to be stupid.  By now, his grandfather knew he’d been captured.  Negotiation and ransom weren’t options, but that didn’t prevent bounty hunters and the like from being hired.  Rescue would come.  Fighting or fleeing would just increase his likelihood of being killed beforehand.

Instead, he laid down, and let her secure his wrists and ankles to the bunk.  “I had a family, back on Eden.  Until your people came along.  Haven’t seen them in five years.” He winced when she grabbed hold of his nipple and squeezed.  “Nice house.”  He bit back the cry of pain when she twisted her hand.  “Even had a dog.”  Then she went to the small satchel she’d set on the desk when she’d entered, and pulled out a syringe containing a small amount of a yellow substance.  “Doc said being compliant doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be able, but this should take care of that issue.”

A hiss escaped him as she jammed the needle into the muscle of his thigh and pushed the plunger.  She tossed it aside, and then straddled him.  To his horror, he felt his body start to react to the drug.  She bent her head, kissing him, biting his lower lip hard enough to hurt.  Her hand went to his groin, and caught hold of his shaft.  He could feel his skin burning as he responded to her touch, and she laughed before leaning down to speak into his ear.  “The best part is knowing you’re hating every minute of this.”

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 3

Silverfish: Chapter 2

He awoke in the infirmary.  Memories jolted back into him and he tried to sit up, only to discover he’d been secured to the examination table.  His wrists and ankles were restrained, and there were straps over his thighs, torso, and shoulders.

“Welcome back.”  Julian turned his head to see the captain staring at him.  Her face was amused.  “I was starting to think you were going to sleep all day.”

“Go to hell.”  He yanked at the restraints.

She chuckled and patted his shoulder.  Then she touched a button on the console.  He screamed as pain shot through him like wildfire.  She lifted her hand a few seconds later, leaving him gasping for breath.  “That was rude.”  She glanced at the button.  “The doctor assures me that I can jolt you for up to thirty seconds at a time without risk of burning out your nervous system.  And repeat every five minutes.  He did however, recommend that I use a mouth restraint if I go that route.  Says otherwise you might clench your teeth so hard they shatter.”

Julian stared up at her.  “What do you want?”

“Slightly better.”  She leaned on the side of the exam table and looked him over.  “Soon as the doc gives us the okay, we’ll take you back up to the rec room and well…”  She chuckled. “Wreck you again.”

His fists clenched, and he pulled at the restraints again.  She hit the button, sending another surge of pain through him.  And held it, counting aloud.  She released the button when she got to twenty-five.  He gasped, and felt his muscles still twitching even after the sensation had passed.  “I’m guessing you didn’t enjoy that.”  She patted his chest.  “So, let me spell it out for you.  When you’re not up in the rec room entertaining the crew, you can be here, with a nice little bit of code programmed to give you a ten to twenty second taste of that every few minutes.”  She caught his chin, and turned his face towards hers.  “Or you can be compliant.”  She straightened.

“Hell or damnation.”  Julian swallowed.  He had no chance at fighting his way out of this, even if he hadn’t been restrained.  The only hope would be to simply survive long enough for some chance to come.

“Pretty much.”  She reached down to the bedside table, and picked up a mouth restraint.  He started struggling as she reached for his head, and then someone else’s hands were there, holding him in place as she secured the restraint.  She patted him as the doctor released him.  “I’m going to give you a few hours to think it over.”

Pain shot through him again as she flipped a toggle, and then she and the doctor left the room, shutting off the lights and leaving him in agony and darkness.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 2