October 14

Fictober, Prompt 14 – “Your information was wrong.”

Original fiction, sci-fi.

Warnings: none.


“But I thought—”

“You thought wrong.”

“But the information—”

“Your information was wrong.”

“You can’t just—”

I stopped and spun to face him. “I can,” I spat, out of patience. “I can and I will, or a lot of people are going to die.”

He shrank back, wringing his hands. “How was I supposed to know? You can’t blame me! I couldn’t have known.”

“You could have,” I said, merciless. “You could have, but you didn’t.” With that, I turned my back on him and strode purposefully for the hangar bay again.

Fortunately, someone had listened to the emergency message I’d put through scarcely half an hour ago, and my ship was already most of the way fueled. Rayen was there too, even though she should have been sleeping during this cycle. I shot her a grateful look as she handed me a half-completed pre-flight checklist and quickly looked over the first half for myself before moving on to the rest.

“Will you make it in time?” she asked. Word had spread, then, about the looming disaster. Dust and flares save us from petty bureaucrats and their delusions!  

“I think so,” I said, but couldn’t keep the grim edge out of my voice. Rayen grimaced and went to grab me basic supplies. I looked up at my Wailing Wind, just for a breath, taking in her sleek lines. She was the fastest ship on this station, and the only one that had any hope of reaching the Odyssey before they activated the faulty deep-space drive.

In a feat of coordination and effort on the part of the hangar bay team that I was going to buy them all a round of drinks for when (if) I got back, it was less than another quarter hour later that I was strapped in and running final checks.

“Smooth run,” Rayen said, clapping my shoulder once before climbing down so I could lower the canopy.

The marshallers directed me through the remaining ships and through this side of the hangar bay’s massive airlock, which whirred closed behind me much faster than usual. The doors ahead began opening almost before the inner ones were closed, also sliding open quicker than was probably good for the machinery.

We all knew someone on the Odyssey, and most of us gave a damn what happened to them.

Then the starfield yawned dark before me, the last go signal chimed through from traffic control, and I eased Wailing Wind out of the bay and just far enough from the station to not cause any damage before slamming the throttle wide open.

Stars streaked into lines of light around me, and the station fell behind into the dark.

I was going to make it, I promised everyone silently, no matter what.

October 7

Fictober, Prompt 7 – “That could have gone better.”

Original fiction. Continuation: part one (Day 1) and part two (Day 5).

Warnings: large-scale battle, spaceship crash (nothing graphic), brief and unrealized fear of a tunnel collapse


The ship-killer missile whined past me, headed for the planet’s surface, and I swore, trying to run faster. There was no way I’d be far enough from that one

The laser canon Vivi was manning from the underground station caught it before it could impact. The blast still sent me sprawling forward, but it had been high enough up still that it wasn’t as bad as an actual impact.

Distantly, another missile did strike the surface, opening a crater and sending me to my feet again just after I rose. This time I stayed down, breathing and trying to calm my racing heart. I wasn’t in danger yet, but my air supply was limited.

The glimpse of a ship spiraling out of orbit, smoke and flame trailing from the gaping hole blasted in one side, had me up and running again scarcely a minute later. It was moving away from me, but the impact blast of a whole ship was not something I wanted to be out here for.

I made it to the hatch leading into the below-ground station and got the door snapped shut just in time. The ship’s impact caused a localized earthquake that I rode out in the narrow metal corridor, teeth gritted, one bare hand slapped onto the nearest magic-integration pad and energy streaming out to try and reinforce the corridor walls. If they collapsed here…

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October 5

Fictober, Prompt 5 – “I’m not saying I told you so…”

Original fiction. Turned out to be a continuation of Day 1.

Warnings: nothing in particular, passing mention of past blood sacrifices.


“I’m not saying I told you so…”

“But you told me so,” I groused, sighing as Vivi stepped carefully into what remained of the lab. “It would never have worked if I’d had anyone else with me, especially not another mage.”

“I know,” she said, then whistled as she took in the state of the room. “Hard fight?”

“Yeah,” I admitted, frowning. I’d won, but I’d had to kill her in the end, and still had several bandages on even three days later. It was even stranger because I still didn’t have any idea what her real name was. She had given me an obviously false one when we first met, but every system here was strangely devoid of anything that identified her personally. “The rest of this would have been easier if I’d been able to capture her. I still have no idea what she was trying to do here, or what’s so special about this planet. Several unidentifiable ships have come sniffing around, and given how much monitoring equipment she has set up for tracking exactly that kind of thing, I don’t think it’s new.”

Vivi patted my shoulder and then peered over it at the one screen that had remained intact. “Weird. What did she say she was doing?”

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Fixer

(The other Xmas present story, probably time I should get around to posting it. |D Another humans and aliens story, but much happier than the last one.)

Warnings: mild swearing?


The smooth, steady rumble of the drill gave way to an unpleasant squeal of machinery.

Nngli flinched away from it, her arms contracting closer to her soft core protectively. Nothing further happened, fortunately, but the drill had stopped. Nngli contracted further in upset and disappointment. How could they possibly get the samples she needed now?

“Shit,” came the voice of her one companion on this tumbling asteroid: a human from Terra named Kendall. She emerged from the enclosed drill control station, bounding quickly across the surface in the minimal gravity.

“Hold on!” she called over the comms to Nngli, who followed anxiously after once Kendall had examined the drill and nothing else alarming happened.

“It is broken?” she asked, three arms reaching out and then contracting again. She had no help to offer in this situation. At least she could be grateful that someone (hadn’t it been one of the humans?) had finally worked out a proper translating device that would accurately convert Glion brainwaves into an audible signal for humans. She almost sighed in slight envy for the humans’ ability to produce physical sound, though they did lack the Glion ability to shift color and pattern.

Communication had certainly been difficult at first.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Kendall answered her, laying flat and peering down into the drill hole with a bright light. She stayed there for long clicks, but then pushed herself upright with the sound the humans called a ‘sigh,’ indicating frustration. “There’s something jamming it, which might have broken something. Won’t know ‘til we get it pulled back up.”

“Oh no! Then we shall have to wait for a Fixer to arrive,” Nngli said, all her initial disappointment rushing back. That could take a long time, and this work might not be considered important enough to send anyone. She’d had to find a human Operator to bring her here and work the drill, after all.

“A fixer? You mean someone to make repairs?” asked Kendall. “You’re looking at her!”

Nngli rippled her arms in confusion. “But, Kendall is an Operator!”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do a little repair work here and there,” Kendall moved her face in the shape that humans called a ‘smile.’ “Wouldn’t have kept my ship going so long otherwise!”

“Wait,” Nngli said, arms rippling more in greater confusion. “You mean that your brain allows you to have more than one specialty?”

Kendall stopped and stared at her. “Umm…yes? Do Glion brains…not do that?”

“All learn to think and communicate, of course,” Nngli explained, “but the pathways in our brains are permanently set by that which we learn. Many pathways must be set for expertise, so many must be focused on the desired skills. I am an Analyzer, what you call a scientist. I have studied only Analyzing. I could not learn to be a Fixer now.”

“Oh,” Kendall said, her eyes a bit wide. “That’s…that’s a bit— Well, it’s very different from humans. Our brains create neural networks and pathways, I think, but they aren’t…permanent? They sort of are, but we can make new ones too. So, I know how to operate machinery, like the ship and the drill, but I also know enough about how they’re put together that I can do some repairs too. I don’t know as much as an expert, but in this case, I think I can manage.”

“Really?” Nngli asked, knowing that underneath her vacuum-suit her skin had shifted into the light red color of hope.

“Really,” Kendall promised with another smile.

True to her word, Kendall had the drill unjammed, fixed, and running smoothly again in less than one wake-sleep cycle. Nngli had extended all twelve of her arms, waving them joyfully when the steady rumble had started up again.

“Thank you, Kendall,” she communicated, pleased to receive a smile in return.

“You’re welcome,” Kendall responded. “I think you’re right about this hunk of rock having the elements we need, so I’m glad to help out with this.”

“Achieved quantities will be shared fairly,” Nngli assured her.

“I know, and thanks for that. It’ll help both of us out this way.”

The drill bore down, and Nngli settled in to wait, finding patience and calm where she had been unable to before.

Humans were very different, as she had been warned. But this one, at least, was an excellent partner, and together, they would prove that these asteroids were worth the time and trouble to mine.

Nngli hadn’t ever thought anyone would care about this particular Analyzing work, but she was glad to be wrong. Alone, she could never have reached this asteroid or run the drill. Alone, Kendall would not have known where to look.

But together…together they could succeed.

October 14

Fictober, Prompt 14 – “I can’t come back.”

Warnings: none. Sci-fi.


“You have to come back,” he pleaded.

“I can’t come back.”

“You can! The Head Instructor said she’ll let you in again, and you haven’t missed too many lessons—”

“Let me rephrase: I won’t come back.”

“You’re way ahead on flight time, of course, and she said— Wait, what?” He stuttered to a halt, staring.

I looked back calmly, not caring to repeat myself again.

“But you— You have to! If you don’t graduate from the Academy no one will ever hire you!”

“That seems unlikely,” I pointed out. “Just because many space pilots train here doesn’t mean they all do.” I turned back to my packing. The cadet rooms in the Academy were tiny, streamlined and industrial. I hadn’t bothered to accumulate many personal items beyond the necessities; only a few small presents from my twin, always a tiny balm for our continued separation.

Xue continued to gape at me from the doorway. “But— Well, even if that’s true, it’s going to make it a lot harder for you to get work!”

“I know.”

“All you have to do is promise to be more respectful to the Instructors from now on!”

“More obedient, you mean.”

“Well…” he hedged. I wasn’t sure why he was still trying to convince me; he knew me well enough after two years to know that I wasn’t going to accept such an argument.

“But, your family,” he tried next, hesitantly.

“I’m sure my brother will be upset, but he will understand.” He was the only family I was speaking to, these days, and he certainly would understand. He’d be joining me, if he were here.

Xue was silent for several moments then, while I finished packing my bag and my one small trunk. I stripped the sheets off the bed and sent them down the laundry chute, and made sure that the computer terminal was wiped clean of my data. My handheld was in my bag, and then all that was left to do was to shut down the lighting, step out into the hall, and close the door behind me.

He followed me out, then asked quietly, “What will you do?”

“Work, first,” I responded. “Until I have enough for a small ship of my own. After that?” I mused over the question as we headed down the dim hallway. “I think there’s probably a faster way to make the run between Chi’dong and Binyun.”

“But no one’s ever done that run in less than five days!”

“This certainty that we know everything there is to know about known space is most of why I’m leaving,” I told him sternly. “The run that is used now can’t be done in less than five days. I think there’s a faster run along a different route.”

“But that’s dangerous—”

I stopped dead in the corridor, turning to face him and cutting this latest protest short.

“Good-bye, Xue,” I told him. “Thank you for your concern, and for keeping me company. But dangerous or not, it’s my flight to make.”

He opened his mouth on what was probably going to be another automatic protest, then closed it. He frowned, but when he spoke again it was to say, “You’re welcome. Good luck.”

I nodded in thanks and continued alone.

Luck wasn’t going to have much to do with it.