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Attack of Dumbotron

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Everything hurt. He felt as if he had just been stepped on by a giant robot elephant. This was not a random metaphor; the captain had actually just been stepped on by a giant robot elephant. Its hashtag was already trending on Twitter. Most people were referring to the thing as Dumbotron, though there was a sizable number calling for Elephantzilla. The captain didn’t much care what they called it. He just had to take it down.

He staggered upright, glass crinkling under his boots. The robot elephant had proceeded further down the street, its mighty footsteps shaking the buildings it passed. He saw a soccer ball orbiting bravely around the monster, peppering it with small laser blasts. That would be Super Soccer Mom, he knew. That soccer ball was all she had left; she had used her exploding ones in the morning’s battle. All they had to show for it was a fair-sized dent on Dumbotron’s left side. The thing still kept going. The captain had spent fully an hour whaling away at it with his super-strength, and it still kept going. How did one stop an invincible robot elephant?

At that moment, a young woman in a red uniform ran to his side. “Hey, Dad,” she said, gasping from the run, “are you okay?”

“Fine, Meg,” he assured her. “A mere robotic elephant can’t defeat the forces of justice!”

“You’re doing your superhero voice again, Dad,” Meg Atomic observed. “And it’s just me. Everyone else has been evacuated.”

“Right, of course. Can you stop this thing?”

Meg shrugged. “I could try. Atomic blasts are easy. With the size of it, though, I’d have to go thermonuclear. I don’t imagine there’d be much left of the city after that.”

“Then,” said the captain, “we’ll just have to do it the old-fashioned way.”  He launched off into the air and soared off out after the elephant, his flight path only wobbling an instant. Meg saw that instant, though, and she wondered. Could the captain stand up to an all-out slugging match with the robot elephant? She would’ve thought so that morning. Now, however…. the monster had survived fifteen of her mother’s exploding soccer balls, for heaven’s sake. Even if the captain could put it down eventually, it would probably rampage across half the city by then. She had to find a way to stop it before then. Meg calculated probabilities, but every plan she devised ended badly.

In the distance, she saw her father slam into the elephant again with a mighty punch that nearly staggered it. Nearly, but not quite. It immediately let loose a shock blast from its metal trunk that sent the captain careening off into the suburbs. He would be back in moments, but in the meantime, what was she to do?  At that moment, barely audible above the din of battle, her phone chirped. “Yes, this is Meg, I’m really busy right now, so can you….. oh, hey, Andy. Yes, I had a really great time too. Sure, we could meet again. The coffee shop works. Friday at seven? Great. See you then. By the way, random question, you wouldn’t happen to have a super ability, would you?  Real-ly. Are you free right now?”

The captain came back, aiming for yet another blow straight in Dumbotron’s dented left side. Everything still hurt, and he knew he was going to ache all over the next morning. If there was a next morning. He steeled himself for impact as he barreled in. Then, suddenly, the elephant wasn’t there anymore. The captain pulled himself sharply up, narrowly avoiding a collision with a warehouse on the opposite side of the street. He looked left, and right: no elephant. He glanced up, and saw a tiny metal gleam disappearing in the sky. “What in the name of great justice?” he exclaimed.

Then he saw Meg, waving, with an unfamiliar young man standing next to her. “Dad? she said, as he landed on the street before her. “Meet Andy. Andy Whitmore. I met him last week. Nice guy. Also, he can alter the forces of gravity.”

“Captain, sir, it’s a great honor, sir,” stammered Andy.

“Mr. Whitmore,” the captain rumbled. Meg hadn’t dated before. Robot elephants were one thing. One’s atomically gifted super-daughter dating was something else entirely.

“Dad,” Meg said, rolling her eyes, “try not to use your captain voice on my dates. We talked about that.”

And so, the day was saved once again.

 

In Which Catrina and Susan Attend a Parade in Sarajevo, 1914

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Last time in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine found herself transported by the White Whale to London, 1913, where she sought employment as a lady’s maid. Unfortunately, the lady she had taken service with turned out to be someone Catrina knew very well indeed….

“Have we met?” asked Susan.

“Oh, we most certainly have,” said Catrina, her eyes flashing in sudden fury. “You-” And then she paused. Susan looked different from when Catrina had last seen her. Of course, that had been two years ago, by Catrina’s time period, and Catrina had moreover been temporarily transformed into a theremin. But still, Susan didn’t look quite as evil as she had. Her hair was more of a soft brown, as opposed to supervillain black. She was wearing a dress of pink and green, with an abundance of bows and ribbons too, and Catrina had never seen Susan wearing ribbons before. It suddenly occurred to her that she knew nothing whatever about Susan’s backstory. Surely she hadn’t always been crazy and evil. If that was the case, perhaps…

“Actually, no,” she said. “We haven’t. Sorry. I mistook you for someone else.”

“I see,” said Susan. “Well, then, I dislike putting you to work immediately, but I’m afraid I am going to need your help. I’ve been invited to an incredibly tedious ball this evening.”

“Don’t tell me you need help getting dressed for it,” Catrina said.

“Good heavens, no. I’ve told my father, Lord Blackacre, and Mr. Falken the butler that I do not require assistance putting on my own clothes. No, what I need you to do is this. I’ve got to attend the affair; it would cause a real scandal if I didn’t. Lady Hawkington would be deeply offended.” Susan rolled her eyes, as if to indicate exactly how little she really cared for Lady Hawkington’s sensibilities. “But, twenty minutes after the ball begins, what I need you to do is run in and alert me that some sort of crisis is happening. I don’t care what. Say my dog has run away. My house is on fire. Lady Blackacre has consumption. That way, I can extricate myself from the affair and no one will be the wiser.”

“Question,” Catrina ventured. “If you don’t want to go to the ball so much, why bother going at all?” Catrina herself didn’t mind the occasional dinner party or too, as long as there was plenty of blueberry cordial and rousing songs.

Susan shrugged, as she led Catrina out of the living room and began showing her around the house. “I wonder that myself. You may think this odd, but sometimes I feel as if I were destined for something greater. As if I was meant to be somewhere else. When you thought you had met me before, I thought maybe that was the beginning of…well, something anyway. Evidently not. The only interesting thing happening any time soon is that we’re taking a voyage to Europe next spring. The eastern parts, mostly, such as Greece, Constantinople, and so forth. We might also be going to Sarajevo; my father has a business correspondent there, and I thought I would like to see the city as well.”

Catrina wasn’t up to speed on modern history. Still, the idea of Susan being in Sarajevo in the spring of 1914 set off unaccountable alarm bells in the back of her mind. “Are you absolutely certain you’re going there?” she said, as they went upstairs so Susan could show her to the servant’s quarters.

“Oh, yes, it’s been planned for weeks….” Then Susan paused, and her eyes narrowed. She had caught the hesitant tone in Catrina’s voice. “Why? Is there some reason I shouldn’t go?”

Catrina had to think very rapidly. If Susan was still good now, Catrina had hoped she could stick around her until she found out whatever it was that had turned Susan to the dark side, and then stop it. She didn’t know how that might affect her time line, and the course of history, but she thought she had to try in any case. If Susan being in Sarajevo next spring was what turned her evil, then Catrina ought to keep her away from that city at all costs. But how could she do that without telling Susan the truth? How did one tell another person that they were destined to be the ruler over Character Hell and attempt to destroy reality?

“Well…” she faltered, “isn’t there some sort of political unrest over there?”

“Perhaps,” Susan said. “But there often is. I’d be well protected. I can defend myself, if necessary. Don’t tell anyone,” she stage-whispered, “but I had firing lessons from my father’s chauffeur a while back. He’s from Ireland, very obliging. So, unless there’s some sort of compelling reason why I shouldn’t go…”

Then, all at once, her eyes lit. “You do know something! There’s probably some great event happening there next spring, and you know what it is! This is about my destiny, isn’t it? That means I simply must be there! Don’t tell me what I have to do, of course. That might ruin things. But I’ll bet it’s something thrillingly heroic! Perhaps I save someone’s life? Stop a war? Prevent the world from being destroyed? It could be anything!”

Then Susan whirled upon Catrina, all aglow with excitement, and seized her by the hand. “And you must come with me, of course! It’ll be splendid! You can bear witness to history! The whole world will know my name!”

Catrina’s stomach clenched. She had not exactly meant for this to happen at all.

The next few months flew by. Catrina, as instructed, dutifully rescued Susan from multiple balls and boring dinner parties. She tried, several times, to convince Susan to stay home the next spring, but each time Susan put her off. “We’re going, and that’s that,” she said. Then she whisked off to her country estate for a game of cricket. Susan was positively killer with a cricket bat.

The spring of 1914 came at last. Catrina had accompanied Susan on the voyage to Eastern Europe. They toured Greece, and Catrina marveled at the ancient ruins. She felt more impressed even than Susan, since her own natural time period was the 12th century, and that meant she was eight hundred years closer to the ancient Greeks than Susan was. Then, as June approached, the family, with Catrina and a whole pack of other servants in tow, left Greece and decamped to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It was morning on the 28th. Sarajevo was bustling with people. Susan had gotten word that there was to be a parade of some royal personage through the city, and she was absolutely convinced that this was her chance. She and a reluctant Catrina had taken their places along the parade route. Then, disaster struck. Susan was most vexed. Apparently the Archduke, whom she felt she was destined to see, had gotten a bomb thrown at him, and all his plans had changed. “Blast!” Susan cried. “Now what am I supposed to do?”

Catrina felt very relieved. Had the Archduke come down her road, she felt sure Susan would have done something that would have led to her turning evil. Now, however, it looked like that wasn’t a possibility. Perhaps, merely by Susan’s befriending her, history had been averted. Feeling quite pleased with herself, Catrina decided to return the favor. “My lady,” she began,”

“Oh, please, not so formal,” Susan said, her voice still disappointed as the crowd of Serbians flowed around them. “I thought we were better friends than that.”

“Very well, Susan,” Catrina said, feeling the surrealness of the fact that she really had become friends, “perhaps we could commiserate about your destiny over lunch? There’s a lovely delicatessen just over there. I think a sandwich would be most appropriate.”

Susan sighed. “Oh, all right. If you insist. We’ll just eat our meal and then travel back to England. I suppose my destiny’s ruined anyway. It’s almost eleven o’clock now; what could possibly happen?”

Catrina, so chuffed at the turn things were taking, and the thought that she had averted a historical tragedy and kept Susan from going evil, completely missed the ominous significance in the question Susan had asked.

To be continued…

This has been another episode of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. For my Amazon page where you can find adventures by Catrina and Susan and several other characters, go here. I’m also on Goodreads as well. And as always, thanks for reading.

Finale

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Bunnies met marmosets in the skies of Lassiter 35, and the universe shook.

***

Jolene had been prepared for death. But when the viewscreens of the Coral lit up with screaming space marmosets tearing into the fluffy bunny horde, Jolene almost believed that she and Milroy would get out of this alive.  The next moment she wondered why the bridge had started spinning. She turned to complain to Milroy about it, but unexpectedly her legs buckled. The last thing she heard before she blacked out was Milroy on the communication system frantically calling for medical help.

***

“There,” Hadley said smugly. “Told you.”

The air around them smelled of fire. Smoke drifted down from the burning skies. Rain sniffed dismissively. “Yeah. Congratulations. You let loose the terrifying space monkeys and now they’ll stop the bunny apocalypse. Bravo.”

“For once in your life, can’t you be happy? We won! It’s over! I saved the universe, with marmosets no less!”

“Sure. But there’s always a cost. You know that. There’s-“

Rain froze. She looked up towards the sky. Through the swirling clouds of smoke, they could just see the starship Coral drifting in orbit. “Rain…” Hadley said tentatively. “What-“

“You remember your friend Jolene? The one you wished the creeping crud on?”

“She’s not my friend, I told you, she-“

“Apparently she and I have an appointment.”

Hadley didn’t get it at first. But then she remembered who Rain was. “You can’t. Not now. We’ve won, remember?”

Rain’s voice was solemn as the tolling of an old church bell. “Death comes unexpectedly. Although I don’t know why you should care.”

“All I wanted was for Jolene to get the creeping crud! I never meant-“

Suddenly Rain wasn’t quite so solemn anymore; now she turned acid. “Oh, you never meant her to get killed off. Well, that’s okay then. When I go meet Jolene and escort her to the great beyond, and I tell her that it’s your fault she’s dead, I’ll be sure to explain that it’s totally okay, because you never meant it. You only signed a deal with the devil to get her cursed. You couldn’t possibly have known it would go badly. Of course, it did, and now I have to deal with the consequences. Thanks a lot.”

Hadley saw in a flash what she had to do. “Rain,” she said, her voice tremulous, “don’t take her. Take me. I’ll volunteer for her, I’ll take her place, I will!”

“Yeah,” Rain said. “Like that really works. You think this is some story where you bravely offer to sacrifice yourself and then it all works out and nobody dies after all?”

“Isn’t it?” Hadley shot back.

Rain had meant her question to be rhetorical, to emphasize the point that death is irreversible, and impress upon Hadley the consequences of her mistake. Hadley’s response forced her to scramble for an answer. “Well…no! It isn’t!”

“Why can’t it be?”

“What?”

“I said, why can’t it be? Why can’t this end happily, with no one (including me) dying or getting eaten by bunnies or whatever?”

“Because,” Rain said, summoning all the cutting eloquence she had left, “it just can’t. There’s got to be a moral in this thing, yeah? You can’t go signing contracts with evil and then dodging the consequences!”

“Look, I’m very very sorry about all that, and I promise never to do it again,” Hadley said. “Cross my heart!”  She actually crossed it, for effect. “There. Happy?”

Rain sighed. “Fine. Everybody, including you, lives. Only this once. Not next time, mind you. Next time I’m carting everyone off and they’ll stay dead whether they want to or not.”

Hadley cheered, and then, carried away by enthusiasm, turned several mauve cartwheels. At this point an escape pod from the Coral landed, and out emerged a confused Milroy Birnbaum (god of war) and a perfectly healthy Jolene. “Someone want to explain to me what just happened?”

Rain grabbed his arm. “Later. It’s Friday, right? We had a date, right? C’mon.” They vanished before Milroy had a chance to protest.

“So…” Jolene said awkwardly to Hadley, who had just finished her cartwheels.

“Yeah. Sorry about you getting sick. That was my fault. I kinda got you cursed by the devil. But you’re fine now, right? Right! Everybody wins!”

“Wait. You did what?”

But Hadley decided that she wasn’t actually finished celebrating yet. And with that, she merrily cartwheeled off into the sunset of Lassiter 35.

 

 

For previous posts in Hadley’s Story, go here, or see the link in the sidebar on your right. Thanks for reading!

End Times

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“He… lied to me.”  Hadley couldn’t quite comprehend it. She sat there on the curbstone of a deserted street in a deserted planet, her eyes wide. “He promised. And he lied.”

“Well, duh,” Rain said.  The incarnation of Death had been pacing back and forth on the sidewalk; now, eyes blazing, she rounded upon Hadley. “You were expecting what, exactly? It was a giant snake, in hell. If he wasn’t the devil, he was darn close. And you just had to go and sign a contract with him, didn’t you? Now the whole universe is going to be destroyed in fiery bunny apocalypse and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”

“Nothing we can do…” Hadley repeated blankly.

“We could have stopped it,” Rain went on.  “We had a chance there. But, no, you went and signed a deal that got us kicked out of hell, and now what? We’re back here on your stupid empty planet, about as much use to anyone as a bunch of circus monkeys, and-“

“Monkeys,” Hadley said.

“Yeah. You’re familiar with them, right? They sit around, eat bananas, do tricks, and occasionally fling-“

Marmosets,” Hadley cut in, and suddenly the sentient shade of mauve had lit up again, flaring brighter than Rain had ever seen. “The flying marmosets of Lassiter 35! Of course! Rain, you’re a genius!”

“Wait, what?”

***

The Coral hurtled through the hyperspace bypass, alarms shrilling as though the whole ship might disintegrate into streaking light any second. Jolene clung frantically to her console as stars whipped by on the viewscreen. She punched a command, and the screen shifted to a rear view. The bunnies spread across her field of vision in a blur of fluffy death. “They’ve gone to warp!” she gasped. “How did they get to warp speed?”

“Flopsian radiation,” Milroy Birnbaum said grimly. “Super unstable. They probably figured out how to control it enough for what they need to do. You don’t need stability much at the end of the world.”

“Good point. So… what’s the plan?”

“Easy. This particular hyperspace bypass isn’t completed yet. Still under construction. They’ve got a temporary exit wormhole near Lassiter 35. But being that it’s only temporary, it’s still a bit dicey. We could make it through, fine, but a whole crowd of bunnies powered by unstable Flopsian radiation? Not a chance.”

“Lassiter 35…” Jolene said. “I know that planet. I went there-”

“Summer vacation, yeah, right when the Julietian Rising broke out. You were on fighter duty.”

“And just how did you know that?”

“I’m a god, Jolene. Some omniscience comes with the territory. Like how I know that when you were flying those solo missions you were also practicing for Galactic Idol in the cockpit. You had “Phased Lines” stuck in my head for weeks. Thanks for that.”

Jolene flushed. “You tell anyone about that, and I swear…”

She didn’t have time to complete the threat. The Coral, with a last shuddering wrench, had just dropped out of hyperspace.

***

Hadley had commandeered a short-range star cruiser from her planet’s spaceport. Now she and Rain stood on a grassy plain on the surface of Lassiter 35. “I have,” Rain said, “a very bad feeling about this.”

“No sweat,” Hadley exulted. “All we have to do is release the marmosets.”

“And how do you propose doing that? I don’t see any marmosets around here, flying or otherwise.”

“They’re trapped in an inter-dimensional space pocket. Duh. So we need to release them with the Mystical Chant of Marmoset Releasing.”

Rain rolled her eyes. “And how does that go?”

Hadley closed her eyes and began impressively, “It’s based on an ancient Earth popular song. Ahem.  Oh my darlin’, oh my darlin’, oh my darrrrlin’ Clementine…”

“You have got to be kidding.”

***

Jolene sighed in relief. The Coral floated in orbit just above Lassiter 35. “Great. We’re here. The bunnies can’t follow us now, right, Milroy?”

He didn’t respond. Light bloomed in the darkness of space, and a torrent of fluffy bunnies poured out before them.

“Oops.”

“What do you mean, oops?”

“Oops, as in, I might’ve been wrong about the radiation.”

“You’re a minor deity!” Jolene exclaimed. “How can you be wrong?”

“You’d be surprised.”

“Wonderful.”

***

“You are lost and gone foreeever, dreadful sorry, Clementiiiine… ”

“Hadley. That song is not going to release the-”

*SKREEEEEEE*

“….marmosets?”

You can find Hadley’s previous adventures here. Thanks for reading!

In Which Catrina Renews an Old Acquaintance

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Last time in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine, in the company of Captain Ahab, had just encountered the legendary White Whale, Moby Dick. Unfortunately, the whale turned out to be the oceanic equivalent of a Weeping Angel, and suddenly Catrina found herself in England, 1913, one year before some rather dramatic events were due to break out in Europe….

As the man she had first met ran off to get the constable, Catrina had to do some very quick thinking. She could, of course, be honest. She could tell the constable that she was a princess from the 12th century, and that she had been sent to 1913 by a malevolent whale. Catrina had enough experience with time travel, however, to realize that the constable wouldn’t necessarily believe her. In fact, she might very well be packed off to a lunatic asylum before she had time to explain about Mlrning (the Shovel of Thor!). Catrina didn’t fancy spending time in an asylum, as she felt this would put rather a damper on her efforts to get back to her own time. That meant she had to come up with a story, and she had to think of one fast.

“‘Ello, d’ you require assistance?” said the constable, who had just arrived.

“Yes, I do,” Catrina said. “I’ve, ah, just arrived from the countryside, you see, and I’m looking for a job. As a…”  she paused, trying to consider what would be the best vocation for her in this time period. “As a nanny.”

“Ah,” said the constable. “It just so happens that there’s been an advertisement in the Times. A family on Cherry Tree Lane wants a nanny for two adorable children.”

“Splendid!” said Catrina, waving the Shovel of Thor enthusiastically. “I have two children myself back at home, and this will be just the thing. I’ll bet I could take them on excursions to fox hunts and tea parties on ceilings!”

The constable wasn’t quite sure what she was going on about, but he nonetheless gave her directions to the family’s residence.  Catrina thanked him, and set off immediately. Her heart sank a little bit as she approached the house and saw a queue of respectable English nannies already formed outside the door. Catrina, having just arrived, had no references. All she had was two years’ experience of being a mother, and an exceptionally powerful Shovel. Surely the family would pick someone else.

Still, Catrina didn’t mean to give up yet. She bravely positioned herself at the end of the line and waited. Then, suddenly, the weather began to change. A wind picked up, blowing hard. “I say,” Catrina said to the nanny in  front of her, “Is this normal weather for 1913?”

The nanny was about to reply when, quite abruptly, she wasn’t there anymore. Catrina gaped, open-mouthed, as the nanny tumbled off into the sky like a piece of scrap paper. Then another nanny pitched over her head, and another, and another, and then the whole line of nannies was soaring off into the clouds. Catrina wondered if she should do something, but then all at once she found herself lifting off as well. “Oh, no, I’m not!” she declaimed, and slammed Mlrning down into the cobblestones. She clung desperately to the Shovel as the wind picked up, sweeping the nannies away into the sky beyond. Then, it suddenly occurred to her that this could be the opportunity for an adventure. Suppose the nannies were being kidnapped? Suppose this was some weather wizard, or someone with air powers, attempting to make off with Britain’s nannies as a way to take over the world? That decided her. Catrina pulled Mlrning free, swung about, and blasted off into the wind. Someone else would have to look after the children of Cherry Tree Lane; she had nannies to save.

To her great disappointment, however, the adventure was over almost as soon as it had begun. The wind deposited the nannies in a quiet courtyard near Wimpole Street. They dispersed rapidly, muttering about the unusual weather and resolving never to answer advertisements for houses on Cherry Tree Lane again. Catrina raced back to the house, but sadly, a housemaid informed her that the nanny position had been filled. “Well, I hope she does a better job than I would,” Catrina said dejectedly.

She milled about London for a while, trying to think what to do next. Perhaps she could enter service as a lady’s maid? Catrina didn’t have much maid experience either, as she’d been on the other side of the upstairs/downstairs divide, but it didn’t seem all that difficult. She’d had a few maids while she had been princess, but between traveling to different timelines, and running about her kingdom fighting Cthulhu or Atlanteans or Murphy the Terrible, she hadn’t given her chamber maids much to do. Probably she could finish her tasks in an hour or so, and then use the rest of the day to find a way back home. With that happy thought, Catrina marched to the first house she saw and rapped smartly on the door. “Hello,” she said to the butler who answered it. “My name’s Catrina. I’d like a job as a lady’s maid, please.”

The butler looked askance at the Shovel she carried over one shoulder. “Are you familiar with the, er, requirements of the position, miss?”

When Catrina indicated that she wasn’t, the butler proceeded to explain exactly what the job of being a lady’s maid entailed. As he did, Catrina became more and more astonished. “I’m sorry,” she said, interrupting the butler as he was just getting to Afternoon Tea, “what about the act of getting dressed requires help? I’ve been dressing myself since I was four. It’s not terribly complicated.”

“The Lady cannot be expected to dress herself,” the butler said importantly. “It would tire her out, when she must save her strength for her social engagements.”

“I see,” said Catrina. “The act of sitting around and talking is somehow so exhausting that one cannot even summon the strength to pull on one’s one dress or tie up one’s own boots.”

The butler appeared scandalized. “Madam, I’m afraid you would not be suitable for this position!”

“I’m beginning to think not,” Catrina said.

She was just starting to walk away when she heard a burst of laughter from inside. “No, Mr. Falken, really, I think she is perfectly suitable! You must hire her at once.”

“But, my lady, she isn’t…” the butler said nervously.

“Of course she is! I’ve been wishing someone would say what she did for years. They’ve been flinging lady’s maid candidates at me till I’m sick, haven’t they? Well, she’s the exact one I want.”

Mr. Falken sighed. “Very well, my lady. If you insist.” He turned to Catrina. “It seems, er, you have the position. If you’d still be interested?” He said this in a way indicating that he really hoped she wasn’t.

“I am, rather,” said Catrina.

The butler surrendered to the inevitable, and motioned her inside. “You’ll be provided with proper uniforms, of course, and rooms in the servant’s quarters. I suppose first you’d better meet the mistress.”

Catrina was quickly ushered into the formal sitting room. Only one person was there, the rest of the family evidently being out on errands. She was of average height, with brown hair that fell to her shoulders, and wide eyes in a roundish face. “Miss Catrina,” the butler said, “may I present the lady Susan, daughter of Lord Blackacre.”
“Susan?” gasped Catrina.

“Yes,” Susan said. “Have we met?”

 

***

This has been another exciting episode of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. For other adventures with Catrina and Susan, you can visit my Amazon page, or if you’re so inclined you can find me on Goodreads as well. Thanks for reading!

The Problem of Doors, and Other Concerns about Space Travel

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I’ve been watching the first season of Babylon Five recently, and before that I was going through Voyager and Deep Space Nine and TNG, all various incarnations of Star Trek.  Looking back on it now, there’s a few things about life in 24th century space that bother me. So, naturally, I thought I would blog about it.

1) Seatbelts.  Specifically, there are none. Whenever Captain Janeway is sitting in the captain’s chair and Voyager is suddenly attacked by the Kazon or the Borg or whoever they’re fighting this week, the ship lurches wildly, and she lurches with it. Pretty much anyone sitting down on a Star Trek ship is thrown out of their seat, or at least whiplashed horribly around, at least once per episode. So, my question: where are the seatbelts? They’re practically mandatory now, in the 21st century, such that you’re ticketed if you’re not wearing one, even if you’re only driving the car you bought from a little old lady who drove it to church on Sundays. Yet, at some point in the future, when mankind takes to space, we apparently decide as a species to forgo the seatbelt. We keep tricorders, comlinks, holograms, teleporters, on and on and on, but somehow in all this advanced tech we lose the most basic way of keeping someone secure in their seats. Curious.

2) Doors.

It happens a million times. The scene begins, intro music plays, and we see Captain Picard sitting at his desk reading over some report. There is a noise from the door, that little “dee-doot” sound indicating someone wishes to enter. What does Captain Picard, or Sisko, or Sinclair of B5, immediately do? “Enter!” The door slides open, and only then do they see who it is. This, to me, is a serious security problem. I haven’t gotten very far in B5 yet, so I don’t know what happens (and no spoilers, please), but in Star Trek: DS9, at least, several seasons take place during a galactic war. Even in the more peaceful Next Generation era, there were Borg to contend with, and Cardassians, and Data’s evil twin brother, and a myriad other security risks. Yet, apparently, there’s no way to check that the person ringing at the door of your quarters is in fact a person you’d like to see. It could be a Changeling, for all you know. Does that seem right to you?

3) Television

I know they’ve got holodecks and holo-novels and what have you. But is it a condition of space-travel that people forget about television and movies? I think maybe there were a few instances on Voyager where Tom Paris would watch some old Earth film, and in the first episode of Babylon Five we learn, hilariously, that Garibaldi is fond of Looney Tunes. But other than that, either someone’s reading a book (way to be retro), or they’re on a holodeck.  Apparently holodecks completely crowded out the television scene. Which is a shame, really, especially now that there’s so much good stuff on. Bashir and O’Brien can reenact the Battle of Britain, but they’ll never know about Francis Urquhart or Shawn Spencer of Psych, or (perhaps worst of all), they’ll never know about Doctor Who. C’est tragique.

4) Bathrooms

They may boldly go where no one has gone before, but how do they, y’know, go? Has this ever come up? I vaguely recall that someone apparently reviewed a map of the Enterprise on the Internet and located “refreshers”, which might be the Trek equivalent of bathrooms. I hope it’s true; otherwise, those five year missions are going to get really uncomfortable.

Abandon Ship?

by

The starship Coral reeled in silent agony through space, trailing fire and debris. In the remains of the sickbay on deck six, Jolene clung desperately to her proton blaster. The last she heard, the invaders had taken decks seven through twelve. That was before communications went dead. She hadn’t heard from anyone since. For all she knew, she was alone, a single frightened shade of auburn aboard a starship crawling with bunnies.

Jolene had seen them. She had emptied her blaster at them through the sickbay doors. They had moved on, but they would be back, she knew. Her blaster could only last so long before its energy cells gave out. She wasn’t in any shape to fight them physically. She could barely call for help amidst her coughing. Even when she managed a cry, no one came. The only sounds she heard were the ship’s alarms, wailing again and again.

Jolene, unlike some others, had never quite believed in the Great Paint Pot. But now, as she cowered behind a makeshift barricade of medical beds, Jolene whispered a frantic plea. “Oh, God….”

“Yeah.”

Jolene nearly unloaded her proton blaster again. “Wha-!”

The man put his hands up, trying to indicate she should calm down. “I’m here to help, all right?”

“You’re… you’re not…”

“I’m not the Big Guy, no. I’m what you might call a minor deity. Milroy Birnbaum, god of war. I’m here to stop this.”

“You can’t stop them,” Jolene said, stark terror in her voice. “They’re everywhere!” She fell to coughing again, thinking that now was positively the worst time to fall sick.

“They’re not everywhere. And even if they are, it doesn’t matter. I am Milroy Birnbaum, god of war. No bunny born can stop me.”

“I’ve never heard of a god named Milroy.”

“I said I was a minor deity. Anyway. How are you for weapons?”

Jolene held out her proton blaster. Milroy examined it with a critical eye. “Not bad. If you’re going blasters, the Miles 45 is the best. ’49 works too, but they burn out quicker. Still, we need more firepower. Can we make the bridge from here?”

“Yes, normally, but I don’t think the emergency turbolift works anymore.”

“Let’s just see.” Milroy marched to the turbolift panel and banged on the door. It squeaked open. Jolene followed nervously. “Bridge, now,” Milroy barked at the computer.

“I’m sorry,” it said placidly. “Turbolift systems are currently disabled. Please try manual transport-“

“You take us to the bridge right now, or I will rip every circuit out of this turbolift and replace it with scavenged parts from a garbage scow,” Milroy replied, almost as calmly.

“Very well,” the computer huffed. “Proceeding to bridge.”

The turbolift jerked and stuttered a moment or two, but eventually its doors crawled open to reveal the bridge. A small pack of bunnies had gathered around the science station. Milroy was still holding Jolene’s blaster; he cut down the bunnies without a second of hesitation. “Okay, we have maybe five minutes before backup gets here,” he said, running to the main command station.  “So we have about four minutes and fifty-eight seconds to get this thing to a more defensible position.”

Jolene wobbled over to the science station. “Elsine Three. Ice planet. We could hide there?”

“Nah. They’ll just bombard the planet with radiation cannons ’till it glows. We need something better.” Milroy paced rapidly back and forth. “Any planet we go, they’ll lay siege to. So planets are out. If we had an anti-gravity drive we could try a black hole, but we don’t. Nebulas are out. There aren’t stable wormholes in this sector. C’mon, Milroy, think…”

“There’s a hyperspace bypass one parsec over,” Jolene ventured. “I don’t think that’ll help, but-“

“A hyperspace bypass,” Milroy Birnbaum repeated. “Jolene, you’re brilliant. We’ll do it there.”

“Do what, exactly?”

“No time to explain. Strap yourself in, we’re heading for the bypass.”

Fortunately, the Coral was one of the few equipped with good old-fashioned seatbelts. She strapped herself in just in time. The Coral made a last shaky leap, its stardrive nearly burning out under the strain, but somehow it lurched far enough to the bypass gateway. Milroy seized the manual controls and aimed the starship right for it. Jolene closed her eyes, hearing the bunnies pounding at the bridge doors. “Hadley Baxendale,” she whispered as the Coral plunged into hyperspace, “I’m going to get you for this….”

For previous adventures in Hadley’s story, go here. Thanks for reading!

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