Cavanaugh Interstellar

Cavanaugh Interstellar Cover Mockup

Cavanaugh Interstellar Cover Mockup

Cavanaugh Trucking Interstellar

Accidentally destroying the city was the start of their day. Attracting interstellar attention was just a side effect. There’s just no way to know if our planet will survive until the end of the day!

I’m releasing the raw (unedited and unrevised) episodes on Wattpad and here on my blog on a weekly basis until the season is done. Readers are welcome to comment and make suggestions, etc.  When the season ends, all but the first few episodes will be removed from the website and the whole season will be published in a novella.

Hint: The absolute best way to see if there is a new episode available, is to subscribe to my newsletter!  Enjoy!

 

Episode 1:  Boom! (Discovery)

Its weird what you remember. For me it’s always been the sonic boom. One of the inhibitors had sparked. I guess that was the sign that it was failing. Seconds later we were all being flung back from the sheer force of the boom. I must have blinked, because that’s the picture that stuck in my head, like a freeze-frame from the movies. A long thin flash of light is skewering the garage, Vlad, and as we soon found out, everything. The rest of us along with most of our equipment are all hanging in mid-trajectory, flung outward by the force of the blast. I don’t even remember the sound, just the force.

That day had started normally enough for us. Since the recession had sidelined most everyone in the oil business in Calgary, that had meant morning coffee at Weeds Cafe. We’d been meeting there for the past year and a half, at first to commiserate on our unemployment, then later, as those coffee shop discussions turned to more practical matters, trying to find work. Those discussion had led us to start Cavanaugh Trucking, which was only named after me because I offered to put up, or rather borrow, the money for the truck.

It always seemed ironic to me that five unemployed oil patch scientists were running a trucking company whose primary clients were other unemployed oil workers having to move back home, but that’s what we came up with. It seemed to work. We were making less that 1/4 of what we did before, but somehow we were happy enough.

Anyway, after coffee that particular morning, we headed over to Joel’s garage like we always did. Since his wife had left him, he tended to need company a bit more often so we usually ended up getting together at his place. Right after loading the last of his ex’s junk into our truck, we were sitting around sipping beers in the now mostly empty garage when Vlad asked him what was in the pile of boxes left at the back of the garage. So I guess we could blame Vlad for what happened.

Or maybe not. A month or so later, after we’d unboxed and set up Joel’s old lab equipment in his garage, Lily, ever the physicist, had the brilliant idea to try and build a miniature linear accelerator. So it was probably Lily’s fault.  But then Bruce had said that would be impossible, so he’s really the one that threw down the gauntlet. I guess it doesn’t matter. Seems we’re all equally to blame. But you have to understand, for 5 underused science geeks the thought of building a linear accelerator was simply intoxicating.  That may have been the best trip to Princess Auto in the history of the known Universe!

But I digress, and if I was really to be honest, it was probably my fault more than anyone else’s. As the geologist in the group, I was the one who decided to use the accelerator to target a variety of rare and exotic materials, including the one that sparked the trouble we were in right at that moment. No, I’m not going to say which one it is that caused the problem. We don’t want this kind of power to fall into the hands of… well, anyone… ever! I sometimes wonder if we could go back and change things… but, as you know, that’s really not an option anymore.

Anyway that’s a whole lot of backstory to deliver during a single moment of being frozen in time. Suffice to say that a split second after my ‘freeze-frame moment’, we each continued our individual trajectories and impacted the fragmenting garage walls. My aim was obviously better than the others as I passed cleanly between two studs, through the remains of the outer wall, and landed with a heap of flying debris in the yard.

I was stunned for a second but brushed it off and rolled over, intending to get back inside to check on everyone else. The fireball rising from one of the downtown office towers distracted me. As I peered toward downtown and realized what I was seeing, the color drained from my face. From where I lay on the ground I could see through the remains of the garage, through the hole in Vlad, right through the neighbors house, actually through several houses… And the hole went on, directly through every downtown office tower in its path! What ever we’d done had repercussions far beyond an explosion and sonic boom in the garage.

Vlad collapsing obscured my view, so I scrambled to my feet and dashed back into the remains of the garage. Everybody was awake, if a bit groggy, and except for Vlad, nobody seemed badly injured. Scratch that, Lily screamed when she put her weight on her arm trying to get up. As I helped Lily stand, I tried to find words to explain what I’d just seen, but before I could say anything the entire city was rocked as a second and much, much louder boom echoed across the sky.

 

 

 

Episode 2:  Dispatched

The viewscreens on the bridge of the Aurelana echoed the screens ringing the giant Command center of the moon-sized complex that the ship was tethered to. Instructor Jordrye paced slowly across the bridge as Galaxy after Galaxy flickered across the screens behind him.

“Like all other Axis stations, the control center here at Axis 7 monitors events throughout the Universe. When an unregistered event is encountered, the closest Axis station to the event is put on alert and a treaty ship dispatched.”

He paused and looked thoughtfully at the bridge crew.  Almost graduated, this was to be their first joint training exercise.  They had all been placed according to their skill levels, but today’s test would surely prompt a few adjustments.

Before he could offer further wisdom on the possible nature of their journey, alarm klaxons sounded in the audio stream from the command center, echoed seconds later by the klaxons on their bridge.

“Aurelana, this is Axis 7 command.

” the transmission filled the bridge.

Jordrye looked at Zaughn, the trainee captain of the ship and nodded his approval.

“Axis 7 this is the Aurelana,” Zaughn responded.

“We have an unregistered event on an oxygen planet in sector C17, Galaxy P3542. Aurelana is listed as oxygen breathing and is next in the queue.  Confirm status.”

“Affirmative command, Aurelana is oxygen based and mission ready.” Zaughn responded. He had used the proper phrase, so the docking clamps disengaged automatically and the ship floated free of the dock.

“Coordinates are being uploaded. Pre-encounter scans are underway. Standard protocol.”

“Affirmative command, Aurelana engaged.” Zaughn looked around at his crew. “Alert the treaty team and stand by to receive preliminary civ data, Nav, bring us into course alignment.”

As the viewscreens flickered to external views, he looked to Jordrye, for assurance.

“Just fine, Captain,” Jordye nodded. “Although the correct response to command should have been ‘Training ship ready’. ’Mission ready’ is the correct response for a fully commissioned crew.”

“Shall I…?” Zaughn was anxious to get it perfect.

“Leave it,” Jordrye winked at Zaughn. “They didn’t catch the error.”

Zaughn nodded and signaled for a ship-wide broadcast.

“Crew of the Aurelana, we have a standard protocol treaty mission to an un-logged planet. I  want all departments to code ready in…” he looked at the Navigator.

“Seven ticks sir,” the Nav said without looking up from his screen.

“Five ticks,” Zaughn said into the com.

“Shai’Hara-Lee,” the ships computer addressed her while informing the contact lab. “You are in rotation and will have the honor of contact.”

Shai’Hara-Lee tried to keep her wings from unfurling or jittering in excitement. She bowed her head to the computer, which was a completely unnecessary acknowledgment, then took a deep breath, scanned her console and dove into her job as team leader.

“Affirmative Aurelana. Preliminary scan data is coming in from command now,” she paused. ”The rest of you continue on data analysis. We transit in five clicks. Poll the environs and civ data so that we can do the best job possible.”

“Environs are coming in. Oxygen atmosphere confirmed,” Chairel, one of the other trainees seemed to be all over it. “There are some odd particulate readings…”

He changed his tone and spoke directly to the ship’s computer. “‘Aurelana, can you assist?”

“I’m sorry Chairel,” the computer answered, “On a training mission, all data analysis except linguistics must be conducted by trainees.”

“Thanks for nothing, ‘Lana.” He quietly muttered the ship’s informal name, then continued to the rest of the team, “I can’t find anything resembling planetary archives, but there is a planet wide data web we’re able to view.”

“The civ data is the same,” T’lu added. “I can’t find a central repository, just random data streams. I’ll need linguistics to interpret this into civilization data.”

“Linguistics is processing, Stand by. Two ticks until transit alignment,” Aurelana warned them.

Zon quietly beckoned Shai’Hara-Lee over to his terminal, a worried look on his face.  When she arrived he kept his voice low. “I’ve got something for you, but you’re not going to like it.”

He un-blanked his screen. As she read it, her fur flouresced a bright yellow. Her wings furled tighter around her as she spun around and headed back to her station, tight lipped.

T’lu looked at Zon, His single eyebrow raised questioningly.  Zon smiled back mischievously, then quickly glared at T’lu to keep quiet.

Aurelana interrupted her mood, “Stand by for transit.”

Shai’Hara-Lee was fighting to get her color under control and fading back to her normal canary-yellow hue, when Aurelana continued. “Treaty team to the bridge. Transit in one tick.”

As they popped into the bridge, Shai’Hara-Lee queried the computer. “Aurelana, do we know where we are going?”

A blue-green, planet flashed onto the centre screen as the transit data appeared on the side screens and the hum of the emitters rose. “Linguistics are still compiling, but it seems the locals call it ‘Earth’.”

 

 

Episode 3:  Visited

Dust and debris rained down again as the vibrations from the second massive boom shook the remains of the garage.  Joel half ducked under  a table but kept his ear cocked to the sky.

“That one sounded much bigger.” He said. “But not as close.”

“Hopefully not as destructive,” I said grimly. “Are you hurt?”

“I’ll have a few bruises. You?”

“I’ll be fine.” I smiled encouragingly at Lily as I moved towards the back of the garage where Vlad lay. “Joel, can you help Lily? Watch out for her arm, it might be broken. Where’s Bruce?”

A muffled noise came from under Vlad. That seemed to jolt the big Russian awake. He rolled into a sitting position, conveniently freeing Bruce. Bruce coughed and sat up behind Vlad who was staring was staring down at the hole in his chest.

“I’m having a large hole.” he announced, before looking up at me and shrugging. “But I’m feeling not too bad.”

“Seriously?” I shook my head.

Bruce scrunched down behind Vlad and peered at me through the hole. “Whatever did this seems to have cauterized the wound.  He’s not bleeding.”

“What the hell happened?” Lily asked.

“Containment failure.” Bruce said matter-of-factly as he stood and helped Vlad to his feet.

“Ya think?” I asked sarcastically.

“I think,” Bruce answered without taking his eyes off me, “that I’d like to know what it is, that we failed to contain.”

Vlad stumbled and Bruce caught his weight.

“Maybe I am not so good,” Vlad’s skin was pale. He looked to Joel. “You are having Vodka here?”

“We need to get you to a Doctor.” Joel said firmly. “You too Lily.”

“I’ll call 911,” I said. “But guys, we have a big problem.  Whatever we did here tore loose and went through Vlad, and then it, kinda… tore though downtown.”

“What do you mean?” Lily asked.

“I mean, whatever went through him, went though everything downtown.” I grimaced. “We may have broken downtown a bit.”

“A bit?” Bruce asked.

“A lot actually.” I admitted. “C’mon, lets get out of here and you can see for yourselves.”

I was dialing 911 as I emerged from the garage. I don’t remember if they answered or not, or if anything was said.  I think I dropped the phone.

Moments later, Joel was standing beside me with Lily and before long Bruce made it out with Vlad.  Eventually we were all standing there, mouths agape.  The destruction we’d wrought upon the downtown core was obvious, but other than a casual glance, nobody was really looking at it.  The thin, kilometer-long ship hanging silently in midair above the city was just too much of a distraction.

The Aurelana had completed its transit and appeared over the city near the source of the event, as programmed. As the incoming boom of its arrival wave faded, alarms went off.  Aurelana flashed pictures of the broken towers on the screens while she analyzed details of the scene below them.

“Captain,” the ship said. “The pressure wave from our arrival has exasperated previous structural damage. That large curved tower will collapse shortly and there are multiple life signs in there.”

Captain Zaughn looked at Jordrye, but the instructor just shrugged, seemingly unwilling to interfere in the process of letting his students figure it out. Zaughn’s brow furrowed, then he ordered the ship forward. As the ship moved into position, he turned to Shai’Hara-Lee.

“You need to take a launch and get this treaty signed. You know the protocol. We can neither communicate or help properly without a treaty in place. For now we’ll try and hold this building up.” He sighed. “I hope that they understand that we’re trying to help.”

“Yessir,” Shai’Hara-Lee said and headed to the launch bay. Jordrye nodded his approval at the Captains actions.

“Aurelana, run a search for a planetary network and get a linguistic analysis,” ordered the Captain. “She’s going to need it.”

“I already have it, Captain.” Aurelana said.

“Send it to the launch.”

The garage was well outside the downtown core, but we could clearly hear the steel grinding on steel as the largest tower, the Bow, wobbled. We watched as the big ship angled about in eerie silence, then somewhat ungraciously bumped up against the building, almost as if to keep it from falling over.

“We had something to do with that?” Lily said slowly, pointing at the ship.

“No,” I pointed at the creaking steel tower. “But look at the holes through the buildings. They all line up with… here.  Whatever we did, it went through everything!”

“And that?” Joel pointed at the ship.

“I dunno where that… Pencil ship came from. I don’t think its from around here.”

As we watched, a portion of the ship about halfway along its length pivoted down from the main hull, looking disconcertingly like the chamber of a six shooter. One of the ‘bullets’ slid out of it’s chamber, then changed direction so it was pointed directly toward them.

“Guys,” I said, taking a step backwards. “I think we’re in trouble.”

Kristen Humschmid design sketches of Shai’Hara-Lee based on my description.

 

Episode 4:  First Contact

 

There was no time to react. The smaller ship left the main craft, angled itself towards them, something at the front end glowed blue, and it was hovering above them hovering. Instantly.

“What the…” I started to say, then stopped. A panel slid open in the bottom of the small ship.

I had not completed closing my mouth when she appeared in front of us.

I learned something new in that moment. When you first meet a being from another world, your brain simply makes all the assumptions that it usually makes about anyone that you might bump into on the street. Perhaps it does this to make things feel normal, or maybe there is some universal body language that transcends all of space and time. Who knows and frankly, who cares? Suffice to say I knew instantly that this gal was both nervous and uncomfortable. She had a right to be. She wore no clothes at all, and the short yellow fur that covered most of her, shielded none of the fact that she was most definitely female.

She adjusted her wings in what seemed like a formal gesture, then touched the ornament around her neck and spoke softly. “I am Shai’Hara-Lee. Here to seek treaty with those who created the K’ltchy field.” She straightened herself out and looked expectantly at us all, me somewhat more than the others. I hoped it was because I was in front and not because I was staring at her.

Lily cleared her throat, which was enough to get me started.

“I’m Gordon, and if you mean the thing that caused all this,” I waved to the destruction around us and towards the city, “Then you probably want to talk to us.”

She relaxed a bit. “I am glad to meet you Gordon. When a civilization discovers the K’ltchy field,” She noticed his puzzled look, cocked her head as if listening to something, then tried another way, “When a civilization discovers the Zero Point energy field…”

She paused again. I still did not know what she meant. Undeterred, she continued, ”…a ship is dispatched to form a treaty to protect your civilization and ours from any misuse of the field.”

She focused intently on me. Her words seemed scripted.

“Do you speak for all?”

“I can speak for all of us here,” I didn’t look at the others. “We are…”

I trailed off as Vlad interrupted, limping over and handing me what was left of a lab coat. He looked at her, then back at me, nodding pointedly at the coat.

“Um, would you like a jacket or something?” I asked, as I offered it to her, my face flushed red. “You seem like you might be, um, cold.”

She looked at me gratefully. In that moment she seemed somehow both more vulnerable and more certain of herself. She bowed her head slightly to us and stepped back a bit. She unfurled her wings and wrapped them around herself. Seconds later she withdrew them, leaving herself clothed in a shimmery translucent cover-up.

“I hope I have not offendeded you,” She said. “I had been informed that clothing was not appropriate on Earth.”

“Who told you that?” Lily asked, her hackles up.

“One of my shipmates.” Shai’Hara-Lee said, icily. “I will inform him of his error.” She turned to Vlad and added softly. “Thank you for your… concern.”

Vlad smiled, then his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed. Bruce missed catching him and Lily automatically reached out…  and screamed.  She’d used the wrong arm.

“You are injured!” Shai’Hara-Lee said, taking in the remains of the garage behind us.

“Our ‘Zero Point energy’ test did not go… smoothly.” Joel spoke up.  “There was an accident.”

“Several actually.” I looked towards downtown.

Shai’Hara-Lee seemed troubled. “We are forbidden to interfere or assist without a treaty in place.”

“But you can help?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Then we will sign your treaty.” I said.

“Gordon!” Bruce warned.

“Look around,” I replied. “We need their help. Shai’Hara-Lee, what is this treaty?”

“I will tell you. But come stand here with. We will go to the Aurelana for your injured. I will explain there.”

We were inside the Aurelana in under a minute. Ten seconds to get to the launch and get settled, ten seconds to the Aurelana, the entire rest of the minute to offload Lily and Vlad. They were taken away to what was we hoped was a sick bay while the rest of us stayed with Shai’Hara-Lee in a small room off the launch bay.

She explained that the treaty was critical to help us both understand and properly use the energy we had created. So that we could join in the collective culture that spanned the Universe.

“The treaty is very beneficial.” She said. “Carelessly used this energy can be dangerous.”

“We know.” Joel nodded wryly.

“Perhaps not,” She warned. “Without proper instruction, you can accidentally create a Zero Point warping event. I think you would call it a black hole? It could consume large portions of your Galaxy and the many civilizations within.”

Silence filled the small room as we digested that tidbit.

“Gordon?” Bruce said slowly.

“Yeah?” I answered, expecting his usual cautions.

“Sign the treaty.” Bruce said.

“You will sign for your world?” Shai’Hara-Lee asked, as if that was the sort of question people really asked other people.

“Well…  no. I can’t!” I answered honestly.

“What?” She asked.

“Nobody can sign for our whole world. We don’t have that kind of government.” She still looked confused. “Our planet has many different regional governments.”

“Well, which government created the K’ltchy field? Which one are you of?”

“We’re Cavanaugh Trucking.” Joel piped up helpfully. “We are the only ones on Earth who have this power or the ability to recreate it.”

“This is so?” She looked at me.

“Yes, I believe so,” I nodded. “We’ve never heard of or seen anything like it before.”

“This is most unusual,” She seemed to be mulling it over. Vlad groaned and stirred on the ground. She looked at him, worriedly. “Very well.”

“Aurelana?” She spoke to nobody that they could see.

“Yes, Shai’Hara-Lee?” the disembodied voice of the ship’s computer startled us as it echoed in the small room.

“Register a treaty for Cavanaugh… Trucking?” She looked at me to be sure.

“Hmmm, let’s make it ‘Cavanaugh Interstellar’,” I said smugly.

“For Cavanaugh Interstellar of… Earth?,” Shai’Hara-Lee repeated as I nodded at the addition. “Effective immediately.  You have the conversation on file?”

“I do and the treaty is registered and transmitted,” Aurelana replied. “Which means you are all now needed on the bridge.”

On the way there, Shai’Hara-Lee surprised us further. “I am looking forward to working with you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked politely.

“Until your own ships are operational and up to fleet standards, we will supply you with transport as we instruct you in the technologies needed to control the field and enter the Universal culture.”

I looked at her, still not comprehending.

“As part of the standard treaty process, the Aurelana and her crew are at your disposal.” She explained.

“We get a space ship?” Joel’s eyes were wide.

Shai’Hara-Lee Coming to Life, Art by Kristen Hubschmid.

 

Episode 5:  Too Soon

The door slid open and Shai’Hara-Lee led us onto the bridge of the Aurelana. At least she tried to. I was blocking the door, looking down through where one might hope a floor would be as smoke billowed from the broken office tower below. She cocked her head and then realization dawned. “It can be made to seem transparent,” she said, comfortably standing there on nothing at all. “Much more efficient than picking out details from a viewscreen.”

We cautiously stepped forward into the flurry of activity that engulfed the bridge. Various creatures were in animated discussions while others were delving deeply into their screens, all seemed to be frantically searching for something. With all the commotion going on, nobody noticed us until Aurelana announced us.

“Captain, you have visitors on the bridge.”

The silence that fell was epic. Like when the gunslinger walks into the saloon and the whole place goes silent…

“Gordon?” Shai’Hara-Lee looked him with puzzled eyes. “What is a ‘gunslinger’?”

Damn. I must have said that out loud. “Uh, nothing. Really!”

The steely-eyed adolescent in the center seat addressed him. “I am Zaughn, Captain of the Aurelana.”

“Hi.  I’m Gordon of Cavanaugh Tru…, er, Interstellar.”

“Welcome Gordon. Perhaps you can clear up something for us?” Zaughn asked, a little too politely.

“Like why you used the K’ltchy field to strike at these towers?” T’lu’s accusation was plain.

“We didn’t.” Joel answered.

“Actually, we did.” Bruce corrected him, and everyone else on the bridge drew their breath.

“Yes, but that was an accident.” I added. “We had a containment failure.”

Zaughn regarded us carefully. “So you had no reason to strike at these buildings or those in them?”

“Uh, these are the towers of oil companies that laid us off, said there was no work, then outsourced all of our jobs.” I said. “ We have plenty of reason to strike at them. But we didn’t.”

Zaughn turned and addressed the shadows behind him. “How can we believe this?” The robed figure stirred, but remained silent.

Vaughn spun as the door slid open again and Vlad and Lily cautiously tested the floor, then moved to join us. Light glinted through the hole that remained in Vlad’s side. I pointed the hole out to Zaughn. “Because we wouldn’t punch a hole through anyone, especially one of our own.”

“There was no sign of directed energy.” Shai’Hara-Lee added. “Even their facility was destroyed by the failure.”

“That’s another thing.” Zon joined in, changing the subject. “Where is your planetary research center, the space docks, the central gov.? It’s all missing.”

“There is a reason for that.” Aurelana interjected.

“Go on,” Vaughn directed Aurelana.

“Based on analysis of cultural and science data, Earth’s civilization should not achieve Zero Point energy for at least another 1000 years. I have downloaded their ‘Google’ from the ‘cloud’ as they call it, and analyzed it. Unless it is full of lies and omissions, they have not yet had first crisis, or even attempted a planetary government. There are no unified facilities. They should never have been able to achieve Zero Point energy.”

T’lu’s expression changed as he looked at them in awe. “Wow, they’re like, prehistorical!”

“Zaughn.” Shai’Hara-Lee said quietly.

“Forgive T’lu,” Zaughn said to us, ignoring her. “He is ship’s archeologist.”

“ZAUGHN.” She said firmly.

“Yes, Shai’Hara-Lee?”

“We have already signed a treaty.”

“Well that’s not possible.” The robed figure finally spoke as he moved forward. In the light he seemed somehow older than anyone else they’d seen. “With whom? There is no central gov. There is no authority here capable of signing.”

“Instructor Jordrye,” Shai-Hara-Lee acquiesced. “That’s why we signed the treaty with Cavanaugh Interstellar, these ones who created the field.”

“This is a serious breach of protocol Shai’Hara-Lee.” Jordrye informed her. “If this were a real first contact situation, the planetary government would simply have to be the signatory. There is no precedent for an independent group achieving the field.”

“But they -are- the ones that created it.” She argued. “Who better to educate the rest of their society to Universal standards.”

“Wait, What?” I asked, finally catching up. “What do you mean ‘if this were a REAL First Contact situation’?”

Zaughn waved at the damaged city below them. “This is only a drill,” He explained. “A training exercise for our new crew.”

“A very good drill.” Jordrye added. “The falling buildings, the destruction, a pre-K’itchy society. No central gov. This is a wonderful trial. Training section has outdone itself this time.”

The rest of the bridge crew looked smug. Zaughn seemed almost happy. Shai’Hara-Lee was un-convinced.

It was time to clear things up.

“Look,” I said firmly.” I don’t know what you guys think is going on here, but this is no drill. That is my planet out there, and those really are buildings with holes in them.”

Behind me, Vlad loudly cleared his throat. “Yeah, and him too!”  I added.

“He is correct, Instructor Jordrye,” Aurelana confirmed. “When Captain Zaughn responded with ‘Mission Ready’ protocol instead of the training response, the Aurelana was moved to Ready status and Axis dispatched us here for a mission.” she paused. “I assumed you would know this.”

“So, when I told Zaughn not to correct the response…” Jordrye’s voice trailed off as he thought about it. He stared hard at Gordon. “You really discovered this by yourselves? Just you five?”

I nodded.

He looked down through the transparent floor. “And the ship is really keeping this building… from collapsing?”

“Yes.” Aurelana confirmed.

“I see.” Jordrye wobbled.

Then the building wobbled, lurching the ship with it. The sudden motion must have knocked something loose from the top of the building. All at once proximity alarms went off and Aurelana announced, “Shields!” A jagged piece of metal punched through the ceiling of the bridge, then was stopped, mid-perforation, by the glowing force of the shield that the ship had activated.

Episode 6:  Hold Please

The view through the floor shimmered as the shield activated around the rest of the ship, then became partially blocked by Jordrye’s limp form collapsing onto it. For a moment I was worried he’d been hit by the stuff that came through the ceiling, but before I voiced my concern, Aurelana allayed it.

“Jordyre has fainted.” She must have been monitoring him.

She added. “The shield will prevent further damage.”

Hmm, maybe she was monitoring me too.

The building lurched again, the ship along with it.

“Why can’t you guys extend your shield or whatever around the building and just hold it up?” Joel asked.

“Aurelana?” Zaughn asked.

“That is possible.” The ship answered. “I can position a launch for that on auto-pilot.”

“Please do-“ Zaughn began.

“I’m sorry captain, but some of my systems have been damaged by the hull perforation.” Could a ship sound frustrated? “I am unable to remote control a launch at this time.“

The piercing train whistle sound of Joel’s cell phone ring echoed across the flight deck. That sound had no business on a spaceship, let alone one that had been damaged by part of a collapsing building. But… it rang again.

“My neighbor,” He apologized to us as he answered. “Hello, Mrs Johnson.”

He paused for a bit.

“Yes, we did have a bit of an accident this morn-“

He muted the phone and looked at me. “Cops are at the house. My neighbor saw the whole thing. Including Shai’Hara-Lee.” He unmuted the phone as the ship and the building lurched again.

“-Officer Chen,” he interrupted whatever was being said. “I’ll be right with you. Hold Please.”

“They’d like to know what happened.” Joel said to me, then looked at Vaughn. “Can’t you get someone to manually pilot a launch and hold that building up?”

He turned back to the phone. “Yes sir, it is quite a mess…”

“Zon!” Zaughn said. “You’re launch qualified, take one out and get this building stabilized.”

“Gord,” Joel tugged my arm. “They are transferring me to a desk sergeant.”

Zon looked startled. “I can fly it, but I don’t know how to extend the shields like that.”

I grabbed Joel’s phone from his hand. “Joel, you and Bruce go with Zon and see if you can figure in out. Aurelana, you can still help right?”

“Yes, Gordon. I will assist.”

“Go!” Zaughn said confirming the order.

“Joel?” The voice on the cell phone inquired.

“Joel is a little busy right now.” I answered. “Hold Please.”

“‘Aurelana?” I asked. “Do they need to worry about any, er, effects from the shield?”

“No. Low power should stabilize the building without causing any boundary effects.”

“Great, Thanks.” I turned back to the phone. “Hello? Who’s this?”

“Staff Sergeant Paterson. What-“

“Paterson.” I interrupted him. “We are on board the ship above the city that’s holding up the Bow tower. In a few-“

“What the-“ The gruff voice didn’t sound like someone who took orders well.

“Look there’s no time.” I said. “In moment a small ship will move over the Bow and extend a shield over it to hold it together while you evacuate…” I paused while he pontificated. He took a breath. “Do shut up and listen sir! You need to evacuate-“

“Launch away!” Aurelana announced.

“Hold Please.” I muted the phone. I doubted he was even listening.

We watched the screen while the ship maneuvered into position over the Bow. With Aurelana’s help, a shimmery shield was soon flickering around the Bow. As the big ship backed away from the Bow, the steam whistle sounded again.

“Sergeant Paterson-“ I began.

“Chief of Police, Marjorie Cedars.” The no-nonsense authoritative voice responded. “You say you’re on the ship above the city?”

“Yes Ma’am, Gordon Cavanaugh speaking. You need to evacuate the Bow as soon as possible.”

“Our people are saying it’s not safe.” She replied.

“Hold Please. Aurelana, what’s the situation with the building?”

“The shield has stabilized the lateral forces. Evacuation can commence.”

“Who is that?” The Chief asked. “Who’s advising you?”

I sighed. “If I told you it was the computer on board the ship, would you believe me?”

There was a slight crackle on the phone. “If you are worried about another 911 event, Marjorie Cedars,” Aurelana had joined in on the call. “I am fleet ship Aurelana and I can assure you I will not let that happen. Your people will be safe.”

“Commence the evacuation. Search every floor.” He heard the Chief ordering someone who must have been standing beside her. She came back on. “Can you stay on the line?”

“Sure.” I said.

“We can do more than that.” Aurelana said. “As Cavanaugh Interstellar is now a treaty holder, we can assist fully. There are only 217 people remaining in the building, but several of them have life threatening injuries that we can treat on board and ‘stabilize’ as you would say.”

“Yes please!” I said.

“Is that safe?” The Chief asked.

“I’d stake my life on it.” I told her, glancing over at the nodding Vlad.

“Then we will need to coordinate-“ The Chief started to say.

“Hold please.” I interrupted. “Aurelana, Can’t we just get them out ourselves?”

“We can,” She said. “but someone must go with them, as Shai’Hara-Lee did when you all came aboard.”

I looked at Shai’Hara-Lee. “Shall we?” She nodded and smiled. I was beginning to really like this girl.

“Chief,” I said. “Call your people off. Cavanaugh Interstellar has got this.”

Before she could protest, I hung up. Vlad joined us. “I will help also.” He announced.

“Vlad,” I asked him, looking at the hole in his side, It seemed to be sealed somehow, but light was still shining through from him behind. “I thought you got patched up? Why do you still have a hole in you?”

“They said fix hole or leave hole, I say hole is okay.”

“Why on Earth would you say that?” Bruce asked.

Vlad smiled a big mischievous grin.

“Now… I am Vlad the Impaled.”

 

Episode 7:  The Rescuers

The floor of the arrivals bay shimmered and vanished, seemingly leaving nothing between the ship and the Bow tower below it. Vlad and I lunged for the sanctions in the wall.

Shai’Hara-Lee chuckled at our reaction.

It was the same transparent floor we’d seen on the bridge. Completely solid yet completely invisible.

“How do you know when floor is there?” Vlad asked, as we resigned ourselves to the non-floor.

I changed the subject. “How exactly are we going to do this?” I asked Shai’Hara-Lee.

She pulled what looked like a cell phone from a slot in the wall and handed it to me. Seconds after touching it, I could clearly hear the ship’s voice echoing in my head.

“That’s incredible.” I said, staring at the device.

Vlad was handed a similar device as ‘Lana explained. “Thank you Gordon, Vlad. Your world has similar technology to this in development now.” She said. “The device you are holding is a what you might call a nanobot transport and communications device.  The nanobots will assist in verbal and data communication and will relay my instructions to you.”

“Very good.” I said.  “Why do I now think your name is ‘Lana?”

I slid my iphone out from my Wrist Rack and slid the nanobot controller in. “‘Lana is my informal name.You may use it.”

Vlad nodded, adding out loud. “You speak excellent Russian.”

“You hear her in Russian?” I asked him, but a split second later we were standing on the roof of the Bow tower, Shai-Hara-Lee urged to move us aside.

“I will punch a hole through the roof above the elevator shaft.” ‘Lana said in our ears.

“Then we can go floor by floor.” Shai’Hara-Lee added. “And bring people to the shaft. ‘Lana will lift them out.”

“You don’t have transporter?” Vlad asked.

“You are referring to the fictional device from your ’Star Trek’ television series?” ‘Lana considered. “Hmmm. Theoretically possible, but not really practical. We will go in through the shaft.”

A narrow field extended from the ship, neatly cut a circle out of the building’s roof, lifted it, then placed it aside.

“Please stand where the roof was and I will lower you down.” ‘Lana instructed.

Shai’Hara-Lee hopped onto the invisible surface where the roof had been and motioned us to join her.

“I don’t think this will go over so well.” I said, as I watched her standing there… on nothing.

“Maybe we use roof piece?” Vlad said.

I thought for a moment. “I have a better idea.”

A few minutes later the elevator doors opened and we helped the first load of people that we’d rescued from the top floors step out onto the plaza in front of the building.  Everyone was mobile, except for the lady who fainted in my arms when she realized where the elevator had deposited them. I glanced over to the line of waiting ambulances.

“You guys go back and get the next load.” I said to Vlad and Shai’Hara-Lee. “I’ll get these guys organized.”

They nodded and climbed back into the elevator. The doors slid shut as ‘Lana extended the field to pluck the elevator from the plaza. She pulled it up outside the building, then began lowering it back towards the hole in the roof. I carried the girl over to the line of first responders with the other rescuees trailing. Most of them were still trying to take it all in. I grinned.

“We’ll be bringing them down one load at a time.” I announced loudly. “There’s just over 200 of them.” I paused. Nothing. “A little help?”

As one, the wave of Police, Fire and Ambulance personnel surged forward.

By the third load, they were organized and I’d explained our plan. Half a dozen rescuers went back up with us on the next trip and we dropped them two to a floor. Their presence relaxed people as they prepped them for transport and made the whole process much faster. A bit later, two of the ambulance attendants insisted on going to the Aurelana’s sick bay with one badly bashed executive that most of a ceiling had dropped onto. They were deposited on the plaza about 15 minutes later, without the perceived safety of an elevator and with the executive standing shakily between them.

Their eyes were wide as they passed him over to their colleagues, then turned and waited for the next elevator ‘up’.

About an hour later, everyone was out of the building and we were just waiting on the last batch from ship’s sick bay, when a familiar purple-clad figure pushed through the crowd of cell phones and cameras that now ringed the plaza.

“Mayor Nenshi.” I greeted him. “Good to see you again.”

“You are?” He didn’t exactly recognize me.

“Gordon Cavanaugh.  Cavanaugh Trucking?” I extended my hand.

“Yes, Ok. I remember you.” He shook my hand. “But… this?” he pointed above.

“Well, this’d be the new company.” I smiled. “Cavanaugh Interstellar.”

“And how?-“

He was cut short as the elevator reappeared beside us and Shai’Hara-Lee and Vlad helped the last first responders and the last two rescuees offload.

Nenshi was speechless as Shai’Hara-Lee joined us.

“We should go.” Vlad said.

“What about the building?” Shai’Hara-Lee asked me.

“The building?” Nenshi echoed as a number of high-ranking uniforms closed in behind him.

“The building will not stand on its own very long.” ‘Lana added in our ears.

“Um, Mayor Nenshi. This is Shai’Hara-Lee.  She is from the ship and has signed a treaty with us to manage the, uh, field we created that, I’m sorry to say, caused this problem.”

They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.

“The building will not stand without support.” She informed the mayor. “What would you like to do with it?”

“Do with it?” I asked before he could.

“It will be not so good if it falls.” Vlad added.

The murmurs behind Nenshi agreed.

“What can you do with it?” Nenshi asked.

“It can be moved.” I guessed. “Right ‘Lana?’

“Yes, easily.” ‘Lana answered in his ear.

“Who’s Lana?” Nenshi asked.

“Just let us know where you’d like it dropped.” I said.

Nenshi considered for a moment. “We’ll have to figure that out.”  He said. “How do we get back to you?”

The crowd was slowly circling in tighter. I dropped my voice to a whisper. “Just call Cavanaugh Trucking, when you figure it out.”

“Thanks,” He nodded.

We moved away from the crowd.

“Just one more thing?” The Mayor asked as we moved away.

“Yes?” I said.

He pointed at Shai’Hara-Lee. “Can I get a selfie with you?