Friday Flash Fics — “Any Cove in a Storm”

Once again, I’m back in the world of my ‘Cohort’ series, which is getting to be quite the series now, which is fun for me, but is scattered all over this blog. If you want to read them in chronological order (which wasn’t the order I wrote them in, but that’s just because I never write in chronological order), here they all are:  First CohortSecond CohortThird Cohort, Fourth CohortFifth CohortSixth CohortHelios, Home, and now Any Cove in a Storm.

Flash Fiction

Any Cove in a Storm

“You okay, Bradley?” Adamson asked, working hard to keep the amusement from his voice.

The soldier-turned-guard-for-hire turned, and a faint flush crept up from the neckline of his shirt. He didn’t, however, let go of the boat’s rail.

“You’re sure this thing is safe?” Bradley said, instead of answering the question.

Adamson did smile now. “Really? You’re afraid of being on a boat? Don’t you command a fleet of security ships? In space? With weapons?”

Bradley scowled at him, but the annoyance didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Space legs aren’t sea legs.”

“Was this a mistake, Chase?” Adamson said. “I’m sorry. I just thought it would be a bit of a break for both of us. A relaxing trip out for a day.”

“No,” Bradley said. “It’s fine.” His smile was a bit tight, but Adamson decided to take him at his word. It was strange seeing the man out of his usual black and silver Vanguard uniform. In a white t-shirt and simple grey pants, he seemed more human. His right arm was cybernetic all the way up to his right shoulder, and it was obviously military grade, but without the uniform—or the weapon at his waist—it took some of the edge off the broad man.

He almost looked like one of the colonists. Almost.

Bradley’s team had been hired by the same company that funded the Helios project, and Bradley’s small fleet of five ships had been the only reason the personnel on Luna had managed to make a break for Enceladus, and then had defended them once again from the EDF forces that hadn’t wanted to give up even then.

The WorldGov coup hadn’t been bloodless. And Vanguard-Three had been a casualty, too, before Cassandra had decided to reveal the location of the Helios Gate. The station and the four ships had all gotten through—scuttling the gate behind them—and now they were here, on Chiaroscuro, in another part of the galaxy, with no way home.

At least, not yet. Adamson looked back out over the water. He hadn’t told anyone but Dr. Adebayo and Flood about his work on another Helios gate. It wasn’t happening quickly, either. It had been his baby, but last time, his baby had been worked on by a whole team of scientists with the resources of a massive multinational company. Now he was working on a fledgling colony, which was running as smoothly as he could have dreamed, given the circumstances, but certainly wasn’t operating on a surplus of many of the things he’d need to turn tiny probes and testing systems into a full blown gate capable of tossing a space-ship from one star to another.

“That’s a whole lot of frowning.”

Adamson turned, blinking. “Sorry.”

“Lot on your mind, Jay?”

Adamson laughed. “Always. Have I ever told you I wasn’t supposed to still be running the show at this point?”

“You know, I think you have,” Bradley said. He had a wry smile when he let it out. In that one small way, he reminded Adamson of Manny, the Canadian who’d agreed to be his fake husband-slash-anchor to get Adamson out of the US on a fake ID when the Gentech situation had gotten worse.

He wondered about Manny. What was happening in Canada, now that the WorldGov had annexed it and Norway, the last two holdouts, after Yellowstone had erupted. Was he okay?

Was he alive?

“You’re frowning again.”

“Sorry,” Adamson said again.

“You apologize a lot.”

“Well, I do have Canadian citizenship.”

Behind them, the biology team were releasing drones into the water. He could hear their excited chatter. The smallish coastal sailboat hadn’t exactly been on the plan, and certainly they could have done most of the work remotely by air-dropping the drones from a shuttle, but…

Well. As Dr. Adebayo and Cassandra kept reminding him, the emotional health of the colony was just as important as all the rest of it.

On that note

“I’d like to offer your team positions in the security division. I know you’re completely overqualified for it, and Cassandra pointed out a few other options for some of the Vanguard personnel after the screenings as well. You’ve got medics and engineers who’d be fantastic in the medical or engineering departments, too, but I thought you might want to keep your group together. At least at first.”

Bradley nodded slowly, looking out over the water. “Patel said that offer was probably coming our way. He’s a smart man.”

“He is,” Adamson said. “His suggestion is to have you all as a separate unit, everyone still reporting to you as you do now, and having you be part of the details that go out on missions outside the colony proper—like this one, for example. He’d like you to have a position equal to his, not reporting to him.”

Bradley laughed. “You guys are really trying to make us feel useful and important, aren’t you?”

“You saved so many lives. Everyone on the station up there is here because of you. And that doesn’t even count all the people you brought on the Vanguard ships from Luna.” He thought of Mica, back at the colony, and how he was doing better. Slowly, and in tiny steps, but still. Better.

“I’ve been reading up on this planet,” Bradley said. “It’s not like there are many dangers here. The largest life forms you’ve found have been in the oceans, and almost nothing beyond birds and insects on land. We’re not going to be protecting you from anything. There aren’t many threats here.”

Adamson smiled. “Would that be so terrible?”

Bradley blew out a breath. “Fair point.”

A rumble of thunder interrupted them. They both turned, and Adamson stared. In the distance, over the water, a line of black clouds was forming.

“Huh,” he said, pulling up his pad. “That’s not great.”

“Jay?” Bradley said.

“Let me check,” Adamson said. He raised his voice for the rest of the crew. “Satellites are projecting a good chance we’re in for a storm. Sorry to cut it short, but it’s time to turn it around and head back.”

To their credit, the crew didn’t grumble too loudly.

More thunder.

Adamson turned. He checked his pad again. The “good chance” had gone from a decent number to a certainty.

“Let’s do it quickly,” Adamson said, raising his voice again. The team hustled.

Bradley raised his eyebrows. It was another look that made Adamson think of Manny. “Is that your way of saying we’re in trouble?”

Behind them, a bright flash of light streaked from the dark clouds to the water. The crack of thunder that followed was loud.

Adamson’s wrist lit up. He tapped it.

“There’s a pretty bad storm forming near where you’re sailing,” Flood said from where she manned the Coop. “Just wanted to give you a head’s up.”

Lightning streaked the sky behind them.

“You know, I think we need to prioritize more satellite coverage soon,” he said.

“Do I need to send someone?” Flood said.

The wind was starting to whip around them. The colony shuttles were good, but in weather like this? “Not a great idea. We’ll head straight back.” He closed the connection, and eyed Bradley.

Rain started to pelt the deck.

In no time at all they were soaked. They helped the crew lock away the last of the equipment and were underway in record time. The storm loomed behind them, a wall of dark clouds and flashes of lightning.

“I’m so glad I came out on this relaxing day trip,” Bradley said.

Adamson glanced at him, and Bradley winked.

They’d all put on emergency jackets and they were hanging out in the cabin now, which lurched up and down with the waves. All their eyes were on the screens Adamson had synched with the satellite and the tracking systems. They were still ahead of the storm, but only just. Their skipper, Quinn—one of Constantinou’s biologists—was doing an amazing job, but her expression made it clear she’d rather have more distance between them and the storm.

“What about there?” Bradley said.

Adamson looked, not quite seeing it at first. But there was a small cove ahead. Quinn glanced at it, looked up through the windows, squinting through the rain and gripping the wheel.

“You want to stop?” Adamson said.

“He’s right,” Quinn said. “Better for us to get the ship under some shelter, and there’s a pretty good natural breakwater there.” She eyed the rest of the team. “Time to go get wet again.”

They barely made it in time, but they did made it. They slipped the ship into the cove and had her anchored before the black clouds rolled overhead. They had the sails down and the ship as prepared as possible. It wasn’t a pleasant time to be in the ship, and the storm took its time in passing, but they came out more or less unscathed, beyond one crewman’s unfortunately bout with seasickness.

When the clouds passed, a flock of white-winged birds flew overhead in the fading sunlight, chasing after some of the bioluminescent insects that seemed to have been churned up and confused by the storm.

Adamson joined Bradley on the deck once the worst had passed.

“Good call on the cove,” Adamson said.

“Quinn would have seen it.”

Adamson nodded. “I hope so. But she didn’t have to, because you did.”

Bradley took a breath. “I think my crew were really hoping you’d all find us a way to go home.”

Adamson froze, not trusting himself to even speak.

The security man eyed him. “And that’s an interesting reaction.”

“Is there any good way to say ‘there’s no way home’?” Adamson said. For just a second, he was tempted to skim the other man’s thoughts. Make sure he wasn’t suspicious.

But he didn’t.

Bradley blew out a breath. “No, I guess there isn’t. But hey, apparently you science types need protecting from storms.”

“We do.”

“I’ll talk to my people when we get back.”

“That’s great. We’ll do everything we can to make his like home, Chase. You know that, right?”

Bradley nodded. “I know.”

Adamson patted the man’s shoulder, and turned to head back into the cabin.

His Helios notes were on his pad, and he wanted to work on them again.

 

 

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