Black Honey Wings, Part XVII (Meanwhile, Again)

Day 40. 146 pages, 68,431 words.

“Tell Seg to forward some instructions to Tippy,” Çrom said as they prepared to move out. “I’m guessing he’ll be taking a lander out to clear the road while San Genevieve pilots. Get Barducci’s whereabouts to Tippy.”

Barducci’s whereabouts?” Constable frowned, tapping away at the maintenance panel. “Do we have the first clue what those are, Captain?”

“He’ll be doing something with the transpersion core on the main ship,” Çrom said positively, “at which point he will piss-bolt as far as he can along the lateral power feed and fetch up against the hull right underneath the ‘l’ in ‘Black Honey Wings’. If I had to make an educated guess,” he paused. “Which, you know, I do. Because Captain.”

“Copy that,” Ital turned back to her task.

“And tell Tippy to get those escape pods,” Çrom added. “There’ll be fifteen or twenty of them, he should be able to take them out while they’re all forming up and trying to find a way clear of the combat volume. They’ll be nicely lined up for him. Just tell him to do what he does best, preferably so the wreckage doesn’t hit ‑ ”

“ ‑ the hull right underneath the ‘l’ in ‘Black Honey Wings’,” Ital grunted. “Got it.”

“I don’t mean to sound like the wimpy one,” Gunton said, “but how are we going to get back to the A-Mod 400 safely? Steal a lander?”

“I think they already flew out,” Blue said.

“The wimpy one does raise a good point, though,” Çrom noted. Gunton threw up his hands in frustration and turned away. “Now that the crew has abandoned ship and it looks like the rest of us might be getting out of this in one piece after all – our friend Fallen notwithstanding – we need an exit strategy. Space walk? No,” he dismissed his own thought, “Melvix will have all those buggardly prisoners to herd along. Singlehandedly.”

Melvix sighed. “I ‑ ”

“It’s a figure of speech. I know you have more than one ‑ ”

“No, Captain ‑ ”

Çrom snapped his fingers. “That’s it! Melvix, you’re a genius. Captain. Captain’s dome. There’s an executive escape capsule.”

“There is?” Blue blurted. “You bourgeois son of a whore.”

“Actually,” Melvix said, “I hate to tell you this, Captain, but that is not a standard fixture on modulars, otherwise I would have mentioned it already. Yours was already installed ‑ ”

“Son of a whore,” Blue whispered accusingly again.

“Hey,” Çrom protested, “if it was there before I became Captain, it’s not my fault it’s there now. It was whoever-was-Captain-before-me’s fault.”

“We stole the A-Mod 400 right off the line,” Blue hissed. “Her paint was still wet.”

“That’s not true,” Çrom insisted. “She was on the assembly line for reasons completely unrelated to her being brand-new or me being a bourgeois son of a whore who wanted a private escape pod with a steam room in it. And besides, I’ve never used the capsule and I only used the steam room that one time, and if this ship doesn’t have one then it’s a waste of time even discussing this, crewmember. Stand down.”

Blue rolled her eyes.

“There’s a problem,” Melvix said, peering in Constable’s direction from near the farm door. He was clearly reading the panel monitors over her shoulder, even though Çrom was a good twenty paces closer and couldn’t make out a thing through the frosty air.

“Another one? Excellent. Let’s hear it,” Çrom said, and raised a warning finger. “As long as it is not steam-room-related.”

“The subluminal drive is going to exceed its parameters and shut down before it ever gets the Nope, Leftovers moving at the speed it’s going to need to have an impact on the rest of the ship.”

“Of course it is,” Çrom groaned. “Because we forgot she’s still attached to half a God damned docking spar. Because we’re all idiots.”

“Not all of us,” Melvix said mildly.

“Okay, fine, I just finished drafting our exit strategy,” Çrom said. “We set the modular’s subluminal drive to a slow burn, get into that spar, and blow the docks behind us. The seals will come down and ‑ ”

“Will they?” Blue Persephone asked.

“Actually, I think it’s more than likely they have all come down already,” Melvix said. “Depending on where W’Tan hit the spar.”

“All the better. They will have established an atmosphere in there already, just waiting for us.”

“And how are you planning on accessing said atmosphere, when it is sealed behind emergency doors?” Melvix asked.

“We can argue about the intricacies of the plan on the way,” Çrom said. “We’ll have plenty of time while we’re watching you looking after all those prisoners.”

“Isn’t the command structure set up so we don’t argue about the intricacies of the plan?” Gunton asked.

Çrom clapped him on the back as they headed out of the farm. “Well said, Gunton. You may avoid the label of ‘the wimpy one’ yet.”

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