The Delayed: Exclusive 1st Chapter
This is the opening chapter of, The Locker, a short prequel story starring Spalding, Gants and the infamous Captain Moonlight as they attempt to keep the machinery under control and do their small part of getting the ship ready for patrol!
I’ll probably also throw in the isolated Spalding-Brence/Castwell short in here at some point as well. Since the brother is working on the larger short: The Locker, and that one was tacked onto the very end of the file I managed to find lost in one of my flash drives it could come at any time!
Without further ado, an Exclusive to my Blog short story never seen anywhere else, Spalding Short Story! (More chapters will be released as they are edited and if people show interest!)
Short Story: The Locker!
Chapter: A matter of mixed up labels
He was the very model of an ancient outdated Space Engineer
His ancient bones creaked as the aging Lieutenant was forced to manually haul a wobbling grav-cart down the corridors of his beloved ship, the wild-haired old engineer staggered from side to side almost as much as the cart he was pulling.
A raised section of floor, where a metal strip was coving the join where two sections of duralloy decking met, almost did the old engineer — and his equally ancient grav-cart — in.
With a puff of more effort than he thought wise — and sent his blood pressure sky rocketing and his heart pumping like an over-active fusion generator about to lose containment — Lieutenant Terrence Spalding went one way, staggering to the left. That not-quite-herculean jerk of effort jerked the decrepit grav-cart over the hump with an almost obstinate lunge to the right, as if it had a mind of its own.
“More stubborn than an angry mule,” Spalding cursed as the force of its momentum sent him sprawling to his knees. One hand grimly hung onto the guide bar by his fingernails, the other went out to brace against an untimely impact of his face with the deck.
Gasping for breath, he waited until his racing heart had stilled before attempting to regain his footing. Bones creaked and joints popped in protest, but the Engineering Officer angrily forced his way back to his feet.
Beside him the grav-cart, which was supposed to stay perfectly still and in place unless manually pulled with the grab bar or directed by the — currently non-functional — remote control, rocked from side to side as one of the two still functional repulsors on the cart’s right side flickered intermittently.
Giving vent to his spleen, Spalding gave the cart a kick right where the repulsor joined with the metal frame. Listing to one side as the repulsor blacked out, the cart almost pinned the old Engineer’s foot to the deck by way of crashing to the floor. Hopping away, Spalding quick-timed it out of range, like some kind of mad jitterbug gone wild out on the dance floor.
At the last moment before the cart crashed to the ground, the repulsor surged back to life and disaster was averted — barely.
Glaring at the cart, the old engineer grabbed his plasma torch. Pulling it from his tool belt he quickly struck a flame and leveled the blue-white fire toward the cart.
“You’ll stay on task if you know what’s good for you,” he threatened, shaking the torch at the misacting cart.
In what appeared to be nothing but childlike defiance, the cart surged backward then forward.
“I’ll cut you from stem to stern, from back to front and side to side,” he raged at the cart. “When I’m done with you there won’t be enough left for spare parts!” he said swiping the torch back and forth in the air in a threatening manner.
“Is there a problem, Lieutenant?” he heard a hesitant voice ask from behind him.
The aged engineer whirled around, torch raised in surprise. The move almost overbalanced him from the force of the motion, and his attention quickly turned to placing a hand on the wall to keep from falling over.
“Don’t sneak up on a man like that,” he growled, glancing quickly at the shoulder patches on the other man’s uniform, “crewman!” he exclaimed, and now that his balance had returned, he shook the still-lit torch for emphasis.
“Sorry, Sir,” the crewman said looking at him uneasily, “I was just wondering if you needed some help or assistance?”
“Assistance,” Spalding scoffed, “why, I’ve been an Engineer on this ship nigh on fifty years,” he declared, waving his arm as if to encompass the whole battleship.
“Fifty years,” exclaimed the rating his eyebrows rising in surprise, “wow, that’s amazing!”
The aged engineer took a deep breath, puffing up with pride, “Been continuously assigned to her ever since I was just a rating like yourself,” he puffed his chest in pride, unable to resist some bragging, “worked my way up through the ranks, and done every job in the department.”
“Which department is that, Sir?” asked the rating with an eager smile, clearly hanging on every word.
Spalding’s brows started to lower thunderously but in the face of such good will it was hard to get up a good head of steam. So he released his rising ire a great puff of air instead, “Why, the very best department on the ship, lad,” he grumbled, instead of the half dozen or so angry retorts that immediately occurred to him — starting with this crewman’s apparent inability to read the patches on his work uniform, and ending with an obvious inability to understand which Department was the most needed. “And the only one that can keep a ship like this in fighting form!” he declared.
Then at the young crewman’s continued and blatant lack of understanding, the old engineer scowled, “The Engineering Department my boyo,” he said with a hint of a growl creeping back into his voice.
“Fifty years on the ship,” the young crewman marveled once again, “you know I tried to strike for Engineering,” he said proudly. Then his face fell slightly, “But I hear they’re shunting me over to Environmental instead,” he said, finishing sadly.
“Oh?” inquired the aged lieutenant, “Poor aptitude scores?”
“No, Sir,” the rating said shaking his head vigorously, “I scored in the middle of my class; it’s the automated personnel allocation system. Until the personnel department is fully staffed, the computer — the DI, that is — is issuing the assignments for unassigned crew without any special training…” he paused, “at least that’s what they tell me,” he trailed off dolefully.
“The Distributed Intelligence system, is it?” the old Caprian Officer said, chewing on his lower lip. “Well…computers are known to make mistakes. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were transferred into another department before you can say ‘Bob’s your uncle’,” he said with a smile.
“Thank you, sir,” the rating said happily.
“So what brings a fine young lad like yourself onto a half-decommissioned ship like our Clover here?” Spalding asked pushing off from the wall.
There was a short, embarrassed pause, “I was trying to find my way to Environmental, but I keep getting turned around,” the crewman confessed, “you wouldn’t happen to know the way, would you?”
“Why, I know this ship like the back of my hand,” Spalding said with a wink. “Just follow me, lad; I promise that Lieutenant Spalding won’t lead you wrong,” he said, turning back around to grab hold of the guide bar for the grav-cart.
Unfortunately, the cart was not where he had left it and instead of grabbing the bar, he tripped over the blasted thing instead.
With an, “Oof!” he landed on deck.
“Are you okay, Sir?” exclaimed the rating, reaching down to help him back up.
Spalding batted his hands away and tried to tell the crewman to leave off, but the wind had been so thoroughly knocked out of him by the unexpected fall that nothing but an angry wheeze came out.
Back on his feet, the old engineer paused a moment to catch his breath. In that brief moment of weakness, the crewman snagged the guide bar for the cart out from under his hands.
“It’s the least I can do in return for directions,” the young man said so guilelessly that Spalding’s initial urge to grab his plasma torch and drive the piker away from his dysfunctional cart faded.
“Right this way,” the old engineer muttered testily, leading off down the hall, “what did you say your name was again?”
“Sorry, Sir,” exclaimed the crewman, “Able Spacer, Gants, at your service, Sir.”
“You have a first name to go with that?” Spalding demanded.
The rating tugged at his collar, and seemed to squirm, “Florence,” he mumbled.
The old engineer winced. “Probably best you use your middle name while onboard the ship,” he confided in a lowered voice — and after a moment of shared embarrassment.
Gants drew a deep breath, “My mother named me ‘Florence Archibald Gants,’ although I prefer to be called ‘Gants’,” he said.
There was another short pause. “Quite understandable, lad… er, Gants, that is,” Spalding added, then awkwardly patted the crewman on the shoulder. “Well… enough said.”
They walked for several moments in relative silence with the grav-cart herking and jerking the whole way. The youthful strength and exuberance of the younger man was telling, though, and despite some scrambling around foolishly on more than one occasion, he managed to keep it from bashing into any walls.
“So, the Lucky Clover,” said the crewman, there followed a pregnant pause “I’m surprised the Imperials decided to pull her out of mothballs when there are several other ships that would seem to make better sense.”
Spalding jerked to a halt in the middle of the corridor, while Gants continued cheerfully pulling the rambunctious grav-cart past him.
Spalding lengthened his stride to catch back up. “What exactly do you mean by that comment?” he huffed as soon as he had caught back up with the rating.
Gants looked at him in mild alarm. “Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it,” he said in what he clearly thought was an assuring tone. “It’s just that if you look at the maintenance records of this ship and compare her to say, the Parliamentary Power — a ship of the exact same class — the information I was able to look at online would seem to indicate that the Double P only needed about a month in dry-dock before she’d be ready for a Captain and Crew, while the Lucky Clover here is going to be another three months minimum,” he shook his head. “I just don’t understand it,” he ended with a shrug.
The angry breath Spalding had been gathering slowly released, and the old engineer looked at the rating with narrowed eyes. At least the rating’s done his homework before putting his two cents in,he finally decided.
“There’s more to a ship than just the maintenance logs,” he said stiffly, unable to allow this slur against the greatest ship to ever leave a Caprian shipyard to pass entirely unopposed. “Why, this ship’s been through any number of scrapes and come out the other end whole.”
“I’m not saying anything against the Lucky Clover,” the rating added hastily.
“Could be they recognize the inherent value in a well and proven fighter like the Clover,” Spalding expounded, “or just as likely it could be that because, while the Clover’s a lucky vessel — hence the name — the Parliamentary Power’s stuck in a repair cradle almost as often as she can be found on active duty,” he explained.
“I’ve never heard of anything about that,” Gants said, sounding surprised.
“Oh, aye,” Spalding confided, “they try to cover it up, but the Double P’s a terrible hanger baby, that one,” he said disgustedly. “Always something going wrong with her; back when she was still on active duty, if it wasn’t the fusion generators acting up it was one of her main trunk lines. If it wasn’t a trunk line, it was a misfunctioning shield generator! Quite frankly it’s amazing she’s still in the boneyard, when other, more reliable ships have already been sent off to the breakers.”
“Probably near and dear to some elected MP’s heart,” Gants said with a shrug.
“With a name like that, it’s bound to have been more than just one,” Spalding said with a laugh.
“How far do we have to go to reach main environmental?” Gants inquired, as the cart took on a series of increasingly uncontrollable movements.
Spalding made a snap judgment. “Oh, it’s not that far from here,” he said, “but I think we’ll be making a quick stop first; I need to get this here pallet of used filters off the ship before end of shift.”
“Sure thing, Sir,” Gants said cheerfully, “I’m more than happy to tag along, if you’re willing to sign a slip saying how I was temporarily re-assigned and not simply slacking off in my quarters.”
“Good lad,” Spalding said, pleasantly surprised at the can-do attitude that was surprisingly lacking in most young people now a days, “a man after me own heart.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Gants said happily.
Spalding was about to direct him to the nearest lift when the cart suddenly froze in place.
“What in the world?” exclaimed Gants, jerking and tugging on the now completely unresponsive cart.
“What the Murphy did you do to it, Gants?” Spalding glared at the young rating.
“Nothing, Lieutenant, honest!” exclaimed Gants.
“Oh, of all the monkeys in this extended auto-wrench,” grunted Spalding as he lowered himself to his knees so he could take a look underneath the carriage.
“What are you looking for under there, Sir?” asked Gants. “The repulsors are still working; it must be a problem with the control hardware or programming.”
“Got an automatic override for the control system underneath here,” wheezed the old Engineer, feeling around underneath the carriage. “It’s an old style override, and they put it in just about the dumbest place you could imagine.”
“Uh, what if it cuts off the grav-system as soon as you trip the switch,” asked Gants warily, looking at the older man’s arm extended underneath a cart that was suspended in the air by nothing more than four misfiring repulsor plates.
“Ah ha!” Spalding said triumphantly.
The lights on the cart immediately turned off and the repulsors lost power, causing the cart to land with a crash on the duralloy floor.
“Argh!” screamed the ancient Engineer.
The Deposed King
Emil - September 23, 2013 11:26 am
Oh, my, gaaaaawd!! *Girly scream’
I want more!
N.1 Euro Fan
Harlequin - September 25, 2013 1:20 pm
….Interesting….but Im more impatient for ‘Revenge’. Never been a fan of prequels, unless they are well rewritten and independent of the main story line, (which this is not). If they’re not, it always feels like I gave into temptation and paid for a parasitic story which has latched on to the rest of the series. They usually, in that case,contribute little strength to the Storyline overall (in my opinion). Gotta say with the exception of the ‘Boar Knife’ – which I’ve read and is a decent and good backstory for ‘the Blooding’ – I’m skeptical when it comes to buying and reading the other prequel you published about the Admirals Wife.
The Deposed King - September 25, 2013 5:59 pm
I’m impatient for Revenge to be finished too! On your other point all I can say is… ‘interesting’.
This Spalding Short is going up for free and Admiral’s Lady: Eyes of Ice Heart of Fire goes up for free periodically. The next time being this upcoming weekend. So it will be purchasable for free in just a couple days.
I would also say that the writing is essentially the same as the rest of the series.
That said I’m a great despiser of pre-quels myself, mainly on general principle, so if you wouldn’t want to read them even still, I totally get it.
Although I do think that there are a few gems to be found in this short story that will help with hints for the continuing story line and that the Akantha novella helps show a little bit more of Tracto and its Culture.
Purely as an FYI, I originally wrote the Boar Knife as the opening of Book One but the book got too large and my brother made the editorial decision to chop it off and make a prequel out of it. We reworked both Boar Knife and Blooding after the separation and viola. Presto-rearrango.
The Deposed King
Ulrich - September 26, 2013 7:05 am
I believe you must be a very evil guy to end the snipped there. That point for ending the story plot is really evil. Now as I explained before I still believe you should put somethig that way at the end of the normal e-books, possibly with a mentioning that it as out there as a free storry plot on the BLOG before, getting more people to look to the blog for more stuff.
On the case of Pre-quel – now personally I don’t have a problem with them as long as they are used to make a good impression and give some backround information.
Advancing the characters or giving backround is a good thing. I like it when you were giving a meaning to the shorting *DI* as I couldn’t make any sense by is. Still don’t know for sure what is been meant but now I have a point to begin some research onto it.
The Deposed King - September 26, 2013 7:54 am
I fully admit to my evilness. But don’t worry I’m just waiting on the brother to send me over the next chapter in the short story. A chapter which he assures me he’s already edited but just needs to upload and send. so as soon as its in my hands I’ll be putting up the next chapter!
Also for those of you who’ve been following the blog religiously, here’s another gem. Right now Revenge is up to 141k words written and it looks to hit at least 150k. So it will definitely be the biggest book to date, unless of course my brother decides to trim some of it! Regardless I’m closing in on the final maneuver of the battle and the final sequence!
The Deposed King
Kitten - September 26, 2013 8:10 am
But about the discussion of prequels imma gonna have to swing the opposite way, sort of…
I am not the biggest fan of prequels but there are a few exceptions in which I think a prequel is actually needed, Take Hugh Howey’s ‘Wool’ for example, ‘Wool’ is a great story but the addition of ‘Shift’, the prequel, it made the story better as there are somethings that would ruin the original story if they were told before the fact.
As for TSS, I personally would love to read about Jason before the old command left, so I can get more of a better understanding of the underlining universe and why everything is as everything is but I would prefer this to come after we find out why the old admiral left as I don’t want any twists or turns ruined before they should be… If you get what I mean… Also, I loved Akantha novel, especially when it came to the ending… But I don’t know why but I think I might be the only one who wants to see (Read: read) more of her and more of her point of view of Jason’s actions… I like the dynamic between her and Jason and really hope for more of it!
But, well, that’s just my opinion.