Friday, September 26, 2014

Dwarves in Space - Free Radicals

Here's a little Dwarves in Space preview of a novella I wrote. It's about a group trying to take a space station. The crew are stranded together in different clumps across the station and have to fight to get out alive. In this one my dwarf - Orn, is with one of my elves - Brena.

Free Radicals

He was not a cruel man by nature, or so the therapy sessions insisted, but Orn smiled wickedly as he responded to the Captain’s trap. He may not want to know the details of what she was up to, but he reveled in knowing he could sew a kernel of chaos into the festivities. It only seemed fair; he’d somewhat assisted in the butter acquisition. Well, he didn’t impede it entirely.

Orn put down his PALM and flexed the motors in his typing hand. He’d have preferred to have the chip implanted in his right hand, but the damn device could only run on “body energy” and background MGC. Even going through a gargoyle rep ended in a lot of angry calls about how he didn’t need his stone polished!

His fourth finger froze during his flex and he shook his hand, trying to restart the motors. “Gnome built piece of shit,” he cursed while twisting his finger in ways that would invert the stomachs of most organics. The cold elf eyed him out of curiosity but didn’t turn away. He’d never thought much about Brena aside from the occasional need to accuse his captain of engaging in some illicit affairs with the bard to keep sharp. A warmth never reached those yellow eyes. Sure, you’d get that ice princess schtick off most Dulcens, but once they were out of polite company they could fart and belch as powerfully as any dwarf. Brena was different, in a way that should disquiet Orn if he cared.

Cracking the errant finger, a familiar whirr began below his glove and it curled up with the rest of its brethren. Having solved his problem, Orn scanned the area seeing if anyone else watched him struggle. The upper balcony thinned as people escaped the afternoon doldrums. Only a pair of dwarven girls chattered like mine birds outside a very shiny store. If he was 20 years younger, he’d have felt terrified at their mere existence. Now, with age and wisdom, he tried to block them out entirely.

The elf said something, her eyes peering across the vast expanse of the shopping experience below her. Orn couldn’t make it out through the rising pitch of the teenagers. He took one step closer to her when the world exploded.

The force hit first. Tossed like a tissue in a hurricane, Orn’s body flew back from the balcony. Pain lanced across his spine and around his ribs. Only the sound of waves lapping against a smooth shoreline thundered through his head. He opened stubborn eyes and closed them immediately against the smoke.

Wiping at his face, he tried it again while a small part noted that at least his arm still worked. Broken glass glittered off the metal grating of the floor, silhouetted through the smokey fog. The dwarf put one hand on the ground and tried to rise, the waves fading as a tinny whine filled his ears. His back screamed at him to lay down and forget about this whole surviving thing, but he ignored it, trying to fall back on his haunches. The familiar drip of warm water pooled against the back of his sweater. He tried to reach for the wound, but his ribs screamed at him for trying.

“What the fuck was that?” he shouted, barely able to hear his own words over the dampening waves. “Ah shit,” he placed a finger in his ear and tried out his best curse words, all of which sounded the same with or without the mute.

A hand landed on his shoulder and he twisted, then groaned from the pain. Brena searched his face. Her own wasn’t looking so great. Red scratch marks crisscrossed her cheek as if she’d slithered across a cement floor, her hair ballooned out of that pinning thing she did until half fell while another quarter stuck out at weird angles. Blood dribbled from her mouth where she must have bitten a lip.

“Are you all right?” the elf asked.

But the Dwarf only shook his head and shouted, “What?”

“What?!” Elven hearing was more sensitive than dwarven. Fancy britches was gonna be deaf for awhile.

Orn lightly placed his right hand on her arm. She tensed after a beat, but didn’t yank his whole arm off in a Beowulf rage. Gesturing to his ear he mouthed “Gone!” then pointed to his damp and sticky back. “How bad?!” he mouthed again, looking like a mermaid gasping outside water.

Brena rose from her crouch and stepped across the detritus upon the ground, her shoes cracking the display glass from a jewelry shop. If he’d been in a better mood, Orn would have suggested doing a bit of looting before the corps arrived. As he shifted his back and felt another thrash of pain across the sinew, he dropped any pretense of rogue scoundrel and mumbled under his inaudible breath for Ferra. 

The warm hand of the elf lifted up the end of his sweater and Orn bit back the terrifying thought of how pissed his wife was gonna be. Well, she wasn’t here so maybe she wouldn’t find out. The thunderous waves of his thumping heartbeat washed away as a high pierced wail took its place. Probably an emergency alarm.

Brena touched a finger to his back. He sucked in a breath and giggled at the pain digging into his internal organs. “It is not that bad!” her soprano voice bellowed beside his ear. Girl must not have hear own hearing back.

Orn wanted to argue. By the monstrous agony, his entire spine must be hanging on by a shred, but she held up a handkerchief dotted with some of his crimson blood. Barely even enough to count as a tissue sample. Staggering up, the dwarf rose to his legs and finally surveyed the destruction before him.

Whatever happened occurred near the window. “Shit, a few more feet and we’d all be space dust now,” he whistled under his breath. A black mark scorched the ground as if a giant slammed his fist down, scattering everything in the shockwave. The reserved tables and chairs smashed into the window, leaving hairline cracks in the process. Water poured across the scorch mark, shimmering in the pulsing red light, the hand of the statue floating in the rising pool. Not a soul moved below, though bits and pieces undulated.

Orn shook his head, still trying to fight off the whine in his ears, when he turned and stopped breathing. The bannister, thick as a proper Dryad tree, was blown free of its tether straight into the stores taking anyone in the way with it. Thicker red water welled from a small arm and leg buried underneath. Nothing else was visible of whatever had once been alive for which Orn’s gag reflex was grateful. And then the other side shifted.

“Holy shit, someone’s alive under there,” Orn shouted, trying to get the elf’s attention by yanking on her sleeve.

As Brena turned to see, he scurried away, his boots crunching through shrapnel. Hopefully shrapnel that wasn’t once internal organs. Orn didn’t look at the crushed body as he rose to his toes to find the face screaming for help.

Her dark skin was pocked with microcuts from the flying glass, a pale matte overtop the natural dwarven sheen from the dust. She struggled against the pool of broken glass, trying to inch away from the blood pouring across the floor, but her legs were trapped beneath the bannister. Wild eyes didn’t see the Dwarf staring her down, all she could focus on was the sight of her legs crushed beneath an immoveable object.

“Brena!” Orn shouted, waving his arms to get the elf’s attention.

She stepped towards him, her own assessment grim, and surveyed the girl. “She will not last long.”

“Help me,” Orn said, scrambling overtop the bannister. He leaned down to the girl still pushing with all her might against the monster laying across her legs. Her hands were slick with her own blood.

“Hey, hey, what’s your name?”

“Get me out of here!” the girl shouted.

“We’re gonna do just that,” Orn said, gesturing to the elf. Brena raised her shoulders, uncertain what she could do in the situation. “Why don’t you tell me who you are,” he said as he motioned for the elf to find some leverage.

The Dulcen tossed up her hands and walked away, searching. Orn grabbed the girl’s hand, trying to stop her before she overexerted herself. She didn’t turn her head to look at the stranger holding her. Tears rolled down her cheeks, as she repeated, “I want to go home. I want to go home.”

“Sh, it’s okay. We’ll get you home,” Orn promised, uncertain if he could fulfill it. “Brena?!”

“I am coming,” the elf called. She shouted an unelfy “Yarg!” and fresh steam poured onto the still smoking corridor. She returned to the pair, a metal rod thicker than an arm in her hand.

“What is that?” Orn asked.

“Leverage,” Brena answered as she jammed the pipe into a notch below the bannister. “I will attempt to lift this while you remove the girl,” the elf explained.

Orn nodded his head as he stepped behind the girl. His hands hooked under her armpits. She tried to turn around to watch him, but couldn’t follow. Brena spat upon her hands because she’d seen so many do it before, and summoning up an elven strength, pushed down on the pipe. The bannister rose an inch.

“Come on!” Orn shouted, “You can do better than that!”

The elf glared at him, but she rose up, putting more of her weight upon the metal pipe. The bannister rose another three inches. “Remove the girl,” Brena gritted through her teeth.

“Right,” Orn tightened on her shoulders and pulled back, her body sliding with him.

“Hurry…please,” the elf said, a vein in her brow popping as she bit down on her lip. Without lowering the bannister, she tried to shove the pipe down more, getting another half inch and a pop from her shoulder.

Orn dragged the girl back, the last scrapes of her legs sliding from out of the wreckage and shouted, “She’s free!”

The bannister slammed into the ground so hard the leverage pipe flew free, careening into the air and landed with a splash in the water below. Brena popped her arm back in as she climbed over the bannister to the girl and paused. Bone and muscle were shredded as if they’d been fed into a blender. She lost nearly everything below the left knee and above the knee on the right. Orn undid the tie string on the hood of his sweater. The girl reached for Brena, smearing her in dwarven blood.

“You freed me,” she said to the aloof Duclen.

“I suppose so,” Brena answered, not lowering to her knees.

Orn breathed through his mouth as he lifted the shattered remnants of her right leg and tied his string as tight as possible. Slicing off the remnants of his ligature with a piece of glass, he repeated the procedure with the second. Blood seeped into every porous surface; it was amazing the girl yet lived.

“Why?” her voice cracked across every heartbreaking frequency as she begged, “Why did this happen?”

Orn looked up at the elf and she lightly patted the hand still clutching hers. Brena blinked against the smoke infesting her larger eyes and answered, “I do not know.”

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