Prosperous: Chutes & Ladders

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Chapter 11

TRU STOPPED OUTSIDE AMBASSADOR ANDERSON’S DOOR, TAPPING THE doorbell. After a few moments the door opened. The man wore a dark red Drasparah linen robe. In one hand he held a glass containing a carmel colored drink and with the other a long Havana cigar.

“Admiral Larson said your mother-in-law has contacted him again about her daughter. Did you contact your wife and ask her to contact her mother?”

“Yes.”

Tru frowned when his stomach turned. Anderson had done no such thing.

“Perhaps you should send your mother-in-law a letter to reassure her that her daughter is okay.”

“Even if I tell that bi… woman that my wife is spending a month on Venius she wouldn’t believe me.”

“Is she?” Tru asked him.

“Is she what?”

“Is your wive on Venius?”

“I don’t know.”

The lie twisted Tru’s belly. For a moment he bit down hard to resist vomitting.

“When did you talk to her last?”

“What business is that of yours?” he snarled.

Tru’s chin lifted. “None, except that if you don’t contact your mother-in-law, Admiral Larson will continue contacting me until you do. I advise you to decide on a course of action to deal with your domestic situation. It’s starting to interfere with this ship’s business.”

Anderson smirked. “I find that improbable.” He stepped back so the door closed before Tru could reply.

Tru reached out to touch the doorbell again. He wasn’t about to let the conversation end here.

The ship alarm suddenly went off and the warning lights along the baseboard and ceiling began throbbing red.

A recorded voice warned, “Malfunction has been detected in aft cannons. System overload detected and temperature is rising to critical. Please evacuate to the nearest life boat.”

Tru inhaled and exhaled slowly. Each day this horrible crew pushed his buttons, he was finding it harder to control his temper! Putting up with this erroneous warning for a week and a half, at all hours, was not helping his ever thinning patience.

“It’s a simple alarm malfunction,” Tru growled to himself. “How damned time consuming can it be to fix?”

He charged off down the hall. If his chief engineer was too lazy to fix it, he’d do it himself.


Commader Ag, a burly, out of shape, Drasparah and the Chief Engineer, crawled through the access tunnel behind Tru. Behind him followed Lieutenant Dalekechi, a limber and agile Quiir. In these tunnels it was apparent that Quiir’s ancestors were once Formicoidea. Dalekechi had no trouble navigating these tunnels unlike the human and Drasparah ahead of him.

“I think we should consider upgrading the injectors in this section,” Lieutenant Dalekchi said.

“You shouldn’t think at all,” Ag snarled at the Quiir.

“You may outrank me, but you can’t stop me from thinking, Commander Ag,” Dalekchi replied.

“Don’t bet your offspring’s life on that, Lieutenant!”

Tru glanced at them. Was it their dark history that created their tension, or the fact that Ag was hiding his embaressment of Tru doing his job? Tru hadn’t even climbed into the access tunnels before Ag came running with Lieutenant Dalekchi trailing behind.

“You know, Ag, if you’d have fixed this when the Captain first asked, we wouldn’t be in trouble at all. At least I was doing my job.”

Tru looked away, seeing the bulkhead door ahead. He stopped and turned his head to tell them. The two had stopped becuase Dalekchi was blocking Ag.

“This alarm isn’t the only thing that needs fixed on this ship you damned Quiir!” Ag snarled. Then he turned his scowl on Tru. “Which I can’t fix because you’re damned computer won’t allow me access to areas to fix all those other things!”

Tru ignored his anger and pointed at the door. “We’re here. Let’s focus.”

Ag made a sound like a growl. It was a sound Tru had never heard a Drasparah make, and judging from the look on Dalekchi’s face, neither had he. None of them moved for several minutes.

“Are we going in there or sitting out here?” Ag snapped.

Tru tapped a control by the door and they climbed onto a cannon shaft catwalk. There were six catwalks that ran the circumferance of the circular shaft, each reached by a maintenance lift or access tunnels. The group had come out on the second level and from here they could look straight up the cannon muzzle. The deadly energy components inside were hidden in darkness, awaiting commands to destroy. Age and experience had quashed Tru’s childhood longing for battles and these days he was happy to see the cannon in this peaceful position.

“Lieutenant, go check the temperature sensors. I’ll start weapons diagnostics,” Ag ordered.

“What would you like me to do?” Tru asked.

Ag moved back a step. “Sir?”

“What would you like me to do?”

Ag was silent a moment, and then pointed to a terminal station on the other side of the room. “The problem could also be in the relays. Do you know how to run diagnostics on them?”

“Yes.”

Tru walked over to the terminal, and realized the diagnositic would only take a few minutes. He turned to ask what else he could do but stopped to stare. Dalekchi was climbing up the cannon like he was able to defy gravity.

Tru turned back to the panel and opened the cover. He laid a hand next to the controls and gasped as a premonition grabbed his consciousnes, violently yanking it through time.


A warning alarm was going off. Tru looked up, seeing the cannon gliding down the shaft, called to defend the ship that housed it. He walked around the weapon as the arm lowered. Below him the cannon cover opened and the shaft depressurized. A small voice told him that he should be gasping for oxygen and the near hurricane force wind caused by the depressurization should be pulling him out of the ship, but that voice was easy to ignore.

As the end of the cannon glided past him, sparks leapt off of it. He climbed over the railing and jumped onto the cannon. Scorched metal showed where sparks from a damaged power cable had been burning it for months. His attention went to a warped cover. Tru pulled it off, finding the source of the persistant warning. Under him he felt the cannon began to vibrate as it charged up to fire.

Tru looked up. The cannon was locked into place outside the ship, exposing him to outer space. Nearby a sun glowed brightly and he saw an enormous gas planet in the distance. A ship bore down on Prosperous, firing at her. The ship passed as the cannon turned to take aim. Tru whipped his head around to keep his eyes on it. The ship’s hull wavered and the outer hull shed like a snake’s skin to reveal a completely different hull. It was a Terallian attack raider and the emblem on the nose was the Terallian Battle Fleet.

But Terallians were Merchant Raitor allies. Why would they be attacking another Merchant Raitor ship? Was this a premonition of the past? No. This had to be a premonition of the future.

Tru suddenly found himself back inside Prosperous standing on the catwalk. The canon fired a laser beam, but the blast went the wrong direction. It fired back up the cannon, up the cabeling and blew a hole five decks up. Seven crewmen fell into the hole, two of them burned beyond recognition. With complaining, groaning metal, the cannon broken free from its housing and joints, and dropped into space. Tru looked up at the large hole in his ship. Something dark and organic hung from between the damaged decks and the inner and outer hull. A deep Carmine red liquid spurted into space, freezing as it came in contact with the sub-zero temperature of space.

Tru’s vision began to violently shake and he felt like he was being torn in half.

He heard someone quietly tell him, “Come back now, son.”


Tru gasped, unexpectantly finding himself in the present. Two pairs of hands held his arms and pushed back on his chest. Tru looked down, finding he was standing on the top rung of the railing that ran around the inside of the catwalk. The cannon hatch was a deck below and while a fall from here probably wouldn’t kill him, but he wouldn’t have escaped without something broken. Tru jumped back onto the catwalk and safety and leaned back against a wall. He leaned on his legs, panting to catch his breath. He knew Commander Ag and Lieutenant Dalekchi were staring at him, but his ability to speak wouldn’t return until he could breathe.

“The buffer chips are fried from a short in the power cable. If we have to fire the cannon, it will blow a hole five decks up. Take it off line until you have it fixed and make this a priority.”

“How do you know that?” Ag asked.

“Why you were about to jump over the railing, sir?” Dalekchi asked.

Tru closed his eyes, swallowing hard. “It’s a long story. Do as your ordered. If you delay this time, you’ll endanger everyone’s life, Ag.”

“Aye, sir. Lieutenant, go back and get Ensign Flavaa and tools. I’ll meet you at the top catwalk.”

Dalekchi left and Ag headed for the lift. Tru leaned on the railing, staring at the hatch below him.

“Gracie,” he muttered.

Yes? she asked.

“Transport me to my quarters.”

Tru was transported out of the room.


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