Prosperous: Chutes & Ladders

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Chapter 15

TRU ROUNDED THE CORNER, ENTERING THE BRIG. EXUM ZALET WAS WORKING in his office at the back of the Brig. For the last week Security hadn’t called Tru for any fights or insubordination. Momentarily, Tru wondered if Avinions felt the same relief that humans did when their job became less stressful.

Zalet was an Avinion, and the species intrigued Tru. They looked like someone had crossed a nearly starved human and demon, to get a creature nearly two meters high, with a face that was long, gaunt, and gnarled, and a body of chalk white skin hanging like cloth from a superficial frail skeleton. Anyone who did think their appearance meant they were frail, was falling for an illusion. When he had sparred with a few in his defense training he’d became painfully aware of how strong and intellegent they were. Most took careers in the sciences, but a handful gravitated toward legal and law enforcement positions.

Tru remembered some advice his father had given him: When you get to pick your own security, ask for an Avinion or Jaque to be the head man. They are often psychics, loyal, strong, smart, and know when a fight is coming before the first punch is thrown.

Tru walked around the control center in the middle of the brig, watching the Avinion’s brilliant purple eyes look up to meet his.

“Good afternoon, Chief Zalet.”

Zalet smiled, but it looked sad. Of course, all Avinions smiled like that. Tru didn’t know why their smile looked like that becuase he had never had an Avinion patient and to his knowledge, no xeno-psychiatrist ever had. Short of medical emergencies, they refused to see a doctor who wasn’t an Avinion.

Zalet slowly motioned to a chair opposite his desk, saying languidly, “Please, have a seat, Captain.”

Avinions believed haste was unbecoming and a sign of a weak mind. They believed decisions and reactions should be thought on, considered, reconsidered, and then acted upon. But if anyone believed that they couldn’t or wouldn’t move fast, that person had never seen one in battle. On the last ship he had been on, they had been attacked by mauraders. He watched the Avinions take up arms, move like liquid, and kill with deadly accuracy, and those Avinions were scientists. He could only imagine how lethal one with combat training was.

“Thank you.” Tru sat down. “How are things going for you?”

“You’re new policy is keeping me and my crew busy.”

Tru’s eyebrows lifted. Was that humor or anger in the remark? Zalet smiled again and Tru returned it.

“There hadn’t been any reports of fights or insubordination all week. I thought the crew was behaving themselves.”

“You made your policy quite clear. There has been no need to concern you.”

“Thank you, but going forward, please concern me.”

“As you wish, Captain.” Zalet looked at the doc-slips on his desk. “I released Ensign Rhoades this morning.”

“How was she? I haven’t seen her all day.”

“She spent three days yelling, two crying, and the last two sitting on the bunk doing nothing. I hope her stay has convinced her of the importance of confidentiality.”

“Me too. I stopped by to ask if you’ve worked out the details on Wrigley’s training regiment.”

“I have.” Zalet picked up a doc-slip, looking it over. “I believe a four day regiment will keep them occupied, and that we should continue it through the entire stint. One of my crewman worked out classes of equal numbers of crewmen with higher defense ranks to those with lower defense ranks. A higher rank will be matched with a lower rank so they can symbiotically train each other.”

“Whose idea was that?”

“XO Wrigley’s. Her days as a teacher came through on this assignment, I believe. Ambassador Anderson was in here earlier looking for Warrant Officer Tobbin and he looked it over. He felt we were wasting our time.”

“He has kept to himeslf since we left spaceport. He’s only come out to look for Officer Tobbin. I told Tobbin he was looking for him, but he didn’t seem anxious to meet with him. Do you suspect there might be something between the two?”


“Let me see the plans for the regiment so far.” Tru held out his hand for the doc-slip.

Zalet handed it to over.

As soon as Tru’s fingers closed around the slip, he was thrust into a premonition.

Tru stood in the corner of a bedroom. In the bed a man and woman were having sex and it sounded like the woman was close to her climax. In the dim lit room, Tru couldn’t see the man’s face.

Ambassador Samual Anderson burst into the room, startling the couple. He gripped a laser pistol in his trembling right hand and his face was flushed. He was dressed in a worn shirt, old jeans, and loafers.

“SAM!” the woman cried.

The man under her pulled away, reaching for his shirt.

Anderson aimed at the man and fired. The man dodged the shot, grabbing his clothes as he made a break for a door across the room. Anderson fired again. The shot hit the wall.

“GET BACK HERE YOU MERCHANT RAITOR SCUM!” he screamed, firing again.

The laser hit the door, burning a hole through it, but missing the man as he escaped. Anderson turned his weapon on the woman.

“Who is he, Melanie?”


Anderson fired at her, the laser passing over her shoulder. It singed her hair and punched a hole through the wall. She jumped and started crying.



“Tobbin what? I want his name, his rank, and what ship he’s assigned to. You only bring him here the day before he ships out, bitch! I want his name!”

She shook her head. He stormed up to the bed and hit her across the face with the pistol, then jabbed it into her throat. She cried harder.


“Austin Tobbin.”


“Chief Warrant Officer, Second Class.”


“He was just assigned to Prosperous.”

Anderson backed off. “Get dressed. There’s a car waiting outside for you.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Sam. I’m not—”

He shot her leg. She screamed, grabbing it.

“You need to go to the hospital, honey. That looks like a nasty suater burn you got while working on your art.”

She looked up at him. “Sam…”

“Get. Dressed!”

She scrambled out of bed and dressed with shaking hands. He put his arm around her and helped her limp out of the room.

In a whirl of sound and color, Tru suddenly found himself sitting at a table in a bar. Anderson clutched a drink in his hands as he glared at the table. Tru looked up, seeing a Righellian walking toward them. He looked like a Chamomelean covered in green scales with a yellow sheen. The only clothing a Righellian wore was a sash tied around their middle. The Righelion slid into the chair opposite of Tru. Although in premonitions Tru always heard exactly what he had been brought to the past or future to hear, he instinctively leaned in closer.

“What was so urgent, Sam?”

Anderson looked at him. “I caught her with that damn Merchant Raitor grunt!”

The Righellian glanced over his shoulder. Tru looked past him. There was a group of men and women at the end of the bar wearing Merchant Raitor uniforms. They were laughing and talking loud, oblivious of the sideous conversation across the room. The Righellian looked back.

“This isn’t the place to talk about it.”

Anderson smirked. “She was screaming she would leave me in the car. She’s not leaving me. She had no idea what I will do to keep her.”

“What did… What did you do to Melanie, Sam?”

Anderson swallowed the last of his drink. “Put her some place safe.”

“Did you kill her?”

“No. I need a favor, Cyne.” Anderson looked up at him. “I need to get on Prosperous. It’s going to Righel.”

“There’s a ship leaving now. I can—”

“Prosperous, Cyne. I need Prosperous.”


“The scum is assigned to that ship. I confirmed it. He has to die.”

“Sam, no. Don’t do that on a ship.”

Anderson looked at his glass. “I know everything Merchant Raitor has on that ship. I know where I can do it and no one will catch me. I just have to figure out a good lure. Get me on that ship, Cyne.”

Cyne nodded. “You didn’t kill Melanie did you? As an Ambassador of Righel, you know killing a spouse out of anger is illegal.”

“I didn’t kill her. But I can kill him. It’s in the right of protecting a male’s property.”

“If you’re caught killing him on a Merchant Raitor ship, you won’t have immunity.”

“I haven’t met a Merchant Raitor captain yet that knew Ambassadors don’t have immunity on their ship, but I’m not going to get caught, either. I need on that ship, Cyne.”

Cyne’s lips curled into a smile, revealing sharp yellow-gray teeth. “I have the perfect cover. I was asked to send someone back to check on our financial affairs. It’s boring, but it’s a good cover, and you’re low enough on the chain of command that no one will question it.”

Anderson smiled a cold smile, nodding.

The world reeled and Tru found himself standing next to Anderson and Chief Warrant Officer Austin Tobbin. Anderson had Tobbin pinned against a wall with a laser pistol jammed under the grunt’s chin.

“Were you enjoying my wife?” Anderson hissed.

Tobbin was too afraid to move. Tru turned, trying to get a sense of time and place.



“No? My wife was a bad lay? You’re saying my wife isn’t worth fucking?”

Tru glanced back. Tobbin closed his eyes tight, starting to cry.

“I thought Merchant Raitor grunts were trained to handle anything.”

“Sir, I’m sorry. I didn’t—”

“Sorry?” Anderson hissed. “How can you be sorry when you knowingly screwed another man’s wife, Austin? How does that work?”

Tru suddenly realized he was in a transport shuttle. Of course. That’s the only place the Prosperous sensors wouldn’t detect a weapon discharge.

See you in hell, Tobbin,” Anderson hissed.

The sound of the laser pistol going off made Tru spin around.

The laser cut through Tobbin’s throat and shot out of the top of his head. His eyes widened for a moment as the light behind them disappeared. Anderson stepped back, watching him slide to the floor. Rasberry red blood drained from the wound, pooling around Tobbin’s head. Anderson walked to the transport, dropped the weapon on it, and tapped the controls. He hurried out and moments later the weapon transported out of the shuttle.

The feeling of hands grabbing Tru threw him off guard. They were trying to force him back into the present. His face twisted with determination and he sucked a breath between his teeth. He tensed his stomach muscles, pulling away from the force. Staggering under the pressure, he made his way to controls near him. He had to figure out when this was going to happen.

There was no time or date on the controls, but something did catch his eye. He leaned in closer to the screen. Suddenly he was yanked out of the future and mercilessly tossed back to the present.

Tru gasped and fell to his knees. He closed his eyes, wincing as every breath felt like knives drug across his lungs. Zalet stood next to him, trying to pull the doc-slip from his hand.

“Are you all right?” Zalet asked.

“Ambassador Anderson is going to kill officer Tobbin. Gracie?”


“What transport shuttles has I.T. scheduled for software updates?” Tru put a shaking hand to his mouth, swallowing down the urge to vomit.

Shuttles two and six.

“When are they starting it?”

In ten minutes.

“Zalet, he’ll be in one of those shuttles. If he isn’t there, wait for him and arrest him on sight.”

“How do you know—”

Tru held his stomach. He wasn’t going to be able to hold it back for much longer.

“Don’t question my orders! Just hurry!”

“Gracie, alert security to the potential murder and transport me to shuttle two,” Zalet said.

He was transported from the room.

“How long was the premonition, Gracie?”

Five minutes and thirty-seven seconds. I recorded your vitals. Shall I save them?

“Yes.” He closed his eyes. “Gracie… I… I…” Tru leapt to his feet and ran into the bathroom in the corner of the office to vomit. “My quarters, Gracie.”

I’m detecting erratic vitals. I will transport you to Sickbay.

“No. My quart…” Tru vomited again. When he stopped he whispered, “My quarters, Gracie.”

She obeyed.

Trusting your heart is foolish. Not trusting it is suicide.

—Froalb proverb

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