Chapter 23 of Death and Coping


Finally gotten around to updating Death and Coping and here is the long past due Chapter 23. If you haven't read any previous chapters, head to to check out the full story as well as many other by myself and several other authors. Here's the chapter and enjoy.
Chapter 23

The Tao sailed through the dark expanse of space, slowly drawing closer towards Kilrathi space. Kevin sat at the controls and steered the craft to the Jump Point. He watched the radar intently, fully aware that Kilrathi or pirates could attack at any time. Ever since the end of the war the frontier regions of Border Worlds space had become very dangerous due to lack of border patrols. He looked up as Blair entered the cockpit and sat down in the co-pilots chair. They sat there in silence, the hum of the air purifier the only sound, enjoying the feeling of being in the cockpit of a ship. It was an indescribable thing to those who had never had that power in their hands, something both wonderful and horrible at once. Nothing felt like it. Finally, Blair spoke.

"How close are we?"

"We should be less than ten minutes out now. It's pretty quiet out there though," Kevin said as he checked his radar again.

"Are you expecting trouble?"

"It's not that really. I'm not even picking up stray transmissions from the Kilrathi."

"I don't understand. We're not in their space yet."

"They have a minor listening post at the jump point. It's nothing more than a relay actually, let's the Kilrathi know what's coming to their sector. It usually leaks a little background noise but now, nothing."

Blair mulled on that, thinking of the possible consequences. "Do you think something's wrong?"

"Probably not but at the stillness out there is making me tense. Have you ever felt that feeling out here that something is up but you can't put a finger on it? It's making the hairs on my neck stand up."

"Someone just stepped on your grave."

"What?" Kevin asked, confused.

"A very old earth saying. That chill you're feeling is the feeling of someone walking on your grave. Usually not a good omen to say the least. I've had it enough in my career to know what you mean."

"Anyway, we're just about there so you might want to go back and wake up Janet."

Blair nodded and stood up, leaving the cockpit. He walked down the corridor, having to hunch down to crawl through most of the doorways. Despite the size of Galaxy class ships they had very cramped living quarters. All cargo and a little space for some beds and mini-kitchen. He reached bunks and entered, finding Janet curled up on the bed. She was obviously awake but she was very still, her knees drawn up to her chin. Blair reached out and touched her shoulder.

"Janet?" He asked, concerned.

"Yes..." she whispered back.

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah... Just wanting something bad right now, is all. What'd you want," she asked. Her voice had a slight tremor in it.

"We're almost ready to make the jump. Kevin thinks there might be trouble."

"What's your game plan?"

"Still working on it," Blair said sheepishly. Despite a strong urge to head to Kilrathi space he still had no idea on what he was trying to do.

"You haven't figured it out yet?" she asked, surprised. She had figured that the boy scout always had everything figured out. He was probably like some pilots she had known. Throw them into a firefight and they react without even thinking about it. They just get the job done. But take them out of the cockpit and they are much more sluggish. Their fighter is so much a part of them that they are missing something without it. It reassured her somehow that he wasn't on top of everything.

"No. I guess I will need to get in touch with an official. Most random Kilrathi would probably kill me as do anything else."

"Imagine the nerve of them to be angry at you for destroying their homeworld," she said harshly. Blair said nothing, his eyes locked on hers, hurt. The lack of painkillers was stressing her, making her lash out. "Sorry, I didn't mean that. Just make sure you don't get us killed along with you."

"I won't. I'm not in any hurry to die myself."

They both got up and headed back to the cockpit. They both managed to squeeze in and they buckled in. Kevin nodded curtly towards Blair and flashed a bright smile at Janet as they approached the point.

"Jump in five... four... three... two... one..."

Space folded before them and it twisted and curled upon itself as it was split asunder by the engines of the Tao as it tore through the fabric of space-time. Colors that no human eye could describe exploded before them as time slowed down to a crawl. Then, without warning, reality snapped back into place as the Tao entered normal space again. Before them laid a bright yellow sun and off to the distance a bright speck that had to be the Kilrathi colony. Kevin checked the radar and the comm. and frowned as he plotted a course to the colony.

"Something's wrong," he said uneasily.

"Where are the ships? There should be at least something out there on patrol," Blair said. There was a wrongness to the whole situation.

"Nothing on the scanners, no ships, no comms," Kevin said. He frowned and put on his headset. "Kilrathi colony T'mog, this is the Border Worlds freighter Tao requesting permission to approach your space. Repeat this is the Border Worlds freighter Tao requesting permission to enter your space." The only thing to reply was static. "This is very wrong. T'mog is one of their largest agri-worlds. They just wouldn't abandon it.

"Approach the colony, maybe that will get their attention. Maybe their transmitters are down," Blair said. He didn't know why but he doubted it was something so simple.

"Bringing us in nice and slow so we don't panic them. I'll put the message on auto-repeat in case they're occupied at the moment." They sat wordlessly as the planet slowly grew larger until it took up the entire viewscreen.

"What's our range?" Blair asked.

"I'm holding at 1000 kilometers. Still no comm. traffic and nothing solid on radar."

"Could it be cloaked Kilrathi?"

"Doubt it, actually looks like debris reading or something similar. Not getting any power reading anyway. Hold it, the comp's tracked down the capitol. Zooming in now." They all watched the viewscreen as it focused in on the scene before them, zooming in on a smaller and smaller region until it maxed out its resolution. Nothing could be seen except several dark hazy clouds floating over the city.

"The city's on fire..." Blair said gravely. He had seen clouds like those before. He had caused clouds like that before. Nothing else quite looked like them. They seemed almost evil.

"Are you sure?" Janet asked.

"Trust me, I know."

"You mean someone assaulted the colony?" Kevin asked. Blair nodded gravely, his face intent. "Well, what now then?"

"We go down and see if we can help. Maybe figure out what's going on."

"You're kidding right? What if whoever did this decides to come back."

"Listen, we have to go down. I have to go down there and see what happened." Blair said intensely.

"Do you know something that we don't know? This is crazy." Kevin said.

"I hope to God not. Please... Just trust me on this." Kevin shrugged and took controls and begun to bring the Tao into the atmosphere. Blair sat, watching the screen and could not forget his dream. As they headed down all he could think of was it and of Hobbes' words to him. Help us, Heart of the Tiger. We are dying.

There is no God but myself. No destiny but what I deem for me. I walk my path and no others, for I am free.