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   Chapter 5 No.5

Prodigal Sun By Christina Engela Characters: 5615

Updated: 2018-07-01 19:01

"Yes, Skipper." Riley grinned from behind his smeared windscreens. "Of course!"

"Was it?"

"Yes, Skipper!"

"Are you sure?"

"It had three little black stripes on it, Skipper!"

"Thank the gods for that!" Smythe muttered. Then he risked a glance at the top of the pod. Smoke was still billowing from the opening. Then he looked round at the assembled Skegg's Valley Dynamite Fishing Club and lamented, his voice getting louder every other word:

"Sixty-nine years old! Sixty-nine! Glasses so thick they could stop actual fucking bullets – the muscle-tone of wet tissue paper, and you manage a throw like that, at an elevated, obscured target from ten meters, in near total darkness!"

"Just lucky I guess, Skipper." Riley grinned at him, perhaps mistaking the General's reaction for praise.

"I'm serious!" Smythe lamented. "How? Why? What the hell were you thinking, man?"

"Sorry, Skipper – they could've been dangerous!" Riley argued apologetically and awkwardly in an even more tense moment filled with the faint sound of six old soldiers trying to shuffle their feet while sitting on them.

"I suppose he's right." Said Atkins, not really helping Riley's case. "What if it's an alien in there, eh? A hostile alien, eh?"

The General slumped and resumed slowly shaking his head again. It occurred to him that he spent so much time shaking his head in disbelief these days, he seemed to be coming down with Alzheimer's. An alien life form using a recognizable Terran life pod? Not inconceivable, he supposed – but a hostile alien? Most known aliens were friendly and had friendship treaties with the Terran Empire, except for the Ruminarii – and they didn't interact with the Terrans at all – and nor did they believe in life pods – even though the things obviously existed.

"And we've got no weapons!" Riley continued, perking up and raising a bold forefinger as he realized the need to find extenuating circumstances. "Well, except for the paddles!"

"So that was a paddle you threw just now, was it?" Smythe retorted sarcastically. "Great! Just bloody great!"

Smythe hoped whoever was inside, they didn't wake up too pissed off. Or worse still, wake up pissed off – with a blaster. At any rate, he hoped the occupants didn't come looking for them.

Time to make themselves scarce, he thought, discretion being the better part of valor. At least the fish didn't come after them with high-energy weapons. Not yet, at least. Right, then.

"Hrrrm! Okay, let's be off – back to the fishing then." Smythe decided. "Before he – or it – wakes up and starts asking questions!"

"But, Skipper –"Atkins objected. "Aren't we at least going to take a look inside?"

"I think it's best we were on our way – before we cause any more damage, don't you?"

"Yes, but –"


put that poor bugger through enough already, don't you think?"

"Yes, but –"

"Ship all messed up in space, crashing here in the river, getting blown up by Riley…"

"Yes, but –"

"Never mind that!" Smythe replied in his genteel manner that left his audience with no false impressions that his was a mind that would be changed by further debate. "We're not soldiers anymore – we're supposed to be fishermen, and now let that be the end of it!"

It was only some time later, when he had calmed down a little and settled back into the familiar and therapeutic rhythm of paddling and muted swearing, that Smythe remembered the small insignificant detail that had eluded him earlier.

"Oh, crap!" He muttered under his breath. "Dammit! Still, it's too late now though…"

General Smythe (retired) shrugged pragmatically, grateful that he was no longer expected to actually give account of his actions to a higher HQ, and then resumed paddling.

* * *

Brandon Carver, or rather, the person of interest who was attached to that name for the moment, awoke sprawled on the rear bulkhead of his life pod, which gravity seemed to indicate was now the floor. He coughed, squinting with disbelief at one or two little smoke rings which drifted above him before quickly dissipating. His head was ringing like the inside of a church bell on a Sunday morning – and he hated church, almost as much as he hated Sundays and mornings.

He was accustomed to things going wrong, even on a regular basis – but he wasn't used to things going as badly wrong as this! Things usually went according to plan – roughly, but this trip so far had been rather bumpy, and even jinxed from the outset!

He noticed the peculiar sun-burned feeling on his face, even worse than before. And everyelsewhere too, for that matter. Hmmph. 'Everyelsewhere!' He pondered that interestifying word for a moment.

Must be a concussion, he thought dismissively. His black clothes were a little more blackened, if that were even possible – and a little ragged too. His dark hair had taken on a frazzled blown-back kind of look and his abdomen felt like he'd been tap-danced on by a very large animal with big heavy feet – quite possibly a pink one, taking recent events into account. On top of that, he was feeling a little queasy. The whole pod seemed to be quickly rocking in all directions. Hadn't he landed yet? He was sure he remembered the impact. Or impact of a sort.

The landing was pretty rough – rougher than expected. No control, blasted life-pods! Anyway, it wasn't supposed to go that way… Thump-thump, his head went with the headache from hell as he sat up to survey the oddly blackened and smoky interior of the life pod, listening to the roaring sound in his head while he made sense of the world around him.

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