protects the multiverses from threats both large and small. And they appear in serialized stories like this one!
It's been a while since I put out an installment of this story. It was last posted in May.
Our story so far: On its way to a rogue agent who is threatening to use a planet like a cue ball in a game of billiards, Seal Team i is attacked from within and without. Feel like starting at the beginning? PROBABLY A GOOD IDEA. Read part one here.
Also, when we last left off, Tommy's headless body was using it's battlesuit to attack Seal Team members, while the computer had autolocked onto a passenger cruiser that had just come out of a warp run. Let's pick things up there.
Rhett was bored, again.
He stared across the table at his eating companions, people for whom the mysteries of warp space were nothing -- they had kept dancing and eating and drinking and huffing throughout the brief trip in between universes, the idiots, missing out on seeing creation from outside, as the ship slipped from its original universe into another one that ran in the right direction then looped back into its original space only this time in a different location.
That had been the whole reason Rhett had taken this trip.
This trip, and the 300 others he'd taken in the past few years, booking a flight on any ship he could find that had a warp run to it, taking flights anywhere he could and then booking another one immediately. The longest Rhett had been on solid ground in the past year or so had been maybe -- maybe -- 24 hours. In that time he'd flown on freighters, transports, commercial business liners, and now this luxury cruise, which had maxed out his credit and which probably meant that he'd have to change his name and steal another identity at the end of this trip.
He wondered who he'd originally been, and how many times he'd changed his identity, now. And then, when that threatened to confuse him (the hypno blocks tried to prevent such thoughts as counterproductive to total assumption of an identity) he instead wondered who he'd be next. The eternal optimism of the identity thief: always look forward.
Across from him, some wealthy lady blathered on about how when they got to wherever this thing was headed again she was going to do something or other that cost a billion credits or something, and Rhett couldn't take it anymore. He said, in a loud voice:
"I RATHER DOUBT we will ever get there."
The conversation around him slowed, as the woman ended her conversation and turned her gaze to him. She stared at him as the rich stare at all who don't provide a service directly to them, a mixture of affront and disinterest.
"I was not speaking to you."
"And that's fine with me, but I don't think we're going to get where we were headed."
Behind Rhett, unbeknownst to him, less than a kilometer away, the Seal Team i ship, having targeted first the jettisoned members of the crew now was orienting its guns on the cruise ship.
The woman turned away from Rhett without bothering to engage him any further, and that made Rhett mad enough to want to tell his secret directly to her, to tell her what he'd seen in the inbetween spaces outside the universes and why he was pretty sure that they wouldn't get where they were going and even why he felt perhaps it was because of him, but instead, he just hunched back into his chair and picked up a forkful of the meat they were saying was cow but which he very much doubted would taste like cow.
"I hope you get hit first," he said, and then the cruiser rocked with gunfire from the Seal Team i ship's cannons and klaxons began blaring all over the ship, as breakage alerts told the passengers to don space gear and a general panic set in.
Rhett spun around in his seat and saw the blast shields coming down over the large windows. His eyes immediately picked out the source of the firing.
"Seal Team i..." he breathed.
Maybe he wasn't the reason this ship wouldn't get where it was going.
Maybe it hated something else. Rhett hoped so. He couldn't help feeling responsible for the fact that the thing -- that was all it could be called, now -- was trapped between universes, if only because he, Rhett, had pushed the thing outside the universe at the time of the separations.
He rolled now off his chair and moving in the opposite direction of the crowd, like a herfler slithering against the grain, made his way towards the crew entrance to the dining room. Let the rest of them worry about getting back to cabins and to shuttles. They were rich; they'd never even think to head for crew quarters.
He reached the door, found it magnetically locked already, a precaution he'd anticipated. From inside his coat he pulled out a small device, twisted two knobs on it, and held it against the door, which slid open.
The kitchen and prep area were already empty and Rhett went through them quickly, guessing at which direction the quarters would be. When he got to them, he found crew members hurriedly, but with the trained air of calmness that comes from drills, putting on suits. He grabbed one guy.
"Where's the extras?" he asked. The man didn't say you're not supposed to be here or argue. He pointed a thumb over his shoulder and Rhett looked. A supply cabinet behind the man, the door half open. "Thanks," he said. He let go of the man's arm and pushed towards the supply cabinet.
As he opened that door, something struck him about the man's face and he wondered what it was that was bothering him. Listen to your instincts he could remember his academy trainers telling him and instincts were fine and all but Rhett needed a spacesuit, now, so he opened the door and stepped into the supply cabinet, only to feel himself shoved roughly in the back and see the door snap shut behind him. He spun around in the gloom, only dim light coming through the portal in the door and looked up. The man he'd talked to was looking in the window and his gaze -- already slack, which had bothered Rhett, probably that was what it was -- was now coming from eyes that had no pupils in them.
The ship rocked more with gunfire, and the man's face disappeared from the window. Rhett tried the door, but couldn't get it open. He began messing with the dials on his device, trying every combination he could think of, but the door wasn't magnetically locked. It was jammed somehow. He resisted the urge to pound on the door in frustration; it would do no good. The emergency sirens were blaring but they were muted in here, and he was surrounded by dry goods, towels, mysterious cleaning supplies, and other useless items.
He felt the ship roll and yaw and heard explosions. At least I won't have long before I'm blasted into space, he thought.