May 19, 2023: Ufaratza-V

Image by Yuri from Pixabay.

Marina was weak, tired, and holding on to consciousness by sheer force of will. And anger, definitely anger at this maldito engreído who thought he could do with their lives as he pleased. All she’d wanted was to make a delivery, get her payment, and be on her way to a nice vacation. Instead, this young rabbi had crashed into her life, and now she was either gonna die or let someone else die instead. She didn’t blame Yehoshua, though. He had just wanted to escape, to live. It was fate that had brought them together.

No, not fate. She knew better, even if it’d been years since she thought in those terms.

Marina closed the channel to Montalvo, and turned her chair to face Yehoshua. “You know you didn’t just run into me. You know it was hasgacha pratit.”

Yehoshua’s eyes widened in surprise. It was one thing to know that Hashem was used when referring to the Almighty, but to know about divine providence attested to more than a passing knowledge of Torah. Who was this woman? And she had a point; meeting Captain Marina Estrella when he did was absolutely the work of the Almighty, and if that was the case, he had to believe that there was a reason for it. Something in his gut told him that whatever was going on here, right now, was only a preamble to the real reason their paths had crossed. “I believe it was hasgacha pratit, yes.”

“In that case,” Marina said with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, “you’re not going anywhere. We fight.”

Both Brick and Yehoshua strapped themselves to their console chairs. Marina checked her console screen, saw that everything was flashing red, and took a deep breath. The engines were about to burn out, and the ship’s structural integrity was downright critical. Marina rerouted power from shields to structural integrity, buying them a little more time. “Brick, any ideas, suggestions, opinions?”

“My apologies, Captain. As you sometimes say, I got nothing.” Brick’s tentacles flew over his console and nearby panels like a blur, data scrolling around the glass dome of his helmet at speeds that only Brick’s brain could comprehend. “I’ve been studying the composition of the beam that has us locked down. It isn’t magnetic per se—the Star’s outer hull has enough ceramite and plasteel in the alloy to make a true magbeam useless. It is, however, indeed holding on to our hull, as you guessed. Theoretically, if we could get rid of the ship’s outer hull, we’d be able to escape. We’d probably die as the ship’s torn apart into pieces the moment it hits hyperspace, but we’d be able to escape.”

“It’s never the easy solution, is it?” Marina needed to do something quickly. She could feel herself slipping away and it was getting harder to stay focused. She didn’t need to look at her leg to know there was a substantial pool of blood at the foot of her console. They had one, and only one, chance to make it out of this alive, though not necessarily in one piece. “Say a prayer, rabbi, ’cause we’re gonna need it!”

Marina abruptly cut the Star’s engines, the sudden silence in the cockpit almost deafening. She heard Yehoshua say out loud, “Ribbono shel olam,” before continuing his prayer under his breath. She wasn’t expecting him to take her literally, but in all honesty, they could use all the help they could get. 

Marina keyed into the console a number of orders to fire off sequentially when executed, hoping the gamble would pay off. Saving the bare minimum power for life support, she rerouted all power to the systems they would need to make it out alive. After looking around, and making sure everyone was strapped to their chairs, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and maybe, just maybe, muttered a prayer of her own.

The Star shook and lurched backward as the cruiser began to pull it back to New Madrid. Marina counted to ten, opened her eyes, and hit the execute button on her console. “Let’s do this.”

The Star’s reverse thrusters came to life at full power, pushing the ship in the direction it was being pulled at increasing speed. Either the Star would slam into the cruiser towing them, or they’d release the locking beam as they tried to evade the ramming ship. Either way, Marina gambled, they’d get a chance to blast off if she timed it right. 

“Three hundred meters and closing, Captain,” Brick announced, having figured out Marina’s plan and monitoring the scanning system. “Two fifty. Two hundred. They’re not letting go, Captain.”

“Brace for impact, people,” Marina said, bracing with what little strength she had left, her hand on the console ready to hit execute on her next set of orders the moment they hit.

“One Fifty. One hundred. Still locked on to us. “Fifty.”

The Star shook suddenly as whatever was holding her in space suddenly let go. The cruiser had cut off the locking beam, but they were still a very real danger, especially this close. Marina’s finger pressed the execute button again just as she felt the world close in around her.

The Star’s engines roared to life like a twin-headed fire-breathing dragon, pushing the ship’s inertial dampeners to the brink as it accelerated forward at a dangerous speed.

“Ten seconds to hyperspace,” Brick said, his tentacles flying all over his console at dizzying speed. “Hang in there, Captain!”

Marina had no strength left. She felt herself slide down the console chair onto the pool of blood on the floor. 


It’d been a good ride. A short one, but good.


She felt a hand slip under her neck, her head being cradled. Strong hands. Yehoshua.


The Star came to an immediate halt, throwing Marina and Yehoshua against the forward viewscreen. Laying against the panel, her shoulder dislocated from the impact, Marina realized that the cruiser had locked onto them again. It was all over. “Coño,” she muttered weakly, her eyes closing.


Marina opened her eyes as much as she could and looked at Yehoshua, slumped next to her. A gash across his forehead was dripping a river of blood over his eye, but his mouth was moving. What had he said?

“Ufaratzta yamma v’kedamah v’tzafonah v’negbah.”

Her Hebrew was rusty, but she felt she recognized the words. A verse? A song? It’d been so long ago.

“Ufaratzta yamma v’kedamah v’tzafonah v’negbah!”

Somewhere in the distance she heard the alarm blaring. The engines were about to blow, structural integrity was critical. A few more seconds and it would all be over. She closed her eyes, and prepared to let go.


Yehoshua’s scream made her eyes fly wide open. No, not the scream itself, but his voice. It wasn’t his voice. Or it was, but not just his voice. It echoed within itself, like there was a stronger voice that was also him, but not him. It made no sense, but it made perfect sense. In that word he’d spoken there was power, and she’d felt it flow through her, through the ship, through space itself. In that instant, she remembered the meaning of the words: you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. Ufaratza; we’ll break forth. 

Had Marina been able to see the Star from Montalvo’s ship, she would’ve seen how a wave of light had burst from within the hitherto doomed starship, then how most of the outer hull panels of the Star peeled off as one, freeing the trapped ship from the locking beam, its already hot engines immediately taking it into hyperspace before anyone could truly understand what had happened. Inside the Star, however, all Marina knew was that there was a flash of light, then the ship hit hyperspace. Then she passed out.

Brick unstrapped himself from his console and checked on the two humans. He used one of the small hand(tentacle)held monitoring units to verify they were both still alive. The Captain was in bad shape, and would need urgent medical attention, but the young male, Yehoshua, would be well, if sore and bruised. Brick heard him mutter something before succumbing to exhaustion, his comm picking it up and displaying it on his helmet: 

>> ברוך השם >> [Baruch Hashem] >> Earth language, Hebrew >> Translation: Blessed TheName >> Insufficient information at this time, downloading language data. << 

Blessed God, Brick thought to himself, remembering what Marina had said earlier. He filed the information for later reference, and went back to the main console to check on the ship. The Star was in terrible shape, but miraculously still flying. There were just enough of the outer hull panels left to keep it in one piece through hyperspace, though they would need major repairs when they got to a spaceport. Good thing they had actually gotten paid for that last shipment to New Madrid. 

Brick laid in a course to the nearest off-the-beaten-spacelane shipyard with a medical facility where they wouldn’t ask too many questions, and set about stabilizing the two humans with what few medical supplies they had left, while putting together a list of parts they would need to repair the Star, and maybe make some remodeling as well. It was about time they had a proper galley in this ship.


May 18, 2023: Ufaratza-IV

Image by Yuri from Pixabay.

The Star’s cockpit was fairly large for a freighter its size, having been expanded into a miniature version of a capital ship’s bridge. Marina’s captain console was right in the middle, a spot from which she could watch out the viewing panels in front, and monitor the piloting and navigation stations to her fore and starboard respectively. Her own console had been spliced together from a number of systems both relocated from their original location in the ship’s standard model, or salvaged from other ships, allowing Marina to operate the Star or any of its support systems all by herself as needed.

Marina hobbled into the cockpit and took her place at her station, rerouting all control over the Star to herself. The mainframe was already busy making calculations for hyperspeed, but it still needed some time. The main display showed the enemy cruiser and corvette right on their tail and gaining fast, the cruiser’s lock holding the Star practically right in place. Marina rerouted all available power to the ship’s shields and she felt the Star lurch forward; not much, but enough to give her hope.

“They’re not using a true tractor beam,” she said, almost thinking out loud, but knowing that Brick was nearby at the navigation station. “It’s almost as if it’s locked onto our outer hull. Magnetic, maybe?”

“The corvette is powering weapons as well,” Brick reported. “I’m helping the mainframe with computations, but we still need a minute.”

Yehoshua sat at one of the unmanned stations to Marina’s right, a glass panel with lots of numbers flying by showing a blue blinking dot in the center and two red dots approaching it. He had no idea what it all meant, but instinctively he knew that the red dots were not good news. 

“Let’s buy ourselves some time, Brick. Open a channel,” Marina ordered. “Let’s see who we’re dealing with.”

Brick pressed a few buttons at his station, and a couple seconds later the forward viewscreens displayed a snarling face that both Marina and Yehoshua knew well by now: the nasty-looking officer from the dock.

“Hello, Captain Estrella. You have something that belongs to me and I want it back,” he said in a calm but menacing tone.

“I’m sorry,” Marina said shaking her head, “but I had these vambraces custom-made in Aldebaran Prime from the finest Pyridian leather and you can’t have them. I might be persuaded to give you the name of my nanotech tailor so you can get a pair of your own, if you ask nicely enough.”

“You definitely watch too many adventure holovids, with your banter meant to show off your wit and hopefully get a rise out of me, while buying you time until your ship’s computer finishes calculations for a jump to hyperspace,” the officer said, rolling his eyes, almost disappointed. “I won’t fault you for trying. It’s not a bad tactic if—”

“Joder!” Marina shut the channel off, the viewscreen reverting to a view of the New Madrid system. “This guy loves to hear his own voice!”

“Calculations complete, Captain,” Brick said.

“Punch the engines, Brick. Full power.”

The Star gave a sudden lurch as the twin engines kicked into full power, although it only moved a few meters before coming to a halt again, the ship now shaking under the strain of the engines.

“We’re not moving,” Yehoshua commented from his seat at the back of the cockpit. 

“I noticed!” Marina retorted in frustration as she pressed different combinations of buttons and switches, trying anything and everything to shake free of the beam holding them in place. It was all useless, though. The Star wasn’t going anywhere, even with its engines at full power threatening to tear the ship apart.

The officer’s face came on the viewscreen one more time. “I take it you’ve realized your ship’s not going anywhere. Maybe you’re ready to talk now?”

“¿Que puñeta es lo que quieres?” Marina spat.

“I want the young rabbi, Captain Estrella. That much should be obvious to you by now,” the officer said as his eyes turned towards Yehoshua where he sat on the bridge. “I don’t care about your second-class ship, your borderline illegal shipping business, or about you for that matter. Hand over the young rabbi, and you can go on your merry way to whatever job you have lined up next.”

“That’s so generous of you, Mr…”

“You can call me Montalvo,” the officer said with a sneer, “As in, ‘Yes, Montalvo, I will hand over the rabbi to you.’”

“¡Mira que’ste hombre es engreído!” Marina muttered.

“I’m not un engreído , Capitan Estrella,” Montalvo said. “I’m a man who’s good at what he does, and knows when he has the winning hand. And right now, I have the winning hand. Your ship is all but disabled, and your only chance of making it out of this alive is for you to do as I’ve asked. So one last time, Captain, hand over the young rabbi.”

Marina sighed. She didn’t feel like capitulating to this conceited son of a perra, but he had a point: he had the winning hand. The structural integrity meter was flashing red, and she could feel the ship straining to its limits. The Star was a tough ship, but it wouldn’t be able to hold it together for much longer. Que mierda, she thought.

“Captain,” Yehoshua said.

Marina turned on her console to face the young man who was the cause of her current predicament. “Yes?”

“Captain, you’re bleeding. A lot.” Yehoshua pointed at the hole in Marina’s leg. Whatever she had done to patch it earlier had stopped working, and the wound was oozing blood at a disconcerting rate. 

Marina looked at her leg, studied it for a few seconds, realized that she would bleed out way before they’d be able to get to any medical facility, and sighed once more. She looked at Montalvo’s smug face on the viewscreen, then looked at Yehoshua again. “So you’re really a rabbi?” 

Yehoshua smiled timidly and nodded. Marina studied the young face hiding behind the short, scraggly beard. She wondered how old he was, and what his life had been like before ending up in a prison cell, and then in a starship. What could they want this young man for? What could this young rabbi from a podunk system, who up until today had no idea that his world was just one of many, and that space travel was possible, have that this Montalvo was willing to kill them for?

“Time’s up, Captain,” Montalvo said, turning to speak to someone off-screen. “Fire—”

“WAIT!” Yehoshua screamed at the screen. “Bevakasha… I’ll go. ”

Montalvo motioned to someone off-screen again before fixing the crew of the Star with the smuggest look any of them had ever seen on a living being. “Good choice, young rabbi.”

“We need some medical help for the Captain,” Yehoshua said, walking over to stand next to Marina, his hand pointing at her bleeding leg. “Por favor, tened misericordia con ella.”

Montalvo pursed his lips and rolled his eyes in annoyance, but acquiesced. “Fine, I’m not a heartless man.”

Marina tried to argue, but Yehoshua shook his head. “Captain, I thank you for all you’ve done, but I can’t let you die because of me. Hashem wouldn’t want that to happen, either.”

“Who?” Brick interjected.

“God, Brick. Hashem is a name for God,” Marina answered, drawing a raised eyebrow from Yehoshua. “You’re not the only one with secrets, rabbi.”

“This is all very touching,” Montalvo interrupted, “but let’s be done. Shut off your engines and we’ll tow you back planet-side. After the rabbi is in my possession, you’ll be allowed to leave. Are we clear, Capitan Estrella?”

To be continued…

May 17, 2023: Ufaratza-III

Image by Yuri from Pixabay.

The Star’s cargo hold was a mess after Brick’s piloting maneuver, crates, and equipment tossed all around, their contents scattered. Marina noted that the crate with Velez’s payment had been secured and remained closed. As fun as it would be to roll around a sea of gold coins, it would be a pain to clean up. And speaking of pain…

“Amigo, ¿cómo te llamas?” she asked the young man. 

He was still looking very much like he’d puke his brains out any second now, but managed to answer, “Yehoshua Ben Baruch.”

“Shalom alechem, Yehoshua,” Marina replied. “Now, I need your help. Necesito tu ayuda. ¿Ves la caja verde allá? A la derecha de las luces en el panel… No, a la derecha. Derecha! La caja verde. Yes, that one! Bring it.”

Yehoshua brought Marina the small green case she’d asked for. She flipped it open, rummaged a bit, and handed Yehoshua a cellophane packet with two pills. “Para la nausea.”

Marina pulled out a hyponeedle and gave herself a shot in the arm, the medicine dulling the pain in her leg almost immediately. She slapped bandages on either side of the blaster wound to keep it covered for the time being and put another cellophane packet with pain meds in her pocket for later. “That’ll do for now. Brick? Talk to me!”

“Clearing atmo in one minute, two minutes to hyperspace. It seems—”

Yehoshua’s panicked screams as he saw Brick emerge into the cargo hold drowned out whatever he had said. Standing in front of Marina and the screaming Yehoshua was a two-and-a-half-meter-tall T’manian wearing the customary breathing apparatus for gaseous atmospheres. All Yehoshua saw was a gigantic cross between an octopus and a jellyfish standing tall on some of its tentacles, a metallic mask over what he could only guess was its face. 

Marina reached over and put her hand over the young man’s mouth, muffling his screams. “Silencio! Tranquilo!”

“I’m guessing he’s never seen a T’manian,” Brick said, his voice emanating from the mask.

“He’s never been off-world. Before today he probably didn’t know there was an off-world at all. Yehoshua, calmate, hombre.”

Yehoshua stopped screaming, though he was still very much in shock. His mind was having a tough time making sense of everything that had happened in the last few minutes since he’d slammed into the captain on the dock.

“Brick, hand me my extra earpiece, if you’d be so kind.”

Brick moved past the pair still sitting on the floor, his tentacles propelling him forward as if he was floating on air. He reached with one of his tentacles and opened a panel, grabbed the earpiece delicately, and deposited it in Marina’s hand. Marina in turn placed the earpiece in Yehoshua’s ear, much to his panicked confusion.

“This should make things a little easier for all of us, don’t you agree?”

Yehoshua’s eyes widened in surprise as the earpiece translated the words he’d heard Marina say in her other language into Castilian almost seamlessly. “Si, funciona de maravilla!”

Marina gave Yehoshua a tired smile, glad that they’d all be able to understand each other a little easier now. “Now, can you two help me stand up?”

Yehoshua stood up and grabbed Marina’s left arm, while Brick slipped a couple of tentacles under her right arm. At the count of three, they helped Marina stand up on one leg, steading her as she hopped over to a nearby crate where she could sit. The pain medication was dulling the worst of the pain, but she could still feel a burning, throbbing sensation where the blaster bolt had sliced through. 

Things had certainly gone truly awry there at the end, but she couldn’t help but feel it could’ve been a lot worse. Who was that officer, and how had he known that she was an offworlder? There certainly were a few space-savvy people in New Madrid, people who knew about the larger universe outside, including her primary business contact, Velez, but she thought she knew who they all were. This officer was a surprise, his blaster pistol an even bigger one, and as a rule, Marina did not like surprises. And why was he working for the Inquisition? She liked New Madrid because it was rustic; the founders had run wild with the medieval Spanish city theme to the point where generations of native-born NeoMadrileños thought New Madrid was all there was in the world, period. It was kind of charming, medieval ignorance and intolerance aside, and it provided Marina with a perfect haven for business transactions and for hiding when there was a need. And yes, she’d certainly seen the rise of this new Spanish Inquisition—yet another not-so-great feature of medieval Spain New Madrid had decided to resurrect as well—but they had circumscribed to bombastic proclamations and fire-and-brimstone gatherings in the plazas. Imprisonment, abuse, possible torture, this was all disturbingly new. She’d hate to lose New Madrid as one of her hideouts because of this cancer in society.

Marina opened her mouth to speak, but the ship’s proximity alarm blared first: the Star was being targeted. A digital display came to life on Brick’s glass dome enclosure showing two red dots closing in fast on a blue one, surrounded by a series of characters and numbers flashing around the dome too fast for anyone but Brick to comprehend.

“A heavy cruiser and a corvette directly on our tail. They have us right in their crosshairs but they’re not firing. Yet. Star is trying to ID them.”

“Can we make it to hyperspace before they catch up?”

“Not with that lock on our ship. They could fry us with a laser the moment we turn on the hyperdrive. We need to break the lock and get away the old-fashioned way.”

“And I suppose I’m gonna have to do the flying.”

“You always say you are the best, Captain.”

“Suck up.” 

He was right, though. Brick could manage basic piloting techniques, but this would require some fancy flying. A heavy cruiser could evaporate them with just a couple of well-placed shots if they wanted to, and while losing the lock was possible, it would take skill, luck, and maybe even a little miracle. Marina also wondered why they hadn’t fired yet. They wanted something, or maybe someone.

Marina tried to stand, but her right leg gave out immediately and she sat back down with a thump. The pain medication had almost worn off entirely, so she’d have to deal with it until they could get to a medical outpost. “Brick, any stim-patches left in the kit?”

Brick rummaged through the green case with two thin tentacles, coming up empty. “Negative, Captain.”

“Alright, then sting me.”


“Do it, Brick. Sting me, in the leg. We don’t have time to waste.”

“I feel I need to bring up the possibility of permanent nerve damage…”

“DO IT.”

Yehoshua, not trying to understand what was happening anymore and simply watching, saw Brick glide over to Marina, then with one of its tentacles glowing a bright blue sting the woman straight into the right thigh. Marina screamed in pain as little bolts of electricity danced over her leg. Brick removed the tentacle stinger, and steadied Marina until she regained her composure. The captain took a number of deep breaths to steady herself, grimaced, stood up, and walked haltingly out of the cargo hold and down the hall into the cockpit.

To be continued…

May 16, 2023: Ufaratza-II

Image by Yuri from Pixabay.

A young man in ragged clothes and a scraggly beard slammed into Marina, knocking both of them down to the floor. The young man was filthy from spending who knows how long in a cell, his eyes sunken in and tired, the look of fear in them unmistakable. He was struggling to get up, his tied hands behind his back.  

The guards yelled again for Marina to detain the man in the name of the Inquisition as they made their way down the dock, shoving gawkers left and right, a nasty-looking officer in front. Marina despised him on sight. The young man was saying something in a language Marina felt she knew but couldn’t quite place, but his tone made it clear it was a plea for help. 

“Tranquilo, tranquilo, te voy a ayudar,” she reassured the young man in Castilian, hoping he understood her.

“Hablais castellano!” the young man exclaimed. “Ayudadme, capitán! El Eterno vos ha puesto en mi camino como bendición!”

It all clicked suddenly for Marina—who the young man was, why he was dressed that way, why she kind of knew his language, why they were after him—and she cursed under her breath. “Get behind me,” she said, grabbing him by the arm and shoving him so she was shielding him from the approaching guards. “No digas nada. Silencio.”

“Captain?” Brick’s voice sounded in Marina’s ear. “Problem?”

“Yeah, I’m afraid so.”

“Well, what’s new? Ninety-eight percent.”

“Have her ready to shoot out of here, Brick.”

“Con quien habláis?” the young man asked, looking at Marina with a curious face.

Marina shushed him, as the guards formed a semi-circle in front of them, parting to let the officer in. He looked even nastier up close, his scowl angry and cold, his eyes devoid of emotion, his mouth a thin tight line. This was a man who enjoyed his position of power and had no problem taking advantage of it. He paused, and studied Marina and the young man, the ship next to them, the sky above. He pursed his nose, his nostrils flaring wide, his look one of disgust. He spat just shy of Marina’s feet.

“It’s a nice day, and I’m feeling benevolent this morning,” the officer said in perfect Trade English, earning a slightly raised eyebrow from Marina. “Hand over the prisoner, and you’ll be allowed to leave without any problems.” His voice was raspy, like he’d spent a lifetime screaming at people, smoking, or both.

“Or?” Marina asked.

“Or we kill you both where you stand. I really don’t care. Either way, I get what I want, and go on with my day.”

“I see. So I have, what, ten seconds to choose?”

The officer laughed and it was the most unsettling sound Marina had ever heard. “You’ve read too many adventure stories, offworlder.”

Marina’s eyes went involuntarily wide, and this time the curse that escaped her lips was not under her breath.

“Kill them,” spat the officer, a dozen guards rushing past him, swords drawn. Marina drew her own rapier, ready for a fight.

“Get on the ship!” she barked at the young man as she parried the first few thrusts from the guards. “Aborda! Aborda!”

“Pero, no hay plancha para abordar!” replied the young man, looking around in vain for a way to board the ship as Marina continued to deflect lethal thrusts meant to skewer them.

“Joder. Brick, show’s over!”

“Captain, are you sure—”

“DO IT!”

The air around the moored ship shimmered, then seemed to fold upon itself. Where the cutter known in New Madrid as The Star was seconds before, a sleek medium freight cruiser with twin atmo-engines and quad hydrofoils floated on the waters of the harbor, waters now choppy by the hot exhaust pumping out of the ship’s ventral vents. 

The sudden appearance of the metal construct stopped everyone in their tracks as they gawked dumbfounded. Everyone except the officer. He gave the cruiser barely a glance before drawing a small laser blaster from inside his chestplate and firing a shot at Marina. She winced involuntarily, sure the laser bolt would hit her squarely. As she opened her eyes, she saw through the hole in the chest of the guard who had been at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The cruiser’s door opened onto the dock, and Brick’s voice boomed loud for all to hear, “Let’s go!”

Marina shoved the dumbfounded young man forward and through the door into the ship. As she was about to board, however, she heard the officer’s blaster fire again, the laser bolt slicing clear through her right thigh, searing waves of pain exploding all through her body. Her leg gave out and she crumpled onto the dock, tears streaming down her face as she tried to crawl into the ship.

“STOP GAWKING AT THE SHIP AND KILL HER, PARTIDA DE IDIOTAS!” the officer screamed as he raised his blaster for yet another shot, guards in the way be damned.

Marina heard Brick in her earpiece yell, “Hold on to something!” She wasn’t sure what he meant, but as the cruiser hovered straight up then turned straight on its side, Marina let out a curse and held tightly to the edge of the dock as the ship’s ventral vents blew heated air upon everyone on the docks. Marina went flat against the dock just as Brick throttled the engines, sending a sudden gust of exhaust that knocked everyone down on their asses. He flipped the cruiser back upright, bringing the ship’s door next to Marina on the dock. The young man, looking somewhat green in the face after Brick’s piloting acrobatics, crawled on his belly to help pull Marina into the ship, a laser bolt slipping through as the ship doors sealed shut, leaving a dark blast mark on the wall as a reminder.

“Captain, you alright?” Marina heard Brick ask, both through her earpiece and from the cockpit ahead.

“I’ll live,” she replied through tight lips, doing her best to hold back the pain-induced blackness that threatened to swallow her. “Punch it!”

“Aye, Captain!”

Brick wasted no time with delicate flying, kicking the twin atmo-engines to life right over the docks as he sought to get the hell out of New Madrid, the sonic boom left in their wake deafening everyone in the harbor, though all around him would swear that they could clearly hear the officer as he hurled foul insults at the flying ship.

To be continued…

May 15, 2023: Ufaratza-I

Image by Yuri from Pixabay.

Marina walked the streets near the harbor of New Madrid confidently, glaring looks from prudish locals be damned. Her olive complexion would’ve been enough to warrant extra attention from the ridiculously pale NeoMadrileños, but the flamboyant plumed hat, flowing white shirt opened to mid-chest, dark purple leather vest, black knee-high boots, and filigreed rapier strapped to her belt marked her as a foreigner in no uncertain terms, ensuring all eyes would be on her. For the highly conservative residents, this crass display of excess was downright sinful, barely tolerated since everyone knew only foreign merchants indulged in such fell vices, a small price to pay for the service they provided in keeping the city’s economy flowing like blood through veins.

Marina for her part didn’t give un carajo what the NeoMadrileños thought of her. She rather enjoyed stirring things up and dressing up the part every time she pulled into the harbor. The locals expected a show, and she aimed to please. For the last two years, business had been so good that she only needed to visit New Madrid once or twice a year to turn a profit, and by now her clients knew they could rely on her, so what if she flaunted her charms openly during her short visits? 

The harbor tower bell chimed three times. Barring any issues, the cargo would’ve been unloaded and delivered by now, which meant a ten percent bonus for completing the job early. On cue, there was a chirp in her right ear. “Report,” she said in a low voice as she continued walking towards the harbor.

“All’s well that ends well, Captain,” said a deep male voice that only she could hear. “Velez has her cargo, and we are twenty thousand reales richer.”

Marina smiled to herself, pleased. “I’m almost there. Prepare for immediate departure, I wanna get those coins exchanged as soon as possible.”

“Roger that. Brick out.”


Marina turned around to find a wide-eyed dandy backing away from her. “Hablando con el demonio en vuestro lenguaje infernal!” 

Marina laughed at the accusation of talking to the devil in their “infernal” language, and while part of her wanted to run with it and scare this dandy shitless, duty called. She winked and blew the dandy a kiss, then continued on her way back to her ship, the man’s screams of “Bruja! Bruja!” echoing behind her.

Practically skipping as she turned onto the harborside avenue, lost in thoughts of the peaceful vacation she’d be able to take with her share of this haul, Marina missed the chirp in her ear twice before replying. “What’s up, Brick?”

“Did you know the Inquisition’s in town?”

“Mierda,” Marina cursed under her breath, although it came in loud and clear to Brick. “Are we ready to depart?” she asked as she picked up the pace as much as she could without calling attention to herself.

“Almost,” replied Brick. “I’ve had to warm the engines up slowly, there’s a lot of people on the docks.”

“Just get her ready to go as fast as you can without calling unwanted attention. The last thing we need is these clowns meddling in our business.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Marina all but ran now, zig-zagging through the chaos of the busy harbor, making her way to her ship. She kept an eye out for the black-and-red uniforms of the Inquisition guards, but nothing so far. Maybe they wouldn’t be out on a hunt for foreigners and “undesirables” to bring in for “questioning;” maybe they would completely avoid the attention of the Inquisition and not have to bribe their way out of an inspection or pay exorbitant made-up fines; maybe they would get away from New Madrid without any incidents at all! 

And maybe, as the saying went in these parts, pigs would fly.

As Marina approached the dock where her ship was waiting, she heard the bells of the cathedral start their cacophonous howls, all nearby churches shortly joining in the riotous call. 

“Brick, picking up anything?” she asked loudly into the air, trying to make herself heard over the noise of dozens of bells clanging.

“At least five squads of guards are converging on the harbor from all directions, three minutes out. Looks like a dragnet.”

Marina ducked behind some crates and pressed on her left vambrace. A small map of the harbor came into being hovering over her forearm, blinking red dots marking the location of the approaching squads on the green dot that was herself. Brick was right, it was a dragnet alright. They had all exits out of the harbor covered as they moved in. They were looking for someone, and they weren’t playing. She waved the holomap away. “Brick, we need to go. The harbor’s gonna get ugly fast.”

“Engines at eighty-five percent, Captain. I’m doing my best here to keep up appearances.”

“Keep at it. I’m coming in.”

Marina slinked past the uneasy crowds, making her way to the dock where her ship awaited. The Star was a medium-sized cutter built primarily for speed over cargo capacity, equipped with three headsails more than other ships her size. At least that’s how Marina explained her ability to deliver quickly, and while many old sailors in New Madrid scratched their heads over the little fast ship that could somehow still deliver fair amounts of cargo, they chalked it up to her young captain and capable crew.

“Brick, report.”

“Ninety-two percent, Captain.”

“Great. I’ll get the ropes.” Marina could see the water around the ship churning more than around any other docked ship, but thankfully no one had noticed. Just a minute or two more and they’d be out of New Madrid with their haul.


Dammit, so close…

To be continued…

October 26, 2022: Deirdre

Photo by Karol Carvalho on

Below is the unedited Prologue to a story I started writing in 2012, and which I’m planning to come back to. It still stirs in me the same feelings it did 10 years ago when I first came up with it. I hope you like it.


I didn’t exactly wake up this morning thinking that I would kill myself, but as I stand scant feet away from the precipice at the Cliffs of Moher and survey the grey and cloudy sky and listen to the distant siren’s call of the crashing waves somewhere far off below me, it becomes a very real proposition. The seagulls seem to me to be screeching out my name. They beckon. The wind pulls and pushes me, and I cannot help but think it is the only thing keeping me rooted in place. Around, tourists from all over crawl on their bellies to the edge of the rock that serves as our platform, inching forward like babies until their heads are the only thing protruding over the edge. They take a glimpse of the abyss and it must be that as the saying goes, the abyss stares back, for quickly each of them retreats, clutching the pounding heart in their chest, laughing like maniacal eejits. There’s always a fool that wants to take a picture standing near the edge, usually college-aged American guys, like this blonde moron not five feet from me, in his college sweater, shorts and sneakers, posing like he’s going to jump off the edge so his buddies can take a picture and post it on Facebook, no doubt. I wonder how’d they like their picture if I were to walk over and jump just as they snap it? Maybe I should show him; show them all.

But then again this has never been about showing anyone anything. This isn’t about others. It’s about me.

And right now that call is strong. So very strong.

I take a step closer. I must be no more than three large steps from the edge, from release. Two girls are on their bellies next to me, giggling as they crawl forward. They must be somewhere near my age, I guess. Why aren’t I giggling with them? I despise their giggling even as I secretly wish I could be like them. 

I close my eyes to try to steady myself. The sounds overwhelm me, though: the faint crashing of the waves seems to become the roar of water demons venting their rage on the rocks that keep them at bay; the cacophony of seagull cries becomes a symphony of noise, haunting and piercing; the aural detritus of the people around me vanishes under the howl of the land winds and the wail of the sea winds as they meet, fight, dance, swirl right at the spot at which I stand. There is nothing else except primal nature and me. I shiver, but I know it’s not from the cold.

One more step. My eyes are still closed. Images begin to form in the darkness of my mind’s eye, scenes from years ago, scenes I don’t care to recall willingly but which right now seem natural and fitting. I welcome them. They are familiar, if nothing else. They bring me a kind of comfort, and it’s been so long since I felt comforted. Not that people haven’t tried, but it’s not the same. Comfort must come from within, and there is nothing within me.

Another step. I must be so close to the edge now. I really could just do it, take that step, take a leap even, and that would be it. I can’t imagine that it would be traumatic. It would mostly be the emptiness of falling. It’d be like flying, in a way. Would I spread my arms wide like the birds that rise and sink in the air currents all day long? Would I look up at the sky or down at the sea? Would I open my eyes at all? Then there’s the rocks at the bottom, but that would be fast; I’m sure the pain would be immense and instantaneous. It would mostly be about the falling.

I don’t mind the falling, I think. It might even be fun.

“Deirdre,” I hear someone call out.

Maybe it is the banshee.