Chapter 2: Orlivan’s Mistake

Orlivan yawned. He had stayed up all night composing music with an automatic music composing system from Hannifin Software, Inc. He had used the software to write five symphonies of incredible complexity and profound beauty, but it all came with the cost of fatigue. It was morning now, two hours before noon, and Orlivan just wanted to collapse and let the darkness of sleep take him.

But this was not possible. He was a pilot in the Voosh Brigade which defended Grimlock Moon Base 7. And at seventeen years old, Orlivan was the youngest pilot in Voosh Brigade history. He had a reputation to uphold. Falling asleep now would ruin that reputation.

Falling asleep now would also kill him because small drone fighter ships from the planet of Callahoo had invaded the skies above the moon base. One wrong move, and Orlivan risked being blasted out of the sky by one of the drone’s elite targeting systems. He had to keep his wits about him. He was second in command in a defense mission, flying the moon skies, gunning down the drones.

“H-10, watch your tail,” a voice said through Orlivan’s radio set.

“Copy that,” Orlivan said, checking the monitors on the control deck before him. His tail was clean. What had his friend been talking about. “Hey, H-4, my tail’s clean. What’s the meaning of telling me to watch my tail?”

“I thought I saw something following you,” his friend said through the radio. “No matter. Just keep an eye on it.”

“H-10, H-4,” the commander’s voice came through the radio, “west ten degrees, drop four. Get them from below.”

Orlivan immediately understood what the commander wanted. He wanted Orlivan and his friend to fly to the side of the battle and try shooting a cluster of drones from below. But it was a bad maneuver. Why could the commander not see that?

“Negative, commie,” Orlivan said. Commanders were always called “commies” in the Voosh Brigade. “The drone cluster ahead of you stands a greater chance of gaining access to the base towers. You need backup.”

“Do as I command!” the commander returned, his voice mixed with radio distortion. The drone’s radios were trying to disrupt communications. That meant they were newer models.

“Commie, how can you defend yourself?” Orlivan said.

“Just do as I command! I know what I’m doing! Don’t question me!”

“Copy. H-4, go first,” Orlivan said. “I’ll keep your east side clear.”

“Copy,” H-4 said.

Through a side window, Orlivan watched H-4 fly his ship westward.

“Follow him,” the commander said.

“Commie, why aren’t you engaging the enemy?” Orlivan asked. The commander had clear shots on the drone cluster ahead, but wasn’t doing anything. Something strange was going on.

“I’m waiting for a good shot,” the commander said. “Fly west.”

“Shall I take a shot myself?” Orlivan asked.

“Negative, H-10. Fly west.”

“But commie—”

“Fly west, I say! Or I’ll have your badge for insubordination!”

But Orlivan couldn’t resist. The drones were in clear view, almost dead ahead and above. It would be ludicrous to waste this opportunity. “I do this for my own good,” Orlivan said, putting his finger on the trigger on the top of the joystick clutched in his right hand, “and for the good of my moon base.” He pressed the button. The shots fired.

Boom! Boom! Ba-boom!

The drones exploded, setting off a chain reaction that made the entire cluster explode. The sky bathed in the red fires of the epic explosions. The sound roared through the air, the rush of wind. It was like standing at the edge of a deafening waterfall.

“Looks like I got ‘em!” Orlivan said proudly.

“You fool!” the commander shouted. “I told you not to! Look what you’ve done!”

Orlivan leaned forward and peered up at the commander’s ship above. One of his wings had caught fire.

“Drop it,” Orlivan said. Their ships could detach their wings and still make a clean landing. The commander would have to sit the rest of this battle out, and Orlivan would take over as commander for the remainder of the mission.

“Negative, H-10, you stupid ignoramus!” the commander shouted. “My wings are locked.”

Oh. Well, that meant the wings could not detach for some reason, perhaps because the engine was overheated and needed the coolants that were stored in the wings. And that meant the commander was probably going to die. Orlivan realized that he had screwed up big time. If only he had obeyed the commander instead of deciding to take matters into his own hands.

“Commander,” Orlivan said, his voice grave and serious, “you didn’t tell me.”

“You should’ve obeyed me!” the commander said. “Listen, tell my children that I—”


The commander’s ship exploded in a ball of green fire.

“H-10, what now?” H-4’s voice came through the radio.

What should Orlivan do now?

  • Try to destroy all the drones with his crew (100%, 1 Votes)
  • Retreat and lead the crew to safety (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Retreat by himself and leave his crew to fight the drones (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 1

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(The winning vote will determine the happenings of a future chapter.)

Chapter 1: The Amothen Deal

Thadwyn opened the oven doors and pulled out a tray of burnt chocolate muffins. He had set the timer only three minutes too long, but the extra heat had done its destruction upon what would have been a delicious breakfast. Smoke rolled out of the oven as if from a dragon’s mouth, if the dragon’s mouth were toothless and rectangular.

Thadwyn tossed the tray of wasted food on the counter and switched on the vents on the ceiling. Fortunately the airship’s kitchen had a great ventilation system. If Thadwyn could dispose of the burnt muffins before anyone walked through the door, no one would ever know he messed up.

As Thadwyn was thinking this, a woman walked through the door. It was Miss Isabella Wormgood, Thadwyn’s guardian. She wore blue thick-rimmed glasses that always slid down to the bottom of her nose. Her dark hair was bundled atop her head like a pile of rope. It was the latest fashion for women in their late forties.

Wormgood smiled at Thadwyn. “Ah, good, you’re baking those muffins . . .” And then she began to cough. Her eyes glanced at the oven. “Oh. I see. You’ve burnt the muffins.”

“It was an accident!” Thadwyn was quick to say. What did the lady expect? He was only eleven years old. He did not have very much cooking experience. Besides, cooking was a woman’s job.

“You have to learn how to bake muffins properly!” Wormgood said, wagging a crooked finger. “Cooking is not just a woman’s job. It’s for everyone.”

“But can’t this wait until tomorrow?” Thadwyn said. “The emperor isn’t coming until Friday, and all the other kids are playing rumshuckles.” Rumshuckles was a great sport that involved throwing bouncy balls into wide plastic buckets arrayed across the airship’s gymnasium floor.

“Come, now, Thadwyn,” Wormgood said, pushing her glasses up her nose only to have them slide back down again. “We both know you don’t have any friends. Nobody would want you on their team and you would only spend your time playing those silly video games again.”

It was true, but Thadwyn did not want to admit it. So he just said nothing.

“Ah,” Wormgood said, “the boy doth not protest at all. Proof positive that I am right. Now then, what are these over here?” Wormgood walked across the kitchen to plate of amothens Thadwyn had baked earlier. Amothens were small hard biscuits, usually crumbled over soups and fish, but sometimes ate plain after dipping into a warm chocolate drink. “Did you bake these?”

“I did, yes,” Thadwyn said. “I used my own recipe.”

“Did you? I don’t remember giving you permission to do that.”

“I don’t remember you refusing me permission,” Thadwyn retorted cleverly.

“I’ll have to have a taste,” Wormgood said. She picked up one of the biscuits and shoved it into her mouth as if it were a giant coin and her mouth were a giant coin slot with slobber inside. She chewed and made faces and chewed some more. When she was done chewing, she swallowed. Then she swallowed again. She kept swallowing and then she stopped.

She gazed at Thadwyn over her blue thick-rimmed glasses with wide eyes as if Thadwyn had suddenly grown horns or something. “These are . . . These biscuits are simply . . .”

Thadwyn bit his lip so hard that he started bleeding and he drank the blood.

“These biscuits are the most delicious thing I have ever chewed and swallowed in my entire life besides applesauce!” Wormgood smiled a smile so widely that all her crooked teeth showed and Thadwyn realized she had really ugly teeth and needed to floss more. “What is your secret recipe?”

The secret recipe was that Thadwyn had used extra sugar, but he didn’t let the secret slip out so easily. “What’ll you give me if I tell you?”

“Hmmm . . .” Wormgood looked up at the ceiling as if an answer might be written on the tiles above. “Well, you don’t really need anything. I guess I could give you some candy.”

“Candy is for babies,” Thadwyn said, trying to sound grown up.

“Then how about some toys?” Wormgood said.

It was very tempting. Thadwyn enjoyed a good action figure as much as the next guy. Especially the deluxe models that took batteries and came to life and talked. But he had enough of those sorts of toys already. He wanted something special.

“I want something special,” he said.

“Like what?”

“You know that play that you and the staff are putting on for the emperor?”

“You want to be in it?” Wormgood said, grimacing. “I’m sorry, but there’s no part for children in it.”

“I don’t want to be in it,” Thadwyn said. “I want to draw the backdrops for it.”

“I’m not sure you’re talented enough,” Wormgood said.

“But I am sure. Let me do it.”

“I’ll have to think about it,” Wormgood said. She stuffed another amothen in her mouth and munched on it. After five minutes of chewing and swallowing, she said, “Fine. You can draw the backdrops. But they can only be used for the play if Blyman approves of them.” Blyman was the head of staff, and was acting as director of their play. “Do we have a deal?”

“I suppose. But I will only tell you the secret recipe if my backdrops get approved. Understood?”

“Fine,” Wormgood nodded.

Excellent. Thadwyn’s plan of escaping the airship had just begun.