Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 27

It was time we got some answers about what Vindatri wanted... -----   Chapter 27.      "Your words tantalize me, my friends," Orphan said as DuQuesne was still trying to wrap his mind around this latest revelation. "It is clear – it has, in truth, always been clear – that there is some great mystery surrounding Doctor DuQuesne, and his compatriots Wu Kung and Oasis and, I believe, Maria-Susanna. I have to believe it also has to do with Wu Kung's extraordinary performance in the recent Challenge. "It seems that these connections now [ Continue reading... ]

Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 26

Something had Oasis frightened... -----   Chapter 26.      "Doctor Alexander Fairchild," repeated Simon, studying Oasis closely. The Hyperion-born woman was still not entirely herself; the strain showed in the stiffness of her arm as she reached out for the water-pitcher and poured herself a glass. She drank, looked aimlessly around the conference room that Simon had chosen when they had returned – in haste – to the Embassy. "Yes," she said finally. The name finally clicked. "Masaka. That was the name of the Hyperion AI that [ Continue reading... ]

Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 25

There's another group we need to look in on... -----   Chapter 25.      Dajzail ripple-walked from the airlock down the ramp; Alztanza himself waited there, holding his fighting-claws rigid in salute. "Guard not," he said to Alztanza, who immediately relaxed his stance. "It is good to see you again, 'Tanza." The Fleet Master clattered a smile at him and they briefly clasped claws. "And you, Daj. How was your journey?" "Well enough, though it took me homeyears, it seemed, to extricate myself from the Embassy. I have selected [ Continue reading... ]

Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 24

It's Ariane's turn to find out what's waiting for her... -----   Chapter 24.      Ariane stumbled to a halt, mouth dropping open, eyes wider than they had been since she was a child. The old man – who didn't look so old now, to a girl ten years older – smiled broadly at her and held his arms wide. "Hey there, racer girl!" I thought I was prepared. Boy, was I wrong, a part of her thought. That part, Captain Ariane Austin, Leader, knew perfectly well that this was – had to be – just an unexpected guise of Orphan's mysterious [ Continue reading... ]

Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 23

Vindatri had separated them... -----   Chapter 23.      DuQuesne stared narrowly at the man before him. He knew the patrician, lined face, the graying hair that had once been brown, the sharp brown eyes looking levelly into his own, the half-smile of the lecturer and scientist so familiar to him. "I had expected to end up talking with myself," he said finally. "Not you, Professor Bryson." Clearly this couldn't be the man he looked like; this had to be one of Vindatri's guises. At the same time, it was almost impossible to think of [ Continue reading... ]

Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 22

Even long journeys come to an end... -----   Chapter 22.      Wu Kung found himself feeling an incredibly rare tinge of apprehension, as well as awe, staring at the thing that had just become visible through the mists of the Arena's Deeps. Silhouetted against a backdrop of dull crimson clouds, it was black as night, an angular shape of incomprehensible vastness. An ebony stitching of criss-cross darkness that looked like monstrous girders, great arching curves with hints of fluted, organic shapes rising about a central assemblage of [ Continue reading... ]

Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 21

Just because it starts with a meeting doesn't mean that's all that's going to happen... -----   Chapter 21.      "I am glad, tremendously glad, that you were able to resolve that situation so well, Laila, Carl, Simon," said Oscar Naraj, his deep, rich voice resonating in the comfortable meeting room. "The Tantimorcans were appreciative of your tact and sympathy, and I have thus concluded a most advantageous negotiation with them." Simon still found it somewhat uncomfortable to sit in the same room and talk civilly with a man he still [ Continue reading... ]

Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 20

Ariane and company were now in the Deeps... -----   Chapter 20.      "Orphan, we're being followed." The tall alien was beside her almost instantly. "Are you certain, Ariane Austin?" "Pretty sure. See these returns? And using the rear telescopes I thought I saw a couple glints where that cloudbank thinned out." Orphan straightened, stroking his headcrest in the way he often did when thinking. "This is an excellent place for an ambush. We are actually heading for another of the Sky Gates that – as far as I am aware – only I know [ Continue reading... ]

Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 19

Simon had been confronted with a new problem... -----   Chapter 19.      Simon stared incredulously for a long, long moment, before his natural politeness asserted itself. "Pardon me. Of course, please sit down." I've just invited a known mass-murderess and part of another faction to eat lunch with me. But perhaps a wiser course than rejecting her. Relief was visible on the perfect features as Maria-Susanna sat down. "Thanks so much, Simon. I... know you probably haven't heard good things about me." "And some of them are true," he [ Continue reading... ]

Challenges of the Deeps: Chapter 18

Oh, you didn't think I'd just continue the LAST scene, did you? There's other characters to see! -----   Chapter 18.      "The idea is tempting, Doctor DuQuesne, but ... are you certain it will work?" "Not certain. But... say eighty percent chance it'll work," DuQuesne answered. "And if it does work, your firepower just went way up." "It will drop if you fail, however," Orphan pointed out. DuQuesne could tell that the protest was, at least partially, purely from Orphan's instinctive need to be cautious. "You'll still have the [ Continue reading... ]