From: The Shooting Star

The bridge was flooded with rain and spray. Paean was holding, faithfully; drenched. This was dangerous. “Federi, I tried to think of how to fix this window,” she said plainti ely as he ca!e in through the hatch. “I tried clearing all the glass, but you know... in this dark... the poor tobusky has been too cold to glow properly.” “"uskies are polar dogs,” he said. “#ut tobacco is a tropical plant,” she countered. “#ut this is tropical rain,” he replied. “$hould withstand it.” “Salt water%” she asked. “"alf of this co!es fro! the wa es, Federi. There, see%” &ater splashed iolently against the co!!and deck and into the bridge as the $hooting $tar's nose dipped into the swell. “(h, send the little creature belowdecks,” said the Pirate )aptain i!patiently. "e was angry. *ngry at the sea, the skies + couldn't they ha e had a clear night for this first part of )aptain's lo ely challenge% *ngry at the Fisher Folk for running down his ship so badly; angry that there was not enough co!pounding in his repair kit; and that e erything had been stripped off his ship. "e had to get the dri es working, -ats that )aptain had called &olf away. First principles, T.igan, his !ind was telling hi!. /ind, he thought, shut up. First principles work on land. #ut how does one resurrect solar dri es in the dark% *nd hydrogen dri es% *nd the steering + how to !anually o erride... In his !ind he saw the $her!an Files. "e'd studied the!, long

ago; for purposes of disabling 0nicate ships, a!ongst the! countless Pursuers. "e knew how the dri es worked; he knew where the steering ran. *nd wait, there was... it should be here... he di ed in under the console and searched. *nd there it was1 a !anual hel!. * relic. The 0nicate hadn't designed it. $o!e cle er engineer of the twenty2first century had put it there, into the design, for ital failure; and the 0nicate had ne er understood its function and therefore not dared to change the design. "e wrenched the thing anti2clocks, and it !o ed. &ith a few twists he had the whole thing spring out into the open. “"ang tight, little lu ,” "e sauntered back down to the bilges with that highly efficient stride that looked casual but was a!a.ingly fast, and picked up his toolkit. "e returned to the bridge and proceeded to take the whole console apart, bit by bit, in the treacherous light of one Paeansy glow2stick that she held up for hi!, rendering the place nearly as bright as twilight for his !utant2 enhanced night ision. 3ot losing the little screws was essential. "is fingers worked in fe erish haste; before long, the whole place was disasse!bled. “3ow it's getting wet on the inside too,” co!!ented Paean. “Take it easy, little lu ,” he co!!ented. “&ill be done inna seccie.” True to his word, not too !uch later the console was back up; with the one critical difference that now there was a !anual, protruding hel! Paean could grip. “3eeds power, surely%” she asked. Federi shook his head. “3ot this one. This one was put into the design by one /ichael #raunschweig. /ust' e been a T.igan, because he considered what would happen if the power broke in the !iddle of a stor!. Twenty2se enty2three. That's when these ships were first designed.”

“&ow,” said Paean. Federi's hands closed around the spokes on the cast2iron wheel. It was fairly large, a good half2a2!etre in dia!eter. 4 en so it didn't turn easily. "e felt the resistance, and applied 5e!on force, and turned the thing. The $hooting $tar's nose changed her angle. "a, It worked, *nd his suspicion that they were being carried at rando! on so!e or other current, was now also confir!ed. Tokelau. &hich ways did the currents run in this place% &est, he knew. They were riding the $outhern 46uatorial. Tokelau was too far south to touch on the 46uatorial )ounter )urrent. $o the ery sea was taking the! in the right direction. “&ould be so !uch easier with sails,” he growled. *nd he glanced at his young wife. “7o sleep, little lu , 8ou're beat,” “$leep, where%” she laughed hollowly. “The )aptain's )abin is 9ust behind here,” said Federi. “:ust outside the bridge, down the passage, only door on your right.” “-ight behind the bridge%” “8up,” "ow was that for taking your work ho!e, “/akes things easier, sweetness,” explained Federi. “/ore hands2on,” “Fine.” $he followed the passage and opened the door; “*w, &ow,” *lright. It would be fine. $he !o ed into the suite. The hi9ackers had stripped all 0nicate cupboards out o er ti!e; but there was a double bunk with clean sheets, pillows and Federi's down du et on, and on the co!pounding non2slip deck, the colourful wo en gypsy !ats she had bought on their honey!oon for the )abin of 5rea!s, and o er the porthole, the huge 5rea! )atcher. (n the bunk lay her iolin case; against one wall rested the hea y, s6uat treasure chest2of2drawers fro! the )abin of 5rea!s. (n top of that,

a wooden box with all the 9ingles and sun catchers and string puppets and woodcar ings fro! Federi's cabin. "e had e en re!e!bered their orange biolu!inescence. * welco!e break fro! all the green. “Federi%” she called back to the bridge. “8es%” “It's beautiful.” "e s!iled. $o <irian had done a good 9ob bringing e erything o er. *nd the croaches had at least cleaned and saniti.ed the place. It wasn't !uch; but it was a starting point. *t least his little lu could get so!e rest. “I'! crawling in so long,” said Paean. “&aiting for you.” "is s!ile dropped. “=ittle lu , don't wait. $leep. &e're under2 crewed, you and I will ha e to take turns on the bridge.” “For how long%” The disappoint!ent in her oice was tangible. “0ntil Perth,” sighed Federi. "is little wife crawled back onto the bridge in her /olly $treet ducky py9a!as, taking the control seat next to where he stood, and pulling the down du et around herself. $he tried leaning against hi!. "e was too far away. $he !o ed down fro! the seat to the deck, leaning against his legs. “That's not a good idea,” he co!!ented. “8ou'll wake up sore and tired, and you'll catch pneu!onia. 8ou're already !ore doused than you should be, There's glass down there. Paean, please. =isten to !e,” “-ats on this stor!,” said Paean softly. Federi nodded angrily. “Perth !y foot. *uckland is closer, &e're going to dock at *uckland and get her seaworthy there, and then we sail for Perth, )aptain and his bleeding ga!es,” It crossed his !ind that by the ery challenge )aptain had set hi!, he was keeping hi! tethered. "ow free was that% "e glared into the stor!. *t least, despite the water lashing in + it felt like a )row's 3est up

here, and without a weather skin, but he was used to that + the ship was now controllable. #less that #raunschweig character, and thank the $tars for the stupidity of the 0nicate, that in sixty years of rule they still didn't dare to change the old, functional human designs. “$he'll be beautiful, sweetheart,” he added with a little s!ile. There was no reply. "e glanced down. $he was asleep. Those cracks in the co!pounding were bad news. )o!pounding was an extre!ely resilient !aterial, slightly elastic. If it had for!ed cracks, that !eant that the ship had either been exposed to extre!e te!peratures + boiling or far below + or to che!icals. (r to extre!es of torsion and physical stress, repeatedly; They'd ha e to coat the whole hull, inside and out, with extra layers of co!pounding. "e was burning to ha e a look, but if he didn't keep his hands on the hel! here, the $hooting $tar !ight capsi.e;

(The Shooting Star series is a follow-on to the Solar Wind series. Not yet published; The Solar Wind series is available at http://www.p!.html"