Today I practiced showing instead of telling: mercilessly launch all adverbs into the event horizon of a black hole; avoid “-ing” adjectives as if they were thermal-seeking rocket-propelled nuclear fusion missiles; with a tourniquet, restrict the flow of the “was” and “is” verbs as if they were the spewing blood from your severed arms. That’s, like, all it is, right? Just three things, and you’re finally hitting the ball into the correct ballpark, right? Sweet!
This is just a draft! A practice draft, at that!
Eigil looked toward the closet embedded into the side of the captain’s private quarters. “Was that a…?”
“Couldn’t have been,” replied the captain. “No one would be stupid enough to come here.”
The closet door slid open.
Blinding light veiled the retinas of the two spacers while the bells of a church choir played in their ears. Their world hovered in the center of a white dwarf, drowning them in everything but its heat. They could no more have seen their intruder than they could have seen how to reach for the glasses of spice wine right in front of them.
Something in Eigil failed to yield to the sensory disruption. He didn’t want to be put down, defenseless. He stood on his legs, still blind, yet hands raised in the kurnos position, the one where he could enter a variety of hand combat moves, all of which incorporated simultaneous attack and defense. His torso was turned sideways from his leg’s squatted direction. They were available for a forward sweep or a cross kick.
What in the hell was a kurnos position? What was he doing? Yes, he was a fighter just like the next spacer, but what did he know about martial arts?
It didn’t matter; it felt right. It itched every second he tried to escape its gravity on his will, on his emotions, on his physical body. He couldn’t pull free. For all he knew, he could have been a marionette with strings tugging him this way and that. Not even his mind escaped the event horizon, so he just allowed it to take him over.
Surrender to the knowledge.
When his mind surrendered, he abandoned the conscious world, entering a waking dream. His brain thought hard about what had been in a tiny sliver of his peripheral vision the moment before the blast. The closet door had opened. A hand had reached out with a small object about the size of a walnut. No, it hadn’t reached out; it had tossed the object.
Then came the flash of white that greedily coveted every square centimeter of the captain’s cabin. The mass audiovisual disruption…the retaining of consciousness…a flashbang.
He tried to recall; the person’s arm reached out of the closet. Using a kurnos internal martial art, the one he practiced together with the external physical martial form, he meditated out the afterglow of the image in his mind. The shoulder came out next, then the top of the head, bent forward in a charge. Then the front of the face—a glimpse shut off by a boulder of white granite smashing the floor in between.
The front face, the momentary actualization. A woman. A young woman. A girl just reaching adulthood. Semi-sharp facial features donning a frenetic expression—though whether of fear or of disgust, he couldn’t be sure.
An emerald choker around the neck. Magenta lip gloss. Brown hair clawing inertia in an attempt to reclaim its place at her shoulders.
Then came the white supernova.
That face, that face, he thought, why did his self-talk antagonize him for not recognizing a person he knew so very well?
Then, everything escaped from him as if gravity had ceased and allowed everything to float back out into space. He couldn’t recall it, couldn’t put his mind or his hands or his legs back into those positions again, couldn’t have the rippling fireball of power and knowledge throwing itself around his soul with infallible capability like he had before. It was just gone.
He was about to grab his head and try to steal back the missing information, but he found his own soul a safe, locked and sealed with the most advanced encryption the age had to offer and he with only a pen and paper to decipher it.
Those martial arts—where had he learned all of that? His eyesight returned enough to allow him to glance down at the falling position of his hands. His gained control of his ears before his eyes came to life again with their abilities.
The space around him offered no friction of air particle movement. Either the person was still there, or the person was long gone and really, really fast. In the first event, he wouldn’t have anything to worry about.
In the second, he would have everything to worry about. Someone that good wasn’t just listening in accidentally, and that could mean a whole lot of bad news for Eigil. What was worse was that he was still alive and they were gone. If he’d been dead, well, every spacer has an assassin or two after them, don’t they? But his heart still beat, his eyes and ears, although ravaged, still worked right. That meant something existed either in his brain or in the brain of the captain that the familiar woman agent wanted to acquire.
“Captain, are you all right?”
“Fine, fine,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “Any idea what that was about?”
“Does your armory contain flash bangs?”
The captain shook his head in a no. “There’s been a shortage of them in this star cluster. I’m not buying them at the black market rates. We hardly ever use them, anyway—we have a crowd control gun that generates the same effect.”
“I bet it’s made of metal. The gun.”
The captain fed him a look that said, “perhaps that flash bang did more to you than me.”
“Have you ever studied ancient earth tribes?”
“Well, these tribes developed highly sophisticated weaponry out of their natural environment. They were chemists who could create a shrapnel grenade out of edged rocks, gunpowder and a wooden shell. Notice that scent?”
The captain sniffed, testing the air with curious eyes. “It’s sulfur.”
Eigil bent over to retrieve a chunk of smooth wood from the floor, its concave side tanned with soot. “Sulphur match. Probably hemp fuse. Not very conventional.”
“First you mutiny. Now you want me to believe that I have a prehistoric gorilla wreaking havoc on my vessel?”
“Captain, this is serious. Very serious. No one studies that kind of thing anymore except for professional agents. Ask the ship to do a sensor sweep for ‘flashbangs,’ and then ask it to do one for ‘wooden flash powder containers.’ An agent doesn’t want to be detected until he’s a good couple of light years away from his enemy.”
The captain chuckled, though not in amusement. “All right. Then, do you have a solution?”
“I’ll take care of it. In the meantime, I would suggest posting guards twenty-four seven, by relative earth time, I mean. Could be just an information-gathering mission. Or, he could be trying to kill you.”