Book 2 Chapter 9

The men crouched, hands straying to weapon handles. “Please stand at ease, KniGhTs, adjusting, Please stand at ease Knights.” A broken electronic voice blared across the decks of the Camelot, static straining the words, making the origin uncertain. “I have assumed control of the vessel,  you are safe. That is all” The torches re-igniting at the end of the message. “I do believe that we might be under attack Sir.” Immediately Sir Ton turned towards the Knight that had spoken, Caradoc junior, currently serving as a wall knight for the Camelot’s defenses. “I, think not, Sir Caradoc, but you are well to be wary.” He managed to keep his face blank, expressionless, a skill he owed to many nights filled with cards and gambling as a youth. “This is a message for the common good, please remain calm, the ship is currently undergoing maintenance” The voice was monotonous, and still somewhat warbled from the static interference, nonetheless Sir Ton knew who it was NOT.
“It might not be an attack, but make certain all Knights will be void ready, I trust you can do it discretely.”  Sir Caradoc nodded his understanding, and darted of his movements were measured out, and purposeful, so much so that Sir Ton took a moment to admire the man’s precise motions, there was a certain beauty in a well trained warrior that stemmed from efficiency, sometimes it would reveal itself in fluid motions, other times it was the short no nonsense movement of a man who wasted nothing, today it was the latter. “I see you approve of the doctrines the wall teaches? ” Sir Bron was playing along masterfully, making light of the situation, while donning his helmet again. “Perhaps you could oversee our exercises someday, Sir Ton? ” Either that or the man was so jaded by his years of active service that he truly did not feel there was a threat. “I would be honoured, but only if you come visit the Tower’s training grounds aswell of course.” Sir Ton spoke as he wrestled his own helm back in place, the H.U.D. was flaring with confused icons. “Come on come on come on respond to me already! Stop ignoring meeeeeeee!? ” Gwenn34 was practically assaulting his ears the moment the helm was back in place. Unfortunately the assault was so loud that it nearly caused Sir Ton to bleed from his ears.

The giant staggered, and fell to the floor, clutching his head fiercely. The people watched in terror, afraid that whatever vile magic had stolen the light just now, had somehow struck one of the giants down. The frown upon old aunt Farthis face had deepened, as she fiddled with something in her pouch, the people drew closer obscuring her view. One was about to speak, she knew him, Thomas he was, and she did not like him very much, however he had survived so he deserved a second chance, even from her, so she bit her tongue and let him.”Will you cast the bones Misses Farthis? I should like to see if he will be well?” His tone and demeanor surprised her, he had always been a crass youngling, no respect towards his elders and all that, yet there was respect there now. “Aye m’boy, I shall cast and we all shall kenn what will be with him that fell.” The request had been made, so she drew her knuckle bones, each inscribed on one end with varying runes, the other end left bare polished bone, carefully she laid out her quartered cloth, now slightly stained from the troubles on the road, said a quick and quiet invocation, as she raised the bones over the center, and released them.

They watched with baited breath as the bones fell, they all saw them strike the cloth, and somehow leap from it. One after the other they sprang and clacked upon the metal flooring besides the cloth, all but three. They all bore witness as old aunt Farthis slowly turned her gaze upon her cloth, and they all saw her eyes go wide as she whispered the bones. “Mannaz,,Tiwaz reversed,,Hagalaz, Man war and destructive natural force,, at least for the better, he will fight for us in a devastating battle,” The thought of it alone terrified the old woman to her core, the horror of war was not yet over for them nor for the giants, and with how the other bones had fled, the power of the prediction must be high, either the war would come soon, or it would be one of tremendous scale. Little did she know the other meaning her runes might have had, little did she know that for the Knights her prediction meant nought but what they already knew .

The yelling stopped, the icons slowly blinked out, and the pain started to fade, somewhere in the distance a tiny voice hesitantly muttered something about elevated blood pressure and near deadly levels of adrenalin. Sir Ton rose again, his vision edged in crimson, his hearing impaired by the noise of his blood flow. “Gwenn34, be still, administer, painkillers.” He barely managed to remain upright his body not entirely healed from before now buffeted by the audio visual assault had trouble maintaining its equilibrium.
From the side he saw the medical staff stop their rushed advance, good, a leader should not be seen as weak, or so one of his mentors had always told him.
The world returned. “Gwenn34, speak softly, my ears are, in pain.”  This was shaping up to become, as his friend would say, one of those days.

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Inspiration.

So yesterday  I found myself sitting in the passenger seat of my fathers car, driving through the dark hours before sunrise. I say the dark hours, and they were,as the area we drove through had no street lights, and it was shaping up to be a dreary morning, the sky was overcast with thick clouds, that had it been brighter would no doubt still seem uninviting.

And for the first time in a long time I caught myself performing a sort of mental tug of war  between my rational analytical, and my imaginative childlike side.
The reason for the two being at odds was simple enough, I was the one with the map. As such I had to focus, really focus, on where we were, and what little of the surroundings allowed themselves to be identified in the fleeting moments the headlights illuminated them. However my imaginative childlike side had other plans, as we drove past what I recognised as a wind generator, I witnessed the wrathful gaze of an impotent giant flailing his arms in rage as we sped away, my imagination turning the red warning lights into the monster’s eyes. Later we passed a somewhat rare sight, the end of a train line, the sort that had no station attached and only really sees use for maintenance or temporary storage of extra carts that they might use during rush hour. However it had two red indicator light on either side of the double tracks, with a small building behind them, the posts along the tracks soon turned into a dragon’s jagged teeth.

All the while I was maintaining my focus on getting the directions right, telling myself to ignore the fantastical creatures of these dark hours, and to a degree I could. To a degree, because where most people would get annoyed at such flights of fancy, I as a writer can benefit from them.

So when, in this coming year, you suddenly find yourself staring at giants, dragons, sleeping trolls, or staring into the abyssal depths that threaten to swallow you and your vehicle like some small candy devoured by some hungry child around halloween, take a moment, and enjoy it, or write it down, before your rational mind tells you that really, it’s just a windmill, train stop,  oddly shaped hill, or tunnel with defective lighting, and you’re just traveling in those darkest hours before the dawn, where fantasy can be seen, and stories are born.

For now, happy new year everyone, let’s hope it’ll be a creative one.

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Book 2 chapter 8 (7.5, but 8 for ease of numbering)

At the visual easing of Sir Ton’s temper, and the removal of his hand from the hilt of his weapon several Knights of Sir Bron’s eclectic group rushed forward, carrying collapsible chairs, and a foldaway table, a field officer’s equipment, except this particular set came from several incomplete sets. With a relaxed gesture, as if he were never worried Sir Bron gestured to the set, offering the seat. “May we confer, Commander Ton? Perchance together we might get to the bottom of things?” He sounded tired, aged and worn, but welcoming. “A good plan, Sir Bron, let us see what information we both have.” The two Knights sat, and looked upon a projected map of the Camelot, upon which Sir Bron placed several markers, and rectified the location of some walls manually, using some of the quirks of his older system. “Here is the lay of the land, so to say, now for this map we used the schematics as on file, but they seem to be rather wrong, some walls seem moved, and on three places my men have noted wrong identification marks for floors, or bulkheads.” On this Sir Ton frowned. ” Walls have moved, and floor levels are wrong, the ship is changed, but we used the schematics to guide the order of the road.” A pot of dark brew is set next to the map, and mugs filled, absent mindedly Sir Ton takes one and bring it to his mouth. “Helmet, We might be able to guide them here, we have triage set up, should they have encountered trouble.” The warning just in time, Sir Ton set the mug back down, and finally removed his battle helm.  “Much obliged, your suit allows you to send a pulse does it not?” Sir Bron smiled, and sipped the brew.”Not my suit, but we do have an active locator, and now the enemy is gone we wouldn’t be at risk when using it.” Sir Ton frowned, as he drank the hot drink, and collected his thoughts. “The active beacons are technically for training goals, but I like how you think. We might be able to bring them home.” He paused for another sip.” And the Knight Commander, as, even though I know where he is, I have no idea how to get there anymore, nor can I hail him presently.”

The words had flown from his mouth before he even had the sense to consider them, and now he had to let it play out. He hated himself for the carelessness that he had just displayed, in the back of his mind he could already hear himself apologizing to Mordred, exclaiming that he regretted speaking so openly, already he knew Mordred’s reply, “But my dear friend” He would say. “Don’t you know I value your frankness, certainly the timing could not have been worse, but let us be fair with one another, you were possibly still drugged from your surgery, by all means you should be reclining on the bridge and let the men work for you.” Actually now that he thought about it, that last bit seemed wrong yet somehow fitting for the situation.

“Perhaps the ship’s sudden manoeuvres caused some discomfort for the Knight Commander, indeed, perchance his helm is damaged?” Sir Bron offered, appearing utterly unimpressed to find out the actual Knight Commander was missing in action. “Still if he is within the five deck range we will find him, and if any part of his helm remains functional, he will find us. Unless he was outside when the ship fired her engines of course.” The very real option of his friends death being mentioned as a mere after thought rubbed Sir Ton in all the wrong ways, before he could respond however the electric torches went out entirely, causing the Camelot to be wreathed in deeper shadows, and effectively shutting Sir Ton up, as he instinctively grabbed his helm.

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Book 2 chapter 7

Mordred stared at the box computer he had made to hack the Camelot’s systems, he could almost taste the irony. “Would this do?” His voice was heavy as he offered Dame Krim his handiwork. He already knew it wouldn’t, after all, he was no engineer. And he had built it from nothing but spare parts, and Gwenn34 was no ship A.I. “It’s, Sir, did YOU make this?” There it was, now she would hide her judgement behind politeness  and formalities, to let him down gently.
“These parts, this welding, is that? Sir, how did you? I don’t believe it!” She stared incredulously at the hack-box  as she turned it over in her hands, it’s many ports catching her eyes. “So many different ports.” Apparently she would not hide her incredulity at his inept attempts at engineering. “Sir, respectfully, your welding could use some work. Otherwise, parts wise, I believe it might work.” Mordred Stared at her in disbelief. Was she serious? Before he could ask however, Dame Krim was gone again, lost amidst the virtual forest of cables and tubes.
“Do you need anything else?” The question was meant as a way to break the silence, if nothing else. “Zip-tie’s, craft knife, spanner, and a drink.” Somewhat surprised Mordred went through Dame Krim’s toolcase, and started handing her the requested items. All but the drink. “That drink will have to wait, Dame Krim, as I have none, and you are tinkering with my mothers brain.”His remark caused the silence to return for a while, before an embarrassed whisper chased the awkward silence away again. “So sorry Sir, I,I, it’s a habit sir, I meant my water bottle, you see, its in my pack and, it doesn’t fit sir.”
Mordred smiled, for a moment he had truly been just another knight, not a commander, or even a senior. “It’s fine, I’ll see if I can find it.” He had left out name and rank, not out of habit, or as belittlement, but as an attempt to put her at ease again. “Should be a blue-bottle Sir, with a yellow hose.” ” Why a yellow hose?” He chuckled even as he asked. “Well it’s what I had when I made it Sir, unless you meant the hose, I got that because my suit’s hydration unit got busted, so as a field repair, or hack as some would call it, I put together my own, really low tech, for emergencies and such, I like to tinker with things like that.” Mordred touched her leg to interrupt her.”Breathe, Krim, breathe.” Carefully he handed her the bottle. “Nothing wrong with that, everyone needs a hobby.”He could hear her swallow.”And what might your hobby be then Sir? If you don’t mind me asking of course?” The second part came out rushed, as if she hadn’t considered someone might mind.” Well, I guess in a way your holding it. Or rather the product of one. I have several hobbies, like tinkering.”

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Book 2 Chapter 6

Author’s note: Apologies for the lack of updates lately, I had a chapter prepared, neatly written out by hand, only to have left my notebook.
However the notebook has found its way back to me and as such I can post the chapter that should be rather than one of the countless worthless drafts that kept feeling sub par.
Thank you for your patience.

Heavy footfalls shook the flooring, causing the rag-tag group of survivors to cast wary looks towards the Tower gates, as they huddled closer to their sputtering fires. Oddly enough none of the giants seemed to notice the thundering steps as they approached, except maybe, the thought caused old aunt Farthis to cast her glance towards Sir Bron, their giant. He who cares for the people, and saw his helm move towards the gate. Carefully she nudged her niece. “He watches over us, see? Our mighty Lord he is.” causing the other members of their group to nod and mumble in agreement.

Sir Bron turned his head towards the Tower gate, only to see a Tower Icon approaching surrounded by several crows, his old fashioned display settings presenting him with  stylised symbols rather than titles and names, a holdover from a older system he had insisted on keeping, much like the wrist overlay setting, all meant to reduce clutter in his field of view, when asked for his reasons he had simply replied that he was an old dog, the younger engineers had stared at him without understanding, but the grand mechanic had laughed and indulged him. He responded by opening his general field frequency. “Attention Wall Knights and medical staff! Clear the main walkway! Tower is inbound! I repeat; Clear the main walkway, Tower is inbound!” Instinctively he made the hand gestures while he spoke, using signs to divide the tasks. His brethren of the Wall responded immediately, keen not to fail again they ushered the able, and carried the weak to the relative cover of the balconies.

The medical staff meekly followed, some carrying the braziers between them. As such it took Sir Bron mere minutes to clear the Grand Hall of the Camelot. Soon age old weathered banners became back-lit once more, by fires from the braziers, or just on the floor, the banners to the people seeming like curtains flowing from the balconies above, seemingly forming tents sheltering the people within.

Sir Ton wanted to scream, to yell at someone, something, to snarl and growl. But he could not afford to, not now, not anymore. He had already lost his temper once, with the Knight who had sought to ignore rank, the event had reminded him of the catacombs, of mad Arthur, the former king. No he had to control himself, and his temper, after all this train of thought led to failure, and failure was not an option, not  after Mordred, his friend, his Commander, his brother in arms, had entrusted him with the burden of command, and he would not fail him. It was bad enough as it was, his actions so far feeling like failure to him. Nonetheless he would give this his all.

So he drew in a deep breath, preparing himself to manually disengage the door’s locking mechanism, and possibly override Morgana’s control, maybe even needing to actively fight her for control. He lifted his hand towards the round wheel controlling the door’s locking bolts, only to see it revolve before he could even touch it. The door opening before him, as if the Camelot itself welcomed him.

Before them lay the Grand Hall, it’s banners seeming to billow in ethereal winds. Braziers were alight, their flames casting playful shadows, and a warm orange glow across the hall. A path cleared for them down the middle giving the impression of grandeur that the hall once had new life.
And right there stood Sir Bron, awaiting their arrival, his older suit of armour gleaming in the fire light seeming to give him an air of nobility, his stance however suggested subservience, it was subtle, but present.
“Hail to the Tower, well met again Sir Ton, how may the wall assist you today?”
Somewhat perplexed Sir Ton strode forward. “Well met Sir Bron, Perhaps you are unaware, yet I must ask, did you order the Camelot into motion?” He hated that he had to ask, he was certain the veteran had done no such thing, but he needed to know for certain, he had to ask, even if just to eliminate the possibility. “We of the wall were as surprised as you were Sir, in fact I lost some, men, because of the sudden motion, and have been running damage control since.” Sir Bron had paused ever so briefly at the mention of the losses, yet did not seem to be overly sad, rather he had seemed uncertain whether or not to mention it at all, Sir Ton made a mental note to ask about it later. For now he removed his hand from his Hammer.

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Book 2 Chapter 5

The decks of the Sword of Damocles shuddered, and gentle chimes alerted the men that docking was in progress. Sir Ton had been right, the Camelot had appeared in the exact spot he had chosen, and now it would no longer matter how she flew. No matter her bearing or speed she would no longer outrun the Sword, as it had managed to dock, and would be taken along for the ride. So all in all Sir Ton felt rather good about himself. Until a unfamiliar chime signalled a bridge officer seeking his counsel. “What is it? ” He was being curt and rude and he knew it, it irked him however that someone he did not know well enough to have given his personal frequency somehow had managed to hail him nonetheless. “Sir, acting Commander Sir, Helmsman Barrow reporting Sir, there seems to have been a change in the Camelot’s pattern Sir.” Sir Ton took a moment to calm himself. “Do not worry Barrow, I am certain you directed us so we have an ideal docking position, ensuring that she won’t be leaving without us.” Ton attempted an air of calm self assuredness, aside from trying to sound friendly it also and most importantly would allow him to sound patient without actually being patient. “That is just it Sir, the Camelot, she stopped moving Sir, she is currently dead in space.” Sir Ton’s eyes widened, a ship like this, after flying so erratically, a full stop could mean one of two things, and he did not like the odds of it being favourable. “Presume she is preparing for a sudden leap, assume the worst, for the love of all you hold dear strap everyone in!” Either the Camelot had just died, Sir Ingles obeyed and cutting the engines, or she was preparing to fight them of possibly ramming planets, or diving towards black holes, least horrible case she would suddenly accelerate to near critical velocity, trying to tear off the moorings. All cases Sir Ton could possibly imagine were however equally grim. “Sir Ton, the docking was a success, the teams at the other stations give similar reports. Permission to board?” He could hear sir Idver was eager to move, hands locked in specialised mag-gauntlets, a redundant safety feature designed with the purpose of holding on to outer hulls when the boots failed, involuntarily Sir Ton smiled when he remembered seeing a similar device in the halls of remembrance, earlier iterations of the mag-gauntlet had been meant to secure the wearers tools, so that during a space walk they would not drift away and potentially cause more harm than good. As such his voice sounded genuinely happy when he answered. “Certainly Sir Idver, and elegantly done, my compliments to your men.”

The first door slid open with a well oiled ease, Harding Tiberos, a veteran Knight when it came to boarding actions took point, ignoring the privilege of the ranking officers to go first, he dove through the airlock and immediately secured the stairwell beyond., a glance to his H.U.D. told him there was breathable atmosphere, but he chose to remain helmed, instead favoring his own supply of oxygen. “So far all clear Sir.” His team was slow today, coming through the airlock hesitantly, or perhaps uncertainly, it didn’t matter much. He was about to press on, ready to advance into a dimly lit hallway when a powerful hand pressed him into the wall. “Hold.” The single word conveyed a deep seated anger, Sir Idver may have been (as Harding would often state) too green for his position. He still knew what it was, as did he know that he could not allow insubordination, least of all with an acting Commander present. Harding stared at the rooky captain, a man he did not, and could not respect, and could not help but see a boy trying to act big. Without giving it much thought he attempted to push his superior aside, as he had always done when Idver had not been his superior, only to find the hammer aimed at his helm. “You might believe your Captain young, but you will heed him, Sir. Or I shall consider thee as I have once Arthur.” Sir Ton’s last words sounded like a death threat, even to Harding, who knew nothing of Arthur’s death, Sir Idver however stepped away from the acting Commander in utter surprise, even he had heard the words, and the tone, clear as day, as Sir Ton had not chosen to speak through the comms but was instead broadcasting from the speaker mounted upon his chest. The chastisement meant to be public, as was the threat. This in itself was not unheard of, an officer often had to prove himself before veterans, especially if said veterans were older than the officer, and doubted the officers experience, what was however unusual was the manner in which the superior officer had reacted to the situation. “Sir Ton, I am certain that ,,,” Sir Ton did not let Sir Idver finish. “Arrest this Knight and have him committed to the med bay under permanent armed watch.” With those words he stepped away, not once lowering the hammer, not once looking away, until Sir Tiberos was gone. After that he simply turned and walked into the dark hallways of the Camelot, taking point as he instructed Gwenn34 to load the route and maps to the groups H.U.D.’s.

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Book 2 Chapter 4

Patience is a virtue, and no virtue goes unrewarded. Her mother used to tell her that, it was in fact one of the last things she had told her before Dame Krim enlisted with the order of the Road, and set out on a quest to aid in humanity’s defenses. Dame Krim had never really understood what she had meant with that, or rather what she had implied by telling her that just as she left, but her mother had smiled at her and seemed genuinely proud, so she had let anny hurt-full undertones slide of off herself like water of the side of a particularly well greased gear.

Now, centuries later and knowing her mother most likely was dead, her ashes dispersed on her homeworlds toxic winds. She couldn’t help but think of her again, and watching the Knight commander standing guard over his mother, she could not help but feel regret. Regret for having said her goodbyes, regret for all the arguments, regret for not having been fully honest with her, and regret for not having told her how much her remark had stung. even in the months following she had never once messaged home for clarity, never once looked back. As such she resolved to compose a letter, it would never really reach its destination, but it would at least give her closure, or so she reasoned.

Once more she picked up one of the aged wires leading to the atrociously modified tomb, and started the laborious process of determining its purpose and mapping its corresponding location upon a motherboard, as opposed to its location in a mothers brain. At least here patience would have a noticeable reward, doing it right would reinstate the Camelot as a properly functioning ship, and free Morgana, Knight Commander Damodred’s mother. Carefully she noted the location on her schematic, and labeled the wire with the proper symbol. Glancing over her hand drawn schematics she noticed that they lacked proper resistors, and diodes. For a moment she even feared needing to re-do her previous work, adding the step of measuring the voltage levels and resistances each wire had, in order to properly calibrate the motherboard , then discarded the thought, each wire was jacked into a living brain, voltage would likely not exceed the safe ranges coming in, let alone the maximum voltage coming out. she would therefore merely need to monitor Morgana’s brain activity and that could be done with the tombs own medical features. Unless those were tampered with, in order to better integrate the woman into the machine but that was crazy, right?

In a state of near panic Dame Krim crawled across the myriad of cables towards the underside of the tomb. Once there she attached her small diagnostic screen and booted up the tombs medical systems, at first this gave her a blank screen, then, after reminding herself not to panic but to activate her display, she could check Morgana’s vitals, up to and including the intensity of her brain activity, something she did not understand in the slightest.

 

“She’s waking up, so I would like you to get out from under there, unless you would like the conversations to be even more awkward. ” She ignored him, or maybe she simply did not hear him.”Are you done yet?” A more direct approach often worked on mechanics, this time however she maintained her silent and unresponsive attitude, it irked him. “GET OUT NOW.” Spoken louder than before, with more authority. A movement, legs wriggling. “Stuck now, would you happen to know about brain activity in correlation to ship movements Sir?” Mordred slapped his forehead. “Can I take that as a no Sir?” The woman was infuriating, and unfortunately to smart to be clever. “Have you tried running it through a simulation program, or a filter, or even a simple A.I. to command algorithm yet?” He could already guess her answer, a resounding of course I did.”Good plan Sir, Trying that now, say are we perchance moving?” Mordred frowned at the question, then relayed it to Gwenn34 before answering. “Yes we are, aft and port thrusters are,,”She cut in.” Firing at fifty percent thrust, Sir you are a genius!” Unseen to her Mordred’s eye developed a twitch.

The solution had been so simple, so elegant, sure she had to modify the interface a little but the tweaks were truly minimal. She wondered why the Knight Commander wasn’t an engineer, but banished the thought, now she had a program capable of reading the pulses the mapping of the wires had become a lot easier. And it saved her the extra work involved in calibrating the motherboard. She could simply use the parameters set by her program to calibrate the A.I. instead. Now all she needed was a suitable computer, something capable of holding a A.I. and large enough to attach all the wiring. Luckily she considered herself virtuous.

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