The following are excerpts from Four Winds from a Tempest, the latter of which was published in Mash Stories:
Gale Arioch felt a shudder slide through the ship as he descended into the wind currents. Two calloused hands clutched the half-circle shape, pressed over gray duct tape wound around the two ends, fashioning padding for the handle. Always worse before it gets better, he thought. “Zephyr!” He bellowed over his shoulder.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Zephyr Arioch answered in the timid voice that belied the in-born skill she possessed. A red braid hung over each ear, a smattering of freckles adding to her perpetually youthful look. Swinging a leg over the co-pilot’s seat, over-stuffed cargo shorts jingled as she plopped into the bucket chair, snapping and fastening the harness with a practiced hand. “Who needs sleep?” She wrapped her hand around the matching controls.
“Stop bossing, brother.” Her answer held only lighthearted teasing.
Descending over the Maroon Waters of Shorian, Gale scowled with concentration as the control wheel bucked forward. He squinted into the glare from the white star lighting the solar system, a larger blue white star shining just behind, but over a parsec away. “Easy, we don’t have six months to rebuild this time.” The hull groaned, complaining against the wind shear. He glanced over at his sister. “No repeats.”
“Agreed,” she growled. Then, pursing her lips, beads of sweat formed on her forehead, as the muscles in her arms flexed. “I blame Gust.” They pulled hard, both leaning to the right, forward then back. “Shame Sirocco didn’t come along,” she said, thinking of her absent twin. “Coulda been a family reunion.”
Gale laughed, “Fancy a revolt, do ya?”
Zephyr’s answering snicker faded in a grunt when the ship made a sharp dive toward the reddish waters, a light rain beating against the cockpit glass. The white light shining through the thin clouds blushed the sky a rosy hue.
“Pink is not my favorite.”
“Have you ever seen a pink rainbow in iron skies? You might like it.” Gale said, through gritted teeth. Zephyr did not answer, so he continued, “Alright then, hate pink, but it’s the prison planet, and you know Gust is innocent,” Gale added. “Nearly there.” Their banter fell silent, fighting the ship and the winds, Gale praying the patchwork hull would hold together.
Somewhere, the sound of metal ripping signaled the harsh landing behind a cliff, inside a crater on the barren surface. Gale laughed wildly. “Made it!”
Zephyr was leaned forward over the control panel, studying lights and checking read-outs.
“Whatever that was…” Gale said as he watched her tap dials. “It wasn’t bad enough to make Mama scream at us. Hopefully, it wasn’t bad at all.”
Gale unstrapped before adding, “We’ll look her over before we leave.” Reaching underneath his seat, he retrieved two energy pistols. The long barrels glinted in the sunlight shining through the cockpit, the end pinched to help focus the beam. “There’s another under yours.”
Zephyr already stood, but stooped to pick up the firearm, tucking it into her belt. “Off we go. Be back in a bit, Mama.” Her hand caressed the walls as she strolled toward the hatch.
Gale looked at Zephyr’s hand. “For good luck?” She nodded. Thinking a moment, he shrugged, then ran his hand along the same path she’d chosen. “For luck, then.”
“Gust!” Gale clapped his twin brother in a hug, giving a playful tug to the wiry, unkempt beard trailing down the broad chest, eyeing the tattered clothes and fresh bruises on his face. “Been here a while?”
Gust Arioch harrumphed. “Funny man.” He massaged his wrists. “First time they’ve let me see visitors without handcuffs.”
Loosening his hold, Gale lowered his voice to a whisper, switching to their home-world dialect. “We’re here to get you out. Some of the guards are sympathetic. Zephyr’s up top.” Gale leaned slightly so his utility vest flashed open. The lone swinging prison light glinted off the aluminum grips of two weapons tucked in his belt.
“Three of four winds in one place…” Gust grinned. “They don’t stand a chance.”
Stepping back, they strolled toward the guard. With a wink, Gale pulled the thick door open. The guard winked back, keying the old school walkie-talkie three times. Once through the door, Gale pretended to trip, pressing the second pistol into Gust’s hands. Gale lifted his brows and mouthed, “Ready?”
Gust answered with a slight drop of his chin.
Throwing a grin at the camera behind them, Gale spun. The yellow energy pulse left the barrel, decimating the camera in a shower of sparks. “Go!”
Gust charged down the narrow hall, gun held high. Gale waved at every camera before blasting it in an identical shower of fireworks. The surge blew out lightbulbs as they went. Doors clicked and opened. At the third, Gust grinned at Gale in between the shadows. “Man on the inside, Gale? Is that what took you so long?”
“Naturally.” Gale sent a volley of energy pulses toward a squad of gray uniformed, black helmeted soldiers, pinning them inside a room off of the exit hallway. As they ran by, he haphazardly shot into the room before pulling the door closed and melting the handpad. He donned a smirk when the soldiers began pounding and yelling.
Another door clicked open and the twins exploded onto the windy surface. Zephyr leaned against the Misher stone entrance. Green eyes twinkling, “Well, I was just about to leave you two behind.”
Gust grabbed her in a bear hug, then tossed her into the dune crawler. Cheerful, Gale threw himself into the vehicle, enjoying their reunion. Gust frowned at Zephyr. “Sirocco?”
“Not this time,” Zephyr answered, patting his arm. “She stayed back to keep up the fight. ’Sides, your favorite sister came last time – my turn.” The engine revved, tires spinning red dust into the air as she caught a gear.
Gust laughed. “That it was, Z.” He turned toward Gale. “Take me to Mama!” The three fiery haired criminals raced across the flats, each thinking of home.
Sirocco Arioch pressed the gray barrel into the pink head of the Shrill-nak warrior. The weapon hummed, fully charged, the butt glowing with energy. “Marl, I heard something about jealousy recently. Shrill-nak women can legally kill for jealousy.” A smirk crossed her features as he struggled against the bindings holding him in the metal chair. “Your wife killed her last mate, didn’t she?” Each word was accompanied by a tap of the gun barrel, each growing more forceful until the warrior recoiled. She kicked something into Marl’s view. With a piercing metallic scrape, it slid across the black floor.
Marl leaned forward to look, and she laughed when she felt his shudder. “That’s right, big guy. Don’t do the dirty unless you’re okay with coming clean.” When she pulled the blaster from his temple, a reddened circle-shaped indentation appeared in the folds of skin on his skull. “Sorry about that.” The gun stopped whining. “You know I get a little enthusiastic in my views on slaving.” Confident in the bindings, she stooped to pick up the image. It was a three-second shot, printed on metal, showing three moving seconds worth of two creatures in a passionate embrace. She held the image in front of Marl’s face. “I paid dearly to add this to my art collection. Does your wife collect art?”
Marl shook his head, his response muffled against the gag. Reaching upward, she gave a mighty yank, pulling the tape from his yellow lips. “Duct tape, comes from earth, our biggest export. Erodian crystals may fly most of the ships in the galaxy, but duct tape holds them together.”
Marl nodded, his skin flaps trembling. “Yes, yes, we love Earth Duct Tape.”
“I thought so,” she purred. Flicking a switch with her finger, the handgun began another high-pitched humming. Pressing it once more against his skull flaps, she added, “Now, when you meet with the Planetary Congress, you will bring a movement to arrest slavers on sight, giving a lifetime punishment. Is that clear?”
“Yes, yes, slavers must be punished.”
Waving the gun in front of his body, she stopped, pointing at his right shoulder. “If you don’t, just before I gift this lovely piece of art to your wife, I will slice open your shister and pull your insides out piece by piece. You’ll wish for the kindness of your jealous wife.”
Marl’s eyes rolled back in his head. Sirocco cursed. “I’m not done with you, big guy.” She slapped the pink face until Marl regained consciousness. “Alright, mighty Shrill-nak warrior, your binds will dissolve in two hours.” She patted his cheek. “I’ll be watching.” With that, she turned on her heel and left.
Bokerah Brumley is an award-winning freelance writer. In her spare time, Bokerah enjoys climbing trees, photographing peacocks, and writing flash fiction. Two novellas and one novel were planned for 2015. She lives with her husband, five kids, and three dogs in West Texas where she serves as the blue-haired publicity officer for the Cisco Writers Club.
Image: flickr / Mark