Welcome to the next chapter in our continuing saga. Chapter 9 once again brings us to new territory, as I have split the chapter into two parts. What does this mean for you, my charismatic readers? It means you get to answer not one, but two questions (that are related to each other, of course). It’ll definitely be interesting to see how I craft the story from here, but based on the answer given to Chapter 8’s question, I thought the narrative deserved a change of pace.
Before you begin, if you’d like to see the answer for Chapter 8’s question, “Why won’t the engines start?”, you can find it here. And if you’d like to get caught up on all previous chapters, or simply refresh your memory on what characters we’ve met so far and what they’ve had to go through, check out our extremely convenient cliff notes.
Now, please enjoy Chapter 9 of our story where we find out why the engines wouldn’t start.
Part I — Rick
The Osteris continued to be one step ahead of Rick.
As much as the Majestrata had told him about the Osteris, there was still very little he knew about it and the expanse of its power. But it was the only thing he could think of that could possibly be keeping his ship grounded. The connection Jaden had to Salinar was much stronger than he initially thought. Somehow, the Osteris must have bound them together so that they would never be separated from the other. Salinar depended on Jaden’s life to control the Osteris; it only made sense then that the Osteris needed to keep Jaden close, and would do so by any means necessary. If that meant the ship would start on its own if Salinar decided to leave the planet was questionable. It was far more conceivable that the Osteris wouldn’t allow Salinar to leave the planet without Jaden, either, which meant if she was attempting to leave, she would be having the same issues as Rick — just the thought of which amused Rick to no end.
He sat back and rested his hands behind his head. Serves the bitch right, he thought. The elation didn’t last long, though, as it occurred to him that she would figure it out sooner or later, and would be coming for them both — if she wasn’t already.
Rick turned and looked at Jaden. He lay so stiff and rigid, much like their mother as she slept so peacefully in the mahogany casket covered in daisies and roses. The emotions that flooded Rick’s body as he waited for her to wake from her never-ending nap were so countless, none of them could gain prominence over any other. He was incredibly sad, but his anger for not being able to help her kept any tears from forming, and his fear of living without her remained distant to the denial that anything had even happened.
See you later, alligator, he kept repeating in his head, hoping he would finally hear her return the pleasantry —
After awhile, crocodile.
If anything, at least he felt the soft kiss on the forehead that always followed the exchange, though it killed him to know that because Rick was super late and had to be shuffled off lest he get a third tardy slip and detention, the only time they didn’t perform the ritual was the last time he would have the chance to say, “I love you.”
Rick didn’t buy it. She was just playing a game. If he got close enough, she would sit up, with her hands in the form of claws and growl at him as she snuggled his neck and made him laugh uncontrollably. Maybe if he simply reached in to tickle her, perhaps then she’d break the act. His father squeezed his shoulders tightly, keeping him from reaching over the side of her forever bed. For the first time Rick could remember, his father was at a loss for words. He simply flashed the fakest of smiles (staying strong for the sake of his sons) and escorted Rick to his seat next to Jaden, who was too afraid to go to the casket. Unlike the others, Jaden was a bloody mess, unable to stop crying since their father sat them down on the couch to tell them the bad news. Being the awesome big brother his mother always hoped he’d be one day, Rick wrapped his arm around Jaden’s shoulders to comfort him — the first of Rick’s many acts of affection that kept Jaden protected from any harm.
It was hard for Rick to accept the fact that his initial need to keep Jaden safe had led to the failure to protect him from the true evils of the universe.
“I’m sorry, little brother,” Rick whispered. “I’m going to make this right.”
He checked the engines one last time (you never know), then stood and set a timer to shut the main power systems down. It was clear to him now that he couldn’t just sit around and wait for Salinar to ambush them. Rick had to be aggressive about this and figured that if she was on her way here, he was going to be the one on the offensive. He lowered the ramp and threw his dark glasses back on, taking one last look at Jaden before departing. As he settled to the floor of the cave, he slid his finger along the side of the glasses to switch the lenses from night vision to heat vision so as to make sure Salinar hadn’t already infiltrated the cave and was now hiding in wait among the rock. Without any sign of her — or any type of life, for that matter — Rick hustled back through the caves, cautiously searching every inch of them.
When he reached the cab, he took one last look around for any sign of Salinar, and then pulled them off to look for somewhere he might be able to hide the cab and give him the advantage when she did finally show. About a hundred yards from the mouth of the cave was a dense arch of trees and brush that would give him the perfect cover, but at the same time allow him a clear, unobstructed view of the cave. He jumped in the cab and as reached for the ignition, he felt the cold metal of a weapon (whether a gun or a knife he couldn’t be sure) press against the back of his neck. Making sure to keep his heart rate from exploding, he closed his eyes and regulated his breathing, raising his hands as slowly as he could.
Part II — Jaden
Staring at the heart rate monitor was a lot easier than watching his father’s chest, which with even the sharpest of eyes, he’d hardly be able to tell if he was even still breathing. It didn’t help that his father’s hand burned Jaden’s with its icy flaccidness. He knew his father’s life was reaching its inevitable end, but after having taken care of him for so long, it was hard to believe that that time was now. And his inability to accept it was affecting his life in more ways than one. His schoolwork was suffering (but what was new?), failing several classes over the past year, and his relationships weren’t much better. A half a dozen messages currently sat on his phone from his girlfriend, who he knew was using this time to scorn him for not paying more attention to her. He didn’t much care, as anyone inside their inner circle could tell you, the relationship was on the outs long before Jaden’s father was hospitalized. It seemed all either of them needed was an excuse to finally put an end to it… and this seemed the best opportunity.
But Jaden’s thoughts were far from his relationship status with Calii (that’s right, two i’s, as if it made her more special — or as she liked to put it, spedazzilr… ugh…). They were too focused on his anger toward Rick for leaving them both in a lurch and then forgetting about them altogether. In some way, Jaden blamed Rick for his father’s swift demise; somehow he thought Rick’s presence alone would have prolonged their father’s life exponentially. Jaden knew it was stupid, but he needed something to blame, and Rick was a terrific scapegoat. That hint of disappointment mixed with resentment would occasionally leak out when his father (in those seldom moments he was awake and lucid) talked about him in relation to a memory or anecdote that kept his spirits high.
Your brother will always be your blood, no matter the circumstances, his father might say when Jaden turned away with an obvious roll of his eyes. That or, maybe:
There are a million satisfying things in this world that are fleeting; family isn’t one of them.
Blood is stronger than ice covered in superglue and reinforced with vibranium. That is until you tap it with imaginary bitter resentment.
If only he could hear his father’s voice now. Jaden lowered his head and spoke softly to himself, almost as if in prayer. After a few seconds, he could have sworn someone was speaking back to him. When he looked up to see if it was his father, he noticed a man walking away from the room. Although he could only see his back, the man felt oddly familiar, as if he knew him from another life. Regardless, Jaden was drawn to him in some weird way. After reaching the door, something came over him.
“Rick,” he called out without even realizing it.
The man stopped for a brief second, acknowledging the name with the slight downward turn of his head, and then continued walking away.
“Rick,” Jaden said again, taking a step from the room. That’s when, out of the corner of his eye, he took notice of the steady stream on his father’s heart monitor. Jaden turned back to his father, but he couldn’t move; he couldn’t feel; he couldn’t speak…
He couldn’t cry.
All he had left in him was to yell out Rick’s name in the hollows of his mind until he passed out, only to wake in a heap of sweat.
He sat up sharply, calling out Rick’s name one last time before succumbing to the pain that splintered his entire body. The sound of agony leaked from his lips as he pressed his hand to his chest. But the pain shifted quickly to his upper forearm as his body calmed. He pressed his hand to the wound, which only made the red-hot pain sear even stronger. Curiosity quickly got the best of him. He hissed through his teeth as he pulled the sash off of his arm, but still couldn’t see anything through the darkness. At least the sting wore away now that it had the ability to breathe a little.
Hovering his hand over the wound (subconsciously subduing the pain even further), Jaden scanned the room, looking for anything that might tell him where he was. Except for the scattered dots of light that signified some computer networks at work, the only thing he could see was the cushion he was sitting on. The last thing he remembered was staring into Sawyer’s eyes, so for all he knew, he could be on Salinar’s ship waiting to be transported to her planet for harvesting or some such thing. There was always the possibility that Rick had bested Salinar, though, so this could very well be his ship. Or it might not even be a ship at all. But he wasn’t going to know for sure sitting around in the dark.
To his surprise, the comforter shifted its shape as he slid his legs over the side to rest his feet on the floor. He took a moment to let a slight bout of nausea pass, then stood and shuffled to where the majority of the lights were active. By the time he reached the cockpit, he felt extremely lightheaded and had to sit down in the chair. He leaned forward, resting his forehead in his hand. At the same time, his elbow struck a set of keys on the console. A panel lit up above him, revealing a freakish black smoke of something. Jaden was mesmerized by the its soft elegance.
Then it was gone.
It took Jaden a few seconds to realize the panel had returned to its original state, and even if he wanted to open it back up, he had no idea what sequence of buttons he might have pushed. He sat back, a smirk of a smile landing across his lips. If he was right, he just saw the Majestrata in person. And better yet, there was no doubt this was Rick’s ship.
Just then, a series of hisses burst from the main chamber. Jaden jumped to his feet and watched the ramp slowly open. His heart raced as a figure, shrouded in darkness, stepped up the ramp with very meticulous steps.
Who is in the cab with Rick? Who is in the ship with Jaden?
Be as creative as you can (don’t hold back!), as outrageous as you want (throw me a curve ball!), and as detailed as possible. The best answer will determine where the story goes next.
Post your answers to Facebook, Twitter (using #WriteANovelWithMe and @phoenixmoirai) or in the comments section below by 5 p.m. PST on Thursday, January 29, 2015. You can give as many different answers as you want. The top 5 will be posted on Friday.
I can’t wait to see where your imaginations soar