The funny thing is, this is the one I’m least prepared to write.
I’m thinking an LtD-universe adventure set sometime between the Graali moon and the ball on Europa. A missing chapter, if you will.
Toss some inspiration at me?
It was the worst devastation Taz had seen in years.
An entire planet, tiny, harmless, one of the fledgling colonies the G.L.E.E. had begun in an effort to find a new home for the soon-to-be homeless citizens of a dying Earth. The colonies had been strategically scattered throughout the galaxy in the hopes of making them as difficult to find as possible.
But the robots had found this one.
The Cazadora’s away teams walked the bruised soil slowly, each step further confirming the desperation of the situation. They’d responded to the colony’s distress call as quickly as the starship could get them there, quick enough to chase the robots away. Not quick enough to save the colonists.
Over six hundred people, Taz kept repeating to herself. Six hundred. They were salvaging what they could, what equipment hadn’t been damaged, what food stores were left in the warehouses. Up looked back at her now, a gas mask obliterating half his face. A deep sadness was caught in his eyes, and maybe a little concern.
Of course it reminded her of the losses she’d suffered. But she’d survived them. If only she could believe there were survivors here.
As the thought crossed her mind, Up suddenly raised his hand. The team stopped moving, and now Taz could hear what Up had heard.
The Rangers raised their zappers, and then a tiny figure emerged from the smoke.
It was a child. A girl, her face blackened, her hair burnt nearly to her scalp. She cupped something in her hands, and hesitated when she saw the soldiers and their guns.
Taz stepped forward instinctively. The girl looked at her with very large eyes. She opened her hands.
“A snowdrop,” she whispered. Still rooted in soil. A single bloom and a child. Two living things in this world of the dead.
“It’s the flower of hope,” said Up.
Taz cupped the girl’s hands with her own. “Yes,” she said, smiling to show the little girl that she didn’t need to be afraid anymore. “Hope.”
Note: The funniest thing about this is that for months and months I thought this was a request for Taz and Up to meet the evil penis from Me and My Dick and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to make that work. Eventually I realized that it was about one of my own characters. *facepalm*
If you’ve forgotten who Big Z is, he is the fellow referred to in Chapter 16 of LtD who famously stole Pedro’s clothes and nearly won a bet regarding Taz’s pants. So to speak. He shows up in person in the LtD Extra Bunk Party.
Taz was not a big fan of formal events, but Up didn’t mind them. It was a chance to see old friends, soldiers he’d commanded and served with, catch up on the news. He’d dragged her along to this one with promises of pico de gallo and lots of making up for it later, which he was looking forward to quite as much as she was. She was off now chatting with Rosie, trying to avoid Rear Admiral Li, as far as he could tell. Up pulled at the collar of his dress uniform and decided he needed something to drink.
“Commander - Commander Up!”
Up turned to see a very tall, very broad - well, just generally very large - fellow in uniform striding up to him.
“You probably don’t remember me, sir,” the man said in a rumbling voice, offering his enormous hand. Up was suddenly glad that he shook with his robot one. “I was a cadet at the Academy while you were teaching there briefly, must be fifteen years ago now. Lieutenant Zedidiah Smyth, sir. Just wanted to say what an honour it is to finally meet the man who brought down the Robot Wars and Space-Claw’s reign face to face.”
Up coughed. “Well, now, I didn’t do it all myself,” he said, thoroughly enjoying the flattery.
“La próxima vez voy de hielo, usted viscosa gilipollas,” came Taz’s dulcet tones. She appeared at his elbow with a glass of tequila in hand and cast a dark look in the direction from which she came.
“Easy, Taz, no need to ice anyone tonight,” he said, his mouth crinkling at the corner. “Zedidiah, this is my-” he coughed, “-lieutenant, Taz. Taz, this is-“
“Big Z,” she said. She had finally looked up -and up, and up- at their companion. Her face flushed a sudden red.
The Ranger laughed. “That’s what they used to call me,” he said. “Taz and I went to the Academy together. We were in the same class.”
Up looked down at Taz. She remained silent. Not her usual state.
“And if I might say, you’re looking well, Taz,” Zedidiah continued, looking amused at something. “And you still like your tequila, I see.”
“Mmm,” Taz said, stirring said tequila at an alarming speed.
Zedidiah was watching her with a smile Up wasn’t sure if he liked the look of. He frowned, and had a sharp possessive urge to put his arm around Taz, but she’d deck him for sure if he tried it here, in this room crowded with G.L.E.E. officers. He moved a fraction of an inch closer to her anyway.
“Well, I’d best be moving on,” Zedidiah said finally, offering his hand to Up once more. “Pleasure to meet you, sir.” He nodded downwards. “Taz.”
Taz released a low hiss of air and a long string of curses once he’d gone. Up took a chance and squeezed her hand, briefly. “Going to tell me what that was all about?”
She considered him for a moment. “Big Z,” she said. “Big mistake. Long time ago. Don’t tell me you didn’t make them.”
Up turned a very suspicious look at Zedidiah’s retreating back.
“Don’t worry about it, you big idiota,” she said, turning his chin to look back at her. She cracked a wicked grin. “Now, why don’t you tell me all about just how you’re planning to make things up to me tonight?”
She tipped her glass at him, and he couldn’t keep his own stupid grin from spreading.
It was a beautiful morning, for what was left of them on Earth. But then this place could never be anything but beautiful, with its tumbling ruins and tossing sea, the Mexican sun on white sand.
Taz and Up stood hand in hand on the top of the highest temple, looking out at the waves. Peace stole over her. It was always like that here.
Lieutenant Up was already into his second helping of mystery mash when he heard the familiar, dulcet tones of a certain Mexican cadet carry across the mess hall.
“And you’ll remember that if you want to live! Hijo de puta estúpida de una vaca!”
Up hid his smile in a mouthful of mashed potatoes.
“She’s something, that little chiquita you found.”
Up didn’t lift his head. “Afternoon, Lieutenant.”
“I mean it though, Up, none of the boys can touch her. Where’d she learn to fight like that, eh?”
Up paused in his eating. “Must be a natural,” he said casually.
“You and I both know the difference between talent and training, and this girl’s got both.” His collegue lifted his tray in a “cheers” gesture as he turned to go. “She must have had some teacher before she got here.”
Up didn’t reply, but his eyes found her, black braid, cadet’s jacket tied loosely around her shoulders, wrinkling her nose at the food on her tray. She looked up, and smiled at him, a hint of colour filling her cheeks.
He returned to his meat and potatoes. His smile lingered.
from LtD Chapter 11: Taz’s POV
Taz’s dreams were confusing, conflicting. She saw zapper fire, and radar and starships exploding, but she didn’t feel afraid. Someone was holding her, someone with strong arms and a broad chest, and she felt safe. She began to notice sensations – the faint movement and scratchy feeling of his chest against her cheek, the scent of him, the peace that stole over her as she let herself enjoy it, enjoy him, not sure where she was or why he was holding her but knowing that it was exactly where she needed to be.
Then he nudged her, and she jolted awake with a start. “Hey,” his chest rumbled.
She blinked. “Buenos días,” she said, before she remembered she needed to switch to English.
“We should get moving before the sun gets too high.”
She extracted herself from his arms, even through her sleepiness feeling the loss, and sat, working on getting her eyes all the way open while he stretched and then bent to gather their things.
Her eyes traced the muscles of his back, the sweat already beginning to form there in the morning sun. She took him in, his movements sure and purposeful, lifting the heavy packs with ease. It was only when he pulled his shirt over his head that she blinked and realized she should be getting ready too.
She tried not to blush as he looked at her with a bit of a quizzical expression.
“Sleep well?” she said, to break the silence. It made her own thoughts too loud.
“Excellently,” he said, with a smile, and she smiled shyly back.
Stars Passing By will tell the story of Tripp and Rosie, two of the original characters from my Starship fanfic Learning to Dance. You can find parts 1-10 here.
Thank you, always, for reading!
Sam MacDonald slammed his fists against the console. “We have got to get them back!”
“Easy, Ensign,” said Up calmly, placing a hand on the distraught groom’s shoulder. “Believe me, I am not about to lose half my crew to these slimy bastards. We’ll get them back – all of them.”
Sam looked as though he was about to argue, and then slumped. “We have to,” he said, so quietly Up had to strain to hear it.
Tripp chortled. “Not exactly how you thought your wedding night was going to go, eh, buddy?”
Sam did not laugh, and Up shot his friend a look. He knew Tripp was only trying to cover up his own feelings about the current situation.
All three men wore unbuttoned dress uniforms, ties slung over consoles and zapper belts slung around their waists. They stared at the viewscreen in front of them, still not quite daring to believe the sight that reached their eyes.
An enormous Egyptian pyramid hovered in the blackness of space before them.