The Slingshot Escape – A Gravitar Story

Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

Krimsen Yon looked out into the bright, swirling atmospheric abyss. All that tethered him beneath his orange hulled ship the ‘Altcloud’ as it fell past the gravitar was his own grip. The wind whipped at his golden hair and his bronze face scrunched as he closed his eyes in glee. He sunk into the bliss of constant free fall out here in the fringe arm of the Asterveb – the vast network of gravitars that trapped atmosphere in a torrent between them out here in the void.

He relished all of the sensations of sailing the orbital currents, the feel of warmth from the gravitar – the ‘tiny’ star they were falling around – the pull of different gravities as they made their way through the network, the sound of gulls on the wind…

Krimsen’s eyes shot open.

“FLOCK OF GULLS CAPTAIN!” He yelled.

The crew around the ship all jolted from their dozing and into action, swinging from harnesses across the tri faced deck of the ship. The sails on each side were in full bloom, offering shade from the constant light and allowing the ship to drift along one orbital current or another.

“Where is your harness Mister Yon?” Captain Ta boomed from the helm as Krimsen pulled himself up the starboard deck and into the centre.

“Somewhere.” Krimsen replied jovially, “The flock is below the starboard deck.”

“Well fit your harness cause we’re tumbling that way!”

In defiance Krimsen gripped the banister with both hands as the Captain relayed his warning, then yanked the wheel. The masts swivelled at their bases, offering lateral push to twist the ship to starboard. Krimsen felt his stomach lurch as the pull of gravity relative to the ship changed and the fittings cast turning shadows like that of the passing day from the old fairy tales.

Then the flock of gulls appeared.

“NETS!”

From positions at the front two guns fired, shooting forth expanding nets to engulf the hapless gulls which cried in surprise. The crew cheered as the shots caught a good swathe of the flock and began to reel them in.

“That’ll keep morale up for another spin or two, hah HAH!” Captain Ta boomed again, “Good spot there Mister Yon!”

“I was merely skydreaming, Sir.” Krimsen replied.

“SHIP OFF THE TOP ORBITAL PLANE!” The spotter in the crow’s nest yelled. She looked down at them waving her hands upwards to the gravitar above. “It’s a shell galley!”

The crew of the Alt Cloud craned their necks up or over the rails of the port and starboard decks, squinting up into the brightness of the gravitar.

Captain Ta fitted a shade lens to his spyglass and scanned for the shell galley. It was a warship, with a single top facing deck and at the stern was a pivot point that had large armoured shells which jutted from it like a ship sized propeller. It was large enough to close over the vessel entirely like a flower closing its petals for the night, offering an armoured shell when needed.

This one was green, with paler green sails and the shells were a dark iron.

“Turbulent platforms,” Captain Ta swore, “It’s The Green Sting!” He cried, “To quarters! TO QUARTERS!”

Krimsen’s heart quickened and he actually reached for his harness. “Our few guns won’t breach their shells captain, not unless we get a lucky shot.”

“We won’t, The Green Sting is captained by Sililla. They don’t call her The Pirate Queen out of politeness.”

A flaming ball of fire tore through the air off the Altcloud’s bow.

“She missed?” Krimsen asked.

“A perfectly timed warning shot.” Ta coughed as they passed through the jet stream of the flared cannon ball.

“I didn’t even hear them fire.”

“She fired on the other side of the gravitar no doubt, lined up the orbit perfectly… We’re done for.”

“Turb that!” Krimsen darted from the helm and to the bow of the ship, past nervous sailors who readied their pitiful gundecks to fight back.

He leaped up onto the bow and scanned the sky ahead. It was dotted with winkling gravitars and one larger one looming just too far out of reach to for its gravity to capture the Altcloud and carry it from the Green Sting… unless.

“Captain!” Krimsen roared, “Storm formation brewing between us and the large gravitar!” He pointed ahead.

Across the length of the ship, the two met eyes and Ta understood entirely.

“Crew, we’re adjusting course for the storm cloud, prepare to expand the water catchments and return fire!”

The gun deck erupted with explosions as the tiny cannons fired up at the advancing Green Sting haphazardly. One even managed to ping off the starboard shell as it closed over, the others fell awry along the orbital lanes. Krimsen shook his head; linear shots won’t work this close to a gravity well.

The sky ahead darkened as the Altcloud oriented towards the ball of dark storm cloud ahead. It rippled with lightning and the air grew noticeable damp.

“BRING IN THE SAILS! We’re gonna get wet!” Ta boomed as they dove into the cloud.

Just before the darkness enshrouded them, Krimsen saw the Green Sting fire from its bow into the storm and he heard the maniacal laughter of Ta.

Winds buffeted them as geysers of churning waters smashed into the hull and deck. Krimsen made himself small as lighting struck out from the surrounding dark, illuminating the churning grey chaos as two flaming cannon balls from the Green Sting screamed past.

“Open the catchments!” Krimsen thought he heard Ta order.

At the stern behind the helm, large arms snapped out from the hull – fitted with open tanks – they gushed as the storm waters filled into them and Krimsen tightened his damp grip to the hull as the ship noticeable slowed. Pulled further down into the closest gravitar due to the extra weight.

Then they emerged into the daylight, shooting from the cloud as tongues of lighting reached to lick at the receding form. They were jettisoning out into the abyssal sky blue strait between the gravitar they were orbiting and the larger one out ahead.

“Incoming!”

Krimsen craned his neck, seeing the Green Sting close in at ramming speed from above. The Altcloud’s speed stalled as they reached the edge of the pull of their gravitar.

“JETTISON WATER!” Ta yelled, and the freshly filled tanks were emptied.

The sudden change of weight and momentum propelled the Altcloud further into the gargantuan gap between the two gravitars and the Green Sting steered to get them into a firing line.

“Come on, come on.” Krimsen said through gritted teeth as the Altcloud pushed the edge of escape velocity, broke it – soaring out into the strait – and was caught in the gravity of the larger gravitar, “YES!” He shouted.

They picked up speed as the larger gravitar pulled them into the nuclear fires. Krimsen rushed back to the stern as Ta called for the sails to extend and used the rushing winds to steer them into an orbiting path around the large gravitar and towards the cluster of gravitars behind it, evading the Green Sting.

Krimsen pulled out his spyglass and eyed the Green Sting as it attempted to follow, but without enough speed or momentum in the proper direction it fell back, and orbited around the original gravitar they had just escaped.

“Ha hah!” Ta boomed, “She’ll need to orbit around to get enough velocity to follow us across the strait, good thinking lad.” He clapped Krimsen over the shoulder.

“Now we have no water.” Krimsen said matter of fact-ly.

“Hah, a midterm problem compared to a pirate raid. You have the skill to ya, Yon.”

Krimsen smiled and watched the receding Green Sting as the Altcloud banked and fell easily into an orbital path around the next gravitar.

Form the deck of the Green Sting, Lililla lowered her spy glass. “You got away this time, Ta… but I will catch up with you yet.”

Part 2

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