The Blaquesmith Chronicles: Part 1
part of the new "X+5" series
by Matt Nute
DISCLAIMER: They ain't mine, I no get cash. Don't sue.
The rusty frigate floated lazily in the Baltimore harbor. To the casual observer, even an expert, it seemed to be nothing but a decrepit rustbucket, probably needing to be scuttled and put out of its misery. The barnacles grew so thick on its hull that little metal was seen, and what could be glimped was stained the rusty orange familiar to all sailors.
But, upon closer examination, if one were inclined and able to venture inside, a different story would be revealed. The battered exterior was merely camouflage for what was perhaps the most diverse collection of technology on the planet, in this time or any other.
The walls were interlaced with infrared, motion, and psionic sensing devices; all interconnected into the security systems that comprised a great deal of the ship's interior. Down in the massive cargo hold, an entire deck had been transformed into a workroom, although to most it would have been called a junkyard.
Inside this rats'-nest of wires and unidentifiable components scurried a squat, hunched figure. Clad in a worn blue coverall, he was a frenzy of hyperactive motion, his inhuman appearance offset by his uncanny coordination and grace. He reached an abnormally long arm across a table, grasping a soldering iron in his three-fingered hand. The rough patches on his fingers appeared odd to most, but they gave him an incredibly enhanced sense of touch, which was a boon in his delicate work.
Joining two dissimilar wires in one hand, he dipped the soldering iron to his coil of solder, then began fusing the ends of the wires. He started humming under his breath, a tune eerie in its simplicity. And for the fact that it would not be composed for nearly two thousand years.
Finally, he finished work on the circuit board before him. He held it to the light, inspecting it with the careful eye of an artisan, a jeweler perhaps. His muddy brown eyes were smaller than most, incredibly sensitive to the light. He nodded his malformed head, settling into a satisfied crouch. With a sigh, he turned and inserted the circuit board into a console partially hidden by tools and fast-food wrappers. The resulting hums and clicks were music to his ears.
"Yes!" he squeaked in a voice gravelly from infrequent use. Before him formed a rough hologram of the earth, spinning slowly on its axis. He adjusted dials and flipped switches, throwing the image into sharp relief. He squinted and peered as miniature cloud formations swept across a tiny African savannah. He reached out a finger to touch the image of what, to him, was the closest he knew to home.
A noise from above caught his attention. He closed his eyes and utilized the most amazing talent he possessed: his mind. He sensed three individuals above him, none bearing any threat. Instantly he recognized two, but the smaller...?
"Blaquesmith? You down there, old friend?" The hunchback chuckled lowly and shouted up to his visitors,
"I don't know why I bother upgrading my security systems, you never pay any attention to them anyway!" His facade of grumpiness was transparent to the friends before him, though. From a level above, a steel ladder slid down on oiled rails. A large white-haired man descended, followed by a dark-haired slim woman. The man turned, facing his old friend. Running a hand through his close-cropped beard, he smiled.
"Nothing changes when nothing changes, didn't you always say that?" Blaquesmith extended a hand, clasping the shoulder of his best friend.
"Nathan! Life is change! Why, I remember when I first had to tell you..."
"Ahem!" came the cough from Nathan's companion. Blaquesmith would have raised an eyebrow, had their been any hair on his yellowish head.
"Why Domino," he squeaked, "you've changed your hair again. How precious!" She gave him a rare smile, her ivory-white skin shining even in the low lights of the cargo hold.
"You haven't forgotten our deal, right?" she demanded. Blaquesmith scratched his head in puzzlement.
"Deal... deal? There was a deal made... yes, true..." he began pacing melodramatically, tapping his fingers together. Finally, a young voice from above him broke the silence.
"Stories, Uncle Guff! You promised Mommy you would tell me stories!" Blaquesmith rotated smoothly on one squat leg, then leaped into the air, ignoring the ladder completely. Lashing out with his long arms, he ensnared the third of his visitors, a young girl of perhaps four years old, dressed in a simple red jumper and a black windbreaker.
"A story? For my niece, the lady Sara Summers, I shall tell an eternity of stories!" The girl smiled.
"But remember to let her get her sleep, Blaquesmith." reminded Domino, as she and her husband climbed the ladder up to their daughter.
"Oh, how you fuss!" mocked the squat mutant. He winked at his young charge, who returned the wink and wagged her finger at her parents in mock admonishment.
"Now you two run 'long an' behave you'selves!" she intoned severely. Nathan, once known as Cable, laughed long and hearty.
"I must stop letting her visit 'Uncle' Samuel, she's getting more like him every day." Nathan smiled broadly. Blaquesmith stood and took his hand.
"I had almost forgotten how long it had been since I heard you laugh, old friend." he said severely. Nathan shook his hand and clasped Blaquesmith's shoulders in a gesture of comradeship.
"When I got rid of the techno-virus, learned that the greatest threat to my family was dead, and married Beatrice," Cable responded, "I think I learned how again." And with that, he and Domino ascended to the upper decks of the ship.
Blaquesmith felt a small psionic tug from Nathan, and opened his mind.
*One question, my friend.*
*"Uncle Guff"* Blaquesmith laughed mentally and out loud.
*Nathan, there are things even you have yet to learn...*
After the cordial goodbyes, Blaquesmith turned his attention to the young Sara, already fidgeting and fussing with the scattered tools and electronics laying about.
"And just WHAT are YOU doing, my dear?" scolded Blaquesmith.
"Bein' like you, Uncle Guff!" she replied with a grin only a child could summon. "E'cept I'm cuter!" Blaquesmith reached out an arm to tug on a lock of her curly brown hair. Sara squealed, partly in protest, partly in fun. She shambled over to sit at the feet of her babysitter. Except he wasn't so much as a babysitter, as a companion, a thought which she vocalized. Blaquesmith laughed, a high, tinny sound.
"So what story does the lady wish tonight?" he asked in a stage whisper. Sara leaned forward conspiratorally.
"Tell my 'bout when you met Auntie Rachel!" Blaquesmith smiled.
"Ah, the Mother Askani..." Sara playfully punched his leg.
"No, silly! Before the Az-kanny! When you FIRST met her!"
And with a deep breath, the time-travelling mutant began his tale...
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