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All That Is In The Heavens [Part 20]: Attack In The Slipstream

Three days into her journey, Tessi Thundercloud has barely recovered from her injuries when her fox fighter is attacked by an unknown vessel.

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Space battle

Three days into her journey, Tessi Thundercloud has barely recovered from her injuries when her fox fighter is attacked by an unknown vessel.

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories.

This is a multi-chapter novel.  Previous Chapters:  Chapter 1 | 2 | 3| 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19

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When it all comes down:
clan versus clan
and crown versus crown –
and no more is city or town,
no more flower or sundown –
I pray for constant faith
and a loving mate
to stand by me
to the end.

– Narrated by Tessi “Thundercloud” One Clan, in Prayers, Chants and Hymns of Felicidad, by Tarek Othman 

The Captain’s Bed

Faster than light slipstreamTessi “Thundercloud” One Clan curled up on the small but firm bed, nose to tail, in the captain’s quarters. She was on board a UA fox fighter called Slipping Into Darkness. She was the only crew member. This bed was one of the few places on the ship she could get comfortable. The other cabins had narrow beds designed for people who slept in a straight line. How could anyone get comfortable like that? This bed was at least wide enough for her to lie in a circle. And all the chairs and benches on the ship lacked the small hollow space that a felis somni would tuck her tail into. Without the tail hollow, sitting in those chairs was like sitting on a clod of dirt. Maybe tomorrow she’d take apart a few chairs and build a more comfortable one.

She’d been on board for four days. One day in acceleration mode, and another three in the faster-than-light slipstream. Her ear was growing back, and the rest of her body was sore but generally healed. The doctor back on Felicidad had done a good job, and the autodoc on this ship was fantastic. The ship’s technology was far more advanced than any back home. Maybe, she thought, because we dreamcats spend too much time feuding and killing each other to develop an advanced technological culture. Or an artistic culture, or a scientific one, or any culture at all. There had been some great thinkers and poets in the past… but what had Felicidad produced in the last seven hundred years besides death?

She’d spent much of the last three days either in the autodoc chamber, or sleeping. She was finally ready to get on her feet and get to work. She also needed to start studying Yasin Rahman’s file. The better she knew him, the more convincing would be the dream that she would cast to lull him to sleep and kill him.

She felt good about this job, and about the idea of killing this Yasin Rahman. What kind of monster would order the deaths of 2,000 innocent civilians? He didn’t deserve the sweet dream that she would cast over him before putting a flechette through his eye. Then she would plant a bomb on his ship and blow the whole thing to heaven come, killing all the crew. They deserved it, for allying themselves with a butcher.

Anomaly in the Slipstream

The Shipboard Artificial Intelligence, or SAI, interrupted her reveries: “Yo, Tess. Anomaly detected in the slipstream. Approximately a tenth of a light year ahead.”

The computer had a smooth, masculine voice and an oddly familiar demeanor, bordering on impudent. It spoke in the most popular human language, Persean Standard, which was fine since Tessi had studied it for seven years, along with Marachandan, basic Elven and quite a bit of Andach’. Knowing the language of your prey was part of casting an effective dream.

Tessi’s ears perked up. “What kind of anomaly?”

“Unknown. Insufficient information.”

“Speculate.”

“Could be an asteroid that got pulled into the slipstream. Or debris, or gas. Or it could be a ship of small to medium size. Possibly a pirate ship. Occasional attacks have been reported in this region of space, often within the slipstream.”

“Who are these pirates?”

“Unknown. They have never left witnesses. This region of space is known as the Umawiyy Void. It’s a sphere approximately fifty light years across, completely void of stars. Blackity-black, as the humans say. We know very little about it. It’s illogical that life should exist here.”

“Yet there are pirates.”

“Apparently. They attack small ships and loot any valuable technology. They also sometimes take body organs, especially from hardy species like the Marachanda or Felis Somni. The bodies of the dead sometimes display deep puncture wounds, and are sometimes drained of blood.”

“Why didn’t you warn me of this?”

“Space is dangerous, kitten. If I warned you of every threat you’d never have a moment’s rest.”

Cat's eyeTessi’s claws extended and the fur stood up on her spine. She hissed with anger. “Call me kitten again and I’ll tear your artificial guts out.”

“Check. Apologies.”

“Bring the weapons systems to maximum readiness. Continue to monitor and notify me when you have more information.”

Tessi snorted. Crazy computer.

Catnip Oil

This anomaly made her nervous. It was probably nothing – an asteroid in the slipstream, like the computer said – but she realized that her claws had extended involuntarily, and were digging into the bed. She didn’t want to tear apart the flimsy mattress. What fragile creatures the humans must be.

Catnip

She inhaled deeply, taking in the sweet floral scent of the catnip oil that burned beside the bed. On Felicidad, most families could not afford electrical power. Instead they burned either catnip oil or lavender oil in special votive lamps that sipped the oil sparingly and used reflective surfaces to maximize the light produced. Tessi had brought four votive lamps with her, placing two in her sleeping chamber and two on the bridge. This ship had all the power one could need, of course, but she found the scent of the votives deeply comforting.

She’d brought catnip and lavender seeds with her, as well as a variety of food crop seeds from Felicidad. She would plant them in the ship’s greenhouse tomorrow. As for protein, the ship synthesized high protein algae wafers. They were disgusting, but sufficient for her needs, for now. Maybe one day she could build an aquaculture tank and farm fish. If this ship was to be hers, she might as well make it into a proper home.

Parade of Miracles

The engine hummed at a very low level. It was not needed for flight at this point, as the ship was in the faster-than-light slipstream, carried along by the particle wave. The engine was needed only to power the climate control system, water and air purification, communications and so on. It was a fusion engine that could run nearly forever.

She could only imagine what her identical twin Melloin would make of this ship. She’d be in heaven. Her field of study was holographic engineering, but she was fascinated by machines in general, and this ship was very advanced by felis standards.

Before Tessi left, Amara BrinDau, the portly ginger molly who recruited for Galactic Security, and who was still bubbling with gratitude to Tessi for saving her life, had told Tessi’s twin Melloin that she could arrange for her to attend an advanced engineering program in the Marchanda system if she wished. Melloin had been excited but at the same time anxious at the idea of leaving the family. Tessi wondered what she had decided to do.

As for her other identical twin, Felloin, the Marachanda-trained doctor had said that she could restore Felloin’s vision, now that the family could afford the best medical care. The doctor would simply remove Felloin’s eyes and paint the sockets with a stemwash. New eyes would grow within a few weeks. Yet another miracle in the parade of miracles that had descended from heaven onto Tessi’s family.

Though she was overjoyed for Felloin, she feared the trouble the crazy molly would get into with her sight restored. The girl was already hot-tempered and ferocious, and was probably more naturally skilled at combat than Tessi herself. When she’d still had her sight, she’d been a fireball. She once beaten two toms to the ground because one of them grabbed her tail. Being blind had restrained her somewhat. Tessi hoped the firebrand would not get into too much trouble.

She wondered how her mother was doing, and if little Limo was staying out of trouble, and what her other four brothers and sisters were up to. There was no way of knowing what was actually happening with any of them, as she was traveling under a long-range communications blackout, which was standard protocol for an assassination mission.

From a Cave Into the Light

When she thought about all she’d been through the last few years – her family eating garbage to survive, her mother wounded in a bomb blast, her sister blinded by muggers, Tessi herself working long hours as a bricklayer to afford her training sessions, and being repeatedly beaten and wounded in those same sessions – she felt like she’d been in a cave, trying desperately to find her way out, taking one tunnel after another, but only going deeper. Until the way had unexpectedly opened up, and here she found herself in the sun, blinking and thanking One Light from the depths of her soul.

She’d always had faith. She’d always believed in her hearts that she would come through to the light, not by her own doing, but by the grace of God. That was the thing about life on Felicidad. You sometimes found yourself on dark paths, where every choice led further into the depths, until you wanted to give up, or kill someone, or throw your whole life into a blender and go crazy.

But wasn’t that why God was called One Light? When one’s eyes could see nothing but shadow and loss, God came with the light. When the heart became a frozen field, God warmed it. In those times when you didn’t know who you were anymore, or who you were supposed to be, God knew. When there was no path forward, God opened a way. And when you thought you’d always be alone, God gave you someone to love you.

This last thought stung a bit, as Tessi was still alone. She murmured a poem that her mother had taught her when she was young;

When it all comes down:
clan versus clan
and crown versus crown –
and no more is city or town,
no more flower or sundown –
I pray for constant faith
and a loving mate
to stand by me
to the end.

The File On Yasin Rahman

It was time to turn her attention to work. “SAI, display Yasin Rahman’s file.”

“Sure thing, hard ass. Official UA file?”

Her claws twitched, but she let the rudeness pass. “No, the Andach’ intelligence file. But if there’s anything in the UA file that’s not in the intelligence file, merge it in.”

“Check.”

The entire wall opposite the bed, which resembled a shiny black plasteel surface most of the time, went blank. Information appeared in crisp white text:

Captain Yasin Rahman

UA Career:

  • Age: 27 years (NewMalaysia standard).
  • Length of UA service to date: 12 years, with 13 remaining.
  • Trained by Master Sergeant Ammar Abuzaid.
  • Rapid rise through the ranks. Has been leader of squad 3690 for three years. Promoted to captain after the battle at Breena Five.
  • Multiple citations and medals for valor. Has survived battles against superior forces, ambushes and excursions behind enemy lines.
  • Has survived 57 battles. Seriously wounded 24 times.

The file was very long, and went on to describe Rahman’s known body modifications, weapons carried, family background, facts known about his youth, relationships with the crew, and more. The Andach’ must have spent a shameless amount of gold to collect all this intelligence. Tessi wondered if they had an insider within the human power structure.

Time to Intercept, Twelve Minutes

She’d barely begun to read the file when SAI interrupted: “The anomalous object is moving toward us at a high rate of speed. Time to intercept, twelve minutes. Recommend we drop out of the slipstream and evade in normal space.”

Tessi noted that SAI had dropped the attitude and was all business now. Good.

“Negative.” If they dropped out of the slipstream, it would take a full day of acceleration to get back in. Tessi didn’t want to waste that much time. “Train weapons on the object but fire only at my command. In the meantime, send a hailing message.” She didn’t think a short range hail would violate the communications blackout, but she added, “Basic hail only. Identification request, nothing more.”

She rose from the bed and geared up, donning her blue laser-proof skintech unitard, automatic flechette needlegun, mini bolo gun, sonic rifle, four throwing knives (two on each leg and two on each side of her chest), expandable baton, smart goggles and tactical gloves. The gloves had been a gift to her from Amara BrinDau. Made in the Marachanda system, they stored the energy generated by the movement of Tessi’s hands. When Tessi struck something (or someone), the gloves would release the energy as an electrical shock.

She strode to the bridge, her tail whipping from side to side. “SAI, status?”

“No response to hails. The object is within visual range. It is a ship of unfamiliar design.”

The window that looked out onto the space ahead of them showed nothing but impenetrable blackness. Even if they had not been passing through this Umawiyy void, the slipstream itself was colorless, and blotted out any view of the surrounding space. The window converted into a screen, and an image of the approaching ship came up. It was the strangest ship Tessi had ever seen. The entire surface was matte black, making it nearly invisible. There was something wrong with the shape, but she just couldn’t see it.

“Switch to infrared.”

The shape resolved. It was vaguely cylindrical, but the surface was twisting and undulating. There were no lights of any kind, nor any windows that Tessi could see. It approached rapidly, on a direct intercept course, not slowing down at all.

Blow It Out of the Sky

“SAI, transmit on all frequencies: Unknown vessel, cease pursuit or you will be fired on.”

There was no response. The ship continued to come.

“SAI, target the vessel and fire forward laser guns, full power. Let’s blow this little black fly out of the sky.” To hell with this weird little ship. She would be done with it.

“Blowing away,” SAI affirmed.

In the infrared view, flaming red spots bloomed on the strange little ship’s hull as the laser guns struck direct hits. But nothing happened. The ship kept coming.

“The alien ship,” SAI remarked calmly, “seems to be immune to laser fire.”

“I noticed. Fire a TONC torpedo.” Tessi had studied the ship’s schematics thoroughly, and knew it carried a complement of 20 high-explosive torpedoes. A single TONC torpedo could destroy a ship five times the size of the Slipping Into Darkness.

“Negative. The alien ship is within 1,000 kilometers. Tellium octanitrocubane has a detonation velocity of 10,100 meters per second. At this range the torpedo would destroy us too.”

“Railgun then. Fire.” The railguns fired old-fashioned Marachandium-depleted shells at high velocity. They were not explosive, but would punch through almost any hull.

“Firing.” There came a rhythmic rattling as the railguns fired a stream of shells.

“No hits,” SAI informed. “The alien ship is highly maneuverable.”

Cutting Through

The alien ship closed the gap at full speed, as if it intended to ram them.

“Employ evasive maneuvers.” Tessi’s hearts raced, though she was outwardly calm. She was not afraid. But she could not let anything hamper her mission. Whatever this threat was, she must deal with it and move on.

The evasive maneuvers were useless. The strange little ship tracked them and kept on coming.

“Brace for impact,” SAI announced.

Yet the impact, when it came, was minor, and Tessi realized that the alien ship had somehow slowed at the last instant and docked with the Slipping Into Darkness. A loud humming noise ensued as the hull vibrated beneath Tessi’s feet.

“The alien ship,” SAI announced, “is cutting through the hull of storage bay ten.”

Storage bay ten was in the center of the ship, about a hundred meters from where Tessi stood, with two junctions between here and there. Her jaw and teeth still ached from the shot that had burned a hole in her mouth, in her combat session against the three robots on Felicidad. And she was at less than full strength. But no matter. She would deal with this threat just as she had dealt with the robots.

Drawing her flechette needlegun and sonic rifle, carrying one in each hand, Tessi began to run toward storage bay ten.

* * *

 

Next: All That Is In The Heavens, Part 21 – Last Days On The Highliner

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Wael Abdelgawad's novels can be purchased at his author page at Amazon.com: Wael is an Egyptian-American living in California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including, Zawaj.com, IslamicAnswers.com and IslamicSunrays.com. He teaches martial arts, and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and ice cream. Learn more about him at WaelAbdelgawad.com. For a guide to all of Wael's online stories in chronological order, check out this handy Story Index.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Abdullah Salman

    January 10, 2023 at 2:58 AM

    Salaam Brother Wael. I have been inspired to write a cyberpunk novel where an atheistic modernist regime has outlawed religion. The main character is a Muslim operative fighting back Gainey this regime. My question is when writing such stories, do the villains need to be three dimensional even though they’re bad or Islamaphobic? I know you wrote the character of Chad from death in a valley town and he was somewhat complex so I was hoping for some advice

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      January 10, 2023 at 6:51 AM

      Abdullah, wa alaykum as-salam. I think it depends on what you plan to do with the villain in the end. Sometimes villains change and become allies, in which it helps to explore the villain’s personality a bit. If you read the Hassan’s Tale series, I think I overdid it in humanizing the villain, as some readers were not happy with the villain’s fate in the end and wanted him to be redeemed somehow. That’s the problem with humanizing the villains. To readers, everything you write is significant, so if you explore the villain’s personality, readers will expect something to come from that.

      Often in novels and movies, the villian is just a cut-out “evil character” or “dark force” who wants to destroy everything. Like Sauron in Lord of the Rings. I always found this to be a bit shallow and unconvincing. On the other hand, we look at the world, and there are dictators who are willing to let their entire nation go to ruin just to maintain their own profit and power. And that too is incomprehensible to me. So maybe Sauron is not far off the mark.

      I guess in the end the question is, does it help your story to explore the villain’s motivations? If so, write it. If not, leave it alone, as you run the risk of distracting the readers.

  2. Joyce Larsen

    January 10, 2023 at 11:31 PM

    Love the ideas in this!

  3. Abu taalib

    January 15, 2023 at 4:46 AM

    20 episodes in and it’s still captivating!

  4. Umm ismael

    January 15, 2023 at 11:22 AM

    asslam u alaikum brother jazakumullah kherun for more good reading… waiting for the next episode.

  5. FR

    January 16, 2023 at 5:03 AM

    When is the next post?

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      January 16, 2023 at 1:52 PM

      One week inshaAllah. I’m about to publish Uber Tales #7, then next weekend we’ll do the next chapter of All That Is In The Heavens.

  6. Abdullah Salman

    January 18, 2023 at 5:30 AM

    Thanks for the feedback Brother Wael. Another thing though, since my novel deals with the total suppression of religion, do I need to explore the viewpoints of other religions because my central focus is on Islam. I feel like if I just focus on Islam, then people will complain that I didn’t explore the viewpoints of other religions? So is it Ali right if I just focus on how the total suppression of religion affects Islam?

  7. Wael Abdelgawad

    January 18, 2023 at 2:54 PM

    Abdullah, you only need to explore the suppression of religion as it relates to your protagonist. How it affects him, emotionally and physically. Remember that you are not writing a history book or a philosophical treatise. A novel is a story about a person or persons. The readers relate to the story and concepts through the personal experiences of the protagonist.

    If you really want to bring in other religions, you could touch on it briefly by having your character read a newspaper, listen to a news broadcast, or have a discussion with a friend. But don’t get caught up in it.

    Think of 1984. Yes, we know there are three totalitarian superstates that run the world, and they are in a state of perpetual war. But that’s all incidental. The crux of the story is how the surveillance state affects Winston Smith, the protagonist, along with his love affair with Julia, and his eventual imprisonment and torture. Although it’s a political novel, the politics are channeled through the lens of Winston’s personal hope, love and fear.

  8. Abdullah salman

    January 18, 2023 at 8:40 PM

    Thanks. Nice reference to 1984.

  9. storm_leopardcat

    January 20, 2023 at 10:03 AM

    Well, I was quite excited to read this chapter! I find it fascinating how you’re blending Islam (or what Islam to Felis Somni) with alien species, especially ones that is anthropomorphic in nature!

    I do love cats, so that just makes it better! I see my cat in the Felis Somni characters all the time. Their behavior, their characteristics, their mannerisms! It’s wonderful!

    Oh, and I was delighted when I read that Tessi has not one, but two identical twin sisters! Being an identical twin myself, I found this rare type of representation to be amazing, and I was over the moon!

    Basically, I was on cloud 9 reading this entire chapter!

    Do you have a wiki with all of the lore or data introduced in your stories, especially this one? I would be delighted to have one!

    One last thing: Is Tessi, and other One clan Felis Somnis, as well as the Andach’, aware that Yasin Rehman, his crew members, and many humans worship the same God as they do, and have faith similar to theirs?

    I look forward to more of your content. I am sorry for not commenting on the other, I did not have much opportunity to, due to circumstances. Nevertheless, you have done an amazing job with the chapters so far!

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      January 22, 2023 at 1:27 AM

      Amazing comment! Most people don’t comment on the Tessi Thundercloud chapters, so I was happy to see this.

      I do have a wiki of sorts, but I’ve never published those. I’ll think about it.

      Tessi knows nothing about the religious practices of other species. As a One Clanner, she is discreet when it comes to religion, and doesn’t talk about it openly.

  10. Sabirah

    January 21, 2023 at 6:23 PM

    im looking at my kitten Tiggles and wonder how he’d look in a space suit

  11. storm_leopardcat

    January 23, 2023 at 12:31 PM

    You are welcome, Wael! I appreciate it when authors love their readers’ comments! Especially hwen they are helpful to them, and helps them keep motivated to keep writing!

    Haha, I love anthropomorphic animal characters, especially mammal ones! Some might call me a furry, xD! (sorry if I have already mentioned this, I cannot remember)

    I would be delighted to see the wiki! I’m sure you’ve done a great job on it!

    Oh, alright, that’s good to know. But won’t she find out that some humans follow Islam and that her target, Yasin, is a Muslim? That he sort of follows the same religion as she, and the rest of One Clanners, do? I would love to see future chapters where they interact. (No spoilers, please!)

    How many more chapters to go, by the way? And will the novel be split into multiple stories on the website?

    Are any of the characters based on people you know?

    Where did you get the inspiration for this story from, and why sci-fi? That was quite a shift in genre.

    I appreciated your reply to my comment, by the way! I am sorry for replying late, ah, I got caught up in studies!

    Congratulations on your marriage, by the way! Ma Shaa Allah, May Allah (SWT) bless you and your family the best of blessings, as well as happiness, peace, tranquility, and success, Ameen! May you both be the best of spouses to each other, and the best of parents to your daughter, and may she be the best of daughters to you! May you grow as a family, and grow in faith, together, Ameen!

    Sorry for any grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, and sorry for so asking so many questions!

  12. FR

    January 24, 2023 at 3:21 AM

    Hope brother is well? Have been refreshing to see if the next post has been updated or my server is a problem

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      January 26, 2023 at 2:26 AM

      It’s not your server. I’m still working on the next chapter. The last few weeks have been a difficult time for me emotionally (life problems) and I’ve been a bit stuck. Working on it. Give me a few more days inshaAllah.

  13. FR

    January 27, 2023 at 2:38 PM

    May Allah grant aafiya and relief from all difficulties, read excessive istighfaar and salawat, InshaaAllah you will see doors opening ,making dua for you

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