The Stars Came Back -065- Quiritis

Fade in

INT – day – ships garden

Allonia and Helton are chatting in the hydroponics garden. The light panels are bright, there are many levels and racks of trays full of lush deep green plants – some obviously lettuce, melons, and tomatoes, a few compact blueberry bushes, and a lot of less obvious greenery. Some trays are hydroponics, some trays just look like they are filled with good dirt. Quinn is playing in some of the dirt, putting it into small pots.

Allonia: -I don’t know what that one is. The container only had a picture, but no other label. Seems to grow very fast, so I assume is is mostly for scrubbing carbon dioxide.

Helton: And that?

Allonia: Here, have a smell.

Helton: Ah, mint. Where are all these from?

Allonia: There’s a big cabinet over in the corner FULL of trays full of seed. Some labeled, some not. Some are pretty obvious, some I don’t have a clue what they are… It was locked when I moved in last year, and then for some reason it clicked open a few months ago.

Helton: More fresh herbs to go with all that thin-sliced fresh meat, Kwon will be in heaven! I better start working out more with Harbin.

Allonia gives him a puzzled look, not knowing what he’s referring to.

Helton: Turns out a side of beef or a hog is a perfect training aid to get the young men to really understand the value of a razor sharp, highly polished blade, and precision placement.

Allonia: (still puzzled) He’s having the recruits carve it up?

Helton: Sort of. They kept wanting to try to muscle their swings and thrusts. He had an inspired idea.

Allonia: (sounding skeptical) A platoon of recruits swinging swords in the galley doesn’t sound very inspired, unless he’s helping train medics.

Saraphina: (OC, though PA system) Helton, there’s someone here to see you about the pilot position.

Helton: (to the ship mic) Tell ‘em it’s been filled.

Sar: (OC, though PA system) I did, but she’s quite insistent.

Helton: (to the ship mic) We HAVE a pilot.

Sar: (OC, though PA system) I told her. But she says she didn’t come this far to be turned away at the ramp.

Helton looks at Allonia, shrugs his shoulders. She clips a few sprigs of an herb.

Allonia: (non-committal) Can’t hurt to talk to her.

Sar: (OC, though PA system) Says she learned to fly on Taj.

Both of them make faces showing puzzlement

Helton: THAT can’t be right. Unless there is something ELSE we don’t know.

Allonia: Talk to her, see if her story checks out. I’ll drop in on you on the bridge in a bit, let you know what sort of vibe I get about her.

Helton nods, turns, walks away.

Dissolve to

EXT – day – Bow cargo bay ramp

Standing at the bottom of the ramp is Sar, chatting with a visitor, QUIRITIS RUDEL. Quiritis is a tall, slender, angular, lady in her early 30s, wearing a simple tailored blue uniform with gold, silver, and red accents. Her blond hair is cut in a short and low-maintenance style, but not harsh. By her side is a small travel bag. She is watching the recruits in the cargo bay, which can be heard but not seen. As Helton walks down the loading ramp, she shifts her eyes to him, and sticks out her hand in greeting.

Quiritis: Quiritis Rudel, Pilot.

Helton: Helton Strom, owner and captain of Tajemnica.

Quiritis: I can’t believe someone finally got her flying! She looks beautiful!

Helton: (politely apologetic) Thanks. We think so. Sorry to tell you, but like Sar said, we have a pilot.

Quiritis: I saw your advert for a pilot when I got back from a long survey flight, and got here as soon as I could. I HAD to come. I learned to fly on her.

Helton looks at her intently. She back to running her eyes over the ship, a happy smile on her face.

Helton: Tajemnica hadn’t flown in more than a century before WE got her off the ground.

Quiritis: Oh, and I’m so GLAD that you did. I never thought I’d see her move!

Helton looks at her skeptically. She looks and sounds honest, but he can’t quite square what she’s saying with the facts he knows. Quiritis’ eyes get back to Helton’s face, and read it correctly.

Quiritis: My parents owned her for four years nearly twenty years ago, trying to fix her up, and went bust like everyone else who tried. They had BIG plans, but not enough money, connections, or skill. I used to sit in the pilot seat for HOURS in simulator mode. Taj taught me, starting with the basics and running though everything she could throw at me. Stellar navigation, transitions, ground attack, ship-to-ship, damage control. We went EVERYWHERE together, visiting every known terraformed system on last known data, even ones she made up with Planet-Movers. Made going through pilot training at the academy almost boring. On THIS ship, you can control EVERYTHING if you want, and she always demanded I did, as soon as I could. She was VERY particular about her checklists. All the newer ships are dummy-proofed to the point of being barely usable, and not much fun. Flying landing shuttles and survey ships pays the bills, but…

Helton: Sounds like a heck of a childhood.

Quiritis: It was… interesting – you don’t really know what you have until you don’t have it any more.

Helton: I could show you around – or should YOU show ME?

Quiritis: I’d love to see how she’s cleaned up, but I HAVE GOT to ask – WHAT are THEY doing?

Quiritis nods towards the men training in the cargo bay. Camera view pans from her to them. There are four lines of recruits, and a side of beef or dressed hog hanging from chain hoists at the head of each line, with a plastic tarp underneath each with a pile of meat pieces on it. There are also different pieces of steel armor strapped onto each side of beef or hog in various places: some plates, some squares of scale armor, some mail. Each recruit has a gleaming, polished sword or spear. The recruits are each practicing spearing, thrusting, or slicing as thin a hunk of meat off as they can, under Harbin’s and Kaminski’s direction and critique. There is also a recruit with a pole hooked onto each side of meat moving it around, jerking it this way and that, spinning it, etc, trying to trap the blades, and the “attackers” are trying to get in an attack and clear their weapon as fast as possible, weapon in one hand, shield in the other. Sometimes it worked well, sometimes a twisting side of beef would get a weapon jammed up between the bones if the blow or thrust was badly placed, and then the recruit would have a heck of a time trying to get it withdrawn. After a clean attack or two, and a small strip of meat was shaved off into the pile below, the recruit would go to the back of the line. Harbin is coaching them as they go, and the other recruits in the lines are watching techniques and mistakes, laughing, grimacing, or nodding as needed.

Harbin: In and out FAST! Clear for another thrust instantly, or you are as good as unarmed. GOOD! Good! NO, a thousand times NO! Don’t muscle it! Precision, gentlemen, fast and clean, in and BACK OUT! Don’t just stand there looking at that great cut; riposte and do it AGAIN!

Kaminski: THAT’S right, next to the armor! Not into it – shiny things STOP your point, meat doesn’t! PULL BACK! PULL! Engage and disengage as fast as you can, don’t give your opponent an opening by leaving that hand out there to get cut!

A recruit takes a particularly ineffective poke at a side of hog, gets the spear jammed between the armor and some bone, and starts getting pushed around by the pole-man moving the target. The spear gets pulled out of his hands as he tries to re-adjust.

Harbin: THAT’S about as useless as bean-bags in a firefight! You CANNOT lose your weapon! Draw your secondary and GET THAT SPEAR BACK!

The recruit draws his sword, and tries to take a stab with it. The lost spear falls free, and clatters to the deck. He picks it up, and shamefacedly walks toward the back of the line.

Camera pans back to Helton and Quiritis.

Helton: (to Quiritis) An inspired training idea. Kwon and Sar, here, didn’t like the idea of butchering a hundred sides themselves, and Harbin was looking for a better way to teach the kids to not try to just muscle blades through armor, but use speed and accuracy to get around the armor. They are competing to make the biggest pile with the thinnest strips and smallest pieces in a set time, squad against squad.

Quiritis: (looking skeptical) OK. Weird, but OK. So, why on a STARSHIP?

Helton: Long story, but the rent it pays is good, and they provide us no end of entertainment. Care to see a fully functional bridge?

Quiritis: (with another big smile) Yes, very much, please.

Fade to black



9 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -065- Quiritis

  1. Ahhhhh, been missing these installments! Nice to see a new face showing up, too….someone, perhaps, for Helton to fall for?

    A few nitpicks, mostly in the paragraph describing the recruit training:

    There are also different pieces of steel armor strapped onto each side of beef or hog in various places, some plates, some squares of scale armor, some mail.

    ::colon after “various places”, and “plate” mail not plates


    jerking it this way and that, spinning it, etc, trying trap the blades,

    ::trying TO trap the blades


    After a clean attack or two, and a small strip of meat was shaved off into the pile below, then go to the back of the line

    ::awkward phrasing. Perhaps “…shaved off into the pile below, the recruit then cycled to the back of the line…”


    Harbin: In and our FAST!



    A recruit takes a particularly ineffective poke at a side of hog, gets the jammed between the armor and some bone, and starts getting pushed around by the pole-man moving the target

    ::”gets the SPEAR jammed…”

    • Good nit-picks; as always, thank you.
      Plates and mail are two separate items – plates (like a breastplate, or other piece of sheet-metal), and mail (lots of chain-links woven together), are very different in how they interact with points and edges and such, as well as how they wear.
      As for the new face, there are a couple of reasons for it, and “gender-balance” is but one.

      • Heh. Yeah, that was a bad typo on my part that half of my braincell tried to remember to correct. Apparently the other half didn’t remember to. Mail and Plate are different, of course, but I’ve always heard plate referred to as just that, plate singular. Like scale mail is just scale, not scales. I’m not a medieval armor historian, though, so this is just gleaned from other writers.

        BTW, before I forget something else, if you haven’t, check out the book “Origins” by Randolph Lalonde ( Free for Kindle (the Kindle app is free, as well…double-freebies). Good sci-fi, interesting storyline, not too many holes or grammar trips, and an interesting mashup spaceship (the quirky AI belongs to the CO, not to the ship). Good read!

        • Scale armor is made of scales. Plate armor is made of plates (each of which has its own particular name for each separate piece, or course). Mail is made of rings. 🙂

  2. Aaanndd now I’m hankering for a roast beef sandwich. Gonna go sharpen my EDC blade, too. Good story.

    • Sharp blades are the only useful ones. It’s amazing what a razor-like edge can do with minimal force.
      Glad you like it.

  3. Just found this and need to make a brief comment or more….and go back and find the beginning.

    ” I’m not a medieval armor historian, though,”

    I am….to include various weapons. Special area of interest, Western Europe between the start of the Hundred Years War through the Burgundian period of Charles the Bold and his Ordinances of 1471. Some ancient Greece and Rome thrown in too.

    You are correct in going for the joints as a sword will not pierce or cut armor. In the case of riveted mail alone, a blow with the edge of the sword may crack a few rings and break the bone structure beneath depending on how well padded the underlying garment is. If you are going to pierce the mail protecting the soft parts between plates (voiders) or mail alone, you need a sword with a special cross section and it is doubtful that it can be done with a single handed thrust.

    Battlefield archeology is inclined to say that most penetrations of armor were accomplished with two handed weapons. Great swords, spears, halberds etc. Armor, especially plate beyond the transitional era is purpose designed with compound curves to present a glancing surface to incoming blows and spread the force of the impact over a large surface thereby reducing what is felt by the wearer. Ridges and flutes add to the ability of the armor to withstand blows and keep its shape. I can testify that this works having fought with steel in armor, you barely feel the impact of most sword blows. The exception to this being flat plates sewn or riveted to leather or canvas as in a coat of plates or brigantine and those still protect pretty well. In addition to that, a fight in armor is mostly a very energetic and mobile affair and the opportunity land a telling blow requires a LOT of skill. Now add a shield to the mix and you begin to see the problem.

    Killing a mounted armored man was not an easy proposition and killing the horse to get the man on the ground was the preferred tactic. Then a light armored fighter and a bunch of his friends could overwhelm and wrestle him to the ground to stick a dagger through the eye slot.

    “Sharp blades are the only useful ones. It’s amazing what a razor-like edge can do with minimal force.”

    There is sharp, sword sharp and stupid sharp (razor) when it comes to swords. Swords do not have to be super sharp to cut. I have taken a sword with an edge that I can saw across my palm for an hour and the most it would produce is a blister. Taking the same sword and cutting at a plastic milk container filled with water (the human body is about 70 per cent or so water) produces a cut that looks like it has been done with a razor. Is your skin tougher than the plastic? I have done this dozens of times at historical timeline events, both as a crowd pleaser and to bust a few myths.

    Ideally the sword wants to be somewhere near the middle of the two extremes. All a razor sharp sword will produce in a fight is a saw blade because of the thinness of the material at the edge needed to produce that razor like quality. When it strikes something hard (armor, another sword) it will chip or dull, bone included. That is unless the weapon is made from unobtanium.

    I don’t know where you are going with this in your story, not having started at the beginning. Are they armored cap a pie or just a few pieces here and there in a primitive fashion with a lot of bare skin showing, Mad Max style? These are just a few thoughts to consider.

    • Fine thoughts they are. I was specifically referring to knives used for fighting / self-defense (such as a Spyderco Delica), where sharper is DEFINITELY better. A truly micro-thin razor would not be best for a sword or spear, as you point out, because it would chip, etc, but they need to be much more than the dull clubs they are popularly understood to be. The point (pun intended) was that the recruits are being taught that precision and accuracy, speed, and good shot placement was more important than simple brute force. The pieces of armor on the carcases are placed as much to help butcher it as to represent where armor would actually be placed on a human opponent, to teach them to aim where the armor ISN’T. Carve two birds with one stone, as it were. I’ve put blades through fresh-killed deer, and a sharp blade just sort of glides easily in, a dull blade is a LOT more work. Earlier, in another episode, their focus on endurance and tough training as being important in battle is also put forth quite explicitly.
      In the story, the focus on “what actually works” and learning from history, vs “doing what some theory says should work” leads them to a lot of their choices.
      BTW, skin and milk-jug plastic are very different, and it’s not a matter of which is “tougher.” Your demo may be inexpensive and a crowd-pleaser, and get some good ideas across, but it’s not particularly accurate.
      Just out of curiosity, if you’ve not been following the story, what led you here today?

      • Link from another site….can’t remember which one though. Senior moment.

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