Part 9: Imperfection

O’ros’ artificial voice sounded beautiful, neither male nor female and with undertones of unshakable calm. He used it only when he communicated by electronic means.

“The course calculations are complete. Projected time of arrival two hours, ten minutes, thirty seconds from now. Helm, are you ready?”

Captain Baqiir’s voice answered.


“Engine room, are you ready?”

Alard reached out and pressed the talk button.

“Ready. Power output at seventy-five percent. Awaiting orders.”

“Stand by.”

They all looked at the clock at the very top of the console, as it counted down. Just underneath was the distance to the carefully chosen landing spot on Azuremyst island, the largest of a small group of islands west of Kalimdor.

“Here we go,” said Alard. Several indicators started to move as the final course corrections were laid in. The engines were taking the strain beautifully as Exodar hit the atmosphere and started to slow down. This was a fairly old-fashioned way to approach a planet, but pointing the transdimensional engines at a specific place required markers that the denizens of Azeroth regrettably would not invent for maybe another thousand years. So you motor in slowly, and change the subject when someone brings it up.

“Engine room? Please increase power output to ninety percent of maximum.”

Alard’s fingers were already hovering over the controls before O’ros had finished speaking.

“Seventy-five… Eighty… Eighty-five… Ninety percent of capacity. Standing by.”

“Thank you. Please maintain.”

“Will do. Out.”

Mareva walked to the coffee machine, grabbed a mug and held it up.

“Coffee anyone?”

“Black,” said Alard. “No sugar.”

“Got it.”

Mareva poured coffee into mugs, looked questioningly at the others. They shook their heads. She handed Alard his coffee and went back to staring at the screen.


They spotted it all at the same time. One of the engine symbols went red, and there was a beep from the console.

“Right,” said Grofal. “There she is. Your friendly neighborhood fuckup fairy.”

“The Gods are doing something upon us,” agreed Inuuri.

Alard was tapping away at the controls, trying to get Number Four engine back under control. He shook his head.

“Up the bloody spout. Inuuri? Get out there and see what’s happening, will you?”

“I’m on it!”

Inuuri grabbed her toolbox and headed out.

The Bridge light blinked, and Captain Baqiir’s voice was heard.

“Is there a problem, Chief? Power just dropped.”

Alard sighed, pressed the button. “Lost control of number four engine, Sir. Compensating with one, two and three. One of my engineers is on it.”

He pushed back the slide on number four, and pushed up the three others. He had to type in a password to prove he hadn’t gone mad.

“Engines one, two and three operating at one-hundred fifteen of max, Sir. Please try not to do anything too wild.”

“Acknowledged,” said Baqiir.

“Compensating flight path to allow for loss of power,” said O’ros.


With another beep of the console, the second engine went red. Alard frowned. Even before he tried, he knew that he wouldn’t get any joy out of this controller, either..

“Oh Lady Luck, this is a bit above and beyond,” he said. “Mareva? Your chance to excell has just arrived.”

“Each day is a blessing,” said Mareva. She picked up her toolbox and headed out to see what had happened to the controller of engine two.

Alard pressed the talk button. “Captain? We have just lost control of engine number two. Permission to spin up TD engines for emergency jump?”

The bridge light came on. “Permission granted. What is going on down there, Chief?”

“Two controllers out, Sir. I’ve sent engineers Inuuri and Mareva out to investigate.”

O’ros’ light came on. “I regret to inform you that with only two engines functional, we will not be able to ecape Azeroth’s gravity well. We will either have to make an emergency landing, or use the trans-dimensional engines.

“Understood,” said Baqiir. “Good luck to your engineers, Chief.”

“Thank you. Engine room standing by.”


“Chief?” Inuuri’s voice sounded flat, even.

“Alard here. What’s up, Inuuri?”

“The controller network has been blown out. As in explosives. We have saboteurs on board. Repeat. Saboteurs.”

Grofal’s jaw dropped. “Crap! Just what we need.”

“Thank you, Grofal,” said Alard. He pressed his talk button. “Captain, O’ros. Engine controller network has been blown out with explosives by saboteurs. Repeat. Saboteurs on board.”

“Acknowledged,” said the Captain. Seconds later, the alarm was sounded all over the ship.

A new voice joined the conversation.

“Velen here. I’ve sent out patrols, just in case there’s more saboteurs and evildoers afoot.”

“Thank you, Prophet,” said the Captain. “Chief? Any updates?”

“Not yet, Sir.” He pressed another button. “Inuuri?”

“Sir? I’ve just patched the engine controller directly into your console. I thought you might be able to do without all the temperature readings for a while.”

“Oh good girl!” Alard looked. “Yes. It’s gone green. Well done. Have an extra cookie when you get back.”

“Oh Sir! You spoil me! Well, heading-“

There was a loud bang, and the sound dropped. Alard and Grofal looked at each other. Alard hit the button.


Nobody answered.


There was a crackle on the speaker, and Inuuri’s scared voice. A siren was going off in the background.

“Sir? There was another bomb. Behind the controller. I think it took out the power conduit. I can’t get out! Can you open the door?”

Alard took a deep breath, took his hand away from the talk button.

“Oh merciful Light… Please. No!”

He pressed the button. “Stand by.”

Grofal looked at Alard, his face pale and drawn.

“That was the radiation alert,” he said.

“Alard! Get me out of here! My skin is burning!”

“Hang on, Inuuri,” said Alard.

Grofal scowled. “Well? Get her out of there!”

“Can’t,” said Alard. “When there’s radiation, the doors lock up, and we can’t open them.”

“But then…”

Alard looked at his hands. “She’s dead. If one of those conduits ruptures, it takes you one second to get a fatal dose. There’s nothing I can do.”

“Alard…” Inuuri’s voice broke up. “Hurry… It hurts.”

Alard looked straight into Grofal’s eyes.

“Spin up the TD engines. We’ll need them if more mass reactors go. I’ll see what I can do.”

Grofal gave him a look. Then, he turned round to the console for the trans-dimensional engines.

Alard pressed the talk button. “Inuuri? Are you there, my girl?”

“Yes,” said Inuuri, and coughed. “I’m coughing up blood, Alard. Please…”

“Everything is going to be alright. Now. Look at the door handle, and tell me. Is there a red light on the handle?”

“Yes. Alard? Tell Giraz…”

“I will, girl. Now keep watching that light. When it goes green, you’ll have one second to open the door and get out.”

“Will.. do.”

Alard briefly closed his eyes, then with one swift move, he pushed the engine power all the way up. He typed in the password, and pushed it even further up. There was no way for Inuuri to talk to him. Still, he could imagine her screaming. He kept the power up for ten, twenty, thirty seconds, then pulled it back. His hands shook.

“Sleep well, my child. Forgive me.”

Grofal looked at Alard, saying nothing.

“It would have taken her hours to die,” said Alard.

Grofal screwed his eyes shut, then looked straight into Alard’s eyes.

“On her behalf, I thank you.”

Suddenly, his eyes opened wide, and he gasped.

“Mareva! If there’s another bomb in engine two…”

Alard whirled round in his seat and punched the talk button.

“Mareva! If you are in there, get out! Get out! There is a secondary charge! Repeat. A second bomb! Get out!”

Mareva ran along the service corrior to the engine controller room. A dark frown was on her face. Why, by the Naaru, did equipment that had behaved itself properly for a year suddenly start acting up now, when it was important? Always the same. She opened one of the service doors and emerged into the light of the Crystal Hall. She ran another few hundred yards, and stopped in front of another one of the service doors. These were built to merge into the walls, not quite invisible but looking uninteresting. Some twenty yards to her right, two girls stood, in an embrace that indicated that they were not very interested in entering off-limits areas, except perhaps for privacy. Mareva opened the shutter that hid the keypad, typed in the number and the door opened. She glanced at the girls, with a little smile on her face. Settling a few things before landfall, are we?

Suddenly, Mareva’s smile was wiped off her face. One of the girls was leaning with her back to the wall. Mareva was quite certain that the walls in Exodar did not have holes for putting your tail in, and yet… that girl’s tail disappeared into the wall. She leapt forward, and slammed the button that would close the door. It clanged shut behind her. She stood still. Was she seeing ghosts? She closed her eyes, recalling what she’d seen. Two girls, looking deep into each other’s eyes, one of them leaning against the wall, just in case her knees gave out at some point. Hadn’t her tail simply been between her legs?

Behind her, someone started to bang on the door. She could not hear what the girl was shouting, but it was sure to be something like “Open up!” Yeah, right. Mareva pulled up the strap to her toolbox, and ran. Maybe she was seeing things, but she didn’t think so. There would be an intercom in the controller room. She reached the door to the large controller that directed the right amount of power to the second mass reaction engine. She reached for the keypad to type in the code.


Mareva jumped. She looked to her left and right, and behind her, but nobody was there. She reached out to the keypad again.

“I dwell in that room.”

Mareva closed her eyes. Who was speaking to her? There was nobody there! One of the Elemental Spirits? Oh, excellent. Exodar was about to plummet to the ground, unless she got this engine going. Just the time for a profound religious experience. She tapped in the code, and the door hissed open.

“If you enter, I will consume you.”

Mareva stood still. Spirit of Fire. One of the least talkative, according to Farseer Nobundo, had just warned her. She set her jaw. And still, she must go in. Six thousand people’s lives depended on it.

“Thank you, Spirit of Fire. But I must.”

She started to move forward, when suddenly, there was a loud bang in the room. Then, there was another bang and the door, ten times her own weight in solid steel, slammed to in front of her face, propelled by explosives that were only used if this door needed to be closed now. The sirens went off, announcing to anyone inside the room that they were now dead. Mareva slowly breathed in, conscious of the fact that she still could. She slowly let her breath escape.

“Spirit of Fire, I thank you,” she said. She looked at the door.

“Oh crap.”

“Any progress yet, Chief?”

Captain Baqiir’s voice was as calm as if he were asking if the coffee was done yet.

“We are going to have to do without number two and four engines, Sir. I regret to inform you that Engineer Inuuri died in the execution of her duties, from radiation poisoning. The power conduits to number four engine and I must assume, also the number two engine, have been destroyed, without possibility of repair. Engineer Mareva has not reported back yet and may be in trouble.”

“Velen here. Patrols of peacekeepers report several contacts with Sin’dorei agents. I am also putting into operation our plans for evacuating the ship. All civilians have been ordered to proceed to the cryo-core and to board one of the pods in an orderly fashion.”

“Are they?” asked Baqiir.

“Yes,” said Velen. “I am proud to say that our people are behaving rationally and decisively.”

O’ros’ light came on. “Captain, I regret to inform you that our engines are not capable of sustaining altitude. I suggest that we try a sliding landing on the water.”

“How long can we stay up?”

“Approximately one hour, ten minutes, margin of error thirty minutes.”

“Velen, how is your evacuation going?”

“All civilians are in the pods. We are now adding all the military personnel that can be spared. We are ready to launch at a moment’s notice.”

“Chief,” said Baqiir, “Any joy on the TD engines?”

Alard looked over his shoulder at Grofal, who was manipulating the controls with a determined expression on his face. He held up his hand, five fingers outstretched.

“Engine will be charged and ready to go in five minutes, Sir.”

“Good. O’ros, calculate a course that will allow us to reach Azuremyst Isle sliding over the water.”

“Course set. Entered into helm automata under name AZM zero-two.”

Grofal looked up.

“TD engines spinning up. Zero two, eh? You know what that means.”

An amused little smile was on Alard’s face, which almost reached his tired eyes.

“He expects at most ninety-eight more revisions. Bloody optimist.”

Grofal glanced at the TD engines’ console. The indicators were doing what they should.

“Hope Mareva’s alright.”

“Hey you! You look like an engineer. I need your help.”

Mareva looked at the soldier who was running up to her. She had a large mace in one hand, a shield in the other. She was wearing a chest piece that fitted her perfectly, and still left a strip of blue skin bare between it and her chainmail leggings. Possibly a compromise between mobility and protection. Mareva looked back up at her face.

“Does it involve an intercom? My fellow engineers don’t know whether I am alive or not. I feel I have to disappoint them.”

“Probably. My husband is trapped inside his cabin. I need to get him to one of the pods.”

“Do you have a data terminal in your cabin?”

“Of course.”

“We have the makings of a deal.”

Mareva followed the soldier, as she ran at a brisk pace towards the habitation tier.

“By the way, I’m Engineer Mareva.”

“Vindicator Corin. Long life, good health. I know who you are. You tried to seduce my husband. He pointed you out to me.”

“Quite possible. I have seduced lots of men. Some of them were married. All members, though.”

“You gave him the idea for this necklace,” said Corin. “Thank you.”

“You are Gazpaar’s wife?”

“Yes. Ah. Here we are.”

Mareva stared. The keypad next to the door was a tangled mess of wires and broken crystal. Just as if someone had smashed it in with, oh, a one-handed mace or something. Mareva looked at Corin.

“Did you do this?”

“Yeah. There were Sin’dorei on the warpath, and I didn’t want him to leave the cabin.”

“You zlotnik! How am I going to get this door open now?”

“Well, can’t you hack your way in?”

Mareva didn’t dignify that with an answer. She started pulling out wires. One of them sparked.

“Ow!” Mareva sucked a finger.

“Wimp,” said Corin.

“Start banging on the door, why don’t you? Preferably with your head.”

“Hmm.” Corin turned round her mace, and banged on the door with its butt end. “Darling? Are you alright?” She looked round at Mareva. “I can’t hear him.”

“Cabins are sound proof. He could be yelling at the top of his lungs in there, and you wouldn’t be able to hear.”

“How do you know?”

“I have made people yell inside their cabins.”

Corin snorted. “Are you going to get this door open, or what?”

“Just a minute,” said Mareva. She had just found the two wires she wanted, and touched them together. The door opened.

Corin stormed inside. “Darling?”

Mareva followed Corin. Gazpaar was obviously not there. On the table was a single piece of paper, neatly folded in two, with the name “Corin” written on it in neat handwriting. She picked it up.

My Darling,

Have decided not to divorce you, as still love you very much
despite all this. Signal went out, so have disobeyed your
orders and left cabin for Cryo-core. I am sorry, my love,
Prophet Velen outranks even you. Looking forward to meeting you
on this new world. May the Naaru protect you.

Yours eternally, Gazpaar.


Mareva read over Corin’s shoulder.

“Aww,” she said, noticed the data terminal and pounced on it. She called up the direct communications page and tried the engine room.

Mareva. Am still alive. Number four engine out of commission
permanently. Please advise.


She waited a few seconds for a reply. Nothing came. She frowned. Zlotniks who never answer their messages. She looked round at Corin.

“Where are you going?”

“Cryo-core, most likely. I want to find that husband of mine and slap him and then jump on his bones.”

“Hah. So why did you smash in the keypad on the outside of the door?”

“Wanted to keep him safe inside.”

Mareva looked up, at the door, which was still trying to open further and further. The keypad on the inside was still intact.

“You must be dynamite in bed. I think I’ll return to the engine room and tell them to look at their messages.”

She pulled the terminal towards her and typed another message.

Mareva. Currently in habitation tier. Will proceed to engine
room. End of message.


“There,” she said. “I am off to the engine room. Good luck finding Gazpaar. Give him my best.”

Corin sniffed. “I’ll give him more than your best.”

Mareva opened her mouth, but something moved on the terminal and she glanced down.

Grofal. Very glad to see you. Stay where you are. Engine room
area somewhat hectic. Never a peacekeeper around when you need


Corin scowled as she read this.

“I’ve had it with you bloody stokers. I’m going over there to make him eat those words. And you’re coming with me.”


“Why are you not moving?”

“Just a second.” Mareva typed a final message.

Mareva. Help under way. Sit tight.


“Let’s go,” she said, logged out and followed Corin as she ran off.

Engineer Alard watched the security monitor. He nodded his head.

“Make a note, Engineer Grofal. Sin’dorei can not breathe fire extinguishing gas longer than maybe ten minutes. That was an important experiment and I’m glad you suggested it.”

“The strivs set a small charge first, to make us pay attention. Then, there was a second, bigger bomb to do the real damage. Rather elaborate for a bunch of demon-botherers.”

Alard’s eyes narrowed at Grofal.

“I know. They had a specific goal in mind when they thought that up.”

“Us,” said Grofal. “They wanted to kill us, to keep us from making emergency repairs.” He looked at the still figures of the Sin’dorei soldiers on the monitor. “May the Light forgive me, but I’m glad they’re dead, and I’m glad they suffered.”

The men looked at each other, neither of them speaking, but clearly both thinking of their friend and colleague, burnt alive in invisible fire.

“Thank the Light that Mareva’s alright,” said Alard.

“Are you alright?” Corin held out a hand to Mareva, and pulled her to her hooves.

“Just got knocked over. Not to worry.”

“So did he,” said Corin, looking at the corpse of the Blood-elf who’d jumped them.

The Elf had charged at Mareva first, and Corin had killed him with one shot of her mace to the chest. Mareva decided to be nicer to her. They ran on, until they reached the technical tier. It became clear immediately what Grofal had meant by “hectic”. Five Sin’dorei were in the corridor, trying to make their way in. The door held so far, because it was one of the doors that kept the air in if the technical tier were to break off from the rest of Exodar.

Corin dropped to one knee, and peered ahead.

“Five of them. If they’re as strong as the one that jumped us just now, It might get… difficult.”

“Do you wish to wait for help?”

“No. I like my fights difficult.”

Mareva dropped her toolbox on the floor.

“Can I be of assistance?”

“What can you do?”

“I can make you tougher or stronger. Which would you like?”

“Tougher. I do my own strength.”

“Very well. I will start calling when we are in range. Try not to move too much.”

Corin laid down her weapon, and concentrated in prayer. A pure white light started to shine from her blue skin and armour.




Corin ran forward, weapons and armour shining with the Holy Light. Mareva followed her at a few steps distance. With a great shout, Corin smashed into the group of blood-elves, swinging her mace round in vicious, fast arcs.

Mareva raised her arms. “Spirit of Fire, Spirit of Earth, Spirit of Air, Spirit of Water, hear my call…”

At Mareva’s feet, four totems appeared. Toughening her and Corin, Healing the wounds Corin was about to receive, Granting them both more magical energy, more mana. And finally, shooting fire at their enemies. She stood in the middle of her ring of totems, hooves slightly apart, in her center of power, steady as a rock. She raised her hands, and fired.


Corin turned to Mareva, a wild grin on her face, She raised her shield and mace in the air, and yelled.

“Enemies! I hope you enjoy your death as much as I enjoyed killing you!”

Mareva stepped forward, and her totems disappeared.

“You are enjoying yourself?”

“It is fitting to rejoice in the death of an enemy. Finally, I get to do the work I was trained and forged to do!”

“Hmm. Let us see if we can get in.”

Mareva tapped the code on the keypad. The door stayed closed. Mareva swore. Apparently, someone had seen fit to block the door. She tapped in her engineers’ override code. The door hissed open, and suddenly, Mareva and Corin choked. Mareva grabbed Corin’s arm and pulled her back.

“Extinguishing gas,” she gasped. “Has some zlotnik been smoking grazh on the job?”

“We can’t get in,” said Corin. “Now what?”

“Wait for the gas to dissipate. Just a few minutes.”


At that moment, the ground shook. In a macabre gesture, some of the corpses on the floor rolled over, as if they had come to life again.

“By the Light,” said Mareva. “The Captain is doing things he really should not be doing with only two engines. Damn it, I need to be in the engine room.”

“How far?”

“Fifty yards into the tunnel, and then I have to get the door open.”

“We can hold our breath that long, can’t we?”

“Let’s find out.”

Mareva and Corin took a few quick, deep breaths, then ran forward, at a calculated slow trot, so as not to use up all their air at once. They needn’t have bothered. As they approached the door, it opened and Grofal waved them in. As soon as they were in, the door slammed behind them.


Alard gave Mareva an earnest look. “I thought you were going to stay put?”

“I thought the whole population of demon botherers was banging on your door?”

“Young Grofal suggested we treat them to some Haal’oun gas. It worked beautifully.”

“Well, they had twenty seconds to leave the room. Say, where’s Inuuri?”

Alard put his hand on Mareva’s shoulder.

“She… was in the number four controller room when the power conduit ruptured.” Alard looked into Mareva’s eyes. “She’s dead.”

Mareva closed her eyes, tried to swallow away the lump in her throat, but couldn’t. She bowed her head, forced herself to breathe.

“May her soul be part of the Light Everlasting.”

Corin put her hand on Mareva’s shoulder.

“I am sorry for your loss. Still, we have already started to take our revenge. I could feel that your spells were most effective. I did not know that mages could do that!”

Mareva drew her sleeve across her face.

“I’m not a mage. I am an elemental Shaman.”

Corin dropped her hand. An astounding change came over her face, hard, furious.

“You cast Orc spells on me? How dare you! If I hadn’t sworn to protect all Draenei, I’d kill you!”

Mareva looked up, slowly. “I use no spells. I call upon the favour of the Elemental Spirits. Beings that have been in existence since time began. Before the Eredar walked the lands of Argos, before the Light Everlasting shone upon them, before the Orcs walked the lands of what they call simply ‘World’, before Life itself existed, these spirits were. They are not of the making of Orc, Tauren, Troll or Draenei. It is we, who are their creations.” Mareva bent forward, and looked hard into Corin’s eyes. “And they just saved your sorry tail from being stamped on by those Blood-elf kor’kluk.”

“O’ros. We are on our final approach to Azuremyst Isle. Projected time of arrival twenty-five minutes. Chief Engineer, I hereby grant you Omega clearance. Turn up the engines to their maximum power on my signal. Prophet Velen, I suggest you launch the escape pods.” O’ros paused a moment. “May the Light protect you, and yours.”

“Velen. Pods have started to launch.”

Mareva blinked. “Chief? What is Omega clearance?”

“That,” said Alard, turning round to the console, “means I am the god of engines. All the safety features are off. Whatever I tell them to do, they do, without first asking whether I’ve lost my mind. Oh, the excitement.”

Grofal whistled. “I know of only three chief engineers who’ve gotten that. Just from hearing the story, mind.” His voice sounded even. “They are all dead.”

“Bunch of amateurs,” said Alard. “I suggest you all find something solid to hang on to.”

They almost made it. In the end, it was the Sin’dorei that got them. Exodar, part of the transdimensional fortress of Tempest Keep, came hurtling from the sky, engines blazing in a final attempt to keep the trajectory straight. Then, at five minutes from landing, a massive explosion rocked the ship, and it listed sharply to one side.

Captain Baqiir’s voice sounded as calm as ever.

“Trans-dimensional jump when ready, please.”

Grofal shouted. “The whole bloody vector coil is blown off! TD engines out! Repeat. TD engines out!”

“Oh dear,” said the Captain.

Alard’s eyes bored into the readouts, his hands tapped the controls, getting the last bit of power out of the mass reaction engines. Indicators showed that they should have exploded minutes ago, but still, they held. Mareva, Grofal and Corin were holding on for dear life. The floor was shaking. The coffee machine parted ways with the counter and came sailing through the engine room, where it smashed into the wall, spraying hot water.

O’ros’ voice came through the speakers.

“Impact in five… four… three… two… one. Light preserve us all.”


Nobody on the bridge survived. Their bodies could not even be found, let alone recovered. Captain Baqiir, Helmsman Unaar, the communication officers. They all stayed at their posts until the very last. Yeoman Lorelei was also on the bridge when it buried itself into the small mountains on the west side of Azuremyst Isle. The habitation tier was completely destroyed. There were no survivors among those who had chosen to finish the trip on board, and had stayed in their quarters. They died mercifully quickly.

The vector coil had been blown out by high explosives, and no doubt the Sin’dorei had intended it to explode, vaporising Exodar and a good part of Azuremyst Isle. That it didn’t, was the sole achievement of Engineer Grofal, who had engaged the emergency dousing mechanism that extinguished the reactor.

Mareva thought she was dead. She could not see. She could hear nothing, but perhaps the noise had deafened her. Her whole body felt pleasantly numb, warm, as if she were in bed with Viral. She was still thinking, so she must be alive. No matter. It wouldn’t last long. She tried to think of Viral only, so she could die happy, here in her coccoon of air, alone with her thoughts. She lay still for a very long time, until an awful noise blasted her ears. Someone was banging on metal close to her head. Then, suddenly, there was light, and with it came air, and pain.

Mareva screamed, and passed out.

Copyright: © 2008,2009,2010 Menno Willemse. All rights reserved.


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