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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 152: Kondor 93
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After the battle in the hall, Kondor was considerably less optimistic about their chances of reaching the bridge. He had made every shot from his blaster count, had shifted to his mace for close combat, and still had used nine shots. There was one left on this power pack. He wondered whether it made the most sense to change power packs or to change weapons, or to use this last shot before changing anything; he wondered whether the room beyond the hatch was going to be worse than where they had been.
He took a deep breath. He realized somewhere behind him that Derek was chopping the head off one of the beasts, and turned to inquire.
"It wasn't dead," Derek said. "I've got these darts, paralysis or something, knocks you out quick but doesn't kill you. Thought I should finish it before it came to."
Kondor nodded, and again looked to the hatch. It could be the end; it could be the beginning. The map said it was the engineering staff break room, and that there was a lift from there to the upper decks, but it didn't say what they were likely to find in there. He shifted to the parabolic mikes, but all he heard was the echoes of engine machinery.
He opened the hatch.
Stale cakes and spilled solga stained a plastic table ahead of them. Apparently the beasts were strictly carnivorous–pastry did not appeal to them. That also suggested that the beasts were hungry, starving perhaps, and willing to take significant risks to kill them.
It also gave Kondor an idea.
"Where's the galley?" he said aloud, not meaning to ask them as he pulled up his maps.
"You have the map, Joe," Lauren said. "But why would we want the galley?"
"You haven't seen any dead people on board, have you? These things have eaten them, every bit of them. They are carnivores, obviously. They won't bother with cake and solga because it's not meat. But I would wager there is meat in the freezers of the galley, and that if we can get it out of the freezers and get it warming, they will be attracted by the scent and converge on the food. It would make our trip a lot easier, and might even mean the bridge would be vacant when we arrived. Yes, there it is. It's a bit out of the way, but I think we need to do it."
He crossed to the elevator and hit the button. In a moment the door opened. His blaster was already pointed that direction, but there was nothing inside. He stepped in and examined it carefully.
"All right, everyone in. We're going up to the living quarters." The door closed behind them.
Kondor noticed that there was no sudden feeling of lift. It took him only a moment to realize that the intricately integrated systems on the ship were compensating for the momentum shift with a gravitic shift. On the station he hadn't paid much attention to this, as elevators went all different directions, but here his senses were all on high, and he noticed the little things. Were it not for the lights showing their position, he would not have known they were moving.
A moment later the door started to open. "We're here," he said, and stepped out of the box into a hall.
The doors in this hall were all closed, and the walls and ceiling flat but for a few light fixtures. It was easy to see the way was clear at this point. Kondor hurried down it; it was a couple hundred yards to the mess hall, with the kitchen beyond that. He only hoped that he had guessed correctly that the meat was still secure, wrapped and frozen beyond the recognition of these creatures, but easily converted to a lure with the galley equipment.
By the time he reached the hatch, he was almost running; he could hear Derek and Lauren some distance behind him trying to keep pace. The hatches here were more like doors, opening easily, and he burst through into the dining area, and scanned the room for some sign of the direction to the kitchen.
He froze in his tracks. There were several of the lizards lazing on tabletops here; what immediately concerned him, however, was that the tables and chairs presented an obstacle course, a collection of blinds behind or beneath any or all of which might be more creatures. They were here now; even if they left, these would certainly follow them back into the halls, probably to the bridge. They were going to have to fight their way into the kitchen.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #142: Characters Unite. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: