keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 153: Hastings 93
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 152: Kondor 93
Lauren saw Joe burst into the room ahead. Foolish, she thought, but he usually knows what he's doing, and it's a good plan. Derek was in much better shape than she remembered, but still not so quick as to be able to keep up with Joe's longer legs and greater training, particularly under load as he was. She didn't want to leave Derek behind, or to let Joe get too far ahead. On the other hand, she didn't want to call out and alert the monsters to their presence, if somehow they had not already been heard.
She reached out with her mind.
Joe, she thought, wait up. If you run into something, we are going to be hard pressed to help you.
Yeah, I suppose I should have thought of that, he thought back. I seem to have put my foot in it this time. These d-darn things; Lauren briefly noted that even in his thoughts Joe never swore. They're all over in here. Get ready to fight; I'll probably have a head start on you.
"Weapons ready, Derek," she said. "Joe is in trouble." She heard the pop of his blaster as she passed Derek and rushed to the door.
It was obvious that the capture rod was the wrong tool for this job. She dropped it, and drew the blaster and the drill simultaneously, firing both at a creature that whirled toward her. Scampering to her left, she shot it with the blaster again, and fired the drill at another–but only put a hole in the table, as it leapt to the floor. Seeing the table was available, she decided high ground reduced the chance of having her legs attacked by something coming out of low cover, and leapt into a flip that carried her over the serpent and landed her on the table top. It shook, but mercifully stayed upright, and she surveyed her situation.
"Is that the door, to the left over there?" she called to Joe.
"That's the one," he called back.
"All right, I say we go for it, and try to get it closed behind us. Might be as bad on the other side, but at least it's where we wanted to be." So saying, she leapt from table to table along the left edge of the room. At one point, she intentionally landed on one of the beasts and sprang off again; it tried to strike, but she had gone into a flip and her movement confused it. Landing on the next table, she shot it with both guns, and it was knocked to the floor, at least. In a moment she was there.
"Show off," Joe shouted.
"You just get yourself over here. Derek, are you all right?"
Derek was running along the left wall, with his frying pan in his right hand and his knife in his left. "I think I'm going to make it," he said, as he smashed the head of one leaping toward him. It fell back, stunned, but he didn't wait to see what it would do next. Another blocked his path, but he charged into it like a madman, beating and stabbing and driving it back. In a moment, he, too, was at the door.
"Bother," Joe said. He was using his M-16; apparently he had switched weapons after firing that first shot, but had since been maneuvering to avoid the creatures. Now he turned toward the door, swept the floor with bullets, and raced to join them at the door.
When it was clear he was almost upon them, Lauren opened the door and stepped through. Joe rushed through right after her, and Derek, with frying pan and knife raised, backed through behind him.
Lauren shut the door, and leaned on it. There were several bangs against it outside, but she was able to hold it.
"Well, Joe, you'd better get on this. I don't imagine this is the only entrance they've got to this place, and we need to get done and get out quickly.
Very methodically, Joe looked at his machine, and then started opening doors and pulling out cartons. "Take these," he said to Derek, "over to that large oven over there. And these," he pulled out more, "we'll thaw in the microwaves." Crates were dragged all over the kitchen and split open, contents poured into ovens, onto grill tops, even over heating ducts. Joe started turning things on. He also poured meat on the floor, and propped open the freezer doors, shutting down the cooling systems and throwing them into defrost.
Another shock to the door reminded Lauren of the urgency of their situation.
"Joe, I hope there's another way out, because I don't think we can use this one."
"There is," he said. "Probably should have used it as the way in, but I don't yet understand these creatures completely, and didn't expect there would be so many in the dining room. Derek, are you ready?"
"That door will be locked. Can you open it?"
"Give me a minute," Derek said.
"I hope we have a minute," Lauren answered.
"Get on it, and be quick," Joe said.
Derek disappeared around the other side of one of the counters. Joe moved his direction.
"You know, Lauren," Joe said, "you're going to need some of those light-footed acrobatics here. When Derek's got the door open, come as quickly as you can. Hopefully, the fresh meat in here will keep them from following us, but you need to be out of the way so they can see that before they decide on you."
"I'll manage. Are we good?"
"One more minute," Derek called from somewhere out of sight.
"You said one minute," Lauren answered.
"Well, I was wrong. Wait, there it is. It's open."
"Run," Joe said, and Lauren started running. She heard the door burst open behind her; she leapt over the counter in front of her. Joe's gun fired a hail of bullets beyond her, and then went silent. He was running behind her, and she saw the hatch ahead.
It was another maintenance shaft.
There was nothing for it. She climbed into it, first one foot, then the other, onto the ladder, and down. "Hurry," Joe was saying, and he followed her in, and sealed the hatch behind them.
"I don't think these columns suit our enemies well," he said. "Hopefully we won't have to fight in here."
"Hopefully is right," Derek said from below, "because I'm having enough trouble just climbing down. How far do we go?"
"Five levels puts us on the same level as the bridge," Joe said. "I think this is probably the best way to get there. Hopefully by then the ventilation system will have carried the smell of meat to that floor, and they'll be moving toward it, probably through the vents."
"Drat," Lauren said.
"What's wrong?" Joe asked.
"I just realized. I left the capture rod on the floor of the mess hall."
"Well, we're not going back for it," Derek said. "Anybody know what floor we're on now?"
"I thought you were counting," Joe said.
"Me? I told you I was having enough trouble just climbing. Counting is one too many problems."
"All right, let me think," Joe said. "The bridge should be level eight; the numbers here fortunately are Arabic, so you should be able to recognize it when it comes."
"Yeah, I think I can manage that. Wait, which way are they numbered? This is seven. Is eight up or down?"
"Eight is below seven; they're numbered top down. Sorry I didn't say so."
"O.K., yeah, here, I see it. Um...do you want me to open this and go through?"
"That is the idea. What's the problem?"
"Well, it might be that they don't like the ladders, but I have no idea what's on the other side of this door–or which way to run if there's something I don't want to fight."
"Ah. I see. Well, I'd go first, but I don't think I can get around Lauren."
"I'll go first," Lauren said. "After all, I'm probably the only one who can manage to get off the ladder without dropping a gun."
She had holstered both weapons, but as she loosened the hatch she drew the blaster, and pushed open the door.
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: