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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 105: Kondor 124
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Previous chapter: Chapter 104: Brown 142
“At ease, gentlemen. Good afternoon.” Kondor smiled at the protocols as he returned their obligatory salute from the back of the pallet truck.
“Good afternoon, Captain,” came the asynchronous reply.
“I’ve got a pallet of crates that say they’re mortar rounds here, and would like to check them in.”
“Yes, sir. Well, you know where they go.”
“Yeah, I do; but the protocol says that two of us have to inspect them as they are stowed. I suppose that’s because if I wanted to steal a crate of mortar rounds I could empty it somewhere on base and put empty boxes in the armory. So, who wants to come with me?”
“I’ll do it,” Zeke said.
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”
Still driving the pallet truck, Kondor followed Zeke into the warehouse. Along the way Zeke grabbed a couple of crowbars. Then methodically they began shifting each crate to the stacks in the warehouse, prying them open, glancing inside, and resealing them. It became so automatic that Kondor had almost reclosed the lid on the crate before he froze.
“That’s not right,” he said aloud, and lifted the lid again. He perused the contents.
Zeke glanced over from his work. “What’s the problem?”
“Right. Yeah.” Kondor continued to survey what he saw. “Zeke, run, do not walk, back to the desk, tell them we’ve got a bomb, clear the building, and get whoever serves as the bomb squad around here.”
“What?” It was more shock than question.
“Go!” And Zeke was gone.
Kondor stood looking at the bomb. He had not studied explosives, but he realized that this one was making some kind of noise. Apparently removing the lid had activated something. He then realized that whoever did this knew what they were doing--knew, for example, that the crate would be opened when it was deep inside the munitions warehouse, surrounded by other crates of explosives. It might explode and make a mess, or it might kill someone--but if the bombers were lucky (and he somehow assumed that this was the work of a group, not an individual) it could initiate a chain reaction that would detonate a significant amount of the more explosive ordinance in the building, destroy the building, and possibly kill more than a few people in the area.
His instinct was to run. However, he knew that it was a bad choice. If the explosion was even near its potential, he would be caught in the blast, and so would a lot of other people. He had to get it out of the building.
He grabbed the crate. Perhaps he should have tossed it back on the pallet truck, but there were still boxes of mortar rounds there and he wasn’t certain how they would be impacted by the blast. Instead he started walking as quickly as he could toward the entrance.
He saw Zeke coming toward him. “What are you doing, man?” the lieutenant called.
“Get back,” Kondor answered. “I’ve got to get this out of the building before it detonates and does serious damage.”
“Well, let me help you.”
“I don’t think two of us can carry it faster than one, and there’s no reason for you to be killed if it explodes.”
“Yeah, well that covers you, too.”
“It’s going to be hard to explain this, but I take risks like this all the time.”
Zeke held the door open for him as Kondor pushed past the desk and outside into the courtyard. It was about as far as he was going to get. He very nearly dropped the box as it started to make a different sound, whirled around with his back to it--and saw Zeke running toward him to help.
There was nothing for it. He dove atop Zeke as the blast threw him forward, and the pain passed through him.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #257: Verser Relationships. 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: