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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 108: Beam 30
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Previous chapter: Chapter 107: Kondor 152
The white-haired man stared at the problem, eyes moving from the door to the keypad to the frame to the hinges and back to the door, in a very slow cycle as his mind looked for a solution that didn’t involve entering thousands of sequences of buttons. It seemed fairly hopeless.
“Wait,” he suddenly said. “What’s this?” He looked more closely, and there next to the doorframe scratched in the paint was a sequence of symbols. He laughed. “Some idiot, and we should be grateful for idiots, was afraid he wouldn’t remember the code if he got here and had to open the lock, so he scratched it in the wall here. Let’s go for it.”
He reached out, then hesitated. “Left to right?” he said to no one. “Or right to left?” He thought for a moment. “Most languages are written left to right so that right handed scribes don’t drag their hands over the ink. That’s the way to bet.” He punched the buttons for the five symbols, then hesitated again. Which one would be the enter key? He noted that one of the symbols he had used was the bottom right button, which in his own world would have been the enter key but apparently wasn’t here. That meant it probably wasn’t one in the bottom row, although it could be. It was more likely to be one of the top buttons. Left or right? It was likely that whichever it wasn’t was the clear button, so it wasn’t too big a risk to push the wrong one. He went with right.
The display cleared.
Well, now he knew. He entered the key sequence again, and pushed the top left button. There was a hum and a clack, and the door shifted slightly. Grabbing the handle, he pulled it open.
“Bob, watch the door, make sure it doesn’t close. Everyone else, with me.” He found a light switch and illuminated the room, which was filled with all kinds of crates.
Right near the door, though, were a pair of six-legged mechanoids with open tops somewhere between a wagon and a wheelbarrow, four feet by two feet, one and a half feet deep. He had found something to transport the equipment.
“O.K., let’s see what we have. Dawn, you’re the expert, but we’re going to need bullets for our pistols if they’ve got ’em, and a few more powerful weapons,” he began opening crates and rummaging through them, “a rifle or two, maybe something heavier, but even though we’re going to try to take both of these carriers we shouldn’t take anything we can’t carry ourselves, even if we take more than we can carry, if you see the difference.”
“Yes, sir,” Dawn replied.
“What’s this? Oh, yes, this is good. Bron, this is for you.” He handed him a gun.
“What is it?”
“It’s a repeating shotgun.”
“O.K., it’s like the guns Dawn and I use;” he noticed that Dawn was filling one of the carts with a variety of gear. “Just the one cart, Dawn; we’re going to move the food to the other, just as soon as I know we can get them moving. Anyway, these things, called shells or cartridges, have a firing pin and primer in the back, along with some gunpowder, and when the hammer strikes it causes the gunpowder to explode. Up front there’s shot, and the shot can be all different kinds, but mostly it’s a lot of small metal balls, and the explosion causes the shot to fly out the hole at the far end. Because it’s a lot of small metal balls, they spread out once they leave the gun--not too much, but enough that you don’t have to aim quite so well as you would with a rifle, because at least some of the pellets should hit the target. Sometimes you find shells that contain single large slugs, and there are novelty shells that fire things like rock salt, rubber slugs, and incendiary shot, but mostly what we want is simple shotgun shot. You need to know that this switch,” he showed it, “is the safety that locks the trigger, this is the trigger that when you pull it it shoots the thing, keep the open end of the barrel toward the target, and be ready for the kick.”
“Yeah, you don’t see it when Dawn shoots because she’s ready for it, and because the automatic absorbs some of it, but there’s an explosion happening inside the gun, and when it sends the shot out one end it knocks the gun back in the other direction with a bit of what we call kick. If you’re not ready for it, it might knock you down. Anyway, once we’re outside we’ll have to give you a few lessons, but in the meantime carry it and be ready to use it if we’re ambushed or something. Take a box of these shells, too,” and he handed him one and put several more in the crawler.
“What about me?” Sophia asked.
“Yeah, I was thinking that. Ladies who shoot shotguns usually shoot lighter ones, I think. I don’t see lighter ones here. You shoot that, it’ll probably knock flat you on your--”
“So then, what?”
“I’m looking.” He continued rummaging through crates for several minutes while Dawn was continuing to stack things in her transport. “Dawn, do you see anything Sophia might be able to use effectively?”
“Sir, no sir.”
Well, that was probably the right answer, given Dawn’s assessment of what would be effective and whether Sophia could meet that standard.
“Now, this looks interesting. Not terribly practical, but it would do in a pinch.”
“What is it?” Bron asked.
“I’d say it’s a taser. It’s a direct contact weapon, you have to press it against the skin of the target, but it produces an electrical jolt that stuns the target. Probably not a lot of use against mechanicals, but good against biologicals in close combat. Have to find spare batteries for it.” He handed it to Sophia.
“What do I do with it?”
“I’ll show you, but let me get through the rest of this. Oh, and what do we have here?”
“What?” Sophia asked.
“I think it’s a rail gun, complete with flechettes.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means it uses electricity to create magnetic fields which throw metal darts at high speed at a target. A lot less convenient than bullets, but also a lot less kick. I think we’ll try that--but again we’re going to need batteries. Let me see if I can figure out what these take.” He examined the gun, and another of the tasers, and then dug through the cartons until he found a couple that contained what he concluded were rechargeable batteries. He put them in the nearly full cart, along with a field charger he wasn’t sure how to use but hoped between Dawn and himself they could figure it out.
He looked at the cart; it was very full, including a few rifles, lots of cartons of bullets, some crates of grenades, and a half dozen single-use rocket launchers. Dawn herself had holstered her pistol and shouldered a semi-automatic military rifle with attached grenade launcher. She extended the other pistol toward Beam; neither of them had a holster for it.
“I don’t suppose you saw a holster that would fit?”
She turned around, opened a crate, pulled out a holstered gun and tossed the gun aside, handing Beam a gun belt with a holster. He strapped it around his waist and fit the forty-five in it.
“I think we’re good to go. Any idea how to start this?”
Dawn reached down and pushed a button. “It will follow me now, sir. If you push the same button on the other crawler, it will follow you.”
He did so, and indeed the empty crawler followed him through the door into the hall. He proceeded to transfer the food and drink crates to this crawler, and said, “Time to find our way outside, so we can all learn how to use our new toys.” He turned and walked toward the stairs.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #310: Versers Mobilize. 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: