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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 130: Beam 40
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Reaching the gun deck, he saw that Dawn had already fired two of the three artillery pieces, and was aiming the third. “How can I help?” he asked. She stared at him blankly for an instant, then said, “Load.” She fired the third weapon.
She moved to the first and started reloading it; Beam observed her actions for a few seconds and then decided he understood what to do, and began reloading the second. She was the best shot; he needed to give her something to shoot. She was waiting for him before he finished, but he moved to the third as she began to aim the second. He was not going to be able to keep ahead of her.
As he began reloading the first, Bron arrived, tool cart in tow.
“Come, see how I load this,” Beam said. “With both of us loading, we might be able to stay ahead of Dawn.” She was waiting before they finished loading that one, but Bron was pretty sure he had it, so Beam moved to the second and Bron to the third.
Bob was next on the deck, Pyronics floating with him. How does this one help? his thoughts asked.
“Well, the two things we need to do are one, destroy those attacking machines, and two, prevent them from destroying us. I don’t think the Pyronics is going to help.”
Abruptly the lead pentapod left the ground and began rising, what appeared to be slowly but scale was difficult given the distance and the size. Beam was reminded that he didn’t have time to watch by Dawn landing at his elbow, and he finished the loading process and moved to the vacant gun. Bron was still loading his.
Sophia entered. “What can I do?” she asked.
“What can you do?” Beam replied. “We need to destroy those machines and prevent them from destroying us.” He glanced out at the battlefield in time to see the floating pentapod fall from several times its height and land upside down. He concluded it was not attempting to do that. “Well done, Bob.” However, the machines were getting closer faster than they were going to be able to destroy them all, despite the fact that Dawn had disabled four already.
“I can hide us?”
Beam nodded. “That might help.” He watched as Sophia stepped closer to the open window, waved her hands, and pronounced some mumbo-jumbo. Something like a light gray mist filled the open space.
“It’s an illusion. From this side it’s like slightly tinted glass, but you can shoot through it. From the other side, it looks like the wall around it.”
“That might buy us a bit of time.” Dawn was waiting for him again, and he quickly finished the loading process and moved forward. “Unfortunately, these guns are getting hot, and probably those things can see hot spots--infrared sensors, or something like that--so the more we shoot and the closer they get the less dependent they’re going to be on seeing. But for the moment, it gives us an opportunity.”
Another of the machines fell out of the sky, considerably closer this time. Then there was an explosion of some sort just outside the window, as if one of the incoming shells had hit the wall.
“You didn’t say it created a wall that would stop missiles.”
“It--it doesn’t,” a confused Sophia said. Looking around, Beam spotted a dazed Bob, and heard his thoughts a bit less coherent than usual.
This one. Shield. Stopped. Hit.
“Got it. Well, rest and try to recover.” They lost Bob for at least a few minutes which were going to matter, but had that shell come through the window they probably would all be finished. He went back to loading the guns so Dawn could fire them.
Even with the magical blind drawn, Beam guessed they could see the source of the missiles, in essence follow the trajectory. The number of machines was dwindling, but even with Dawn’s accuracy it took several hits from the artillery to stop one. By now the field was littered with broken robots, but as they raced to load two more weapons, two attackers came up right below the window, and fired directly at them.
The interior burst into flame and concussion, and Beam lost consciousness.
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 #316: A Gather World. 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: