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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 44: Brown 255
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As the two of them stood in the hangar, Derek spoke to Vashti quickly. “Can you handle the packing?”
“Yes. Make our ship ready,” Vashti said, and with small waves, the two parted, Vashti walking toward their house, and Derek reboarding the spaceship. There was still a slight hitch in his leg from the stab wound, but he was able to ignore it. His robot was waiting.
“Lock yourself in place, Robot,” he commanded. “We might have to do some wild maneuvers including inverts and multiple gravities.” Various creaking noises behind him assured him that the robotic arms were now locked on to hardpoints inside the cabin space. Blowing out his breath, he wiggled his fingers, and began to run down the checklist for launch.
When he got to the bullet point where it said check exterior hull, he got up and walked out. The parakeet spies with their crowbars had managed to scrape shiny lines across the lower part of the hull. Running his fingers across these lines, he could not feel an indentation even as thin as a piece of paper. They would have been beating at the hull for a very long time before they broke in.
He paid special attention to the drive emitters that Joe had just told them about. All of them looked good except for two near the back that had a faint area of green sediment built up on the same side of each disk. Taking a flathead screwdriver, he gently scraped it off. It was some mix of carbon and stone with flecks of gold and a black gritty substance that he was pretty sure was not meant to be there. Maybe Joe could have told him what it was, but Derek had not the faintest clue. He tossed it aside, and continued his inspection by climbing a moving ladder to walk on the top of the hull.
The damage looked solidly repaired, and he yanked on it, and banged on it with his fist. Nothing showed any inclination to move at all, which was just how he liked it. He took the ladder back down, and walked back into the ship. Inside, he powered up the gravitics, and felt the craft want to leave the dirt floor of the hangar.
Next was maneuverability, as he modulated the drives and caused the spaceship to go one way then another. It occurred to him with a goofy grin that he could have Vashti lay out like an Egyptian princess on a chaise lounge, and he could fan her, not with a palm frond but a spaceship hull moving up and down as it tilted.
He came to the end of the pre-flight checklist, and tried to think of anything else. No, there were only three things left. Get Vashti and the gear on board; open the big hangar doors; and pray to the King for a safe flight. After that, it would be the wild blue yonder.
Exiting the ship, he went back out the small door and saw Vashti bringing everything from their house. He jogged over to her, taking it easy on his leg, and she began to hand him his luggage. Finally, both loaded, they went back to the ship. Stowing everything on board was not just a matter of tossing it in, but of making sure that it would not go flying about the cabin if he had to do some strange maneuvers. Once that was done, he got Vashti buckled in, got a kiss, and ran out to open the huge sliding doors.
This took a couple minutes, and he came back panting. After closing the shuttlecraft door, he sat down, buckled in, and took Vashti’s hand.
“King, safe journeys for us. Most of all, protect the people on this planet.” He opened his eyes from his prayer, and shoved the power to full and shot them out into the clear air with a Wawwwwwhoop from Vashti that turned from surprise to thrill in mid word.
“Let’s get to the stratosphere,” he said, and turned the ship to an eighty degree climb. Hurtling skyward, he reviewed his plan. Up there, he intended to find other transponder codes, new ones, and mask his own with theirs. Hopefully, the Seeker was not uber paranoid such that it would just shoot down both if it discovered the dupe.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eleven other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #482: Versers Engage. 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: