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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 51: Kondor 233
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Slade 226
Kondor and Zeke sat across from Shella sipping tea as they ate a vegetable bread-like cake. The local grains from which the birds made flour were a bit different from those from Earth, giving their breads an odd texture, and none of the vegetables or herbs were familiar from Earth, either; but Kondor had gotten used to them a few years back.
His and Zeke’s house had been destroyed in the first attack, and he might as well eat.
A howling boom cracked and shattered all the windows in the house on one side, and Kondor was up and heading to the front door before he even considered the matter. Poking his M-16 out of the front door, he looked out. Several birds were lying flat in the grass, and shattered windows on the far side buildings testified of the widespread if minor damage from the low altitude supersonic boom. The Little Green Men had buzzed the College at well over the speed of sound. The resulting sonic boom had broken windows, knocked parakeets down. and left doors flopping open.
“Come on, Zeke, we’re under attack.” He rushed out, keeping his eyes toward the skies. A fast moving flying saucer rolled up, twirled, and dove back toward the college. It kicked up grass and dirt with its first thrumming repulsor attack. And then to his horror, Kondor saw a parakeet go flying. He knew it would not be getting up. Then the second shot slammed into one of the dorms, shaking it.
Kondor threw up his rifle to take a shot, but the flying saucer, a long oval with enough space for eight men if it had been hollow, with forward facing windows, pulled up, and with a shriek of air went vertical. No shot, he told himself, and waited for it to come back around--which is why he did not notice the alien fifty feet away run around from the back of the Slades’ house. Nor did he notice it lining up its shot.
The thrumm of a repulsor emitter picked him up, and threw him head over heels to land bleeding in the grass.
“Cap’n!” a panicked Zeke yelled even as he threw himself prone, and opened fire with his M-16 on a three round burst. The Little Green Man threw himself back under cover, around the edge of the house. This apparently had been Zeke’s goal for his quick triple shot, and then he braced himself to get a better lock. Two of the invaders came around the house corner together, and Zeke shot the first one in the face, taking him down. The other threw a black ball shape which caused piles of dirt and grass to shoot skyward between Zeke and the next enemy.
It did no damage to Zeke, or the farther away Kondor who stirred at the noise, but the rosebud grenade did make a sufficient cloud of dust to block a clean shot for the more than seven attackers that came around the corner and kept running. Shaking loose his daze, Kondor yelled at Zeke.
“Go get the swordbirds. The aliens are trying to get to the hangar where the flying saucer is.”
“Yes, Cap’n,” and Zeke ran.
After he left, Kondor groaned. He examined his shirt. He had a ten inch long slash through the shirt from the top of his left shoulder down over his pectoral muscle. It was nearly an inch deep, and bleeding heavily. He got out some wound packing, and used that to stop the bleeding. Hopefully the antibacterial substance would prevent infection, but he had no time for more.
Stiffly, he rose to his feet, and started walking through the obscuring dust toward the retreating double line of enemies. The quiet thrum of the now subsonic flying saucer behind him, coming his way, was interrupted by the rippling blast of the gatling gun. Sounds of sparks and the ricochets of reflected bullets rained down around him, but none hit him. He pushed on even as the flying saucer engine noise retreated skyward. The professor of war was getting good use out of the gatling gun.
Now past the dust, and able to see better, while still advancing toward the line of enemies, he noted that there were two less heavily laden with weapons and gear. The pilot and the navgunner had been rescued, and given repulsor pistols. He took stock, and raised his rifle. Fourteen of them were still standing after Zeke had killed one.
The invaders were about four feet tall, with tan skin having a slight greenish tinge. Each wore a set of tough, brown trousers, with over long yet thin boots in dull black. A short sleeved shirt of very dark almost black green was covered by a tough vest of some black material. This vest held various pieces of equipment, most in black. He wondered for a moment if the aliens saw more tones in black than Humans did. Their eyes were certainly larger, about fifty percent larger. A multipiece armored skull cap in brown completed their look. There was a look of tough competence to them, of disciplined aggression that he associated with elite troops.
One shot later, and he had put a bullet into the back of Tail End Charlie. That alien fell, still moving but clearly wounded. A motion from the leader of the line, and the last three spun about, and dropped to the ground. He put a bullet between them. One of them, he was not sure which, hit him with a repulsor rifle blast that flipped him, and dumped him on the ground. He tried to fade back against the attack, knowing that if he could go with the flow, he might reduce the damage of the impact force weapon. It did seem to help, and he came back up more smoothly.
He fired into the grass, dropped to one knee, and took a slightly longer time aiming. Thrums of three bolts passed nearby with one of them close enough to raise the hair on his right arm. His shot went through the top of the skull of the one on the right. Their skull caps did not seem to do much good against bullets. Perhaps they were designed for resisting kinetic force weapons. One down. The other kept firing; timing the shots, Kondor suddenly charged. Then he saw a rosebud grenade headed his way. Desperate, he backhanded it, possibly breaking a bone in his right hand--but the grenade soared, and it landed ten feet behind the last of the escaping line, and one of them got tossed skyward, and came down in a bone breaking way that left no doubt that he would not be getting up.
The remaining unwounded one of the three that had been left as a delaying force came briskly to its feet, and it had a barbed spike held in its right hand like a plunging knife. Kondor knew it promised a powerful but awkward strike. Worse, if the invader got him with the barbed spike, it would cause far more damage coming out than it did going in. So the soldier shot him in the chest with his M-16. This caused the alien to drop to its knees, and then slowly begin to rise. Incredulous, Kondor stuck the rifle in its face, and shot again. This one was finished.
The last of the trio had thrown aside its pistol, and was clearly not able to continue to fight so Kondor pressed onward. As he did, he guessed that the aliens had heavy enough body armor to soak an M-16 bullet on the front side--but none on the back side. Perhaps it was an ideological decision, a statement about bravery, a way of deterring cowardly flight, or simply a practical one as armor cost speed and stamina.
Now with his right hand and left shoulder injured, he continued to fire at the nine remaining. Both sides shot, and shot again, and shot again, and shot again. Finally, his shot tore through the back of an alien. Then screaming past him, swords in one talon and pistols in the other, the swordbirds ran toward the enemy.
He made to follow, but Zeke came up alongside him.
“No, Cap’n. You’re in no shape to get in with that.” Both looked and saw two swordbirds die to rifle repulsors. Then one of the aliens took multiple pistol shots to its chest. This overwhelmed its armor. The fight continued with the Parakeets, with their close combat weaponry, having an advantage at close range. Then the last of the invaders was reaching for a knife when one of the swordbirds swept the invader’s head off with a swinging cut. Two rosebud grenades fell from the invader’s closed hand. The explosion ripped a hole in the center of the formation. In that last moment, a third of the swordbirds took heavy, often fatal, injuries. Blood and bodies, Parakeet and alien, littered a flat space fifty feet across
The other vehicle came back, but before it did any damage another flying saucer, Derek’s he presumed, pounced on it, and hammered it at close range with repulsors. The enemy air cover faded and flipped, getting very near the ground before it rushed off between the two dorms at a speed that quickly went sonic. Derek’s vehicle hesitated, and then landed. Derek and Vashti ran down the landing ramp.
Slade ran up from the direction of the hangar, looking manhandled, and continued over to the swordbirds. Kondor, realizing that others needed medical care, asked Zeke to help as he took hold of his medkit, and began slowly walking toward the blood-spattered circle of grass. He could see that both race's blood was red, like humans, but had different shades of red to their blood.
As he got closer, he heard Slade cry out in anguish.
“Agile? No. Oh--Dean.”
Kondor, horrified, stepped on blood-soaked grass to see the Dean with half his skull crushed. Slade kneeled in the bloody grass next to him, clearly not caring.
“You’re the bravest of us all.”
“Had to protect my college, Lord of War. I--I see birds flying above me. All black feathered hens with spears. They say they welcome me to--to--” and the Dean died. Kondor looked up, and saw no birds in the sky, but dismissing it as a hallucination he began to patch together what wounded could be saved. Eventually, he acquiesced to Zeke’s continued insistence, and patched himself up. All told, of the warfare class, fourteen had come running, the warfare professor having ordered four to stay at the gatling gun. The warfare professor, and Swifty, and six others had survived out of the fourteen, six dead plus the Dean. Only two of the swordbirds were wholly uninjured.
Kondor told himself that the effort, probably led by a crack commando team, first to grab the pilot and navgunner, and then steal back the flying saucer, had failed. But as he looked at the numb, shocked, and grief-stricken crowd that gathered, he again knew why he hated war. Too many good Parakeets had paid. Zeke led him off the battlefield to his, no, to Slade’s home, and he could hear behind him Shella and Slade organizing things. There would be funerals, and someone would have to take over the college now that the Dean was dead. Weeping gently, Kondor let Zeke lead him further away. And then two flying saucers rose from behind the Slade’s house, and flew away.
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 #484: Characters Maneuver. 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: