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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 56: Beam 175
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Previous chapter: Kondor 234
As was typical for him, Beam awoke in the darkness. He had to use the bathroom, but it was right here, so he scooped up his pants and shoes and closed the door behind him so as not to awaken the girls.
Finished and half-dressed, he slipped out and went downstairs. Dawn obviously recognized his approach without looking at him, and while staring out the front window she said, “Sir.” She said it in a way that suggested to him that she wanted to say more.
“Sir, we might have a problem, sir. There is an unknown number of unknown creatures approaching across the plane. They are too far to determine anything specific at this time, but best intel suggests that it is a larger force than the last one we fought, the same type of creature, and that they should arrive shortly after daybreak, sir.”
He nodded in the dimness, looking out at the starry night sky.
“About how long is that?” he asked. He wanted to add that he’d been asleep, but realized that he didn’t have to explain himself to her.
“Sir, I expect sunrise in about two hours, and arrival sometime within the half hour after that. The moon set half an hour ago, sir.”
“O.K., keep monitoring the situation. I’m going to wake Bob, see if he can get a reading on the brains. We’ll let the others sleep another hour or so, but wake them with enough time to get ready.”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
Taking a deep breath before climbing the stairs, he headed for the bedroom the men shared. Bob was of course levitating in a dark corner; Beam thought that in another context he would be a terrifying ghost. Heck, he was a terrifying monster by appearance, if you didn’t know him--even, he guessed, if you did know him but he didn’t like you. Wanting not to disturb Bron, he walked quietly over to the floating alien.
“Bob,” he said softly, and touched him gently. “We need you.”
The alien opened one of his eyes, a bit more frightening in the dark. But his response wasn’t so.
“Yes. Dawn says something is coming, and as yet she can’t be entirely certain what, but it should be here in a couple hours. We need you to tell us what you can about it, and help us observe its approach.”
I come, he sent, and began drifting out of the corner. Beam stepped out of his way and followed him out and down the stairs to where Dawn was.
Bob must have sent a mental message to Dawn, because she looked at him and then pointed out one of the windows. He then peered in that direction for what felt to Beam like a few minutes, but then delivered information telepathically, which apparently Dawn was also receiving.
Small minds in dead minds, at least ten, not more than fifteen, going to the place of flashing lights and smell of death.
That, Beam realized, would be here--last night’s fireworks display courtesy of Sophia, and today’s delivery of about a hundred corpses to the back yard. They had certainly announced their presence. Of course, they had dispatched five fairly easily a few days back, but fifteen was thrice that, and only ten was still twice as many. Plus, their database was too small to be certain that these were the same as those, that they didn’t have any special abilities--like the ability to open doors.
“I’m going upstairs,” he said. “Bob should let me know if we learn anything new.” He was going to say if anything changes, but it occurred to him that the monsters could come all the way to the house, their number determined, and these two wouldn’t think that anything had changed until the door had been breached. It also occurred to him that Bob knew he had thought that, and he hoped it didn’t offend his alien friend. He was, really, confident that Bob would let him know what he needed to know.
He returned to the room with the sleeping Bron, and sat on the stripped bed in which he had slept two nights before. The real question was how long to let the blacksmith sleep. He realized that he hated to be awakened, but he never hesitated to awaken someone else. Bron wouldn’t really need much time to get ready, just get dressed, use the bathroom, and find his weapons. On the other hand, the women would need more time, and for the first time he was glad there were two bathrooms. He just had to be sure Bron was finished with it first.
He realized after a while that the sky was starting to lighten; it was pre-dawn. It was, he guessed, as good a time as any. “Bron,” he said in a normal voice, “I hate to wake you, but we’ve got a situation brewing.”
The blacksmith scrunched his face, and said, “Did you say something about coffee?” Beam laughed.
“Don’t I wish,” he said. “No, we have more zombies coming, and they’ll be here in maybe an hour or so. I need you to get up, get dressed, get ready--and I need you to use the bathroom before I wake the girls, because once they get in them it might be a while before they’re out.”
“Right,” he said. “But no coffee.”
“Sorry,” and the white-haired man shrugged in the dim light. He knew Bron didn’t particularly like coffee, but had come to understand its benefits on early mornings. He sat there while Bron donned pants and shoes and lumbered out to the bathroom, and then waited for his return before going to awaken the girls.
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: