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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 58: Brown 258
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Slade 228
Returning to the first hangar from a bathroom visit, Derek saw Joe standing atop the Engineering building looking through his rifle. Curious, he changed his course and ducked into the Travelers Building of Science and Engineering. Taking the stairs two at a time, he passed a single Parakeet as the halls were mostly empty due to the evacuation. Getting to the top floor, he saw an iron staircase dropped from the roof that led to an open door to the roof. It was designed to be retracted with a pulley and an iron chain, but it had been dropped for temporary use.
He ascended it more slowly, and came out into the daylight. There he saw Bob working on a Gatling gun setup along with several birds. The warrior yanked on a wrench, tightening a bolt that connected a metal pole to the roof. Then he took another grab with the wrench at the bolt through the plate that held the pole, and directed two birds to hold it as hard as they could. Then he kicked it, and with a screech of metal the bolt moved a quarter of a turn. One of the Parakeets tumbled back, and another caught him before he could fall off the partially slanted roof.
“No one is going to be able to remove it once you do that.,” Joe observed as he looked through the sights on his rifle at another location. Bob stood and, grunting, lifted the Gatling gun to the top of the pole. The Parakeets rushed to tighten the bolts which connected the gun to the pole’s top. Derek thought Joe was right. Even the Big Boy bird had not been as strong as Slade, and the verser had not just strength, but knowledge of how to apply it. The bolts to the roof would be there until the building fell down of old age or the alien invaders blew it into the ground with their repulsor emitters.
Slade helped tighten the other bolts, and then he spun the Gatling gun around on its gimbal.
“Professor of War: this setup is more exposed, but the flying saucers will not be able to find a spot out of your firing arc, and finding a blind spot will be harder too. They’d have to come in, practically skimming the grass behind those buildings to get close.”
The warfare professor agreed.
“Choe, I think if you set up at that dorm, you can get a good crossfire between us, and you can shoot at them if they do as the Lord of War says, skimming over the grass.”
“But if they hammer the other dorm as they did the first, and Joe is on top, that could be bad,” Derek said, surprising himself and the others. Everyone turned to look at him as he stood near the open trapdoor to the floor below; no one had realized he was there. It was a bit comical, but then there was a general bobbing of human and Parakeet heads in agreement with his point.
“Professor, I’ll find a position. I’m not sure if I’ll do it on top of the dorm, or ask Shella to create a foxhole for me, but I’ll make sure to cover your blindspot, and set up a crossfire. But you should put sandbags around this spot.”
This brought up a discussion of sandbags, and Derek, his curiosity satisfied, left before the discussion really got going. He went back down the metal stairs to the floor below, down the regular stairs, out to the grass, and thence to the hangar where he had been working. Soon, he and Vashti in one ship and Slade and Shella in the other would be assaulting The Seeker as it hung in orbit around the planet. Joe and Zeke would be staying behind, working as spotter and sniper. The warfare professor and the swordbirds would be manning, uh, birding the second Gatling gun they had retrieved from the engineering building. It was not as nice as the first one, being a prototype, but then to balance that, the swordbirds were more practiced. They had shot down a flying saucer by themselves.
He still had to show Slade how to pilot the ship. He had spent hours in a simulator learning this; he hoped that Bob could pick it up more quickly.
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: