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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 60: Brown 259
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Derek resisted the urge to say that he supposed they were wondering why he called them all there, but it wouldn’t have been entirely inappropriate. Bob and Shella were going to need to understand how to fly the spaceship, and from what Bob had told him, although he had spent quite a bit of time on a ship named Destiny, the nearest he ever got to flying one was floating in space in a life pod. Joe, too, had spent several years aboard a spaceship but never at the helm, and if he and Zeke managed to get another of these crates airborne he was going to have to know how to operate it. So this was their one inadequate tutorial. Derek had taught before, but never this, so he was still organizing his thoughts.
“O.K.,” he began somewhat awkwardly, “the first thing you should do is get yourself recognized as an authorized user. It’s easier to do that if you have another authorized user available, but for various reasons there’s a sort of back-up authorization process, and we’re going to use that so that Joe and Zeke know how to do it if they try to launch another of these. Bob, sit here in the pilot’s seat, Shella there in the navigator’s.”
Bob was not an apt pupil in this. His computer experience was pretty much limited to having casually played some video games in what for him was probably more than half a century before. Shella, of course, was even less prepared for this, but Derek took his time and went over everything over the course of a couple hours.
“Finally,” he said, “this ship has kinetic cannons, like Bob’s gun only bigger. I don’t have those; I only have repulsor beams, to push debris out of the way. At some point these aliens improved on the design and made them more powerful. You should dodge larger objects and not worry about small debris; but if there’s anything too big to hit and you can’t dodge it, you’ll have to shoot it--and unfortunately, Shella is the gunner. Bob, you’ll have to hold the course steady at the object, and trust that Shella can hit it.” He then showed her how to operate the weapon system.
“Well,” he said after a long session, “that’s about all I can show you. I wish you had a few days to practice, but the way things are, your first practice session is going to have to be the mission. Anything else?”
“Um--yes?” Shella said. “We’re all going to that spaceship, and finding or fighting our way to places far from the docks. It’s probably beyond anything we can expect to be able to return to our ships and escape, which means either we defeat them, or we die trying--or we have another way to escape.”
She was right, of course. A colony spaceship didn’t have anything like lifeboats. If it was damaged, you tried to evacuate and repair the damaged sections. Once they were there, they were committed to staying.
“I should teach you how to open a gate. I’m not very good at it, and haven’t tried it in a while, but it’s your best chance to get off the ship if you can’t reach the shuttles.”
Derek nodded. It embarrassed him a bit that he hadn’t thought that far ahead, but she was right, he didn’t have an exit strategy. He was ready to die to achieve this, but he shouldn’t have to plan on that.
“O.K., show me.”
“What about me?” Vashti asked.
Derek shrugged. “I should have taught you some magic; I didn’t realize it worked in this world. But I suspect this is a pretty difficult spell, and not the place to start. Don’t worry, if I get killed you’re going with me, so we have an ultimate exit strategy. It’s just a good idea to have this, too, so we can use it if necessary.”
He frowned, remembering. “Of course, it’s not foolproof. Joe will remember when we blew up that freighter, and Lauren was supposed to get us out, but a minidragon broke her leg and she couldn’t walk so we were stuck. But teach me, and hopefully I won’t need it, or if I do I can make it work.”
As Shella taught him how she did this, he realized that it wasn’t quite what Lauren did, and that just as Bob and Shella were going to find out at the critical moment whether he had taught them well enough, he was going to find out the same thing at a different critical moment.
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: