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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 62: Slade 229
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Beam 176
Slade met up with Kondor, Zeke, the warfare professor, Swifty, the professor of antiquities who was the acting dean, Derek, and Vashti at the entrance to the second hangar. His wife, Shella, clung to his right arm. He looked each of them in the eyes.
“Friends, battle comrades, some of you I may not meet again until Ragnarok. We go on a very dangerous mission. Yet you who stay here stand in great danger as well. I’ll never forget any of you even if a dozen worlds pass by me.” Arms were clasped, and Parakeets fluttered their feathers and did a little dance, and Shella joined with Vashti in a little cry together.
Slade entered the hangar with his wife; Joe and Zeke would be returning to their foxholes while the warfare professor and some of the swordbirds went to the roof of the engineering building. The other swordbirds rested for their turn at the gun, or held ready in a quick reaction force in case another commando strike was launched on the college. Across the world, the news was bad. Few places were as well defended as the college, and many of them had simply dropped out of communication. Some after heart-rending cries of ‘troops have landed and are killing everyone’ or ‘the whole base is on fire, and the fire is heading toward the fuel tanks!’ had been not heard from again. Others just dropped. Slade hoped that they were fine. It could be that they had just lost comms. After all, the aliens had a record of targeting shortwave towers.
On the good side, he had heard a number of reports of shot down flying saucers including one where a metal net had been thrown into the air by some configuration which apparently involved spears launched from cannons, and had against all odds actually hit and took the flying saucer down in flaming ruin.
Waiting, he ran through the checklist. It was not as easy as Derek made it seem, but once it was done he had Shella send a telepathic message to Derek. They were ready.
Derek double-checked a couple of things for him, but he had made no mistakes. So Derek sent out the order. Receiving the telepathic clearance, Slade said, “Open the hangar doors, and get out of the way.”
A minute later, the doors were open, and the worker birds who had been fixing the back door at his house just a little while ago were now scampering out of the way.
“Let’s get it done,” Slade muttered to himself, and pushed the flier forward. It leapt easily off the ground, and he sped out into the sunlight past cheering worker birds. Already Derek was circling above him, and Shella said, “He wants us to follow him.”
“Yes, sir.” Slade muttered. In this part, Derek was in charge because he was the more experienced pilot. Derek smoothly climbed at sixty degrees, and Slade followed him finding a smile break out on his face that he shared with his love in the navgunner’s chair. She smiled back.
“He says a little faster,” she said, and Derek shot ahead. Without worry, Slade pushed his craft up as well, now climbing at eighty degrees. The fliers could go vertical, but the balance on effort and altitude was best at eighty degrees for reasons he was not sure even Joe understood. Outside, he saw fog as they passed momentarily through a cloud, and his wife’s startled gasp at the beauty of its upperside. The unexpected wonderland of shining white castles and mountains of mere cloud made him smile harder.
Ten minutes later, and the sky started to darken.
As they entered into space he stayed close to Derek’s ship, not wanting to lose him in the dark. Shella was looking with wonder at the stars, occasionally exclaiming, wondering if these stars had elemental spirits like those of her own home had. While he wanted to talk back, and sightsee, he was focused on staying with Derek. Shella seemed to understand, and just gently talked.
Then, out of the dark, the white dot they were heading to doubled, no, tripled in size. He could see lines on it, and a dart of light rose from it. This was the point of danger. The Seeker might be interrogating them. Derek and Vashti had changed out the transponders. Hopefully, The Seeker’s crew would not be suspicious and just order them shot out of the sky. Slade suspected that if they did, the first notice of this he would have would be waking up in a new universe, although Derek and Joe had both shared memories of death by vacuum.
A flying saucer went past them, and another one, heading toward the planet. No conversation or questions interrupted their approach. As they got closer, Shella quieted for the same reason that Slade took microseconds off to stare. It was one thing to hear Derek say ‘oh, The Wanderer was fifty miles long, and twenty-five miles wide’, but it was altogether another thing to see such a vehicle with tiny dots rising off it that were ships like the one he was in.
And then it filled the whole of his forward windows. Shella gasped in fear, but Slade grinned. Finally, Derek led them to a shuttle bay. It would be on level forty-seven of the fifty floors (numbered top down), from which they would have to cross about five miles to reach the elevators which would take them up, Derek to level four, Slade to level two. Slade had the job of taking out the bridge command of The Seeker. He looked forward to it. Shella carried some primitive explosives that the Parakeets had made. He was going to be the tip of the spear, and show these little green men what a warrior of Odin thought of their invasion.
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 #487: A World in Space. 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: