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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 64: Brown 260
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 236
Derek shook his head. This was insane. They were invading a giant colony ship with an attack force of four. Breathing shakily, he got out of his chair and picked up his laser rifle. A faint sound of thwack, thwack let him know that Bob was already at work. Bob needs me, he reminded himself, and hit the landing ramp button to open up the flying saucer he had brought with him from another universe.
Running down the ramp into the three story tall docking bay near the bottom of The Seeker, he thought to pray, but there was no time. He saw a little green man running from his left out of the corner of his eye, holding a metal bar with electricity sparking off it. The alien was screaming something as it charged at Derek who stood dumbfounded with his mouth open. Then thwack, and the little green man’s face caved in. He was dead. Bob had done that, but rather than look for Bob and Shella, Derek shook off his shock. He looked for targets.
Up the line of eight ships being repaired, an alien mechanic was aiming a pistol somewhere. A sizzling snap, and he fell, his innards cooked. Derek realized he had fired the shot. Moving forward along the line he saw an alien taking cover for a shot behind one of the legs of the next flying saucer. The verser more consciously fired, and sparks flew off the leg, spoiling the enemy’s shot, but not killing him. He saw Bob run forward like a loping gazelle, and with a casual grace reach down and slide his off hand dagger across the alien’s throat. Even as blood spurted red onto the white cerametal floor of the docking bay and the silvery leg of the flying saucer, Bob turned and engaged another pair to his right who had just come in a door.
Derek took a shot, as did Bob, and both aliens fell down, one with his face caved in, and the other with his tunic on fire from the laser shot.
Go that way, Derek ordered mentally. There were not a lot of aliens around, but the space was huge, and without great cover. There were lots of doors in every direction. He’d have to have eyes in the back of his head, or clairvoyance, he thought as he remembered how he had taught himself that skill. But another two aliens came from his left, close and fast. He spun and fired, but their short height was an advantage as his shot cleared their heads by inches. Vashti was suddenly in front of them, blocking their path, and stabbing one in the heart. The other tried to jab her with an extendible plasma torch, but she batted it to the side, and Derek said in her mind, Duck. She did, and he put a bolt at three feet range right into the torchman’s chest. The smell of ozone and cooking flesh, an odd but not wholly unpleasant scent, tried to yank him from his combat focus, but he could hear more thwacks in the way he had told Bob to go.
He ran after Bob, and saw Shella casually looking around and unaccosted. Behind him Vashti padded, and the robot thudded as it carried his bicycle. Reaching the door took another exchange of shots that proved inconclusive on both sides, but he made it through to find Slade talking to Shella. She laughed delightedly when she saw his dumbfounded face.
“Insignificancy spell,” she said. “It causes enemies to assume you’re someone of no consequence, like the maid or something, and ignore you.” She turned toward Bob. “I saw another fourteen in the big room, but most were hiding. They were surprised, and more than three out of four of them hid instinctively.”
“Good,” Bob grunted. “That will be useful. Although I suspect by now word is headed to command that we’re here.” He turned to look at Derek. Derek looked. The hall was narrow, so this was not a main access path, and it was barely high enough to clear Bob’s head so it was also not a transport tube for objects. Green painted meant, what, ah, his memory kicked in. Green meant supplementary access for lower grades, often basic repair and maintenance functions. They had lucked into one of the better areas to progress through the ship.
“Forward, full speed, Bob.” As he began to give that order the man anticipated him: he had turned and bolted. Derek followed at his best bike speed with the robot thudding behind him. Vashti balanced on the back fender of the bike. After a bit he heard a panting cry from Shella behind them all.
“Can I ride the metal golem?” He quickly instructed the robot to carry her, and sped up even faster.
As he whizzed around a corner, he saw Bob only ten yards in front of him. The man took a half turn of the head, looked back as he was running and said something that the noise of bike, foot, and bot crushed. Then Bob was running even faster, and as he accelerated away, Derek had to restrain his shock.
Instead, he focused on shoving his legs up and down. In the end, it was the bot that was the slowest as it could not run faster than 26 miles per hour while carrying Shella. This appeared to be less than Bob’s top speed, and while Derek thought he might be able to beat him on such a flat runway, he did not think he could do so with Vashti on the back of the bike.
A robot was in their path, and Derek sent a thought to Bob.
Button on its back.
The agile warrior slid past the robot, slapped his hand up, and the workbot stilled. They went past it encountering one more that he similarly deactivated. They went another quarter mile along the mile-long passage, passing many doors, hatches, wide spots, and a couple hallways with yells resounding down them. And then they came to a door with a green and yellow intermixed stripe in their path. He pulled to a halt, and Bob did as well.
That means general traffic.
There would likely be little green men on the other side of the door. They had come one mile, but the next mile was going to be harder. He nodded to Bob, and found himself shouting ‘Go, go, go!” as he shoved his pedals down and his bike forward almost throwing Vashti off the back.
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: