By Marc T. Housley
(This is, as are all my stories posted here, a first draft. I will be updating this soon, as a second draft is currently being edited. The first chapter will be included in my upcoming eBook.
Chapter One: The Chessmen of the Devil.
The explosion woke him up with a gut wrenching jolt, which was rapidly followed by his losing his dinner, or was it breakfast, as the rocket ship spun wildly. His face was plastered against the side of the control chair in a painful smear as the G-forces rippled his cheeks. His eyes were tearing, and he tried to focus on the control panel in front of him, but the dozens of red lights were all blurred together. They didn’t matter so much right now, not as much as the whistling sound did from somewhere behind him. The rocket’s air was leaking from a rather large rip and sealing that must take priority, except for the little problem that he was spinning at an absurd rate and being forced into his control chair.
Jobesh. Jobesh could help, where was he? Probably plastered to his control chair, too.
“Jooblesth” he tried to say, and mostly just drooled across the side of the control chair. The spacecraft’s interior had taken on a decidedly red tint and it wasn’t from the emergency lights, all of which were blinking rapidly across the control deck each trying to tell him it was of critical importance to fix whatever it was trying to tell him was broken. No, even the gray and black areas were going red.
Red-out, damn it, going to pass out if I can’t fight it. Last time I felt G’s like this was on liftoff, he thought. He reached for the control stick in front of him, and fought against the G’s to regain some focus and get some of the blood to flow back down into his body.
The hissing sound behind him was slowly lessening. That was either very good or very bad.
He looked at the gryroscopes, they were spinning like tops crazily cast by a spastic child. He had to counter the spin. If this was a modern spaceship this would be easy, a series of red numbers would be on a graph, each representing spin, pitch, tilt, and yawl. You want to stop spinning, you bring those numbers to zero.
He didn’t have a modern spacecraft, he had an ancient piece of junk that should have killed them a long time ago. He could argue that they had hoped it would kill them a long time ago, and had instead failed to give them the oblivion they were looking for. Again, it might kill them now, but it had, once again, failed to do it in a spectacular fashion that would have killed them instantly. No, it had to make things complicated.
He twisted the stick in what he thought was the opposite direction of the worst of the spin, and the old control rockets hissed and hissed but it seemed to take a full minute for any change. Whatever forced them into the spin had given them a lot of momentum.
The whistling of air behind him stopped. He was having a hard time breathing anyway, that from the G-forces. But now he couldn’t tell if the whistling had stopped because Jobesh had fixed the hole—an unlikely occurrence since Jobesh would have been just as squished by the G-forces as he was. More likely the air had just left the rocket and he was about to asphyxiate.
“Y-you going to fix this spin or what Mikey, cause I’m feeling a little green over here…”
He applied more directional rockets and the spin continued to slow. He was able to pull his head off the side of the seat. He rubbed his face with his other hand and found the side of his face to be all bumpy—it had been squished into the speaker on the control chair. He rubbed it with one hand as he applied counter spin, counter yawl, and randomly just moved the stick around to see if he could get the rocket into a more comfortable alignment. Finally the G’s were back to an acceptable two or three times gravity. He rolled the rocket so that this spin forced them “down” toward the floor, creating an artificial gravity.
The rocket had already expended the energy to start the spin, might as well use it to make things a little more comfortable while I figure out what all the rest of these lights are trying to tell me. Might even be able to drink a scotch in a real glass if we survive this, He thought, looking over the more than two dozen red lights. The top row of lights were now yellow. That was good, those were the ones that could kill you fast.
“So, Jo, I take it you fixed that leak since we are still breathing.”
“Yeah boss, got it all taped up.”
For the first time since the accident he looked around the control room. Jobesh was slunk down in the far corner, his face red, his breathing coming hard from exertion. In his left hand was a nearly depleted roll of carbon tape. Along the wall behind him long runs of the stuff had been taped down the wall where the rivets had popped and the air had been escaping from the seam.
“You taped that while we were under, what, seven G’s?”
“Yup, got lucky, was thrown almost to the wall with the the the f-first spin. Taped er up good.” Jobesh said with his usual drawl and stutter.
He wanted to complain, but didn’t. The tape cost a month’s salary per yard, and jobesh had used many yards of it. But, you can’t spend money if you’re dead.
“Y-you could have flown er better, would have made taping a lot easier.”
“You going to complain again, you can fly it next time. I will tape.”
“You know I can’t fly. Gave me no schoolin, never mind let me fly.”
“Yeah, and if I had to be the one to patch that hole we would be dead now. You saved us, again. At least for now. I will need to figure out what the hell happened.”
“Hydrogen tank blew.”
“How do you know that?
“I can see it out t-the window. W-well, not it. It’s not there anymore.”
He walked over to the small porthole which enabled them to look back “down” the length of the rocket. Looking over the two hundred feet of cargo containers, antenna, and equipment he that sure enough their “new” hydrogen tank wasn’t there anymore and the entire side of the rocket had taken shrapnel damage and denting.
“Damn, I knew we were taking a risk with that re-build, but it looked in good shape, and passed all the tests.”
“Coulda been a small meteoroid, coulda been a leak, coulda been connected wrong. No way to tell, it did test alright though.”
“We are flying a bucket of bolts, we have to expect this sort of thing.”
“W-we expect to be dead. Livin is the su-surprise.”
“Damn right on that one. And, we are alive, for now. Now let us see what the rest of these red lights mean, then get to work on figuring out where we are, and what we can do to keep surprising ourselves with our longetivity.”
Twenty- one hours later most of the lights were now orange. Carbon tape had been traded for arc welders, spacing glue, and rivet guns. Both men were exhausted. The ship had continued its slow spin through the blackness of space. Finally the two sat against opposite sides of the small control room, slumped against the walls, various tools dumped in piles next to them. Jo slunk down the wall and a moment later the room’s silence was broken by deep snores.
Mike patted the deck with his bruised, oily hand.
“Well girl, looks like you aren’t going to fall apart on us after all. It was just that one damned bad fuel tank. We are still breathing. It’s a start.”
He sat into the pilots chair and pulled up the display screen. The damage report was still over a page long, but nothing was marked as critical.
They were going to need to get fuel and oxygen. The fuel tank that blew was one of three, but the other two tanks were nearly empty. He wanted to say he had gotten out of worse scraps before, but he was sure he had never faced anything quite this grim. He set the computer to determine their location, a task that could take days.
He awoke to the computer beeping. It had a fix on their location. He opened the star chart and narrowed down the search to systems within one week’s travel that contained hydrogen, oxygen, and a radioactive material.
One match. A system that was one week and two days away. He opened the system description to find only two words: Biological Protectorate. The worst words he could hope to see. It meant violating the planetary system was against spacing law due to the presence of a planet with primitive but intelligent life. You didn’t break this law. If you had two choices, violate a B.P., or fly your colony-ship into the sun with all hands onboard, you chose the sun.
He set a course for the solar system. It was a difference between certain death, and a death sentence. He would risk the second before he would condemn himself and Jobesh to a slow cold death.
“Jo, we are going to take this approach very slowly,” he said. They were still three days flight from the solar system and were slowing down slowly. The ion engines were efficient, but slow.
They had the first pictures from the system on the screen, and had been surprised to find that the planet was transmitting communications on dozens of frequencies. The planetary system was a single mid-sized planet around a small sun. There were two moons around the planet, and other than that the system was empty. The planet had atmosphere which was in the earth equivalent spectrum.
“If we are going to violate a B.P we are going to be damn careful. This planet is bristling with primitive radio communications, so who knows what other technology they may have. Jo, start the comp analyzing the transmissions, let’s see if it can get some basic translation going. I am going to plot an approach which will enable us to stay behind one of their moons.”
Jo just nodded agreement, his headphones were on and he was watching old earth shows, history stuff mostly. The ship had decades of recorded shows.
Three days later they were in orbit around the planet, the moon was to their left which shielded them against light from the sun. They had monitored transmissions from the planet since they entered the solar system. Jobesh was turning knobs on the receiver trying to mesh a video transmission from the planet with the video display.
“S-signals strong enough now, will be just a moment before we can watch their TV,” Jobesh said with excitement.
“I thought this thing would auto-decipher the video signals, what are you messing with over there, Jo.”
“A-auto only works when the a-antena doesn’t have a hundred holes in it from the hy-hy-hyd.. fuel tank blowing up.”
The image on the wall formed a black and white picture of two figures talking, and they almost looked human. Their hair was more like a thin fur, and their eyes were rounder, and their noses shorter. They were speaking in such a way that they could be news announcers, public service messengers, weathermen, or priests. It was impossible to tell without a translator.
“Mikey, why do all the races look sorta like us?”
“If I could answer that I wouldn’t be scraping a living shipping heavy metals along god-forgotten routes in distant parts of the milky way.”
“But they do, don’t they, all sorta like us. Two arms, two legs, two eyes.”
“No one knows, Jo. The scientists tried to find a genetic link, and there isn’t one. Then they tried to determine if this was just the most convenient form of life, but that didn’t make any sense either, we have to many problems, to many weaknesses. Hardly the ideal biological design.
“But, there they are, no one has ever seen them before, but us now, and look, two arms, two legs, two eyes, fingers are a little weird, and their eyes seems strange, but they look humanish. Its like everyone was following a blueprint”
“Now you sound like a universalist,” Mike said, leaning back in his chair and stretching his legs onto the control consol while he watched the aliens chat away.
“What’s a universalist.”
“I ain’t got religion,”
“I got it as a kid, you would like it, they accept everyone.”
“No, Mikey, you accept everyone,”
“No, Jo, I accept no one because I am…”
“..an asshole,” Jo cut in, with the line they had said in a dozen conversations before, “you always say that, but not to me.”
“Of course to you, Jo, I am an asshole to everyone.”
“Not always, Mikey.”
“No, not always, It takes to much work.”
“Yup. Mikey, always lazy, sometimes an asshole,” Jo said, and cracked himself up with his own joke. Mike smiled, they were used to each other as only two people shoved in a small rocket for years could be.
“So, back to the universalist question. They believe that when god spoke he commanded mankind to be fruitful and multiply…”
“have babies,” Jobesh interrupted.
“Yes, but more than a suggestion, basically, it was a rule of the universe: fill every void that life could fill. The scientist would say that all life had a basic scientific origin, like a single metoirite, which made everyone similar. The religious side saw it as God actively forming life into his image. Either way, all the intelligent species have two legs, two arms, one head.”
“I think I am going to change the channel, see what else we can get.”
“Okay, Jo, you do that. I am going to take a nap. How long did you say it would take for us to get a translation, and a full mineral scan?”
“Translation, four days. Mineral scan, three.”
“Okay, Thank’s Jo, wake me when you have something interesting.”
Mike pulled his face shield over his eyes and soon was snoring. Jo diligently sat at the consol, sometimes watching old history shows, most of which seemed to focus on one of the Earths great wars, and trying to get other channels to come into focus. Meanwhile the computer hummed, scanning dozens of communications from the planet to create a working vocabulary.
Mike was awoken by Jo shaking him urgently.
“Mikey, why are there Nazi’s on the planet. Why are they all standing around wearing that bad Mr. Hitler’s flag?” he said, shaking Mike slowly to consciousness.
Mike was going to argue for a moment, but instead he looked at the screen in front of him with incomprehension, then had to blink to make sure he was actually awake. On the screen was a flag waving in front of a domed building, and on it was the four connected 7’s of the nazi swastika.
“I. I don’t know, Jo,” Mike said, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. “I mean, every race comes up with things like squares and triangles, its just a geometric symbol.”
“Yeah, but they are all doing that silly Nazi march, with their strange arms swinging, and giving that salute thing to the guy on that stage there.” Jo said, pointing to the character that was standing in front of thousands of very militant looking aliens.
Mike and Jobesh sat quietly for a long time. It was one of the reasons their friendship on the spacecraft had lasted so long, silence wasn’t a problem. They both watched as the frogman-nazi spoke on and on in a dramatic fashion. Jo had picture-in-picture projected a video of Hitler giving a speech hundreds of years before. The body-language matched perfectly.
“They aren’t Nazi’s,” Mike said.
“But, the flag, and the marching..”
“They aren’t Nazi’s, Jo.”
“And that arm salute thing..”
“They can’t be Nazi’s, Jo.”
“And they are herding all those other alien’s into the streets and shooting them, Mikey.”
Mike didn’t question, didn’t move, he just looked at Jo.
“See, Mikey, its on the other channel…” Jobesh said, and the image changed to show a city street, the domed houses made from mud and plants, but it was an obvious city. The streets were lined with bodies which had been lined-up against the walls and killed. Mike stayed quiet for a moment, and then closed his eyes.
“So, how do we have Nazi’s on an alien planet, Mikey.
“I don’t know Jo, But I think we have just become a Universalist’s best friend.”
“Why, Mikey, do they believe in Hitler?”
“No, they believe in the Devil, and that he and God are actively engaged in a conflict. Now, if God was making things in his image around the universe…”
“..then maybe the Devil was too!” Jo said, excited, “So why are their Nazi’s on an alien world, Mikey.”
“They aren’t our Nazis.”
“But they are evil…”
“Yes, Jo, they are evil.”
“So, what are we going to do, Mikey.”
“We are going to do a complete scan of this planet, be very careful, get what we need, and get the hell out of here.”
They had been watching the battle for an hour. The two fleets were very different in composition, and at first it wasn’t clear who would win. Now it was only a question of whether or not any of the “allied,” (as they had taken to calling them) ships survived.
The scanners had detected the two fleets a day ago as they maneuvered over the ocean. The Nazi fleet was comprised of five large battleships, their oval shape, with the rows of cannon sticking out the sides, appeared like five protozoa swimming across the sea. The allied forces were smaller ships with smaller guns, but had outnumbered the Nazi’s three to one. Now over half the allies ships had sunk, and the rest were damaged.
They watched as the large, short cannons that were arranged down the center of the Nazi ships fired gigantic mortar after mortar at the incoming allied vessels. Each explosion caused a gizer of water nearly as large as the ship they were targeting. Once an allied vessel got within range, the dozens of guns arranged along the outside of the Nazi ships opened fire.
They had zoomed the video out to a strategic scale. Watching individual ship crews had been interesting at first, as they turned the guns to bare. The pyrotechnics of the large bored cannons were spectacular and fire and smoke rolled out of the large guns. Tracers arched over the oceans surface marking the paths of the unseen shells. But, soon as the allies had taken to much damage, and they had watched the nazi ships take very little, watching the battle became painful. They zoomed the cameras to the point that the ships were black ovals moving over the gray-blue waters.
They watched in dismay as the allied ships turned to run, while those left behind burnt and sank. They didn’t want to imagine the lives on those ships. Jo had given a running monologue on how this battle was different then those durring WWII, illustrating for Mike the picture of hundreds of lives stuck inside the metal hulls. The hell they must be facing in such ferocious combat was unimaginable.
“Where are the allied airplanes” Jo asked.
“We haven’t seen anything flying yet, have we?”
“Well, maybe they have their Hitler, but never got the Write Brothers. At least they don’t have radar. Let’s get working on finding that landing site, I am getting worse feelings about this by the day.”
“I want to watch a movie, Mikey.”
“Seems appropriate,” Mike said, and took a sip from the straw in his whiskey-bag. He missed his artificial gravity and the ability to drink from a glass.
“S-so Mikey. The atmos is breathable, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it without a mask, the rads are high, not sure how they live without all dying of cancer. It is good for us though, the radiation is in the atmosphere because the planet has a lot of ur-uranium and it gets spit out of all those volcanoes. There is one location where a pure supply is within reach of our mining laser.”
Mike looked at the topo-holo of the area. It was an abandoned strip mine toward the colder “north” pole. An active mine was about thirty miles to its south, where there was a larger industrial village.
“This is on the Nazi’s continent, but it looks like we are much farther north than any of their military assets. We are going to have to make a daytime landing, using the sun to mask our re-entry burn,” Mike said, starting to zip up the heavier nanocarbon ground suit.
He opened a small wooden box and looked at the Vizter laser pistol. Its smooth curved silver body with its long thin barrel was a very elegant design. He loaded a small battery, and then checked to see that the charged light was full. He dropped the gun.
In the zero Gs it spun for a moment, and then as if pulled by a string, it flew to attach to the suit at his right thigh. He let his fingers run over the smooth handle and realized he hadn’t practiced with it in a long time. No need, he thought, since Jobesh kept getting poor receptions on most stations, they didn’t spend much time there.
“Ready the lander and laser, Jo, we depart in one hour.”
Mike was smoking a cigar, another pleasure he hadn’t been able to do for a while, disregarding Jo’s admonitions about the environments rads. The laser had been placed about a hundred feet from the lander and was humming away as it vaporized uranium hundreds of feet down and fed it too a holding tank on the lander. Jo was wandering through the woods. Neither of them felt well, as no amount of exercise in zero G actually kept up all your required muscles.
The gunshots were crisp and clear, exactly the way they sounded on the old videos. Mike stood, but felt his head spin from a lack of blood flow to his brain. He started moving toward where he saw Jo last.
More shots. Now the sound of a whistled howl could also be heard. Moments later he saw three individuals stumble into a clearing in the trees over half a mile away. They were haggard, worn, and staggering as they moved in a huddled mass.
What looked like a dog, but with a long snout and a rat like tail, bounded out of the forest and jumped on one of the group. Then, just behind the dog came his handler, a frogman steping proudly in his Nasi boots and uniform. He was about to shoot when a blur tackled him from behind. As the guard fell, the figure raised a rock and brought it down on the Nasi’s head.
Mike watched in shock as he saw Jo toss the rock aside, and scooping up the injured ‘alien’ he lead the group into the tree line.
Mike didn’t have time to remain in shock long. Three figures emerged from the woods near the tree line near him. All Nasi’s. They yelled something at him, and made a gesture that indicated he was to raise his hands. The translator chirped in his ear: “You and that craft are property of the Nasi’s. Surrender.”
No shock at all at seeing aliens. Must be so programmed that they don’t even consider the unusual. No thought, just action. Mike thought. He slowly turned. It was forty feet to the group. Only one had a weapon pointed at him, but the other two had weapons at a low ready. He turned slowly to face them, keeping the pistol on his hip turned out of view.
“Tell your boss something for me, ‘NUTS’,” he said, giving the Nazi’s a moment to hear the translation, and see the confused expression on their faces. Then he drew his pistol. The gun and laser went off at the same moment and he felt a stinging in his chest. The gun holder fell. He pulled the trigger again and a second Nazi fell clutching his gut. He felt another sting. He raised his gun to aim, saw the circular targeting dot, leveled the sleek weapon and shot the last Nazi in the head.
On a space walk once he had been hit by a meteoroid. They had a bad habit of pocking gear, messing with antenna, and ruining the paint-shielding. Sometimes on a space walk you might get hit by one, look down, see your suit venting oxygen. Sometimes on bounces off the suit. He had been lucky, it had hit is suit hard enough to break ribs, but that was all. Others weren’t so lucky. He had seen arms disappear, or a worker just slump over dead as a micro meteoroid hit a vital organ. Currently he felt like that meteoroid had slammed into him again and again.
When he returned to the lander Jo was working at the controls already, the mining laser was next to the door, and three aliens were sitting in the cargo netting.
“Not leaving them Mikey, more Nazi’s coming. Lots more. Red dots everywhere. Start taking her up.”
Mike sat in the pilot’s seat and started the launch sequence. Jo was next to the open door. Gunshots started to echo through the woods. More Nazi’s were moving in from the south. The sound of heavy vehicles droned through the forest.
Jo was leaning against the hatch, holding the mining laser balanced on his hip. The beam cut out into the distance. Trees and shrubs burst into flames. The light snow on the ground erupted in steam as the laser swept over it. He kept the beam going as the lander slowly lifted off, raking it over the tanks that were moving along the road in the distance, sweeping it over the figures who were firing at the launching lander. All of it burned.
“Close it Jo. Time to buckle in, three seconds to burn.”
Jo got the belt on just as the rockets ignited and the lander arced its way into the stratosphere.
They looked at the three aliens slowly adjusting to being in zero gravity. They were awkwardly bumping into things. Their faces showed shock, and gratitude, with a good measure of awe.
“Do you speak this language,” Mike asked, using the same language the Nasi’s had used. The three nodded.
“We won’t hurt you, we aren’t from your planet, and we just want to get home, first we will bring you home…” The group’s faces went ashen. Mike saw it, and caught himself, “Oh, I see, your home isn’t safe. We will put you down wherever you want.”
It took some time to get all three into the main control room. Mike had a holomap of the planet projected in the middle of the room. The oldest member of the group floated up to it and put his finger on a point in the ‘allied’ continent. To his surprise, it zoomed to that spot. Catching on, he did this until the zoom was over one large building with a huge courtyard and defensive walls.
“Go here,” he said, the translator taking a moment to catch up, “Safe here. Waiting for me.”
“Who are you?” Mike asked.
“Priest of I Am Who I Will Be.”
“And is that why they wanted you dead?”
“Why they want us all dead.”
As if timed for his comment, Mike and Jo saw a white flash from the planet’s surface below, and watched as a telltale white mushroom cloud formed on the coastline of the ‘allied’ continent.
Mike and Jo looked at each other.
“Mikey, I thought in WWII it was the allies that had nukes?”
“Well, Jo, this time around it didn’t work out that way. Get the lander ready. We will launch in ten minutes,” Mike said, and sat at the control panel. He took out a Scotch bag and downed it in one suck.
Mike saw a small light flashing on the control panel, and he opened the control window. It reviled the words: Space split detected. One ship. ETA 1.345 hours. That was very bad news. It was either a guild ship, or a Protectorate frigate. Either one would be here to enforce to Biological Protectorate.
Mike turned to the Priest, a look of concern on his face, “We broke our laws saving you. The authorities will be here soon, and one of us will have to answer to them. I have a favor to ask. My friend, Jobesh, is a good man, and a genius, but needs to be cared for. He knows how to make things like this work” Mike said, pointing around the spaceship, “He can help you, but I need to know you will look after him.”
“If what you say is true, then I AM may save us through your friend, as he has through others in our past. We always keep our debts and our word,” the Priest said.
Mike went to where Jobesh was preparing the lander.
“Jobesh, we have a small problem. A ship has come because we violated the B.P. If they catch us they will bring us to jail, and you do very poorly in jails.”
“Yeah, Mikey, I hate them. We could run, Mikey. Make a quick hydrogen scoop and be gone.”
“They would hunt us down, Jo.”
“Then what are we going to do?”
“I will figure that out.” Mike said, smiling, “I always figure something out, right Jo.”
“Yeah Mikey, always getting us out of messes. Always getting us into them, too.”
The lander glided over the temple, for looking at the golden dome loom in the window it was clear that was what it was. Mike realized that while there were hundreds of people outside the courtyard, no one was inside it. He gently landed the ship in the middle of the courtyard.
Fear turned to awe as the Priest exited the craft. Soon a crowd had gathered around the lander. The Priest was rapidly speaking to those gathered, and the translator couldn’t keep up.
Mike dropped a bag on the ground. It was large and heavy.
“Jo, that is all your stuff, a compact viewer, downloaded with all your shows, and more importantly, all the manuals you we have, as well as all the maps we made of the planet. With this you will be both their Wright Brothers, and their Einstein.”
Jo smiled at the idea, then frowned looking at Mike.
“What are you doing Mikey?”
“I am leaving, Jo. They know we are here, and will chase us wherever we go. You have to hide, and then help the ‘allies’ win this one.”
“Alright Mikey, but you’re going to be alright, right?”
“Yeah, Jo, with the radiation resistant alien blood in my ship, and the proof that the Universalists need to prove their beliefs, I will be a celebrity. But, first I have to go do something.”
“Whats that, Mikey?”
“What I do best.”
“Be an asshole, Mikey”
“You know me, Jo, can’t be anything but.”
The Priest met him at the door to the lander and handed him a small scroll. “May IamwhoIwillbe protect you” the translator spit out as Mike took the decorative scroll. The crowd seemed to be making some symbol with their hands, probably a payer or good luck wish since they didn’t seem like the obscene gesture type.
Mike looked at Jo who had cradled the large bag to his chest. Mike could barely carry it down the landers stairs, but Jo clutched it to him with the ease of holding a pillow. Mike nodded a good-bye, and wished he had something cool to say, like bogats, “here’s lookling at you, kid,” came to him. Instead he just nodded to his only friend, and closed the hatch. The lander slowly rose into the clouds.
He had spent ten minutes programming in trajectories. This was going to be the most math he had done in a long time.
“Computer, intercept time?”
Intercept. – 13
Damn, the ship is closer than I though. Moving fast.
Galactic freighter, you are in a Biological Protectorate. You will rendezvous at our coordinates and stand down. The message, broadcast on an emergency override frequency, came out of all his speakers at once.
“Nuts,” Mike thought, and moved the ship to the first drop point. He felt the ship shake as three cargo containers were pushed free by jets of air. He watched as they floated away on their trajectory, and moved the ship to its next point. The ocean was slowly circling away below him, and the next continent was ahead. He released the next three, then turned the camera backwards to watch the first set fall.
Far below a fleet of five gigantic ships were steaming toward the allied coast. Somehow they had launched a Nuke. How many more did they have? I wouldn’t matter in a moment.
He watched on the camera as three hot streaks struck the area around the great ships. He didn’t need the cameras to see the raising white cloud expand outward from the impact point where 30 tons of rare metals had moments ago slammed into the oceans at incredible speeds. A ring of water was clearly visible from space expanding outward from the point of impact—a tidal wave.
“You won’t be nuking anyone again. And I have 37 more where that came from.”
Intercept-10. He felt the next three jettison, then a moment later three more. Then, following his preprogrammed route, the ship turned toward the next point. Slowly the canisters fell, burned on re-entry, then hurdled toward the planet below as smoldering streaks through the atmosphere. Burning streaks arched toward their targets– a collection of factories here, a military base there, a ship yard on the coast.
Intercept-9. He lit a cigar, and took out the scroll. Opening it he admired the elegant script, and wished he could read it. The small casing it had been in spun end over end, just the way the ship when the hydrogen tank blew.
Intercept-8. Warning! Missiles launched. Incoming. Recalculating intercept time. The computer announced. He took out his oldest Alzian Scotch bag and took a sip.
Intercept-7 He turned the monitor onto the frogman Hitler channel, and to his pleasure the man was again broadcasting from his favorite stadium, probably saying something about having just hours before deployed the weapon that would win the war. He had no idea that five minute prior his fleet had been vaporized.
Intercept-6. This is damn good Scotch, and a fine cigar, the thought. He enjoyed it for a moment.
Intercept -5. He positioned the ship, and triggered the release of the last four canisters. “Hiel Hitler.” He said.
Intercept -4. Scotch and a long drag on the smoke.
Intercept -3 He watched the mushroom clouds expand over the previous targets. The last of these must have been within view of the frogman Hitler, because he had stopped talking and was just staring.
Intercept -2. New mushrooms clouds appeared in the center of the continent. The screen went dead. He remembered an old Loney Tunes cartoon he had seen with Jo where a character called Daffy Duck hit Hitler on the head with a mallet. He laughed thinking about Jo laughing, and that this Hitler had just been hit by a god-sized-mallet-from-space.
Intercept -1. Warning. Impact one minute. Smooth scotch poured down this throat, and the cigar smoldered nicely in his lips. He thought, “ah, nothing bad can happen when you are sipping an aged Scotch and smoking a good cigar. Jo, you just never learned to appreciate the finer things in space.”
Intercept -0. I-am-who-I-will-be whispered in his ear.
Chapter Two: Fallen stars.
Something was different about the manner of the patrol boat. Live on the water, even water as shallow as this flatplan sea, and you learn how the boats are handled. This boat was usually relaxed as they had nothing to do in this area besides steal fisherman’s catches, and even then it was only just taking enough to feed their family or keep a lover happily fed. The boat’s usual two crew-members had been augmented with two more, and as the boat turned around a small hutabush grove it was clear they had a prisoner kneeling in the front. The darker skin and city clothing made it obvious it wasn’t a marshfisher.
Obura looked across to the factory city that had grown along the edge of the flatplan sea. When the DIZU started their war the city has sprung up rapidly. It made chemicals needed to make things explode, and the black city with its tall chimneys and unusually square buildings was a blight on the beautiful creation, but at least they paid for fish. And she had a good catch today.
The boat didn’t stop to trade. It didn’t even slow. She had to pole rapidly to get out of its way. When the DIZU where in a bad mood they were like a saltshark after a poolminno. Get bitten or get out of the way.
She saw the second sun appear with a flash. It twinkled for a moment, and then it grew larger. A smoky tail followed it from the dark blue sky and it crackled like a swamp-oil fire. She prayed to He-Who-Lights-the-Sun, hoping he hadn’t dropped his torch again.
The world went white. She saw the city disappear, saw light and the felt earth and water pick up her small boat and throw it. She was aware of being passed by the patrol boat, a dark shape that had almost hit her as it was carried forward by the wall of water.
She awoke laying partially in her boat, partially in a current of moving water. Her head was under the current, and she couldn’t tell how long she had been unconscious, but it must have been less than ten minutes. Her throat muscles were clenched against the water, a natural response her people had developed against drowning, but it wouldn’t stop her body from running out of air. She sat up and watched the current rush past her as she worked to consciously relax her throat and take a breath.
The water was rushing back towards the city, but the flatplan sea, usually shallow enough to walk in, was now only a hands-length deep. She might be able to hold her breath, but the drylanders couldn’t. She arose to look around and see who had survived the calamity.
When she stood she saw the prisoner. The drylander, his hands shackled at his wrists, was strangling one of the DIZU. A second DIZU stood, obviously dizzy still. He drew a pistol and aimed it at the prisoner. There was a crack, and a bullet whizzed past Obura’s head. A second shot was closer to the intended target, but still missed.
A moment later, sometime between the fourth missed shot and the clip running out, the prisoner had grabbed a Suddar fish, the armored bottom feeders, by the tail and had swung it at the DIZU. The fish crashed into the DIZU’s face carrying him off his feet. He splashed into the salty, muddy water and was carried back toward the city flailing to regain his footing before he drown. Drylanders always joked about drowning in a sea you could stand in, but Obura was sure the DIZU wasn’t laughing.
A third DIZU, one of the boat’s usual pilots, was crushed under it. Too bad, the man always paid well as his girl loved fish and swamp flowers. Obura took his flashlight. Silly to let something so useful get reclaimed by the flatplan sea.
The boat’s other DIZU pilot had woken up. He was bleeding and dazed. He looked at the prisoner, looked at the body of his friend, and then finally turned to look at the city. The city was gone. Only a huge cloud of dust and smoke remained. Pieces started to fall from the sky splashing in the moving water.
The prisoner had taken the DIZU’s pistol and was staggering around the bow of the overturned patrol boat. Each step was exaggerated, as he had to pull the foot from the mud and then place it back into the fast moving water which carried it forward, almost causing him to fall with each step.
The DIZU looked at him, then back at the cloud, then at Obura. He pulled the armband off, the one they all wore with that silly little red crossed thing, and dropped it to the ground. Then as he started walking toward the smoking city, he dropped the uniform shirt and hat to the ground, too. All were claimed by the moving water.
The prisoner took a step forward and aimed the pistol.
“Let him go, drylander, he is DIZU no more. More so, he has done me kindness in the past.”
“He has killed, like all the DIZU bastards, they should all die!” the drylander said, coughing and crying.
“He-Who-Judges-Things sent his sun to pass judgment, and his judgment was we live. Who are you to pass a second judgment when He-who-Judges has already decided?”
“Marshman, I don’t know these gods you speak of, but your words ring true.”
“Come, let us go see who lives,” Obura said, taking a step toward the city pulling her boat behind her.
“Nothing lived through that.”
“He-Who-Judges-Things never takes everyone, there are always innocents.”
“Not in this war there isn’t.”
That was when they saw the second sun start streaking across the sky.
Jobesh had been hurriedly brought into the building, past frescos in gold, and statues of animals, past walls of writing, and large spaces of plan granite. Down stairs, around corners, through doors, and down more stairs. Nowhere did he see lights. No Communicator stations. No holomagazines. It was barren of anything that ran on electricity. Deeper they went.
The old priest lead them, the others fallowed, all asking questions, but being given no answer. Finally they entered a large, plain room which a table down the middle, and scrolls, pens, and supplies piled around the room.
“You will be safe here from your pursuers, if anyplace can keep you safe from other heavenly beings which seek you,” the old Priest said, the translator taking a moment to catch up.
“N-Not heavenly beings, beings in the heavens,” Jobesh said, but the incomprehension was obvious even on such alien faces, “ground sensing radar.”
The group looked at him perplexed, and Jo was sure the translator hadn’t done something right. The priest broke the silence by gesturing a young lad forward.
“This is Ukob, he will stay with you. We will have much to discuss, but all in IAMWHOIWILLBE’s time,” the Priest said. Then he was gone with the group following.
Jobesh looked at the young alien. He was thin and small, and that was for the species. Jo towered over him. The young Ukob stared at him.
“Are… are you from IAMWHOIWILLBE,” Ukob said, and the translator had difficulty translating it because of the quiver in his voice.
“I don’t know who that is. I am from my mother.”
“But IAMWHOIWILLBE is both mother and father to us all.”
“Well, I was from my mother, and she only had me. Then she died.”
The young monk looked at him, adjusted his topcap, rubbed his small face, tried to understand the disconnect in communication. He tried to take in all of Jobesh; the breathing mask, the translator, the expedition suit, the freckled skin around his eyes, his size, his obvious lack of understanding, and the fact that overshadowed it all– that he had climbed out of a flying square with legs that breathed fire.
“So.. so you weren’t, didn’t come from IAMWHOIWILLBE?”
Jobesh shrugged. “I came from the Cassandra. My ship. Well, it was my ship. The Spacing guild probably impounded it, and arrested my friend, because we aren’t supposed to be here.” Whenever the translator failed to find a word it would insert a quiet beep. This sentence had many beeps.
The young acolyte looked very confused. The acolyte gestured for them to sit at the table, which Jobesh did, but the bench was too small to be very comfortable.
Jobesh just sat quietly for a moment.
“So, you broke a law in the heavens.”
“Sp- sp-Space.” The translator beeped.
“We flew” Beeped again.
“We travel between planets.” Another beep.
“D-don’t you have anything here that flies? Birds? B-bees? Bug? Pl-planes?” Beeps after beep.
“Flies” beep. “Flaps like this” Jo made a flapping motion. There was no recognition from the acolyte. “Things the move through the air.”
“Only bullets, arrows, and you,” the acolyte said.
Jo went over to the pile of parchment. Taking two pieces he started to fold them. One he made into a folded triangle, the other he folded into a shape that saw more square. Hefting the paper, he tested the balance, and then gently threw it. The triangle shaped paper airplane flew the entire length of the room. The acolyte stared, amazed.
Then Jo adjusted the flaps on the small square plane, and throwing it the plane looped around him in slowly enlarging circles until it skittered across the stone floor and stopped somewhere under the table.
The acolyte made him throw them three more times, then directed him to show him how to throw them. His first toss was too hard and the planes spiraled out of control. But soon he managed to get both planes to fly gracefully. As soon as he had accomplished this, he raced out of the room leaving Jobesh to himself.
Jo sighed, and hoped that Mikey wasn’t being treated badly by the Spacing police. Bored he took the movieplayer out of his bag and set it up. The image projected well against the back wall, and he sat down to watch Casablanca again.
When about fifteen minutes into the movie a dozen monks rushed into the room they already had an amazed look on their face before they saw the projector. Jo shushed them, and went back to watching the movie. The monks quietly sat down and watched making so few sounds that Jo didn’t know if they were breathing or not. It was halfway through the movie that he remembered they couldn’t understand anything, and he plugged the movieplayer into the translator. Then, since you couldn’t watch the movie without the words, he re-started it.
Spinning again. Why always spinning? Couldn’t anything happen in straight lines? Heat, smoke, fire, alarms, buzzers, everything was making crazy noises.
He looked out the rear windows and saw that the entire cargo section and rear engines were gone, as was the crew compartment. Once a revolution he could see what was left of them burning above and behind him. Above. He was moving downward, into the atmosphere. The missiles didn’t get him, but he was just as dead.
The last section of the crew quarters burnt away, and as it did the flames of re-entry, glowing bright orange, slowly materialized like wisps of cloud. They rocked, meeting resistance, evened out and arched nose down. The wisps of fire became blindingly hot streams of plasma as the atmosphere, and parts of the rocket, burnt up on re-entry. The control room was extremely hot, he felt burning across his scalp where there was no protection. He looked at the controls, took the flight stick, and brought the nose down into the X on the trajectory calculations.
Damn computer is smarter than me, already figured out we were on a re-entry course and plotted it. How the hell did I survive that? But he knew.
With a sudden jolt his head hit the side of the control chair and blackness overtook him.
He awoke to the smell of flowers and salt. It was a strange smell to awaken to for an afterlife, and he was in a lot of pain. But, having never died before he had nothing to judge the experience by. He did, however, clearly remember the voice of God in his ear, but what had he said? It was a question, he thought, but he didn’t remember the question, and he had no idea what his answer was. He wondered if he had given a better one if maybe he wouldn’t be in so much pain.
His face felt hot and cool at the same time. He raised his hands and saw his flight gloves were blackened with soot and marred from heat. He wiped at his face and the touch was excruciating, and the finger came away with a brownish green muck on it.
Strange damn heaven, strange hell. Where am I? He asked himself, and tried to raise to a sitting position, but was with restrained or paralyzed for he didn’t move at all. More pain greeted each attempt.
He slowly realized that there were chanting voices coming from somewhere near, singing or speaking in a very melodious way. Maybe it is heaven, he thought, and gave into unconsciousness again.
When he awoke he saw an aged face, with a flat nose, and big eyes staring at him. She was highly decorated with jewelry made from flowers and bones. Her wrinkled skin showed age and her eyes sparkled with youthful energy, even joy. She was rubbing a string of small round bone beads, and humming gently.
“Welcome Dialatus, bearer of the torch of He-Who-Lights-the-Sun,” she said, inclining her head in a slight bob.
He took in the surrounding. He was in a dark hut surrounded by flowers and fruits. Dim light came through the covers over the windows, but its beams were bright where they hit the color piles of flowers.
“Dialatus, we didn’t know if you would live when we pulled you from your chariot, but we are glad you have. Stealing He-Who-Lights-the-Sun’s torch is dangerous, but so is having it’s bearer die. Better to not let He-Who-Lights-the-Sun see that you have the bearer or the torch, yes? So, lay still, you are safe here, as your predecessor was eons ago.”
“I didn’t steal.. anything,” he said, and tried to sit up, but couldn’t. The old woman took out a small knife and reached forward. Cutting a vine that was wrapped around him he felt himself freed.
“You were thrashing, burnt, bruised, we had to hold you down or you wouldn’t heal.”
“Where am I?”
“The Uraveti tribe, in the Flatpan sea.”
“I lived,” He said, and sighed deeply, “again.”
“You fall from the sky often, Dialatus?”
“No, I have spent much of my existence between the stars, but I have nearly died many times, and not seemed to have the luck of completing the process.”
“Dialatus, why such sorrow in your voice, you are a being of the heavens, are you not?”
“What is this ‘Dialatus’, and I am from the stars, yes, but not in the way you seem to think. I am not a god.”
“Dialatus. It is a title for one sent from the gods.”
“No god sent me…” he said, then paused. The voice had been real, he was sure of it, “I am not your Dialatus. My name is Mike.”
“Mike, I am Anusista, wise woman of the Uraveti, and you are Mike and Dialatus, even if you do not realize it. I saw you fall before your arrived and knew we must hide you and your chariot, for He-Who-Lights-the-Sun has been looking for you since you fell. We have seen his star both in the day and the night, circling and circling.”
Star. Circling. Like a satellite. He though, and asked , “Did it shine like a bright star that then traveled in a straight line from one horizon to the next, making multiple trips across the sky?”
“Yes, He-Who-Lights-the-Sun has been persistent.”
“Hum, you are right. They are looking for me. How did you hide the, um, ‘chariot.?”
“Come Dialatus Mike, I will show you. There is time between now and when He-Who-Lights-the-Sun next makes his trip across the sky, and we will keep you covered.
The old woman helped Mike out into the bright sunlight. The village was circled around the hut with their heads bowed and they were chanting a melodious tune. When he exited the hut they grew quiet and stared. He realized he had to be a strange sight, he was still in his expedition suit, its metal threading shown brightly in the sun, his face mask was firmly attached to his nose and mouth, his hood was off his head, but his hair was patchy with burns which were covered in some thick liquid. His boots were thick, the translator on his side shown chrome, and the pistol strapped to his leg seemed to hover a half inch off his thigh. He stood a full head taller than any of them. No wonder they though he was from the gods.
The old woman gestured for a younger woman to stand. Mike was surprised to see none of the tribe wore much clothing, and their similarity to humans was striking. He was glad his blush was hidden behind a gold colored air-filter.
“This is Obura, she is the one who found your chariot when it fell. She also saw the first sun fall from the sky, and live. She has been touched by the gods, and so it is suiting that she show you what we have done to keep you safe, Dialatus.”
“Come, Dialatus. The DIZU’s skiff is faster, and we need to keep you hidden at the next passing of He-Who-Lights-the-Sun.”
Mike looked at the bight blue sky, and then across the alien ‘sea’. It was a large area of open water, with small bushes, islands, and the occasional tree. The gray of the water and blue of the sky dominated the view, but the plants and grasses were islands of color scattered across the sea’s surface. Looking down he saw fish and plants underneath the boat as it skimmed over everything.
The man piloting the boat wasn’t one of the marsh people. It was obvious from the fact that he wore clothing, his skin was smooth, and his short hair had been trimmed even shorter. His face bore scares and bruises that were just healing, and his eyes had a dark far-away look in them, but he seemed to be lost in the driving of the boat. He piloted it with ease as it swung around crops of small trees, or as he passed it through the small space between two muddy islands.
The boat was armed with two firearms. It also had a large search light, radio, and equipment. It looked like it had taken damage as scrapes were evident along one side. The NAZI swastika had been hastily painted over.
“You stole this from the NAZI’s?” Mike asked the driver.
The pilot looked shocked for a moment, he hadn’t spoken a word since they left the small village.
“Stole it from the DIZU. Well, salvaged. They left it to sink after the first star fell.”
“Tell me about this star?” Mike asked.
“It streaked across the horizon, then when it hit the ground, the entire factory city disappeared in smoke. Pieces of rock and glass rained down from the heavens for minutes afterword’s, and then part of the Flatpan sea drained into the hole. No one lived.”
“I did that.” Mike thought. The second to last launch, they were sent toward a factory city at the end of the continent. He must have followed them down just after the missiles hit. It made sense, it was the farthest re-entry trajectory he had plotted. It was the only one the computer could have used to keep him from disintegrating on re-entry.
“He-Who-Judges-Things decided they wouldn’t live. They made weapons for the DIZU.”
What would they think if, instead of a god of judgment, they knew the destructor was sitting next to them? Or do they assume that already, since I fell from the sky with the judgment? I have to tread lightly. Mike thought.
“What weapons? I need to learn much about this world.”
“They mined the minerals and salts that were needed for their explosives,” the pilot said, and banked the boat around a clump of trees. The boat stopped. They had been going less than fifteen minutes.
Mike didn’t see anything significant. They were at a small triangular island with shrubs and trees growing around it. It wasn’t until Obura jumped onto the island and pulled back a section of swamp flowers that Mike understood: the ship had sunk in the soft mud, and what was left above the surface they had camouflaged with plants. The ship had hatches on all sides, so they must have found one and pulled him out.
Obura lead him over the muddy casing to where the hatch was hidden. Opening it he realized he was going to have a problem, the ship had no ladders. It wasn’t designed for being manned while in gravity.
“Do we have a rope?” he asked, “I would like to see inside.”
They used a vine that reminded Mike of lillipads, but the stalks were long, thin, and tough. Intertwine a few and he had a crude ladder.
The thin shaft of light that entered the ship showed him a scene of near devastation. The carbon tape had failed on re-entry, and the room had burnt. It was amazing he hadn’t been cooked. But, the healing skin on his face and head told him that he had been burnt, and that the expedition suit had been key to saving him.
He made it to the bottom of the control room. It was obvious much of this room was a total loss. He moved to the hatch that lead to the crew quarters and supply storage. He knew most of the crew quarters had burnt up when they were in the re-entry spin. But, there could be supplies or other useful items in the other compartments.
What he found lifted his spirits a bit. The emergency lights came on when he entered the area. The supply room, with food, drink, electronics, and emergency supplies was largely intact, although it looked like the room had been tossed about by an angry ogre. Still, there had to be some equipment that was intact. He pocketed a set of spare batteries, a few emergency energy packets, a first aid kit, and a small long range binocular set. The rest would take multiple hands many hours to sort through.
The next door was warped, but he expected the supply room beyond was probably intact too. The last room he hadn’t thought about for a while, and getting to it was going to be tough. From where he was it was on the ceiling.
Using the emergency hand holds which were spaced around the walls he managed to get his finger tips to touch the slide activator, and the door slid out of the way. The hatch to the lander was open, and as the ships airlock door slid out of the way, the lander’s interior lights illuminated.
It is intact! And facing up! If… the chance is far too slim, but if I can get in there and do a full systems check, then I might be able to get it to fly again. Well, except for a half ton of mud, and that she can’t launch sideways. A smile creased his lips. Those are problem to work out later.
“Mike, we are locking you in for ten minutes. Will be back. He-Who-Lights-the-Sun is about to arrive.” He heard the drylander say, and a moment later the hatch slammed shut.
He found a whiskey packet, and took a sip. Patting the ships thin outer skin he whispered, “Well, old girl, looks like I outlived you. Never thought I would do that, against all odds. He let his head rest against the wall, closed his eyes, sipped the whiskey, and waited.
The hatch opened and the vines were tossed in. The light blinded him for a moment.
“Dialatus, we must leave. A DIZU patrol was spotted north of here. We must lead them away from here.” Obura said. Mike climbed the rope as fast as he could, but he wasn’t used to gravity.
When he was on the boat Obura hid the ship while the drylander watched to make sure it worked. Obura jumped clear from the top of the ship into the water next to the boat, and rapidly pulled herself in. Her motion was so fluid it looked like she flowed up and over the boat’s side. Moments later drylander had the boat cruising at full speed around marsh plants, small islands, and clusters of deadwood. The seats were too small for Mike, and the ride was both exhilarating, and highly uncomfortable.
At the range of about a quarter mile it was obvious that the DIZU boat was hailing them. When they didn’t hail back, the boat accelerated. There were three DIZU on board and one was on the roof of the small pilot shack with what had to be binoculars.
“They have us IDed as not DIZU, they will fire once in range.”
“We can fire back.” Mike said.
“No, in an exchange of gunfire, they are better trained. They would kill us before we did more than have rounds splash around their wake. We have a, more marshman, technique. You, however, are going to be a questionmark.” The drylander said, his voice getting lost in the hiss of the engine and the incessant slap of the water against the metal hull, and the twanging of the metal hull against sticks and rocks.
“Hide in here.” Obura said, holding open a thin storage container that went along the port railing. It was only a little bigger than Mike was.
“And what are you going to be doing while I am hiding in there?”
“I am going to be floating in the water unconscious, and she will be swimming up behind the DIZU.”
“I don’t like my roll in this plan.”
“Do you have any powers, Dialatus?”
Mike shook his head. “No powers, but I do have a weapon.”
“A pistol?” the drylander said, with contempt obvious in his voice.
“That’s a Dialatus pistol to you, drylander,” Mike said, and he had a smirk, “here is my suggesti…” he had to halt his sentence as the boat bounded over something large like a log, “suggestion. I will hide in there, but with the cover open. When Obura does whatever she is going to do, I can pop up and attack.”
“You are the Dialatus,” Obura said. Mike caught a snicker from the drylander.
The whiz of the bullets ripped over their heads, crashed into plants near the boat, and splashed into the wake, but the pilot was swerving through and around obstacles at a reckless speed, and soon the DIZU had disappeared behind a screen of vegetation. Not being able to see their target hadn’t stopped them from firing, and bullets randomly careened past the craft as walls of plants were mowed down behind them.
It was just when Mike thought that the pilot was amazing at the controls, that the craft slammed into the dirt embankment, crashed through a row of low bamboo type trees, and splashed down into a deeper pool of water near where the Flatpan see opened into clearer channels. Mike, in his cramped cargo compartment, had nearly been knocked unconscious. Obura and the drylander were thrown clear of the boat.
Mike wanted to check on them, but just before he could lift his head, the DIZU patrol boat raced into view. They had taken a wider course, through more open water. Seeing the craft slowly spinning with no pilot, no crew, parts of plants strewn across it, and full swamp trees uprooted from the bank where it hit, the DIZU craft slowed and ceased firing. They approached carefully. It took them at least four minutes just to get within fifty feet. Then thirty, then ten. Mike felt his heart pounding and wondered if Obura and the drylander really were dead.
He let the hood fall over his face, and lay the pistol on his belly. He was looking out through a slanted opening in the cargo compartments cover. The DIZU on the machine gun was intently looking at the craft. He lifted the gun vertical as the other DIZU jumped between ships.
There was a splash and the engine of the DIZU patrol boat screamed as it was thrown to full throttle, and turned hard to port. The boat’s power and agility was too great for the DIZU on the machine gun, who lost his balance and tumbled over the side. As the boat arced away Mike saw Obura at the controls. The DIZU who was on the boat with Mike raised a sub machine gun to fire on the fleeing vessel.
Two things happened simultaneously to the DIZU. One, a small fishing javelin impaled his stomach, to which he was beginning to look down in surprise, when the laser set to wide band cut him at an angle from the forearms to the back of his neck. Cauterized parts fell to the ship deck. In the background trees fell over, cut at the same angle, with both sections smoldering.
“Dialatus, remind me not to question you again.”
“You can question me all you want. Just don’t piss me off. I think we both know, while I am not from this world, I am not a god. But, I am one hell of an ass hole to those who piss me off.”
“I am not sure what ‘piss off’ means, but if I am about to do it, warn me first.”
Mike laughed. He took a deep breath, filtered through the mask there were no smells.
They were throwing DIZU parts overboard when Obura brought the patrol boat alongside. She looked at the parts, looked at Mike, and said nothing, but Mike could tell there would be no shortage of “wrath of god” talk at the village tonight. The Dialatus had cut the DIZU in pieces with nothing but his will! When, really, it was just because he was pissed that the DIZU was shooting at such an attractively strange alien as Obura. Okay, he would have shot the DIZU for the drylander, too, or possibly just for the heck of it, but that one moment of panic as the DIZU raised the gun, the decision to hold the trigger down and let the wide beam expand outward, that was all emotion– raw emotion, unhindered by rational thought due to exhaustion and injury. He slept.
Chapter three coming soon.