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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 4: Kondor 2
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 3, Slade 1
Joseph Kondor was standing in the captain's office. He could see the starry sky through the window behind the desk, and realized for the first time that the ship on which he traveled carried him not over the water but through space. What he thought was the rise and fall of the deck must have been the pulsing of some kind of artificial gravity generator. And if they threw him overboard, it wouldn't be a struggle to survive in the surf and a hope to wash up on some habitable shore, but a few minutes of terrible pain before every cell in his body would explode and he would find himself in a new world.
Captain Johnson spoke.
"So, Kondor, you had a drink with a stranger, and awoke in my cargo hold; and you've been hiding on my ship for days--and now you think I should believe this story, and just drop you off at the next port of call."
Kondor didn't think the captain would believe the truth--that he was killed in another universe, and landed on the ship when the scriff carried him in to this one--so he agreed. "Yes, sir--I'm sorry I didn't turn myself in, but I kind of panicked sir."
"Sorry? Sorry you got caught, I would say. Jamison thinks I should throw you overboard."
"Yes sir. I was aware of that sir."
"Relax, Kondor--I'm not like that. Unfortunately, we've just entered the Greater Syndic--it might be a hundred days before we reach Durnmist. However, I'm ahead of schedule at the moment, and can afford to be generous. We're on the return trip of our trade loop--may be I can add you to the crew roster. What can you do?"
"Sir, I was a medic in an infantry unit, and won ribbons for marksmanship--but I'm afraid on my world, neither our medicine nor our weaponry is as advanced as yours."
"Well, since that's more likely to matter with medical than with combat, I think we'll ask Mr. Balconsohn if he can use you in security."
Balconsohn was pleased to have an extra man to cover shifts. Kondor was as good a shot as he claimed, and quickly grasped the concepts of the strange weapons. He worked with the other members of the security team. Bronski took time to work with him on weapon techniques. Davison showed him the space armor and other gear. And he was for some time on shift with Walters, who helped him learn the use of the surveillance and communications systems, as well as making him feel a bit less like a stranger. Walters was black, like himself, and that somehow made him feel less alien. He also worked with MacDougal sometimes; Balconsohn thought it best that he get to know each member of the department. Gradually he became part of the team.
Being in space, there was no sense of day or night. Active sections of the ship were brightly lit; crew quarters were designed so that the lighting could produce sunrise and sunset effects. Thus no one felt they were working the night shift. Whether it was day or night was thus a meaningless question. But Kondor was asleep when the pirate ship docked on to the airlock. Davison missed it, because the relatively small ship was adrift amidst the wreckage of an old cargo ship and closed the distance between the debris and the Mary Piper faster than he could react. So it was that Bronski was waking Kondor from a deep sleep so he could pull on his space armor and help drive the pirates off the ship.
He hit the ground running. He was fully kitted up, with a Stimson laser pistol, a Mark VII kinetic blaster, an electrified sword, and several grenades; but it was his familiar M-16 in his hands as he followed Bronski up the hall to rendezvous with the rest of the team.
The six-man security team was joined by the five deck hands and the chief of deck and two medics. Someone said that the estimate was twenty-seven pirates. Balconsohn began to shout orders. "Bronski, take your crew down the port side; Walters, go starboard. I'll go up the middle. We meet at the main airlock." Kondor, Davison, and one of the deck hands followed Bronski, and soon they were in a fire fight with several pirates. All around them the resilient plastic walls thudded from the impact of kinetic blaster fire in a thunderous cacophony that reminded Kondor more of a hail of golf balls than of bullets. Laser flashes left ominous burns in those same walls, and sometimes on the exposed space armor. But the pirates seemed more to be throwing attacks in their direction than actually aiming at them. On a word from Bronski, the three of them opened fire, rushing at their adversaries.
The M-16 blared loudly in the close quarters, but the pirates retreated before their advance. Bronski told Davison and Kondor to pursue them down the corridor while he checked the side rooms. Soon they caught up with several more pirates. Outnumbered, Kondor shifted weapons; the burst of a flash grenade killed several of them, but the others charged, making grenade use dangerous. Kondor's skill with the electrified sword was not so good. He would have taken a fatal blow had Davison not struck the attacker. But even as that pirate fell to the floor, Davison was injured, and dropped against the wall. The remaining pirate fled, and Davison shouted, "Go! Go! I'll be all right."
So it was that Kondor was first to reach the main airlock. Seeing pirates escaping through it to their ship, he charged toward them ferociously. He barely heard the voice from the other corridor behind him calling out, "Look out for the gren...." There was a burst of force as he tried to dive clear, and he blacked out and knew no more.
So he did not see or hear Doctor Evans standing over him in the medical bay. "I'm going to get some sleep," the doctor said. "Call me if his condition changes at all."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with the first six chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #18: A Novel Comic Milestone. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: