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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 19: Kondor 7
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 18, Slade 6
Kondor and Di Pietro caught up with the security team. Their job was to patch up anyone who was injured and keep them going as long as they reasonably could, but to make sure that, if the situation was life threatening, the injured would make it to the medical bay, where Dr. Evans and Robbins were standing by to treat severe casualties. Balconsohn barked out orders, detailing who was to go which direction. Kondor and Di Pietro agreed to follow the teams on the outside.
Kondor would have loved a shot at the pirates; but every time they appeared, his own crewmen stood between him and a target. There were a few injuries, mostly scrapes and bruises from diving out of the line of fire. The team was good, and the pirates were falling back.
But the ship was large, and even with the aid of the deck hands the security team tended to thin. So it was that Walters was alone chasing several pirates down one corridor. Kondor came around the corner just in time to see him fall, bleeding badly.
Kondor fired a couple shots at the invaders; but he needed to get to Walters. He'd worked with Walters, gone to meals with him, gotten to know him; they were as near to friends as he'd known in quite a while. Quickly he tore back his suit to expose the wound. It was bleeding severely; there were only minutes to save the man's life. He applied pressure with one hand, reaching into his medical kit with the other. He sprayed the wound; the compounds in the spray would boost the immune response to bacteria while at the same time speeding clotting and anesthetizing it somewhat. Dropping the spray back in the kit, he tore off a wad of wound packing, and pressed it into the open sore. The blood would clot in this, and at least stay in his body; but he had to get back to medical to make sure there was no internal problem.
But it wasn't going to happen just yet. The pirates had discovered this corridor and identified it as a weak spot. They were charging toward Kondor in a pack. He shot at them with the M-16, and the first burst found a mark and brought down a man. He continued with a spray of bullets, most of which flew past the enemy or deflected off their high density space armor. Still, he inflicted at least two more serious wounds before the gun jammed. Rather than take the time to clear it, he dropped it and picked up Walters' Mark VII kinetic blaster. Then he charged at the pirates, every bit of his anger driving him forward as he fired into their midst. The focused invisible force of each shot hit like a baseball bat. They blanched before his wrath, firing back wildly and ineffectively. They began to fall back; but from their midst one of them threw something.
The next several seconds were an eternity. Kondor saw the object coming, and recognized that it was some type of grenade. He also realized that it would easily sail right past him, landing somewhere behind him, and if he kept running he would be out of the blast radius and close on the tails of the pirates. But he also realized that it would land quite close to Walters, and even if it was only intended to disable its victims, Walters would die. Death for Kondor was no small thing; it was painful, it was dreadful, it was a thing to be avoided. But twice he had awakened after death, because of that army research program which had infected him with scriff; and he had every reason to believe that he would awaken again. Walters, on the other hand, had no other life. Death would be the end. Whether Walters believed in some kind of spiritual afterlife didn't really matter, as far as Kondor was concerned. If Walters died, that would be the end for Walters.
Kondor had never before considered how precious the lives of those around him really were. In some sense, he had become immortal; but they were still mortal, and their frail lives were all that they had. He couldn't allow that to be snatched away; not, at least, from Walters.
He leapt forward and upward, still firing the blaster, and his left hand snatched the grenade from the air like a baseball. Still in the air, he pulled his arm in, tucking the grenade into his belly, and rolling into a ball.
He never hit the floor. The grenade exploded, ripping through his body with a searing pain, and he blacked out.
He could only wonder later what they must have thought, as he and all his equipment vanished. For the moment, he was starting over, waking up somewhere else. This time it was outside, daylight, cool; and he was lying on soft but uneven ground. Opening his eyes, he saw bits of blue sky between green leaves. Sitting up, he could see trees in front of him, and to either side, and behind him. "On a guess," he said, "I'd say this was a forest."
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 #25: Novel Changes. 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: