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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 156: Hastings 94
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As soon as the hatch was open, Joe went through it. Derek took a moment to pack up his tools and his laptop (which he had apparently used to bypass the security measures), and Lauren waited, standing guard. Getting it all together, Derek rushed into the room behind Joe, and Lauren passed through the hatch, closing it behind her. Seeing Joe and Derek, she walked over to them, tossing back the cowl which no longer lay evenly on her head now that the back of the robe was torn.
"What's wrong?" she said as she approached, for it was obvious from Joe's demeanor that something was not right. In answer, he nodded to her right. Turning, she saw several of the creatures; they seemed to be sniffing the air and moving slowly toward them. Instinctively she stepped back, but Derek checked her–there were more, she now saw, to that side. Apart from the path they had followed from the door, they were surrounded; now it, too, was blocked by a large lizard moving in from the side. As she looked around, she saw that they were everywhere–on consoles, in overhead rigging, with smaller ones in chairs.
"Why didn't they follow the scent of the meat?" Derek asked.
"Independent ventilation for the bridge," Joe answered. "They can't smell it in here yet. This must be where the crew made its last stand." He pulled the lever on his gun. "It may be where we make ours."
One of those in the rafters above leapt. Lauren immediately thought of her force wall, and put the full power of her mind into creating a solid barrier between the three of them and the creatures beyond. The one that sprang landed on the invisible shield, and slid to the ground.
"No kinetic weapons," she said. "I don't know if I can hold the shield against them if we breach it from inside. The laser should be fine."
She wondered how long she could hold it, how many times they would hit it before it collapsed. With her eyes closed she explored the shield, looking for weaknesses, making sure it touched the ground all the way around. But wait–had she overextended herself?
"There is a gap in the wall, directly behind me," she said.
"I see it," Joe answered, and she heard his M-16 echo in the room. He had it on single shot, obviously wanting to make every bullet count, but was delivering the deadly payloads incredibly swiftly. She also thought she heard the soft spring trigger on Derek's laser rifle.
Somewhere in the back of her mind it struck her that they were going to need all the ammunition they could get. Without opening her eyes, she removed the full power pack from her laser rifle and set it on the ground beside her. Then she felt for the other spare packs, and set them with it.
"Derek," she said, "swap them when you need them."
It was difficult to know what was happening with her eyes closed. Mentally she felt the jar each time one of the dragons attempted to breach the shield, but still she held against them. The sounds of the guns firing told her that her companions were still attacking, but she could only guess what they were hitting or how many they had killed. Joe and Derek shouted to each other, sometimes "I've got that one," sometimes "good shot" or "watch there" or "here comes another." It sounded like they were holding their own. The bullets were firing less rapidly; perhaps the enemy was dwindling.
Suddenly there was a shock that knocked Lauren to the floor. The shield collapsed. Something had hit it, and hit it hard, and her mind ached and reeled from the impact. "Shield," she gasped out, "down."
There was a brief pause, and then the rifle fired rapidly once again. From the echoes, it sounded like it was moving in a circle, but Lauren could not, for the moment, open her eyes.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #148: Characters Succeed. 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: