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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 28: Brown 109
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 27: Kondor 103
At fifteen inches tall, Morach was easily overlooked despite the glow that came from his skin. In the air it caused him to blend into the sky; on the ground, he realized afresh, it reduced his shadow.
He walked to the last corner; it would have been faster to fly, but he had not yet determined quite what he was going to do, and hoped that in those few extra seconds an amazing plan would come to mind. None did; he was in the same frame of mind when he reached that point as he had been when he retreated. He was going to have to fly out, hope to confuse them enough by his very appearance that they failed to react intelligently, and put an arrow in each of them before either of them put a bullet in him.
With a deep breath, he stretched his wings and went up into the air.
Coming around the corner, he saw the two men, conversing with each other. One was sitting in the chair behind the desk, the other sitting on the desk facing out the front door, his gun rested on his lap. Morach flew toward them. The one behind the desk seemed the right first target; he could come up behind the two. A tilted dive took him rapidly down toward the back side of the desk.
The man with the gun on his lap turned to answer something, with a bit of a laugh; then he stopped talking, staring in disbelief at Morach's flight. Morach strung the arrow to the bow, and fired it at the man behind the desk; it caught in the man's collar as he turned to see what the other was looking at.
Down, Morach thought; his instincts were to go up, but in these close quarters that would get him killed--it had done so before. Down he went, behind the chair.
A gun fired, hitting the wall behind him several times, and then hitting something else. The body in front of him lurched and went limp. That wasn't the plan, exactly, but there was no second-guessing at this point. Morach shot straight up, fired an arrow which missed, did a wingover to pass around the right side of his target, and finally landed a missile in the back of the man's hand.
That might or might not work, but right now he didn't have time to wait for it. He dropped in a deadfall alongside the desk, opening his wings to catch himself inches above the ground, then touched down and scampered between the fallen body and the security desk. There was a space there, where the chair rolled under the counter, and Morach slipped into it, readying another arrow.
There wasn't much time; the man might call for assistance, and even if he didn't someone might have heard the gunfire. This might be the end of his career as a spy. The question was, should he wait for his opponent to move, or should he move first? He wished again that his clairvoyance were working, that he could see where the man was looking without stepping out where he could be seen. That was not an option.
In his mind's eye he imagined the terrorist leaning over the desk to look for him, and him putting an arrow in the man's face. Yet he knew that was too much to hope. It was not impossible, but neither was the man shooting up the desk in his frustration. Morach couldn't wait to see which he would do.
He remembered many years before watching Lauren doing her incredible acrobatics. She had leapt into the air, and in the middle of a flip had fired her guns down into the back of a giant lizard. He had never imagined that he could do anything so incredible. However, she had no wings. He had done so much more since then, learning his aerobatics as a young sprite. This was worth a try.
He ran forward, leapt up on the body of the dead terrorist, and forced himself into a high forward flip. As his feet went above him, he spun his head and hands to face the terrorist. Open-mouthed, the man swung the barrel of his gun toward him. Morach was ready, though. He fired his arrow into the open mouth. The man choked, dropped his gun, and collapsed.
Morach did not wait to see whether he was alive; he sailed up the hall back to the room, and hit the door. It was closed, and rattled when he struck it.
He didn't want to call out; there was no telling where the terrorists were going to be, or whether they might hear him.
He dropped down to the doorknob, and grabbed it with both arms. He had done this before; it was a bit tricky, but not impossible. He had to twist his body in the air and drive it forward.
In a moment he was inside the room. "Are you all right?" he said, scanning for the man he'd left behind.
"Yes," he said, emerging from behind a desk. "I heard gunshots; I thought you'd had it."
There were a lot of things he'd wanted to say, about being professional, about how he wasn't afraid of bullets. The truth was, there was a moment there when he, too, thought he'd had it. He didn't really want to talk about that.
"If you'd be so kind as to bring my things," he said, "we'll get you out of here."
There was a moment's hesitation in the man's face. Clearly he wasn't sure whether he was safer hiding in this office or making a run out the back door. Morach couldn't blame him; he wasn't certain himself which was the safer choice. His problem, really, was that he needed help opening the back door, or eventually they would all be dead. That wasn't at all fair; that is, he couldn't expect this man to risk his life just because he didn't have a better plan. However, it was the best he could do.
During this moment, Morach landed in front of the door, waiting in silence. His companion then nodded, grabbed the robe and darts, holding the gun in his other hand, and opened the door.
Morach kept his bow ready, but they encountered no one else. Soon they were at the back door.
"I think the best plan is for you to open the door, prop it open with something, and make a run for the building across the street. Hopefully my team is waiting, and will see us open the door. But there's no sense to you standing here waiting for them. If you want to take that gun with you, that's fine with me--you can use the chair behind the desk to hold the door open."
"You mean I can keep the gun?" the man asked.
"I don't think I have the authority for that; I mean you can hang onto it while you run across the street--but I'd be careful how I waved it around, if I were you, or some frightened cop might think you're one of the terrorists and take a shot at you."
That gave him pause.
"I'll leave it here," he said. "It's probably the ideal thing for propping open the door."
In a moment the door was propped open. Morach slipped out behind the fleeing office worker, and gestured toward the building for someone to come, then fluttered back inside quickly. He saw Lieutenant Calloway headed across the open space, their bomb expert behind him.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #226: Versers Adapt. 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: