Gift of the Gruldak, Chapter 13: Clouds Lifting Before a Storm
Table of Contents for this Serialized Science Fiction Novel
- Introduction, Linked Table of Contents, and Chapter One of Gift of the Gruldak
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When last we left KevinBob and Kira, they'd entered a Matter Transmitter on which they'd disabled the disintegration device so they could use it without being vaporized. Find out where Kira and KevinBob end up in chapter thirteen, Clouds Lifting Before a Storm.
Chapter Thirteen, Clouds Lifting Before a Storm
I felt somehow sick and disappointed but relieved at the same time. We walked out of the TransMatter into the room we'd just left behind. The smell of burnt plastic and the bits of control panel lying on the floor confirmed it immediately.
My memories were hazy and lacking in detail through much of that period of my life. It never occurred to me how much of memory was words for me. I’ve always known memories were stories you tell yourself but never on such a visceral level. No matter how many times you tell yourself memories are records of what happened they’ve shifted subtly as you’d told them so many times. You find you’ve been playing telephone with yourself, whispering the story of a day in your own ear at night like you’d never heard it before.
I wasn’t telling many stories to anyone, not even myself, after my brains were scrambled. I was intent on the one story that mattered, matter transmission. I told it to myself over and over in the ways I was able, in feelings and in touch, but also in pain. I pretty much forgot about anything else as my processing power was so small. So I remember few details of that period in my life. That is, until I started remembering in full-spectrum again.
I reached for the sandpaper letter in my pocket, forgetting its absence, trying to soothe myself. At first I panicked, but only for a few seconds. I rubbed my sensitive fingertips against the raised diamond texturing on the crowbar I was holding. I must have picked it up when we’d found the tool room.
We had been casting about in pleasant hallways in the oddly-empty building cluster. I didn’t realize Kira had been walking tensed on the knife edge of panic until she suddenly relaxed.
“Ah, there it is,” she said, pointing to a door marked with a shaped metal plaque of a stylized human hand holding an angular something.
“The tool room,” she said.
It was full of tools, many of which I recognized, and many of which I did not. There were wrenches, hammers, pliers, and even a recognizable variable-blade kitchen chainsaw with a decorated hand guard. Other things ranging in size from thumbnail to minicar were neatly shelved or stored in cases. Some were clearly hand tools, others were clearly electronic devices of some kind, but much of it defied categorization. Kira handed me several small items and suggested I bring them along. I picked up a few more neat looking things to put in my pockets, too. It’s usually a good idea to have the tool you need when you need it.
Kira found a large black toolbox and let out a sigh like a sweet spring breeze had washed over her. We left with the toolbox and made our way to the primary matter transmitter. We’d already knocked out the secondary.
As Kira tried to get a stiff wrench to loosen an access panel and rapped her knuckles again, swearing softly, I suddenly felt reconnected to the universe. The air had a fresh cut pine scent and wind chimes belled in the artificial breeze of the environmental controls. Her eyebrows were raised in the expression of trying to focus with great intensity but failing miserably. She set the tool aside and sighed, pushing the escaped wisps of her long, dark hair from her forehead and fastening them with a utilitarian barrette.
“Let me get that,” I said. She looked at me as if I meant the barrette but smiled tiredly at me when I picked up the wrench and set it carefully to the bolt, adjusting the gap as best I could. I put my weight into it and the bolt finally gave. In mere moments the panel was off and Kira was cutting the vaporizer out of the circuit with the same clever little torch she’d used both to cut into the panel on the other transporter.
“That was certainly quicker,” I said, “I’m not sure why we aren’t just disabling incoming traffic.”
“We’re making sure this thing doesn’t kill anyone else.”
“Well, then, lets do this right,” I said, reaching for the pry bar I’d set down.
I pointed at the projected display of the circuit she was working on and traced a blue line on it with my finger.
“Is this where the disintegrator is wired into the network?”
“Looks like it, B... Kevin, but why does it matter? I’ve cut it out of the circuit.”
Marking the distance with my eyes, I smashed the bent steel rod into the glittering lenses in the wall and kept right on smashing.
Kira grinned, a wide, predatory expression with lots of teeth that made her look fierce and sexy. Somewhere along the way, she’d gotten dirty, too. It took nothing away from her attractiveness.
“Be careful,” she warned, “your sandals won’t keep your feet from getting all cut up.”
We thought we’d have more time together but time was both elusive and illusive to me just then anyway. Kira stiffened to alertness and Eyebrows and three people I didn’t recognize came barreling around the corner of the hallway, about six yards away.
They lowered their improvised weapons as recognition hit Eyebrows’ face and he held up a hand.
“They’re with us,” he said, and I found myself liking him even more.
“We have to find somewhere to hold them off,” said the oldest woman with short gray hair. She was clutching what looked like a propane cylinder attached to the dispensing nozzle of a fire extinguisher. I saw the tasteful case of the kitchen chainsaw peeping out of the shopping bag she had slung over her shoulder.
Kira shouted, “There’s an old safe-room in the blueprints.”
“Where is it?” asked Eyebrows.
Kira pulled him toward her and gestured for the others to follow her and said, “Come with me.”
We followed her through a confusing labyrinth of pastel color-coded hospital hallways each marked with artworks which would have been memorable, had we not been running along at a trot.
The whole facility had that odd falsely expectant hush one feels in a recently vacated institution of higher learning. Some of the soft chairs in some of the offices still bore the imprints of their erstwhile occupants’ buttocks. It had a certain five-minutes-after-closing feel to it. That feeling instantly turned to utter paranoia with a bug-on-a-plate feeling when Kira put her hand up in the universally understood gesture for “Listen! Do you smell something?”
“Intel?” asked Eyebrows.
“Someone just broke in through the west parking garage entrance. They just hosed cutting tools across the locking mechanisms.”
I felt as if I’d swallowed the bug on the plate and desperately needed to keep it down, totally aware I was the plated insect.
“They’ll be here in minutes then,” said Eyebrows.
“We’ve got some cutting tools of our own,” said a hoarse-voiced woman with her hair in a thick ginger braid. She certainly had something strapped on her back and I didn’t want to be at the business end of it, whatever it was. It had a slick, machined look to it, like some kind of robot-operated industrial tool.
“It’ll be more like half an hour. Once the lockdowns go into place they’ll have to cut through a bunch more doors,” replied Kira.
“You can do that?” I asked.
“Yep, Kevin, most of us can do that now,” said Eyebrows, “Kira’s just the best at it.”
We were continuing down until we found ourselves in dim hallway with slightly lower than usual ceilings that ended in a t-shaped intersection. I started going right on down the right branch went Kira yelled, “Wait up! It’s around here somewhere.”
She got that focused frowning look that meant she was consulting her direct link mentally. She looked at the woman with the deadly-looking apparatus and asked her, “What’s your name?”
“Georgia, ma’am,” she replied.
“Well, Georgia, I’m Kira. How far do we need to back up if you aim your cutting tool right at the back corner of this display case?”
“But what about the glass?” I asked stupidly.
She reached out a hand for my crowbar. I wordlessly handed it to her. She waved the rest of us a short distance back and smashed the glass display case in, just the panel we needed to get into.
“Watch your step, ladies and gentlemen, there’s a bit of debris on the field,” she said, feigning confidence.
"Georgia, I’d like you to aim right there and draw a line angled right down where the wall meets the bottom of the case.”
“Um, you’ll probably all want to step around the corner for the cutting,” Georgia said, sounding nervous.
I knelt in the hallway, just around the corner, with my arms in front of my face a bit. The woman’s torch thing cut through the back of the display casing with an arc-white beam and an awful metallic stench. I looked at the man I still thought of as Eyebrows sitting cross-legged next to me and said, “I wanted to thank you.”
“Huh? Uh. For what?”
“You took such good care of me.”
“That’s an odd thing to say, I just provided company.”
“It was everything,” I said.
“Uh, well, you’re welcome. We,” said Eyebrows just as the cutting beam popped through something with a flare and cloud of foul smelling smoke. He continued as the noise reduced to its former level, “We just wanted to take...”
The burning, sizzling sound stopped suddenly and he could be heard by everyone as he said, “care of you!”
He looked guiltily up and down the span of hallway we sat in, as if catching himself not keeping his unnecessary watch for Trans Matters goons.
Continue Reading Gruldak with Chapter Fourteen, Connections
- Gift of the Gruldak, Serial Installment #14
Find out if Kevin Bob and friends find shelter from TransMatters' mercenaries in chapter 14 of Gift of the Gruldak, a serialized sci-fi novel you can read free online at HubPages.