September 03, 2010

Assignment to Earth Chapter Sixteen

Skylar woke just before dawn sent delicate fingers of silvered light into the tar-colored sky. Moving in silence, he pulled on his boots, strapped his laser in its accustomed place, and attached his aidkit to his belt. He retrieved the datapad and a small hand-held scanner from his pack, hooked them to his belt then took out the compass and strapped it into place on his sleeve.

It felt a little strange to have all the accessories of his job strapped on without wearing his uniform. Pulling a little carrisack from his pack, he began to fill it with small but essential pieces of his Wyvern’s survival kit. Ration bars, a pair of digging tools, a shiny survival blanket which could be used as a shelter which would reflect the desert sun, a handful of glowsticks, and other miscellaneous pieces found their way into the carrisack before Skylar pulled the drawstrings tight and used them as backpack straps, slinging the lightweight bag over his shoulders as he stepped from his shelter.

Jenna was already up, crouched near the spring filling two water bags.

“Morning.” She handed him one of the water bags and slung the second over her shoulder, adjusting its diagonal strap to fit comfortably across her chest.

“If we don't want Glen with us, we'd better leave now."

Skylar nodded, arranging the strap on his own water bag so it didn’t interfere with the carrisack. They both took a long drink from the spring and left the camp area, munching on sandwiches, and headed for the place where Skylar had set up the energy scanner.

Once there, Skylar consulted his compass and gestured into the desert. His voice still low, he said, "It’ll be easier to keep on track if we split the navigation. I’ll watch the direction. Count our distance, will you? 500 maxims." Jenna nodded.

Skylar in the lead and monitoring their direction to stay on the proper course, they walked single file, keeping a quick pace. The desert air still held the night’s chill, so they didn’t have need of much of the water.

Their way became more hilly, the sand wind-swept into large dunes. The hills and shallow valleys would afford them some cover should they need it, Skylar reflected, but they had a harder time moving because the fine-grained sand kept breaking away under their feet, causing them to slide. Losing their balance, they occasionally went sliding clear to the bottom of a dune.

At the half-way mark, they rested briefly, drinking from their water bags.

"Skylar, the Charys should be overhead sometime today, right?"

Skylar nodded. "It may as well be a light year away, with no ship and no radio."

Jenna continued as if she were only thinking aloud. "The Klodfons must have radios to monitor our frequencies, otherwise they couldn’t have set up the ambush that Jaramee and I fell into. I was thinking about maybe liberating a radio, while we were in the base…" She let the thought trail off with a sigh, watching him, but he said nothing for a time.

“Ready to go?” Jenna asked in apparent change of subject.

Skylar nodded and stood, still absorbing the import of Jenna's words. The idea burst fully formed into his brain.

"Jenna, I've flown a Klodfon ship, although it's been a few years. We’re not just going to liberate a radio; we’ll take a whole ship. We're going home today if we can get Rantek out. And if”... the pause was ominous, “we can get close enough to a Raider to ‘borrow’ it." His grin was infectious and Jenna found herself sharing his now-buoyant spirits.

They set off again, Skylar setting a faster pace. They must get to the base quickly. If Rantek were there, the rescue must be completed and their take-off accomplished by early afternoon or they risked missing the Charys.

Presently Jenna announced they were as close to the set distance as she could figure, with all the sliding around they'd done. They drank again from their water bags and stowed them once more. Skylar detached the small scanner from his side to look for an opening into the base.

Shutting off the device, he announced, "Scanner says there's a personnel door just over there. Let's see if we can dig it out."

“You got a shovel in that bag?”

“Of course.” Eyes twinkling with a ‘what did you expect’ sort of gleam, he removed the carrisack from his back and produced the digging tools.

Jenna shook her head. “You’re a real boy scout, aren’t you?”

“Boy scout?”

“Boy scout. From the organization for young men. They do good deeds, march in parades, and go camping in the summer. And their motto is…‘Be Prepared’.”

Skylar grinned. “Well, I’ve found that being prepared is better than not.” He headed for the sand dune, and Jenna followed him.

“Good thing this stuff is dry,” Jenna said, as she began to dig.

“No kidding,” Skylar answered, “wet or packed down, either one would take us all day to dig through.”

Their spades hit something solid and spurred their efforts, shortly uncovering the top part of a doorway.

"Plascrete around steel," Skylar said. "Low security. They must not be expecting any trouble from this direction."

Jenna nodded her agreement and after drinking deeply from their water bags, they returned to the work of uncovering the door.

A little more than an hour’s hard work exposed the large door and they stepped back to survey their work. The opening was about ten feet square, covered with two massive sand-pitted metal plates. The large blue handle in a recess on one side had been hidden beneath an access panel Jenna had pried open. The smooth plascrete wall disappeared into the dune on both sides of the door.

Drinking from their water bags again, they drained the last drops, then set the empty containers at the side of the door.

Jenna pointed at the large blue handle. "Open?" she inquired.

Skylar shook his head and got out his small scanner. "I'm reading no movement and plenty of air. Ready?"

Jenna drew her laser and a deep breath. "I'm ready."

Skylar replaced the scanner on his belt and drew his own weapon. They positioned themselves at either side of the door. Jenna's hand hovered over the opening mechanism and she looked at Skylar for the go-ahead. He nodded.

Jenna reached for the handle when a voice behind them sharply commanded, "Hold it right there!"

Both Cavaliers turned, aiming their lasers at the sound, then relaxed only slightly but pointed their weapons skyward as Glen came skidding down the last sand dune amid a thick cloud of dust.