Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 15


As it turned out, Bresk was an optimist.

Nothing — not one single thing — went as Occo had planned.

To begin with, the command center of the shipyard denied them permission to land.

“– obviously no way you can control your craft. Under the circumstances, you are ordered to attempt a landing somewhere in the Glagnu Desert south of the shipyard. In the unlikely event you survive, a salvage and rescue expedition will be sent out as soon as convenient. We salute your imminent martyrdom.”

“How do you want me to respond?” asked Bresk.

“Make it seem as if our communication system is damaged.”

“That’s a good plan. Too bad it’s in service of lunacy.” The familiar went on, however, to carry out the order to perfection.

“– understand what you’re saying. Our comm unit is badly — screet! screet! baaaaaatooey! — interpret your fragmented — urgle-
urgle-urgle-thraa! —
to land at the southern end of the yard — krupty-krupty-krupty-SCREEEEEEEET!!! — that correct? If not — quabbladingthrongtootootootootooSCREEEEETTTT!!!

The shipyard’s command center repeated its demand that they steer the ship into the desert to the south. In response, Bresk continued to fake comm system damage.

“– southern end of the shipyard. Yes, we understand. But — screet! screet! — may not be able to — vraddavraddavraddakruptyKOOO!! — do our best.”

The command center became insistent.

“– most severe penalties if you persist — “

“– repeat, please. You now want us to land in the western portion of the — screet! screet! — that correct?”

— punishments and chastisements so harsh and brutal that younglings will whisper about them for eons if you do not immediately — ”

All to no avail. The ship was now practically skimming the surface of the desert as it continued to race toward the northern edge of the shipyard. That is to say, the portion of the shipyard that was directly adjacent to the Repository of the Old Ones.

“– thank you again for your assistance. Wish us good fortune. We should — SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!!

Bresk broke off all communications and said: “Too bad there’s no award for faked distress calls. I’d be sure to win — what are you doing? We’re supposed to end at the Repository wall not smash into it!”

Unfortunately, the second thing not going according to plan was that Occo really had very little control over the ship. The broken-off piece of the other ship, which had served so well as a surfboard to get them out of Vlax Broche’s atmosphere, was nothing but a hindrance now.

She’d wanted to wait until they’d almost reached the wall before detaching the fragment, in hopes that it would breach the wall when it struck. But she could wait no longer. Her own ship might crash far too short of the Repository if she didn’t detach the piece immediately.

She sent the signal to the grenade and it promptly exploded.

At which point, the third thing went wrong. For reasons that defied comprehension, the fragment of the other ship refused to break loose.

The fourth thing went wrong immediately following. The force of the explosion caused her ship to start cartwheeling through the sky — or rather, that tiny sliver of sky which still remained to her. On the third cartwheel, the fragment finally detached but the tail end of her own ship slammed into the tarmac of the shipyard.

The tarmac, as was always the case with major shipyards, was made of a ceramic material whose hardness made diamonds seem like pillows. Grendel’s Mother started to come apart as well.

The first parts to go — this could be labeled either the fifth or the fifth and sixth things to go wrong — were the forward directional jets.

Then the entire tail came off. Since Occo was wearing her combat armor with its self-contained breathing supply, the sudden decompression didn’t affect her.

Bresk issued a pronounced WHOOSH as it lost control of its flotation sac and began bouncing off the walls of the cabin. Fortunately, the same reflex that emptied the flotation sac caused its mantle to compress, so none of the drones were lost.

Even more fortunately, the collapse of the sac made it effectively impossible for the familiar to speak, thus saving Occo from a barrage of complaints and invective.

Not so fortunately, Bresk was powered by an internal energy pack and was not dependent on oxygen. Any sort of gas would do as long as it had some light elements. Carbon dioxide, the main gas of Zayth’s atmosphere, was heavier than Bresk would have preferred, but it served well enough as a medium of speech.

So, the silence was brief.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You’ll kill us both if you don’t — AKH!!”

The final inarticulate cry of despair was produced by the scene unfolding on the still-intact vision screen. What was left of Grendel’s Mother had pancaked on the tarmac, skipped into the air, and was now hurtling toward the Repository wall.

WHAM-WHAM-WHAM-WHUMP. Skeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee . . . . . The crippled ship skipped several times, landed on its belly, and was now skidding across the tarmac. The nose of the ship — what was left of it, anyway — would be smashing into the Repository right about —


Bresk just had time to get into its own safety harness before —

The noise was indescribable. Partly because Occo and Bresk were too shaken up to be paying much attention to any sensory inputs.

Amazingly, the vision screen still functioned. Gazing up at it, a bit groggily, Occo saw that Grendel’s Mother had taken down the wall itself. As her vision cleared and she saw the dust still billowing in the hole the ship had torn in the Repository wall, she realized that not more than a few minims could have passed.

Thank that which obscured the vision of the Old Ones! This was the first piece of good luck they’d had since they left Vlax Broche. Now all she had to do was figure out how to get out of the wreckage of the ship and find her way to the hole.

Belatedly, it dawned on her that she was looking at the hole. Right in front of her, with her own eyes. Not through the screen, which . . .

She glanced around. Seemed to be in a thousand pieces. Apparently the impact had destroyed the front part of Grendel’s Mother along with the Repository wall.

She removed her safety harness and approached the hole. Gingerly, she tapped the ragged edge with her gauntlet and studied the temperature reading.

The torn metal was hot, naturally. But she thought if she moved fast enough she could get through without any serious damage to her combat suit. On the other hand, there was no way Bresk could do the same. Her familiar didn’t use combat armor, just its own tough integument, since it was indifferent to whatever atmosphere it might encounter. Bresk could even handle the hard vacuum of space as long as it wasn’t subjected to too much radiation.

How to get it through . . .

The familiar provided the answer itself. “Just toss me. The hole’s big enough if you don’t fumble it. Which you probably will given the way you’ve fumbled everything for the past –”

Occo pitched the creature through the hole.

“– but I’ll admit that was a pretty good toss.” This was said after Bresk landed on the floor of the Repository. It inflated its sac but remained on the surface.