Science Fiction – Chapter 5 of Project Lilliput

Aloha – Hope you were able to participate in the free read of the Orion Spur series last week.  Meanwhile, back to the future.  Eric and company are stranded.  Chapter 5 is below for your reading enjoyment.  If you missed the first 4 chapters, they are available in the blog archives :o)  Doc

Chapter 5  Easy Peasy

Eric spent most of the night reading manuals and manning the radio.  He thought he was getting something between the static during the late hours of the night, but it eventually became clear that it was a radio station in St Louis.

Early the next morning Kim came back into the cockpit, “the natives are growing restless.”

“Time for another potty break?” Eric laughed sardonically.

Kim smiled, “That would probably help, but I think Bernard is up to something.  He has a group of kids in a tight circle.  Every time I go by they clam up.”

Eric grinned tightly, his dark eyes almost glaring, “They can plot all they want to, but there isn’t much we can do until Springfield comes back online,” he rose from the chair and stretched.  “Let’s start with the restroom break.  I haven’t seen a cloud dragon since we landed.  It seems odd.  Maybe the tornado sucked them all in and carried the off to Oz.”

Kim got a far off look in her eye, and then shook her head, “I hope you’re right.”

With Kim on the laser controls, Eric decided to take his chances and use the restroom instead of a cup.  Instead of racing out in a crowd, he set the class up in two groups of about a dozen each.  He waited and went out with the second group.

The sky was clear this morning, but in the distance, Eric noticed large cumulus clouds forming in the south.  He anticipated another stormy night.  Maybe we should move the copter back down into the building this afternoon if we haven’t heard from Springfield by then, he thought as he walked back onto the craft feeling much relieved.

“Hey Brice we want to talk to you,” came a low voice, that Eric recognized as that of Bernie Parker.  Bernie was a big kid, half a head taller than Eric and almost twice as wide.  Eric didn’t spend a lot of time with Bernie as their interests and classwork took totally different directions.  While Eric was into academics, Bernie was into vocational education.  Bernie was already a certified plumbing specialist and had his post-high school career already lined up, while Eric had six to eight years of post-secondary education ahead of him.  Bernie was an all All-Parish Football star; Eric was a bookworm.  Bernie had a big mouth; Eric didn’t really like talking at all.

“What do you need Bernie?” Eric knew there was trouble brewing even as he asked.

“We’ve waited long enough,” Bernie’s voice rose loud enough for everyone to hear. All five of his companions nodded in agreement.

This would be a good time for some teacher support, Eric thought looking around for Miss Jackson, who was hovering over Mr. Dewquist and who seemed to be intentionally ignoring the discussion.  “Right,” Eric let slip out in a disgusted voice.

“Right what?” Bernie baited.

“So what exactly do you want us to do Bernie?” Eric lowered his voice, as he settled into one of the seats on the lower deck.  If I’m sitting he won’t punch me, Eric strategized.

“We want you to fly us out of here now,” Bernie continued in a loud voice.

“And when we run out of fuel?” Eric quizzed.

“If you fly high enough we should be able to spot Springfield,” Bernie grinned, missing a front tooth.  “Easy peasy.”

“Could work in Utah,” Eric confessed.  “But here?” he paused, “Have you considered that Springfield Parish is surrounded by massive forests of Oak trees?  The trees would block the view from a distance.”

“I don’t believe you,” Bernie drew in close.  Then bending over even closer he got in Eric’s face.  “Move it or lose it,” he growled in a low voice.

“Knock it off,” another voice chimed in and suddenly Bernie went flying sideways.

“Keep out of this Tony,” Bernie regained his footing and turned in a tensed position.  Looking around he relaxed his stance.  Tony had gathered the rest of the class with Kviiiy at his side.

Eric decided that Kviiiy actually looked more intimidating than Tony with her hands on her hips and her red hair snarled into some wild coiffure.

“Eric is right,” Tony stated flatly.  “I have no desire to try to find a lost city through a wilderness of trees and bushes.  Who knows what might be out there.  And, we wouldn’t even know which way to go if we run out of fuel.  You’re being stupid.”

“Stupid” was a mistake Eric noticed and even Tony seemed to realize as soon as the words slipped out of his mouth.  “Stupid” was a word that had resulted in more than one fight with Bernie.  Bernie was not stupid, but he could not read well and he had been very defensive about that since first grade.

Bernie charged at Tony with everyone else backing out of the way.

Tony managed to side step Bernie’s first charge, but Eric did not believe that outmaneuvering Bernie would work long in a confined space.

“Stop it!” a voice screamed from the top of the stairwell.  “You’re all stupid!” came Kim’s voice.

Bernie along with everyone in the compartment stopped and stared.

“Eric,” she called in a loud voice, “you need to come up here.  There is some sort of connection coming through, but it is not on the radio.  It might be a self-destruct signal or something.

Eric flew up the stairs to the cockpit, closely followed by Tony and several other students.   Kim was right there was a red light flashing on a panel that had previously been dead.  He turned exhaling slowly, “Not a self-destruct,” he gasped in relief.  “… Looks like we may be able to fulfil Bernie’s wishes.  It’s a GPS homing beacon.”

“Does this mean we can go home?” Chanel spoke up, and a noisy buzz of excitement flowed through Deck Two and down the stairs.

“I don’t know about home,” Eric couldn’t restrain his smile, “but I believe this is our map back to Springfield Central.”  He settled back into the pilot’s chair and without turning called out, “Get everyone strapped in.  We’ll take off as soon as they’re ready.”

For a moment Eric was worried, as the starboard rear rotor did not start up right away, but on a third reboot it began to turn.

“Looks like you were afraid we wouldn’t make it,” Kim’s voice came from the co-pilot chair.

“I might be able to fly this thing with three rotors, but I’d rather not try,” Eric relaxed into his seat.

The liftoff was smoother this time, as Eric took the copter vertical for several feet then began to follow the beacon south-southeast.  Relaxing in his seat he turned to Kim, “I’m glad we waited, I was going to try due south.  I think we would have missed Springfield Central completely.”

“I wouldn’t have let you take off,” Kim spoke in a matter-of-fact tone.  “Stupid is as stupid does.  If you’d have let Bernard bully you into taking off I had no doubt it would have been for destination disaster.”  She leaned back in her seat and put her feet up, barely touching the dash, “It’s bullies like him that exacerbate the disasters of weak leaders.”

Eric noticed she slumped down further into her seat and got a distant look in her eye.  He added reflectively, “Or exacerbate the disasters of no leaders.”

Kim returned from her lethargy, “You did okay,” she glanced over.  “Better than okay I’d say.  You were smart enough to sit down when he obviously was itching for a fight.  You totally deflated the opportunity for escalation.

“I thought you were in the cockpit,” Eric stared suspiciously at Kim.

“Actually I was on my way down to tell you that the homing beacon had activated, but decided to watch the fireworks…”

“You knew it was a homing beacon?” Eric accused more than asked.

“Of course I did,” Kim laughed.  “But suggesting the copter might blow up certainly seemed to distract the argument of Bernard and company.”

“Why do you keep calling him Bernard?” Eric asked.

“That’s his name,” Kim replied coolly.  “Plus, it seems to irritate him.  Bernie seems like a pleasant friendly name.  Bernard feels more like an irritation, which he is.”

Eric had gradually let the copter drift down so that it was flying twenty to thirty meters above the tree line.  Tall old timber was broken up with younger hardwood trees reclaiming farmlands from an era gone by.  “Imagine,” Ryder posited, “what it must have been like to need this much farmland.”

“The population had outgrown the planet,” Kim replied in her matter-of-fact voice.  The Transition was probably the best solution, it certainly has reduced the human footprint on the Earth,” she laughed sarcastically.  “But I still wonder if there wasn’t a better solution.”

“War, famine, disease,” Eric replied quietly.  “I think this was probably the better choice.”

The forest ahead was torn up as if a giant had walked through uprooting trees along the path.  “Boy that’s a mess,” Kim changed the subject.  “Must be the path of the tornado from yesterday.”

“Yes,” Eric agreed, “glad I wasn’t in its path.”  He stared down closer and accidentally brought the copter down with his gaze; causing a commotion downstairs as some of the passengers had released their seat belts.

“Watch it,” Kim warned.

“Sorry, I’m still new at this,” Eric confessed.  Even as he spoke, his eye continued to focus on the area below.  “I think the tornado ripped right through the train line.  Look at that.”  He pointed to a section of track that was upturned and twisted, “Glad we weren’t on a train passing through the area when that happened.”

“Oh no,” Kim squealed.  “Over there.”

Half way up a nearby oak tree were several birds fluttering around a metallic object.  Eric spotted a light beam emit from the tree.  “That is a train,” he momentarily lost his concentration and the copter wobbled causing an uproar from the cabin below.  “It is being attacked by those Cloud Dragons.”

“Hard to believe anyone is alive.  But they have a laser working,” Kim replied.  “Get us in closer,” she growled angrily.

Trying to scatter a crowd of Cloud Dragons was no easy task.  “Blue Jays,” Kim clarified.  “Stop calling them Dragons.” She drilled a blue jay in the head with a laser beam and it fell fluttering toward the ground.

Twice blue jays came close to clipping the copter as Eric veered away from collisions with the birds.  Once, an angry jay came flying to the craft with obvious intent for a collision, but Kim successfully hit it in the eye.  It continued to fly but dove under the deadly beam of light.

The train, hanging precariously from a branch with the lower two cars dangling helplessly, was a mangled mess.  Eric was surprised that anyone was alive to man one of the laser cannon.  He was not surprised that other than the cannon fire itself the train and its cargo appeared to be dead.

A few malingering blue jays continued to return to the easy feast for several minutes before they gave up with severely singed feathers.  Finally, the last of the stalwart Cloud Dragons departed for less painful hunting.

Drawing in as close to the train as he could, Eric spotted the gunner on the train who waved, beckoning the copter closer.  “Could you go get Tony for me?” he called to Kim.

“Right here Eric,” Tony called from the doorway.

“Can you figure out a way to retrieve the survivors?” Eric asked, and then had to turn back to flying as he narrowly missing a branch that was dancing nearby.  “I don’t know if I can bring it in much closer.”

“What about from above?” Kim asked.  “It looks like we have a reasonable opening for several feet above the train,” she pointed.

“I can get there,” Eric agreed.  “But how do we get the passengers?”

“I’ll work it out,” Tony called over his should as he turned to leave.

Less than two minutes later Kviiiy was at the doorway.  “Tony wants to know if you can open the main exit, and stay as close to the train as you can… without moving around.”

“What’s he going to do?” Eric asked.

“Tony has the emergency hose ready to use to haul people up,” Kviiiy smiled.  “He’s brilliant you know.”

“Cha-nel,” Eric provided a pseuo-sneeze.

“Hey,” Kviiiy responded in complaint.

“Just saying,” Eric replied.  “Tell him I’ll hold it steady, but they’ll have to hurry.  I don’t have unlimited fuel.”

Less than a minute later Kviiiy was back.  “Tony’s going to have to go down.  Looks like everyone on the train is hurt one way or another.”

Eric grimaced, “Tell him to hurry.”

After Kviiiy left, Kim looked over from her perpetual scan for blue jays.  “How long do you think we have?”

“Hard to say,” Eric kept his hands tight on the controls.  “The wind is starting to pick up.  I’d hate to be dangling on a hose if it gets any worse.  Then there is the fuel problem.  We’re bumping on empty, but the red light hasn’t kicked in a warning yet.  It sort of depends on how far it is from here to Springfield Central.”

Kim grimaced, “Well I’ll have to give it to Tony; he has guts.  I can see what is coming in from above, but he’s pretty exposed under the copter.  Hope they still have someone on the laser cannon on the train.”

A gust of wind caught the copter and Eric fought to stabilize the craft.  “I hope he has good gription as well.

Gription?  Kim paused in her scan of the horizon and looked inquiringly at Eric.

Eric blushed, “It is a word my sister coined.  It makes sense to me.  I’d define it as the ability to stick to or hold onto something else.”

Over the next twenty minutes, Kviiiy returned to the cockpit several times.

“They got the first one up.  She has several broken bones.”

“You almost lost that one, can’t you hold it steadier?”

“Last one coming up now.  They’re going to have to hurry because that guy was on the laser.”

As if a starting gun had sounded, three blue jays suddenly appeared from above diving toward the copter.  Kim started firing immediately breaking up the attack that seemed more likely aimed at the meal that Tony and the last survivor appeared to be.

“All aboard,” Kviiiy returned breathlessly.

“Let’s get out of here,” Eric mouthed as he turned the copter out of the tree and moved back toward the direction that the GPS signal indicated.  Suddenly a chime began ringing and a red light began flashing in the cockpit.  “I was afraid of that,” Eric grimaced.

“Fuel?” Kim asked.

“Are we going to crash?” Kviiiy yelped.

 

End of Summer Reading Bash

Image result for end of summer

Aloha – Summer is winding down, but science fiction never ends.  This weekend I’ll be running an end of summer celebration with a giveaway of all five of the Orion’s Spur books that are available on Amazon.  When to get your free copy?

Friday – Volume 1  Demeter

Saturday – Volume 2 Return to Demeter

Sunday – Volume 3 Defending Demeter

Monday – Volume 4 Haumeah

Tuesday Volume 5 (and end of the series) End Game

I’d love your reviews, but no obligation.  Enjoy the reading marathon as summer winds down.

 

Doc

 

 

Project Lilliput – Chapter 4

We’re back with giant cockroaches, birds and snakes?   Chapters 1-3 are available in the blog archives.  Enjoy Chapter 4

Chapter 4 Live and Learn

Things were quiet for nearly an hour after Tony lost contact with the hospital at Springfield Four.  After eating something, people’s nerves seemed to calm, and quiet chatting, turning to jokes and even some teasing.  Eric could hear laughter through the cabin door to the break area on the second deck.  Then things grew extraordinarily quiet; so much, so that Eric decided he had better find out what was going on.

No one was on Deck Two, so he started to descend to Deck One.

Coul appeared at his side before Eric was half way down the stairs.  “Someone is trying to get in,” he half whispered.

“Someone?” Eric looked puzzled.

“We think someone from the roof must have come down and is now trying to get aboard the copter.  We’re trying to figure out how to manually open the door,” Coul’s voice rose in excitement.

“Are you nuts?” Eric responded loud enough that several people who had gathered around the egress turned toward him briefly, but quickly turned back to where they had attached an emergency crank to racket open the exit door.

“What are you doing?” Eric called to the crowd that bunched around the door.  Even as he spoke, he knew he was too late as his ears popped as the air pressure adjusted to the exterior.  “Close the door!” he screamed.

Black, rope like tendrils sprang through the half-opened doorway.  A hairy cockroach leg as wide as Eric’s upper arm pressed through the opening knocking students across the room.  Several students screamed, while others seemed in shock.  Tony who had been cranking open the lock recovered quickly with the metal crank still in his right hand.  He closed on the flailing legs swinging the crank like a weapon.

Eric looked around the room for something, anything to use and settled on a backpack with a pink bunny emblazoned on the back.  Within a moment, he was next to Tony swinging with all his might at the legs.  Fortunately, the portal was too small for the cockroach to gain entry to the cabin.  “Whose bright idea was this?” He huffed as he took another swing at the snakelike legs.

“We heard scratching,” Tony replied, but then was too busy striking back and forth between two legs to speak further.

Eric took another swing, but could see his efforts were futile.  He dropped the backpack and looked for something else to use.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a chair flying down the steps from the upper deck break area; this was quickly followed by a second and a third.  That could work; he thought as he ran over and grabbed the bottom chair.  Looking up, Eric saw Kim weaving down the stairs.  “Good idea,” he called.

By the time he got back to the opening Kim was by his side, shoving the metal base of the chair at the now oozing legs of the cockroach.  For the next several minutes they shoved, and pushed, and beat the dangling legs with the chairs.  The third chair soon joined the battle with Tony continuing to swing his modified battle-axe at the cockroach legs.  First one, then two legs were forced out the entry.  The third and fourth legs departed simultaneously.  Eric dropped his chair and rolled to the door shoving it closed with his legs.

Lying on his back, Eric looked over at Tony, whose arms were lacerated from the struggle with the cockroach, “What were you thinking?”

Tony dropped the metal bar he had been using.  It fell to the floor with a loud clank.  “There was scratching outside the door,” he grimaced as he slid to the floor.  “We thought it might be survivals from the roof.”

“You think the snack bar personnel climbed down a vertical wall from the roof?” Eric mused.  “Why would they do that?”  Eric worked to keep from voicing the anger that was welling up inside him, “And scratching?  Haven’t you ever been outside the city?  It was the first thing I thought of.”

“No,” Tony responded quietly.

“Moron!”  Kim accused, as she set her goo-covered chair down.

“Knock it off,” Eric snapped at Kim.

Kim shrugged, turned, and walked briskly back up to Deck Two.  “You’re all a bunch of morons,” she growled as she two-stepped back up the stairway.

Tony looked over at Eric who had slide back into a sitting position next to him.  “Thanks,” he muttered.  “And, no, I’d never been outside of Provo parish before we made this trip.”

“We live and learn,” Eric shrugged, smiling sardonically.  “It could have been worse.  You could have let a cloud dragon in.  You don’t want to get caught on the ground with cockroaches.  They’re nasty scavengers.  They’ll eat anyone and anything.  They wiped out a whole herd of cattle just south of Springfield Two a couple of summers back… they also seem to find join in scraping at doors and objects that might have food inside… just so you know.”

Things remained quiet on the inside after the cockroach incident, although the scratching outside the copter not only continued but also escalated.  The scratching began to get on the nerves of several of the students.  Chanel was clinging to Tony, and Eric noted that Kviiiy was glaring toward the corner where the couple sat.   Student reaction ranged from angry to terrified.  Eric finally retreated to the cockpit of the craft.

“You sure you should go back in there?” he heard a voice call.

“Why not Kim?” Eric called over his shoulder.

“They,” she pointed downstairs, “seem focused on self-destruction.  They need someone to keep an eye on them.”

“Good point,” Eric growled.  “Keep an eye on them,” and he shut the door behind him.

They had been on the ground two hours and one minute when a loud knock came on the door of the cockpit.

Eric opened his eyes, turned and opened the door to be greeted by Bernie and a mix of half a dozen boys and girls from their class.  “Well?” Bernie challenged.

“Well what?” Eric asked quietly.

“Well, what now?” Bernie challenged.  “You said to wait two hours.  It’s been two hours.”

“I said the storm warning was for two hours,” Eric replied in a matter-of-fact tone.  “I did not say that everything would be fixed in two hours.  It might be several hours before all systems are back up and running.  I’ll try the radio every fifteen minutes, but there isn’t much else for us to do?”

“You said two hours,” Bernie’s fists clenched.  “Do something.”

Eric knew better than to stand up, instead he leaned back in the chair that was now facing Bernie and company and asked, “What would you like me to do Bernie?”

“Fix it,” Bernie demanded.

“Fix what Bernie?  The radio is in good working order, I’ve checked.  We have to wait for a signal.  I imagine when we get a signal; the flight tower will have someone bring the copter back to Springfield.”  He shrugged, and turned his chair back to face forward.

The chair swiveled back around catching Eric off-guard.  Bernie, holding the top of the chair back moved his face within a few inches of Eric’s face and growled, “Some of us have to go to the bathroom, and we can’t go outside obviously.”

The tourist copter did not have facilities on board, hence the stop on the roof of the Wyndham for a potty break.  Eric was beginning to understand the consternation of Bernie’s mob.  “Bernie, there is nothing…” Eric paused.  “Give me a few minutes and I’ll see what I can do.”

Bernie hesitated, and Eric took advantage.  “Meanwhile, get out the cockpit, and I mean now,” Eric used a command voice he was not used to.  He realized anything less would not achieve his desired outcome.

Bernie stepped back.  “Okay, but you better have an answer in five minutes.”

Great!  Eric thought as he closed the door to the cockpit.  I’m supposed to solve this is five minutes.  “Next he’ll want me to create teleportation,” he muttered.  Eric stared out the window for a moment, then began studying the controls.  “There has to be a manual around here somewhere,” he reflected aloud.

It was not five, but thirty minutes later that an announcement came over the intercom, “This is Eric.  We’ll be lifting off in two minutes, secure Mr. Dewquist and fasten your seat belts.”  As promised, two minutes later the rotors of the copter began to turn and shortly the copter began to lift off the floor of the Wyndham.

Eric had flown a copter a couple of times under close supervision when he had been working on his license.  The accident had ended all that.  Now without a flight instructor at his side, he moved the controls awkwardly, and the copter responded to his lack of confidence by bucking and wobbling in protest.  Still he managed to get a reasonable amount of stability as he moved the craft toward the broken windows of the old hotel.  His heart raced as he worried about what would happen to the craft as it hit less stable air.

Other than his own timidity, nothing happened.  The craft continued to bobble as it exited the building, but the skies were still and crystal clear.  Eric could see new debris scattered about.  Several large branches and several trees were on the ground.

Eric shifted controls and the copter gradually rose to the top of the thirty-story building.  As his confidence grew so did the stability of the craft.  His plan was simply to get everyone to the top of the Wyndham where they could wait for an all clear from Springfield Central.  He realized that it might be several hours before the city contacted them if their communications towers was damaged, and he was certain that he would have open rebellion long before that.

Eric drew in a breath when he got to the top of the Wyndham.  The roof itself was intact, but the refreshment area was a mess.  The netting that protected the common area was in tatters, and the snack shack stood, but was severely damaged.  Rather than landing on the marked helipad, he moved to a point half way between the snack shack and the restrooms and brought the copter down with a thud.  As the rotors came to a stop he considered just using the intercom, then thought better of it and rose out of the pilot’s chair.

His fellow students were looking out the window, with some looking expectantly at the intercom speakers thinking that they would come to life and tell them what to do.  When they saw Eric, the speaker watchers turned catching the attention of most of the rest of the class.

Eric sat down on the second step and waited for them to quiet down.  As the mumbling stopped, he sighed and started, “We still have not heard from Springfield Central, and I don’t think we will for several hours.  Some of you may have noticed the new damage around the city when we exited the building.”  He saw a few heads nodding, and continued.  We are on the roof of the Wyndham.  It is a mess.  It looks like the restrooms are intact, but the protective netting is all torn up.  I’m not sure how safe it is to go outside.  I don’t see any cloud dragons on the roof right now, but that doesn’t mean they’re not circling overhead looking for a snack.  We have one laser fitted on top of the copter which is operational, and can be controlled manually from the cockpit, but …” he paused.

“How did they get us to the roof if Springfield Central is still down,” Bernie piped up.  “Let’s just have them fly us back now.”

“Springfield Central did not fly us to the roof, I did,” Eric snapped at Bernie in a harsher tone than he had intended.

He noticed Coul visibly edging toward him from the group, while several of his classmates began talking to each other.

“Then fly us back to Springfield,” Bernie’s voice rose from the din.

“I might be able to do that,” Eric’s voice rose, “If I knew how to get there.  Do you?”

“It’s south of here,” Kviiiys voice could be heard from the quieted room.

“Kviiiy you’re right.  I can even remember some of the landmarks, but I really don’t have a setting to go by to get us back, and we don’t have unlimited fuel to just go hunting for the parish.”  He paused again to let the implications set in.  Running out of fuel in the forest could leave them lost forever, if the cloud dragons didn’t find them first.

“I need a volunteer with shooting skills to man the laser.  I’m guessing that’s you Tony.” Eric’s voice rose again.  “Then we can make a restroom sprint, and maybe raid the snack shack.”

“Ah, I’ve never fired a laser,” Tony admitted.

“Anyone have any experience with lasers?” Eric had an empty feeling in his stomach.

The room remained silent for a full minute, when a voice filled with sarcasm rose from a corner of the cabin, “Geez you guys are useless.  I can do it,” she marched through the cabin and back up the stairs past Eric.

Eric stood after Kim passed, “Okay, give us five minutes to get everything ready.  I’ll set the doors to open automatically.  When they do, you should run, not walk, to the restrooms.  I need some volunteers to raid the snack shack.  I would recommend letting those volunteers use the restroom first,” he smile sardonically.  The doors will close as soon as the last person is out.  We’ll reopen the doors in ten minutes to let everyone back aboard.  Any questions?”  He waited, and as none came, he turned and walked back up the two steps to the upper deck.

Kim was sitting in the co-pilot chair when Eric returned to the cockpit.  “So how does this work?” She asked coldly.

“You don’t know how to fire a laser?” The empty feeling in Eric’s stomach returned.

“It can’t be that hard,” Kim grew defensive.  “I fired handheld lasers in Sante Fe.  Everyone did.  However, I have not used a laser cannon before.  I just need to figure out the firing mechanism on this thing.”

“This isn’t funny,” Eric growled.

“I didn’t say it was,” Kim spat back.  “How do you turn this thing on?”

Five minutes later, the doors opened, and two dozen firstlings and a teacher ran out the door in a body.  Fortunately, no one was trampled as they raced inside to the relative protection of the rest rooms.

Eric watched furtively from the cockpit for any signs of cloud dragons, but the clear blue sky was devoid of the winged creatures.  Kimberly watched through the targeting screen and stayed focused on the restrooms and the space between there and the snack shack.  A couple of minutes later, Tony and three others, including Kviiiy and Coul made a break for the snack shack.  As soon as Tony and his party started their race back to the ship, Eric hit the button that opened the main ingress into the ship.  The last person entered the ship at a sprint twelve minutes after the doors had opened.  “Boy that has to be a record,” Eric laughed nervously.

“Don’t you need to go?” Kim stayed focus on the targeting system.

“I’ll use a cup,” Eric smiled.  “What about you?”

“I’ll figure something out when the time comes,” she sat back in her chair.  “I found that I could hold it in for two days in Sante Fe, when I really needed to.”

“Sounds like a record,” Eric tried to lighten a conversation that had suddenly turned serious.

“It probably wouldn’t count,” she closed her eyes briefly, “I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for two days either.”  She reopened her eyes.  “I’m glad the birds didn’t come.  I have enough nightmares already,”

Project Lilliput – Chapter 3

Finished a first proofreading of chapter 3.  Feel free to catch the first two chapters in the archives.

Chapter 3  Why Me?

The cockpit had two empty seats with standard flight controls that Eric had worked with in simulations before.  He sat down in the co-pilot’s seat and stared blankly out the front window of the craft.  Where’s the crew? He wondered.  The radio crackled to life again as the chimes forewarned an announcement.  “This is your Captain.  The Illinois Weather System is advising that we have tornados touching down in the region.  We anticipate that we will remain grounded here for the next two hours.”

There is no pilot, Eric thought.  Then realized that there was a pilot, but the pilot was probably sitting in Springfield Central flying the drone remote.  He stared off at the shadowy surroundings of the Wyndham that was darkening by the moment.  His face shifted from confused to determined as he put the headset of the radio on and called out, “Springfield Central, this is stranded copter…” what is the number?  He paused then tried again, “Springfield Central, this is a passenger aboard the stranded copter in Old Springfield.  Is there anyone there?”

A few minutes later, Eric descended to the main cabin.  “There is a first aid kit under seat one.  There is no medic on board, but I have a connection with the hospital at Springfield Four.  Kviiiy, grab the first aid kit.  Who knows first aid?”

The room was silent for nearly ten seconds before Tony spoke up, “I guess it’s me then.  I earned the first aid and lifesaving merit badges and went to CPR training when I was a Boy Scout.  I think I can remember most of it.”

The patch to the hospital helped a lot although they were still advising blind.  The first order of business was Mr. Dewquist.  He was still unconscious.  After checking to make sure the air passageway was not blocked, they moved him on his side and tilted his head back.  Eric found the emergency blankets and they made their teacher as comfortable as they could.  One classmate had a broken arm, three others appeared to have severe sprains, but without X-rays, there was no way to determine whether they had broken any bones.  The remainder of the injuries were limited to bumps and bruises.

Tony was just finishing up with the last of the injuries when he looked up and over to Eric.  “Hey, looks like we lost the connection.  See if you can get them back.  Mr. Dewquist does not look good and I want to see if there is anything else we can do.”

Eric two-stepped back to the cockpit and tried to reconnect with the hospital, then with Springfield Central, but only got static.  He tried alternate channels without success.

Half way down the steps to the main cabin he called over to Tony, “We’re out of luck.  I can’t raise anyone.” As soon as he said it, he realized he had made a mistake.

The room broke into chaos.  It was difficult to make out whether the crying or yelling was the more obnoxious.  The loudest voice was that of Bernard Parker, who went by Bernie.  “What are we going to do?  We’ve got to get out of here.”  His voice seemed to reflect the disposition of most of Eric’s classmates.  Miss Jackson was not any better than the rest, as she started clawing at the door of the exit.

“Pipe down,” a loud female voice overpowered the din.  As if by magic the cabin quieted.  Kim Santibanez looked up at Eric and continued, “What do we do Eric?” maintaining a firm and loud voice of command.

Two dozen pairs of eyes, including those of Miss Jackson turned expectantly toward Eric.

Eric’s first thought was to turn and run back up the staircase, go into the cockpit and slam the door shut.  His second thought was, what would dad do?  In a flash, he knew that what he said next would shift the room to panic or calm.  “We sit down and stay quiet.  Kviiiy.  You, Chanel and Coul go upstairs and get some food and drinks.  The craft has supplies in the cabinet market Emergency Only.  It was remotely unlocked when I spoke with Springfield Central earlier.”  He took a deep breath and added, “We’ll wait here for two hours for the storm warning to pass, and then we’ll see.  I’m sure that the storm has something to do with our losing communication with Springfield.  It might take a while to get everything back up and running.  Meanwhile let’s just stay calm.  Did anyone bring any card games?”  He turned and climbed back up the stairs.  He walked into the cockpit and closed the door.

Sitting in the chair, he started to panic.  Why me?  I don’t know anything about anything.  I’m just a messenger.  He knocked his head on the console three times, and then stared out into the darkness.  Tony will take over if there’s a problem.  I won’t have to worry about it.  Mr. Dewquist will wake up in a few minutes.  Miss Jackson… he paused and knocked his head on the console two more times.  “They’ll get the radio back up after the storm and everything will be all right,” he said aloud in a soft voice.  Finally, he leaned back in the chair staring at the ceiling.

A soft rap came on the door, and it opened slowly flooding in light from the common area of the second deck.  “Can I come in?”

“I guess so,” Eric muttered.

Kimberly Santibanez, or Kim, came into the cockpit closing the door behind her.  She sat down in the pilot’s seat and stared at Eric.  “Are you afraid?” she said in her ever matter-of-fact voice.

Eric hesitated and looked away.  His mind immediately brought back a vivid vision of that day four years earlier.  He could feel the talons of the Cloud Dragon… the kestrel tearing through his clothing into his back.  He could feel himself being lifted off the ground.  Then he came back to the present shaking his head, “Afraid?  I suppose so.  I’m afraid of lots of stuff.”

“Well don’t let it show,” Kim continued to look hard at Eric.

Kimberly Santibanez had actually moved from Sante Fe Central to her Aunt and Uncle’s home in Provo Five.  Sante Fe had been in the news for over two weeks following the snake attack that had decimated the entire parish.   Over two hundred thousand people had lost their lives in the nightmarish week that had followed the Invasion of the Serpents, as the media had labeled it.  Kim had lost her entire family including parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Only she and her eight-year-old sister had survived from their entire family in Sante Fe.  The snakes were eventually destroyed by air strikes from a joint assault by the Parish Air Guards of Albuquerque, Pueblo, and Amarillo.  Survivors had been shuttled by train and airlift to Albuquerque, and then redistributed to new homes across the country.  Kim and her sister had been lucky as they actually had extended family members where they could be taken in.

Looking back at Kim, Eric grew reflective, “Why me?  Why not Tony?”

Kim softened for a moment, and then her dark brown eyes grew hard again, “Tony is a nice guy.  But nice guys don’t always make the best decisions.  They don’t know how to sacrifice.  Our mayor was a nice guy in Sante Fe, but when the time came, he couldn’t bring himself to make hard decisions.”

“Tony’s not like that,” Eric countered.  “He’s a good leader.”

“And popular,” Kim growled.  “If this isn’t a two hour problem,” she paused for effect, “We don’t need popular, we need someone who doesn’t need to be popular.  You’re smart.  I think you could make a hard decision if you had to.”

“So you,” Eric stared at Kim, “decided to put me in the frying pan.”

“Lousy metaphor, but yes.” She folded her arms and sat back defiantly.  “I think you can get us out of here if it’s necessary; maybe it won’t be.  Maybe you can go back to being afraid of everything.  But for now I think you’re our best bet.”

Eric looked at Kim trying to get a different perspective than the tough kid from Sante Fe.  She was almost his height, but slender.  She had long black hair pulled back in a tight braid.  She wore faded jeans a black spaghetti strapped shirt that was she covered with her faded jean jacket.  Her face could be pretty, but it was masked by her perpetual tough guy persona.  “Why not you?” Eric finally voiced what he was thinking.

“I don’t know anybody.  I’m the outsider here,” she relaxed further into the pilot’s chair.  “People are afraid of me, but they don’t know me.  They really don’t know if I’d take them off a cliff or to my secret hideout where they would all be killed by my nasty gang of Chicas.”

Eric cringed.  He had heard the rumors about Kim and a gang of vandals in the city, but had never seen evidence of anything including vandalism.  He remembered someone… Chanel… making a comment about it in passing once.  Finally, he smiled, “Maybe a gang of Chicas is just what we need,”

Kim snorted through her nose, and her eyes got teary for a moment, “Don’t make me laugh.  I didn’t think you had a sense of humor?”

Eric smiled.  He used to joke around a lot he remembered… but not since the incident.  “Who said I was joking,” he smiled again.