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,”

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