Flying Car? How about a Flying Winnebago!
Part 16 & 17
by Jim Davidson
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Reunited in Flight
"You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody
watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody
listening, and live like it’s heaven on earth."
― William W. Purkey
Little Bob looked at his sister Kathy. She was completely gone, staring at their mom and dad who were themselves completely enwrapped in one another, kissing, embracing, murmuring soft words and kissing more. Little Bob rolled his eyes. It wasn’t helping dissolve the scene before him, so he turned his head and rolled his eyes in a different direction. Wait, what?
His sister Amy was holding an IV fluids bottle off the ground so it could drain into that guy, Brandon, who had gotten himself shot. Two med techs were gathered there and performing emergency surgery to sew up some internal artery that had been opened in the firefight. But that was all ordinary emergency medicine, about which Little Bob was familiar from family drills, online videos, and life saving training sessions with the Junior Gold Cross.
Just past all of them were the wrecked vehicles, still blocking two of the lanes. Traffic was flowing slowly in the opposite direction past the concrete barriers, with a certain amount of gawking at the scene on Little Bob’s side of the highway. Wrecked vehicles were nothing new to the jaded Mordor-on-the-Potomac drivers that were frequently on this part of the Beltway. But the Super Cobra his dad had flown in and its halo of battle drones was something else entirely, and few seemed able to resist the allure of rubber necking. Even so, those traffic lanes were still in motion, as were the slow lane and the breakdown lane behind him, from which Little Bob was now facing away.
What had his attention was something entirely odd, a sort of greyish mist with a very dark centre, hovering directly above the concrete barriers separating the two directions of traffic. It wasn’t still, either, but swirling in a vortex, as if it were a gaseous cloud coming out from a slowly revolving inner point. But the appearance of that central area was bizarre, seeming to offer a completely new set of directions. It was beyond captivating, it was utterly fascinating.
Now, deep within that mist, in the blackest portion of the vortex, two dark shadows appeared. Shaped like human beings wearing some sort of robes, conical hats, and carrying crooked staffs taller than themselves, these figures seemed to be illuminated from behind by an ominous reddish glow. Nor were they the right size, but seemed very tiny, as if they were far away, but in an unfamiliar direction. Little Bob moved closer to try to get a better look.
"Dad…," Little Bob said, "Mom, Kathy, Amy, you guys have to look right now, and tell me what I’m seeing."
Kathy was perturbed and not pleased, at all. "LB, " which was her preferred form of address for Little Bob, "you have about as much romance in your soul as a basilisk. Can’t you let mom and dad have their moment?"
Not wanting to let his eyes off the apparition, Little Bob turned his head slightly back toward his sister and gestured with his left hand, making a grasping and pulling gesture from her direction as if to draw her gaze, and then pointing at the now sizeable but mist-shrouded portal with its bright red glow and its two ominous shadow-casting figures. They were closer, somehow, but no matter how he craned his head, there was no way to see past the vortex. They couldn’t be in the far traffic lanes, they must be on the other side of some kind of portal, like in one of the fantasy role-playing games that Little Bob and Kathy enjoyed. Only, this was no video game.
Annoyed with her younger brother, as annoyed as any sister can be, Kathy followed his hand as it waved forward and then pointed from his position. Without conscious thought, Kathy’s eyes were drawn in the direction of the motion and the pointing index finger. She gasped.
"Mom! Dad!" Kathy reached out with both hands and grabbed a parent in each, by the nearest available part of their respective garments. "Something weird is here!"
The alarm in their daughter’s voice and a vague awareness that their son had been trying to get their attention caused Bob and Susan to break their kissing and nuzzling and look, first at Kathy, then in the direction of her now rapt gaze.
There before their eyes was a fully opened portal with two strange beings framed within it. Each was over six feet tall, and their staves were another foot longer. One was topped with an ankh, which Little Bob had taken for a crook from his earlier view. The other was topped with a pentagram. Everything about the two figures was dark and foreboding, greyish-black, and inhuman. Their eyes were glowing the charcoal reddish orange one finds in a fire late at night after the wood has burned down to coals.
Before their eyes were dark rectangles, some sort of eyeglasses, utterly black voids oriented horizontally, with nose pieces also black and connecting the rectangles low down so that the eyes glowered over top. Their thick and matted hair framed their faces below their conical hats. Their cloaks were thick and heavy, some sort of black fur. Their hands were taloned and wrinkled, that same greyish-black as their faces. Something was the matter with their mouths.
More cat-like than hominid, their mouths were distended. The reason soon became obvious as one dropped its jaw revealing enormous razor-sharp teeth, blackened and curving. Its tongue flicked out as though it were tasting the air. Its throat could be seen to vibrate and it made sounds which seemed to form words in a screeching and distorted way, incomprehensible to the family watching.
Bob’s instinctive reaction was to put his visor down, so his head’s up display was available to him. His gloves were connected to the software system that drove the drone fleet he had brought with him. Using simple gestures, he now turned all seven to face the apparition.
Doing so brought him an enormous amount of information in several wavelengths of light. As with all the information from the recent combat operations, this data was forwarded via overhead dirigible to Bob’s lab and to other interested participants in the freedom alliance. Understanding their vulnerability to beings with access to a dimension portal, Bob made a series of gestures that caused the drones to move into positions in front of his family, in one case briefly blocking Little Bob’s view.
Before anyone could speak, Little Bob darted forward under the drone to restore his view. As he emerged from beneath the combat drone, the figure with the ankh-headed staff extended its arm and dropped the circular part of the ankh over the youngster’s head. Somehow the ankh had opened to pass easily over Little Bob’s head, and then drew tight about his neck.
Feeling this happening, Little Bob put his hands up and got several fingers of each hand inside the loop, so his breathing wasn’t constricted. Yet, he could not help feeling trapped and scared. The thing was pulling him toward itself. Little Bob yelled: "Aaaaagh! Noooooo! "
As her youngest sibling was dragged past her, Amy Nolan dropped the IV fluids bag she had been holding and grabbed for him. Her reactions honed by years of mixed martial arts, she was able to get her right hand on Little Bob’s left ankle as he came past her. Her additional weight arrested the motion, keeping her brother from being drawn away through the portal.
Bob liked none of what he was seeing, neither through his helmet in reality nor in various false-colour overlays he could flip past using his gesture gloves. There were intense energies in those staves, and as he watched, the figure with the pentagram-topped staff brought it down to lay across the ankh-headed staff. In X-ray and in ultraviolet, Bob could see energy coruscating down the length of each staff, and he feared for his son’s life.
The two outermost drones were in position for clear shots of the place where those two staves met, and Bob filled that target with armour piercing incendiary rounds. The resulting explosions broke both staves. None of the shrapnel from the explosion seemed to reach either of the dark figures in the portal. Somehow the misty vortex swirled like aerogel before them, partly hiding them and mocking Newtonian physics by slowing everything that came at them.
Unsatisfied with this result, but glad to have freed his son from their grasp, Bob now directed all seven drones to open fire from different vantage points into which he had positioned them. Three fired at each figure and one fired between them at the distant red glow.
Again, the vortex seemed to cast a protective cloak of mist before each figure, protecting them from all six sets of projectiles, none of which reached its target. All of the projectiles aimed at the figures slowed uncannily and fell to the ground before reaching either figure. But, whatever protective warding had shaped these results, the central glow in the distance was not covered. A tracer amongst the armour piercing incendiary rounds showed the path of a seventh cluster of shots toward the distant glow.
Whatever was back there in the misty distance detonated with an enormous blast, a light shifting from red to white to blinding. Bob’s visor darkened instantly to protect his eyes. Little Bob and Amy were facing each other, with Amy struggling to get the ankh to expand enough to get her brother’s head out. Kathy and Susan, however, were watching the action and were temporarily blinded by the terrible light.
The two dark figures were blasted by the explosion from behind them, the vortex and mist were eradicated, and the portal was momentarily a bright light and then gone. Bob’s visor slowly cleared, and there on the ground in front of the concrete barrier were smouldering remains of the two figures, parts of arms, parts of staves, and bits of fur. The bodies of the two had absorbed most of the blast and nearly all of the shrapnel, and the misty vortex had warped the space in front of the two beings, slowing everything that approached whether from the vortex side or from Bob’s side.
Realising that he would have to re-play that sequence of events later, Bob turned to Susan, lifted his visor, and embraced his wife. Seeing that she and the children were unharmed though bedazzled by the explosion, Bob keyed his intercom with a brief gesture, then went back to hugging Susan.
"Sam," said Bob, "I’m going to need you to get airborne and cover our exit. I’m going to drive out of here with my family. We’ll head for my lab. I need to get us away from here, and we need to understand what we’re facing."
[End part sixteen, continues in part seventeen (below)]
"Fixed fortifications are monuments to man
’s stupidity. If mountain ranges and oceans can be overcome,
anything made by man can be overcome."
― George Smith Patton, Jr.
[Continued from Part One,
Parts Nine, Ten, and Eleven,
part Twelve, part Thirteen, part Fourteen, part Fifteen, and Part Sixteen (above)]
Ollie approached the double doors with caution. The bunker entry team were one level down and based on their interview with one of the slavers, minutes earlier, there was at least another level to go. Somewhere deep below was an owner’s whip, someone with detailed knowledge of the enemies of freedom and their plans. The strategic value of their target was enormous, and Ollie wanted to avoid making any errors on this entry.
Like the rest of the non-medical jumpers, Ollie carried a rifle slung across his back. Unlike them he also carried a large number of entry tools. His training was highly specialised because the possibility of this bunker had been established during the construction of Gaunts Brook Camp. An excavation had been made in this area before the admin building had been built above. That excavation had been carefully documented by aerial drone and satellite photo reconnaissance.
The team had just come through a door at the bottom of the staircase. Before opening it, Ollie had found a gap at its bottom through which he inserted a fibre optic camera probe. Doing so let him ascertain the existence of a camera above the door facing into the twelve-foot foyer between the stair door and the double doors now at hand. Having found that camera, they had drilled through the wall to split and then loop its feed. So whatever information about their approach was available from that source was now showing the same empty foyer and motionless double doors.
Next to the door was a panel for an electronic card access. Good news, that meant an electromagnetic lock. These doors looked properly hung. No hinges visible. No obvious gaps above or below. But, wait, between the two doors was a line of weather stripping material. Using a metal probe, Ollie felt the gap. It was wide enough to again pass his fibre optic cable with its tiny camera. There was no camera above this doorway. Good. But there was something else, a "request to exit" sensor. And thank heavens for lowest bidder contracting, it was a cheap infrared device.
Ollie had gone through doors like this one many times. Reaching into his backpack, he pulled out a cannister of compressed air, used by computer techs for cleaning computer equipment. Attaching its little red tube to the nozzle, he put the tube through the weather stripping between the two door panels, up high, just below the request to exit sensor. Squeezing the trigger, the cannister emitted its cold compressed air.
The infrared sensor detected a difference in temperature near it, and was convinced that there was motion in its field of view. It had one job. Detect someone approaching the door, or even a cart loaded with gear, and trip the lock so that the person exiting didn’t have to get out their card key and manipulate the lock system by hand. The burst of compressed air was enough evidence of motion for the sensor, and with an audible click, the electromagnetic lock disengaged. Grabbing the door handle, Ollie eased the lefthand door open. There was a hallway here and at its end, what looked like an elevator door. No further cameras. It seemed whoever had designed this place felt no enemy would get this far down without meeting stiff opposition.
Ollie smiled. Every physical penetration tester dreamed of reaching this point in any site. Maybe it was too easy. He frowned slightly in concentration. What else would he use if he were in charge of interdicting unwanted visitors?
Putting one foot forward to block the door slightly ajar, Ollie reached into his knapsack and pulled out a foot-long cylinder. Inside was a pressurised gas that would combine with air to make a very pale smoke. Setting this on the floor, he opened its stopcock. The smoke oozed out, spreading quickly along the hallway in front of the elevator. Then it warmed slightly and began to rise off the floor, thinning and dissipating into the air.
Sure enough, two innocent looking electrical outlets halfway down and on either side of the hallway disguised a tiny laser on one side and reflector on the other. The beam of coherent light could be seen in the thin, pale smog. Ollie’s smog was roughly the colour and consistency of cigarette smoke, not thick enough to sever the connection, plenty thick enough to reveal the laser.
Looking along the hallway walls several times to be sure there were no other hidden sensors, Ollie eased the door open slightly further and motioned to Steve Phillips. Showing Steve the laser light, Ollie gestured for Steve to hold the door.
Taking a roll of grey tape from his backpack, Ollie moved into the hall. He taped beside each outlet to show the height of the trap, then taped the floor on either side of the electric eye, being careful to step over and not through the beam. These preparations made, he then returned to Steve at the door.
During this interval, Steve had gone over the tactical situation in his head. Carolyn Niven was upstairs guarding their captive and line of retreat. Carla Brown could stay at this level while the rest of his team descended that elevator shaft at the far end of the hall.
So it would be Steve, Ollie, Phil Miller, and Chad Adams against whatever personal guard the owner’s whip had down there. Ollie was back.
"Carla," Steve said, "stay here at this door. Prop it open with your backpack if you wish. Relay any communications from Carolyn, and be ready to evac as soon as we have the whip. Phil, Chad, look at the tape Ollie’s laid down. The height of the laser trip light is that lower outlet’s circular ground wire hole on either side, you can see where Ollie’s taped the walls. When we go to the elevator, take your time stepping over that light beam. Okay. Ollie first, then me, Phil, Chad at the rear."
They moved carefully down to the elevator doors. Ignoring the electronic access panel, Ollie took out another of his penetration tools. Moments later, the elevator doors were open. The shaft behind them was empty. Looking up, it was clear that the lift mechanisms were just above this level. Looking down, there was the elevator at the lowest level. Conveniently located was a narrow steel ladder.
Down they went, in the same order. At the top of the elevator, Ollie checked for sensors around the escape hatch. Finding none, he eased it up. The elevator was empty, and its doors closed. Without leaving the roof of the elevator, Ollie eased over to where the top of the outer doors could be reached. There was bit of work with a pry tool, then his fibre optic cable and camera snaked out to sample the sights inside the bunker.
There were exactly two occupants visible. Ollie moved the camera several times to make sure. One occupant was a young naked woman tied to a short platform. The other was a middle-aged man, naked from the waist down, raping her.
Next to him was a large screen that showed the now-fake view from the hallway camera they had rigged minutes earlier. Some text appeared in a separate window, and what looked like a status window showed numerous red and yellow lights, the legends too small to read from Ollie’s vantage. A dining alcove with a recently eaten meal on the table, and a bathroom door could be seen, showing the empty bathroom beyond it.
Steve crept up to Ollie’s position and saw the video screen. With a few gestures, he explained their next moves. Ollie withdrew the camera probe, shifted off his pack, handed his rifle to Steve, and slipped down through the elevator’s roof escape hatch. Hanging by his hands, and then his fingertips, pointing his toes, Ollie dropped only a few inches to the floor of the elevator. Steve handed down Ollie’s rifle, then his own.
About a minute later, Steve, Phil, and Chad were all in the elevator, their packs on its roof except for Chad’s med-gear, the liquid nitrogen bottles, and the inflatable bowl. Taking a few tens of seconds to inflate this item, the team was tense. Steve, Phil, and Ollie held their rifles at the ready, and Chad drew a heavy thermal insulating glove onto his right hand.
Ollie opened the inner and outer sets of elevator doors and they were through moments later. They rushed out. Grabbing the whip from behind, Steve and Phil each held an arm. Ollie positioned the bowl on the floor and filled it with the liquid nitrogen from one of the bottles. Chad grabbed the whip’s right hand and with Steve and Phil helping to overpower the man, they thrust his entire right hand into the liquid nitrogen, freezing it solid instantly. Ollie had the other bottle ready, and filled the bowl past the whip’s wrist.
Every owner’s whip had a complex mechanism installed in their right hand. It held extensive digital information and could key open electronic locks throughout the hegemony. It had a radio communication system to the whip’s owner. Pulses of electricity could be used to punish the whip. But, most significantly, a capsule of deadly blue-ringed octopus toxin was included. Previous attempts to capture one of these men had resulted in their sudden paralysis and death from asphyxiation due to the muscles working their lungs being paralysed.
Their sudden and overwhelming appearance and the liquid nitrogen immediately prevented the owner’s defence system from killing the whip. With it now safely frozen, Chad amputated the hand, treated the whip for shock, and used an injection to render him unconscious.
While Chad was busy with these tasks, Ollie freed the young woman. Her name was Tina.
Phil and Steve went back to the elevator. Steve boosted Phil up through the escape hatch. Phil passed down their packs. From one of these, Steve retrieved a large shirt.
Gesturing to the table in the dining alcove, Steve asked Phil to get the tablecloth. After Chad treated Tina, cleaning the ligature marks on her wrists and ankles, Steve and Phil presented the shirt and tablecloth. Tina quickly drew the shirt over her head and, seeing the tablecloth already folded to a good length, wrapped it around her waist to make a long skirt. Ollie supplied a length of paracord for a belt.
Minutes later they were headed back upstairs together in the elevator with their captive, his laptop, and Tina.
Rather than explain the situation with the laser trip wire, Phil and Steve simply walked on either side of Tina and as they approached the tape on the floor, lifted her over it. Ollie was just ahead and took her over to Carla while Steve and Phil cleared the trip wire. Seeing another woman, Tina clung to Carla for a moment of reassurance.
Then Carla whispered, "We gotta get out of here. "
It was 07:15 and time to go. No doubt there were inbound responders.
At the main level they met Karen who had joined Carolyn. The admin building was empty.
Just outside, Bill Samuels was standing next to a pickup truck. They loaded up and headed out the South exit at best possible speed. Before they had gone a mile, freedom alliance aircraft from all over the region began their bombing runs. Saturation bombing was in order, so that Gaunts Brook Camp would not soon be used again.
The shells and shrapnel blew the slave camp to smithereens.
[End part seventeen, continues in part eighteen]
Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, actor, and director. He is the cfo of KanehCN3.com and the vision director of HoustonSpaceSociety.net You can find him on Twitter.com/planetaryjim as well as Pocket.app and Flote.app also as planetaryjim. He appreciates any support you can provide as times are very difficult. See the Paypal link on this page, or Flote.app for crypto options. Or email your humble author to offer other choices.
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