Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Snatch: Unseasonal War by David Englund


Excerpt of Unseasonal War by David Englund:

          The story so far ~ Clark Jackson has found a portal in Des Moines, Iowa that allows him to travel to other worlds and meet new species. Along his travels he has picked up a hand-held device that provides him with a personal shield, translates for him or allows him to be invisible or fly, but only one of these features can be used at a time. His recent travels have brought him for the first time to a planet with a species that look and act almost human. He instantly wants to befriend them and help them in their war with what has been described as a monstrous species on a nearby planet.
To gain his trust, the friendly species recently allowed Clark to travel on one of their Star Cruisers, which unfortunately, came into battle with an enemy ship and was destroyed. After drifting in the vacuum of space with his shield slowly venting air, Clark now finds himself on the enemy ship, dazed and weak.

          The corridor was long, very long. This ship was darker than the other one. It smelled of grease and spoiled eggs. The walls were higher and wider than in the previous ship. The design was different, not as elegant or flashy. It looked like it might be the first ship ever built, in any universe. It was a big, metal clunker. No electronics were visible, no fancy technology; there were barely any lights present. It was a very simple corridor, only good for walking through. He was still sleepy. . .
          A familiar sound woke him. It was still difficult to focus. He shook his head back and forth. The familiar sound reverberated in the back of his consciousness, a warning, something was wrong. He lifted his head. His brain should have recognized it, but the sound remained elusive. The only certainty was that it was getting louder.
Footsteps! Someone is coming. No . . . not now. I don’t want to . . . see anyone. Can’t deal with . . . anything now. Go away.
Wake up! Concentrate . . . someone’s coming. Need to avoid . . . no shape to fight. Not even talk . . . just hide.
          “Invisible for ten minutes.”
          The invisibility feature took effect in time. The sound of footsteps continued to grow louder. Clark brought his feet in toward his body and pressed flat against the wall. The door at the rear of the compartment rose. A moment of silence piqued Clark’s curiosity. A group of Craterian soldiers appeared in the doorway. Clark’s mouth gaped open as he stared at the approaching soldiers.
Ewe! . . . can see why . . . called lizards. Giant, eight feet tall, walking alligators. Freaking alligators! Creepy. Black eyes . . . jagged teeth. Scourge of the universe. Walking on two legs . . . trying to look all human. Go away.
          More than a dozen soldiers entered the compartment. They marched in step, two lines of drones drowning out the eerie silence. Dressed completely in black with black scaly skin containing splotches of teal, accompanied with laser rifles and scowls they would give pause to the fiercest of warriors in any galaxy. From his vantage point, they seemingly filled up the entire hallway with their bulk. The strong odor of alien flesh caused him to cover his nose.
As they approached Clark’s position, two of the soldiers toward the middle of the pack raised their heads and sniffed at the air. Both turned their heads toward Clark and frowned. They stopped.
          Still sitting, Clark curled up with arms wrapped around knees that dug into his chest. He leaned against the wall, trying to slow his heart rate. The remainder of the group slowed, but continued walking. The halted soldiers bumped into the next in line, disrupting the formation. They hesitated briefly before scrambling forward to rejoin the march. As they distanced themselves from him, Clark breathed a sigh of relief.
Too close. No shape to fight. Keep walking. Just . . . keep walking. Don’t smell anything. I’m just . . . some garbage on floor.
          They continued to file past him. The entire group had just passed by when another soldier slowed down, this time the final alien on his side of the corridor paused. The Craterian raised his head to sniff the air. Another sniff caused the creature to frown. A growl followed. He came to a stop and looked around with his mouth chomping.
Uh oh, this one . . . determined. Go away! Nothing here.
Mouth chomping, the alien swayed his head back and forth, then back and back again. His eyes darted from left to right, unblinking. He took a step in Clark’s direction, stopped and sniffed anew.
            Maybe invisibility isn’t . . . good enough. What to do? No shape to fight.
Clark inched his way along the wall from his seated position. Slowly, quietly, he distanced himself from the curious pursuer. The sound of marching echoed in the hallway. He wanted to avoid the hard gaze of the vile creature, but Clark’s head would not move.
No, no, no. Stay away. Nothing here.
            The tenacious searcher took two steps forward. Fingers flexed open and closed and opened and closed. Nostrils flared. Eyes continued searching while chomping persisted.
Clark inched along faster, less concerned with noise than distance. His pulse quickened and despite his best efforts, sweat began to gather on his forehead. His stomach lurched. Breaths came in shorter, quicker gasps. The sound of stomping feet eased slightly as did the smell of reptiles and leather.
            One final sniff caused the soldier’s eyes to narrow, more determined to locate the foul smell. He looked over his shoulder to see his comrades moving on without him. A moment of indecision, and then renewed focus brought the hunter a step closer to Clark.
Small drops of sweat fell to the floor. No longer attached to his body, a thin trail became visible as he continued backward. Clark looked at the floor.
           The creature followed Clark’s path. He stepped onto the drops of sweat as he made his way toward the rear door.
Clark stopped. He looked nervously at the trail of droplets, wiped his brow, and then looked up at the alien’s face, studying, searching for visible expressions.
           The warrior paused, tilted his head, squinted, and froze. Then he raised it again to once again sniff. Time stopped.
           Clark backed up until he reached the door at the rear of the compartment. There was nowhere else to go. He sat tentatively and looked on wide-eyed.
The creature’s eyes lit up with recognition. It was a look easily interpreted. Intruder! Dinner!
           Could shoot with laser gun . . . but then the entire ship . . . would know I’m here. Never get off . . . ship. Why . . . so tired?
           He slowly edged to his left, away from the determined soldier and reached inside his vest for the hidden laser gun. Still sitting, his legs pushed as he inched further away from the Craterians slowly and quietly. After a few feet, Clark rose and began walking along the door, leaning back against it, aiming his gun at the soldier. The alien pursuer walked in his direction, looking seemingly right at him. Clark looked around to locate the nearest exit, any exit. He continued walking away from the chaser, now moving faster to match the soldier’s own increased pace.
           This is going to get ugly. Have no choice. Going to have to shoot . . . this thing. Easy shot, standing right in front of me. Question is, try to take rest of them out . . . or open the door and run?
          “Prontkup! Prontkup! Jdket wurt ew ctkunt!”
          The voice screamed, breaking the tense silence. Clark jumped, momentarily disorientated. Searching for the source, he looked past the soldier to see the group leader approaching the alien hunting for Clark. The group itself had reached the end of the corridor and was now standing next to the doorway watching the scene develop. The head soldier was waving his long arms in the air, yelling, and spitting at the soldier who had broken formation.
          They argued for a few moments. The hunting Craterian pointed in Clark’s direction, wrinkled his snout, spit, and growled. The leader stared at him. Then the compartment fell silent as the group leader turned his head to listen and sniff. He looked right at Clark, then took a step forward.
          Clark’s heart jumped. He silently gulped. Instinctively, his hand rose to wipe sweat from his head. The queasiness intensified in his stomach. The silence dragged on.
The pack of soldiers looked on nervously from the far side of the hallway. Some began to fidget. Others sniffed and shrugged. Every living thing in the compartment waited for a response from the commander.
         Finally, the group leader shook his head in exasperation and turned back to the straggler. He leaned in to within an inch of his subordinate’s nose and opened up with a tirade of obvious insults while pointing back at the waiting group. The soldier gave one last look in            Clark’s direction, and sneered before turning to run back into formation.
The commander turned to follow. After two steps, he glanced one last time in Clark’s general direction. He hesitated with an uneasy glare before returning to the group to resume his tirade.


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