by Jill Weber (MFCarpet at aol.com)
There was a shocked pause on the other end of the line. Then
Garth blurted: "Your suitís been breached?" The black manís voice
grew heated, but faint. Hunter deduced that heíd turned away from
"Why didnít you tell us?" Garth demanded.
Mack responded defensively: "Well, we were...."
Jo responded angrily: "Garth, kiss my...."
"Language!" Hunter barked.
"....burrito," Jo finished sulkily.
".... getting to it," Mack finished. After a long pause, that
Hunter guessed involved a lot of glaring and dirty looks between the
Pit Crew, Mack added: "Getting around to telling you, that is, not
kissing Joís burrito."
Obviously the crew was stressing. Time to apply some of his
famous Hunter charm. "I hate to interrupt so charming an intellectual
debate, but would you half-wits spend less time bickering and more
time working!?" OK, so the famous Hunter charm was AWOL. Obviously,
his crewmates werenít the only ones who were stressing.
There was dead silence on the other end for a while. Then Slate
asked tentatively, "Lieutenant? Is your oxygen supply adequate?"
Hunter sighed. "Sorry," he said. "I donít know whatís gotten
into me. Itís not like Iíve never been swallowed by a giant gelatinous
mass before." This still sounded sarcastic to him, but he decided
that nothing he could say now would change that.
There was a sigh from over the comm. "Címon, guys," Garth said
in a conciliatory tone. "Weíd better get him out of there before he
gets all sarcastic on us."
Obviously, he wasnít the only one who thought he sounded
sarcastic, Hunter thought.
Slate cleared her throat, apparently not sure how to handle the
banter/flak that was flying around. "Iím open to suggestions as to what
to try to feed it," she said. Now her voice faded. "Except peanut
butter," she added, more or less offline.
Ah, so Slate did know how to handle the flak.
"What about Joís burrito?" Garth suggested.
"Hey, I was gonna eat that," Jo protested. "What about my
coffee? That stuff sure as shootiní isnít any good for drinking."
"Speaking of shooting, whereís the kid?" Hunter asked.
"He and Thorton are scouting your blobby friend," Mack said.
"Iíve supplied them with a battery of testing equipment to see
if any of our attacks have done any damage," Slate added. She sounded
faintly apologetic. "I suppose we should have told you that sooner."
Hunter shrugged, then sighed when he realized that gestures were
useless when his audience couldnít see him. "Donít worry about it, Doc.
So, what about feeding Blobby?"
"Coffee is plant-based," Slate said thoughtfully. "The meat in
the burrito might be more to the creature's taste." She was silent for
a few minutes, then added: "Jo, I really donít think you should eat
While his crew and Slate brainstormed, Hunter worked on getting
something other than the radio on line. His first priority, under the
circumstances, was to make sure his life support was operating. Knowing
his location would be nice, too. And he really wanted a peek at what was
going on outside the "friendly confines" of his cockpit.
"Havenít you ever heard of Green Burritos, Doc?" was Joís muffled
"Yes, but theyíre not supposed to be THAT shade of green," Slate
"Now, thereís a thought," Mack said. "How about trying poison on
"We tried every poison that is deemed environmentally safe,"
"How come you didnít tell us that?" Jo demanded.
"Um," Garth said.
"Thought so," Jo muttered.
"There seems to be a lot of sidetracks for this conversation,"
Mack said. "Why donít we concentrate on getting the lieutenant out of
there? I donít want a new C.O.; I just got this one broken in."
Dwayneís eyebrows went up at that, but he was too busy to think
of a sufficiently cutting reply. Although the Big Guyís cockpit was
ífriendlyí, it was still confining and difficult to work it, especially
with the added disadvantage of having an adhesive carnivore dripping
all over him. Being dragged along sideways was not helping matters any.
"Speaking of Joís burrito, how about some biological warfare?"
Mack threw in. "See what a good dose of botulism will do."
"Sorry," Gen. Thortonís gruff voice broke in at this junction.
"We canít take the risk that the slug would mutate it into something
detrimental to the general population."
"Yes, sir," Mack sighed. "Dang, now what?"
"I have mixed news for you," Thorton said.
Hunterís immediate thought was: Dwayne = toast
"The good news is that Donovanís new toy apparently works as
advertised," Thorton continued.
HunterĎs next thought was: Dwayne = burnt toast
Thorton took a deep breath.
Dwayne = charred toast
"The bad news is that the blob is
heading directly towards an area thatís packed with evacuees," Thorton
Dwayne = guy who sticks fork into toaster to remove bread Hunter thought, then he said. "So, youíre going to try
Donovanís toy again?"
"Iím afraid so, Lieutenant," Thorton said. "It seems to be our
best bet at stopping that thing."
"Sir," protested Slate. "I think youíre more likely to destroy
Big Guy than the blob."
"Do you have a viable alternative?" Thorton demanded.
"Our thought was trying to bribe it with food," Slate replied.
"Iím sorry, Doctor, but I fail to see how that will stop this
creature," Thorton said.
"Well, we were thinking more along the lines of luring it out
of the city," Mack said. "And hoping that it will drop that inedible
chunk of titanium somewhere along the line."
"Very well," Thorton said after a few minutes to think this over.
He sounded relieved. "So, what were you planning to try to feed it?"
"Ground meat," Slate said.
"You mean that thingís carnivorous?" Thorton asked in dismay.
"Yes, sir," Hunter said. "That seems to be the best guess here."
Moving carefully, he detached a strand from his arm and flicked it away.
"Howís your suit holding up?" Thorton asked.
"Itís not; the stuff is coming in through the arm sockets,"
Hunter said calmly.
Thorton sighed and said: "Good luck, Lieutenant."
"Thank you, sir," said Hunter, who then went back to planning
an end run around luck, which had been flat out nasty to him all day.
"Weíll get to work on that right away." Slate said.
"Thanks, Doc," Hunter said gratefully.
Dwayne only kept half an ear on the radio while he worked on
getting his systems functional. "Donít need the arm guns," he muttered
to the blob. "Theyíre gone. Might as well beef up power to the
thrusters. Assuming, of course, that they arenít, well, jammed." If
Blobby dropped him, he wanted to be able to get Big Guyís titanium
tush out of the line of fire ASAP.
He unbuckled his restraints and found he could move about the
cockpit, even with the gunk all over the floor. Or actually, what
would have been the side, had Big Guy been upright.
It wasnít easy working in the dim light and at an angle, but
Hunter had spent so much time in the Big Guyís cockpit that he
managed to get several systems up and running. "Iíve got to get out
more," he muttered to himself.
He knew when Slateís plan started working when Big Guy gave a
tremendous lurch. Several more lurches followed. Hunter would have
been thrown, if his feet hadnít been jammed to the surface he was
currently walking on. He grabbed the pilotís chair with one hand and
finished a few connections with the other.
"The thing has changed directions," Thorton said, as satisfied
as if heíd come up with this plan.
So Iíve noticed, Hunter thought. "Good," Hunter said. "So, where am I headed now?"
"More or less back the way you headed," Thorton said.
"Good," Hunter said again. He made a final connection just as
Big Guy started shuddering. "Whoa, whatís that?" Hunter asked.
Before anybody could answer, Big Guy jerked around ninety degrees.
This time, the gunk wasnít enough to keep Hunterís feet glued to the
floor and he fell against the back of the pilotís chair.
"Iíve hit some turbulence. I guess Big Guy is now face down,"
Dwayne deduced out loud as he scrambled into his seat and secured his
"Looks like," Garth replied. "Howíre you doing?"
"Backup systems online," Hunter said. "I seem to have everything
but outside visual and weapons."
"You might want those weapons," Thorton said dryly.
Duh Hunter thought. "Yes, sir," Hunter said.
Suddenly the shuddering stepped up tempo. "Guys? Slate? Whatís
goiní on? I feel like IĎm in an earthquake!"
"Iíve got a bad feeling about this!" Mack blurted.
But by now the tremors were so bad that Hunter felt like he was
being pounded by a jackhammer and he couldnít find the breath to reply.
Big Guyís hull was groaning and twisting and what indicators
werenít going red were just going dark.
"Lieutenant?" Jo called. "Hull integrity dropping!"
Hunter couldnít even think. All he could do was brace himself
against the console and grit his teeth. Slate, this was NOT one of
your better ideas! he thought, just before there was a tremendous
SCREAM of tearing metal, followed by a tremendous CRASH.
TO BE CONTINUED
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