Thursday, September 30, 2010
Excerpt from 'The Case of the Curious Killers.'
"Heat-seekers won’t lock onto the front of this baby, and their radar missiles can only acquire a target within the cone of the scanners, located in the nose of the ship,” said Brendan. “By the time they were in range, I was out of the cone. All they could do then was to poke and prod with other systems; systems which aren’t integrated with the missiles.”
“This wreckage gives us an opportunity,” noted Sim. “We’ll try to verify your theories, of course.”
“If they get a proper fighter, instead of converted yachts, if they had any idea of what they were doing, we could be in trouble,” murmured Brendan. “If they had brains, they could become dangerous, I don’t begrudge you that.”
“Anyway, this gives us the opportunity to practice a few landings,” he grinned.
“No, seriously, Brendan. If we can shake off the pursuit, it might be a good idea to disappear for a while,” the sim told him adamantly.
“Way ahead of you, buddy. For all intents and purposes, we’ve disappeared for the next few days.”
"Think about it. They must have received orders to pursue us. Until we turn up, or until they turn up, no one knows what happened,” said Brendan.
He brought the ship down to a thousand feet, slowing down, nose high, in high-alpha flight, with the canard fore-planes grappling and wrestling with the air.
“When they don’t return to base,” mused Sim. “Won’t their contact know?”
“He won’t know anything,” said Brendan. “He’ll have no information whatsoever.”
He took them slowly over the wreckage.
“He’ll be reluctant to send out a search team, that’s for sure. He’ll assume the kill was made, but the killers had to evade pursuit and go to ground, or something. He’ll wait.”
“See any markings?” he asked Sim and the computer. “Any clues at all?”
“Radiation profiles indicate rather small engines, two of them,” said the flight computer. “The black boxes are intact.”
“It’s an unmarked ship, private registration, reported stolen according to archives; about ten years ago,” reported his flight system.
“What about armaments?” asked Brendan.
“While a cannon would shake it apart, they could certainly deploy a number of different missile systems. On a little ship like that, we don’t have to worry about particle beams or directed-energy weapons,” according to Sim. “The other ship was larger, but we have less debris to analyze.”
“Forty kilometres north,” said the computer. “Two hot spots! More motors.”
“Another frickin’ yacht,” concluded Brendan. “They’re arming civilian craft. Nothing indicates a major threat to the Empire, nor an all-encompassing presence such as the Old Ones.”
He inculcated the latter phrase with a drama that indicated his sense of ridicule.
“That’s good news, I’ll be happy to pass on the results of your analysis, Mr. Hartle,” and now Sim was getting snippy.
The sim wasn’t exactly overjoyed at Hartle’s adrenalin high.
“You’ll observe radio silence until I say otherwise,” said Brendan in a firm but friendly tone.
Sim shut up for thirty seconds while he digested this.
“Okay, Brendan. Let’s teach you to land this ship,” said Sim rather morosely.
“Yay,” said the flight computer in irony and pathos.
Hartle took it up to a little over Mach One, but stayed down low, keeping mountains, hills and the sides of gorges close at all times. Luckily the terrain-following radar kept them out of trouble, as his own reaction time really wasn’t good enough for this kind of flying. He put ten thousand kilometres between himself and the scene of the crime.
“If I was them, I’d wait until Brendan Hartle reappeared at that Council Meeting, or just try again later.”
“What are you going to do?” asked Sim.
“Practice a few landings, just like you said,” answered the man.
You can find 'The Case of the Curious Killers' on iTunes on the iBookstore and at many other fine online bookstores, including a 5 x 8" paperback at Amazon.Com.