They were half-way back to the base before anyone dared say anything. Glen looked out the window and brooded about the future. The years he was living through and the next fifty to a hundred years were always fuzzy in his mind. He figured that was because he was moving in that direction so they had not actually been written yet. Sometimes, though, he could look back from several hundred years out and get the gist of the days, much like one might get from a history book. He knew the Earth was in for a rough haul over the next hundred years, and the United States would be far from exempt. In some ways, the U.S. would stand at the center of the hard times. It was not a cheery thought.
Sergeant Thomas sat quietly against the other window. He did not mind the silence and was no stranger to it. Lockhart and Boston whispered now and then, but not enough to break the spell. Alice worked dutifully on the treaty. She was starting to compose her thoughts and in the Vordan tongue, now that she could. Pumpkin might have spoken, but Glen told her to keep her eyes on the ball he took from the Humanoid Escape Pod and she was watching it with all her might, but she broke the silence in the end.
“It’s blinking,” she said, and dared to look up at Glen. There was a light blinking on the ball.
“Here we go,” Glen said, and the first thing he did was turn on the volume so they could hear the conversation that was being transmitted from the Vordan in New Mexico to the mysterious strangers in space. “Pen and pad.” Glen nudged Alice and she got her steno pad and began to transcribe the conversation that just sounded like guttural gibberish to the others. Meanwhile, he typed furiously on the computer and gave an update as he got close.
“They are within our solar system. Jupiter is interfering. No, wait. They are on this side of Jupiter. Beyond Mars. Damn!” Glen put his hands temporarily to his head. “They are within the asteroid belt. That is like a needle in a hay stack.” He vanished to be replaced by an Asian looking woman who took up the typing but almost exclusively used the number keys.
“Jennifer.” The woman gave her name. “I did my doctoral thesis on navigating the gravity wells in the asteroid belt. I got to pilot the first ship to go there.” She paused. “I mean, I will get to pilot the first ship some day.” She stopped talking and typed a last flurry of numbers. “Got ‘em,” she said, and she left so Glen could return.
“All math. Not my thing,” Glen explained. “What?” Glen looked up and got that glazed, far-away look in his eyes. He was not talking to anyone in the limo. “Are you sure? Damn, I was afraid it might be that. I can say damn if I want to. No, no. Being ordained has nothing to do with it. Huh? Yes, I suppose we must.” He came back to the others, looked once around the car and repeated himself. “Damn.” And he did not explain.
They got back to the office before the item on the flatbed decompressed. That was a good thing because Glen was not entirely sure if the flatbed was big enough or if the trailer would be crushed once decompression occurred. Glen had read the transcript translation and it sounded to him like the Vordan were planning a strike even though the ones in the asteroid belt advised against it.
When the odd looking gun decompressed, it turned out to be a box the size of a room. It took up two thirds of the trailer, but the trailer held it without great difficulty even though it was a wide load. The stick on the end extended half again the distance beyond the end of the trailer. It was not heavy enough to shift the box-room off the trailer. That was another possibility Glen had worried about. The stick looked like a gun, but Boston thought it might be an antenna.
“Both, sort of,” Glen said as he climbed up and touched the outside of the box. The door opened and he was glad to see the room still had power. Alice, Sergeant Thomas, Colonel Weber, and Bobbi followed him in, and Glen asked Bill and Farquanded to come in as well. They had been assigned to the truck since the Vordan fighter was gone. Things were a little tight in that room, but it did make it easy to hear when Glen explained.
“This is the main weapon station from a Kargill police cruiser that came to earth some years ago. They were seeking the escaped criminals from a penal ship that crashed. Anyway, the cruiser got destroyed, a story I won’t go into now, but I managed to salvage this section. Farquanded and Bill, if you would please come close. The rest of you please step back and don’t touch anything.”
Everyone shifted positions, but it was hard not to touch anything. There were two chairs—human enough looking chairs attached to the floor in front of consoles of some kind. Glen got in the first and let Martok the Mathematical Engineer take his place. He could calculate the precise needs in his head and could more easily manipulate what was to him a rather simple system. He appeared to program the first console and then he vacated the seat and made Bill sit down.
“This controls the screens, particle and energy, and this is the on-off switch. Here is the gauge you have to watch. If it moves above this symbol and stays there, turn the switch off, count to ten and turn it back on again.” Martok turned to speak to everyone.
“Every warship is screened in space, but for battle, engines, weapons, communications and sometimes escape pod areas have their own screens so they are like double screened.”
“The Vulnerable areas,” Bobbi understood.
“I have expanded the screens to cover the building and most of the property. It has stretched them which means weakened them, but they should be strong enough to ward off Vordan weaponry.” He turned again, this time to the other chair where he made Farquanded sit.
“These are your weapon options,” he said, and touched a switch that started a hum and started the whole room vibrating. It only lasted a second. “The antenna-gun thing is now sticking straight up. Leave it there. You don’t want to accidentally blast a hole in your own building. This button controls the targeting of secondary weapons.” That explanation took time. “And this button sends out a pulse that will interfere with and maybe burn out electrical systems. I’ve set it so it will go out above the building height so any fighter coming in low will not be affected. You got it?”
They appeared to understand, so Martok said there were only two more things they could do. He ran to the door and jumped out to land on the grass. Pumpkin screamed. Lockhart and Fyodor laughed, and Boston did not know what to do.
“Hello, Boston dear. I did not want you to miss out.” Martok grinned for the gentlemen and showed off his teeth before he let Glen come home.
“Traveler.” Colonel Weber crawled down from the truck. “You said there were two more things to do.”
“Yes.” Glen sat on the grass. “You need to gather your marines and Bobbi, you need to get all the muscle you can. When the Vordan fighters come down, you need to send out groups to pick up as many prisoners as possible.”
“Why don’t we just shoot the bastards?” Colonel Weber was serious.
Glen shook his head. “We need the prisoners for negotiations, but be on guard. They will try to kill you and will not be taken easily.”
“Kill us? Not if we kill them first.” He walked off and Bobbi hurried after him to argue the point.
“What is the other thing we need to do?” Lockhart asked.
“Wait,” Glen said. He sat on the grass and Alice pulled up a spot beside him.
“What can I do?” Fyodor asked.
“Stay alive. We need to fly to Cape May, after.”
“You know, taking prisoners won’t have any bearing on any negotiations with the Vordan.” Alice said, drawing on the knowledge that had been implanted in her mind.
“I know.” Glen understood. “I just hate the killing part.”