The travelers piled out the back door. The wife and two serving girls stood by the door, screaming. The innkeeper lay on the ground. A spider the size of a small table hovered over the man, spitting venom at the women to keep them away. Katie flipper her rifle to automatic, but Decker was one step ahead of her. He sprayed the spider with bullets, putting any number of holes in the thing. It collapsed as Katie spun around to fire at the roof. The spider there leapt away while it shot a stream of webbing at Katie and her rifle. Katie also leapt away, so they both missed. Too bad for the spider. It landed just above Lockhart who blasted it twice with his shotgun. The spider face turned to mush, and it fell off the roof.
Elder Stow raised his voice to get everyone’s attention. “A three-man scout ship,” he said and stared at his scanner. “Probably from a shuttle such as used to carry up to forty Wolv. I’m expanding the search grid now.”
“I hope there isn’t a mother ship out there full of spiders,” Katie said, as she and Tony examined the webbing. Nanette and Sukki ran to examine the dead man on the ground.
“The horses,” Tony said, to suggest spiders might have gotten into the stables, but Elder Stow interrupted.
“The scout ship is in the other direction. The third spider, probably the smart female is there.”
“We need to make sure they don’t report back to the mother ship,” Decker said, and indicated that Elder Stow should lead the way.
“Tony and Lincoln, check on the horses and Ghost. Nanette and Sukki stay here and help if you can. Katie,” Lockhart said. Katie left off examining the web as he and Katie followed Decker and Elder Stow to the edge of the village, which was not that far away.
Down an alley between two buildings, they looked out on a field of weeds and a few trees a short distance away. The scout ship landed beside the trees, not exactly hidden. Lockhart shouldered his rifle and reached out to Elder Stow. “Scanner,” he said. “Elder Stow, you need to get your weapon ready in case it takes off.”
“We don’t want them reporting to the mother ship,” Decker repeated himself.
Elder Stow only hesitated for a second before he shook his head. He clipped the scanner in place, back on his belt, and got out his weapon. “The scanner is expanding the search. It will beep if it locates an appropriate energy source.” He retrieved his weapon.
Lockhart nodded and led the group several feet out onto the field. They were all familiar enough with the ship design to recognize any weapons the ship carried were pointing away from them. They stopped suddenly as five smaller, chair-sized spiders came rushing out from among the trees. “Babies,” Katie yelled as she and Decker sprayed the spiders with bullets. They were fast. Katie and Decker shot four of the five, but Elder Stow sprayed all the babies with a wide angle shot that put them all down. Decker continued to shoot them to make sure they were all dead, even as the ship began to lift off the ground.
Elder Stow had to work fast to create a narrow beam on full power. The ship topped the trees and looked ready to take off at high speed before Elder Stow fired. He clipped the treetops before he zeroed in on the ship. The others could see the beam of Elder Stow’s weapon. It went right through the ship, unhampered by any screens the ship may have had, and continued to the clouds above.
The engines on the back end of the ship that faced them began to smoke. The ship shot up suddenly a thousand feet into the air where there was a small explosion, and the ship began to fall as gravity took over.
“Into the alley,” Katie yelled. From there, they saw the ship plumet down to crash almost where it started. Katie turned away and covered her head. The others joined her, having learned not to question her elect instincts. The ship exploded when it hit the earth. The two buildings they stood between took some of the shrapnel. One caught fire. The travelers were lucky not to be hit by any flying metal. One man around the corner, out of sight from where they stood got hit in the head with a small piece and went unconscious. The wound bled plenty, but he would survive.
Men and women, locals came from the streets around. Some went to work on putting out the building fire. A few stopped to stare at the dead babies and wonder what would cause a spider to grow so big. A few joined the travelers in checking out the wreckage. They found what Decker claimed and Elder Stow confirmed was the biggest spider of them all.
“The female,” Elder Stow said. He had his scanner out again and checked to be sure nothing else would explode in their faces.
“Don’t touch them,” Katie yelled at the man who was about to touch one of the babies. “Poison,” she shouted, and the man withdrew his hand. “Acid,” she added, just to be safe. The people would have to be careful to bury the spiders.
“You know, the female might have radioed the ship,” Lockhart said.
“That depends if the females got those systems working,” Elder Stow said and looked at the wreck. He shrugged, believing there was no way they would know.
“You don’t normally send out scouts without some way of reporting on what you find,” Decker said.
“Yes, but…” Elder Stow paused when his scanner beeped. He examined it closely. “At the edge of where this little toy can reach, I believe a Wolv shuttle. It is powered down, but readable. I would estimate we may reach there early afternoon tomorrow. I can put a screen around the inn and maybe part of the village for tonight so we can get some rest. Of course, picking up the shuttle does not mean there is not a mother ship beyond where this scanner can reach. A mother ship might carry half a dozen shuttles, but the shuttles alone could travel hundreds of light years on their own, so it may be just the shuttle to deal with.”
“Yeah,” Decker said. “But if they can turn a three-man scout ship into an eight-spider ship, they might have two hundred spiders on that forty-Wolv shuttle. That is a lot of spiders.”
Katie walked up with a man beside her, talking on her wristwatch communicator. “Lincoln, report.”
“We have gathered quite a crowd. Tony is checking the horses and equipment. Sukki and Nanette are trying to explain the impossible to the mayor and two of the councilmen. I kept everyone back from touching the spiders here. The poison might be on the skin…”
“Same here,” Katie interrupted. “The spiders turned an old humanoid three-person scout ship into an eight-spider ship. We got them. All are okay. One local injured. Elder Stow shot down the ship when it tried to take off. It exploded so we have no way of knowing if they contacted the mother ship or not. Over.”
“The mayor claims three dead between the inn and where you went. It appears as if the spiders zeroed in on us at the inn. You don’t suppose they are after us, do you? Over.”
“Doubt it,” Katie responded. “They probably scanned the area and picked up our advanced metals or maybe Elder Stow’s energy signal and came to check it out. Over.”
“You make them sound more intelligent than I wanted to give them credit for…”
“We will be back shortly,” Katie interrupted. “Try and keep the people there away from the spider bodies until we get there. We have to clean up this mess first. Out.”
Lincoln switched off and found Sukki and Nanette both floating a few feet off the ground. Sukki could fly. Nanette could lift herself by her telekinetic magic, but the locals would not know the difference. Between the two of them, they got the astounded local men to fetch the tools to dig a hole, at least six feet deep. The local women had taken the wife and servants inside the inn. One of the members of the village council had the body of the innkeeper taken away to rest with the other dead. That still left a second councilman and the mayor to complain, though they did not complain too loudly. They understood what the hole was for. By twilight, the men had a hole about as tall as a man. Nanette used her magic to lift the dead spiders, one at a time, and place them in the hole. The men began to shovel the dirt back in, and Katie walked up with the others. She turned to Nanette.
“We could have used you at the crash site. We did not dig nearly as deep to bury the babies, and there was not anything we could do about the crashed ship other than rope it off and tell people not to go there until the Kairos could come and decide how to handle it.
“I thought the little ones took such things to Avalon,” Nanette said.
“True, but there were not any elves, dwarfs, fairies, or goblins around to ask about it, and with Boston gone, we have no way of contacting any.”
Sukki came up and looked at Katie and Nanette. She shivered and said quietly, “I hate spiders.”
The Kairos, the travelers, the Masters, and the spiders all come to the same town, but it appears the spiders have a target. Until then, Happy Reading