A Kind of Small Crow: Part 2

I wasn’t worried about the communicators’ encryption. I’d only put them together last spring. It wasn’t as if they were old League technology that everyone had analyzed thirty years ago.

Maybe I should have been worried more. The communicators were based on the roachbots, and Grandpa had designed the first versions of the roachbots in the 1950’s as mobile bugging devices.

I’d updated them substantially over the past year though. Grandpa’s design survived only in the most general terms.

All the details of the current systems were mine.

Of course, the communicators still connected to the League’s old alert system. That might be a vulnerability.

I thought about that.

The deep rumble of Travis’ voice came over the communicator. “Do you have anything concrete, Rocket?”

That yanked me back to reality. “Uh… No, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. I can think of possible vulnerabilities, but I don’t know they’re really vulnerable. The most I can say for sure is that I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Someone (Marcus?) made a noise somewhere in between a snort and a chuckle.

Travis exhaled. “Alright. Your bad feeling’s been noted, but now we’ve got to decide whether we go in or not.”

Cassie’s voice came over the speaker, but without her typical optimism. “I’d say not.”

That was a shock. Her time in D.C. must have been quite an experience.

“Look,” Cassie said, “I’ve fought the Nine twice now. Both times they had a lot more behind them than I expected. Let’s see what the roachbots turn up, and then go in.”

Marcus spoke up, “I was there the last time, Night Wolf. They had paralysis guns that the Rocket’s devices couldn’t block, and I’m betting they still can’t, right?”

“Right,” I said.

“Just by luck,” Marcus continued, “I was the only guy who could move after that. I’d say we shouldn’t move in unless we’ve got a plan to avoid being hit.”

The sound of wind and Vaughn’s voice broke in at exactly the same time. “Shift’s right,” Vaughn said. “Night Wolf, you’ve got no idea how close it was. I mean no idea.”

Travis said, “Night Cat, you’re the only one who hasn’t said anything.”

Haley went quiet for a couple seconds, and then started talking all at once. “I didn’t think Ridgeback was all that hard, but if what they’re saying is true, I don’t want to walk into a trap.”

“OK,” Travis said, sounding a little surprised. “Then we’d better get out of here before they notice. I’ll start. Rocket, give us a couple minutes before you pull out, and check on the roachbots we sent in.”

“Sure,” I said.

“I’m doing it right now—just like I’ve been doing it,” Haley said. “He doesn’t need to.”

So that was pretty crazy. We were doing the sensible thing. It was as if we were in a horror movie where the characters said, “Hey, instead of learning the dark secrets of the haunted house we just bought, why don’t we leave, and sell the place?”

I felt pretty good for all of a second—because then I remembered that when people started doing things that sensible, it almost always resulted in all hell breaking loose.

I pulled out my roachbot controller, and checked the bots. I wasn’t going to take them over, but I wanted to find out where they were going.

Notices began to scroll up the screen:

[Connection Successful: Bot499]
[Connection Successful: Bot500]
[Connection Successful: Bot502]
[Connection Successful: Bot512]…

A little bit of fiddling with the controller’s buttons gave me a view of one of the vents, but disappointingly, no conversations. I started to switch from one viewpoint to another when more messages started.

[Connection Lost: Bot499]
[Connection Lost: Bot500]
[Connection Lost: Bot502]
[Connection Lost: Bot512]…

At that moment, I began to have that horrible sinking feeling a person gets when everything goes horribly wrong, and you know you don’t know how bad it’s going to get yet.

I clicked on the van’s communicator on the League’s open frequency, “Night Cat, can you connect to the bots? I can’t.”

Haley’s voice came over the speaker, but with noticeably more white noise than usual. “I can’t either. You didn’t change anything?”

“Nothing,” I began.

Travis said, “Shit!”

Across the street, the Wolfmobile whipped out of its parking space, all black, headlights blazing, and moving through Lakeside Lounge’s parking lot at a speed much faster than the recommended ten miles per hour or less.

At the same time, the van’s screen switched from GPS to radar, and began beeping while the word “Alert!” appeared again and again across the bottom.

On the screen, jagged graphics of bird shaped objects dove toward the van.

25 thoughts on “A Kind of Small Crow: Part 2”

  1. Oh no, they’re giving our heroes the bird!

    Or the bat, if they’re any better at eating roaches.

  2. @Someguy
    They’re a kind of small crow, would be my bet. The question is, ‘What kind?’ I’m betting robot, but I’m not ruling out bio-engineered mutants.

  3. Huh, looks like our little group of ragtag heroes have matured a bit. Doing the smart thing even though it doesn’t seem to have turned out that well either.

    Birdman attacks?

  4. 50 points to LoN for recognizing they’re *ahem* out of their league. 50 point penalty for going after the Nine in the first place after being told to avoid them at all cost. I suspect this is going to be a learning experience. Hopefully everyone will live through it to benefit from the knowledge gained.

    I wonder, is the author going to keep the lighter tone of everyone successfully scraping out of problems or will he go the grittier route that seems to be more popular this day by having one of them permanently injured or killed? Must stay tuned for the next update!

  5. @Luke Licens:
    Ah, but tarsiers have the side benefit of being cute, sort of like tiny vaguely creepy alien teddybears. And they do eat birds, too.

  6. Re: Andrul
    Does Courtney have a last name? (Yes, old, I just remember some spoof on star trek where a guy says, “I can’t go down, I’ll die, I don’t have a last name!” or something to that effect.)

  7. Notto, you’re thinking of Galaxy Quest. They were the actors who played the main cast on their version of Star Trek who got grabbed by some aliens who thought it was real, and then the actor who played something like “Crewman #whatever” who was afraid he’d die first. At one point, when they run into hostile creatures on a planet, Sigourney Weaver’s character says someting to the effect of “We need to leave before they kill that guy.”

    I’d be more worried if any of our heroes were wearing a red shirt.

  8. Galaxy Quest… I enjoyed that movie.

    As for the question of whether Courtney has a last name… Well… I thought I had given her one, but if I did, I didn’t put it in my notes about the character. Hopefully that means I’ve never used it in the story because if I come up with a new one, and it turns out I forgot the old one, that would be embarrassing.

    She’s not wearing a red shirt though, so maybe she’s safe.

  9. What you need, Jim, is a group of people who have read your entire story to help you out.

    Good luck finding those weirdos.

  10. Gosh yeah, Gecko is right, where on earth would you find people who read your entire story? They’d have to be crazy, and do things like, I dunno, post comments and correct your spelling and be named “Insane Lizard” or something.

  11. I know, right? Good thing the Psycho in my name has been previously established to be short for Psychopomp.

    *Puts on a black cloak and grabs a scythe*


  12. When game mastering, it was generally known among my friends that I often came up with everything except for the name, and then winged that one during the game.

    The main results of that were an embarrassingly large number of characters named Tim.

  13. Ah, yes, I remember this. The patented Jim Zoetewey “Get-you-nice-and-comfortable-and-then-throw-a-hundred-plot-twists-at-you-faster-than-you-can-catch-your-breath-from-the-last-one” technique.

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