(Author’s Note)… Yes, I am still posting chapters of the fourth book in my action/humor science fiction series. Don’t worry if you don’t know what is going on. Or, you can order the first three books from my sidebar—> over there—>
A new view was broadcast throughout the cosmos from another Reporter that hovered discreetly behind the rest of the Avengers and other Universe Company personnel on the far side of the landing field. The Reporter zoomed in on the office complex in the distance, and there was the outside of the lobby, windows broken and grey smoke pouring out.
Arthur’s friends went, to put it in human terms, nuts. They began racing across the landing field to try to help Arthur and the others who had been caught in the explosion, but they were cut off by the arrival of Universe Company fire fighting vehicles and security officers who kept them at a safe distance. Some of the security staff seemed particularly interested in making sure the second Reporter didn’t get too close to the smoking building, putting themselves between it and the scene and shouting at it to let the fire fighters do their job.
Of course you, being as brilliant as you are, have no doubt figured out exactly what Arthur did. But just in case you missed a few of the minor details, I will break it down for you.
Arthur had sent Mr. Toad and Gup out on very specific missions. Mr. Toad alerted the fire crews and the security contingent to prepare to move in rapidly when they heard the blast, and for some of the security team to keep any other Reporters as far away as possible. Then he ran to get Frodo and fill him in on the plan. He remained outside to coordinate the deception.
Meanwhile, Gup ran to the armory and gathered up a flash-bang grenade and some smoke grenades. Then he and Frodo slipped back into the lobby, staying out of the Reporter’s line of sight, to wait for Arthur’s signal. When Arthur yelled that the bomb was going to go off, they leapt into action.
From underneath the Reporter Gup pulled the pin and tossed the flash-bang grenade up into the air where it went off with a satisfying and somewhat terrifying flash and bang directly under and slightly in front of the Reporter. While this was going on, Frodo spread out a thick tarp in his four hands, and just as the grenade detonated, he jumped high into the air and wrapped the tarp around the Reporter. What he wasn’t expecting was for the globe’s antigrav to be so strong. Instead of pulling the Reporter down with him he ended up dangling from the bottom edges of the tarp, his feet still well off the floor.
Gup followed the painfully loud and bright explosion by tossing three smoke grenades under the windows. As they spewed forth their white-grey clouds, Gup broke out the windows that overlooked the landing field with a hammer he had put in his pocket. And so it was that nearly everyone was convinced that Arthur Blacke and a few of his friends had been blown to bits.
There was some confusion in the room because neither the two Xxos nor the two Reavers had been aware of the plan. As soon as his ears stopped ringing, Arthur shushed the quartet, just in cast the Reporter was still sending out the audio from inside its canvas prison. Then, as the smoke began to thin upon being drawn out through the broken windows, he spotted Frodo hanging in the air. In a hoarse whisper he told the Warlord to help Frodo drag the canvas covered globe to a closet or somewhere it could be kept in the dark, if you will pardon my little attempt at comedy. Arthur couldn’t afford to let it broadcast for a while. He hoped the globe would understand that it was all in the name of operational security.
As soon as the Reporter was gone, Arthur snapped at Rubar, “Okay, let’s see what your guy can do.”
Despite two backup detonation booby traps, Rubar’s ‘bomb guy’ deactivated the device in less than two minutes. During that time they heard the fire trucks pull up out front, and just moments later water began to spray into the room. That inconvenienced the bomb guy, but it didn’t slow him down. The water also didn’t do anything to slow down the smoke grenades, but these were going to run out of smoke on their own soon enough.
As soon as the bomb was rendered safe Arthur released his hold on Jon with a sigh of relief. He could barely move his cramped fingers. Jon just stood still, head bowed, though Arthur was sure he could move if he wanted to. The General wrapped some tentacles around Big Jonny and pulled him away from Arthur. The Warlord gripped Jon’s other arm. Arthur motioned for everyone to follow him and led them further into the evacuated building. They needed to stay out of sight.
Just moments after they left, the smoke grenades emptied and the smoke cleared, and Mr. Toad had an unenviable task to perform. He had to convince the fire fighters to help perpetuate the myth that Arthur was dead. Fortunately, they were all so glad to hear that Arthur was alive that they were thrilled to help. It didn’t hurt that they were all paid by the Universe Company, and it was all in a good cause anyway. They dutifully carried in body bags, loaded them with cushions from the couches and chairs in the lobby, and brought them back outside where they laid them out in a neat row. There was one for Arthur, one for Jon, two for Reavers that everyone had seen enter the building just a while before, and two really big ones for the Xxos. No one had noticed Gup and Frodo slipping back into the building, so Mr. Toad figured that was enough.
The somber sight of those six black vinyl bags, one of them supposedly containing the earthly remains of the universe’s hero, was enough to cause a pall of gloom to descend over everything. Well, not over the approaching invasion fleet of course, but other than that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, as the saying goes.
As Arthur and his not-quite-dead companions walked down the deserted hallway, Arthur apologized for not warning them about his deception. They all agreed that it was a brilliant if startling plan. “Rubar, you look good in prisoner orange,” Arthur teased the formidable mercenary.
The Reaver fingered his bright coveralls and with a laugh, said, “Hey, I was born to wear a uniform. What can I say? But seriously, you won’t be sorry for giving us this chance. We consider you to be our battle commander. You are a true warrior and a good man. And our planet is in the same danger as the rest.”
Arthur also thanked the bomb expert, who simply replied, “It was an honor, Sir.”
The General and the Warlord pulled Big Jonny along between them. He was still wearing the disabled explosives on a belt strapped under his jacket.
As they walked, Arthur unveiled the next stage of his plan, which was as far as he had thought it out himself. “We need to get on the Orion without being spotted.” That was easily accomplished as it turned out. They simply walked to the rear of the building and commandeered a small cargo truck. Then they drove by a roundabout route and parked on the far side of the cargo vessel, where they entered the ship through a cargo hatch.
A young cargo officer had the shock of his life to see his boss still alive. When they had calmed him down, they sent him off to find the Captain and Jimmy and tell them to return to the Orion immediately. Frodo also ran off to gather up the other seven Reavers and Ooox, Arthur’s bodyguard.
Captain Hulls and Jimmy arrived, and Jimmy gave Arthur a spontaneous hug. Soon after that, Ooox and the Reavers were brought on board. Ooox was embarrassed by his failure to protect Arthur.
“I never saw it coming, buddy, so how could you have?” said Arthur simply, casting a sad glance at Big Jonny where he stood, silent and subdued, still being held by the two Xxos.
The Orion slipped silently and unnoticed into the sky without a word to anyone.