Chapter 17: Special Delivery
It turned out that the modified RVs had more than enough power to haul up the equipment as long as they took up one at a time and jettisoned almost everything else from the RV that had any weight to it.
Zak, Ethan, Jackson, and Liam had just pushed the first pallet out into the clearing where the shipping docks had once been.
“Is it my imagination or is the Empress getting further away?” Ethan was shielding his eyes, looking into the heart of the storm. You could not see the gaping hole from their vantage point on the ground, but the swirling masses of clouds, cloaked by continuous lightning, like the scene of Mount Doom, clearly marked the center and it looked like the ship was closer to it now that it was to them.
Zak, Liam, and Jackson all looked up and squinted through the rain in the same direction. Jackson spoke first. Zak spoke through the pounding rain into the commlink.
“Jules, what’s your status. Come back.”
“Jules here, sir. It’s getting a bit iffy up here. The down swells and wind shear is almost unimaginable. I’m putting has much power into just holding the ship upright as I am trying to hold our place. Engines are running hot and we are losing ground.”
“You are holding reserves to pull out of this, right.”
“Well, just hang in there, we are almost finished.”
“Just please hurry. It’s hard to predict these winds, sir.”
Jackson spoke up, “There is no question. The ship is getting pulled closer. We may even have to slingshot our way out of this one.”
“Slingshot?” That was a term Liam hadn’t heard before.
Zak looked up from the harness he was preparing. “Yeah, slingshot, Liam. They used to do it with space probes all the time. They would let the space probe get in the gravity well of a planet, like Jupiter and use the acceleration and momentum to fling the probe away from the planet in a different direction and much faster than when it started. NASA was able to make a tiny space probe the size of car visit many different planets using very little fuel. I hope that’s what Jules is planning. I saw the Empress’s power reserves before I came down and it wasn’t pretty.” The concern in his voice was palatable. “Let’s get these pallets out in the clear and get them ready.”
Fortunately, there were two skid lifters nearby and still functional. After clearing debris with shovels and hands, they were able to make a path and from where they had found the pallets almost directly to the shipping docks. It was grueling work but over the next hour and a half they had managed to get five motors and spare parts out into the open.
Jackson Peck continued to check and recheck the pallets and their contents, making them safe for travel. While they were digging through the debris near the pallets, they had also found a motherlode of miscellaneous equipment. Liam had no idea what he was looking at, but the parts seemed to make Doctor Peck and the other engineers very happy.
Liam spoke out “Do you know what all this stuff does?”
“Much of it Liam. Some of it maybe, but there are other items here I can’t even fathom a guess. If we find your father somewhere along the way, I’m sure he can add some light to it. I’m not even sure if it’s all complete or still functional. That’s why we are taking back almost everything we find. We’ve gotten pretty good at scavenging and it’s served us well over the last couple of years.”
Liam chuckled to himself. “I feel like I should be asking for you to sign something or at least getting a receipt for all of this. It is my dad’s company after all!”
“I know how you feel, Liam. However, when we find your dad, he will be grateful to have this stuff rather than having it rot in a factory no one is going to use.” The lightning punctuated his words.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right!” Liam yelled over the driving rain.
Zak heard the call from Kyton come over the comm. “Just to give you an update. Artie is out of surgery. Trish thinks that with rest, he’s going to be fine. The back was not much more than a hairline fracture, so it’s painful but not critical. She managed to get the swelling down in his head, but there will be confusion and disorientation, plus one hell of a headache when he comes out of it. She has him sedated at the moment.”
“That’s wonderful news.”
“Well, the not so wonderful news is we have to step it up, Jules doesn’t have a lot of power left.”
“Yeah, we know. We just talked to Jules a couple of minutes ago. We are harnessing the first load now. The launches can each take a pallet as long as they aren’t carrying much else. We can tag team the pallets and then follow up with a lighter load of miscellaneous stuff on the last load out.” Zak tightened the last of the harnesses as he replied.
“We will be cutting it very close. Jules has maybe an hour’s power before we have to go to plan B.”
“Understand. We are ready on our end. What’s Plan B again?” asked Zak, shouting through the howling winds and blinding rain. He never heard the answer.
Zak climbed into the pilot’s seat on the Tom Sawyer and without any fanfare took off. The harnesses were made from woven fibers that engineers claim were a hundred times stronger than steel so there was no danger of them snapping or tearing. They performed exactly as they should. The launch momentarily struggled when the harness was pulled tight, but with an extra lurch and a groan, the RV managed to lift it from the ground and slowly ascended.
Normally only an idiot would fly a small craft in a hell-storm such as this, but seeing they had no choice, the RV buffeted back and forth in the winds and rain, the launch slowly made its way back to the waiting ship that continued to drift further and further away.
On the ground, Jeremy had been ready with another dose of whatever drug Gus had given him to sedate the monster they had harnessed up on the pallet with the some of the miscellaneous supplies they were taking back. The creature had begun to wake up.
“Yo, Chief, what do you want me to do?” Mr. Weathers was eyeing the creature and the harness that was holding him in place.
Jackson turned from his discussion with Ethan. “Just do as Gus told you.” He yelled over the driving rain, “Jab that needle into his thigh and we can all rest a little easier, including him.” Jackson gestured to the beast.
“I hate needles,” said Jeremy looking at the syringe in his hand.
“I’m sure he isn’t thrilled by them either. But would you rather him wake up? I’m sure he will be mighty glad to have a conversation about it with you!”
“Yeah, Yeah.” Jeremy took aim, but then closed his eyes as he felt the syringe meet flesh. He had his choice between medicine and engineering, right out of high school. His family had graduated many doctors. However, Jeremy Weathers could not stand the sight of blood so his career in engineering was planned from that moment on.
He opened his eyes and saw the creature visibly relax and return to its peaceful slumber. He tossed the now empty syringe behind the pallets remaining to be picked up.
The Becky Thatcher arrived a few moments later and this time they attached the makeshift harness to her undercarriage and without a word, she unceremoniously lifted off again. They didn’t want to be in a ten-meter tin can with that beast if it woke up in the middle of the flight.