Children Of Earth (Tales from the 23rd Century Book 1)

By: Paul J. Fleming

‘Ezri, you’re a very welcome sound to my ears. We’re about to take our leave of the Diner rather hastily via the store room delivery hatch. Can you get a lock on my comm. unit?’

There was a moment's pause before Ezri responded positively, within which Maia arrived at Maddox’s side, clutching the extinguisher she had liberated from its stand.

‘Mind telling me what the hell we are about to do?’ Maia asked with urgency in her voice.

‘Hang on, Ezri get ready for a low pass. We’re going to try a bug-swallow,’ Maddox said as he tried to sound as confident in complete contradiction to the feeling he was having about his current hazardous plan.

‘Bug-swallow?’ came two voices almost in unison over the comms in response to him.

‘Yes, bug-swallow. We’re about to have unpleasant company so I hope you’re going to be passing by very soon,’ Maddox quickly answered as he retrieved the second extinguisher from Maia and tucked the pressurised cylinders under each arm and grasped the hose of each, one in his left hand and one in his right. ‘Maia, for this to work I need you to hold onto me, wrap your legs around my waist as tightly as you can and grab the trigger of each extinguisher with your hands. Whatever you do hang on tight and when I say squeeze those triggers hard. I’ll direct the flow to propel us up and out of the hatch and hopefully away from anyone who might be about to jump us from us there.’

‘Are you completely deranged?’ she asked incredulously, but whilst still harbouring deep seated doubts about this plan she could see no possible alternative aside from throwing herself on the mercy of their impending captors. Even though she was not widely travelled, she knew the stories of how the Martians treated their prisoners from the privateers who passed through the space port where she spent most of her adolescence.

Resigning herself to the rather up close and intimate embrace they had to enact to ensure they were not parted from each other’s company in the effort to escape, she placed her hands upon Maddox’s shoulders and lifted herself off the ground with limited effort in the low gravity well of the asteroid to bring her legs either side of him and wrap around his waist, trying to hook her feet together behind the small of his back. Tensing her thighs against his hips, she released her grip on his shoulders and reached down to grasp the trigger mechanism of the extinguishers in either hand.

‘I’m ready,’ she muttered nervously and then smiled timidly at Maddox through the transparent helmets they both wore. ‘I have to tell you that the last time I wrapped my legs around some bloke I had just met it ended rather badly,’ she said, trying to alleviate the absolute terror which filled her soul with a brief spurt of humour.

Maddox smiled back at her in response, giving her the encouragement she needed to proceed with their endeavour.

‘Okay, I’m fair warned!’ He chuckled back. ‘Let’s hope this proves a more successful experience for us both! Pull the triggers now!’ he instructed as his gaze was drawn upwards and he spotted the silhouette of a humanoid figure appearing over the edge of the now wide open hatchway, weapon being levelled towards the embracing couple in the room below. Without a second thought, Maia squeezed as hard as she could on both triggers which sent a highly pressurised flow of gloopy foam blasting out of the hose of each extinguisher.

Maddox aimed the hoses downward towards the floor by his booted feet and the resultant pressure had the desired effect he had sorely wished for. The embracing escapees were propelled upwards against the limited gravity, erratically veering left and right towards the open hatch and then emerging through the opening trailed by a steady stream of foamy globules which Maddox began to distribute widely as he wiggled the hoses about. It was a side-effect he had not anticipated, but the resultant floating mess in their wake was providing a decent amount of cover between them and the waiting Martians outside the hatch.

‘Hang on!’ he shouted over the comms as energy blasts began to stream about them, the Martians obviously angry at their elusive flight from capture.

Maia released the triggers and threw her arms about his shoulders, hanging on for all her worth.

Realising that the extinguishers were no longer firing and the increased pressure on his chest as his companion seemed to be trying to squeeze the life out of him, Maddox pushed both cylinders downward away from them and towards the assailants who were still persisting in firing energy bolts after them. Maybe plummeting extinguishers would distract them momentarily.

One of the extinguishers strayed into the path of an oncoming bolt of energy, which burnt through the metal body as it struck, causing a sudden burst of foam to fire out of the new opening and the cylinder to spiral downward erratically. The result was the hasty scattering of Martian militia troopers as the distressed projectile descended rapidly towards their assembled ranks. If nothing else it bought them a temporary respite from being shot at.

‘Captain,’ Ezri’s voice broke through his feelings of asphyxiation and grabbed his attention. ‘I have you on the scope above the surface and ascending. I am inbound, have already lowered the loading ramp and raised the cargo nets. I should warn you that if this scheme plays out you will still have a rather painful and impromptu landing however. Estimate recovery in ten.. nine… eight…’