Hidden Pages – Chapter 26 – The Problem With Silence


The hallways in the Reilian ship were death traps, fortunately, Beth was prepared for them.

“Why is everything melting in here?” Lagressa asked as she ran beside Beth down a long corridor whose walls were collapsing into goo.

“Sonic destabilizer,” Beth said, waving the small wand in her hand. With each pulse of the light at its top, the sound of shearing metal came from farther down the corridor and another wall segment ahead of them began to ooze towards the floor, the weapons hidden inside it reduced to a jellified paste.

“How did you get one of those?” Lagressa asked. “And why didn’t you get one for me too?”

“I thought you’d prefer these,” Beth said, tossing a pair of gleaming chrome bracelets over to her companion.

“The runecrafting on them is amazing,” Lagressa said. “I’ve never seen the like.”

“It’s circuitry,” Beth said. “Put them on and bang them together to activate them.”

“What do they do?” Lagressa asked before following Beth’s directions.

“They’re shield bracelets,” Beth said. “Any researcher with a key to the Galactic Library should also have the sense to pack a sonic destabilizer when traveling. Similarly, their protector would need portable defensive devices.”

Gravity inverted as Beth finished speaking and they went from racing down the hallway to falling back in the direction they’d been moving.

Lagressa didn’t waste any time in slamming the bracelets together.

One moment them were plummeting, the next they were suspended in an glistening soap bubble of blue, silver, and teal light.

“I think they know we’re here,” Beth said. “The bracelets should respond to mental commands. See if you can get us to the top of this corridor ok?”

“Yes, they are explaining how they operate to me now,” Lagressa said, sounding slightly distracted.

Beth made a mental note about the dangers in summoning objects whose workings weren’t easily understood. It had never come up in the novels that An’kiira tech like the shield bracelets had expert systems built into them, but then the novels had never ruled it out either.

“It’s growing more difficult to move upwards,” Lagressa said.

Beth glanced down to see if anything was dragging them, but nothing physical had grappled them. Yet.

“It’s the artificial gravity,” Beth said. “They’re turning it up to limit our movement.”

“How much worse can it get?” Lagressa asked.

“Wide field gravity distortions strong enough to break that shield would rip their ship apart,” Beth said.

“That sounds like good news. Now tell me the bad,” Lagressa said.

“Depending on how opposed they are to us being here, they could focus the gravity generator down into a tight beam lance. It would wreck anything in its path, but, well, these are the Reilians. Punching a hole in their own ship to root out a bit of corruption is well within the realm of acceptable losses to them.”

“Do you have a plan for that eventuality?” Lagressa asked.

“Yeah, a gravity lance is difficult to aim. Also they’ll have to focus all of the gravity generator’s power into it, so if we suddenly go weightless…” Beth said and felt the shield sphere accelerate upwards. “Then we need to make ourselves hard to hit! Run!”

“This corridor has us funneled into a very predictable direction,” Lagressa said.

A section of the hall in front of them exploded in a cloud of fine particulars and Beth saw the remains of the walls being sucked out into the vacuum of space. With a sound like a thousand buzzsaws, the corridor began to evaporate as the gravity lance tracked to meet their position.

“Right, can’t go that direction anymore,” Beth said and aimed her sonic destabilizer at a surface of the corridor that was outside the direction the gravity lance was traveling. Lagressa didn’t wait for the wall to disintegrate under the sonic assault but sent the shield sphere bursting through it, deeper into the Reilian ship.

The sound of the gravity lance continued to draw closer as Beth disintegrated walls and floors and ceilings for them to flee through.

“If they destroy this ship trying to capture us, will we be able to execute your plan?” Lagressa asked.

“That would be a problem,” Beth said. “But there is one place they can’t target the gravity lance.”

Beth pointed the sonic at a wall made of grey hexagonal tiles.

“This one is more resistant than the others,” Lagressa said as the wall failed to melt to goop under the beam.

“Yeah, I need to use a different setting,” Beth said. “That’s a good sign, as a note, it means we’re at the right place.”

The wall that was perpendicular to the tiles vanished in a puff of dust as the gravity lance sliced through it effortlessly.

“And that’s a bad sign,” Beth said, smacking the sonic destabilizer with each hit changing the device’s droning hum to a new set of discordant notes.

The gravity lance reached the edge of the shield sphere and the colorful lights shattered into a cloud of angry red sparks.

Beth hit the sonic a final time and its whine dropped into a pure and steady tone.

And the buzzsaw cacophony of the gravity lance went silent.

“They can’t target the lance at the gravity generator itself,” Beth said, pointing at the hexagons which had turned ashen white.

“Unfortunately, they were able to target it at my ship!” Starshine called over the communicators in their space suits.

“Oops,” Beth said. “Is it ok? Can you still fly”

“They clipped me before I got my shields up,” Starshine said. “Engine 2 is offline and I don’t like how the reaction rate is looking in 3 either. Even better though, the force of the gravity pulses on the shields knocked me away from their ship. I’m sorry folks but you’re on your own for getting off that tub. I don’t think I can make it back there before it explodes.”

“Explodes?” Beth asked.

“Yeah,” Starshine said. “It looks like something you did hit one of their munitions bays. There’s a real pretty fire that’s raging out of their ventral side. Good thing you were planning to blow the ship up anyways, right?”

Beth sank against Lagressa’s shoulder. Blowing up the communication ship had to happen after they transmitted the songs to the Reilian fleet. Otherwise there’d be no way to stop them from devastating this entire sector of the galaxy, and that was definitely not how the story was supposed to go!