You may be wondering why it’s “Canto 11” rather than “Chapter 11”. Well, my novels are supposed to be like long poems, divided into lyrically composed pieces of verbal music. Rather conceited, right? But that isn’t what “literary conceit” has always meant.
Canto Eleven – In Golden Wing One at the Initial Landing Site
Farbick set his Golden Wing down gracefully in the garbage-filled lot next to the large, un-destroyed structure. His ability, unlike that of most Tellerons, came from practice rather than egg-inserted programming from the nurturing computers.
“Oh! I can see why there were so few life signs from the city,” said Starbright. “This plaza is full of skeletons. There must be hundreds of them.”
“Can you tell what they died of?” asked Commander Biznap.
“The air is filled with toxins and pollutants,” said one of the nameless cadets. “It’s why we will have to wear our protective suits and breath masks to disembark.”
“Could it be that that killed them?” asked Biznap.
“Probably not,” said the other nameless cadet.
“It looks like, because all of the skeletons are intact, that they died of some kind of virulent disease,” said Starbright. “We can’t tell for sure without further examination, though.”
“We will take every precaution, then,” ordered Commander Biznap. Farbick thought the order probably reflected the fact that Biznap’s mission on Earth had failed due lack of proper planning and fore-seeing of the unforeseeable.
“Hostile environment suits and skortch pistols?” asked Farbick. He hated skortch pistols. They were actually molecular disintegrator rays, and they dissolved you completely, molecule by molecule. He had himself survived being shot on Earth because Earthers used slug-throwers to shoot lead projectiles into you. Bad enough, but they gave a slim chance of surviving. What he thought might be out there, though, made him suggest skortch pistols. Those icky evil things didn’t need a survivability opportunity if they were really going to attack.
“Yes. Get dressed and ready quickly. We need to find them before they find us.”
The team was suited up quickly in heavy-duty Danger Suits, sealed environmental suits with built in A-I intelligence computers and nano-robotic fabric that could repair itself and even treat small wounds. Each Telleron was handed a lethal, humming skortch pistol, fully charged and ready to burn things into dust and smoke in seconds. Farbick hoped he was handing them to Tellerons more capable than poor Corebait, a fellow Sindalusian Fmoog who had accidentally skortched himself back on Earth by shooting into an unfortunately positioned mirror.
“Perhaps Cadet Starbright should stay and guard the ship,” Farbick suggested.
“We could easily guard the ship if we stayed too,” said both of the other cadets.
“No,” said Biznap. “I may need my full available fire-power out there.”
“I couldn’t stay behind and have to worry about the safety of all of the rest of you anyway,” said Starbright bravely.
“Move out,” commanded the Commander. The team of five moved through the air lock and out into the corpse-filled plaza.
“Turn on your cloaking fields,” Biznap commanded. One by one, the Telleron commandos winked out of sight behind their invisibility cloaks. The ship also shivered and disappeared. “Be ready for anything,” warned Biznap’s voice.