CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN (draft)

12K 855 84

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

About twenty minutes later, as we still have no solution to getting past this hot zone boundary fence, I risk doing something a little crazy.

I approach one of the “recessed mushroom” drones that’s cleverly resting in its launch pad—or whatever the hole-in-the-concrete thing underneath it is. And then, taking a deep breath, I put my foot down on top of the drone.

“Hey! Watch it, there, careful,” Ethan says to me. He’s been observing me silently for the last few minutes.

But, nothing happens to me. So I press down harder with my foot, then take a step and stand on top of the slightly curving surface.

“Oh, no! What are you doing?” Zoe says. “What if you activate it and it explodes or starts firing?”

The drone is circular, curved slightly like an upside-down plate, or a classic warrior shield, only about four feet in diameter, like an oversized large manhole cover.

I stand with both feet on it, testing its resilience. There is lack of give, which is good.

And then I sing an F Major, followed by the rest of the keying sequence.

Yeah, I’ve assumed this thing is made of orichalcum.

Everyone stares at me like I’m crazy. Candidates turn in my direction. Jaws drop.

With a soft lurch, the drone rises and hovers about a foot over the launch pad, with me standing up on its mushroom-cap shaped surface.

I balance with my hands, starting to flail slightly, and my usual terror of heights kicks in . . . plus I am not in my best physical shape right now. And the weight of the automatic rifle on my shoulder is pulling me off-kilter.

But I steel myself and sing the rising object sequence, my voice soaring an octave higher. The drone begins to rise, carrying me with it.

I start to close my eyes in that automatic response to the terror of vertigo.  Soon I am rising over the barbed wire top end of the fence and over the beacons along the boundary.

As I pass the beacons, my yellow token flashes brightly as I get auto-scanned by the zone boundary. . . .

The choice before me is to go straight ahead and over the I-10 freeway with its six lanes of onrushing traffic in both directions, while balanced on top of a flimsy rounded slippery object not designed to be ridden. Or I can direct the “drone-board” to go to the right, over the Atlantic Boulevard traffic with half the lanes but equally-rush-hour levels of vehicles in both directions. Then I would still have to cross the freeway somehow, later, but under less pressure to stay upright on the surface of a flimsy drone. . . .

A Greek mythology reference comes to me. Scylla or Charybdis, Gwen Lark. . . . Scylla or Charybdis.

What would Odysseus do?

I think Odysseus would do the smart thing. . . . I bet he’d take the easier crossing on Atlantic Boulevard.

But considering that I am this close to passing out, this close to being on my last strength here, the smart thing would be just to go forward as far as I can, while I still can.

Damn, but I should have sat down on that drone instead of trying to balance on it while standing upright.

Well, too late now. . . .

I think this as I start moving the drone forward over the twelve lanes of freeway.

* * *

The next two minutes are the longest minutes of my life. The drone, with me riding it, sails very slowly over the San Bernardino Freeway.

QUALIFY: The Atlantis Grail (Book One)Read this story for FREE!