In the year of our Lord
Eighteen Hundred and Ninety One
This September Seventh
Rúa Pai Crespo, 30
By the time we reached our anchored ship, it was thundering and we were drenched, but not in spirit, only in clothing.
I slammed the hatch shut after we climbed inside and sealed it tight.
Wells activated the air pumps and fresh air began to channel throughout the control room. He looked at me and I ran to the drophatch, kicked it open with my right foot, then dropped down the metal ladder to the floor below. I ducked to avoid banging my head on the overhead struts, and ran to the rear where we kept our armament controls.
I felt a jerking sensation and the Master of the World began to rise from the ground, its anchor having withdrawn from the rock it had embedded within.
I felt another jerk and swayed to the right slightly as Wells steered us towards Madrid. Another jerk and I knew we were accelerating. We couldn't go top speed in the atmosphere because of air drag and our superstructure wasn't streamlined for that kind of flying. In space, it didn't matter so much because there was no air resistance, just the occasional meteorite and dust, for which our outer skin was well protected.
I felt another jerk and I knew Wells was sealing all our ports withe metallic glass that Fornier and I had come up with. It adjusts to whatever ray is striking it and nullifies it. Perfect for space travel, and avoiding death by ray blasts. Which, if you read about our earlier journeys, we took a few.
I threw open the final hatch and sealed it.
Worst case scenario, if we went down, I could jettison this portion of the craft. It had its owns propulsive system and would gently land me without harm, reasoning that no one was trying to blow me up during the process, which in this case, was not very likely.
Wells and I had run these scenarios so many times in the past, whether it was outer space invaders or earthly, that we had it down to a routine. We weren't fearless, just seasoned.
I threw myself into my control seat and powered up the board before me, watching all the red lights flashing and dials moving from red towards green.
The main one I was concerned with was not our ray machine. We had learned that lesson. If we threw something like that at the Invader, they would detonate a nuclear bomb. I don't know why that reaction is caused, perhaps something about the energies is agitative to them, or harmful, other than it destroys the metal of their craft, if such it was.
But since it didn't destroy their craft, then it had to mean, which we didn't know at that time, that their craft was resistant to all forms of radiation.
I tested the sights on our cannon. And smiled like a pirate about to board a captured galleon. "Alright, Mon Cher, let's see you kick up those legs." I purred at my controls for the weapons. They were explosive, hollow shelled weapons that struck a hard surface, then drilled through it and exploded. We hadn't tried them last time. This time we would.
It's about 618 kilometers to Madrid from where we started. Our airspeed was just below the speed of sound, and with the awkward thunderstorms going on, we might be forced to go even slower. We could rise above the storm, but that risked our being seen by the Invader craft, which I am sure had advanced siting mechanisms. Our best bet was to hug the terrain, keeping below the horizon so that our advance was unseen.
I feared for Madrid, but it was the best we could do.
I slipped a tiny device into my ear that Edison had named the earphone. It was capable of picking up and broadcasting any sound that issued from my mouth or another's connected to me.
"Jules!" Came a tiny reply in my ear.
"How's the time?"
I should never have asked. The ship was rocked by a violent surge of air currents outside. For a moment the power blinked off, then it came back on as new circuits over rode the old.
"Gonna have to check on the conduits." I told Wells.
"I'm staying close to ground. It's going to be rough."
"Tell me something I want to know."
"We're going to blast those bastards into kingdom come or wherever it is they go to after they die." He swore.
"Merci! Such a bloody instinct in an Englishman."
"Bloody right there is." Wells laughed. "Now scoot that scrawny butt and make sure we don't power down!"
"Aye, aye, Mon Capatain!" I replied, smearing my English with as much nasal French as possible.
He laughed again, then I lost contact with him as I launched myself back into the corridor again. I raced along it for five sections, then stopped before a huge red panel. It had a plate over it declaring. "Enter at your own risk. Danger."
"As if." I replied to no one listening, then unclamped the locks on it, and ducked inside. Immediately clouds of thick black smoke wafted into my face. I began coughing violently. I withdrew hurriedly, the slammed the hatch shut. I gasped for air a moment, then reached to a second door next to it that was inset about four feet above the paneled flooring. I threw open its lock and reached in, pulling out an oxygen mask.
We hadn't been forced to use these since our first trip to Mars during our first expedition some years back in another life, another lifetime, another time and space.
I strapped it on, looked around frantically a moment, then remembered the green panel. I rushed to it, punched a control on its right and a fire extinguisher came into view. I gripped it firmly, then ran back to the red hatch, flung it open and began blasting away with the extinguisher as I pushed myself deeper into the skin of our ship.
I did not have to go far to see the problem.
About five yards to the right, the main conduit had been shorted. I could see a burn mark from the skin to it. We had been struck by the Invader after all, but though our ship's skin is powerfully protected, in this case it wasn't enough. It had to have been a direct strike for it to pass through the skin without harming it directly.
The skin is self healing. Once an opening or tear is made, it self seals within seconds. An invention that I and Wells with the help of a Russian scientist, Germain Herni Hess, who had discovered how to blend copper and iron such that their properties became alive, almost sentient. He called the combination a living metal, much like the rumored metal of the Atlanteans, who had ships that could travel the stars, the depths of the oceans and our skies as safely as you or I might walk down the street to our neighborhood store.
I pressed a hand against the rupture and it was as smooth as silk. The self healing process was working, albeit not enough to save the conduit.
I went below the conduit and turned off a series of connections. The smoke began to subside. I switched on several overhead blowers that sucked up the smoke and vented it outside. In a few minutes the smoke was gone. I took off my mask and took a breath. It was breathable again. The temperature had dropped as well.
It must have been over a hundred and forty degrees when I first entered and was now about a cool hundred, according to the readouts on the wall above the conduit. I clicked the readout with a finger and it dropped another five.
In another twenty minutes a man could sleep here safely.
I gazed at the fried conduit. It was a main circuit. I was thinking what on the ship could I sacrifice to repair our main power supply.
"Main conduit fried."
Silence, then. "How long till back ups drop?"
I pulled out my pocket watch to note the time.
"Twenty. Maybe eighteen if I'm off on the time a bit."
"We'll never make it to Madrid in time."
"We'll make it. What can we lose?"
"You rascal. You're going to mangle your toy."
"Our toy now, dear one."
Wells laughed. "If Honorine could hear you now she would get jealous."
"She gets jealous any time I mention you already."
Wells sighed. "Very well. Food refrigeration."
"Oh! Qui! But of course! You are a genius, Wells! I could kiss you!"
"Please, spare me!"
I laughed, then ran from the power room.
I launched myself towards the other end of the ship, which was directly beneath the control cabin. I reached a hatch there and expected it to open effortlessly as had the others.
"Merde!" I swore.
"Frigeration hatch is frozen."
"We haven't the time to do this nice."
I nodded. I ran back half way along the corridor and opened, fortunately, effortlessly our munitions supply cabinet. Inside were shaped charges. I seized one, then began whittling it down by hand. I had to be careful as it was highly sensitive. An electric shock detonated it, but even a too hard scrape of nails could explode it.
Finally, it was the size I needed. Then I repeated the process again two more times. I was sweating the whole time, not because of the warmth, but because I could have ignited the explosives any one of those times.
When I was finished, I almost collapsed from exhaustion, but I forced myself to turn around and run back to the frigeration unit door.
I gently pressed the charges over each of the door clamps, pressed an electronic detonator into each, then set them for five seconds, and activated them.
I ran several yards, flung open a door and ducked inside the same time as an explosion lit up the corridor with smoke and debris. The opened door clinked and clanked from metal striking it.
I waited just a moment longer, then rushed back.
There was the opening I required.
"You alright, Jules?"
"Yes, but our petite ship is not liking us much right about now."
"Yes. I know. But pray it doesn't have to be tougher."
I rushed inside to do the job.
"How much time left?"
I pulled out my pocket watch and looked at the minute hand. "Five minutes."
"And if we don't make it?"
"Spain will get the coolest fireworks it's ever had as Master of the World impacts the mountains below and blows them to hell and back!"
"Merde!" Wells swore.