It was a very civilized highjack. Janip was riding over the wilderness in a small airship, en route to his first meeting with his customer, and the attack began when a flock of flying creatures rose out of the leaf tops and drove straight for the ship. Janip knew something was happening as soon as he realized he was looking at birds. There were no natural birds on Conalia.
The birds ended their drive in a suicide attack on both propellers. The airship came to a halt. Two birds with absurdly exaggerated wingspans descended from some vantage point in the sky and hovered about five hundred meters from the starboard windows-- well beyond the range of any weapons Janip might be carrying. Their wings measured a good ten meters, tip to tip, and they were both carrying small two-handed creatures with brain-machine links fastened to their heads. They banked downward as soon as they had given him a good look and disappeared under the gondola.
“I have encountered a difficulty,” the airship said. “I believe I am under attack. I have signaled for help.”
Janip settled into his seat and transmitted messages to two addresses. He was the only passenger in the gondola. His customer had chartered the ship just for him-- an extravagance that indicated he could have negotiated a higher price when they had haggled over the merchandise he was carrying.
The ship quivered. It floated upward for a second and stopped. The birds’ passengers had obviously attached contacts to the bottom of the gondola. The ship’s control system was trying to gain altitude while it fought a silent battle with an electronic invasion.
The gondola trembled again. The two oversize birds flapped into view, one on each side.
“Good afternoon,” the ship said. “Your ship is now descending. The two riders positioned on the gondola are both armed. They can enter the passenger area at any time and administer a pacifier. Or you can indicate you are willing to follow instructions. The choice is up to you.”
Janip glanced out the window and verified the leaves were getting closer. A wash of enforced calm settled over his emotions. He had experimented with uncontrolled passion when he had been in his twenties but he had installed a full suite of neurological emotional controls when that bit of youthful probing had reached its predestined end.
“You will not encounter resistance,” Janip said. “I can see you’ve taken control of the situation.”
The gondola brushed against wide dark leaves. There were no real trees on Conalia. The tallest organisms on the planet were essentially giant soft-bodied plants. The ship pushed them aside as it descended and hovered a couple of meters above the ground. The rear hatch swung open. A ladder extended.
“If you will please descend,” the ship said, “it will save us the trouble of boarding.”
A man and a woman stepped into view as he backed out of the hatch. They both had functional, sparsely utilitarian brain-machine links on their heads and swivel-mounted laser-electric stunners in their hands. Sighting glasses hid their eyes. They escorted him to an all-terrain vehicle with oversized wheels and Janip entered the first stage of his captivity.
Copyright 2009 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.
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