Chapter 23

A long passage through the Delfinian Battleship

Eddy and Rima walked through a double-door chamber separating the flight control room from the rest of the ship. They stood a moment and looked around a long domed area about the size of an extra large indoor gym. Six of the big land-based joy beam cannons were evenly spaced along one side, three joy generators and a computer station were on the opposite side. Large color-coded electric cables and piping were taped all over the floor. They passed by a hand painted number one location sign at the first ladder going downward. Small islands of bare floor showing through the maze of cables and tubing provided stepping spaces they occasionally had to jump to as they made their way toward the far bulkhead wall that had a hand-painted number two over a central door.

“All these taped down wires and the huge room makes this place seem more like it’s ready for a rock‘n roll concert than a war,” Rima whispered in awe, looking at the tremendous amount of work done in such a short time.

“I wonder what it looks like down below where the Delfinians are working,” Eddy said. Turning to one of the crew he asked if the second ladder was past the door labeled number two.

“Yep, halfway through the doors under that hand painted number two is the ladder you are looking for,” answered an attractive woman, who was running computer simulation tests. A large screen animation showed one of the defense cannons turning to evaporate a storm hurled at the ship by Doom Cloud.

They stepped through a double door chamber into another identical and huge domed room with six more joy beam cannons along the same side as room number one. Toward the rear was yet another bulkhead wall with a hand-painted number three written over the door. The second ladder had a large number two painted on the wall next to it. “Who ever did the painting wanted to make sure you found this ladder,” Rima observed, with a smile.

Eddy peered down the ladder that was interrupted by a landing at each level. “The wrungs are a little further apart than a human ladder,” he said. “These must be handholds for Delfinians when this is full of water.”

“It’s a little bit of a stretch,” Rima agreed standing next to Eddy and looking down. “I don’t think it will be any trouble, though.”

“Let’s go look at one of the big joy beam cannons before we go down,” Eddy suggested. He saw the questioning look Rima gave him. “The captain said we have plenty of time, we can make it quick,” he said, darting off toward the nearest canon.

Each joy beam cannon was mounted to an airtight ball swivel that joined the canon tip to an open porthole allowing unobstructed outward passage for the actual beam. At the back of the canon was a seat, control levers, and a computer display screen. The control seats at the back of each cannon were mounted on a three dimensional slide and swivel mechanisms resembling an observatory telescope mount.

“How many rooms like this are there?” Eddy asked the cannon operator.

“Ten,” the gunner replied. “They are the rooms where the delfinians slept in semi hibernation as they traveled. Now there are ten heavy weapon batteries of six cannons each plus four smaller pods reserved for defensive work.”

“Are all the large joy beams on the same side?” Rima asked.

“Yes. That’s right,” the gunner answered. “This ship shoots from one side. The computers take care of everything at first, that way all the weapons are working together on the plan Commander Walker has worked out. If we can’t stop that thing out there, then we change over to manual and spray hot spots like it was a fire. Would you like to climb up and see the Doom Cloud image screen?”

“Do we have time?” Rima asked.

“Sure,” Eddy answered. “We can take a quick look.”

They climbed up next to the operator. The monitor screen showed Doom Cloud less than halfway to the sun, a small part of the sun itself was obscured.

“What’s that white line around Doom Cloud?” Rima asked.

“That’s how big it was when the fleet first started fighting. They’ve knocked it down quite a bit, I’d say.”

“No kidding!” Eddy said excitedly. “The fleet has beaten it down a lot, and look how it’s ragged and lumpy instead of smooth and round.”

“Yeah, they evaporated it down to less than two thirds the original diameter and the biggest volume was in the outer third. But don’t let those lumps fool you, that’s where the storm bolts come out to swallow the ships. Doom Cloud is still huge. It’s still almost half as big as the sun. One of those storm bolts could wipe out the entire battle fleet if it weren’t for the joy beam cannons.”

Rima shot a worried glance to Eddy. “We should hurry to your ship to make sure all the systems check.”

Eddy nodded and climbed down, followed by Rima. They thanked the gunner and walked to the ladder. Eddy looked over the edge, “You go first. Okay?”

Looking at him quizzically she stepped back so he could go first. “Why are you blushing, Eddy?”

“Me?” Eddy asked. Feeling his cheeks and neck grow hot, he pointed to the ladder stammering, “Well, umm, when we climbed down from the cannon I, er, well, I noticed you have pretty legs, and, um, you’re a girl, and…..” he stop talking and grinned sheepishly.

“You go first,” he said, again glancing at her bemused expression before looking away and pretending to be interested in the wiring taped to the floor.

Rima surprised herself when she, too, suddenly blushed. “I’m not a girl,” she said sternly, I’m a young woman on a dangerous mission to save the planet.”

“See what I mean?” Eddy said. “That makes it even worse. You go first.”

Rima looked at Eddy, “You’re being goofy,” she said with a friendly smile. “It doesn’t make any difference who goes first, but I will.” Then she laughed out loud and began climbing downward.

"Now I can check out your butt." She called upward and started laughing so much she had to stop to look again how far it was to the bottom. Rima was still laughing softly but concentrated on the wide spaces between ladder rungs.

Eddy listened to her still chuckling below him and wondered if he should be dismayed or embarrassed at his own awkwardness. Either way, he didn’t have time to dwell on much other than concentrating on the tricky ladder. It seemed a long struggle but actually only took them a few minutes to climb all the way down and stand at the docking bay door. Rima opened the door for Eddy, she was still smiling and chuckling and gave him a slight head nodding bow as they stepped through the door.

They stopped and stared when they were inside. They were in a well-lit room about the size of a small barn.

Admiral One sat on its landing gear glistening under bright lights. “It’s beautiful,” Rima whispered.

Eddy closed the door to the ladder and they both raced to the sleek ship's boarding ramp.

continue to Boarding the Admiral’s ship Chapter 24