Chapter 1: Death on Aurora
Copyright© 2005 by Porlock
Sex Story: Chapter 1: Death on Aurora - A small group of humans is trapped on a world whose inhabitants are intelligent wolves. They travel to worlds of other universes to defeat an enemy who schemes to bring down the transdimensional trading companies who are coming to dominate our world's economy.
"Down a couple of hundredths."
Mike Benson's easy drawl sounded tinnily in Phil's earphone. Luana moved the leveling rod barely enough for it to be out of the way and he let the sledge drop, tapping the wooden hub a fractional amount deeper into the sandy soil. Taking care to keep the rod plumb, she set it back where Mike could take another reading through the level.
Beads of sweat trickled down Phil's nose and chin from under the band of his yellow foam helmet. Other rivulets gathered and ran along his ribs. Damp splotches appeared on his long-sleeved shirt each time he moved, fading quickly as the moisture was sucked up by the dry air. He squinted through darkly tinted wrap-around lenses against the glare of Aurora's blue-white sun as Luana poised the rod carefully plumb for Mike to read through his level. For the hundredth time he wondered just what he was doing here. His job was supposed to be investigating frauds and catching criminals, not taking part in the exploitation of an alien planet.
"That's good," Mike reported. "Perfect, even. That's the last one. We can pack it in now, it's plenty late enough. I know you two eager beavers would rather keep at it a little longer, but if you'll put the gear away we've got just enough time to watch them pour those footings we staked out yesterday. Hey! Wait for me!"
By the time he finished talking, Luana was already halfway back to the miniature rolligon that was the company's solution to the problem of what to use for a survey vehicle, out here on the level plains where there were no roads. Phil was close behind. He'd tried in vain to muster up feelings of disapproval for the way she dressed, the first week or two that he'd been on the crew, only to end up appreciative instead.
Her chocolate skin, burned even darker than its normal shade by exposure to Aurora's fervent sun, was oiled with a light sheen of perspiration until it gleamed richly in the burning sunlight. Her ragged denim cut-offs and flimsy bandanna halter were hardly more than a token concession to working on a mixed survey crew, but he had to admit that she was a good kid and a skilled, willing worker. He got along well with her, too. They even laughed at each others' jokes, even if she wasn't much more than half his age.
"What's this about a pour?" Phil asked as he stowed his gear in the back of the rolligon, biting off a few swear words as his bare wrist came in contact with the sun-heated metal. With his blond hair and fair skin he had to be careful to stay protected against Aurora's harsh sunlight with dark glasses and long sleeves. Even his hard hat had air vents and a wide brim, specially designed for use under these conditions. "They going to mix the stuff here, or truck it in from base?"
"Neither one." Mike chuckled, sun-faded blue eyes alight with good humor. "You'll see in a few minutes."
"You're being mean," Luana chided, her face wrinkled into a mock pout. "Go ahead and tell him, Mike."
"Nope. Let him guess." He handed around containers of chilled water, and they all drank deeply to replace at least a part of the moisture they'd lost while working.
The rolligon bounced and swayed across the level prairie under Mike's expert guidance. A faint hiss of escaping steam from its power plant was the only man-made sound, barely noticeable even in the desert stillness as the vehicle's air-filled rollers soaked up most of the bumps. The air conditioner labored to pull heat out of the cab, and in minutes the sweat no longer poured from them. All around them the air was clear, with no trace of the pollution problem that was finally being beaten back on Earth.
They entered what had once been a box canyon with sheer walls. It had been carved by heavy machinery and reshaped into a gigantic funnel, the wide end open to the prairie. When their work here was done, helicopters would herd Aurora's long-horned bison, larger versions of the animals that had roamed America's prehistoric West, through it to their doom. A trans-dimensional portal would gulp them down as fast as they came, spewing them out into the stockyards of Earth to help feed its ever-hungry billions.
They paused at the crest of a low ridge that jutted out from one canyon wall, and Phil watched with unfeigned interest the busy scene spread out before him. He'd worked on construction projects before, but not for several years and never on one away from the planet Earth. To his left the power plant and control house were taking shape, but right now all of the activity was centered around a level area directly in front of him. Here, walls of dirt and rock narrowed the gap to a few scant meters of level ground, flanked by stubs of supporting posts that would eventually anchor the framework for a trans-dimensional portal similar to the one that had brought all of them here. Between the posts an expanse of wooden forms and steel reinforcing rods waited. Workers were ready with spreaders and vibrators, poised to guide and channel the torrent of gray cement to every corner of the foundation. Phil looked around, but could see no sign of the trucks that should already be approaching with the mix. As far as he could see, the grassy plain outside the canyon was empty of all life.
"But, where are the..."
He cut the question short as he glimpsed a sudden movement in the air above the waiting men. It was as though the ever-present heat waves had thickened and curdled, rippling and spreading like oil on water until a dull silver disk a couple of meters across hung suspended a little more than head-high, parallel to the ground. If he'd been closer, he knew that he would have been able to hear a deep droning hum, rising to a high-pitched whine and fading out as the disk expanded and solidified.
"A trans-dimensional portal!" He joined in with Mike and Luana's laughter at his reaction to the sight. "I should have known that's how they would do it."
Somewhere else, either back on Earth or else on a planet of some other dimensional universe, a prosaic cement plant was getting ready to dump the mix into a waiting portal. Phil watched, fascinated, as the sluggish gray mud poured from the under side of the disk. Men sprang into action as the stream cut off, starting again to pour the concrete into another section of the forms. The concrete piled up, then as the stream shifted again everything seemed to happen at once.
Liquid concrete, splintered wood and lengths of metal rod flew in all directions. The silvery disk seemed to crumple in the instant before it disappeared, exposing a scene of devastation. The rolligon rocked and bucked from the echoing shock waves that were almost too loud to hear. With a roar of outrage, Mike hurled the little vehicle down the uneven slope, slewing it to a stop near a group of crumpled bodies.
"Phil! Grab the first aid kit. Luana, take the buggy up on the ridge and see if you can contact base. No, cancel that! They knew something went wrong when their portal blew."
They hurriedly checked the nearest bodies. One was dead, his skull crushed by a flying timber. The others were unconscious, but none of them seemed to be critically injured. Hasty first aid was given, and they fanned out to check the other casualties. Phil reached the foreman as he staggered to his feet.
"You all right?"
"I'll do." White teeth showed in a savage snarl, black fingers cut into Phil's shoulder as the stocky foreman wobbled drunkenly. "But I'll kill the bastards what set them bombs!"
"What happened, Marty?"
"Pressure fuses. Set to blow when the mud piled up. That's what happened." He pulled away from Phil, staggered but managed to stay on his feet. "My men?"
"We're checking them. There's at least one dead."
"Who're you?" He shook his head, still trying to clear his blurred vision. "Oh, yeah. Hadley, the new surveyor."
"Was there anything out of line when you got here this morning?" Phil persisted, ignoring the flickering of portals all around them as emergency vehicles transferred in from other worlds.
"The usual wolf tracks, nothing else." He shook his head again, wiping sweat and tears out of his eyes. "What kind of bombs was they? Who set them?"
"Probably astrolite, from the way it blew," Phil answered, his face grim. "Compact, and easy to handle. Who? The same ones who've been responsible for a lot of funny accidents around here lately. Your guess would be as good as mine on that one."
"I wouldn't bet on that," a soft contralto voice purred from behind him. "No, don't try anything, Mr. Phillip J. Hadley, or whatever your real name is."
Phil turned slowly to face a leveled forty-five aimed directly at the sinking feeling in his midsection by an attractive Black woman. Behind her and slightly to one side stood an equally striking young blond woman whose hands rested lightly on the grips of a pair of sheathed throwing knives. They both looked at first glance like they would have been more at home on a California beach, either admiring the surfers or catching waves, but Phil knew better. Looking on interestedly was a middle-aged, dark haired man, tall and lean, dressed modishly in a tailored jump suit. With an even greater sinking feeling just about where the gun was pointing, Phil recognized the legendary Neal Marten, owner and CEO of World Traders, Incorporated, and his two 'executive secretaries'.
"We let you think that you were getting away with your masquerade," Marten told him, his lips twisted in a grimace of contempt. "We had hoped that you would lead us to whoever was behind these 'accidents', but this time you went a little too far. Five men dead, a dozen more with moderate to serious injuries! We'll put you where you can't do any more damage until we have time to turn you over to the authorities back on Earth."