Babysitting the Taran-Saurus
A Vyrian Incursion Story
by Lance Schonberg
After we finished eating, I let Taran play in the fast food restaurant’s climbing gym with half a dozen other kids for nearly an hour. It made every muscle I had tense, smiling and ignoring the parental chatter around me while my eyes never left him, but I wanted Taran to fall asleep on the drive back to the apartment, a drive that would be two or three times longer than a shortest-distance GPS route might suggest.
His eyes closed five minutes out of the parking lot, leaving me alone with my paranoia. I didn’t think I had even remotely enough pieces to put the puzzle together, or even enough to know how many pieces the puzzle might have, but if I could make the right mental connection, if I had the time, I’d be ahead. Logic. I just didn’t think being ahead would help me beyond settling my mind a little.
The best I could hope for was a bit of warning when it mattered, and I doubted I’d get much. No, figuring things out wouldn’t give me anything other than personal satisfaction after the fact, so I decided to let my subconscious work out what it needed to and kept driving while I watched for followers.
I felt naked and exposed carrying Taran up to the apartment. Re-engaging the monitoring and security systems let me exhale but did nothing for my adrenaline. Before helping Taran put his pajamas on, I slipped the anti-stun mesh t-shirt over his head. Another fight I’d won.
Stunners predated the Vyrian arrival by something around fifteen minutes. Yes, they’d shrunk and improved with techniques we’d learned from them in trade, but they were a human innovation and we’d have gotten there on our own eventually. But the anti-stun mesh was straight Vyrian tech, with just a little human tweaking. Intended as a shock dissipator for anyone working with electricity, the scaled down version might not protect you from 50,000 volts, but it shrugged off a neural stun with just a tingle. The shock mesh had been just about the first thing with any defensive potential the Vyrians had agreed to trade, probably because they felt it had no offensive potential. So much like us and yet so unlike. The device itself may have been purely defensive, in an industrial capacity, but if there was anything in the system that could be adapted to serve an offensive purpose, we’d find a way. Amazing that the Vyria could study our history so deeply and not realize that about humans.
Making it a game for him, I put on my own before pulling out the magic belts, a grav chute for each of us. Once I tucked him in, and after a visit with Dr. Suess, a few other high tech toys found their way onto my belt or into my pockets, some of which I’d already been carrying, but I swore at myself for leaving the rest of behind when we went to the museum. What was wrong with me?
Next, a detailed check of all of the security and surveillance records of the day. Everything seemed clear. Not just nothing unexpected, but nothing at all. No attempted intrusion of any kind and no odd signals intercepted, but I still had an itch between my shoulder blades that couldn’t be scratched.
Something clicked in the back of my skull as a couple of things slid together, locking into place. Not an answer I expected to come up with, but it seemed obvious now. The Vyrians were after Taran, not any human agency. Not the only possible answer that fit what I knew but I was sure it was the right one, even if I didn’t quite have the facts at hand to back it up. Known capabilities, organization, and technology had narrowed the field to only a few real possibilities, and I’d never considered the Vyrians seriously, but Rastin’s glance back over his shoulder as he walked away clinched it. Whether knowing that might help me stay ahead a little longer remained to be seen.
The itch got worse.
A little after midnight, the security panel made an innocent beep, programmed to repeat every three seconds, each time a couple of decibels louder, until I touched the cancel pad. I think the third beep woke me and I canceled the audio before the fifth. No sense in waking Taran until I had to, and it looked like I had to.
Eight remote camera sets covered all possible entrances to the building plus the roof, and the indicator light for set six blinked red. Touching the light moved the camera feed to the largest of four tiny screens on the panel, and I watched six tall figures in the parking garage spread out to cover both stair wells. Remote camera set number two chimed in and I let the system show me two figures coming through the front entrance. Not to be left out, remote sets three and five demanded to show me the progress of the two busy securing the rear entrance and ground floor fire exit. Twelve operatives to cover a toddler and his bodyguard, and even without activity up there I had to assume they had the roof covered too. The Vyrians weren’t taking any chances. In between mental curses, I decided to be flattered.
Taran was less happy about being woken up this time. He’d expended a lot of energy at the museum and his three-year-old mind probably expected to stay in bed late the next morning. I thought he understand that we’d be away from home for a few days, but I doubted he expected his adventure to be so adventurous, or to involve so many sleep interruptions. He got over getting stuffed into the carrier fairly quickly—it’s hard for someone that young to hold a grudge, but I had faith he’d learn—sliding out of the sleepy funk the moment two tiny charges blew out the window.
“Boom!” He giggled.
One of the many reasons I chose the apartment, and the other two qualified the same way, was the lack of a fire escape. No fire escape equals no reason to watch a sixth floor window, at least not from up close, or so my theory went. With some knowledge of who my adversaries actually were, I wondered if I should revise that theory.
Too late now.
Taran squealed as gravity grabbed us, and kept laughing all the way to the ground. Grav chutes were my new favourite toy, letting me hit the ground running at about a tenth the vertical speed mother earth would have preferred starting at the sixth floor. I’d taken two steps before my finger hit the kill switch on the chute, thinking I might need the rest of the charge later even while hoping I wouldn’t. At the moment, I had a head start likely measured in a small number of seconds. If as much as a minute passed before one of the intruders managed to get back outside to track us, I’d be thrilled. Of course, that made the assumption they’d all gone in and smart strategy said to always hold some of your force in reserve.
Interstellar travelers, the Vyrians had to be put in the smart category. Alone, outnumbered, and certainly outclassed, my strategy needed to be brilliant. And all I had to work with was a bit of surprise, a few high tech toys, a roll of the dice, and the hope that whatever reserves they had were far enough away to let me reach the shadows with a three year-old on my back.
I wished myself luck.