Preview of Starman #6: Doomsday Horizon
PROLOGUE: THE CAMP AT MOONCIRCLE LAKE
Fifty yards to the south of the Starmen’s campsite, scattered trees in the meadow thickened into the edge of the black forest. Under the boughs and through the twisted boles little light could penetrate except perhaps on the brightest of summer days. Even then, the resulting illumination gave only a fragile, shadowy murkiness.
Through the pathless tangle, three menacing spheres a few inches in diameter moved unerringly in the direction of Mooncircle Lake. If they could have seen them, the Starmen would have recognized them immediately as dreaded airbots. These particular predatory machines were painted flat black. Soundless and odorless, even the animals of the forest were unaware of their passage. They moved inexorably forward, weaving and bobbing when necessary around interlacing branches
At length, the sinister orbs reached the border of the forest and hovered in the protective gloom. With the barest whisper of noise, each one extended a tiny lens and brought one of the Starmen into focus.
“Hey Mark! When’s the next blue moon? I want to know how long we’ll be able to cruise without misfortune,” asked Joe, rummaging in his pack.
“June 30, 2159,” answered Mark. “Almost three years!”
From the edge of the forest, their voices came distantly but distinctly through the crystal mountain atmosphere.
With a brief but powerful expulsion of highly compressed air, the three airbots simultaneously fired darts at the Starmen. The inch-long projectiles crossed the distance in a little more than two seconds.
“Ooh,” groaned Zip softly, of the three the only one able to emit any sound whatever. All fell flat and slept.
Sensors in the airbots checked vital signs. With the assurance that the Starmen were truly unconscious, they floated out from under the dark eaves and coursed through the twilight toward the camp at Mooncircle Lake. The airbots hovered a foot above the fallen Starmen.
Then one of the airbots sent a message in a language that had not been heard on Earth for more than twelve thousand years.
© 2011 by David Baumann, Jonathan Cooper, Mike Dodd. All rights reserved.