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Authors: Alan Black

Metal Boxes

BOOK: Metal Boxes
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Metal Boxes




Alan Black























Cover Art by Amy Black


© Copyright 2010 by Alan Black


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written, prior permission of the author.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The Publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


ISBN: 978-1482774320

Published by CreateSpace

Books By

Alan Black

for publications and future publications see


Historical Action/Adventure

Eye on the Prize (out of print)


Science Fiction - Military

Steel Walls and Dirt Drops
(out of print)

Metal Boxes


Science Fiction - General

Chewing Rocks (out of print)

Titanium Texicans
(coming soon)

Larry Goes to Space
(coming soon)


Science Fiction - Western

A Planet with No Name
(coming soon)


General Fiction

Chasing Harpo
(in stores now)

The Friendship Stones
* book one of Ozark Mountain series
(with Bernice Knight)
(coming soon)

The Granite He
art * book two of Ozark Mountain series
(with Bernice Knight)
(coming soon)

The Heav
iest Rock * book three of the Ozark Mountain series
(with Bernice Knight)
(coming soon)



How to Start, Write and Finish Your First Novel (coming soon)


I dedicate this book:

To Bernice Knight, my mother, who hates science fiction, but will read this one anyway;

To Thomas Black, my father, who loves me enough to lie and tell me that what I wrote isn’t crap;

To the Wrights: Larry, Tammie, Brianna, and Danielle, who prompt me to laugh, especially at myself; with a special tip of the hat to Danielle (the original Goat-Girl);

And as always, to my wife Duann, who loves me enough to tell me when I do write crap.






Blackmon Stone raced to the hatch at end of the passageway. The intruder alarm had been wailing for what seemed like hours and it had taken him too long to get into his standard issue combat suit. The smoke wafting through the corridors was a sure sign that time was short. Warning lights were flashing faster and faster, reaching a manic pace. He grabbed the manual, hatch release and yanked hard. An explosion blew him backwards thirty meters down the corridor, slamming him against a bulkhead. He slowly slid to the deck. A light in the suit’s heads up display was blinking green to let him know that he was still alive.

“It is nice to know that the
empire’s navy cares enough about me to let me know I am still alive and can be of some more use to them,” Stone thought as he tried to catch his breath. He was fifteen years old and in all of those years, he could not remember his chest hurting this much.

“Get up, Stone. Get moving,” a voice raged at him through his suit intercom. “Do you want to get stepped on!” The voice made it clear that it was not really a question. “You now have intruders between you and
your duty post. Move it, boy.”

Aye, aye, Senior Chief. I am moving it now,” Stone replied. He rolled over and pushed himself to his feet. The combat suit had saved him from serious injury, but he still felt winded and bruised. His ears were ringing, but not from the explosion. The suit had automatically dampened the blast noise to protect his hearing. The suit did not dampen Senior Chief Tsosie’s deafening gravel-in-a-bucket voice.

looked down the passageway. There had been some wisps of smoke in the corridor before, but the smoke was thicker now. He could not see the hatch. The explosion had added to the already swirling mess. He drew his weapon, hoping whoever had put the explosives on the hatch had just set a booby trap for him and had not been blowing the hatch to get into this corridor. He switched the suit visor to thermal, then to radiation, then to multispectral and then back to normal vision.

did not see anyone, or anything for that matter, coming at him out of the smoke. He briefly wondered why the environmental systems were not clearing the air. He shook his head. He sincerely hoped it was a problem in environmental. He knew smoke could mean fire. He was beginning to get concerned that the intruders who had set explosives may also have set some diversionary fires. It was not that the ship itself would burn, but a spaceship only had so much air. He would rather save the air to breathe than let a fire use up his oxygen.

This time he approached the hatch cautiously instead of racing forward. Time was important, but he had to be alive at the end of the mission or it
would not matter how long it took. He stopped in surprise at the end of the corridor. The hatch was gone. It was not missing from the explosion. It was just gone. Yanking with the enhanced muscles of the combat suit had not mangled the handle or the hatch. Even the hole where it had been was gone. All that was at the end of the corridor was a new bulkhead, freshly painted and seamlessly joined in the corners.

“Oh, come on!”
he muttered to himself. He spun about and raced back down the corridor. He knew the ship would begin to reshape corridors and passageways to confuse any intruders, but he had hoped to get through that hatch before it started. He must be running out of time to get to his duty station if the ship had already started shifting in response to the intruder alarm. The whole ship might be in jeopardy if the intruders reached his duty station.

Stone’s duty station was the ship’s armory.

He would have cursed, however he knew that he had not really developed that as a useful skill. He certainly had not achieved the level of cursing mastered by Senior Chief Tsosie. Instead of wasting his breath, he called up the ship schematics on his heads up display, HUD. The HUD still showed passageway 12B.2 as a functioning corridor with a hatch. He had just seen that the hatch at the end of 12B.2 was gone. He had hoped the ship would be able to update the mapping software as fast as it could shift corridors, but that did not appear to be the case. He decided to try passageway 12D.4. It was the shortest distance to a ladder that would drop him down to the armory on deck eleven. He was assuming the ship had not shifted the passageways again.

Suddenly, he slid to a stop. He
did not think he had enough time to get to the armory going in the current direction. He realized if the ship could change corridors and bulkheads, then it might it also change decks and ladder locations just as quickly and just as unannounced. He took a moment and scanned through his suit systems. He grimaced as he realized that his connection to the ship's mapping function was in a read-only capacity. He could not make the ship adjust to changes he needed. Besides, there were other crewmen racing about trying to save the ship from intruders. Any changes he could make might have severe consequences for any of them.

He remembered his father always said that the s
hortest distance between two points was a straight line. Running down 12D.4 was not the straightest way to the armory. So, he reversed his direction and ran back to a storage closet he had passed on 12B.2.

Thankfully, the closet was still there. Stone stepped into the middle of the small space and closed the door behind him. He took a deep breath. If he was right, this would work. If he was wrong, then he would not have time to reach the armory before any intruders could get there. Not to mention, either way he was sure he was going to be disciplined for intentionally damaging the ship.

Twisting a band around the suit’s left forearm he bent down and triggered the cutting torch function. The torch’s beam did not generate smoke, but the intensity caused the suit’s visor to darken to almost black. He began cutting into the decking and the deck plates He checked the ship diagrams against the depth of the beam and twisted the band to cut another fraction of a millimeter deeper. The flooring above the deck plating curled away from the heat. The deck plates sizzled.

He hoped he could cut quickly enough that the ship would not adjust before he was
finished. He had a lot of deck to cut through. He used his right hand to grab any loose material that came away. The enhanced muscles in the suit ripped aside heavy slabs of metal and light pieces of ductwork with equal ease.

“Stone, I can see you on
my monitor,” Senior Chief Tsosie shouted, using his angry-raspy voice, rather than his impatient-hurry-up voice, or Stone’s favorite, the ever humorous what-the-hell-are-you-doing voice. “You better know what you are doing. If you cut holes in my ship and still can’t reach the armory in time you had better pray the captain gets to you before I do.”

He did
not answer the Senior Chief. When the Senior Chief used that tone of voice, it did not matter what you said, you would be wrong. Stone held his tongue knowing even a quick ‘Yes, Senior Chief’ would put him in line for more of a chewing out. Right now, he did not have time.

Stone snapped off the cutting torch as soon as he had cut a thin, ragged circle in the deck plating that formed the ceiling o
f deck eleven. He had not cut all the way through. He stood, drew his weapon and jumped into the center of the circle. He calculated the weight of the suit should be enough to cause the deck to give way, dropping him into the passage on the deck below. He would be just outside the armory hatch if the ship schematics were right. He hoped he would get there before the intruders whether they were man, alien or beast.

The deck gave way and he dropped through. Instead of crashing to the deck below, the suit cushioned the drop with no more jolt to his knees than if he had stepped off the bathroom scales.
But, the drop was the least of his worries.

The intr
uders were at the armory hatch already working to cut through the locks. He dropped right into the middle of them. There were two intruders working at the lock, plus two more intruders on lookout. Both of the watchers were facing the wrong way expecting ship’s crew to come down the passageway instead of dropping in from above.

“I have intruders at deck
eleven armory,” Stone shouted with excitement into his microphone. “Senior Chief, we have four humanoid forms-” Before he could finish his sentence, he stepped between the two intruders working on the armory locks. He pushed the barrel of his pistol against the first intruder’s weird looking combat suit and pulled the trigger at point blank range. He knew he would be in more trouble than he could get out of if his weapon could not penetrate their armor.

Stone was wearing the
navy’s standard issue combat suit. It was designed to enhance movement and strengthen the senses. It made his slight, teenage frame look athletic and muscular. He even felt that way in the suit, because every movement, every leap, every step was enhanced. His suit was nothing like the suits worn by Empire marines. Those suits were monsters. The standard issue marine was a monster out of the suit, but inside their suits, they became four-meter tall terrors.

The intruder suits were like nothing Stone had ever seen. They had flanges, flaps and even gills, but they looked tough enough to stop a Mark87 missile. They were half again as large as the suit he was wearing.

Stone was not sure his little pistol could breach their armor. His suit was strong, but it was not strong enough to take on four intruders at once. He was startled when the intruder he shot dropped to the deck. He spun to the second intruder and put a bullet in the creature’s chest. Before the intruder fell to the deck, Stone reached around and shot a third intruder in the back. It was a good shot for Stone, his heart was pumping and adrenaline was flushing through his system faster than a six-pack of weak beer at a party for drunken sailors on leave.

He grinned to himself. It had to be a twenty-meter shot. He had hit
the intruder dead center in the back before it could turn. Even though the intruder was huge, it was still a good shot for Stone. He spun to face the last intruder and immediately dropped to the deck behind the bulk of a downed intruder.

Shots from some kind of automatic weapon zinged past him as the last intruder opened fire. A few stray ricochets spanged off his armor, but they had spent enough velocity that his suit could handle
them. The dead intruder’s suits on either side of him made an effective barrier, providing protection from both directions. It was true that he could only face one way at a time, so if the remaining intruder had help nearby they might be able to surround him. It would not take much to come at him from two directions and move in on him.

He glanced up at the armory hatch
locks. They were still in place. In fact, it looked as if the intruders had not understood where to cut and the locks were welded shut instead of cut open.

“Situation Report: I have secured the armory hatch,” Stone shouted into his communications unit. “Three hostiles down and one re
ma-” He was interrupted by another stream of gunfire coming from the intruder.

Senior Chief Tsosie said quietly in a cold voice, “Stone, are you shouting at me?”

“Sorry, Senior Chief,” Stone gulped.

“Of course you’re sorry. SitRep received. I got you on the monitor. I don’t have any spare, warm bodies to send as back-up. Can you take that last intruder alive?”

“Are you cra-” Stone started in amazement. “No, Senior Chief. These guys are huge and I don’t think I can take it alive. Besides, it has me under fire. I can keep it from getting to the armory, but I can’t stop it short of killing it.”

“Kill it then,” Senior Chief Tsosie said. “I will get a live one from somewhere else. And Stone?”

“Yes, Senior Chief?”

“Watch your backside.”

Stone spun around to look down the other corridor, but did not see anyone or anything moving.

Aye, aye, Senior Chief, watching my back,” Stone replied with relief in his voice. He realized he could watch his back. He pulled a small camera out of a storage bin on the inside of his suit’s thigh. He propped it up so it would capture a view of the corridor at his back. He set his HUD to give him a picture-in-picture of the corridor.

He turned back and tried to melt into the deck as the intruder fired another burst at him. It seemed like the
shots were closer. The intruder must be trying to move in on him. He raised his gun hand up and fired a dozen shots down the passageway without looking, spraying rounds at every angle. He hoped that would slow down the intruder’s approach.

The picture behind him began to look fuzzy. He dialed up the image, enlarging and amplifying it. There were a few swirls of smoke starting to drift into the corridor from somewhere. He would not be able to see the intruder coming at him if enough smoke filled this corridor like the deck above.

“Above!” Stone’s brain screamed and he looked up. Smoke was pouring out of the hole he had cut. He knew he had to do something and do it fast.

The intruder fired another burst at him. Bullets were flying and ricocheting everywhere. One bullet hit his visor and left a streak across it, but it did
not shatter. The intruder was definitely closer.

Stone leapt to his feet using all of the muscles his suit could enhance. He
jumped to the ceiling and grabbed the edge of the hole with his left hand. He fired his weapon with his right hand, scoring a direct hit on the top of the intruder’s helmet. The intruder dropped lifelessly to the deck.

BOOK: Metal Boxes
9.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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