Captain Srrith smoothed her orange fur across the bandage over her right eye and suppressed her irritation by concentrating on the trajectory displays flickering across her pilot’s console. Imagine being mistaken for a cave leopard! Aldren would be laughing all the way to the next star system when he saw her recording of the indigenous species thrusting a crude but effective spear at her.
So much time lost while she was trying to avoid an encounter with the whole tribe of surprise visitors! She would need to boost hard to rendezvous on schedule with her orbiting scout ship and renew the pleasurable company of her mate. Aldren, who was also her copilot, would be bringing up the plasma temperature to operating levels in the quantum containment field in preparation for their journey to the next system. She looked forward to the leisure time they would have together.
She tapped a key on the com to accept a secure channel signal and listened as Aldren’s voice reached across the void to reassure her that she was not alone. Srrith hated being alone. Most of the Vag species did not function well alone, so scouts were always sent out in pairs—usually life mates as in the case of Srrith and Aldren. She noted that her mate’s voice was tense.
“We may not have much time to clear this system,” he was saying. “I’ve detected a TLS on approach.”
“How far out?”
“Two, maybe three turns. We’ll lose the trace once she breaks out in-system.”
Srrith turned the various possibilities over in her mind. “We could be looking at one of our Vag surveyors. How could anyone know we’re in this system?”
“Not our ship. The Q-signature is different—unknown to our database. I suggest we be gone before our visitors arrive.”
Srrith drummed her six digits on the plastic console, her sharp, gold decorated nails adding more scratches to the already chipped surface. “I have one more beacon to check on the older land mass in the southern hemisphere.” Srrith had visited Jerith Six Alpha—the Vag designation for the planet—three times in the past, checking on the weapons cache beacons. She preferred the ancient, warm red and gold stones of the desert regions covering the central parts of the southern continent to the jagged, frigid thrust of the mountain ranges crisscrossing the northern landmasses. Besides, the ancient geology of the southern regions was more stabile—and no indigenous people to thrust a spear at you unexpectedly.
* * *
The oblong piece of black crystalline solid looking like a piece of fire darkened flint was an AIWS, or Adaptive Intelligent Weapons System, part of a weapons cache inadvertently scattered across the earths surface when the Vag ship was caught by weapons fire just as she was attempting to clear the Earth’s atmosphere. Thousands of the nearly indestructible units were scattered across the globe, most falling and sinking irretrievably into the ocean depths, some impacting on the continents where they lay undiscovered for a million years.
A Stone Age boy known by his kin group as Eth decided to try a strange black stone to flake the edge on a carefully selected piece of flint. Tomorrow’s hunt was to be his first as a full member of his clan. Young Eth felt a momentary disorientation as biochemical scanners conducted a delicate survey of his neural pathways.
Looking down, he discovered a beautiful spear point in his hand. In his surprise, he cut himself on the edges of the triangular shaped piece with it grooved extension for lacing strips of animal hide around a heavy shaft. He displayed the new point proudly to the other hunters, glowing with satisfaction at their envious reactions to his prize.
Unfortunately for Eth, the raging boar he cornered early the next day took the razor sharp point in his chest and charged right up the shaft, skewering poor Eth with long curved tusks before shuddering and dying with the weapon through his heart. The group brought back poor Eth for burial in honor of his sacrifice, but although they searched everywhere, the perfect spear point had disappeared.
In Roman lands, on a cold winter’s eve near Hadrian’s wall, a tall and youthful Briton named Merlinius picked up a stone to throw at a hungry wolf and found himself holding an incredible sword so sharp the blade would cut through silk scarf floated in air. Merlinius gifted the fabulous weapon to his companion, Arthur. Together with a small band of mercenaries they fought off several groups of Pictish attacking across the Roman defensive line.
Arthur, poisoned by his peasant wife in a fit of jealousy over a questionable affair involving the daughter of a local Celtic family, became the central figure in a legend originally known as the “Sword from the Stone”. Merlinius never discovered the fate of the mystical sword, the weapon having disappeared while Arthur lay on his deathbed.
The slow, cold drizzle looked to last all night as Patrick Henry McCarty, sometimes calling himself William Bonney, usually identified as Billy the Kid, nursed a sputtering campfire in the twilight with damp twigs and bits of boards from an abandoned corral in order to heat his last can of beans. Billy was looking around for a rock to pound the knife through the lid of the can, found a dirt encrusted black stone, picked it up, and was about to strike the haft of the blade when the crust dropped away from the “stone” and he found himself holding a beautiful Colt 45 Peacemaker in his hand. He shouted in surprise and almost dropped the shiny, nickel-plated pistol to the wet ground.
McCarty was supposed to have been pardoned by the Governor, and instead found himself at the wrong end of a manhunt. The last days had been tiresome, and he was hungry, dirty, and angry to be hiding out by himself after a jailbreak while a former friend, Pat Garrett, currently the sheriff of Lincoln County, was out looking for him.
Billy found himself mesmerized by the weapon’s perfect finish, the way the flickering flames glittered on the polished barrel. He hefted the pistol, let it hang with a finger through the trigger guard, and marveled at the balance and feel of the piece. He spun the cylinder and saw that that the pistol was empty. He reach out to his bandolier and extracted six cartridges and slipped the brass casings smoothly into place. Without thinking, he whirled the weapon and fired from his hip at an empty whiskey bottle balanced on top of an old cedar stump a couple of dozen steps away. The light was poor, the shot difficult if not impossible, and yet the bottle shattered as the loud report echoed off of a nearby hillside. He knelt at the edge of the fire, stunned. If only he’d had a gun like this before.
Two weeks later at Fort Sumner Pat Garrett fired a bullet through Billy’s heart from across a darkened room. Billy’s friend, Pete Maxwell, and a few others known to the gunslinger, spent years looking for the beautiful pistol they’d seen Billy carrying, but no trace of the unusual weapon was ever found.