Charley communicated with the human grafted onto the Tower’s computer, and it volunteered to lock down the area and keep the martians away. He asked for 10 minutes, but it told him that it could not hold them for more than five. Dash pushed the grey martian — dead but still hovering — out of the chamber and into the hall.
The remaining grey martian had pushed Percy and Frankie to the end of the passage, but could not land a telling blow. The hatches on either end of the hall opened and wind swirled down the passage. Charley activated the x-ray displacement engine and Dash managed to heave the unconscious Opal atop the floating martian corpse. Big Joe picked up her rifle and fired at the remaining foe while charging down the hall.
Meanwhile, Penelope and Crispin were flying the ornithopter around the tower. She managed to regain her wits in time to take over the controls and land the machine on the edge of a balcony and run toward her comrades. As she entered the gray brought his sword down on Percy, nearly ending his life. By this time Joe had reached the end of the passage and brought his own blade to bear, shearing through the beast.
The enemy down, they quickly gathered on the balcony and set up Edison’s kinetoscope. When they activated the device, however, nothing happened. When Crispin looked inside the case he realized that the internal workings had been removed and replaced by weighted junk. Cursing Dally, they tried to figure out another way to escape.
Penelope readied the ornithopter, and Crispin remembered that there was a central shaft in the House Kartogian building that was very much like a giant cannon. They decided to make their way there. Dash removed the flotation collars from the dead martians and discovered they were mentally operated. They attached one to big Joe, and followed up with a jolt from the martian stimulant, and he managed to get it off the ground. After a stumbling efforts, he gained control and took off after the ornithopter with Opal and Percy. Dash put on the other collar, grabbed Charley and Frankie and followed as well.
As they flew through the city they could see explosions and mayhem beginning to break out. A pillar of black smoke was spotted coming from the base of Seshat’s tower. Penelope banked up and landed on the roof, hoping for the base. They tried to call to Seshat, but there was no reply. Dash plugged his portable device into the house system and tried to access the ballistic vehicle, but learned access to limited to House members only.
Charley took the machine, and suddenly access was granted. Seshat told them that there was fighting below, but she had it contained. She directed them down to the office, where the entry elevator to the ballistic chamber was hidden. They hurried to the elevator, went down to bottom, entered into two hardened metal carriage ‘shells’, and fired themselves to Earth.
Nine days later, they crashed into the shallow waters of the south China sea near Sanya. There they found out that Edison died in the hospital, and that Chaplain’s studio burned down the same day. But more importantly, they needed to get home.
To be continued…