The explosion, later categorized as in the near equivalent of 60 kilotons of TNT and centered on the University of Central Florida, occurred at 9:28 a.m. on a Saturday in early March, a calm spring day in Orlando when the sky was clear and the air was cool and, for Florida, reasonably dry. It occurred entirely without warning and while it originated at the university the effects were felt far outside its grounds.
This is how the story begins not with a bang, but with a freaking nuke destroying a large city. 60 KT explosion for initial wormhole formation. Luckily, not all of them work out this way.
The wonder of military communications and computers meant that the President of the United States got word that a probable nuclear attack had occurred on Central Florida a whole thirty seconds before Fox broke the news.
Didn’t take long for the political commentary to get involved, even if this is remarkably tame for Ringo.
"The thing is, sir, this doesn't look like a nuke at all, Colonel," he admitted.
"Looked one hell of a lot like one where I was standing," the XO replied, his brow crinkling. "Big flash, mushroom cloud, hell of a bang. Nuke."
"No radiation and no EMP, sir," Crichton said, shaking his head.
"No EMP?" the battalion commander said. "Are you sure?"
And yes, after this the grunt has to explain the concept of an EMP to a full-bird Colonel like he was a 6th grader. Not like the US army would have any interest in what happens when nukes go off.
The base of the cloud was dark, obscuring the light from the sun that still hadn't reached zenith. But near the ground there was a deeper darkness. There was a crater as well, one that looked very much like an enormous bomb hole. The darkness, though, wasn't at the bottom of the crater. Then an errant gust of wind pushed some more of the dust aside and the darkness was revealed. It was a globe of inky blackness, darker than the spaces between stars on a cloudless night. It seemed to absorb the light around it. And it was hovering above the base of the crater, right about where ground level had previously been.
"It looks like a black hole," the copilot yelled. "Back away!"
"No!" Crichton yelled. "Look at the dust! If it was a black hole it would be pouring into it!" For that matter, he suspected that if there was a black hole that large the helicopter and most of Florida, if not the world, would be sucked into it faster than it could be seen. The dust wasn't being sucked in but he noticed that what dust went in didn't seem to be coming out.
Wormhole formed from Orlando Event.
He turned back to look at the ball, which didn't seem to be doing anything and shouted in surprise as something dropped out of the bottom and hit the base of the crater.
It was a giant insect.
It was . . . It had black and red markings, mottled, not like a ladybug but some of the same color. It was . . . his sense of perspective zoomed in and out oddly. It couldn't be as large as it looked, but if it wasn't, then the pilot in the front seat was a child and his head the size of baseball. Crichton shook his head as the thing, using too many legs, wriggled and got to its feet. It was the shape of a roach, colored red and black and it had . . . more, way more, than six legs. It looked . . . wrong. Everything about it was wrong. It scared him more than any spider, however large and they got pretty damned large in Florida, he'd ever seen in his life.
It wasn't from this world. Not in this time. Or from any time in the past. And, hopefully, not any time in the future. It was from . . . somewhere else.
It was alien.
"Oh, Holy shit."
Alien bug drops out of wormhole, and the penny drops.
"The president was unwilling to directly point fingers but we believe that it was probably an out-of-control experiment by this man," he said, flashing a slightly Asian-looking face onto the screen. "Professor Ray Chen, Bachelors degree and Ph.D. in physics from University of California. Third generation American despite his looks. Formerly a professor at MIT. Professor of advanced theoretical physics at University of Central Florida. He apparently moved there, despite a cut in pay and relative prestige of the facility, because of the weather in Boston."
And despite accidently killing a shitload of innocent people, he’ll probably go down in history as an unparalleled genius. This is because:
"What Ray Chen was working on was the Higgs boson particle," the scientist said, shaking his head. "First thing to remember is that quantum mechanics can drive a normal man crazy so if it seems like I'm insane just keep in mind that it's the physics, not me. A Higgs boson is a theoretical particle that is named for the Scottish physicist Peter Higgs, who suggested it as a way to explain some phenomena in high energy and vacuum field physics. Some scientists and especially science fiction writers believe it contains a universe within itself. Me, I always thought it was just reinventing the zero point energy fluctuation energies, or vice versa."
"You mean a galaxy?" the Defense Secretary asked.
"No, Mr. Secretary, a universe. All the physics that make up a universe, which won't be the same as this one, all the math, all the galaxies if they form. Theoretically."
"That's . . ." the Homeland Security director stopped and chuckled. "It isn't insane, it's the physics, right?"
"Yes, sir," Weaver said, nodding. "The thing is they take really high levels of energy to form. CERN in Switzerland's been working on them for forever and couldn't get one. But the other thing is, there's another theory that when it formed it might just . . . supercede this universe."
"Supercede?" the president said. "As in replace?"
"More or less, Mr. President," the physicist said. "That's why I said: Not as bad as it might have been. We might not have even known anything happened, just all been gone. Moonshots to the Mona Lisa, gone as if we never existed. And anything or anyone else in the universe. Biggest argument against that happening is that it hasn't and something, somewhere in this big wide universe must have made a Higgs boson before."
"I see," the President said.
"Or even, and I think we might be onto something here, open a hole into another universe. You see, they don't last for long, even if you make one. Now, within the universe, it's all the time of the universe which might be, well, the whole thing. In the couple of nanoseconds they exist in this universe, in that universe they'd have the Big Bang, us making the universe so to speak, universal cooling, star formation, planet formation, the formation of life, contraction and then erasure. Billions and billions of years in that universe compressed to less time than it takes a computer to calculate two plus two in this universe. I know you're a God fearing man, Mr. President, but with Higgs boson theory, God might have been Ray Chen pushing a button as he said: 'Let's see what happens.' "
"So you do understand what happened?" the President asked. "If this was a possible result, why would anyone do such a thing?"
"Well, the recognized negative results were very low order probabilities, Mr. President," Weaver said. "They'd been studied over and over again and they were dismissed. I dismissed them and I still think I'm right. What would happen if you made a Higgs boson the normal way is a brief flash of light, some secondary particles and then it would be gone. Might not even be able to tell you'd done it. But that's the normal way, which involves great big linear accelerators."
"They had one in UCF," the FBI briefer said, glancing at his notes. "We'd first put the explosion down to an accident with that."
"Shows you don't know high school physics, much less this stuff," Weaver said in an equanimible tone. "Couldn't get anything like that out of even a big collider much less the four meter or so that they had at UCF. And you can't get a Higgs boson out of one normally at all. What we really needed was the super conducting supercollider they were building in Texas. That was one of the scheduled experiments. But Ray Chen wanted to make a Higgs boson."
"Why, in God's name?" the President asked. "If it was possible that it would erase all life on earth?"
"Why did you want your baseball team to win the World Series, Mr. President?" Weaver shot back. "Besides which, forming one and then watching it degrade would tell us a lot about how our universe really works. Understanding physics is the basis to everything, Mr. President. Everything from cellular telephones to the MOAB. And Ray was good at it. Very bright, very crazy in that way you have to be to understand quantum mechanics. And he thought, I've read the papers, that there was a way to shortcut to a Higgs boson. I won't get into what it is, but he thought that under certain conditions it was possible to change physics in a very limited area. And with the physics changed you could make a Higgs boson. And I think that it was his shortcut that went wrong."
"You think he changed the physics in a small area?" the national security advisor asked. "Would that have caused the explosion?"
"Possibly," Weaver said. "But probably not. What we have now is some sort of gate. Bear with me here, and I'll say that this is informed speculation, also known as a wild guess. But what we might have had was a universal inversion; we turned outside-in."
"What?" the president said.
"Think about a balloon, Mr. President," Weaver said, frowning as he tried to convert very complex theory into reasonable analogies. "You put a hole in the balloon and the air goes out. But you still have the balloon. Now, reach in and pull the balloon inside-out. We were actually the outside, now we're on the inside."
"That's . . ." the Homeland Security director said, then stopped.
"Crazy, right," Weaver replied. "The point is that if a Higgs boson was formed, it would be a universe. If the conditions were wrong, we'd be sucked into that universe and it would become the 'outer' universe. I could imagine some secondary effects would occur."
"Such as a nuclear explosion," the NSA said, dryly.
"Such as a very high end kinetic energy release," Bill Weaver said with a nod. "Which would look an awful lot like a nuclear explosion. And at this point we get into pure speculation because there is no theory to support what we're looking at. That big black ball could be a boson, but it does not meet the theory of a Higgs boson particle or its effects. Yes, something came through, that might have been from a Higgs boson universe but, again, it doesn't fit the theory. Shouldn't be able to get in or out of the universe. Also, its physics should be different, so different that it would have either died right away or, more likely, exploded. Like, another nuke type explosion but larger as the full mass of the creature converted to energy. Didn't. What we're looking at is a gate or a wormhole. Obviously to another planet. Maybe, probably, to a planet in this universe. Might be to the future, probably not. The big question is: is it stable? Is it going to just go away? Is it going to release energy from that planet or universe into this planet? Is it expanding? Contracting? And, most interesting overall, what's on the other side? Another world? A world of gates maybe? Now I'm into skyballing which is the other side of speculation."
He wanted to ask what that thing on her shoulder was but he thought it might be a good idea to wait until he got her into the light and got a better look at it. It might be one of those robotic toys that were turning up these days.
In the light the thing was no better. It was almost entirely fur except for some stubby and goofy-looking legs; there seemed to be about ten spaced equilaterally around its body. And it didn't seem to be threatening anything, just sitting on her shoulder.
A little girl is found to have survived the Event at ground zero. She claims this is because of the alien ‘pet’ Tuffy, who accompanies her everywhere from now on.
"Mimi . . ." Weaver said, just as the thing reared up. He caught a glimpse of what might have been a mouth and then two of the thing's legs extended enormously, forming or extending claws at the end. The claws caught the deputy in his upper arm, just below where it was protected by body armor. There was a sizzling sound and the deputy was flung back to shudder on the ground.
Why it’s not a good idea to threaten Tuffy, or try and separate him from Mimi. Tuffy’s biology incorporates a taser.
"Tuffy says it's okay," the girl said around a mouthful of vegetables. "He said that he can uh-just his fizz-ee-o-logical in-com-pat-ib-ility." She clearly didn't know what it meant or care.
Tuffy can eat earth food, and Mimi can understand the noises he/she/it makes.
"Everything that we can, General," Weaver answered. "We don't know anything about air conditions on the far side except that the bugs have book lungs, so there is air. And they can survive for a time on this side. Sanson will be wearing a full environment suit. He won't pop it open. We've come up with a very rough and ready air sampling probe. He could experience significant gravitational changes, significant light environment changes and the ground level may be different on the far side. Basically, he doesn't know what he'll find and we just hope he comes back at all. We sent in a roughed out rover set to roll in and roll back out. It didn't come back."
"That's not good," the general noted. "What about just sticking a video camera through on a stick?"
"We did, sir," Glasser noted. "The stick sheared off."
At least they tried the common sense approach to a freestanding wormhole before sending someone through. And they’re taking precautions, brownie points for Ringo. He’ll need them.
There was a moment of disorientation, like being on a roller coaster upside down in the dark and then rather than falling his toes caught on something and he tripped. He automatically rolled on something soft, hit something hard and came up in a crouch with his weapon trained outward.
Orange was his first impression; most of the environment was orange. There wasn't a lot of sunlight; it was cut off by overarching vegetation. The "trees" seemed to be giant vines that twisted together to reach upward for the light. It was something like triple canopy jungle. But instead of the vines and moss equivalent being green, they were orange. And they were everywhere. He'd hit a small patch of "soil" (orange) but it was a small patch. Most of the ground was covered by the roots of the vines.
He automatically stood up and did a slow turn, checking for anything hostile. There didn't even seem to be any large bugs around although he saw a small beetle-thing in the "tree" behind him. He also saw what the globe looked like from this side. Instead of being a globe it was a mirrored circle. It was almost hard to spot, except that it was actually in the tree itself, like some sort of looking glass embedded in the bark. Half in, half out, he decided. And not perfectly straight to local gravity, either, more at an angle, lying partially on its side and tilted a bit.
Gravity. Heavier than earth's. It hadn't hit him at first; he just felt a little weak. But it was definitely the gravity. It felt like he was wearing a big pack but all over his body. He completed his first turn, then whipped up the video camera and did another. No hostiles, no signs of civilization just these big honkin' trees.
It hit him, then, another wave of disorientation, not externally derived but internal. This wasn't Earth. This wasn't anything on or like Earth. This was an alien planet, completely and utterly different. For a moment he felt unbelievably frightened. This was like some hell; if the gate didn't work he might be stuck here and he really didn't want to stay here the rest of his life.
Transit through, and the world on the other side.
"We've put the full team through at this point and it appears to be a triple canopy jungle," Weaver said over the videophone. He was half amazed and half amused by the military's efficiency in setting up a headquarters around the hole. First there had been just the command Hummer and now there were tents, generators, a field kitchen, desks, computers, a video uplink to the White House, all in just the few hours since the general had arrived. "I've been through as well. Definitely an alien world; initial studies of the biology of the bugs that came through indicate that they don't even use DNA, at least Dr. McBain hasn't found any. They do have proteins, but they're like nothing we've ever seen: no terrestrial amino acids at all. Higher levels of carbon dioxide, much lower level of oxygen, other than that pretty much an oxy-nitrogen atmosphere. Gravity is one point three standard, pretty heavy but survivable. Frankly, strip out the biology around the entrance, wear some sort of breath mask and you could live on the other side quite successfully. It's all very interesting."
More on the world on the other side, as well as the bizarre biology common to extraterrestrial critters in this series. Strange proteins, no DNA or apparent DNA equivalent.
"Strangest damned physiology I've ever seen," McBain answered. "Of course, you'd expect that. Some similarities to terrestrial. Book lungs, something that works for a heart, musculature, exoskeleton. But other than that, it's just weird. No visual sensors I've been able to find, no audio either. Something in the region of the head that I think are sensors, but of what I have no idea. Mandibles for eating. The book lungs look scarred; I'd say that this thing is extremely sensitive to additional oxygen and that's what killed it but it's just a guess. The next live bug they bring me I want to put it in a reduced oxygen environment if I can figure out how to rig one."
Dissection of alien bugs from the Orlando wormhole.
“Have you been able to take a good look at Tuffy, yet?" he asked, changing the subject.
"A small one," she said. "Mimi was getting tired, no surprise, so am I. Just before she nodded off I got her to let me hold him for a moment. I was worried but he didn't do anything. He's decally symmetric, covered in fur and has a mouth on the underside. That's about all I could tell. I got a small piece of fur on my hand and I ran it through what I've got as an analyzer. It's got proteins and some dense long-chain carbon molecules in it. No DNA again. That's all I could get from it. And none of the molecules looked like what I was getting from this mess," she added, gesturing at the dissected bugs on the worktable.
Tuffy’s biology, or as much as they can tell without obviously studying it.
This time there was no vertical discontinuity. The far side was at the same level as the world they had left. But it was an entirely different environment than either earth or the other, still unnamed, planet. They appeared to be in a large room, but the walls and floors seemed oddly organic. The light was low and either everything was green or the light was. It appeared to be vaguely oval but the most distant walls were beyond sight in the gloom.
Glasser switched on his gun-light and swept the beam around the room. It was large enough that the light didn't hit the far wall or the ceiling. The gate was in the middle of it, apparently. The floor, at least, was green and the diffuse light seemed to be coming up from it and the walls. The spot where the satchel charges had hit was dark as if whatever generated the light had been damaged. That was all the time he had to look, though, when Howse screamed.
Something like a giant mosquito was attached to his neck and more were flying through the air. Sanson shot at one and missed, then Glasser realized they were in an untenable situation. This was a place for Raid and shotguns, not M-4s.
Alien staging area, defended by giant ‘mosquitoes.’ At this stage a group of ten aliens came through a wormhole and killed a few retirees. The SWAT team sent after them, along with the only wormhole expert investigate, and decide to throw in the bombs first.
Howse was on the ground with a local paramedic bent over him when Glasser, who may have been last in but was also last out, came through the gate. The thing that looked like a mosquito on the far side was, in the decent light of a normal sky, anything but. It had long wings shot through with veins and was colored light green. But the body was nothing but a blocky box and there was no apparent head, thorax or legs. It was attached to Howse's neck, though, and pulsed oddly in the light.
I’m sure he’ll be fine. Description of ‘mosquitoes.’
Weaver understood why the, apparently late, Mrs. Edderbrook had called them demons. The thing stood about a meter and a half at the shoulder and was quadripedal. It had small eyes that were overshadowed by heavy bone ridges and more bone ridges graced its chest and back. The head, which was about the size of a dog's, ended in a beak like a bird of prey. The color was overall green with a mottling of an ugly purple. It had talons on front and rear legs. It had spikes sticking out of its shoulders and chest and a collar of them around its short neck. And it was fast.
The first of the things through the gate caught Woodard by the leg and threw him to the ground, worrying at the leg like a terrier, the beak crunching effortlessly through flesh with a brittle crack as it severed the bone. But there was more than one; they seemed to be pouring through the gate in a limitless stream
"Dogs" used as CQC units.
Sanson drew a bead on one of the things and fired carefully, watching the placement of his shot. When they had first been retreating it had been a matter of laying down fire as fast as possible and he wasn't sure but he thought most of it was bouncing of the damned things. Sure enough, when he shot one in the head it didn't even seem to notice it. The things had overlapping scaly plates as well as the bone underneath. More shots in its side seemed to be effective, though, punching through the scales in a flash of green ichor. He wasn't sure whether it would have been a killing shot because even as he fired one of the MG-240s hit it and it went down.
"What did it look like on the other side?" Weaver asked.
"Like being in a big, green, stomach," Miller responded. He had pulled off his mask and now had a chew in again. "I think it was the inside of some big organism. Big. The room we were in was at least a hundred meters long."
They were inside a beastie, and it was that big. A secure staging area. And more Dogs.
The reason for his exclamation was clear. A new type of creature was pouring through the gate. These were bipedal and large but otherwise similar in general appearance to the earlier attackers. The big difference was in their armament. The tops of their beaks appeared to be hollow and as Weaver watched they stitched the line of defenders with projectiles. Two of them concentrated on the big machine gun, which had been gotten back into action, and the two man crew was riddled with the projectiles, their blood splashing all over the truck, which was still painted in desert camouflage.
The beasts were, also, heavily armored and seemed to shrug off most of the rounds coming their way. Only the heavy rounds of the MG-240s seemed able to penetrate their armor and the things were now concentrating on taking out the machine guns one by one.
"Joy," Weaver said, turning over and pulling out his cell phone. He noticed that a news crew had set up behind the line of firing. Alien invasion, live. Joy.
Thorn-throwers, large-ish armored beasts with ranged weapons. Far from being the biggest or meanest thing the opposition has though.
"About an hour ago, and you were right. There's a fairly continuous stream of subatomic particles coming out of it. I think it's degrading."
"Okay, good," Weaver said.
"Is that firing I hear?" Garcia asked.
"Yeah, we're being invaded," Weaver replied and yawned. "Monsters from the eighth dimension or something. I think we're about to get overrun."
"Jesus! Get out of there!"
"Well, we're sort of cut off," Weaver admitted. "Look, what sort of particles?"
"Muons and something else," Garcia said. "Do you really want to talk about this now?"
"Okay, there's some muons, like I said, but we're getting readings on others. They're not anything I recognize, not mesons, not quarks, very high mass. I'd guess they might be bosons."
"That doesn't make sense," Weaver said, squinting his brow as the machine gun set up an almost continuous clatter. "Not the big particles, the muons. I'd have expected neutrinos."
Wormhole gives off muons and some other large unidentified particle.
By the time they got to the pickup truck the locals and what was left of the National Guard company had retaken the fighting positions and, with the support of heavy weapons in the houses overlooking the gate, were holding the monsters in a small perimeter right at the gate itself. The monsters were still attempting to pour through but the additional firepower of the locals had them pinned at the entrance. As they crowded into the front seat of the pickup Weaver noticed some things that looked like the alien "mosquitoes" hovering near the gate now. He dreaded those more than the thorn-throwers or the "dogs" but it turned out that these were not the semiparasitic mosquitoes. What they were became apparent as a television helicopter drifted too close to the battle.
One of the things flapped its wings harder and began to ascend. When it got to about ten meters above the ground the wings dropped off and a jet of fire shot out of its rear. It accelerated fast on what appeared to be a rocket engine and then slammed into the helicopter. The helicopter exploded in midair sending flaming pieces far and wide.
"Jesus," the local said, putting the pickup in gear and backing out of the driveway.
"Great," the chief said. "They've got antiair capability. What next? Antitank? Organic tanks?"
"That room you were in," Weaver said. "It looked like a giant organism, right? So it's conceivable that they could grow something as large as a tank."
Alien anti-air capability. The ‘tanks’ will be in shortly.
He jumped into the hole, realized that he'd left his shotgun behind, and started to go back for it just as the smoking bulldozer shuddered and was shoved out of the way.
What came through the hole was impossible, a beast about the size of a rhinoceros, covered in scaly plates and strong enough, apparently, to move a D-9 by shoving with six stumpy legs. It let out a high-pitched bellow that shook the ground, then turned its head and launched a ball of green lightning from between two horns. The lightning seemed to float through the air but it must have been going fast because at almost the same instant it was fired it hit the trench line and exploded, blowing one of the machine gun posts into the air.
The monster fired another ball of lightning and one of the houses behind them exploded in fire. Then it stopped and roared again.
As it did the chief fired one round.
Weaver had thought the world had exploded when the first round had been fired by the creature but he now had a new perspective. The air turned white and he found himself flung through the air by a tremendous force like a giant, ungentle, hand. He didn't even notice when he slammed into the back of the hole. He knew he passed out but it couldn't have been for long because the rumble from the explosion was still resounding when he shook his head and opened his eyes. For a moment he thought he was blind but realized that it was just an afterimage of the explosion; everything looked milky-white. He felt something liquid on his face and reached up. His nose and ears were both bleeding.
Sanson was lying in the bottom of the hole, unmoving. He was breathing but out cold. The local was in the bottom next to him, his head tilted at an odd and clearly unsurvivable angle. The chief was lying next to him up against the side of the hole, and sat up with what appeared to be a groan. That was when Weaver realized that all he could hear was a ringing in his ears.
He sat up and looked at the gate. There was a large crater in front of it. The bulldozer was over on its side. And there was nothing coming through.
The alien “tanks,” It also blasted through a bulldozer they were blocking the wormhole with. Biological Plasma thrower, huh? I haven't seen that... the last Ciaphus Cain book.
"Initial reports favorable. Group of ten level one ground combat units sent on survey. Encountered minor resistance."
"On immediate entry?"
"Yes. Or shortly thereafter. One GCU sustained terminal injuries, recovered and recycled. Two sophonts recovered, one terminal, one critical. Both terminated and examined." It sent a blip of biological information on the late Edderbrooks. "Initial invasion packet was started but before it completed gestation there was a magnitude 249 explosion at the gate and five farside combat units, estimated level one to three, entered the gate area. Sentries engaged and one reported full engagement. Slight variations from initial survey of sophonts." Another blip of data, this one defining Howse' protective suit as an extruded armor. "A response packet was sent through consisting of level one and two ground combat units. Level one units were repulsed by a heavy force of farside ground combat units designated one to four. Level two units pushed back first wave but were stopped and repulsed by a reinforcing wave of level two to four units; farside units manually blocked the gate. A group of level six units had arrived by then and reopened the gate. Initial entry appeared successful but first level six unit was destroyed, method unknown, which backblast severely damaged two more level six units, still recoverable. With only two level six units functional and all level one and two units terminated in the immediate gate area the attack was called off while more level six units are gestated. Colonization packet is gestated and only awaits successful opening of the gate."
"Heavy defense," Collective 47 noted. "Weapon type?"
"Chemical propellant and explosive. No plasma or quark weapons detected."
"I have sent a message to all nearby collectives and those with localized gate ability to forward all available level three though seven ground combat units and to begin a ten percent increase in gestation of all combat systems. When you have an overwhelming force available, strike. That will require at least seven cycles."
"I understand and comply."
"And send an emissary unit."
"Let us see how gullible they are."
The villains. The idea of a hivemind that talks to itself and forms individual collectives reminds me uncomfortably of the Voyager-Borg.
That was until a three-foot-tall cat scratched on her back door and calmly walked into the front room to watch Oprah.
She wasn't sure what to do. The cat walked on her back legs and, while she was clearly naked and just as clearly female, she didn't seem bad. The cat had gray fur tinged to black in a line along her spine. Her belly was a lighter gray, almost white, with another line passing up the middle between her . . . mammaries and more highlighting on the tips of her ears. She had slanted eyes and either some sort of makeup or another highlighting running back from her eyes in a line.
"That would be the T!Ch!R!," Nyarowlll noted, letting out a stream of what was mostly clicks. "We, too, have had experience with them. They are a sort of pest that goes with the gates."
I’m not calling them that. Feel free, if you absolutely must.
Bill got a more careful look at the weapons the cats bore and reached some conclusions. The body of the weapon was made of what appeared to be plastic or ceramic composite with a barrel that was metal, probably a heavy metal. The shoulder piece, on the other hand, was wood and was connected to the main weapon by metal bands that wrapped around a very strangely curved pistol grip. The ammunition pouches were formed and hardened leather secured by a brass clip. They looked about right for some sort of power pack.
One of the cats made a sinuous head motion then stepped over to the pile, lowering his weapon from high port. He gestured at the rifle in interest.
Miller picked up the M-4 and dropped the magazine, then jacked a round out of the chamber and handed the weapon to the cat who, after a moment's hesitation touched a stud on his own rifle and removed a small, silver oblong and passed the rifle to the chief.
"There's no sights on this thing that I can see," the chief said as the cat hefted the M-4 and then looked at the sights. He said something to his companion who responded with a series of hacks. It might have been disgust, it might have been laughter. The cat lifted the M-4, figured out how to shorten the stock, which made it just about perfect for him, and looked through the sights, keeping his finger away from the trigger. The pistol grip was too large for him but so was the one on the ray gun.
More Cat weapon.