Warblegrub and the Forbidden Planet

Warblegrub and the Forbidden Planet by Andrew Barlow Read Free Book Online

Book: Warblegrub and the Forbidden Planet by Andrew Barlow Read Free Book Online
Authors: Andrew Barlow
Tags: Cli-fi
moved on.
    “Is he a friend of yours?” asked Warblegrub as they watched the Colonel rouse the others.
    395 frowned but said nothing and Warblegrub smiled to himself.

Chapter Eight
    To Warblegrub’s delight, others among the company were beginning to share the Science Officer’s interest in the natural world. Far from being as still and silent as it had appeared form the ridge, the valley was teeming with life, and as they followed a shallow stream south through a winding gorge, they saw shoals of tiny fish darting from their feet. Overhead birds flitted through the shafts of sunlight, reptiles and rodents scurried through the undergrowth, and the continuous drone of insects was all-pervading.
    “What are you doing?” Warblegrub asked when 395 held up yet another electronic device.
    “Recording the bird song,” he replied. “I can identify different species from the database.”
    “That’s nice.”
    “Glad you approve!”
    At a narrow point in the gorge, a fallen tree smothered in ivy spanned the stream. A pair of long-tailed birds with bright yellow breasts took flight at their approach. Alex was especially enchanted and watched intently as they flitted on ahead, exchanging short, sharp calls. Perching on rocks in the stream, they bobbed up and down as if urging the soldiers to follow.
    “They’re wagtails,” 395 informed her.
    “Suits them!”
    Before they had all clambered over the fallen tree, a ghastly shriek rang out, startling the company and putting the wagtails to flight. The soldiers crouched low, their weapons trained in every direction but when the cry rang out again, 395 quickly identified it.
    “ Garrulus glandarius: a jay. Feeds mostly on acorns….”
    “Good work, S.O.,” the Colonel interrupted, “but spare us the ornithology lecture; we don’t need to know every species on the planet.”
    “Yes Colonel, you do!” Warblegrub spoke sternly. “Ignorance has always been your species’ greatest weakness.”
    He waded on a little way, oblivious to the water drenching his trousers, and when the jay next cried out he answered it with a like voice, and in a tone that silenced the bird. A pale, dull pink with bold black-and-white markings, it flew off with a flash of bright blue from tiny bars of colour on its wings.
    “Beautiful bird,” said Sarah, “terrible voice!”
    A kilometre or so further on, the stream joined a river with a wide marshy bank, which they waded through for another half a kilometre till they reached a series of waterfalls. Beyond these, the land opened out into a broad valley but it was difficult to make out any features through the haze. While the rest of the company scrambled down the rocks and boulders beside the falls, the Colonel peered through his binoculars then called 395 to his side. Unbidden, Warblegrub joined them. Through his visor, 395 followed the meandering course of the river until, at the very edge of sight, he saw several tall pillars beyond a line of low hills – the skyscrapers of the deserted city.
    “Not far now!” The Colonel sounded confident.
    “Further than you think!” muttered Warblegrub.
    A little way on from the falls, they came to a cluster of buildings; a roofless farmhouse, barn and outhouses, all but hidden in the undergrowth. The company rested among rusting machinery in the courtyard while 395, Sergeant 236, the Colonel and Warblegrub consulted the map on the tablet.
    “The river looks impassable ahead,” warned 395.
    “There’re rapids and a very deep gorge,” Warblegrub confirmed.
    “Then the most direct route takes us over these ridges and hills,” said the Colonel.
    “More machete work!” groaned the Sergeant.
    395 enlarged a strange, crescent-shaped feature that crossed their path, a long trench in the earth. “This must be man-made,” he said as he showed it to Warblegrub.
    “It’s a road; there’s a tunnel through the hill leading to the city.”
    “Is it passable?”
    “The tunnel?” Warblegrub shook

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