and the squid emerging from it.
Ah. Just what I need.
A few gravity dimples to stop his rotation facing the squid. He strapped on the net with the Oxygen bottles, drew his pistol and took careful aim at the top edge of the squid and fired.
The recoil tumbled him, no big deal, he holstered the pistol, concentrated on gravity dimples until he spotted the squid and more to the point, the sphere. A bit of experimentation, and it was clear that the sphere behaved normally to a gravity effect.
Right. It's whatever the squids' power source is that is wonky. So a nice little gravity hole between us and we can meet in the middle.
He examined the sphere carefully. It was dead simple, layers of heat resistant ablatives, hollow inside with a lever to open . . . and close . . . the top.
"I guess squids don't need much cushioning," he looked at the inside, "and they aren't prone to claustrophobia."
He climbed inside and built a gravity hole behind them to slow them further. He could depend on Earth's gravity to pull them downward for now. If he could hit the atmosphere slowly enough that it didn't count as "hitting" he could just put a gravity hole above them to slow the fall to something a human could survive.
And I hope like hell I'll hit North America somewhere. Landing in the north Pacific sounds much to "interesting" of a way to end my day.
He changed Oxygen bottles, looked out at Earth from very close up. Lots of water. Coastline on the horizon. Shifted his gravity hole a bit to keep him up until he was over land . . . and was creeping along so slowly he had to change again, to his last bottle before he dropped into the atmosphere and had to close up and curl up in the least uncomfortable position as they decelerated . . . and then fell.
A gravity hole up there, to slow down, but not too much he didn't want to hang around and attract planes or missiles or . . . he figured if he'd started at eighty miles up and fell at two hundred miles and hour, then if he'd had a watch, he could strengthen his gravity hole about now and not hit too . . .
He hit. Hard. Bounced, spinning, rolling . . .
He found the lever and yanked it, fell out and and sprawled on crushable vegetation. Ripped off his helmet. A deep breath of late summer heat.
Blinked at the deep blue sky, framed in . . . corn?
"Ah. A corn field." He staggered to his feet. "I wonder where I am?"
"Iowa. At least you aren't another damned robot squid. But maybe I ought to shoot you anyway."
Will staggered around and blinked at the old guy pointing a rifle at him.
"Er, sorry about landing in your corn, it was the only way to get down . . . Is that a Rugar Hawkeye? I haven't seen one of those in . . . centuries. Or is it a modern replica? Can you still get ammo for it?"
"Who the hell are you?"
"Uh . . . Doctor Inferno? Uh . . . call me Will. How many squids made it down around here?"
"About a dozen before you. My boy in the army called me and told me the trick to shooting them."
"Uh . . . not a squid. Uh . . . do you have any water on you? I'm kinda dehydrated, long day and all." He swayed.
The farmer snorted and slung the rifle. Took his arm and steered him through the corn and into a rickety pickup. Will slumped into the seat and zoned out while the farmer drove back to an ultra modern mansion that, once inside, was obviously mostly a control center for a modern robotic farming empire.
Will guzzled about a gallon of water, and felt the long day? Two days? Maybe, catching up with him.
"I need a shower, a good night's sleep and a ride to the nearest town."
"You got money to pay for all that? You crushed a good thousand dollars worth of corn, you know!"
Will grinned at him and over at all the electronics. "Yeah. Let me call my bank. Where do I send it?"
"Damn. I should have said two thousand." The farmer led him over to an ordinary computer and offered him a chair.
Will tapped out Glenda's code and half his passcode before the screen lit up with a grinning "Laine Black."
"Master! You made it back! What are you doing in Iowa?"
"I just crashed in this gentleman's corn field creating considerable damage. Can you transfer to his account . . ."
Farmer John or whatever his name was, held out a card with a hash square.
"Got it, Master. How much?"
"Eh, make it twenty thousand. I'll find a cash machine when I get to town . . . what is the nearest town?"
"I'll drive you to Ames."
"Appreciate that. Now about a shower . . ."
He caught two hours of sleep in Farmer Brown-or-whatever's sleek modern sedan. and got dumped at a MegaMart.
Got a cash card, bought clothes that actually fit and a big backpack to cram his new purchases and grubby spacesuit into, wolfed down food at the auto cafe there, then walked out to a panic in the parking lot.
Squids. Two of them, chasing people . . . blowing up cars . . . police shooting wildly toward them . . . Will dug out the space suit, his pistol stuck down in one leg . . . Then dropped the backpack and trotted wearily out to cap both squids.
"Didn't any one warn you about how to very carefully shoot those things?" he yelled at the cops and went back to reclaim his backpack and new clothes from the gentlemen squabbling over them.
"Get. I'm too damned tired to put up with shit." The gentlemen departed, but it probably had more to do with the overwrought policemen charging up behind him.
And arresting him.
Will flopped over on the back seat of the police cruiser and fell asleep. And in the interrogation room, while they tried to figure out what they'd arrested him for, and shouldn't they thank him instead?
They finally locked him up and went away, still arguing.
He slept until the DSMD showed up and really arrested him.
All chained up. in a great huge armored personnel carrier. Except this one was all backwards, designed to save the people outside from the people inside.
They were neither asking questions, nor answering his, so he continued the quest for Enough Sleep.