Born in ’75, I was too young to catch Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980) in the theaters, but we had Showtime, and every time those movies came on the schedule, I watched them. Over and over I watched them, throughout my childhood. There’s no denying the scenes in those films are burned deep into my psyche.
While working on edits for the final installment of “The Dome Trilogy”, it occurred to me that I have a blind spot: I tend to spell “led” as “lead”. My copyedits are smattered with “deleted a“. What’s more odd than my inability to spell is the fact that I use this word so often. I got thinking about its usage, as in “the corridor led to a large room”, and realized something else: this trilogy has a lot of corridors.
Runstom looked back over his shoulder long enough to yell, “Clear! Come on, Jax, move!”
Jax tried to angle his legs so that his strides pushed him forward more than up, but he was completely unprepared for athletics in low gravity. He covered the distance of fifty meters to the first breach in what seemed like several agonizing minutes, but it could have been much less.
When he got within a few meters of the officers, he was jarred by the clapping sound of Halsey’s rifle. The officer was shooting a projectile weapon of some kind, an old-fashioned gun that actually fired bullets, and the force of the recoil in the low gravity caused him to stagger backward and lose his footing. “The door on the far right side!” he yelled, trying to get back to his feet. Runstom started firing his laser down the hall, blindly shooting down the right side.
Gunfire echoed down the hallway and Jax was sure he heard something whiz by his head. The oval corridor was a good twenty or thirty meters across, and while Jax and Runstom were taking position near the wall on their right, Halsey was closer to the opposite side. He got to his feet and dove into a nearby breach. The officer then set himself in a position where he could brace his back against the side of the tube and lean out to fire his rifle down the hall without getting pushed backwards.
(Chapter 9, Unexpected Rain)
It’s like, if you were to tell me to imagine a Stormtrooper, the first picture to pop into my head would be clunky white armor-suit filing into a hallway, spitting blasts of red light at the walls. And it’s not as though tactically, a corridor is a good place for a fight; there just aren’t a lot of places to take cover. It does however make a great choke point. But before long, Stormtroopers and leather-vested-rebels alike will be keeling over, littering the floor with their corpses that some poor sith lord with bad lungs is going to have to step over.
Bodies swirled, muzzles flashed. The air filled with smoke and the tearing sound of automatic gunfire. She could smell it, the burn of propellant mixing with the plastic-melting odor of hot projectiles trying to bore their way through the material in bullet-resistant armor on one side, alloy-mesh-lined leather on the other side.
Dava broke for the wall opposite the corner, the one that had the door, as soon as the shooting started. Despite being unprepared, Barndoor had fired first, after scrambling to unsling his scattergun from his shoulder. It was hard to say how many he’d hit with the series of short blasts, but the screams suggested more than a few. He’d backed his way up the corridor when the return fire started.
She flattened herself to the wall. Pollies – no, Fenders, by their armor and firepower – were bunched into the doorway, but the momentary confusion was melting and their training was kicking in. They were coming through the door in alternating pairs, covering and exiting, covering and exiting. How many there were in that cargo hold, she couldn’t tell, but it was quickly becoming obvious her small raid team was outnumbered.
One of the Fenders came around in front of her, focused on the Wasters who were unloading clips at the door and slowly backing down the hall from where they came. There was no time for any thought but fight and flight. She plunged her blade into the distracted Defender’s back and he instantly went rigid.
She’d been skeptical of the lizard-stomach-paralytic, but this was a good test. The knife was slower than a bullet, enough so that the high-impact-resistant armor split like bread, delivering the poison directly to the bloodstream. A few quick heartbeats and the nervous system rolled over, locking up the Fender faster than he could turn around. As he tumbled against the wall, she yanked a flashbang away from his belt and tossed it at the door.
They were all wearing helmets with visors, so she knew it wouldn’t buy much time, but it did afford another second of confusion. Down the corridor, the Wasters were moving as fast as they could. There was a trail of at least four strewn between her and the rest.
(Chapter 23, Unclear Skies)
The reality is likely that corridor-combat was easier and cheaper to produce, especially in the 70s and 80s. You don’t need many actors (and their costumes) to create extremely tense action in the claustrophobic battle over a stretch of hallway. While newer movies in the franchise are able to use technology to create larger-scale combat, they leave these tunnel-vision shootouts in the past. But they’ll always be there for those of us that grew up thinking the visual effects in the original trilogy could never be surpassed.
A few minutes of pulling handholds, and four hatches came into view on each side of the hall. Dava checked her map. The connecting corridor to get them to the dock was just a bit farther up. The map showed that the four connecting rooms were small, like utility closets or something. It wasn’t explicit about the contents, other than displaying an icon that looked like a three-dimensional asterisk, just a small central dot with a series of lines extending from it. There was another icon that looked like a lightning bolt, the universal symbol for power. Either a generator maintenance panel or some kind of charging station.
Taking the lead, Dava slowed their approach to the four hatches with the palm of her hand. Either prospect might be useful. If it was a power control, she might be able to disable power to the outer defensive turrets, making their getaway much less risky. If it was a charging station, there could be weapons or powered armor inside.
The latter of which they didn’t have a need for necessarily. Thompson-Gun had given up her sidearm to Moses, so he and Dava were both packing compact but powerful laser pistols.
Just a few hops from the hatches, the walls turned red. She froze for half a second, then realized the hatches were opening.
“Get back!” she said. “Back, back!”
They hastened back the way they came, but without gravity they were not in any position to sprint. Dava glanced back over her shoulder to see dozens of shapes pouring forth from the pulsing red walls.
She turned back and kept pulling, letting the split-second image resolve in her mind. Spheres, about a meter in diameter. Legs or tentacles protruded from them in all directions, ropelike limbs that were reaching for handholds. Dozens of pairs of eyes turning to face their direction. One eye shining: the protective glass over a camera? The other eye hollow and dark: the barrel of a weapon?
“HALT FORWARD PROGRESS.” The machines were speaking simultaneously, working on a hive brain of some kind. “SURRENDER YOUR WEAPONS. SURRENDER NOW.”
“Dava, tell me you’re packing grenades,” Moses said. Her heart sank in remembrance of her strict commandment that she would never carry explosives. Then it jumped when she remembered she decided to violate that particular personal virtue, just this once.
She reached for one side of her belt: anti-personnel. Reached for the other side: electro-magnetic pulse. She yanked one of the EMPs away and tossed it at the chorus of spiderbots that were chanting for their surrender.
(Chapter 11, Under Shadows)
Oh hey, a little sneak preview there. That was a snippet from the final book in “The Dome Trilogy”, featuring everyone’s favorite assassin Dava tumbling through the corridors of a deep space zero-gravity prison. Under Shadows comes out July 13th, 2017.