Battle Luna – Snippet 08
“Sorry, Eagle, sorry,” the other said, sounding even more harried. “Lot of stuff happening. I was just — I’m running the whole periphery comm. All six Eagles.”
A cold feeling settled in on the back of Pappy’s neck. “Are there other attacks going on? Where?”
“No, no, no other attacks,” the controller said hastily. “Someone spotted a drone, and there was a big discussion on whether we should shoot it down.”
“You didn’t, I hope,” Pappy said. The drone had probably been sent for the express purpose of drawing fire from Hadley’s defenses so the Ueys could see exactly what they were facing. As a general rule, the longer an enemy could be kept guessing, the better.
“No, no,” the controller said. “It just took a while to decide.”
“Yeah,” Pappy said through clenched teeth. Decision gridlock was bad enough among trained and experienced military people. Throwing complete amateurs into the mix just exacerbated the problem.
But he’d better get used to it. Aside from a few ex-military like Pappy himself, amateurs were all the Loonies had.
“If you’ve got that sorted out, we have a man down,” he growled. A burst of gunfire spattered on the ground around the foxhole, and he crouched a little lower, giving KC a quick look to make sure he hadn’t taken another ricochet. “Two bullet injuries, one of them a head shot. Get that MASH truck rolling.”
“Oh, God,” the controller gasped. “Who got — I mean how bad –?”
“Bad enough that we need the MASH truck,” Pappy cut him off impatiently. This clown put the most garrulous SAS controller to compete and utter shame. “Transfer me to the truck and I’ll give them the details.”
“I can do that,” the controller said. “What about the Uey tank? Devereux said there was a Dunsland 406 rigged out as a tank?”
“Yeah, and we’re working on it,” Pappy said. “Get the truck moving so I can get off the comm and work on it some more.”
“It’s not disabled?”
Pappy glared at the mountains hiding Hadley Dome from sight. What the hell was this? “No, it’s not disabled. Does that matter?”
“Oh, God,” the controller muttered. “I’m so sorry, Eagle Four. I can’t send the truck until the Dunsland’s been disabled.”
Pappy felt his mouth drop open. “What?”
“Orders,” the controller said, sounding completely miserable now. “Command says we can’t send the truck when there’s a chance it’ll be destroyed. It’s the only one we’ve got. We can’t afford to lose it.”
Pappy took a deep breath. Strategically, he could see, it made sense. Assets, balance, and costs were all part of military analysis, and in the long run a fully-equipped rolling medical facility was far more valuable than a single soldier’s life.
But KC was part of his team, damn it. He was Pappy’s responsibility, and there was no way in hell he the man was going to slowly bleed out just because someone sitting in a climate-controlled office had put together a spread sheet. “Fine,” he ground out. “Just get it warmed up and the crew inside. I’ll call you when it’s safe for them to come out in the sunshine.”
He yanked out the cable without waiting for a response and linked KC and Morgan back in. “Okay, they’re coming,” he said. “How you holding up, KC?”
“Okay,” KC said, with the muddled tone that showed the painkillers were going full force. “Listen, I don’t think…I’m still getting drips running down my neck. You sure the press-patch is working?”
Pappy winced. The suits had an inner layer that was supposed to swell up against broken bones or sprained joints, immobilizing them long enough for a trip to the nearest dome and a proper med facility. But whether the system could put the necessary pressure in a small enough spot to stop a bleeder was a big unknown.
And the helmets didn’t have that, at least not above neck level. The graze on KC’s skull was going to keep bleeding until they could get him out of that suit and onto a treatment table.
Which left him two options. He could disable the Dunsland so the rice-counters in Hadley would send the MASH truck, or he could carry KC back to the dome on his own.
He lifted his head cautiously to eyeball level. And whichever one he picked, he needed to do it fast. If the enthusiastic action by the Dunsland’s front wheels was any indication, they were getting close to unsnarling the monofil. Any minute now the vehicle would be on its way again, with nothing to stop it except him and Morgan.
He frowned. The tank had come in right beside Waffle Ridge, as a guard against flank attack. It had been brought to its forced halt about twenty meters along the ridge, too far for a sneak attack from the rear even if most of the Ueys were working at the front.
But KC had called Waffle a cross-eye. Pappy hadn’t known the name was used for that particular ridge, but he had heard the term before. Maybe. “KC, why did you call Waffle Ridge a Cross-eye?” he asked.
“What?” KC muttered. “Oh. ‘Cause it’s frangible rock. Look at it cross-eyed and it comes right down on you. Hate that.”
“Don’t blame you,” Pappy said, studying the ridge and the surrounding terrain. Waffle Ridge ran all the way along their current right flank, passing within ten meters of Morgan’s foxhole. It was just as steep there as it was by the Dunsland, but he could see a couple of potential hop spots that might get him to the top.
It would be tricky. It would also possibly get him shot, unless the Ueys were trying to be reasonable. But right now, it was all he had. “Okay,” he said, crouching down and picking up one of KC’s spare oxy tanks. “Morgan, get one of your oxy tanks and point the valve toward the Dunsland. When I give the word, crank it open and try to blow as much dust off the ground as you can. I’ll do the same over here.” Somehow, he added silently to himself as he looked around the foxhole. He could hardly hold the tank while he was scrambling madly to get over Waffle Ridge.
“What are you going to do?” Morgan asked.
“They won’t send the MASH truck until the Uey tank’s been disabled,” Pappy said. “So I’m going to.”
“You just concentrate on making as much dust in front of us as you can,” Pappy said, looking back at the catapult. The contraptions were heavy and unwieldly, and it had taken all three of them to get them into the foxholes in the first place. But if he could get it up onto the rim and brace it…
“I’ll do that,” KC wheezed.
And to Pappy’s amazement, the other levered himself up off the foxhole floor. He took a moment to balance himself, then gestured to the tank in Pappy’s hands. “Get it up there,” he said, “and I’ll hold it.”
“You sure?” Pappy asked.
“Beats waiting forever for the bus,” KC said. “Get going before they start moving again.”
“Okay,” Pappy said. He manhandled the tank up onto the rim and pointed the nozzle toward the ground in front of them. There was a dust-filled depression five meters out that should do the trick. “Morgan?”
“Ready,” she said. “Be careful.”
“I will.” Pappy helped KC into position, then ducked down again and grabbed another oxy tank and the cutting torch from KC’s catapult-repair equipment. “On three,” he said, standing upright again and peering toward the Dunsland. Of all the soldiers, only the machinegunner seemed to have his full attention pointed in their direction. “One, two, three.” He twisted the valve wide open.