Battle Luna – Snippet 17

Really, the number of people who knew about the device made the pretense of secrecy silly.  It was almost certain that everyone in Echelon 1 knew the rough details. The labor, support, outside contractors and family members might not, but all those with pull almost certainly did. He’d picked his four crew because they definitely knew, but that was secondary to their usefulness. They were in because they were ace engineers even by Loonie standards, very trustworthy, and calm under hazard.

Ravi Malakhar had done the materials sampling of the device’s case, or tried to. The case was impervious. There was speculation it wasn’t quite matter as humans understood it.  Scans reflected off or got absorbed, and there wasn’t any consistency as to which. He was very good with observation and data.  The more of that they had regarding the Ueys, the easier it would be. He was a slender Indian and looked older in the face than he was, but was quite fit.

Stu Morton had figured out some of the small amount of coding they understood so far. The controls on the thing were very organic, taking hand motions and translating them into instructions. He could code equipment remotely, or secure it against intrusion. It was assumed the Ueys would try to hack into commo.  He’d coordinate counters. If only his Liverpool accent didn’t make him sound like a Beatles movie.

Laura Rojas was a crack fabricator, and had been here eight years. There wasn’t a detail of the lunarscape she didn’t know, nor any of their equipment. She’d helped create, on the fly, some of the tooling that had failed to penetrate the device. That was more success than anyone else had. He’d watched her gain a little mass due to the low G, but she was fit, just tiny, barely 160 centimeters.

Roderick Godin was in because he’d been the mission engineer when the “gadget” had been found. He’s been cool enough to secure the item in place, clear the area, call for observation and photos, approach slowly and then wait for further instruction. “Rod from God” as several women nicknamed him was also really good in crater or crevice, and understood structures.  Andre had a special project for him.

Andre would rather none of them were involved in the defense, given the information they had. For them to get killed, or worse, captured, could screw the whole deal.  However, there was no one who could be relied upon to defend against an armed force without having the knowledge, which still needed to officially be held close. It made a certain amount of sense.      

So here they were.

He shook hands quickly. He mumbled and nodded because his brain was still thinking.

Then he remembered to act as well as think.

“Sorry, let’s move. We’ve got to secure resources before the Ueys arrive.  Lock down, lock up, clear out power and oxy, unsafe the traps, get back here and hunker down.”

He didn’t bother with a vacuum suit yet. There was no time.

There were a handful of others at their disposal, who only knew there was a dispute, not the cause.  He wasn’t going to involve them yet. He knew Ravi and Rod had observers who could support them.

Not that it mattered. It wouldn’t take long for news of the UN landing to get out, and of the dock being secured. There were plenty of science and industrial projects outside that required access to vehicles. Those were all on hold. That hold, even justified as “solar activity,” wouldn’t last more than a few hours.

As far as weapons, they had nothing ready made.  They had explosives in expedient production, and various chemicals, but the goal was to avoid violence as long and as much as possible, for both PR and out of humanitarian gestures.  Melee implements were plentiful– titanium geologist’s hammers with the rock chisel end sharpened to an edge, chisels ground down and mounted on tool handles as pikes, pry bars. Those would readily crack a face plate or split any hose connection.  Though he wasn’t sanguine about using them. The incoming troops probably had better and more recent hand to hand training than he or his people.

They had an effectively limitless oxygen source, as far as the engagement went.  The intruders had only what they could bring on their ship and vehicles. Keeping them from acquiring resupply locally was first on the list.  If they ran out of oxy, or eventually water, the fight ended. They might also have issues with power.  Certainly the powerplants on the ships would have plenty, but changing that energy to usable form for vehicles and suits took time and equipment. A man charging his suit batteries and filling up on breathing mix wasn’t combat effective.

The plan was to delay, stall, hinder, then if need be damage or injure, and if all else failed, kill, but after the Ueys had made the first aggressive move.

The devices and events constructed over the last three days, since the UN launch, with either secrecy or careful cover stories and work orders ready to go.  They were still hidden, and nothing appeared out of line.  However, to maintain the pretense of normalcy, the lock itself had been left operational until now.

Crawford and his men and woman were almost in a panic as they rolled into the Outer Bay. He felt very exposed this far from the main habitable area without a pressure suit even within reach.

The Outer Bay had a light sheet floor over the regolith, framework pressure doors, and parking slots for four ready vehicles to recharge, reload, refit and get back out. There were racks for batteries, tanks and bottles.  It made it quick and efficient to supply and resupply outside functions without entering deeper into the maintenance and support area of Middle Bay. During a busy project, the four rollys would be nonstop ferries of people and sundries.

He pointed around the bay and ordered.

“Okay, load the oxy on that goat trailer, then pull power lines on the rollys. We’ll take those in.”

Rojas said, “Those aren’t all gonna fit.”

“Right. We’ll make more trips, and try to dismount charging ports as well.  If we have time, we’ll take the batteries. If we can’t do that, we’ll try to disable the vehicles some other way.”

“If you say so.” She didn’t sound convinced.

“Yeah. We’ll do what we can.  Let’s move, okay?”

The bottles were easy enough, it was just tedious to move so many.  The ready racks held enough for an entire shift of three work crews to be outside, right about a hundred tanks. 

“Stack them neatly. We can dump to unload, but the neater, the better for loading,” he said.

Ravi had been just tossing them. He grumbled, but started aligning them for a geometric pile. And thank God for .16 G.

Those all fit, with room to take all four power cables from the other rollys. 

“Hurry,” Crawford urged.  Once everything was piled, he jumped on the saddle, powered up and rolled in to the Middle Bay, then past Lock 3A and 3B to Inner Bay and Maintenance off to the side. That was big enough to pull pressurized maintenance on a single rolly, and for two others to pass each other in turn.  There was just room to back the trailer carefully inside the main hab, Lock 4. The haulers used for palletized cargo were specialized for that lock and used in trains, not singly.

Barely. He scraped one side and almost jammed a wheel before he got it backed in.

“Just toss the stuff off and we’ll go back for more.”

Really, more labor would be useful.  On the one hand, it would only take one sympathizer to wreck the whole thing.

He scraped back out, the vehicle thumping and rising, then back down in the low G, as one of the trailer wheels caught on the hatch frame.

For the second trip, two of the large recharge tanks fit on the trailer, along with charging ports. There was still power in the battery banks, but the Ueys would have no way to charge or draw from them without bringing or making a Charging Interface Unit.  The batteries could be dismounted and used as is, but that would take time the Ueys probably couldn’t spare.

His phone beeped.  He pressed the button on his collar and heard Coffman. “They’re rolling into view.”

“Crap, guys, we go now.”

 He bounded across the garage in two leaps and slapped the button to close Lock 1. Then he turned to the remaining recharge tank, pulled the hammer off his belt, and cracked the safety disk. The tank began a slow hiss as it vented into the enclosed space.

“At least we’re not losing that air,” he said. “Kick it.”