Battle Luna – Snippet 20
The outermost Lock 1 was designed as an outer pressure curtain against leaks, and slid like a hangar door. It was powered, but also had a rack and pinion for manual opening. The three-man element opened it manually and slowly, cautious in their entry. They cranked it about a meter, just enough for easy entrance. They certainly expected explosives or similar. They stood clear as it slid, then lurked back while making careful scans with a drone ball, handheld sensors, and a sweep with an old fashioned stick.
That’s it. Come on in.
Even inside a suit, that gesture from the leader was a shrug. The three stepped forward and in, holding an arc against potential attackers. They were aiming at the walls and looking silly, but he had to admit it was a valid stance to assume a threat from any direction. They even scanned overhead.
Good enough. This stage was a combination of delaying and disorienting. Here was the first obstacle.
He clicked the safety, then pressed the trigger button. Lock 2’s latch clicked, twisted, there was a hiss…
…then Lock 2 slammed against its stops as ten atmospheres of pressure found an escape.
The blast of air was mostly oxygen, which they could refresh from Lunar regolith. Nitrogen was too valuable, and needed for the hydroponics farm. All that mattered was the pressure front, which roared, hissed and sighed into the open lock and out into vacuum. The gust blew the first troop straight through the hatch, his feet catching on the rim and causing him to flail and tumble. He slammed into the two Ueys outside, and they all sprawled across the powdery road.
The other two were a moment behind, buffeted and battered against the lip as the pressure inexorably forced them through as it escaped. One cartwheeled dramatically before bouncing on his helmet and sprawling in a long slide, like the ultimate base-steal in baseball.
Andre wasn’t sure if they were injured from being blown across the moonscape. One may have strained a thigh as he bounced. All three were well outside, though.
There was a seconds-long pause, before others rushed to their aid, with screening troops in front and responders behind. Very quickly, they all got back behind the cover of their vehicles.
Andre could close the hatch and do this again, but then the Ueys might find another route, blow some seals, or otherwise cease engaging. The goal was to keep them here as long as possible.
The open lock invited them to try again, this time to close the hatch as soon as they entered and proceed to secure Lock 2, which was just big enough for a vehicle to move in, then into the Maintenance Bay. That had nothing of relevance. The batteries and oxygen were in here now. The tools in Maintenance weren’t anything their ship didn’t have. And the Ueys had to be wondering why Lock 2 was still open, inviting, taunting them.
That Middle Bay would mean the Ueys could only admit a small contingent, and would have to secure it to proceed, then the next. Then, the fifth hatch hastily erected inside allowed more bottlenecking, and the entire habitat was able to use pressure doors and curtains as additional setbacks.
The delay was palpable and irritating, no doubt by intention. That was to be expected. Nothing here needed to be accomplished in seconds or even minutes. Hours, however, would run out even the oxygen supply on those support vehicles. It wouldn’t be terribly long before the invaders did something.
“Is the second stage ready?” he asked. He knew it was.
“Got my finger on the button,” Godin said.
“Good. Stand by.”
With two locks wide open and daring them, a larger contingent approached, skipping from cover to cover–boulders, a lip of melted regolith, the lock frame itself. This time, it was four armed in front, and two guys with gear, presumably technical specialists.
Everyone knew the Loonies had no weapons. Still, having been once caught, this element moved up slowly, with impressively even spacing, given that they had no experience in low G.
They darted into the Outer Bay, slid against the wall for the Middle Bay, then skipped one at a time through Lock 2.
Once inside, one of the techs slapped the hatch release, and nothing happened.
He turned to look, slapped it again, then hopped over to the lock to close it manually.
Once there, he realized that he lacked leverage, and waved for another to assist.
It was then that the monitor found their commo frequency.
“–take two of us. You brace me, I’ll push.”
It wasn’t encrypted, but then, they hadn’t had much time.
Nothing else useful was said, so Andre sat patiently while they closed and dogged Lock 2.
The one said, “I think the Oh Two controls are bollixed, too. We have to get inside the next one and try to pressurize from there.”
“They can’t blow us out again, can they?”
“No, we’re in vacuum and closed. But, if they try to overpressure us, you’ll need to be ready to inflate your suit to counter it, or you’ll be squashed from pressure.”
Very good, dammit. It sounded like their technical expert actually knew physics.
Ah, well, squashing them wasn’t the plan. Yet.
The intruders moved forward, and one of them shot a load of gunk at the monitor camera, which didn’t matter since that camera was no longer in use and just a decoy. The camera Andre was watching was miniaturized and hidden.
The Ueys’ pace was cautious, but brisk as they moved down the walls of the Outer Bay, then against the frame of Lock 2.
Using hand signals only, they gestured, then shuffled into position and stacked.
“Ready?” Crawford asked again.
Godin grinned and said, “I am.”
Right then, the Ueys swarmed across the threshold, crossing through each other, rifles out and sweeping.
The moment all of them were within the frame, he snapped, “Now!”
Godin tapped the key, and the second trap sprung.
Three strobes flashed at three different rates, at 10,000 lumens each. The flashes from two were short enough duration not to trigger faceplate polarizing. The other was just long enough. Between them, the troops should be disoriented with dazzling flash and dark fields of vision.
As the light show faded, another burst of oxygen cleared out three tubes full of bouncy balls. In fact, they were roughly shaped lumps of super silicone gasket goop, formed and let set.
With that pressure behind them, and in low G, they impacted like fists, then bounced away. Some careened around like billiard balls in a 3D table and came back for a second thump. The dazzle, darkness and thumping had all six on the ground, struggling or unconscious.
They were all clear of the frame, and Crawford punched for the hatch to close, locking them in.
The door swung, then slowed and stopped.
Crap. Yeah, the troops were inside, but a chunk of silicone was not. It was in the door track.
Okay, the lock would have to stay 80% closed. It was just barely wide enough someone might squeeze back out. If they tried, he was going to let them. He had Lock 1 dogged now. That would take time to breach.
And time was what the Loonies needed. Every minute here was a minute the Ueys weren’t inside, and were using oxygen. Their supply was much more limited.
“Okay, do I leave the lock evacuated and force those troops to use their oxygen? Or pressurize it against another attempt at a breach?”
Morton said, “We should have had someone ready to swarm them.” He didn’t sound accusatory, rather, embarrassed. None of them had thought of it.
Andre replied, “Yeah, but no way to predict how effective that was going to be, and we can’t spare people for hand to hand against professional troops.”
Godin suggested, “Leave it for now. We’ll watch outside for movement, and they’re consuming oxygen in there.”
The stunned troops recovered and rose slowly. Once up they looked around. One of them cautiously blocked the open lock hatch with his weapon, then turned around to see what the Middle Bay looked like.
They chattered with helmets in contact, no radio. Smart.
Then there was a transmission. “Command, we were attacked. We appear to have been pummeled with elastic projectiles causing minor injury only, and we were stunned. Sergeant Plexer has a damaged tank valve and will need extraction.”
“We are unable to enter the outer lock. It has been sealed and barricaded from inside.”
“What is your timeframe for entry, over?”
“Crap. Lunar faction, if you are monitoring this frequency, we are in need of assistance. One of our party has a damaged oxygen supply and his helmet contains only a very short duration. Will you accept temporary truce and let him exit?”
That was a tough one. Certainly, prisoners were useful, and treating them well would avoid escalating the situation, might help defuse it. But, admitting to having hacked their commo already…on the other hand, it wasn’t encrypted.