Battle Luna – Snippet 22
Godin said, “If it gets out, there’s guaranteed violence. If it stays secure, guaranteed violence, but you know, we have plenty of violence without it. I don’t see it having that much of an effect on things overall, as far as that goes.”
Andre said, “Logistically it matters. Military engineers are a force multiplier for an army. We let them move faster, be secure, pin the enemy in place. That takes money–logistics. If I could have as many mines and traps as I wanted produced on site by shoveling crap–even literally crap–into one end, it would definitely make it easier.”
Godin said, “And that would apply equally to everyone who had one, right? Even poorer, less equipped armies.”
“It would. There’d be no superpowers anymore.”
“Not really a bad thing, then?”
Andre thought. “I don’t know. I mean, at present the superpowers are basically the US and China with Brazil, India and Japan moving up fast. I certainly don’t fear the Japanese with it. The Indians I’m not sure about. Sorry, Ravi.”
Malakhar looked up from his screens and shrugged. “I agree, given our internal issues and some of our fringe groups that the government is not able to control.”
“But say some of the more rabid nations, like some of the Arab countries of thirty years ago get it, or some of the Stans. And then there’s any number of groups who could become national powers if they had it, and as long as they have enough people, this means they will have enough material. The entire power dynamic of Earth is about to change.”
Rojas asked, “So they’re not going to let us keep it, no matter what.”
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “There are military, diplomatic, cultural and economic factors and I’m nowhere near an expert.”
Godin said, “If someone thinks they can make a buck off it, they’re not going to destroy it.”
Morton cocked his head and raised his brows.
“There are groups opposed enough to capitalism that bombing it will be their first response. They’d rather have nothing than let anyone profit.”
“Yup,” Andre agreed. “All we can do is hold off for now and see what’s next. For now, everyone should take a bathroom break in turn and get more food. And we need some water bottles.”
“I’ll go,” Morton said, standing.
It was an hour later when Lieutenant Kasanga came over the radio.
“Lunar Element, Engineer Crawford, we are low on oxygen.”
Theoretically, those were six hour tanks with good filters. But they’d been exerting since arrival, and their trip from the ship was probably an hour. So two and a half hours? Yeah. No one had thought to use fresh bottles for a short incursion into an airlock.
Andre opened the mic. “Are you asking to surrender?”
After a long pause, the response was, “Yes.”
“One at a time into the lock. Gear first, then the individual in a stripped suit.”
He cycled them in one by one, and they were escorted off, hooded, to further detention.
He examined one of the gas bottles left behind. It probably held twenty minutes of oxy. So they hadn’t been desperate, but were certainly thinking ahead to avoid being so.
How big a reserve did they have in those vehicles? Replenishment tank or individual bottles? On the moon, spare bottles were the rule. Lose one, you went on. Lose an entire replenishment supply…
He said, “We need to find a way to attack their support vehicles.”
Godin said, “I’ve got a skimmer. We can shovel it full of dust at the pit out east.”
“Is it out of view now?”
Godin explained, “As in, it’s out at the hole where we found the thing. Remember they were doing geo surveys and mining outlines. They still are.”
Crawford asked, “Okay. Who’s piloting?”
He understood, he thought. “Aha. She hops to the pit, loads up with dust, flies over and opens the bay.”
Godin said, “It’ll be really messy to load it into the craft. There will be sealing issues and then we’ll have to clean it all out afterward.”
He understood. “Right. Still, it’ll be a lot worse on their vehicle than the skimmer.”
Godin said, “Yes. Want me to get her going?”
“Have her load up and stand by. We want to stage our response. Every time they think they’re making headway, we knock them back down.”
Godin turned to his console. “Got it. I’ll code a message through.”
Right then, the radio came through in clear.
“Lunar Element, this is Colonel Arris, UN Forces. I request response.”
Crawford waited ten seconds, then keyed and spoke. “Go ahead, Colonel.”
“May I ask who I am speaking with?”
“Sure, why not? As I told your lieutenant, I’m Andre Crawford, Systems Engineer.”
There was dead air for about fifteen seconds, then Arris said, “Ah, here you are. You served with the US Army.”
Crawford agreed, “I did. What about it?”
Arris said, “I want to discuss our positions, and hope to resolve this peacefully.”
Crawford counted five. “I can talk. I can’t make any decisions. That has to go through Control.”
“I understand. I am unable to get a response from your Central Operations.”
Five more seconds. “Okay.”
Wait…Command wasn’t answering Arris. But, Command hadn’t told him not to talk to the Ueys. So the Ueys might think this was unsanctioned. That was interesting and potentially useful.
He typed a quick query to Command.
Zeiss responded, Correct. As I said, we decided to ignore them, force them to deal with you alone for now. He tried to contact us on the official freq about 30 seconds ago. I was just sending that note. If it gets complicated you’re authorized to ask us for advice, ask us to step in, or ignore him. Basically, keep him talking and unaware of anything else.
He typed back, Roger, but we might want to split his attention shortly. Distraction. I’ll see what I can arrange.
And as long as they were talking, the clock was running.
Arris said, “Ultimately, we have the upper hand.”
He paused again. It was all delay. “You believe so?”
The colonel said, “We do. We have weapons and position.”
Crawford waited his standard five seconds and said, “We have weapons now. And your troops are our prisoners.”
He could almost hear Arris smirk, “We have a lot more than six weapons.”
Crawford had to smile. “We have oxygen recycling and food. Do you propose a siege? We’ll win.”
“Until we bring more forces from Earth.”
Leaning back to feel casual so he’d sound casual, he replied, “That takes time. Something we have a lot of.”
“Something you have a finite amount of. Eventually our positions reverse.”
He really did sound casual as he said, “Eventually.”
Arris said, “We need to talk about the device.”
“What device?” He’d rehearsed sounding as casually ignorant as possible.
“The device that is the reason we’re here.”
Noncommittally, he said, “I’m listening.”
“You understand what it is, yes?”
“No. I don’t know of any ‘device.'” Actually, he knew a lot, but the longer they talked, the better, as long as his people kept an eye out for maneuvers.
Malakhar smiled and winced, and looked impressed at the flat out lie. Andre had to stifle his own giggle.
“It didn’t occur to you to ask why an armed force was landing with demands to enter, and orders for same?”
He replied, “One of the things I learned in the Army was not to ask questions about things I didn’t want to need answers to. That’s also good policy here, with all the military, technical and research secrets floating around.”
Arris said, “Interesting. But you were told not to admit us.” He didn’t sound convinced.
“That is correct.”
Arris said, “And have gone to lengthy measures to delay us.”
Crawford leaned back in his chair and replied, “Those were my instructions.”
“You understand my orders place me superior to your command authority.”
That ploy. “Well, I’m sure they do from your point of view, but I don’t recognize it.”
“You don’t recognize UN authority?” Arris sounded surprised.
“Not from outside, without a bona fide emergency. Central Operations is fully functional, and there’s no reason for external control. They told me to hold out any incursion. I wasn’t given a reason, but seeing as they’re functional and not under any kind of duress, I’m assuming their orders are legit. Talk to them.”
Arris sounded irritated as he replied, “As I said, they are not responding.”
“Well, I’ll send them a query. Right now, in fact. Stand by.”
He did nothing for a measured thirty seconds. Really, this was eating up minutes.
He keyed and spoke, “Okay, that’s done. You should hear from them as soon as they have comm time. But you understand I can’t speak for them and have no control over their decisions.”
Arris said, “I–”
Crawford cut him off and said, “So tell me about this device.”