Battle Luna – Snippet 18
Rojas shrugged and took the wheel, and rolled back through to Inner Bay. Morton followed, disabling the lock control on this side, then doing a bypass on the inner control. He couldn’t smash it completely; it housed all the circuitry here. There was a manual override for emergencies. No one had foreseen needing to cut lock controls and run them remotely. It was cheaper, faster and safer to build one box for each hatch and simply run a control line in. That was going to bite them in the ass now. They couldn’t cut it without surrendering control to the Ueys. The Ueys could cut it and take that control, and probably would.
The maintenance section in the Middle Bay was empty. That meant lots of room for Ueys to get in, but nothing for them to hide behind. When it came to boobytraps, this entrance was as good as could be hoped for.
They needed to get on those boobytraps.
“Rod, you know that divot right about the middle of the entryway floor? Reinforced with lattice?”
Godin said, “Yes.”
“Can you open that section and mine that lattice?”
The man nodded, wrinkled his brow and said, “I need an hour.”
“Faster if you can. We might have more than that. They may come straight in.”
“Can I have Rojas with me? And Ravi, can you get the charges? I’ll need at least ten. One hundred grams each.”
Malakhar said, “I’ll get them now. Do I need authorization?”
Crawford said, “You have it.” He pointed at his screen. He’d already pinged Control and gotten approval.
The three skipped off.
Then he said, “Stu, can you prep those transducers we talked about? I want them up high out of reach.”
Morton said, “On it, boss,” and skipped away.
The transducers could generate enough sound pressure to be heard in 5% atmospheric pressure. They were armored against impact, and Rojas had fabbed a second cover for them that should stop bullets. Properly place in one of the locks, they would hopefully be very effective stun and distraction devices.
All that set, Andre took a few moments to peel out of his coverall, skin into a leotard, and pull his friction suit on. He had his helmet and bottle right there in case he needed them.
Back to the fliptop he had as a control console, he looked at the screens and written report. Nothing was coming through on audio yet.
“Can you hear me, Boss?” Godin came through his headset.
“I have you.”
“I’m wired into the channel here. Didn’t want to use radio.”
“Good.” And that decision-making ability was why he’d grabbed these people.
Godin said, “Ravi is prepping the charges for me. Laura is helping me open the floor panels. Worst case, we pull out and there’s a big hole in the floor they have to work around. What are they doing?”
The video feed showed three ArctiTraks lumbering evenly around the ridge cut.
Crawford gauged them and said, “Approaching by vehicle. At that speed, you still have ten minutes before arrival. I’d say they’ll need ten to debark and arm for entry. Which also assumes they’re in a hurry. They’re certainly visible and can’t expect to surprise us.”
“Roger. I’ll update as we go. I’m pulling the wire. Give me a channel squelch and a word ‘go’ if we have to run.”
Crawford nodded to himself. “Sounds good. Signal is squelch and go.”
Right then, Coffman came on. “Andre, we have two friends of Ravi’s who are going EVA for observations.”
“Yeah, he mentioned them. What do you have on this element out there?”
On screen, Coffman shrugged. “The same camera you do, sir. SELSAT has nothing. We don’t know if it’s dead or jammed.”
That was bad. “All three? Shouldn’t two be over the horizon at present?”
“Yup, nada. The Colonel doesn’t want to put a skimmer up because that would be obvious and possibly provocative. We’re waiting for them to come to us.”
“Got it. Whatever you do see, keep me informed. I may not notice everything.”
“I’m listening in. What you’ve been reporting so far is good.”
“Glad to hear it.” But as much as he liked being in charge, this was a bit outside his comfort zone.
The element was large. He looked over the imagery and tried to think. Three ArctiTraks, possibly sixty Ueys. Ground staff…space crew, if they were double trained, and probably were…
Ravi came back through the door.
He said, “Hey, boss, I’m in their way. What do you need?”
Crawford replied, “Hang here until we have more info.”
“That I can do. Want me to look?”
Turning his head back to the screens, Andre tried to estimate against known landmarks.
He said, “Estimate a hundred men? Figure three Traks with twenty each plus support?”
Malakhar agreed. “That seems a fair appraisal. Anything on sat?”
“Coffman says they’re down.”
Malakhar scowled, his lean face looking odd with the expression. “That’s not good. I may be able to get a powered drone up, or I have a man outside who can slingshot a camera overhead and try to retrieve it later. Both have advantages.”
Crawford said, “Yeah, I do want to know. On the other hand, I don’t want to waste anything too soon, or give away our knowledge.”
Rojas came in right then said, “Boss, they have to know we know. I wouldn’t worry about that part.” She sounded out of breath.
“True,” he agreed. “Which leaves finding out now, or waiting. It’s not as if it’s going to change the troop numbers.”
The talk was necessary, but agitating. Andre prompted again, “Okay, get me whatever you have.”
Malakhar said, “I’ve got an observer going up Peak Five from the outside. We painted his suit tan. It’ll flake off, but should drop his profile a lot. He has a laser signal he can beam to the tertiary receiver. Coffman’s the only one with access.”
“Well done, thanks.”
“No problem. I’ve got another guy behind the outcropping who’s going to launch the camera, then duck inside. We get one shot, so tell me when you want to do it.”
Andre chewed his lip and thought.
“Don’t let them get close enough to catch him. But when they’re a few hundred meters out, I say do it.”
Malakhar said, “I count three vehicles, but it’s likely there’s two more out behind the ridge.”
He nodded. “Right. Do it when you see fit.”
“And we need to get that emergency hatch moved into position and sealed.”
Morton said, “I’ll do that now. Laura, help?”
“Yup,” she said, and bounded back to her feet.
Godin leaned his head into the Hut and said, “I’ll help. I’m done in Outer Bay.”
The emergency lock mounted into position anywhere a pre-cut slot existed. Those were in the rock every twenty meters, and in the habitrails every fifteen. The idea was a leak could be isolated to the smallest volume possible, and then repaired or worked around.
But an emergency lock was just that. It wouldn’t handle many sudden significant pressure shifts but it might handle one. It bought time in an emergency. This wasn’t the emergency it was built for, but it would still work.
Out in the main passage, Morton and Rojas mounted the lock base, set the sides, and cranked the tension up. Godin latched the mounts. Andre watched through the door, while turning back to his screens every few seconds. Once they had all four sides in the pre-cut slots, Morton pulled, twisted and slapped the button that extruded sealing goop all the way around. It was effectively air tight; leakage should be in grams per minute or less. It wasn’t proof against an overpressure slam either way. They’d need to avoid that.
Andre was back at the screens as the three returned. There was a video feed from up high. That man on the ridge had good imagery, though his field of view was limited. There were two more Traks.
Malakhar took a look at the scan and said, “Yup, two more. Now, that’s three plus two that we can see. We’re assuming a lander type Albatross C. That doesn’t mean they didn’t strip down and squeeze another vehicle in, or that they didn’t land another craft further out. I don’t see a reason they would, but it’s not impossible.”
“Got it,” Crawford said with a nod.
An overhead image at an oblique, ballistic angle showed the exact positions of the Uey craft and vehicles. They were well clear of any feasible weapon from here, out of view of the dome or the tunnels, but close enough to make their own support and recovery easy.
Malakhar stared at his screen and replied. “Yes, Albatross C, single, can carry five ArctiTraks and most of their gear would be inside those, or wedged between. We’re looking at everything they are likely to have. They may be able to lift if they abandon everything here, or if they get a fuel drop from an orbiter.”