Battle Luna – Snippet 19
Ravi continued, “Okay, my man outside is now inside. The man up on the peak can hold for four hours on his oxy supply if you need him to.”
“If he’s comfy, it can’t hurt to do so.”
Malakhar pointed. “He even sent a pic.”
The image showed a suited figure draped in a hollow, one leg hanging over a formerly sharp edge he’d hammered flat. From any angle, in that color, he’d be tough to see, and no one should be looking. He was flashing a peace sign.
Crawford had to grin.
“Yeah, as long as he can last. More intel always helps.”
He stood, stretched, and looked at the other three.
“So let’s summarize: We have three airlocks, one of them twin. We installed an emergency unit as a fifth. Four sections, five hatches. We can secure controls from in here, but that could be bypassed eventually. We need to stop them from entering or causing infrastructure damage that would lead to personnel evacuation. We want to minimize casualties, and avoid first use of force if at all possible. We’ve improvised several non-lethal weapons and the three of you can hopefully fab gear as needed against incursions. It’s dawn here, and as the sun clears the peaks, it will get hot fast. That means they’ll need to force entry or build shelter. Ultimately, we win if they surrender or run out of oxy and retreat. They win if they achieve entry and control the entrance.”
Morton said, “Of course we never needed lethal or projectile weapons here, and they’d be dangerous in a habitat. And whether that was intentional or circumstantial, they’re going to exploit it.”
He nodded and scowled. “Yeah. I said all along that pistols wouldn’t breach the sheathing, nor most light rifles, and that they’d be useful in case of a rebellion or even a criminal threat. Everyone ignored me. Then Gresham freaked out last year and stabbed five people before he got dogpiled.”
Rojas said, “I’m not sure firearms would have changed that outcome.”
Andre shrugged. He’d seen knife fights on the South Side. “Probably not, but if it happens once, it can happen again. We can discuss it another time. I just wish we had them now.”
The four sat down to wait. That was the main thing in war. Boredom. All parties would maneuver, sit around, maneuver some more, change positions. Eventually someone would attack or, more likely, trip over the enemy. Then the fight started.
“Make sure we keep the coffee full,” he ordered. “Food regularly. We can talk, or move around, or plan. I don’t want anyone playing cards or gaming. We need to notice motion on the screens and messages. No outgoing messages. Everyone’s phone is off, right? And the suit comms are for official use only.”
“Ravi, please confirm.”
The man had been fiddling with his fliptop to get the screen at a good angle.
“Yes, I understand. Sorry.”
He was usually taciturn and didn’t communicate much. He had to be reminded that for this, verbal confirmation was a must for record.
From his raised position, Colonel Zeiss looked around Central Operations, then at the external view on the large screen. Often, that carried news or mission footage. Now it just showed the majestic scenery. It was almost high enough resolution to fool the human eye into seeing it as “real.” Almost.
Even though the moon ran on Zulu time, lunar sunrise was relevant to several functions. It was also very pretty. The main screen showed a polarized view of a bare glow peeking through a notch in the rim wall. That tendril that might just be a prominence adding to the grandeur.
Zeiss felt reasonably calm under the present circumstances. He had some of the best people on the job, and it was unlikely the UN wanted violence. The wrapup at Hadley Dome indicated that.
On the other hand, he also had some of the most stubborn and cantankerous people, and they were getting aggravating.
Zeiss had only a moment to appreciate the canned view, as approval requests and advisories started chattering in.
The hope was to stall any EXTAC–EXTernal ACtivity, until the dispute was resolved. Otherwise, a lockdown phrased in that way would guarantee rumors as to why. Those would be bad if true, potentially worse if wild speculation. Nor was it possible to bottle this many people up, even with hard vacuum outside.
Zeiss asked, “What’s the word on the Uey landing?”
Coffman said, “No movement yet, from any available source. We still have nothing from SELSAT. Definitely compromised.”
“Who else knows that?”
Coffman replied, “Just my section. No one has any urgent commo queued.”
Solar activity did sometimes interfere for minutes at a time. But that was minutes. He needed hours.
Okay, so he felt a little stressed. “I wish they’d get on with it.”
Coffman agreed, “Yes, sir. Meantime, I’ve automated ‘in queue’ notifications to all senders, and a ‘possible interference’ advisory. Which is true. We have interference.”
That was clever, and just beyond Zeiss’ grasp of English. He was very fluent, but he German mindset didn’t let him play words with the foreign language like that.
“Just not a natural cause. Yes,” he noted.
Coffman warned, “But, sir, within a few minutes, there are going to be angry queries, and I don’t know what to say.”
“Yes. I’ll see what I can devise.”
He turned to his private console and wired connection.
“Crawford, update when you can.”
Andre heard Zeiss’ order and replied, “I will, sir. We’ve finished prepping infrastructure. Now we’re waiting for commencement.”
“I understand, Zeiss out.”
He and his people waited, with every screen on every device split to show command input and the outside cameras.
Crawford asked, “What’s their roll time from there, about ten minutes?”
Godin said, “Ten minutes for us. They should take about twenty to be cautious, plus whatever threat protocols they want to use.”
He calculated. “So, figure eight as a bare minimum if they go balls out, and we’re already five into that. Nominal thirty. Possibly an hour.”
Godin agreed. “That seems reasonable.”
“Okay. I could definitely use a sandwich.”
Rojas put in with a grin, “The cooler has egg, chicken, cheese, mustard and peppers. Make your own damned sandwich, boss.”
He grinned. “Don’t mind if I do. Anyone else?”
Morton said, “Yeah, sure thing.”
“Go for it. Make your own damned sandwich,” Andre tossed back.
He would like some roast beef, but that was very scarce up here, and usually from a tank. Tank-raised meat did not taste like real meat, no matter who claimed so. They weren’t likely to get any from Earth this month, either. Chicken, turkey, tuna and salmon were their primary meat proteins, and lots of egg. The cheese also wasn’t great, being made from powdered milk fat solids.
In the list of minor repercussions, the McDonald’s down the passage wasn’t going to have any burgers for as long as this lasted, only chicken.
The mustard was okay. They made their own vinegar and grew their own mustard seed, among other spices. The bread was real, though with rice as well as wheat it was a bit crumbly.
Still, he had a fresh sandwich and coffee.
The coffee was okay. They grew that under lights, and it didn’t have anything like the complexity of Earth coffee, because they didn’t have the soil. It was hot and well made, though.
Malakhar said, “Here they come. Three ArctiTraks, probably with ten each, twenty if they stuff. But I have no idea how much volume they’re using for equipment.”
“Right.” He shoved the rest of the sandwich in his mouth, chewed, swallowed, guzzled the last quarter cup of coffee, and turned to his console.
For now, he had plenty of imagery. He assumed that would stop eventually. But he could clearly see the vehicles rolling around the cut in the ridge. They were in line, about 500 meters separated.
They stopped well back from Lock 1, and dispersed a few meters apart. Hatches dropped, and suited troops debarked, in tan pressure suits with rifles and small buttpacks under their oxy bottles.
He said, “Remember, these are all space qual troops, so they’re elite. Don’t underestimate any of them.”
The troops moved quickly, rolling out what appeared to be a genny cart, and an oxy bottle supply. They were ready for an extended stay.
In a few moments, three of the troops almost casually detached from the group and started moving zigzag toward the lock. Two more followed a few seconds behind.
Rodin said, “Looks like a recon team first. Smart. They’re armed with G56 rifles and pry bars. I don’t see any other weapons or relevant tools.”
Andre said “Well, we can’t do anything until they do something.”
For now, the outer lock wasn’t secured. There were advantages to having the troops inside where pressure and vacuum could be adjusted. He’d hoped for a larger element, but this would do.