Battle Luna – Snippet 26
Counting, he said, “So, that gives us twelve of their hundred or so as prisoners.”
Godin said, “And we know how to stop the incursion.”
“What’s your plan?”
“Now we fill that space with O2. Specifically, right over where they’re drilling. When they cut through, the flash runs back into their space.”
Andre liked the concept, but…”It might kill them.”
“This is a war.”
He thought furiously. “Yeah. It’s not a weapon per se, and it’s defensive in nature, and we might talk our way around it, and goddammit, we have to do something. You’re right. Okay, fab it.”
It wasn’t an unpredictable outcome, was it? But the Ueys drilled and ground. The power cables he’d seen on the scan were heavy and armored. They were running power from the crawler outside.
Was it possible to interfere with that?
Morton said, “Well, there are three options. I can trundle down there in a Rolly, and try to jam a shearing blade into the conduit. They will probably shoot at us. I doubt we’d die inside the vehicle, but good chance of being captured if we were close when they stopped us. I don’t see how they couldn’t stop us, as obvious as that would be. We could toss some rocks and hope to damage the cable, but that armor is designed to protect against rockfalls, and we’ve only got one sixth gee in our favor. Rifles might work, but it would depend on range. It would take solid shots to break armor, insulation and conductor.”
Godin said, “It’s a titanium braid inside a fiberglass extrusion, with more fiberglass and double insulation. I don’t think a small caliber round is going to reliably penetrate. Likely get bound in the mesh. Also, that means LOS.”
Andre said, “Yeah. Indirect fire is preferred. We need some sort of rocket or solvent.”
Godin mumbled, “Solvent…or incendiary.”
Rojas said, “Both. Red fuming nitric acid in a butyl balloon, and a binary of that with pure octane. But we don’t have much of the latter.”
That got Andre’s attention. “Can it be ready in time?”
She looked serious and cheerful. “I can damned sure try.”
That left one thing. “How do we deliver?”
“Torsion catapult,” she said. “We’ll have to drag it out of the old emergency escape hatch. Assuming that’s not guarded.”
Godin said, “It might be reasonable to take weapons out that way for self defense.”
Andre conceded, “Fair enough, but if that’s necessary, you’re coming right back in, not trying to fight through them.”
“Yes,” Godin agreed.
Andre turned back to Rojas. “By the way, how long to make the catapult?”
She grinned. “It’s done. One of the school classes did it as a project and were throwing rocks.”
“Ah. Historical lesson?”
“That, and also physics. They did the math on projectiles and came up with both a table and an algorithm.”
“Well, that would have been useful earlier…though possibly not. It would already be taken out. Go to it.”
“On my way,” she agreed. “Rod, Stu, you’re with me.” She started skipping.
Momentarily she came on the suit freq.
“I’m wired in for now,” she said. “I’ve got scramble on radio, but going to assume they can crack that. So listen for me to talk around things if I have to.”
“Good,” Andre agreed.
“We’re going out the E-hatch, there’s a flat area out there we can launch from that gives us a nice beaten zone diagonally along the conduit. I’m going to throw as much as we have until we get it or the spotter says we’re getting rushed. I’ll be leaving the ‘pult outside.”
“That sounds correct and is approved,” he said for record.
She said, “Rod couldn’t find any octane in the chem storage here. I have three of the RFNA and one hydrogen and fluorine binary with RFNA to help boost it.”
“One. Well, make them count.”
“That’s the plan. We’re exiting now. Any lasts?”
“Good luck,” he said.
The old emergency lock had been built during construction, as a personnel hatch. It was barely big enough for a suited man. Then it became an emergency exit in case of damage to Lock 1, after some rockfalls. All that having been fixed, it was officially abandoned and not on the blueprints. They’d have to force it open, then because the Ueys would certainly find it, barricade it afterward, possibly with a rockfall. He recalled the Egyptian pyramids and their complicated shafts.
He turned to the images from that observer on the ridge, and saw faint movement of them getting into position. The natural depression outside the hatch had been carved, beaten and concrete-debrised into a rough level. It was okay for moon bikes or trailers with balloon tires. It didn’t work for a catapult on polymer casters. The three of them dragged and pulled their catapult.
Beyond them, he saw Ueys trudging back and forth, for tools and probably for rest breaks, to their vehicle park. It was amazing how close everyone was, without being within sight, and of course, there was no hearing.
Laura Rojas was surprised how fast the catapult was ready. The kids had done a good job of making it sectional. She and the men hauled the arm out, then the base and uprights. They got it pointed in the right direction, then tapped and pushed and thumped it into better alignment until she was satisfied. She had her tablet, a level, a protractor and some string. In a couple of minutes she had what should be the right torsion tension, based on the known test. The device had T&E screws she adjusted slightly. That should be it. Thumbs up.
The two men cranked the arm down, she set a heavy balloon in the bucket, then adjusted the thing some more with a couple of kicks and a nudge. It had shifted during cranking. And goddam, it was hot out here. She could feel the suit cooling unit running at max, and power was only going to last an hour, tops.
Godin hopped up in the low G, found a foothold on the ledge, and put his tablet just barely over a rock lip so he could record.
She stepped back and made sure the lanyard and pull release were straight. She took up slack and snapped her wrist down.
The arm swung, slapped into the detent, and rocked the whole assembly forward. The balloon sloshed and wobbled as it arced up, then seemed to just drop straight down. An optical illusion caused by parallax and distance. But there it was.
Godin hopped down, drifted to the ground, and skipped over.
In review, the balloon splashed down about a meter past the cable, throwing dust and splatters.
She gave a thumbs up acknowledgment, not an OK sign of “We’re good.” She rolled her forefingers “again” and went for another balloon from the box. It was interesting how hand signs and even ISL had come into use here. Lots of sites didn’t allow radio commo because it interfered with instruments. So they had a pidgin when needed.
It was a good bet that some of the fluid from the shot had splashed on the cable and was eating into it. It wasn’t a good bet there was enough, though. And no bet on adjusting the throw. A minimal variation in mass would affect the next shot more than any change of position.
Morton hopped down from his perch, and held up his tablet. He ran the vid.
One of the Ueys apparently saw the impact and ran roughly toward it, then stopped. Probably his helmet camera was forwarding the imagery to their command.
In a few moments, four of them had gathered, seemed to realize that was dangerous, pulled back, and tried to back-azimuth from the streaks left from the impact. The liquid had already started boiling off.
Again she signed, “Understood. Again.” It was all they could do.
They reset the catapult and she checked angle and inclination.
Morton went back up while she made fine adjustments. The unit had moved four centimeters, which didn’t seem like a lot, but would be at that end. The only way to do that much lateral was a kick. Then switch the tablet back to Nav and fine adjust. No one ever went outside without a tablet as backup commo, navigation, data recording. These units were built tough and accurate. You could die without them.
That reminded her how goddamned hot it was, and how she was panting even with this little exertion. Hopefully that meant the Ueys were struggling too.
Morton came down and held up his tablet. She watched.
Already, the Ueys had a team of six organized, who started outward, keeping within clear sight of each other, but eyeballing for the Loonies. Then, one had some sort of sensor. Probably thermal or other spectra. That wouldn’t do them any good, hopefully. The catapult had no signature.
Sonar didn’t work in vacuum and it seemed unlikely they had any kind of radar setup with them. They’d expected direct fire and would be looking for thermal flashes. This was cold. They’d have to eyeball it.