Battle Luna – Snippet 27
They gazed all over, with no particular focal point, so they hadn’t estimated the trajectory yet.
She shrugged and signed, “Watch between shots.” That last sign was normally used to mean explosive shots or “blasts,” but its meaning was clear.
She stepped back and pulled the release. The second bomb arced up, contents slopping about. It flew tumbling, slowed, then started down out of sight.
Morton pointed and signed for Godin to move up and take over vid, while he hopped down to show the ongoing report to Laura.
Troops had shot at the balloon.
They stopped almost at once and stared at one individual, who was gesticulating wildly and apparently chewing them out for the folly.
The balloon splashed down a meter short, but almost in a perfect line with the first one.
That was better. There was definitely a splash pattern across the cable now. It wasn’t as good as an impact, but there were shimmers and vapor off the casing.
Thumbs up, okay, more, clenched hand for “correct.”
Godin came down fast with his tablet.
It showed troops turning around and started bounding in the general direction of the team.
He touched helmets. “Shoot now, make it count,” he said.
She nodded and went for a balloon.
The Ueys would need a couple of minutes to get here, and up through the rock. They’d probably want to leapfrog to avoid exposure. Really, there was time for a shot.
Part of her kept feeling exposed, that someone might pop up any second.
So far, no one had done any shooting. They’d still be able to run or dodge and knew this terrain, and worst case, capture left them on the moon in an atmosphere controlled environment.
No one had done any shooting yet.
No one except Laura Rojas and her team with acid and hypergolic liquid.
Godin and Morton levered the arm back, she placed the balloon. This one sloshed a lot. She checked position, then checked it again, forcing herself to be methodical.
From his lookout, Morton kept a thumb up. Safe so far.
She shuffled back and behind. She found her lanyard checked alignment, then tugged.
The bag broke.
She hopped away and avoided being splashed.
As the fluid fumed across the arm, the catapult flung the residue in a long, pretty spray around the axis. The remaining dregs flew, probably far too far.
One round, totally wasted, and a good marker for the Ueys.
Behind the catapult, the rock fumed momentarily.
Laura fumed in a different context.
Godin signed, “What do next?”
She replied, “Shoot more, hurry, load,” and gestured to indicate the splashes that were damaging the catapult.
They levered fast, she loaded the HF container very quickly and very delicately. If it burst…
No, she wanted to shoot. “Fire” was what would happen at the other end.
She pulled the lanyard.
The container arced spaceward, peaked, then started back down.
She was already scrambling up to watch, and for reassurance on the approaching troops.
In mid trajectory, the HF ignited. The acid spill had done enough damage to pierce the balloons.
The flash started as a jet, where the two components met. It spread rapidly in a bright ring, turning into a glare all over.
“Dammit,” she muttered.
That first jet of fire had shifted the trajectory slightly. The fireball was already lit and probably at full effect…
…As it crashed directly onto the cable, about a half meter right of the existing damage from the acid spills.
The fire was a glorious, roiling ball, as heated corrosives and oxidizers consumed each other and the cable housing, then the insulation.
It suddenly burned white.
Rod touched helmets and gloated, “Their oh two line just failed.”
The glare was blinding for a few moments, as pure oxygen supplemented the nitric acid. Even the metal cabling burned.
The automatic pressure switches cut the oxygen flow, but by then, a meter of conduit was slagged.
Then there were sputtering electrical sparks from a dead short, followed by a decreasing glow from the starving fire.
She slapped their shoulders and signed, “Back inside. Quickly.”
Morton pointed at the catapult.
There were already dust puffs from bullet impacts erupting from the rocks around them. Luckily, motion, low G, and bad angle made the Uey’s aim pointless.
Rojas was panting as she staggered back in.
Andre whooped. “Hell, yes it worked! And they don’t seem to have a spare conduit. Probably a mass transport issue. They’re busy trying to sheer as close and clean as they can to splice it. Meanwhile, they lost the oxygen in the pipe, and a bit more before the pressure safety kicked in.”
Still panting, Rojas asked, “How long can they do this?”
Morton said, “I don’t have any info on a support ship inbound, but I don’t know how many landed. They could ferry stuff by Trak, but that’s going to take time.”
Andre took a bite of the stale sandwich on his console.
For that matter…
He pinged the channel. “Colonel, how are your troops doing on food, water and relief facilities?”
“We ate before this started. A few hours hunger is a minor inconvenience, and there are rations in our transport. Water we have, and as for the waste water…well, it mostly evaporated straight out when they drained it in your tunnel.” The man sounded almost amused.
“Fair enough. I just wondered because I have a really good sandwich here.”
“Mr Crawford, would you like–“
“More guests? Certainly.”
“–would you like to retreat inside your habitat now? I have been authorized for weapon release.”
Cold adrenalin ripples ran through him.
“Meaning with three missiles, or emplaced charges, I can simply blow the doors off, and leave your main passage, per my blueprints, open to space. I have clearance to shoot any adult in the open as a hostile threat, now that you’ve used incendiaries and caustics. The latter which qualify as chemical weapons.”
What the hell?
“Huh? You’re inside pressure suits.”
“They release toxic gases, which would be lethal if we were not wearing protective gear. Per the letter of the law, that constitutes chemical weapons.”
That was…”Ridiculous. You’re in vacuum. You’re separated by vacuum, and a suit you can’t remove.”
Arris sounded smug. “I assure you our legal staff have made the determination, and are prepared to defend it at the World Court in the Hague.”
“I guess it depends on how many people you’re willing to kill in the name of peace. Including your troops, who are dispersed within the habitat. A fact we’ve already logged for release, including with the Red Cross.”
Arris said, “That’s your side of the story.”
Andre said, “Of course. You can write whatever story you want. At the end of the day, you’ll have murdered even the innocent people in here, who have no way to evacuate or choose sides about a device you claim exists and they’ve never heard of. And your own troops. I guess that’s a decision you’ll have to live with.”
Arris was unwavering. “I have orders, and weapons.”
Andre tried really hard to sound condescending rather than pleading.
“For that matter, you have a bunch of troops who are short of oxy and power, and I doubt you can last long with what’s aboard your vehicles.”
“There are other elements inbound.”
“Did they tell you that? Because my seismic gear doesn’t show it.” He was lying, because the seismometers were not on his screen. He swiped furiously and brought them up.
Local tremors only, within shape and amplitude he saw all the time. Which didn’t mean there wasn’t a soft vehicle out there, but anything putting ground pressure on rubble should be pressing that into the surface and generating fractional effects.
Arris’ tone suggested a shrug. “That is as it may be. I have control of the first two locks, I am going to destroy the third one now.”
“Colonel, have you considered what a trained engineer and crew could have done in the last twenty-four hours with more corrosives, more flammables, explosives, pressure vessels and electrical power? You got that one taste so far. Want to try for the seven course banquet?”
Arris sounded very relaxed. “War is not without casualties. We’ve both been lucky so far.”
Andre realized he was talking too much again. “Logistically we have the upper hand here.”
“Then this should be to your advantage.”
It was time to log off before he said something he’d regret. “Fine. You’ve been warned. I’m going to enjoy ice cream now.”
He closed the connection.
He sighed deeply.
“Well, let’s see if he’s bluffing, threatening, or going balls out.”
Andre noted ironically he was bluffing about the ice cream. Nor did he want any. A beer wouldn’t be out of line, though. Except he needed his wits. More coffee. He poured another cup, watching it splash lazily in the low gravity. That was always fascinating. The cups were shaped to roll splashes back in, and looked oversized, until you tried to pour.