Battle Luna – Snippet 28
Malakhar said, “They’re still drilling, according to sensors.”
“Good…on the sensors working, I mean. Any guess on cut through?”
“The door could be any time. Acoustics suggest there’s only a centimeter left. It wasn’t armored, just thick enough to support itself.”
“Yeah, it wasn’t a hard one.”
He looked at the screen, which displayed Malakhar’s feed. The image was animated from acoustic and sonic inputs and representative only. Personnel locations were fuzzy approximations.
Right then, the drill did break through, and a rush of pure oxy enveloped the mechanism. Somewhere in the motor, a tiny electrostatic spark flared, and what must be a nimbus of flame engulfed it.
Both drills stopped, and troops scrambled to aid the operators who’d just taken a flash burn.
About a minute later, the rock drill started back up.
Malakhar said, “Figures. It was a good flash, but without an atmosphere in there, it’s not significant, likely just scorched a suit and faceplate.”
Morton said, “I’m worried about that rock drill.”
“The rock cut is near the lock controls.”
Andre checked his feed. “I’ve got it switched to central.”
Morton said, “Yes…but the outer ones stop here physically. That one’s not airwalled from the network. Nor are you.”
Morton said, “Yeah, if they have a good tech, and get into that, they can do a lot of havoc.”
Andre said slowly, “We…I should have caught that when we were setting up. Alright, someone go disconnect the box and see about plugging that hole at the same time?”
Morton said, “I will. How do want it isolated?”
“Just unplug the control line from the terminal inside Lock Four. Don’t damage it. We may need it later. Then get into Inner Bay and see if you can hinder them more. They still only have pinholes. “
Morton closed his faceplate and bounded off.
Andre asked, “Ravi, can you keep an eye on my feed and give me any notice of entry?”
Malakhar said, “Probably. I don’t think they’ll have a pre-built hack, and we’ve got excellent compartmentalized security. But anything on your system could be compromised, and they might manage to open Lock Four.”
“You have spare system cable?”
“In the store room, yes.”
“Okay.” He grabbed a pair of sidecutters from the tool box, and put them around the cable next to the terminal. “You shout, I cut.”
Morton was back in a hurry, panting.
“I was able to disconnect it,” he said between gasps. “No one can operate it now. I pulled the wires and the commo cable.”
Morton continued, still breathing hard, “They’re working on that hole in the door. Explosives, I think. Stuff squeezing through the hole.”
Andre said, “That makes sense. They’ll try to crack it and break it loose, which will also damage the seals and render it unusable. But we can get some sensors in there. Ravi?”
“Yes, this box,” the man replied. He held up a tray with several varieties of drones. It looked as if some would roll, others bounce or fly, and give several views. As long as they lasted, they’d provide useful intel.
Morton said, “Okay, I’ll take those now.”
Malakhar handed him the box and said, “Just slide it in smoothly on the floor. The modules know what to do. Let them go.”
Morton grinned. “Got it.”
He turned and bounded back, and Andre closed the door behind him.
Godin said, “We should button up now. If they blow one and decide to use a rocket for a one-two, we’re boned.”
Crawford kept a close eye on the monitors while donning his helmet, clicking the seal and checking oxygen flow. He had four hours in the bottle, and they had several spares on a cart they could drag with them in a hurry.
Several feeds popped up on Malakhar’s monitors as the drones went active. Morton could be seen closing 3B, from multiple angles. Godin’s screen showed others.
The floor shook as the Lock 3A was breached. Some of the feeds went dead.
Andre looked at Malakhar, realized his expression was hard to read through the plate, and started to ask as the man replied, “Three A is dismounted.”
“So they’re in the connector between Middle and Inner.”
Another explosion rattled everything.
“That was 3B,” Godin said needlessly. “They didn’t waste any time. Probably slapped a charge and got behind the wall in Middle.”
Andre felt a cold chill.
“Crap. Is Morton alive?”
Godin said, “I can’t see, but probably not. Pressure trauma from decompression to vacuum, and from the blast. Probably stunned, down, and not sealed. I’m sorry.”
“Hopefully they have him prisoner. If they reached him fast…”
Malakhar was trying to look positive and not succeeding. “Maybe.”
Rojas sighed. Godin cursed and punched the wall.
Andre shook his head. “Can’t worry now.”
Malakhar said, “We no longer have control of our own locks. They can hardwire Lock Four from their side. All we have is the emergency curtain.”
Andre pulled the cable that connected his system to Lock Control, since it was no longer needed.
“”Right, but they can’t get into the rest of the network yet,” he said. “Any way around their hack?”
Malakhar shook his head. “Not fast. I guess we figure out how to hack in ourselves. I’ll get working on that.”
He scanned and dragged images.
Morton was dead. That was a tough one. Was this all worth it? If resistance didn’t change the outcome and did leave some dead and others subject to legal penalty?
Malakhar said, “I think I have it. Laura, can you go cut Line L-4-0-X?” He pointed to his screen.
She squinted. “Down the main passage? Yes. With what?”
“An axe. Cutters. Whatever it takes. Sever and separate.”
The Indian worked feverishly, using two styli to tap keys until he could widen the touchscreen enough for gloved fingers. Then they fairly flew across the surface.
“Okay, I’m disengaging everything from inside. We’ll be the only control point, but we can’t risk them accessing other files.”
“Right,” Andre agreed.
Rojas came back at a skip.
“Got it,” she said.
Malakhar cocked his head. “Just in time. They were plugging into the terminal. That won’t do them any good, but now they have to breach the emergency lock.”
Andre said, “Good.”
“We still have camera lines there, though.”
Malakhar said, “Morton cut them with wire cutters.”
“On this side?”
“Both. This side as he went in, there once he was…inside.”
Blast. “Okay. We know they’re past the vehicles, though, just not efficiently. They’re having to hand carry oxy and use batteries only until they finish that splice. How is that coming?”
Malakhar said, “My observer reports they’ll be done soon. Also that he’s running short on cooling power, even with a field battery with him.”
Had it been that long? “Noted. He can leave whenever he has to, and should come back if he can.”
Malakhar nodded. “He was told. He says he’ll hold out to the end.”
Andre raised his eyebrows. “Good man. What else can we do to slow them, then?”
Godin cleared his throat and said, “I do have the skimmer and that dust bin. She’s loitering and can arrive in five.”
“Right. Well, if you can get it into the rear of that support vehicle, that would do wonders.”
“I’ll tell her.”
Andre cautioned, “I don’t know that they can’t shoot it down.”
The man nodded soberly. “Yeah, she knows. It’s Seville. She’ll fly fast, low and through the Fangs,” he said, referencing two tall peaks of the crater rim. “They shouldn’t see her.”
Godin listened to his headset, and reported, “In fact, this says she’s two minutes out.”
“I hope that’s soon enough.”
“She says there’s a rock inside the load. One big one, enough to damage the vehicle.”
Andre said, “Or anyone it hits. But we’re past that point now.”
“‘Fraid so. You’ll see it right in that saddle, any moment.”
The skimmer came over the ridge unseen by the Ueys. It was several seconds before they reacted. Likely, it had to be sensed, interpreted, IDed as a Loony craft, and then reported.
They didn’t appear to have any anti-aircraft assets. It was further confirmation that they hadn’t expected any outside resistance, only busting a lock and holding everyone at gunpoint.
Several of them stared up at the craft, others took cover behind rocks, assuming a bombing run. Anywhere out of line of sight would be safe, with no atmosphere for overpressure.
The pilot angled in, likely using autopilot with a pre-programmed trajectory.
Too late, the Ueys figured out the intended target and ran for the ArctiTrak’s hatch. They probably assumed a bomb or mass impact weapon. In the low G, two of them bounced up above the ground. With better self control, one managed to slap the close button as the skimmer above opened the bay.
The dust dropped out like a brick, one solid mass with no atmosphere. It dropped slowly and got a little fuzzy as internal friction started it separating. It was powdered pumice, not as dense as water, and in this G, negligible in impact.
The rock inside the dust, however, was big enough to wreak some havoc. Not much, perhaps. It would bounce inside, break something, and maybe it would matter.