Come The Revolution – Snippet 02

I felt the adrenaline surge as soon as he said it. “Put us in that landing bay, NOW! Emergency, my authority.”

“Yes, sir!” he answered, his own voice rising a note. The shuttle nose tipped down and acceleration pressed us back in our seats just as the missile hit us.

A deafening crack, sparks, whistle of shrapnel, smoke, screams, hiss of air rushing past, screech of metal as we plowed into something and then skidded across it to a halt.

For a moment it was quiet under the flashing overhead orange and blue emergency lights, everyone still alive stunned. The cabin filled with the stench of burning insulation and then the first moans of the injured. I found myself sprawled across Marr and Tweeza, covering their front, although I had no memory of releasing my seat harness. Both of them stirred, eyes opening slowly.

“Marr, are you okay?”

She took a moment to focus on me and then nodded. I touched her stomach, felt both of her hands wrapped protectively over it. She looked down and then back up at me and nodded again.

“Tweezaa, are you –?”

I stopped as she held her right arm up and I saw the shrapnel wound through her forearm. She stared at it, more puzzled than frightened. It only oozed a little blood but that was because of shock. I pulled off my tuxedo tie and wrapped it around her arm.

“Hold that as tight as you can. It’s going to start bleeding in a minute, and probably hurt like hell. We’ve got to get out of here before there’s a fire.” I triggered both of their harness release tabs and stood up to assess the damage.

We had a fair-sized hole in the forward bulkhead of the cabin on the right side, and a matching one aft. It took me a couple seconds to find the perimeter team, one of them stirring but all of them looking pretty bad. Most of the other six bodyguards were moving. Iris Tenryu, my second in command, popped her restraints and stood up, her tuxedo splashed with blood — someone else’s I assumed. Behind her I saw Hong Lee unhooking as well. There was smoke in the cabin but it wasn’t getting any thicker, at least not yet.

“Iris, I’m taking the primaries out. Get everyone else organized and haul the injured out before we go up in flames. Hong, can you walk?” He stood up in answer. “Okay, you’re my wingman. Grab some firepower.”

I got Marr and Tweezaa to the door, mostly under their own power but with one of my arms around each for support. My own knees were wobbly and I wasn’t injured or pregnant, so they were holding up really well.

The hatch was sprung and slightly ajar. It didn’t respond to the release lever but two good hard kicks sent it clattering to the foamstone landing pad of the VIP shuttle bay. I immediately felt a strong breeze and heard the soft roar of the hangar bay exhaust fans blowing any hydrogen from our ruptured fuel tanks out the open bay door before it could reach explosive concentrations. But it could pocket inside the cabin or machinery spaces, so we still had to get clear of the wreck.

I scanned the bay, which was a good hundred meters wide and half-filled with other executive shuttles. Ours was the only one wrecked. There were a lot of Varoki as well, at least a hundred of them, starting to stand again after hitting the deck when we made our crash landing. I didn’t see any uniforms, though. There were supposed to be Munies — Municipal Police — working crowd control and VIP security. Where were they? I hoped we hadn’t landed on them.

Beside me, Hong knelt by the body of one of the perimeter team and unbuckled the ammunition harness. The body was headless, but male, so it was either John Cartwright or Norm Ramirez. Cartwright was new to the team while Ramirez had been with us for over a year. The anonymity of the corpse bothered me, as if somewhere maybe both of them were partly alive and partly dead. Hong buckled on the web harness, picked up the RAG-19 assault rifle, and looked up at me.

“The main exit point is to our left, into the interior of the arcology,” I said. “I’m going that way with the primaries and try to find a secure spot away from the wreck. Cover us from here until we’re in position, then join us. Got it?”

He nodded and stood.

I jumped down to the pavement, which was less than a meter below the edge of the hatch since the shuttle had come in with its landing gear still retracted. The missile damage didn’t look as bad from out here but we’d clipped the edge of the bay door coming in, lost an engine mount, and there were pieces of shattered composite turbine blades all over the floor. I help Marr and Tweezaa down and then we hustled forward past the cockpit. I saw a maintenance work station, with a heavy metallic work bench bolted to the floor, about twenty meters toward the door. The bench would give us some cover if the shuttle blew so we made for it.

As we trotted, I heard the Varoki crowd to our right start to shout. It was all in aBakaa, which I don’t speak, but I picked out a couple words I’d heard often enough to recognize: heiress, and Human. The tone sounded ugly. I turned and yelled back to the shuttle.

“Warning shots only, Hong, unless they charge.”

Gauss weapons, like the RAG-19, don’t make much noise, just the snaps of magnetically-launched flechettes breaking the sound barrier. I heard Hong’s assault rifle stutter a couple three-round bursts, saw the sparks as they hit the ceiling and ricocheted. That put the crowd back on the floor until we made the shelter of the workbench where I found Kamal Darzi, our shuttle pilot, holding his left arm which was pretty obviously broken. His face was lacerated by about a dozen deep cuts and slick with blood. It was a miracle he still had both of his eyes.

“Ah, boss, you’re alive!” he said. “Miss Tweezaa, Madame Marfoglia, I am sorry for the terrible landing.”

I helped them down behind the bench and Marrissa helped Darzi get his arm wrapped up.

“No apology necessary, Mr. Darzi,” she said. “We’re alive. I think everyone hurt in back was from the explosion before the crash. What happened?”

“A missile fired from the open bay hatch directly at us. I saw it fire but it hit almost the same instant, came through the windscreen and then the cabin bulkhead behind me, right past my head.”

“Hypervelocity kinetic energy missile. They must have figured we’d be armored,” I said. “Good thing. That long rod went right through us, did most of its damage with secondary fragmentation and impact. If they’d hit us with an explosive warhead . . .” I didn’t finish the sentence. No point in belaboring the unpleasantly obvious. I looked around. Where were the assassins now? Had they blended back in to the crowd?

I saw Iris and someone else helping our injured out of the hatch and the crowd started finding its voice again, shouting at Iris and the others around the shuttle as well as us. They started edging forward when about twenty Varoki Munies in riot gear showed up, streamed in both entrances to the bay, and fanned out into a control line.

“Cavalry’s here,” I told the others, trying to sound as nonchalant as I could. Then I sat down because my knees wouldn’t hold me up any more.