Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 07

Now he knew better. They’d had the damned Uppies on the run for the first couple of weeks, and maybe as many as a third of the smaller cities and towns had come in on the LLLP’s side, or at least declared their neutrality. But that had been before they found out the frigging OFS had called in the Solly navy.

His eyes went bleak and hard as he recalled the first kinetic strikes. MacCrimmon and MacQuarie hadn’t seemed interested in taking prisoners. Maybe they’d just wanted to avoid the expense of building bigger reeducation camps on Westray, or maybe they’d been scared enough they struck out in panic. Or maybe they were just such bloody-minded bastards they’d decided to eliminate as many of the opposition as they could while the eliminating was good. MacLay figured he’d never find out for sure which it had been, and it didn’t much matter, anyway. There’d been no warning, no call to surrender, no threats of orbital strikes at all. There’d been only the terrible white lines streaming down through the skies of Halkirk to pock the planetary surface with brimstone.

That was what had broken the Resistance’s back. The first wave of strikes had taken out a dozen towns and the regional city of Conerock, whose city council had been the first to go over to the Liberation League when the Provos seized the local UPS stations and the hub airport. No one knew how many had been killed, but Conerock’s population had been over eighty-five thousand all by itself, and there’d been precious few survivors.

So now they were left with this, he thought grimly. There was no surrender — not for the Provos, not for the hard-core, like Innis MacLay. They wouldn’t last long in the camps, anyway, even assuming they’d live long enough to get there, and he was damned if he’d give MacQuarie and General Boyle the satisfaction. Besides, his wife and kids had been in Conerock, so they could just drag him out of his last burrow when the time came, and his teeth and claws would savage them the whole way. When he got to Hell, he’d walk through the gates over the souls of all the Uppies he’d sent ahead to wait for him.

It wasn’t much for a man to look forward to, but he’d settle for what he could get, and —

He stiffened, eyes narrowing. Then his jaw clenched and he reached for the old-fashioned landline handset. The sound quality wasn’t good, but it was a lot more secure than any of the regular coms, and not even Solly sensors could localize and identify it against the background of the city’s power systems.

“Yes?” a voice at the other end answered.

“MacLay, on the roof,” he said tersely. “They’re coming. I’ve got eyes on at least a dozen tanks and twice that many APCs headed down Brownhill towards Castlegreen.” He paused for a moment. “I think they’ve figured out where we are.”

Silence hovered at the far end of the line for seconds that felt like hours. Then —

“Understood, Innis. I expect you’ll see a couple of missile teams up there in a minute or two.”

“I’ll be here,” MacLay replied, and put down the phone.

He moved from his observation post to the French doors that gave access to the apartment’s small balcony. The protective sandbags piled just inside them weren’t visible from ground level…and neither was the heavy, tripod-mounted tribarrel behind them. The field of fire wasn’t perfect, and MacLay was under no illusions about what the Uppies heavy weapons teams would do to his improvised perch once they located his position. But a man couldn’t have everything, and he expected he’d probably get to add at least a round dozen of them to his family’s vengeance first.

* * *

“It’s time for you to go Megan,” MacFadzean said flatly as she hung up the phone. “They’re headed straight for us, and we don’t have a prayer of stopping them.”

“And where do you expect me to go, Erin?” MacLean asked almost whimsically. “You want me to go hide in the logging camps? Put other people at risk for helping hide me?” She shook her head and reached for the pulse rifle leaning in the corner behind her. “I think not.”

“Don’t be stupid!” MacFadzean’s voice was sharper and she glared at the other woman. “You’re the League chairwoman — the one who can speak for us! Get the hell out of here, lie low, and then find a way to get off-world.”

“And do what?” MacLean demanded. “We’re done, Erin — we’ve lost, and nobody else in the entire galaxy gives one single solitary damn what happens here on Halkirk!”

“That’s not true,” MacFadzean said. MacLean stared at her in disbelief, and she shook her head. “I…didn’t tell you everything,” she said after a moment, looking away rather than meeting her friend’s eyes. “Our supplier for the weapons…he offered more than just guns, when the time came.”

“What are you talking about?” MacLean’s eyes had narrowed.

“He told me he could get us naval support.” MacFadzean turned back to face her fully. “When we were ready, if I got word to him, he was going to arrange things so we’d be the ones with starships in orbit.”

“That’s crazy! How was he supposed to do that? And why didn’t you tell me about it?!”