Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 08

“I didn’t tell you about it because you already didn’t trust him,” MacFadzean’s voice was flatter than ever. “You may even have been right. Probably he and his friends were only helping us for their own ends, but he told me he wasn’t really a freelance arms dealer after all. That that was just his cover, a way to provide deniability if the wheels came off. He told me he was actually speaking for his own government, that his queen was ready to come into the open to support us if it looked like we might pull off our end of it, and I believed him. Hell, maybe I just needed to believe him! But if you can get off-world, find a way to contact him, maybe –”

She broke off, tears spangling her eyes, then shook herself savagely.

“Goddamn it, Megan! It’s all we’ve got left! You’re our chairwoman, if anyone can speak for us, you can! At least get out there and see to it that someone hears our side of what happened here. Don’t let the bastards just sweep us and Conerock and all the rest of this shit under the rug like it never even happened!”

MacLean stared at her for a moment, shaken to the marrow of her soul by the raw appeal in MacFadzean’s last sentence.

“I wouldn’t even know how to contact him,” she said finally. Something exploded in the near distance, the sound muffled but clear through the apartment building’s walls. “And that’s assuming I could get off-world in the first place.”

“Here.” MacFadzean tossed her a data chip. “The contact information’s on there.” She smiled crookedly. “It’s in my personal cipher, but you’ve got the key.”

MacLean caught the chip. She looked down at it for a moment, then clenched her fist around it.

“I’m not running out and leaving you and everyone else behind, Erin. I’m just not doing it.”

“Yes, you are,” MacFadzean told her as more explosions began to shake the command post. “You owe it to us.”

She locked eyes with the other woman, and it was MacLean’s gaze that fell.

“Jamie will get you out through one of the tunnels,” MacFadzean said then. “If the two of you can get out of Elgin, head for Haimer. I think our cell’s still secure there. Lie low for a few weeks, and Tobias MacGill — he’s the cell leader in Haimer — will fix you up with new papers. Then he and Jamie will get you onto one of the timber shuttles. From there…from there you’ll have to play it by ear, but you can do it, Megan. You have to.”

“I –”

MacLean tried to find one last argument, but she couldn’t, and there wasn’t much time. She looked at her friend, the friend she knew was about to die with all those other friends, and she could hardly see through the blur of her tears.

“All right,” she whispered. “I’ll try.”

“Good.” MacFadzean stepped around the table and enveloped her in a brief, crushing hug. “Good. Now go!”

MacLean hugged her back for an instant longer, then nodded, grabbed her pulse rifle, and headed for the door. MacFadzean watched her go, then picked up the handset again and pressed the button that connected her to every other handset simultaneously.

“Blàr Chùil Lodair,” she said simply. “Let’s by some time for the tunnel rats.”

* * *

“No fucking around this time!” Colonel Nathan Mundy snarled over the battalion communications net. “And no excuses, either! Get in there, kick their asses, and bring me their fucking heads!”

Acknowledgments came back, and he smiled savagely as he settled deeper into his seat while his ground effect command vehicle slid around the final corner and his direct vision screens showed him the apartment building the rebels had taken over. It didn’t look any different from half a dozen other buildings they’d occupied across the capital, but this one was special. This was the one that was going to break the rebels once and for all, because this was their central command post. He’d thought for a while that MacPhee wasn’t going to break, but the UPS had a way of convincing even the most recalcitrant. Maybe MacPhee wouldn’t have broken if they’d had only him to work on, but when they brought in his daughter…

I suppose he still might’ve lied, the colonel thought harshly. Of course, if he did, he’ll think what we already did to the bitch was nothing.

“Get closer!” he barked at his driver.

“Sir, I –”

“Get me closer, goddamn it!”

“Yes, Sir.”

* * *

The tanks were Solarian surplus, at least two generations out of date, but some tank was always better than no tank, and their armor shed pulser fire with contemptuous ease. They moved forward steadily, pounding the apartment building and the two structures to either side with fire from their main guns — fifty-millimeter hyper-velocity weapons with the firepower of a pre-space hundred and fifty millimeter cannon. Gouts of dust and smoke erupted, spewing showers of splintered ceramacrete, and coaxially mounted tribarrels spat thousands of explosive darts at their targets. It was impossible for anything to survive under that pounding, and the tank crews knew it.

But the tank crews were wrong.

The first antitank missile struck like hell’s own viper. The superdense penetrator impacted on its target’s frontal armor at just over ten thousand meters per second, and that armor might as well have been made of paper. The tank erupted in a thunderous fireball, and an instant later there was a second fireball. And a third.

“Christ!” someone yelped over the command net. “Where the fuck did they get that?! Break right! Alfie, break ri –!”

The voice cut off abruptly.

* * *

Innis MacLay bellowed in wordless triumph as the first UPS tanks exploded. Then a pair of APCs encountered one of the improvised explosive devices the Provos had buried in the sewers under Brownhill Road. It wasn’t powerful enough to destroy them outright, but the blast was more than enough to cripple them, and he watched their vehicle crews bail out, the Uppies scattering like blue-uniformed maggots.

The grips of the tribarrel were comfortable in his hands as he peered through the holographic sight, and he squeezed the trigger stud.