Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 18

Indiana felt himself nodding again, and he was more than a little surprised by how relieved Firebrand’s attitude made him feel.

“We’ll get the weapons shipped in to you,” Firebrand went on. “If I can, I’ll try to arrange to get an instructor or two shipped in, as well, but I’ll be honest — the odds of my being able to pull that off aren’t real high. We’re way too strapped for manpower. On the other hand, we’ll get you all the tech manuals, and most of the launchers and other heavy weapons come with VR simulator programs.

“The key point, the critical timing, is still going to be up to your people, though. There’s no way we can predict from our end when the situation here in Seraphim is going to be right. That’s going to be a judgment call on your part, although we’d obviously like it to happen sometime fairly soon, let’s say.” He smiled crookedly. “We don’t expect you to commit suicide by moving too early, though. If for no other reason, because we’d sort of like you to succeed and go right on being a distraction for the Sollies, if you see what I mean.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” Indiana acknowledged.

“To be honest, one of the things we’re still working on is the best way to coordinate your actions with ours. You’re obviously going to need some fleet support to keep Frontier Fleet from just securing the planetary orbitals and dropping gendarmes and kinetic weapons on your heads. We’re probably not talking about any really heavy units of our own — just something big enough to keep Frontier Fleet off your backs. But we’re either going to have to have a firm schedule for when you’re going to move, or else you’re going to have to have some way to communicate with us to tell us when you’re ready. And, frankly, providing a communications loop that’s both secure and reliable and covert is going to require some thought. The good news is we’ve got some time to think about it before the first big shipments start coming in. If anything inventive occurs to you folks, don’t be shy about sharing it. I said you’re amateurs, and you are, but sometimes amateurs think outside the box in ways that would never occur to us stodgy old professionals.”

“We’ll think about it,” Indiana promised him. “I don’t really expect we’ll come up with anything that won’t already’ve occurred to you ‘stodgy old professionals,’ but if we do we’ll certainly let you know.'”

“Good!” Firebrand cocked his head to one side, eyes narrowed for a moment, obviously running back over all they’d said. “I think that’s about everything, then,” he said finally. “For now, at least. I’ll be on-planet for a few more days, and I’ll use the channels Clambake set up to get back in contact with you before I leave. I’ll also be setting up a message account here in Seraphim — I’ll give you the access code so you can ‘hack’ the account rather than being an official addressee — and we’ll use that for me to get you the information on the shipment schedules. I’m assuming you still have that one-time pad Clambake gave you?”

“Yes,” Mackenzie said dryly. “I’ll agree we’re amateurs, but we have managed to hang onto the secret code book, Firebrand.”

“I was sure you had.” This time, he gave her a dazzling smile, no mere grin. “In that case, though, I think we’re through here. And now that we’ve had a chance to get to know one another, so that you’re not likely to be, oh, waving any pistols around the next time we meet” — he darted a humorous look at Indiana — “I think we can probably arrange to get together somewhere a little more comfortable and dryer next time. A nice little mom-and-pop restaurant with tables in the back where no one’s likely to overhear a conversation, maybe.”

“Sounds like a winner to me,” Indiana agreed with heartfelt sincerity.

“Good.” The Manticoran agent held out his hand. “In that case, I think we should all be going. And if you don’t mind, I’ll let the two of you leave first.”

“Not a problem.”

Indiana and Mackenzie each shook the offered hand in turn. Then they nodded to him, headed back out across the loading dock, and climbed into their battered old ground car.

The man called “Firebrand” watched as the car vibrated to life, backed out of its parking space, and headed off into the rain once more.

They were bright kids, he reflected. In fact, he estimated they probably had at least a five or ten percent chance of actually pulling it off. Of course, their chances would have been one hell of a lot better if they’d actually been dealing with Manticore.

Well, you can’t have everything, “Talisman,” Damien Harahap, one time Solarian Gendarme, more recently agent of the Mesa System government, and currently in the employ of the Mesan Alignment, thought dryly. And at least they’re a lot closer to sane than that maniac Nordbrandt!

He smiled and shook his head. He actually had nothing at all against “Talisman” and “Magpie,” when it came down to it. In fact, he wished them well, not that he actually expected things to turn out that way. Still, it was nothing personal. Only business.

He watched the ground car disappear through the drooping gate and checked his chrono. Seven and a half minutes, he decided. That ought to be a sufficiently random interval before he headed off in the opposite direction himself.