SOME GOLDEN HARBOR – snippet 79:



            Adele was furious with herself. If she'd captured the trailer intact, they wouldn't have to worry about the battery controls: she could simply have locked them out. By using the heavy pistol–


            She turned, caught the strobe in the weapon's holographic sight, and squeezed off. The light exploded in a shower of sparks. The pistol's barrel, already glowing from the previous shots, shimmered yellow.


            –she'd destroyed the controls instead of just killing the gunman. An alert technician–it's never safe to assume your enemy isn't alert and skilled–in the cab of the launch unit could blast the Greybudd out of the sky as it approached Mandelfarne Island.


            There was shooting from the direction of the Rainha. Adele didn't know what'd happened. Probably some of the Sissies had just killed a truck driver or someone equally innocent; out of nervousness or mistake or simply the desire to kill somebody now that there was a colorable excuse.


            It didn't matter. This was war. This was what happened in war.


            Lights went on, then very quickly off, on the other side of the berm. Adele could see the entrance at an angle. A soldier stood in front of the guardhouse. The gate, more razor ribbon on the frame of metal pipes, was partly open.


            Three ground vehicles with sirens howling jounced east from the direction of Base Headquarters. At least the first two, painted by the headlights of those behind, were light trucks with pintle-mounted automatic impellers on the bed. The rudimentary road was choked with supply haulers, so the emergency vehicles had pulled around them onto terrain that didn't even pretend to have been improved.


            The leading vehicle disintegrated in sparks and flashes, ripped at point blank range by a volley from stocked impellers and sub-machine guns. The members of the emergency response team, probably military police, were so focused on racing toward the alarm at the battery control trailer that they hadn't noticed the Sissies who'd poured from the Rainha until they were on top of them.


            The truck flipped and rolled, flinging out equipment and the corpses of several men. The second vehicle braked screechingly. Its body lost definition in a sleet of shots, and it crashed into what was left of the first vehicle.


            The third truck skidded left to avoid the wreckage and roared past spacers who were shooting enthusiastically without leading the fast-moving vehicle enough. They need Hogg, Adele thought, or Daniel. She lifted her pistol, aiming at where the driver's face would be when the truck was within seventy-five yards.


            The gun's pintle sparkled and the windshield blew out. The driver slumped forward, the gunner who'd been trying to horse his heavy weapon around flew off the left side of the bed, and the officer in the back with him crumpled, dropping his handgun. Somebody with a sub-machine gun had made up for the twenty-odd Sissies who were wasting ammunition.


            The truck bounced away in a slow curve, its headlight touching sea foam as it headed for the shore. The Pellegrinians hadn't fired a shot.


            The man in front of the gate in the berm was staring at the carnage screaming, "Oh shit! Oh shit!" He caught movement in the corner of his eye and turned to face Adele, twenty feet away.


            "Who're you?" he said, raising his impeller. Adele shot him through the forehead. The heavy pellet flung him back into the gate; the wire sang and the pipe framework made an ugly jangling. A man unseen till that moment shot from the guardhouse window. A bullet kicked Adele in the left side.


            Tovera fired into the guardhouse; one pellet of her burst hit the Pellegrinian's weapon and ricocheted through the roof of the shack in a neon helix. She jumped to the window, leaned in, and fired again toward the floor.


            Adele stumbled forward. The muzzle of her pistol was slowly sinking; it'd gotten too heavy for her to hold up. She licked her lips and gripped her left wrist with her right hand to raise the weapon. It slipped out of her fingers.


            "Mistress?" said Tovera. She jerked Adele's tunic up and slapped something cold and astringent in the hollow of Adele's shoulder.


            "Go on," Adele said. She was whispering. "Go on! We have to disable the missiles!"


            Three men, blurry in the randomly lighted darkness, approached the gate from inside the enclosure. "Dauphine?" one called. "What the hell's–"


            Tovera shot the speaker, then shot the man next to him as he started to present the weapon he'd held out nervously in front of him. Razor ribbon sprang apart, the ends of the strand white hot where a pellet had clipped it. The third soldier turned to run but sprawled headlong at the second step when Tovera shot him in the back.


            Adele reached into her tunic pocket with her right hand and brought out her little pistol. She normally shot left-handed, but her right was her master hand and she practiced with both. Besides, it didn't matter. If she had to hold the gun with her toes, she would.


            Tovera knelt, ejected the loading tube from her sub-machine gun, and slapped in a fresh one. Her barrel shroud glowed bright yellow, and the bore of synthetic diamond must be hot enough to have melted any lesser substance. Haze from vaporized driving bands twinkled in the air before her.


            Soldiers inside the pit were firing long bursts toward the gate, emptying their impeller magazines and reloading to fire again. There were at least three of them, maybe four or five. The osmium pellets left glowing tracks as they snapped through the air and danced like miniature fireworks displays when they hit wire or the gate frame.


            Adele walked to the gate. A pellet hit a stone in the soil and howled away, spraying chips of rock. Some bits cut her shins above her RCN ankle boots.