WHEN THE TIDE RISES – snippet 26:



Mining Compound 73 on Dodd's Throne


            Daniel wasn't worried about landing in the sense of being able to get the Ladouceur safely onto the ground, but that was only half his problem: to succeed he also had to get his people out of the ship. That was going to be very difficult if the plasma thrusters had heated the rock directly beneath the ship white hot.

            He'd much rather have been doing this in the Sissie, but he wasn't and it still had to be done. And bloody hell, he didn't want to do it in the Sissie either.

            "Ship, hang on!" he warned. "This is going to be rough!"

            Instead of bringing the Ladouceur down perpendicular to the surface, Daniel angled two of his eighteen thrusters–One and Nine, the end units on the port side–outboard to induce a slight drift. That in itself wouldn't be enough to do what he wanted, but it meant that he wouldn't have to overcome the resting inertia of thirty-eight hundred tons and change. The nozzles were flared at between 73% and 76% open, greatly reducing their efficiency.

            An instant before the cruiser touched, Daniel irised the petals tight in the same motion that he slammed the throttles closed. The reaction mass already in the feed lines continued to flow for a fraction of a second, lifting the ship momentarily as she continued to edge sideways. The bow of the starboard outrigger touched, shrieking like a damned soul. It sprayed a roostertail of white sparks.

            The Ladouceur landed flat, banging and rattling. Like a ton of old iron, Daniel thought, but it was thousands of tons–and they'd landed, safely if not gracefully.

            The oleo struts hadn't collapsed. They'd scraped a hole in the starboard outrigger beyond question and the impact may've started seams as well, but the very worst that could mean was that the ship started to sink when they landed in Morning Harbor.

            After Daniel took control of matters on the ground, they'd check on the damage, then repair what they could. If quick repairs wouldn't do the job, well, they'd land on firm ground when they returned to Pelosi and sort out the problem at leisure.

            But the first order of business was to take charge here.

            The Ladouceur had entry hatches on both sides, offset toward bow and stern opposite the 4-inch turrets. Daniel switched only the starboard hatch to open, then remembered to wait an interminable thirty seconds to make sure that it did start to open. He'd brought them down bloody hard, and the usual cushion of water hadn't been there to spare the plates from torquing.

            The dogs withdrew with ringing clangs; hydraulic rams whined as they extended, driving the hatch outward to become a boarding ramp. Once the process was started, there wouldn't be a problem that Woetjans and an emergency crew with jacks and sledges couldn't cure.

            Daniel rose from his console. Hogg had slung a stocked impeller and was offering a sub-machine gun; Daniel took it without comment. The weapons were a necessary part of the business. He didn't want a fight, but he knew that when the forces of order arrived heavily armed, the forces of chaos were more likely to choose the peaceful option.

            "Six to Ship," he said. For now his commo helmet was able to transmit through the cruiser's PA system; he heard his words echoing from the A-Deck corridor and the compartments opening onto it. "Those of you in the landing party, obey your section leaders. Don't shoot unless Woetjans or I order you to, not even if you're shot at. Lieutenant Cory commands during my absense. For those of you remaining aboard, be ready for anything, but don't start it. Sun–"

            The gunner's mate, now gunnery officer, was controlling all the guns himself. He'd cranked the 6-inch turret back over the Ladouceur's stern quarter to bear on the Sacred Independence, while the lateral turrets were aimed at the Generalissima DeMarce a quarter mile off the cruiser's bow.

            If the guns fired on their present bearings, they'd toast half the Ladouceur's rigging and maybe even damage her hull. Which didn't mean Sun was bluffing, of course.

            "–I particularly mean you. Do not fire unless I personally tell you to. Now, Sissies, let's get moving! Six out."

            Adele was starting for the hatch, looking, well, dissociated. Beside her were Tovera and the Cazelet boy; Tovera had found full-sized sub-machine guns for both of them, while her small personal weapon hung in a shoulder holster.

            "Officer Mundy?" Daniel said. He barely caught the "Adele" that his tongue was starting to form. "I believe you can handle the communications duties better from your console here."

            Adele shrugged and said, "Yes, perhaps I could. I'm going to the DeMarce with my associates." She nodded to Tovera and Cazelet. "Vesey's taken over the bridge of the Independence, but it seemed to me that Blantyre could use some help. Besides, the DeMarce's commo suite is in better condition."

            "Right," said Daniel as they all turned into the down companionway. It'd be four decks, not three, to the Ladouceur's entrance hold. Tovera followed her mistress while Cazelet led. The sub-machine gun banged the boy's ribs because he hadn't snugged up the sling properly, but he was as sure-footed as a rigger on the worn steel treads.

            Adele was right, of course. Three slightly built people, two of them women, weren't going to impress a mob of spacers who'd probably already broken open the liquor cabinets as the first stage in the process of looting.

            These particular women could take charge of a warship's bridge, though, even if they had to shoot the present occupants out of the way. Daniel hoped that wouldn't happen, but he didn't trust the judgment of Captain Seward and his henchmen while they remained in control of the DeMarce's plasma cannon.

            Woetjans was forming her teams at the foot of the boarding ramp when the group from the bridge arrived. Adele set off with her companions for the DeMarce. She didn't say anything further nor look over her shoulder, though Cazelet did. The boy didn't seem frightened, but he obviously didn't know how to handle a sub-machine gun and the blankness in his eyes was probably a sign of being completely at sea.

            Daniel grinned and gave him a thumb's up. The now-Commander Daniel Leary had been just as lost many times in his life, and he wouldn't pretend he knew how matters were going to work out in the next hour or so. They'd work out better because he had people like Adele and Rene Cazelet supporting him, though. Yes, and Tovera's support too.

            "Sir, I put Barnes in charge of the section that sorts out the Babanguida," Woetjans said, turning when she heard Daniel's boots on the ramp behind her. "I figured to take the Carree, myself, all right?"

            Daniel eyed the eighty or so spacers in two straggling clumps. Fewer than two-thirds of them were former Sissies, which meant the bosun had more confidence in the Bagarians than Daniel himself might've. Woetjans was closer to the Ladouceur's personnel than her new captain'd had time to become–a truth Daniel regretted, but a truth nonetheless.

            There'd be a few Sissies staying on the cruiser. Pasternak, Woetjans' counterpart as Chief of Ship, was notable among them. You could be a first-rate spacer and still not be somebody your captain wanted to take into a fight. That was all right: Sissies were needed to leaven the hundred and fifty Bagarians aboard also.

            Each of the landing party carried a sub-machine gun or a stocked impeller, but they had lengths of pipe, rods, and knuckledusters as well. Some, even of the Sissies, couldn't be trusted with firearms; for example, Daniel hoped the impeller which the hulking Skrubas carried was unloaded. But he's seen Skrubas use the stock of an impeller, and he couldn't think of a quicker way to end a brawl than that combination.

            At least half the personnel carried rolls of cargo tape, intended to snug down objects in the holds when there wasn't time to use more complicated restraints. It had a multitude of uses aboard a starship. One use was to immobilize people who you didn't want wandering around.

            "Right," said Daniel, shuttling quickly through the options in his mind. "The country craft can wait. Barnes, Hogg and I will accompany you, if you don't mind. Now let's get going."

            He suited his action to his words by striding off in the direction of the Babanguida some three hundred yards away. Half the spacers followed him in a jostling mob; they'd never been taught to march in unison and Daniel didn't imagine it'd make them any more useful to him or to Cinnabar if they could.

            He frowned. He really must institute firearms training on a more regular basis than the rudiments that Sun and Hogg had been giving interested personnel in the entry hold on long voyages. His crews regularly saw more dismounted action than many Land Forces regiments did.