WHEN THE TIDE RISES – snippet 49:



            Adele switched to the last of the six intercom channels and grimaced: no matter what she did, she couldn't get rid of the 50-cycle hum. Fort Douaumont had an excellent communications system as installed, but it apparently hadn't received maintenance since that installation.

            She supposed the background interference resulted from moisture and failing insulation in a distribution node which also contained a lighting circuit. Now that four of the fort's five sectors had surrendered to the Bagarians, she might escape the problem by going to another command center.

            She'd decided not to move, at least for the time being. Something could go wrong with the process, and anyway–they'd paid for this location. She wondered if Woetjans was still alive.

            "Captain Ringo…," Daniel said to the commander of Sector Two. "You've proved yourself to be a brave and loyal soldier. It's time to lay down your arms as Governor Platt has ordered and spare your own life and the lives of your troops. I give you my word as an officer of Cinnabar that you'll be treated with full military courtesy after your surrender, over."

            Adele was channeling all communications through her position, though it was obviously possible for Daniel in the Governor's suite to speak directly to the Sector Twocommand center or anywhere else in Fort Douaumont. She felt better believing that she knew everything that was going on, and it allowed Daniel to use his RCN commo helmet instead of fumbling with Alliance equipment.

            "Fuck you Cinnabar monkeys and fuck that pansy Platt!" Ringo replied. A burst from an automatic impeller rang off the Skye Defender's hull. His troops must've manhandled the gun from its emplacement on the outer wall and aligned it to fire through one of the small-arms ports on the courtyard side of the rampart.

            Most units of the Conyers garrison were nationalized planetary militia like the Maintenon battalion which the Bagarians had impersonated. There was one company of Home Office troops, however, sent to enforce discipline generally and Guarantor Porra's will in particular. Ringo commanded them. It was Adele's good fortune that she and her team had entered the fortress in Sector Three, not Two, though it might not've made any difference. Tovera was ruthless and a dead shot, and so was Tovera's mistress.

            An alarm sounded from Station B, the artillery emplacement above Ringo's sector. Adele expanded the visual link to the site, a pair of 10-cm plasma cannon on a disappearing carriage which nestled behind an armored breastwork while they were at rest.

            Though the weapons were fully automated, the designers had provided for manual control in an emergency. They hadn't expected the emergency to be that a command post would be captured by a Cinnabar intelligence officer who understood the system better than the Alliance garrison had, though.

            Six soldiers in field gray had come through the floor hatch and were trying to put the guns in action. They'd figured out that the Bagarians had taken electronic control of the installation, so two of them with chisels and heavy hammers were trying to cut the conduit. That wouldn't actually free the guns as they hoped, but it showed a degree of imagination which couldn't be permitted in an enemy.

            "Daniel," Adele said. "Captain, that is, there're Alliance soldiers in Station B, trying to free the cannon. I don't think they can unless they're more skilled than I'd expect, but I thought you should be aware of what's going on. Over."

            "Hold one, Signals," Daniel said. After a few seconds' pause, he resumed, "Roger, now link me to both the command group and the Ladouceur on the same circuit. Can you do that, over?"

            "Yes, Daniel," Adele said, too startled by the absurdity of the question to feel insulted. "I can do that."

            Rene Cazelet returned to the command post and sat at the desk

            "Officers, this is Squadron Six," Daniel said briskly. He probably didn't realize he'd been out of line. "Lieutenant Liu, land in Grand Harbor as planned. When the Ladouceur's down, Officer Sun and I will transfer to her. We'll have to hike the half mile unless there's another aircar that I haven't found, but I guess we can handle that. A group of political troops're dug into a section of the fort and won't give up, so I'm going to let them die bravely."

            He paused without signing off, then continued, "Woetjans, I gather there's a lot of unrest on Conyers. Since I don't expect the rebels to introduce themselves and ask for our identification, Sun and I'll need an escort of twenty or so Sissies. Over."

            "Captain…," Adele said. Her lips twisted as though she were sucking on a lemon, but the words were coming out all right. "Chief Woetjans has been wounded. You'll need another detachment commander. Over."

            "Understood, Signals," Daniel said calmly. "Break. Ashburn, alert twenty spacers as an escort. You can pick anybody you want. Six out."

            Adele rubbed her eyes, letting the chatter of the many detachments flow through her. She was as tired as if she'd been carrying another person on her back. She wondered if a drink would help her relax.

            "Adele?" Rene said.

            She looked up. He flinched from her unintended expression, but he seemed calm as he continued, "We got Woetjans to the Medicomp and she's stable now. Barnes wanted to transfer her to the Ladouceur, but I'm familiar with the units installed here in the fortress. They're quite satisfactory, a little different from the RCN type but of the first quality. And they're newer than the cruiser's."