Friday, June 16, 2017

Tactics of Delay, Part Nine. Online Serial. Louis Shalako.



Louis Shalako




Fire Team Two was southeast of the spaceport on high ground.

“Sergeant.” It was their security number one, his sidekicks out somewhere in the boonies, ready to observe and, if called for, to fire at anything that moved in the vicinity.

“What.”

“Word from above. Fire at will.”

The trooper slunk off into the bushes again, silent as a ghost.

He nodded, studying the layout through the optical scope. His own device had the audio turned way down to avoid distraction at a critical moment.

The enemy was coming down, just before dusk, but there was light yet and the only real problem was when.

“Can you hit them while they’re coming in?” Even one would be fine.

Psychologically it would be rife, although a single round probably wouldn’t be much to talk about.

Troop transports were big, relatively simple ships, with only the minimal hardening. They were all air and big compartments in a central cylinder, surrounded by systems and shielding. 

This was mostly against stellar flares and cosmic background radiation. A hit in the right spot might cause a lot of concern…such things took time to properly repair.

“There are three separate crosswinds between here and there, Sergeant. Under braking and maneuver, that close to the ground, there’s going to be one shit-load of turbulence down here.”

Chewing his lip, the sergeant nodded.

“Okay. Why don’t we try that then. Who knows, we might get a bit of data. Try it on the first one—they’ll space themselves out and we might get lucky.” He thought. “Two, three rounds per ship, max. Let’s do armour-piercing.”

“Roger.” The kid grinned and gave him a sidelong look. “And my name’s not Max.”

“Take your time, it’s not that critical.” He just wanted to see what happened. “Max.”

Every little thing that they observed went into the notebook. Wesley was green, but he was also one hell of a shot—not so much intuitive as thorough, in doping the scope, using his brains where another might rely on courage. Or worse, ego. Even worse than that, luck.

This was something they were encouraged not to do.

Wes had a certain calm that some of the other kids lacked.

Dead heroes were essentially useless, to themselves or anyone else. They were bodies lost to the cause. Wounded heroes took up a lot of time, manpower and psychological resources.

As for the Barker, even in the pure vertical, admittedly a hard shot for people trained in conventional sniper operations, it would reach out and touch someone at a good five thousand metres. From their present location, the actual firing angle would be more like forty-five degrees.

He noted that Wes had already input the additional parameters. The youngster was struggling with the mount, much like a heavy photographic tripod for anti-air shooting. With hydraulic damping for the recoil, it weighed a good twenty kilos. The kid had been right to bring it along. That was the benefit of discipline and training. They had a bit of time, and finally the weapon was ready. Their position was on a hill, under the treeline, but with a clear view of the land and sky to the northwest. The spaceport was dead centre, but they could see part of the town north of that and the connecting roads and tracks all over the valley floor, more earth tones than actual greenery.

As far as anyone knew, the enemy was not in the vicinity.

“Here we go.”

The sergeant, eye protection darkening immediately upon looking up, watched as the hot-spots of the engines lit up the surrounding area.

That was them, all right.


Boer-class transports, and right on schedule. Data from Jane’s Fighting Ships streamed across the bottom of his VR set.

On impulse, the sergeant tapped the code for HQ into his com unit.

Graham came right on.

“Sergeant?”

“Colonel. I’ve got ten credits that says Wesley can hit that first ship before she touches ground.”

“Make it twenty and you’ve got yourself a bet.”

He could hear the laughter and imagine their faces back there.

“Twenty credits. Hmn, That’s a lot of money, but I don’t mind taking it from you. If you don’t mind losing it.”

“In that case, I’ll give you five to one.”

Five to one odds.

“Roger that. Hang on—and watch the action.”

Nothing but silence, but they were there all right.

“Sergeant.”

“Yes. Wesley. You and I will be drinking whiskey, next time we’re in town.”

There was a snort from the shooting position.

“Absolutely, Max. When has it ever been any different.”

“Smart-ass, eh. Hmn. I’ll try and remember that. Range, sixteen hundred…fifteen hundred. Fire at will, Wes. I mean, ah, Roger.”

The ship was moving past their position on a landing approach. The first enemy ship had decelerated significantly, slowly coming to a stop at low altitude as the ship read the field and verified its in-close bearings. From this distance, the size of the vessel was not overwhelming, but it was a hell of a lot bigger than a tank or a truck. It was a lot bigger than a person’s head and this kid could hit that a kilometre away under most conditions.

“Yes, Sergeant.”

Then came the crack of the Barker, its round leaving a visible trail of condensation. It punched through the air, its initial velocity over six thousand metres a minute.

There was a pause.

The ship slowly descended, kicking up all kinds of dust and crud the closer it got to the surface.

“What do you think, Wesley.”

“It’s hard to say…wait. Ah.”

The sergeant’s own display lit up.

According to the round’s data, target impact had occurred at four thousand, two hundred and thirty-one metres. That was when the tracking signal ended, upon the round’s distortion or even shattering. Plus or minus a few centimetres. It had hit roughly amidships, about three metres to the left and maybe a couple down from the aiming point, but a big target excused a lot of sins.

“Congratulations, Wesley. You just earned your pay for a whole month.”

The crack of the weapon came again, as Wesley had a small budget of rounds and there was no time like the present.

“Fire at will. Two more ships on approach. Let’s puncture every damned one of them fuckers.”

***

In the command centre, the red blip that was the Nield helo moved with painful slowness, although the distance was relatively short. At cruising speed, saving fuel and following established routine, the helicopter was doing a bare hundred-forty kilometres per hour. It was only now coming up on the airport approach.

Fire Team Two, southeast of the port, was in visual contact, having acquired it on their scopes as it came low over the last big hill and began its descent.

The three Unfriendly ships were down. The ports and hatches were open, the ramps were down, and people and machinery were swarming all over the place. They’d be in a hurry to unload, aware that they had been fired upon and not knowing exactly who was out there. How much actual damage had been done was a good question. Sometimes damage was a secondary consideration.

Seven confirmed hits was at least something.


“Whoa. Missiles in the air. Repeat, missiles in the air.” A second later, there was impact and a confirmed one missile had gotten a direct hit.

The scope swung around and the blast of the launch revealed the battery’s position.

“Mark that, please.”

“Right.” A fresh symbol appeared on the battle map.

One surface-to-air rocket battery, arguably right on the edge of the flying field. They might nail it down a bit further as things went along.

A trooper brought up the feed from the helo. The camera was still good, the ground and sky spinning wildly in the view-screen. They winced when the satchel charge, still intact, went off at the designated altitude.

Still they had a picture.

The flaming debris, trailing a cloud of black and grey smoke, dropped like a stone on fire, from its altitude of two thousand metres. If nothing else, the Unfriendlies would send out a patrol to find it. They would want to know more. They would want to recover, or more importantly, identify a body. Someone might get a crack at them, Team Three or even angry civilians. It depended what street they went down. Falling behind low hills in a big open spiral, the helo was on the ground now.

“We’ve still got a picture, Colonel.” A trooper called from across the room.

There was nothing there but branches, leaves, with the indistinct horizon on a sharp angle.

Smoke drifted across the frame, blocking it out again.

“Hmn. Nice. Have the system keep an eye on that.”

“Right.”

Half the planet hunted for pleasure or food according to the briefing notes.

She watched and listened to Fire Two for a moment. They were on high ground, in desert rather than forest, which meant night-time evasion if problems arose. Daylight would be out of the question.

“So, what do you think?”

“I can hit anything you want, Corporal.”


“Ah…how about that big, black limo pulling out from the terminal area.”

“Yeah, why not.”

“Range?”

“Thirty-three hundred metres.”

There were the usual crosswinds, dust and even bugs in the air. The light was fine with the enhancement from night vision, hardly needed until this point.

“Wait until it gets a little closer.”

“Why don’t we wait until someone gets in it.”

“Ah—right. Why don’t we do that, then. Fire when ready.”

The corporal stared through the scope, waiting.

So did Dona Graham.

***

“So. They took the bait.”

“Roger that, Colonel. Team Three reports two missiles confirmed. One hit, the other one went into the boonies a few kilometres northeast of the city. The profile reads Red-Tail, according to their best estimates.” They were definitely fired from the space and airport complex. “The second missile was a self-destruct.”

“Excellent.” Red-Tails were one of the more effective, and therefore more expensive, Unfriendly tools.

They’d just spent a quarter-million credits. They hadn’t hesitated. And rightly so—that helo might easily have taken a lot of them out. The timing of the helo’s arrival had been lucky, very lucky.

With the usual three launchers per battery, and a limited number of reloads, it was food for thought. They now had a fresh radar profile for the Red-Tails in their database.

“And hits all over the place from the Barkers.” Their two authorized fire teams had popped off anywhere from four to six rounds each, no more.

They’d been focusing on the three arrivals, the pair of smaller landing ships from the initial assault were behind and just on the verge of being out of range. These targets were being held in reserve—a real psychological point, one hopefully the Unfriendlies would spend some time in considering. In some ways, it hinted where the fire teams must be—for what that was worth.

“Yes. They will figure it out sooner or later. Thank you, Trooper.”

The young man nodded, eyes on the screen.

“More action, Colonel.”

Touching a virtual button, his board hovering in mid-air, he brought up the view from Team One’s gun-scope. The cross-hairs and mil-dots were lined up on a line of three vehicles, one big and long and black and a pair of the more familiar civilian utility vehicles following at short intervals behind. Numbers changed as the shooter or their assistant doped the scope with all available information. Firing point elevation, target elevation, range, air temperature, wind speeds, humidity, barometric pressure, local gravity. Known projectile drop from the tables, type of round, et cetera. Pure applied science. Team One was on it as well, a different perspective, with two sets of data triangulating back and forth.

So far, the Unfriendlies weren’t jamming much of anything…that must soon change.

The vehicles pulled up in front of the loading ramp of ship two. A small cluster of field-grey figures hovering at the main hatch, put their heads down and scuttled for the vehicles.

“Jesus, Christ, Corporal.”

“What?”

“Some of them are still wearing wooden shoes.”

The corporal snickered softly…

There was a momentary flash, minimal smoke.

He had fired a smart-round, data streaming back and forth, its micro-jets correcting it in flight across the intervening space.

High explosive.

“Wow.”

The impact of a round from a Barker was substantial, and the vehicle rocked on its springs. Cars and trucks were steel, plastics, composites, as opposed to paper-thin alloy, like a spaceship.

Much more of the kinetic energy had been imparted.

Even so.

Judging by the puff of dust from below and behind, and now smoke was rising, the round must have gone right through such a light vehicle, being capable of punching through seventy-five millimetres of properly-sloped tungsten-ceramic, admittedly, at much closer ranges.

The people on the ramp were headed back up the other way again…

The front window appeared to have gone opaque, with a tiny black dot for the hole and the rest was crazed and shattered as only automotive glass could without completely falling out.

The doors all flew open at once. At least four bodies flung themselves out, a couple cowering behind the machine and two making an honest break for it.

It was hard to tell if there was anybody still in there. Thin smoke lifted from the open doors, whipped away by the light breeze.

There was a moment of suspense.

The bolters seemed to have made the apparent safety of the shadows under the ship. They weren’t much of a priority, and the scope was swinging towards the next target anyways.

Let the radiation kill them. They were already casualties, and they knew it, too, turning and bolting again, using the bulk of the ship for cover.

Those in the command centre watched.

The sound was turned down, the crack of the next shot strictly imaginary.

Second vehicle, popped through the engine. The far back door opened and it looked like people desperately squirming out, which implied some training. Her best guess was that only two made it out. One would almost have to be a VIP.

“Nice. Give that guy a cookie.”

The trooper laughed. Zooming in on the icon, names came up along with service records.

It was a team of six. One vehicle, hidden a kilometre and a half away.

“I’ll just log that, Colonel.”

She laughed in spite of the tension.

One Barker, some other light weapons.

Trooper David Ovango. Five-year contract, made the class top ten in basic. All the qualifications.

He’d never fired a shot in anger. The young face came around, giving her an unreadable look.

He spoke into the microphone. Trooper Owens.

“Nice work, keep the data flowing.” Owens was one of Captain Aaron’s picks and good for him.

“Same to you, Trooper.”

“Thank you, Colonel Graham.”

With a pat on the back, she removed the headset and took a breath.

So much to be done, and so little time.

Even now, selected units were racing towards Deneb City and the Unfriendlies undoubtedly knew that, or they would very, very soon now.


(End of Part Nine.)


Image One. Confederation Public Communications Office.



Image Three. Alain Rioux


Image Four. Denebola-Seven Defense Force


Image Five. CPCO


Image Six. Colonel Dona Graham. Collection the author.


Image Seven. CPCO



Previous Episodes.


Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six.
Part Seven.
Part Eight.
 
Note: Writing a novel is tough enough without serializing the manuscript before it's even done. Basically the author needs to get to the end of the plot before he can go through it, check for errors of logic, errors, omissions and possibly taking a few small bits out. In that sense the completed novel (hopefully soon) will be superior. That's not to say this isn't fun, because it is.


Louis Shalako has books and stories available from Amazon.

 

Thank you for reading.




Friday, June 9, 2017

Tactics of Delay, Part Eight. Online Serial. Louis Shalako.

























Louis Shalako




The others had disappeared down the road.

The machine was a twin-turbine, civilian model especially developed for resource exploration and utility work on pioneer planets and other harsh environments back on the Home Worlds.

One reason for Nield’s attitude might have been the six big, old-fashioned wooden crates of frozen seafood, if that was the proper word for a freshwater product, lashed down in the rear of the cabin. Company names and products were stenciled in paint—a stark contrast with the more usual plastic and metal radio-tag systems used all over the civilized galaxy. The faint aroma was unmistakable, if the labels weren’t enough to convince. Putting her hand on one, they were definitely cold. She grinned faintly, thinking of all those Ryanville wood products, with genuine people literally cutting the trees, cutting the lumber and brad-nailing them all together with hand-held air-powered nail guns. It really was a pioneering world, where the robots held no sway and might never, unless the population, and the economy, really took off.

This proved nothing, and dry ice would emit a lot of CO2. There were air vents open, which implied a low-altitude flight. Nield had done this before, obviously, and it was merely a passing thought. There was suspicion, or maybe caution, and then there was true paranoia—although it was a bit early for that. Nield was just another highly-skilled idiot, following his natural inclinations.

Powering up, all the lights came on and the machine seemed functional.

Her first task was to figure out the navigation system. The onboards were relatively simple and she even recognized the name of the manufacturer, complete with a stylish black logo on a silvery plastic ellipse, a dramatic arrow swooping up through it.

Deneb City’s air and spaceport complex was clearly marked, and prior flight-logs made things definitely easier. There were only so many places to go on Deneb, and Nield had been to all the local ones many times, with very few deviations. He’d done this exact same trip a week before. That pattern went back about two and a half years. She set the bomb to go off after descending from flight at two thousand metres to a bare one hundred metres of altitude. 

Right over the airport. An airburst in the right place might do a lot of damage, although the odds of it getting through were not even fifty-fifty in her estimation. She pulled a peel-and-stick camera from her side pouch and stuck it onto the dashboard where it could get a good view. All she had to do then was to activate it, scan the serial number from the tag into her com unit and hit the power switch.

With no clear line-of-sight to the satellite, this one would be radio. It was a chance that had to be taken.

She had a picture upon checking her com-unit.

The thing then, was to set a few seconds of delay on the engine start-up and takeoff sequence.

The key was in, the red start-button just above it.

Click.

Shutting the door carefully, she stepped back and then, turning, sprinted off towards her chosen pickup truck, a red one with the plastic decal of the airport fire detail stuck on the doors.



With luck, the Unfriendlies would see the machine in the air when the helo came over the horizon, preparatory to what sure looked like a landing approach.

She’d been gone long enough, although no emergency messages had come.

As she started the truck’s engine, reaching for her com unit, she hadn’t left anything behind. 

There was the squeal of a starter motor and the helo blades slowly began to turn. A bit of dark smoke came out the back and then it was running.

“Right. I am out of here.”

***

The airport was a couple of kilometres from the centre of town on a relatively straight gravel road. The flat, valley-bottom terrain was composed of brush and large patches of barrens, local terminology for bare, white, gravelly ground, moss and low shrubs of about ten centimetres. There were a few small farms, and, closer to the road, non-descript buildings that might have been some form of light industry judging by the types of vehicles, tractors and repair trucks.

These were all in yards that were fenced and lit by tall light standards. She saw one or two people in coveralls, working in the doorway of one such building, not even looking up at her passing.

She slowed, mouth open.

The small group of individuals walking towards her along the side of the road could only be the native Denebi.

She’d seen the pictures, of course, but this was the real thing.

If anything, they were even more ethereal in person. At the extremities, it was like the light shone right through them. The bodies were dumpy, cone-shaped or even pyramidal, although that was clearly the wrong word for something that was not four-sided. The limbs were quite long compared to the trunk. There was a certain grace as well, for they were easily two or more metres in height for the adults.

Slowing, she took a good look even as they raised…arms or tentacles or limbs to wave in what looked like a cheerful manner. Interestingly, the heads could still turn in a limited fashion, in spite of the radial symmetry and partial exoskeleton. Their single mouths looked almost humanoid. There were teeth in there and a tongue, bright purple lips and multiple red eyes really standing out on the pale, bluish bodies.

She wasn’t entirely certain of which might be the male and which the female, but it looked like a family grouping of seven individuals. According to her briefing there was little difference in height between adults of either gender. All of them were completely naked, with baskets on their heads and small packs and pouches slung over various shoulder-joints. The biggest one had a staff for defense or possibly just an aid in walking. The anatomy was unique in her knowledge, with three legs and nine arms and a head with both simple and compound eyes ringing them. The internal body temperature was a cool 25.4 C. With the ability to control their internal temperatures, they were classed as warm-blooded creatures.

They had multiple ears and multiple stomachs. It was said they were descended from bony, jellyfish-type creatures from the sea and had a matriarchal society…in which case, shouldn’t the female be carrying the stick?

Corner of her mouth curling, she shrugged off the question.

The ability to look in all directions at once must have led to some interesting adaptations in the brains and the minds of the Denebi, and that was for sure. Their counting system was said to be a source of endless fascination to exologists, all ones, threes, nines, and no way to express zero except to leave a blank. Two blanks represented the decimal point…fascinating in its own way.

She waved as she went by, marveling at the children bobbing along, each carrying their tiny share of the load.

Every single one of them waved right back.

Shaking her head, she gave it a little throttle, aware that it raised a dust cloud and she was probably under observation anyway.

So.

This is who we’re fighting for.

We’re the best of a bad bargain.

In the mirror, there was the shape of the helo lifting off, its nose went down and then it headed south, gaining altitude and picking up speed.

She had high hopes for that one.

***

“Ah, here she is.”

Dona strode into the command centre. Having ditched the truck a few blocks away, she had kept the keys for future reference.

“What’s up?”

“Colonel Graham, this is Mayor Tor Byron of Roussef.”

While they shook hands, she had a moment to assess him.

He was a half a head shorter than her, a florid man with thinning hair, roughly mid-thirties.

“One minute, okay.”

Dona went to the trooper at the overall battle map console. Quickly, in a low voice she gave the girl the code number for the dash-cam in the helo and other data.

“Don’t bring that picture up just yet, please.”

With a nod, the trooper kept that small, just a tiny little box down in the right-hand corner of her desktop screen. The important thing was that the data had been received…

Tor Byron was watching when she turned and came back.

“What can I do for you, Mister Byron?”

“What is the meaning of this evacuation order?” He held up his high-end phone, with the text and headline visible.

One of the troopers at a workstation was beckoning at her, and the red dot that was the helo was probably the cause. Their own defense system had picked it up again, just as it had the first time.

Byron didn’t need to know about that. She probably should have said something before they left.

She waved.

“I’ll be right there, okay?”

“Yes, Colonel Graham.”

“Sorry. It means that you and all residents will be evacuating a three-hundred metre radius, based on the town centre. There are a couple of other spots as well. We’re advising a two hundred-metre radius for those.” These were industrial plants, shipping and receiving facilities, fuel storage and thermal power generation. “We’re asking citizens not to abandon the town. There simply aren’t the facilities in Ryanville, and obviously you don’t want to go south…”

In such neighbourhoods, habitation was much more dispersed. Still, there were people there and they had to go. The initial colonization had been a hodgepodge of such developments, before the town was incorporated and some semblance of civic planning took hold.

“But—but—you can’t do that.”

“No. You’re going to do it. Look, Mister Byron. I don’t have a whole lot of time, and I would prefer not to reiterate what my staff have already told you.”

There were terse nods in the background, notably Lieutenant Wheeler and Major Chan, studying the moving red dot to the west.

“But—but.”



“The Unfriendlies are coming down. The very first thing they’re going to do, Mister Byron, is to set up missile batteries and launch an attack. I’m rather surprised they haven’t used any space-based systems as of yet. That sort of implies they’ll be landing at Deneb, which they already control. It’s a good thing, too, because you’re not ready, are you?” Another trooper was waving madly from a console on the far side of the command centre. “They’re probably hoping to preserve as much of the local infrastructure as they can, in order to use it for themselves. Their own colonists are going to need it. Look, sir. We have no time, no time at all. If you do not comply, you will be placed under arrest and subject to military justice—battlefield justice, to be precise. Do you have any idea of that that means?” And then they would start on the deputy mayor…

Judging by the pallor, shifting eyes and a bit of a tremor in the hand when he looked at his phone again, he got it.

“Look. I promise we’re not going to shoot you. We will lock you up, and there will be a trial, with a jury of your peers. One has to wonder how they would react to all of this, especially after some major loss of life. You’re going to lose some buildings here, sir. Buildings can be rebuilt, but your people cannot be replaced. Your people need you out there, providing leadership above all else. Sir.”

He was getting it now, and clearly appalled by the reality. His lips were quivering.

“Do you understand, sir?”

He swallowed convulsively, then managed to say it.

“Yes. Yes, of course.”

“I can’t say for sure that they will, either, but one way or another. They’ll be coming up that road, within about the next forty-eight to seventy-two hours, and if you will forgive us, we are very, very busy preparing to meet that threat.”

“Major Chan.”

“Yes, Colonel?”

“Can we spare the mayor a few troopers to help with the elderly, the disabled, and the people at the hospital.”

“Yes—fifteen or twenty, if we’re lucky.”

“Let’s be lucky then.”

“Absolutely, Colonel. Then there’s the militia. Unless they get busy doing something, they’re just a bunch of useless mouths, good for nothing and hard on food.” With a hint of pink high on Chan’s cheekbones, Dona sensed more to that story. “Perhaps if the Mayor shows up there and takes charge, they will be more inclined to get on it.”



“Okay, Major. Take ten troopers. And the militia. Tell them it’s an order. From me. Make it stick.”

“Right, Colonel.” Chan headed for her desk and the civil phone set-up.

“Right. Look, sir. We can let you have a few vehicles. The city has a few buses, and trucks, and then there’s the cab company. Tell you what. You and I are declaring martial law, right now. You and I are now duly authorized to seize and requisition any thing, any property or building, any vehicle. Right? You know more about what’s out there than we do. The safest place is probably well out in the residential areas. Anything that looks like it might house a substantial number of troops or provide a defensive position will likely become a target. That includes schools and hospitals. Any substantial building, any useful position. Trust me, the Unfriendlies are no respecters of property and persons. Not in war, sir.”

Not much in peace either, but she didn’t say it.

He was not happy, but that wasn’t her problem, and he knew enough about the Unfriendlies to know that it was all true.

“I understand. And thank you—” His face abruptly fell and the poor man was crying.

Dona caught Lieutenant Wheeler’s eye and she bustled forward.

“Come on, sir. Let’s get this show on the road.”

All of a sudden the rage broke loose. He was falling, sagging at the knees and at the same time lashing out with his hands. Byron was pounding on his own head, crying and moaning. 

A pair of troopers rushed forward to grab him as he babbled and mouthed incoherently.

“Damn them. Damn them—we just built our city hall less than three years ago…Oh, Jesus, Christ. Oh, fuck. God, oh, God, damn them all to hell.”

With a solicitous air, Wheeler and the soldiers gently ushered Byron in the direction of the door, supporting him under the armpits as his legs didn’t seem to be working properly…

With one backward glance from Wheeler, the door swished closed and they heard her bellowing for the troops, lounging around and waiting for whatever word came down the pipes.

Dona heaved a sigh.

“Tell it to the Unfriendlies, Mister Byron. Tell it to the Unfriendlies.”

She looked around, having wasted enough time on him.

The trooper who was waving pointed at the big screen at the end of the room, the centre of a cluster of similar displays. Three ships, coming over the horizon, very low and about as slow as one could go without falling out of the sky.

The Unfriendlies were on their final approach.

***

“That third ship is a bit late.” The trooper stared, crunching numbers on his virtual board. “How much you want to bet? They launched a surveillance satellite.”

“Yes. Where in the hell is it?” Their light, ground-based radar sets were simply not powerful enough, and a prolonged search only gave their position away…the usual problem.

He shrugged.

Probably not too far from their own, and the question wasn’t even worth answering.

“Depending on what they’re using, and how much they were willing to spend, it might be just as stealthy as ours.”

Dona studied the bird’s-eye view of battle zone from above.

“It would be nice to knock that down.”

“If we could even find it…we don’t have the weapons for that.”

“Hmn. True.” All of this was expected, of course.

Hopefully their initial plan would hold good, although they seldom did for long.

“Where are our people?”

“Under cover at the present time. Our nearest force is still eighty kilometres from Deneb City.”

“Sniper teams?”


He punched a virtual button.

“There. Our people have the spaceport under observation.”

Pulling out her com unit, Dona input the codes for their three teams in the city. Team Four was in a blocking position north and east of the town. A good idea for them to listen in. She touched the symbol.

“Teams One and Two. Fire at will. Team Three. Stay put. I repeat, stay put. Team Three, keep your heads down. Team Four. Observe and report. Heads down. Over.”

“Roger that.”

The laconic responses from all teams were only so much reassurance.

“Colonel?”

“Ah, yes. The helo. It’s rigged, and I’ve programmed it to fly and land at Deneb City. It will be interesting to see if they fire on it.”

Someone brought the feed up and then they were momentarily riding along with her before the pane got smaller and it was tucked down low in the right corner of the screen.

“Ah, yes, Colonel.” The half-dozen troops manning the consoles grinned and exchanged glances.

The first thing the initial Unfriendly troops had done was to set up high and low-level defense batteries around the spaceport, providing some level of protection for further landings.

The battle had commenced. A pawn had been placed on the board, and moved forward two squares in some symbolic terms.


(End of part eight.)


Previous Episodes.


Images.

Image One. Collection the author.


Image Two. Sikorsky Helicopters.

Image Three.

Image Four. Confederation Public Communications Office.

Image Five. Denebola-Seven Defence Force.

Image Six. CPCO.


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