We had been under Zero G since we locked to the axial docking tube on the Mayflower. I was feeling just a bit queasy when the announcement came informing us that UNWG forces were already on board.
I had no idea at the time why I was chosen to lead a squad to secure the Stores section of the Mayflower. But I was sure glad for the talk all of us colonists had been engaged in over the last couple of days concerning what might await us when we did reach the ship. I at least was beginning to get a feel for the quality of the group as a whole. Though I didn’t think my actions in the Lancer defense marked me as a leader, I was mentally prepared for resistance when we found that the Goonies had gotten there first..
I was happy enough, happiness being very relative, that Marty was leading the other squad. I need to back up a bit. If this diary entry is disoriented so was I.
Marty wasn’t so much selected, but demanded to go onto the Mayflower. My group of five all had weapons of one kind or another, four hand guns and a .22 cal. single shot rifle. Marty said she was going armed or not and got her way.
I am not usually the leader type. Either I go it alone or I go along until I have a good reason not to. However, I seemed to have had more experience in dealing with the ugly side than many of the folks, who had crowded aboard the Mayflower, so I spoke up at the gathering just after the alarm. Somehow all the anger at years of oppression at the hands and weapons of the so-called world government just boiled to the front. “I don’t care what it takes,” I heard myself snarl, “I will not give up this easily after all I have already given up to get here. If we can’t outfight them, we’ll outsmart ‘em. Anybody who isn’t afraid to die, just follow me.”
We were the last two groups to exit the Lancer as we had the shortest distance to cover. We took a sled like vehicle, (just set it moving outwards and centrifugal force does the rest), from the ship’s dock and felt our weight returning as we got further from the axis of rotation. After agreeing on a rendezvous spot we split up and each led our squads towards the Goonie forces in the Storage Area. I had lots of worries and hers must have been worse though you wouldn’t have known it from watching her as we set out ahead.
I found myself at the head of a small group as we jogged toward the storage area. Beneath the bravado, I was damned scared. It was bad enough leaving home for the unknown, but I had never imagined actual combat, especially combat armed with nothing more than our wits, what we could scavenge in this strange place, and what Uncle Alfa had built into my PDA. Still, these creeps were sent by the folks who killed my brother and broke my father. It would feel good to fight back for once.
I sensed someone trotting just a little behind me, almost too close on my left, as if they were trying to stay close enough to attack me. Whoever it was matched me stride for stride, so our boots thumped the strange rock and metal of the passage in echoing unison.
I stole a glance as we ran along a fairly smooth section of the rocky tunnels. Beside me was the most eerily handsome child I had ever seen. Perhaps sixteen, maybe younger, the kid had golden skin like a beachcomber in full summer, a halo of feathery ringlets of just a shade darker bronze, with gleaming sun streaks, and almost unnatural ice blue eyes. He was slender and long legged, almost pretty except for an innate toughness that just radiated from his lean form. He grinned cheekily and winked when he caught me looking at him. Then he ratcheted up the pace a notch and sailed on by me with ease.
“Hold up there,” I called to him. “You have any idea where you’re going? If not, wait up while I check the comp.”
With an impudent grin he replied. “Me granddad ‘s a miner. Born here I was. Tunnels ‘re like me backyard.” And he ran on through the semi darkness. I followed as best I could with shadowy strangers all around me.
The Goonies were heavily armed and prepared for the assault. We had an advantage in having downloaded diagrams of all the tunnel excavations made after the Mayflower had stopped being used as a mining asteroid. We also had tracking data on Goonie locations relayed by the Mayflowers comp system. But the Goonies must have had some of that information also. They had sent their forces to four critical areas of the ship, that couldn‘t be coincidental.
It took about 20 minutes from the time we left the Lancer till we got to the rendezvous just outside of the Stores section. I sent a guard out ahead and waited for Marty‘s group to catch up. She was only a couple of minutes behind.
Just ahead of our main group was a woman I had noticed in the lounge, back when I was having that delicious beer and thinking we were safe at last. Warm rose patches on each strong, wide cheekbone highlighted her smooth mahogany face. Dark eyes shrouded emotions behind thick lashed, slanted lids. Delicate sable hair floated over her shoulders as she ran effortlessly through the dimness. I was startled to see such beauty in such a sinister place.
She turned to cock a questioning eyebrow in my direction when she felt my regard. It was then I saw the twisted, red disfigurement that scarred her otherwise perfect countenance from her eyebrow, and across the edge of her sculptured nose and the hollow plane of her cheek to end at the top of her gently curved lip. It gave her the appearance of wearing a slight sneer as if permanently bored with the world. I almost tripped on the uneven floor of the tunnel as I realized who she was. Sinopa, the fox, in her native Blackfoot tongue. It had been rumored for years that she led a really successful resistance group based in northern Manitoba, but nothing had ever been proved. Hers was a face that had graced every tabloid on the planet. What the heck was she doing here?
Ships stores consisted of multiple tunnels, each about 25 feet in diameter. Some had been bored by mining machinery following mineral veins, others added afterwards in setting up the asteroid as a Colony Ship. The larger mining passages made many gradual twists and turns. After the mining ended Hamilton had smaller cross connectors added and blasts set off between a few of the adjacent tunnels making some larger storage areas.
As we entered into the Stores Section Marty directed us by keeping track of the Goonies location being relayed to her PDA. We passed by rack after rack of container storage, many empty, some stocked with provisions of all types. Most had identifying labels on the outsides. There were also rooms with larger machinery and crates of all sizes.
I almost ran up the back of the blond youth as he stopped dead in one of the wider spots in the tunnel.
“Lookie what we got here.” He grinned again, and gestured. All around us on racks that reached from rocky floor to darkened ceiling were supplies of all sorts. This then was the storage area we had been sent to save. Most of the perishable stuff was encased in special plastic vacuum containers about 5 gallons in size with a valve for removing the air. There was everything from a ridiculous number of barrels of pickles, which boded ill for our diet should we ever reach our destination, to sterile water and bread flour. In another tunnel we saw supplies of HI Pressure Oxygen and coils of assorted hose and tubing that must have served the miners when the place was being excavated.
When we were several hundred yards and a couple of cross corridors away from the UN squad we halted to figure out what to do next.
Joe Fortson, one of the colonists in my squad suggested we set up an ambush and use Marty’s people to lure the UNWG forces into the target zone. Hand guns against armor, massively superior fire power, and who knows what else. Didn’t seem like a winning combination.
“I wish we had some explosives to set at the ambush site“ I said, “But with their sensors they’d probably detect them anyway and stay clear. It looks iffy but I don’t see anything we can do but try to set it up in a cross tunnel and hope it works.”
Then Marty looked up from her PDA and said, “Bill, I have an Idea”…….
Bill suggested that the cross tunnel would be the right spot for an ambush if we could figure out how to make one work. Something about all that oxygen and flour tickled the back of my mind. I remembered dad telling how his cousin was killed back in Wichita when six million bushels of grain burned after an explosion of nothing more alarming than flour dust. That disastrous blast had taken out half a mile of grain elevators in one gigantic bang.
We huddled in frantic parlay and then Bill and his band went off to try and delay the Goonies till we were ready for them. Soon a rough plan of sorts emerged. We would make a big boom with the flour and oxygen and blow the whole bunch of them to Hell. We had everything we needed except an ignition device. I slid apart the layers of my specially built PDA and lifted out the tiny firestarter my uncle had invented. All that was needed to produce a very satisfying spark was a turn of a tiny ratchet wheel.
Leaving one armed guard with Marty; Joe, myself, and two others from my squad crept towards the Goonies position. We had to let them spot us from far enough away that we had a chance to get under cover before being shot at. We also needed to keep up the game for at least 10 minutes in order to give Marty time for her preparations. Without the maps of the tunnel system it would have been hopeless.
We took turns, each of us being the target and then laying down covering fire, dodging from tunnel to tunnel but keeping away from Marty and her people. If the Goonies had just made a full scale charge their body armor and superior weapons would have easily carried the day. As it was the were just too cautious going slowly and sending mobile sensors on little wheeled vehicles before them. A little wheeled sensor vehicle equaled a target that couldn‘t shoot back and we got two of them which probably made the Goonies think we were better armed than we were.
The boy, who called himself Kaye, was a whiz at connecting the oxygen piping to the valves on the flour containers. He used three of them spaced about 10 yards apart connecting each to a separate oxygen cylinder. It kinda reminded me of Kip recharging Pee Wee’s tank in Heinlein’s “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel“. Then he rigged them to be triggered by a single pressure handle hidden in a dark alcove concealed by a chunk of rock that protruded from the wall at the end of the cross tunnel. He set the firestarter in the center of the whole affair and said he would hide in the alcove and trigger the blast at my command. Now we just needed Bill’s group to lead them in there and hold them still for a moment.
The woman I suspected was Sinopa said quietly, “When they come down this corridor, I will stand just there,” she pointed to a spot between the sets of flour containers we had rigged. “They will stop to look at me, as men tend to; I will leap over there,” she pointed again to another side passage with a sealable pressure door, “and duck inside. On your command, Kaye will push the trigger. They should be right among the containers.”
“I hope she got it done in time.” I thought, As we turned and made a mad dash down the agreed upon ambush corridor. I saw stuff against the walls in several places so just maybe….. We hit the far end of the tunnel and ducked around the corner just as the Goonies reached the entrance. Sprawling on the floor I saw Marty looking intently at her comp screen. She glanced my way and gave a thumbs up.
A second later Marty beckoned me over to watch. She had a remote camera hooked into her PDA so I had a front row seat for the finale.
The Goonie squad, all five of them, were a quarter of the way down the 200 yard tunnel. Their sensor platform was out in front. When it reached a point a little over half way down the tunnel it had pointed at a side entrance then continued towards us. I saw a female figure step out of the side passage, briefly freezing the Goonie force, who instead of firing ran towards her. She popped off to the side again and out of view.
Just as the UNWG guys reach the place where she had been standing Marty yelled “NOW!” into the PDA.
The scene was obscured by a fine white mist for just a moment and then an incredibly large explosive noise was followed by an equally impressive fireball rounding our end of the passage. Luckily for those of us standing or crouching outside of the tunnel mouth there was nothing worse than ringing ears and singed hair.
I signaled to Joe and we went back in to see the results. Marty was right behind. As Joe and I took off towards the downed Goonies Marty ducked into a small alcove near our end. I found out later she was looking after Kaye.
A quick inspection showed us that all the UNWG forces were thoroughly dead. Sinopa, the gal who had been the distraction came out from a pressure door sealed room none the worse for wear. We gathered up all Goonie weapons and got back to Marty. She was kneeling over an unconscious kid who I gathered was a real hero of the affair.
“Marty”, I said, seeing her concern, “One of the others can look after the boy. How about letting Captain Monroe know how we stand and see if there are any other groups that need help.”
I was amazed at how well the coordinated effort between Bill’s group and the people with me went. Sinopa, if indeed was she, was the perfect lure, looking all mysterious and unlikely like a beautiful ghost in the tunnel. I am going to see that Kaye is patched up as best as possible and keep him with me if I can. I am wondering if there is anything he can’t do. I think that after we radio the captain and apprise him of the situation we might take a look at what stores are left down here. An inventory might prove helpful.
After the Battle:
After the battle for the Mayflower was over Marty and I compared notes for an after action report. We both entered it verbatim into our personal logs. So except for those things that can’t be set into writing that’s exactly how it happened.