Evening - Alchibah Day 981
Janie and I came up on the backside of windmill hill and saw the cargo bus parked just beyond the entrance to the medical center. Janie’s landing was a bit rough, but I could understand that, and while I was still locking down the controls she toggled open the hatch, and skipping her part of the shutdown, made a beeline for the door.
A minute later, with everything powered down and safe, I ran after her. When I got outside she was down on hands and knee, gagging and throwing-up into the snow. Stepping behind I cradled her head and tried to steady her. The Jeep was standing there at a loss for something to do.
“It’s Ok now Babe, hold on.”
Emily Parker came rushing from the dug in med facility with a towel and started helping Janie clean herself up. Laura Seaworth exited the bus and came over as well. Between the three of us, we got her inside and seated. I’d never seen her look so ghastly pale and shaken.
“I’m falling apart,” she managed to say as shudders wracked her body.
“I’ll get her a sedative,” Emily said and was back in a moment with a hypo.
“No!” Janie blurted out. “I’ll get over this.” And with some kind of effort of will that was hard to imagine she stopped shaking and her color began coming back. She looked at me and said, “Bart go and see what’s happening in town.”
It was only a couple of steps to the lab’s com screen and a new camera was broadcasting. I could see the com links were being relayed through optical repeaters with two of the labor pool bots standing in for a couple that showed blank on the board. We hadn’t seen what happened with the last missile but it must have been close. There was a small crater to the rear of the skull ship and a rent in its side had steam spewing upwards till it blended in with the lite snow and the clouds above. I didn’t think she would be going anywhere for a while.
No bodies by the blast and there were lights on inside the ship. The ramp was still down with suited and armored figures moving in and out. Some of what I would learn were Rogons but mostly human.
“Joe? Les? Anyone? This is Bart. Anybody there?”
A moment later I heard the voice of Karl Nash. “Thank God you made it. Where are you?”
“At the lab. Fill me in.”
“The first group out of the ship went straight into Liberty Hall. Lucky for us there was no one there. Then what must have been your missile exploded at the rear of the ship and we had a few moments when everyone ducked for cover. Everyone but Joe. Joe got a dozen or so colonists to move with him out into the woods west of town. Right now they are going building to building in town looking for us.”
“Where are you Karl?”
“In the basement of the Inn. I got R. Fletcher and Bligh with me. Pam’s trying to make her way with the rest of the noncombatants to your location.”
“Did Les get in touch with the Guardians?”
“Can’t say. I don’t think so but I haven’t heard anything since he left with Joe.”
“You got to get away from the Inn Karl. That’s where they must be heading next.”
“I’m staying for a while. I will post out the bots and see if we can buy the rest of you some time.”
There was nothing much I could say. He was making the best of a bad bargain. “Keep the faith Karl. We’ll try to find some way to help.”
I heard the lab door open and the first of the people from town entered then a new link channel lit up and I heard Fortson’s low grumble.
“Good to see you and Janie are still with us.”
“That goes double from my end. What’s the plan?”
“What ever you do Bart, keep the Dora and the bus on the ground. These things out here have offloaded some weapons of some type that look to be ground to air and they have a perimeter set up around the ship. They got the launches spaced out in four locations around their ship. Which, and good shooting there, looks to be grounded.
“We lost six or seven people when they landed but the rest should still be headed your way.”
“Felicia Ortega just walked in.”
“Good to hear. Gene Washburn is heading towards town from the boatyard with R.Krebbs and another couple of bots. When he gets into position we will be able to harass them whatever direction they choose next, but for my money it‘ll be the Inn. With the ship locked in place you should be able to get the rest up to the caves if you stay well south and east. We just got word from Connor that Kara and BJ are manning Fort Stuart and he’s headed back into town from the north to help. Sin’s crew went dark a while back but the bots have been picking up sustained small arms fire from that direction, so they’re still with us.”
“Gotta go Bart, we have warm bodies heading cross the field toward out position. Check back in a bit. Out.”
“Laura, Franklin, Felicia, start pulling everything from the lab and med center that isn’t bolted down and get it loaded into the bus. We are going to have more room than we planned on.”
While the three of them went into a flurry of action I went over and sat beside Janie. “How is it Babe? Pullin’ through?”
“I’m under control except for when I think about Tammy.”
Our three month old daughter went with the children on the first busload into the caves. We had both been trying not to think about that but it was just not possible. “She’s as safe as she can be with Linda and EmyCee watching over her and it’s our job to make sure she stays that way. It’s not going to get any easier soon I’m afraid.”
“Yeah Bart, I can handle it. What’s next?”
“Check the bunker behind the lab. There are at least two missiles out there, so get some help and get them loaded. I’m taking the Jeep with me and going up on top of the hill to see what we can see. When you’re done with the Dora try and get in contact with the Mayflower. We need information.”
While Janie went to load munitions I went back into the Dora and stripped of my gee suit and donned one of the two Combat suits Joe and I had taken of the Goonie cruiser almost six years ago. The Jeep helped me into my snow shoes and I helped him into his. We climbed to the top of the hill and going past the single tower still in use, and when near the northern edge, slid forwards until we could look into town and the fields surrounding it.
The hologram projected on my helmet visor showed even more detail than the Jeeps built in sensors revealed. I saw the hot spots of the perimeter guard and a group of four heading across the colony farm towards where I knew Joe was waiting. I made sure the view was on our net so those in the woods could tap into the view. The energy bloom at the shuttle and around the outlying weapons positions stood out like candles on a white iced birthday cake. Some how or other we were going to need to blow them out.
A squad of ten was heading towards Karl Nash and the First Inn. I could also see stragglers making there way toward the south side of the hill. No chase was evident and the last ought to make it to the bus and bio lab before the Inn came under fire.
I was turning from a scan towards the river trying to pick out Gene Washburn with no luck, when two plasma bolts darkened my visor and I saw the sparkle of small arms fire from out of the woods to the west. All four men?—Were down and two rockets from one of the skull ship’s weapons platforms homed in on the IR and crashed into the woods sending trees toppling and a billow of debris into the air.
No one was gonna survive that strike I thought… “Joe? You there?”
“Live and kicking,” came the response.
“Both bots and the plasma rifles. I’m sending Rocco and Kaiya north to meet up with Connor and the rest of us are fanning out here. Get everyone to the caves as soon as you can make it happen.”
“What about Karl?”
“Keep praying for him. It’s all we can do and it can‘t hurt.”
The Jeep and I went back to the lab and piled into the Dora. Shadowing the bus we circled south then east and made it to the caves without, so far as we could tell, being seen.