Breathing Room

Just After Midnight - Alchibah Day 982:
Sabbu looked up from his display and spoke to Les Reye hovering at his shoulder. “It looks like they’ve packed up and gone.”

“Nothing much left of Liberty City is there?” Les forced himself to continue. “Get all the bots in looking for survivors. Then get a hold of everyone you can contact. I want a list of casualties, who needs medical treatment, and what we have to provide it with.” He turned to Bartlett. “Get the Dora ready for ambulance runs, and I will alert Linda Parker to have her gear ready for loading.”

“We’ll be sitting ducks if they come back.”

“You turning down the flight Bart?”

Bartlett jerked back as if slapped. “Not at all Mr. Mayor. I’m shocked you could even think it. I want to help at least as much as you do. But if they come back and we lose the Dora on the ground while dealing with our wounded, we are going to lose all of the outlying colonists as well. We should use the cargo bus for medical, and have the Dora fly guard.”

Reye blinked slowly. He did it three times then took a deep breath. “Your right Bart, sorry. I’m not cut out for this job.”

“Maybe so Les, but you’re what we got and we are not about to be holding elections anytime soon. Get the other council members, Histy, Kara, and Connor if you can reach him. You are the civilian authority in charge of all the military and civilian forces on the planet, so get some advice and come up with a plan.”

“You saw the pictures the bots sent from the First Inn, Karl is dead and Fortson has always said he had no intention of commanding the guard.”

“Don’t ask him Les, tell him he’s it. Joe will do what needs to be done.”

Sabbu interrupted, “We have people injured in the ruins of the church. The bots are digging them out. Better get moving Bart.”

“On my way. Laura, let’s help load the bus we came in on. Good thing the other one survived as well. Les, send out Linda with her stuff as soon as she makes it from the infirmary. Have someone give her a hand and send a couple of bots to take care of the stretchers. We will lift off as soon as were hot.”

The snow had stopped for the time being and the clouds were drifting away leaving streaks in the sky where the stars shown through. Light from the primary reflected down from the moon Carter and the contrast between light and dark was stark. A landscape of blacks and whites. Fires burned sporadically in the city added reds and yellows which stood out amidst the background. A few dark dots, robots moving amongst the wreckage, were as they neared the burnt out center of the city.

Laura Seaworth landed the cargo bus in front of what was once the church while the Dora climbed to 10,000 feet and orbited the city.

One hour later - Windmill Hill:
The medical facility and bio-lab buried under the south side of the hill south of town had survived unscathed. Eighteen people had chosen refuge in the church. Ten were dead and two of the others were unlikely to survive. There were only another five people waiting in town for pickup and transfer. The final bombardment of the city had been devastating. Kellerman, told Laura to take the injured to the lab as that was where the planets best medical facility and only functioning hospital except for what was out at the Stuart Compound. Flying out that way could still be dangerous until all of the attackers were accounted for.

Judith Reye watched and wept as her husband stood up and left the terminal. He glanced at her and gave a weak acknowledgement showing that at least he knew she was in the same room.

“I have to get around and talk to people. That’s what us politicians do best dear. Sit here at the terminal and let me know if anything changes.

North of the city:
“You see that Joe?” Gene Washburn was up front and sending his view back to Fortson with the main group.”

“Got it Gene. Hold there and I will come up. Don’t move or give anything away.”

Here in the hills above Liberty City the snow was three foot thick on the slope. It would have been like walking through quicksand without the snowshoes and even wearing them each step in the fluffy powder sank in most of a foot and the constant effort was much worse than walking up a flight stairs with the treads too far apart. But that’s what it felt like.

Fortson was wearing the second of the two UNWG combat suits from the Mayflower days. He crouched down besides Washburn at the top of the hill. Dialing up the magnification showed a false color image of six warm bodies clustered at the base of the hills opposite side about a quarter mile down slope and Joe could hear a low buzzing sound from his helmet headset. Five in the field of view were humans dressed in UN gear. The other was something else, with extra arms and legs. Too many extra arms to be a Guardian.

Gene had his rifle pointed, “We could take them now.”

“That we could Eugene, but we need information more than body-count and we got no time to waste.”

Joe sent word to the rest of team, telling them to spread out and start encircling the group below. “While our people get in place I’m gonna close with those gommers. I can hear the background from their open com units. They’re still using the same short-range channels this suit is set for so they will hear me when I start broadcasting. I need to get in under fifty yards to make sure they get my signal. As soon as I yell stop! I want you to take out one of the humans away from the alien thing. If they go for their weapons take them out. But remember, we want prisoners. Pass the word to the others while I get into position.” And with that, Joe disappeared into the night heading towards the cluster below.

“Stop!” and the sharp crack of a high-powered rifle broke through the wind noise interrupting the sounds of blowing snow and rustling trees. One of the men dropped to the ground motionless. The others, even the alien, froze for an instant then the humans dove for the ground while the alien remained stationary.

Joe fired off a rifle grenade that exploded in the snow twenty yards on the other side of the enemy combatants. The snowpack ate up the fragments and muffled the blast but a large white mass filled the air and started blowing away to the east.

“Throw out your weapons, all of them, or the next eight rounds are all airbursts, six feet above ground level and right on top of you. You are surrounded and all of your friends are dead and gone. Unless you do what I say right now, you have about five seconds more to live.”

Joe watched through his visor and relayed the view as rifles and smaller pieces of equipment, things he couldn’t identify at this range but must be military hardware, started showering out from the troops still fifty yards away and below him, then landing in the snow outside of their perimeter. The big alien continued standing motionless, throwing away nothing. “I wonder if he is unarmed.” Joe thought as he ordered his squad to close in.

“Everyone stand and get your hands up, and that means you too,” he directed at the alien, adding, “whatever you are, standing there already.” As the humans complied the alien put his hands straight out. Evidently reaching upwards wasn’t in its range of motion but at least it understood the command. Joe started slowly forward, giving the rest of his men time to get close, but not too close.

Twenty feet from the standing figures Joe halted and looking at the alien said, “What’s your story fella?” Getting no reply, he let loose a round that hit only inches away from front most of the four legs.

“Future sslave. Meat yet not meat unimportant is, ssaying nothing. To warmth take, sspeak no more.

“What the hell does that mean?” Joe turned speaking to the closest human dressed in UN gear like his own.

“They’re Rogons, most of them understand us but none of them speak real good. Some times they don’t speak at all.”

“I know what your up to but what’s he doing here?”

“It’s a long story but the Rogons own Earth and all of us as well. The trip to take care of you and this planet is a just a small detail, for the Rogons—just an afterthought. I don’t know why they bothered, but you haven’t got a chance in hell at stopping them, all of Earth didn’t have a chance, and we outnumber you by millions to one. We learned pretty damn fast that resisting only made things worse.”

Joe thought about that a moment then said, “We’ll see about that later.” Then he said to those with him, “Get down here everyone. I see we have some data links up again so I’m gonna call and try for pickup. We’ll start for town but might end up at the Stuart compound if that makes more sense. Gene, stay with Krebbs and RoDan and gather up the weapons, then follow us in.”

They hadn’t gone far when they heard Bartlett talking to Laura on the bus, and giving instructions about staying low and heading north.

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Colony: Alchibah is a science fiction blog novel.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Probably.

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Copyright (C) 2006 - 2011 by Jeff Soyer. All rights reserved.