With Help From the Various Logfiles
Early Morning Alchibah - Day 886:
“They sure didn’t waste any time getting this plan in motion did they Bart?” Janie said while bringing the preflight checklist up on her screen. For this little jaunt she would be the one operating the weapons station.
“Not a bit,” Bart responded while the automatic sequencer went through its motions and he double checked as all systems came up on line. “The little ad hoc add on and tacked to the end of the mission seems a bit risky though.”
“Yes, I was thinking the same thing myself. Everyone says these new shields are near perfect. I hope we don’t get the chance to find out.”
“Right. I couldn’t agree more. Especially after we got the goods on Buchanan. Those Rogons and UNWG people got to know we’re on our way. But maybe it is better this way. They would have detected us anyhow and now they think the flight is going off tomorrow and not today and if the shields do work as advertised we still will have surprise on our side. How about checking with the cargo bus and see how close to being ready they are?”
Janie switched open the low powered ship to ship comm link. “Cargo One, status report.”
“Five minutes till takeoff,” came the reply. Laura Seaworth was taking care of the communications but Jan Christopher was going to be doing the piloting. Jan had had all the training and flight time on the new ships system and Laura, much as she wanted to be the pilot in charge knew that time spent running simulations wasn’t the same as time in air and space. “Looks like we are going to start out at 12%– no make that 14% overweight,” she said as the last crate came onboard. “Until we drop the load we’re gonna’ have all the maneuverability of a bee in a bottle.”
“Good line, save it for the after-action report. Get ready for the final flight detail.” Janie sent the data away with a gloved finger touching an icon on a small screen set into her armrest.
“My that is low isn’t it,” Jan’s voice came through clearly.
“One hundred feet all the way,” Bart answered. “It’s not that I don’t trust the shields but keeping below the radar horizon is another layer of protection. As soon as we go feet dry we will separate some and your job will get tougher. Fifty feet over rolling terrain, even with the comps to help out is nothing to laugh about.”
“Bart, If you hear any laughter look somewhere else cause it won’t be me. I am going to have Laura fly the last four hundred miles till we make shore so I’m rested when we hit land.”
“Sounds good. We are lifting now. When you pass we’ll take station behind and to your right. No communications at all from this point on. If this thing works out we will be having a drink together in about eight hours or so. Until then, good luck to all.”
Jan Christopher lifted the overweight Cargo Bus from the Stuart Compound and said to Laura, “Damn this thing flies like a… Like a…”
“A Bus?” Laura said slyly.”
“Thank you very much my dear, after that comment you certainly will be the one that writes our after action report, what with your way with words and all.”
It was dark and overcast as the bus swept past Liberty City and the Dora matched course behind and to the right. The Dora at least was light and maneuverable. Aside from the weapons load the only cargo aboard were the two robots, Jeep and RoDan, and they were more like crew. Timing was the key to making the whole thing come out as planned, and a complicated plan it was. Especially for one thrown together on such short notice.
* * *
Joe Fortson watched as Burt Buchanan was frog marched into the small room in the Biolab that he was using as a temporary holding cell.
“He sent the message, no doubt about it. We watched him and have it on tape.”
“Any read on just what he said and who he sent it to?” Joe inquired.
“Nothing on that score. Ash has the intercept but he says that he can’t break it without a key or the sending device. We sent him the sending device; it was a little gadget that plugged into a standard personal com unit. But we blew it with Buchanan, or that device was a heck of a lot more sophisticated than anything I ever heard about. It was nothing but melted plastic and charred cinder by the time we pulled it from the com unit. You’ll have to see if you can make him talk. He hasn’t said a word since we collared him.”
“Thanks. In some kind of perverse way I am actually looking forwards to this.” And with that statement Joe followed the prisoner into the lab.
“Stretch him out,” Fortson said to Gene Washburn who was assisting.
“You can’t do this!” Burt Buchanan wailed, “It’s against all of the rules of civilized warfare!” His terror at the sight of the two inclined planks with straps attached had broken through his former silence.
“Sure it is Burt,” Joe said, with a back hand on the side of Buchanan’s face for additional emphasis. Buchanan groaned then glared and Joe spoke again. “All you got to do is tell us what we want to know and we will stop. The choice is yours Burt, all Yours!”
“Strap him down Gene.”
Gene with the help of Frank Turner wrestled the struggling Buchanan onto the planks and tied him in place. “Last chance asshole,” Fortson sneered. After a few seconds of no reply Joe said, “Ok, Let’s get on with it.”
A rag was stuck into Buchanan’s mouth, not tight enough to stop him from breathing but enough so that his mouth would stay open. Gene stretched a sheet of thin, clear, flexible plastic film over the face and nose and poked a hole into it and through to the rag so that Buchanan could breath, at least for now. Joe picked up a bucket of water and was starting to pour it in through the small hole when Kurt Kellerman ran into the room.
“What the hell is this!” he screamed, “You can’t do this, I order you to stop!”
Joe continued pouring and looking over towards Kellerman said, “Kurt, I think you ought to get out of here for now. Maybe we need you later and maybe we don’t. But this bastard is going to talk and Gene is gonna take you out if you try and interfere.”
Kellerman turned and saw Washburn had a hand gun pointed right at his center of mass.
“Don’t worry Doc, it’s set to stun,” Gene said in a more pleasurable tone than the situation seemed to merit.
“Kellerman froze fore just a second then said, “You’ll pay for this later Fortson, mark my words, you’ll pay!”
“I’m sure I will Kurt…I’m sure I will.”
And then Kurt calmed right down reassessing the situation. “Ok, call of your dog, no offense Gene, or at least not much. I can see this has to be done but! I am going to stay and make sure it’s done right. We both may have to answer for this later if we live so long.”
* * *
“How are you doing Bart?” Janie asked three and a half hours later and a couple of hundred miles from the South Alchibah shoreline, “Want me to spell you for a few?”
“Sure thing, thanks Babe.” Carter the innermost moon was just sinking below the horizon and with Oliver long out of sight the only light was from the sky glow. At least down here the weather was clear with no cloud cover to interfere with visual navigation. They could make out the bus still ahead of them Keeping the EM signature down was important and getting more so by the minute. “I hate to be dealing with Jedediah on this but it beats dealing with Edwards. If Joe hadn’t gotten Buchanan to talk this thing had no way of working at all.”
“How do you think he did it Bart?”
“I’m not sure we want to know Babe, I’m just thankful he did.”
Fifteen minutes later came the signal sent by light beam. Feet Dry! No need really, they were only a few hundred yards apart but would soon be splitting up. Jan was going to take the weapons and drop them of at a prearranged spot. There would be no direct contact with either the Leviticans or the Llamas, too risky was the determination. The Dora would sneak in, and if it looked like they were undetected, and it seemed safe, drop off the two bots who would remain behind and act as eyes and ears both for the Leviticans and the colonist.
The Dora would stay low and fly a racetrack pattern between where the Rogon/UN forces were camped and the weapon drop point. If all of that went off without a hitch, a pretty big if, then the second and more dangerous part of the plan would begin.
Laura Seaworth saw the Dora for only an instant and then it was lost behind a small range of hills. She concentrated on her display, only passive detection, and felt her stomach lurch as Jan jogged the still overloaded bus up and down, avoiding only by feet the terrain and treetops they passed over. She would have liked to say something, compliment Jan on her piloting, but now was not the time for distractions.
“This’ll do it Bart,” Janie said as they came into sight of a small landing spot nestled in the hill covered grassland about fifty miles from the Rogon Camp.
Bart set the ship down light as a feather and Janie popped the hatch. The Jeep and RoDan were outside in a flash and the hatch closing as Janie whispered, “Good luck boys.” Of course there was no answer.
Jan set the bus down, “Light as a brick,” she said in disgust.
“Hey we made it this far and I don’t think even Ash could have done any better. I’m going to unstrap and see if I can help with the unloading. The sooner were out of here the more I’m gonna like it.”
Ten minutes later Laura was back in her seat and Jan, after sending out a short burst of static, was streaking back towards Liberty City in a much more maneuverable vessel. But what the heck, it was still a bus and wasn’t going to add anything to the rest of the mission.
“They’re on the way back,” Janie commented.
“Great,” Bart said without taking his eyes from the windscreen and the heads up display shining in its surface. “We’ll draw back a bit and give them some time to clear the area before we show ourselves. This has gone entirely too smoothly so far. The easier things seem the more I worry.”
“You just make sure that you run for all your worth when we get spotted and trust the rest of the team to handle their part.” And then, “Uh-oh, I think they got us.” Janie finished, as red alarm lights started flashing on the ECM and threat displays.
“Off to the races,” Bart said engaging full power and screaming skyward, away from the chasing Skullship and enemy camp, going up and eastward as rapidly as the Dora could manage. “Now we see just how good these really shields are.”
It seemed like only seconds later when Janie said, “Skins getting hot and they’re gaining.”
“I’m watching it Babe, Good thing they know where we are and we don’t need to worry about the heat signature.”
“Bart! I can’t believe you said that!”
“Hmm,” he said, “Didn’t mean for it to come out just that way,” and then, “Hold on!” as the new defensive screen took the first hit and the Dora shuddered under the impact and Janie started ejecting counter measures as a defense against what looked to be incoming missiles that had tripped another alarm.