The Road to the Stars - Chapter Sixteen

Okay, I wasn't a happy camper.

But I was dealing with it better than before I talked to Cris. Or, more accurately, before she talked to me. And I listened.

Then again, at this point I'd had practice. Five years' worth, to be accurate.

Frankly, I think I did pretty well, playing the role of military leader.

All thing considered.


Chapter Sixteen


It was a determined Kendra that walked into the command center of Diana.

“Commodore. Where do we stand?”

“Repairs are coming along. We’ve patched all the power runs and conduits through those sectors, though we’re not worrying too much about cosmetic fixes. At some point we’ll need to be able to repressurize, but not yet.”

“What’s the status of the missiles?”

“Diana’s been through all their software, dumped whatever was in their memories and reloaded them from her files. All good to go.”

“How many?”

“We have eight pods left that were undamaged. But the attack gave me an idea.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, if they could just let their missiles hang in vacuum, why can’t we?”

“Won’t they get left behind as we orbit?”

“They would, but Diana can put a tractor on them, hold them in place relative to the station. The only limit is how many missiles we have aboard, which, I gotta say, is a bunch.”

“Define a bunch.”

“Seventy.”

“That’s a bunch. I like it. How about we deploy two dozen, the same number as would be in the pods if we hadn’t lost any? That way we’ll have the same throw weight, and maybe they won’t realize how badly they’ve hurt us.”

“You think they’re coming back?” asked Pipher from his station nearby, edging his way over.

“I would. I would have been here by now, actually, so I’m grateful they’re slow off the mark.”

“Admiral, I have multiple tractors which can be utilized for this,” said Diana.

“You think we should have more missiles out?”

“Yes, Admiral. Your point about maintaining the same throw weight as before is valid, but having additional missiles available to fire will have a greater impact in any upcoming encounter.”

“I won’t argue, Diana. Place as many out as you can handle at, say, 75 percent capacity. Leave a little wiggle room.”

“Yes, Admiral.”

“Mia, what are you doing about patrols?”

“We have three Wolves on CAP forward, responsible for the hemisphere ahead of Diana, and one on CAP to the rear.”

“Is that wise?” questioned Kendra.

“My sensors can cover the periphery nicely,” Diana added. “The Wolves are there to vector on anything I can’t positively identify.”

“I’ve also taken the liberty of launching a few probes into Lunar orbit,” said Kyran. “If anything lifts off from Artemis City, or Scipio City, we’ll know and be able to track it.”

“Good. So there’s another consideration,” began Kendra. Then she filled Mia and Kyran in on the report Pipher and Mac had brought to her.

“If they’ve used them once, they’re likely to use them again,” she finished, talking about the Conrad and Armstrong. “I think we ought to keep a tight watch on them.”

Mia was nodding. “Agreed.”

“As long as their transponders are on, we won’t have a problem,” said Kyran.

“And if they turn off the transponders? Diana, do you have a good enough take from the previous sensor readings to find them if they go dark?”

“Yes, Admiral. I am confident in my abilities to do so.” Her voice shifted slightly, sounding more determined. “I do not intend to let them fool me again.”

“I believe you. Mia, how are the plans to remove those satellites?”

“The Wolves on CAP have the targeting programmed in. Say the word, and they’re gone.”

“You made the point quite clear earlier; I don’t want to do that just yet. Kyran, can you and Diana make us seem more damaged than we are? Or maybe make it appear that we’ve had some cascading damage?”

Kyran thought about this. “Probably. What are you thinking?”

“They’ve got to be watching us pretty closely. Having the Wolves on CAP, they’d expect. I’d like them to underestimate us when they try again.”

“We could cut the power to the damaged sectors, and the externals to the sectors next to them,” said Kyran. “Diana, could you mask the reactor’s output to make it appear that it’s fluctuating?”

“Certainly. I can also induce wobble to my positioning; it won’t be felt by anyone aboard, but it will seem that I am no longer fully in control of my orbital positioning system.”

“What about debris?” suggested Mia. “Atmosphere and volatiles, stuff like that.”

“It always looked good in the submarine movies,” said Kendra. When the others just turned blank faces to her, she shrugged. “Hobbies. Seriously, could we do that?”

“There are various volatiles still trapped within the damaged areas,” said Diana. “I have control over most of the cutoffs and could release them on an irregular basis.”

“My crew can just as easily pitch the damaged pieces overboard as bring them in for reclamation,” added Kyran. They added thoughtfully, “Be most effective if it’s stuff that’s radar-reflective, or shiny.”

“Or both,” Mia chimed in. “I know my CM’s use the old Mark One Eyeball just as much as they use their various sensors. I can’t imagine the Union’s pilots do anything different.”

“Why do you want to do this, Admiral?” asked Pipher. “Won’t this make us appear more vulnerable?”

“Exactly. And if they try anything else, we’ll be able to give them a bloody nose.” Kendra’s grin was genuine, and frightening. “Diana, I want to know if either of those ships so much as twitches. Also, we’re certain that it was a KEW that blasted Los Alamos, right?”

Various nods and grunts of agreement. In the chaos in the aftermath of the attack, the Los Alamos disaster had slipped from their minds. Now it was back.

“The ship that we ID’d as the one that launched it?”

“Yes, Admiral?” said Diana.

“Track that one, too. I need to talk to Montana again, see if we can get some better intel. Everyone clear on their jobs? Let’s be about it, people!”



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