Order, up!

Which is to say:  so much on my plate:  I’ve a rough of my childrens’ book for review, I’m still trying to finish my scale model of DDG-173, day-job, feeding my family…. YEARGH!

When do I get time off, tanj it?!

Below the fold, lots of things blow up.

“Defiant” – Episode 28, Part 3

Hawk described lazy ovals in the sky above The Dalles at 15,000 feet AGL. Sparrow, just now airborne again after refueling, came in low up the Deschutes River valley. Nichole had named them both. Hawk was an old Predator drone with hardpoints for Hellfire missiles, but they’d none to put on her. Sparrow was a newer, smaller version, built for speed and with better optics. Optics that she’d been using to send telemetry – about the horsemen that broke through that morning – to the gunboats coming up the river. She recalled her conversation in the Mayor’s Office, three months ago. It was the second time they’d talked, after their meeting on Kongo.

 

            He looked over the papers she’s handed to him, not saying a word. He’s a careful one, she thought, studying his face. There were Asian features there; perhaps that’s where he gained those traits. He looked up.

            “Five is impossible. We’ve the hulls, certainly, and the idle welders, but ammunition and fuel oil?” He shook his head. “Two. Maybe three, if we starve the farmers in the Willamette Valley; and, hope they don’t return the favor.”

            His mouth smiled. Again, it did not reach his eyes. She nodded from across his desk.

            “It is a start: a brown-water navy. That will allow you to train a cadre of officers and men when you are ready for a green, then…” She looked down towards his desk, then up to him under her brows: one of her most effective tactics! “… blue water fleet.”

            He had remarkable self-control. She monitored his pulse, breathing, blood pressure. He was excited at what she said: he saw the potential of what his City-State could become, but outwardly, he was unmoved.

            He put down the papers.

            “That’s far, far, in the future, Miss Clarke,” he said easily. “My agents have let me know some of the interesting things that you’ve been up to at the University… and other places… since your arrival in our fair city. It would appear to me that you leave nothing where you found it!”

            He leaned back in his chair. This time, the smile just barely touched his eyes.

            “I’ve learned much from my classmates about you, as well,” she began. She knew, that he knew, that she meant his daughter, as well. His eyes hardened. “You are a remarkable man, Mayor Johnson! During such a tumult in these United States, you seem to be just the right man in just the right place at just the right time to save this city.”

            “A coincidence, surely,” he lied easily. She shook her head.

            “My family knows that there are no such things, Mister Mayor.” Careful with the undertones, she thought: this is a powerful man. “America is changing, perhaps beyond recognition. My country… my country is seeking to do the same, but from choice, not panic.”

            She clasped her hands together before her as she leaned slightly towards him.

            “There is opportunity here. For Japan; for Portland.”

            “You would want us a vassal state?”

            She slowly shook her head, her eyes never leaving his.

            “A Friend and Ally of the Imperial Throne.”

            For the first time, he let his eyes slide left from hers just a moment while he considered her words. They returned.

            “Japan would defend us?”

            “And you Japan.” She leaned back a bit with a small smile. “Once you’ve a navy.”

            Neither moved. The clock on the wall to her right chimed six times. The Mayor stood and put out his hand.

            “Thank you for coming to see me, Miss Clarke.” They shook. He dropped his right hand to the paper she’d given him. “I’ll be starting on those three boats tomorrow.”

            She bowed and made her way to the office door.

            “Give my love to my daughter,” he called tonelessly.

            “Of course.”

 

It was the latter part of the afternoon. She’d looked through Hawk’s eyes to see Gil bored on the southeast side of Fort Reilly. I’m so pleased you’re not dead! The enemy’s human-wave attack against the dam’s little guardhouse had been broken by Claymores, mortars, and her data. She did not think for a second that the victory was hers; she knew she knew nothing about combat. Everything she heard and saw she pushed to the two captains. This was their show. She was just a cog in a much larger machine. Alone against the office wall, she smiled to herself at her internal rhetoric.

The riders that had passed this morning had been largely broken up by the surprise of gunboats coming up the river. Still, those so-called barbarians had used radios to let someone know what had happened. To have gambled so much force on this attack, only to see the point blunted, even Nichole knew that there would have to be something to make up for it.

“But what?” She spoke aloud to the deepening shadows in the room. Oh. Through Sparrow, she noted a small line of smoke up from the ground –

***signal lost***

What? What?! Did she just lose Sparrow?! She called Captain Blaine. After a few questions, she learned what a ‘shoulder-launched Stinger missile’ was. She immediately moved Hawk five thousand feet higher up and began random evasion maneuvers. Through one camera on the dam she saw the sun about to touch the top of Mount Hood. Through Hawk… flatbed tractor trailers with… ladders and tubes? Again, she spoke with Captain Blaine.

“Say that once again, clearly!” He not quite yelled at her. She did.

There were some odd sounds. His voice was now away from the radio-phone.

“Take COVER!” She heard him yell. “Missiles incoming!”

Oh. Those trucks were mobile missile launchers. She calculated the range… Blaine’s hole card could just reach them. She called. And called.

Hawk saw the launches. She saw nine. Short range ballistic missiles. They’d no passive defense at all. She’d not enough data to know their destination, but she’d bet on the fort before the dam. Dams were big, hard concrete targets.

There were explosions all in and around the fort. Gil!

Why wasn’t Blaine answering? Hawk dipped and spun, generally headed east to see more. The shadows of the rills and valleys frustrated her! There!

Oh, no. A line of eight more flatbed transporters. The missiles were already vertical….

Through Hawk, she watched them launch.

Nothing she could do. She radioed the three gunboats. The flotilla captain said that he could just see their dam. She fed him the coordinated of the fort, requesting close-in salvos once in range. He briefly tried to object about “shelling our own men” until she shouted him down, that friendly-fire casualties were preferable to a general massacre.

She never heard his reply. The second group of missiles went for the dam. Not to break it: impossible. But cripple the controls beyond repair? Very possible.

Nichole was tossed about, sometimes in the air, sometimes against walls and floor. The building about her collapsed. Had she been human, she’d be dead, she thought. She thought of Gil; did he just go through this? Did I, who love him, just call down more onto his head?

She landed hard; but was not broken. She twisted to avoid the larger pieces of concrete and debris that were raining down atop her. She wasn’t crushed by any particular thing, but she stopped estimating the depth of the ruin above her when it got beyond three meters.

Power loss; signal loss. The weight from above pressed down onto her. She flexed just slightly. No, she was trapped. No worries! She’d almost a full charge, so she’d be aware for another twenty hours, if not more! After that, once they dug her out, all they had to do was plug her back in….

Who, besides Gil, would know to do that?

For the first time in her life, a sound like a sob escaped her.

What if no one knows what to do with me?

What if no one is left to look for me?

Unbidden, she recalled friend Mackenzie’s words: “is there any evidence that you were ever here?”

She thought of Mackenzie. Her dear friend. She recognized that once again, her processors were overloaded.

I will not despair, she thought.

Nichole 5 Clarke shut herself down.

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