Chapter 20 from Nu Book 1 “Remembering Northern Song”

The one word prompt for today is Fight. This seems like the perfect opportunity to showcase a chapter from my new novel so that everyone can get a small taste of what is in the book. The protagonist is Sted Richardson and he is thinking back to a firefight from earlier in his career. UAMC stands for United Asteroid Mining Company, USpN stands for United Space Navy, and C8 stands for the Council of Eight, the political head of all operations above the Earth’s surface.

Fight

As Sted headed over to the Lockheed Lunar compound, his mind went
back to the incident with the pirates hired by the Chinese to steal
UAMC’s ore barges. Based upon the trajectory of the barges when
they were discovered, Captain Landsted surmised that their destination
was the L4 Lagrange point in Earth’s solar orbit. Since the Chinese had
established a major colony at L4 to bleed off population pressure on
Earth, it was a good bet that the mined ore was headed directly into
Chinese hands.
Because the ore being hijacked was from the platinum group, it was
obvious to everyone aboard the USpN Charger that the Chinese were
back up to their old tricks of flaunting the C8 and building warships at a
shipyard hidden amongst the many peaceful population platforms at L4.
There was probably no better place to hide a shipyard and all the personnel
required to operate it than right within a high-density space colony.
When Captain Landsted submitted his preliminary report to Space
Navy headquarters on the C8 platform orbiting Earth, he was directed
to continue the investigation at the L4 source. The Admiralty promised
a backup force would be dispatched directly in support of this mission in
case trouble arose with the Chinese colony. Meanwhile, naval intelligence
was tasked with uncovering anomalies in the delivery of all materiel
to the colony over the past twenty-four months. What they found was
eye-opening. Their intelligence report back to the USpN Charger set the
stage for the upcoming encounter.
Sted remembered the day of inspection like it was yesterday.
Northern Song, this is USpN Charger inbound for an unscheduled
inspection of your facilities. Please acknowledge and prepare for a shuttle
inspection party to dock at cargo bay three in fifteen minutes,” Captain
Mark Landsted said. “Lieutenant Adams, open a line to Shuttle I.”
USpN Charger, this is Northern Song acknowledging receipt of your
request for docking in cargo bay three. Please note that cargo bay three
is not available. The bay doors are currently inoperable and under reconstruction
after failing maintenance check. Please have your shuttle routed
to passenger bay seven, where we will have a team waiting to assist you
in your inspection.”
“Commander Richardson, that intelligence report was very specific
that the last shipment of control components arrived at cargo bay three.
How would you suggest we gain access to that area?” Landsted asked.
“Sir, we should send the shuttle to passenger bay seven but drop a
squad of marines over cargo bay three as we transit the colony,” Sted replied.
“Their full battle gear won’t show up on the Chinese radar, so the
first indication we have arrived will be when we knock ever so gently on
their door with a thermite breaching ring. We can have the squad into
the bay and contain the breach in less than three minutes, according to
Lieutenant Gomez.”
“Very good, Commander. Shuttle I, you are cleared for docking at
passenger bay seven. Keep your squad of marines on board until the general
alarm sounds aboard the colony. That will mean we have breached
the cargo bay. At that point, deploy the marines to protect the inspection
party and to keep the passenger bay clear for your departure.”
He pressed another button on his console. “Northern Song, this is
Captain Mark Landsted. We acknowledge cargo bay three is unavailable.
Our shuttle will be directed to passenger bay seven. Commander Kim
Cho will be leading the six-man inspection team.”
He turned to Sted and motioned him over for a private conference.
Sted pushed off from his station and caught hold of the back of the captain’s
chair with practiced precision. He hooked his belt tie-down to the
tie-down ring on the chair and looked at Captain Landsted in anticipation
of further orders.
“Commander, I want you to suit up and follow Gomez’s squad down
to the cargo bay. Coordinate with Gomez so you arrive just after the
breach. I want you wearing a full recording package. I’m sure our surprise
will catch them moving that equipment out of the cargo bay prior to our
inspection, so everything will more than likely be out in the open. Once
you record what they have on board, order Gomez to destroy every piece
of equipment in the bay. Then open every storage room in the bay and
drop a thermal charge in each. The lesson has to be very painful to the
Chinese, and I don’t care if we destroy a few storage rooms of non-essential
equipment or supplies. I only want you and that squad in the cargo
bay for twenty minutes. After that, get out and back to the ship. I don’t
want a firefight with the Chinese while you’re on board if at all possible.
Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir,” Sted replied. “No firefight while on board if it can be
avoided.”
“Good. Keep open command channel two during the entire operation,”
Captain Landsted continued. “I will have your video feeds live
on my console as well. As you are entering the breach, remember to
plant the laser relay beacon on the hull of the colony so we don’t lose
communication.”
“Permission to speak, sir?”
“Of course, Commander. What’s on your mind?”
“Sir, as you know, everything usually goes south in the middle of any
combat operation. What are my rules of engagement? Is it more important
to take out every piece of equipment in the bay or to protect the squad
should the Chinese prove more recalcitrant than we are anticipating?”
“We must send a clear message to the Chinese,” Landsted replied.
“You can destroy everything in sight if that’s what it takes. The team is
important, but the intelligence you gather is primary. My feeling is that
this colony is only a shell surrounding a shipyard in the making. Why else
would they have so many passenger bays except to ferry workers from the
other colonies here on a regular basis? Your live feeds are the critical part
of this operation. It will give us the evidence we need to launch a full-scale
attack on this colony to destroy that shipyard.”
“Thank you, sir,” Sted replied. “That clarifies the mission objective.
You will have your intelligence regardless of the cost.”
While suiting up to join the assault team, Sted went over his objectives
with Lieutenant Gomez so that there would be no confusion once the action
started. Sted had specific instructions from the captain, and Gomez
needed a full briefing in case something happened to Sted during the
operation.
Gomez and his team deployed first, with Sted deploying just three
minutes later. Sted had a bird’s eye view of the action as the team landed
outside of the cargo bay, set up a defensive perimeter, and attached the
breaching charges.
“Lieutenant, you are cleared to breach the hull,” Sted ordered from
1,000 meters out. “I will be at the breach in two minutes. Once you’re
inside and have cleared any threats, let me know.”
“Yes sir,” Gomez replied as he activated the thermite switch.
Sted’s face shield went dark as the light from the thermite ring flared
brighter than the sun for almost ten seconds. When his face shield
cleared again, Sted saw the last of the marines entering the breach. That
meant that the cargo bay was already in vacuum and not under pressure.
Otherwise, they would have been waiting for the outward flow of air to
subside before trying to enter.
As Sted’s battle gear absorbed the impact of landing next to the
breach, he jammed the base of the laser relay beacon against the hull,
releasing the Insta-weld arcing charge and bringing the relay online.
Charger, this is Commander Richardson confirming beacon plant.
Please confirm receipt of the beacon feed.”
“Confirmed,” came the immediate reply.
“I’m waiting for Lieutenant Gomez with the ‘all clear’ before entering
the breach.”
Sted lowered his camera into the breach to get a sit-rep without exposing
himself to enemy fire. As he looked at the camera display on his
helmet video feed, he saw the occasional burst of laser fire from the far
interior. In the vacuum of space, no sound accompanied the light, but
every few seconds, Sted felt shudders through his magnetic boots.
Charger, Gomez is running into more resistance than anticipated,”
Sted reported. “The immediate area of breach appears to be clear. I’m
going in without confirmation from Gomez. I’m leaving camera one at
the breach to continue recording. I’m designating my shoulder camera as
camera two. Once I’m secure inside the hull, I’ll activate my high-definition
hand camera on feed number three.”
With that, Sted released his boots and activated his back and side
thrusters. From three meters above the breach, he oriented himself for a
headfirst dive and then squeezed the thruster in his left hand just enough
to get his whole body through the breach with minimal exposure.
“Gomez report!” Sted ordered as soon as he was clear of the breach
and had a good view of the entire cargo bay.
“This is Gomez. We have an internal security force pinned down
behind the cargo shuttle in the bay, sir. Chandler and Singleton are not
responding and assumed down. The remainder of the cargo bay has been
cleared.”
“Keep their heads down, Gomez, while I start recording the cargo. If
they get out of hand, blow up the damned shuttle as long as you give me
a few seconds of warning to take cover.”
“Yes, sir. I’m sending Corporal Allen to assist you with opening those
crates tied down to the interior bulkhead. I have two corpsmen sealing
the hatches from the ship’s interior. We don’t want to be surprised by
unexpected company.”
Sted accelerated over to the crates Gomez mentioned and considered
which to open first. Their time would be limited, so his selection
was critical. What he was looking for were control console-sized crates
or anything that might hold military grade laser components. As he was
considering his selection, Corporal Allen arrived. Sted directed him to
open one of fourteen identical crates located halfway between the two
hatches, which were now sealed.
The Corpsman dialed down his hand laser and directed it at the closest
crates, peeling back the outer packing material. Then he reached in
and pulled out exactly what their intelligence report had specified. The
writing on the console was in Chinese, but the function was obvious. The
battle screens surrounded by missile and laser deployment controls had
a universal look. There was no mistaking what this was.
“Corporal Allen, set a charge in the center of these crates while I
record as much detail as I can about the one you opened. Then we should
move to the next set of crates. We only have five minutes left in our twenty-
minute window, so be quick about it.
“Gomez, get ready to blow the shuttle as we withdraw. We don’t need
any live fire at our backs. Have the remainder of your squad prepare
charges to take out whatever remains in the cargo bay as we head back to
the breach. Every charge should be set on a ten-minute timer and then
launched as we exit. I want the squad well clear of the colony when they
blow.”
With his orders clearly spelled out, Sted headed over to Allen, who
was dismantling another crate. This time what he pulled out was completely
foreign to Sted. All he could do was record everything and hope
the intelligence team could identify its purpose.
“Take cover. We’re blowing the shuttle in five, four, three, two,
one, Now!”
Three bright flashes bathed the cargo bay interior, and then pieces of
the shuttle began flying everywhere. Sted and Allen just had time to hunker
down behind the crate they were inspecting. That’s when the shuttle’s
fuel tanks blew in a huge secondary explosion.
As the lights died down, Sted gave the withdrawal orders, and everyone
jetted for the breech, raining down explosive charges to every corner
of the bay as they retreated.
Gomez had one of the downed marines over his shoulder, and his
sergeant had the other. They were the first out of the breach, with the
remainder of the squad spraying cover fire around the bay just in case
someone popped their head up to fire at the retreating marines. Sted was
second to last out, followed by Allen, who was covering his back.
“Commander Richardson, we have Shuttle II inbound to your location.
ETA forty seconds,” Captain Landsted said over the command
circuit. “We got every second of your recordings through the relay. Based
on your ten-minute timer orders, you have four minutes to get the squad
into the shuttle and away from the cargo bay before it blows.”
“Gomez,” Sted called, “Shuttle II is at your nine o’clock approaching
with the shuttle bay doors open. Get everyone aboard ASAP. We have less
than four minutes until those charges blow.”
Sted moved alongside of Gomez to add his suit’s thrust to that of
Gomez to make up for the extra mass of Chandler’s body and armor. Even
with the extra push, they were the last to make it into the shuttle bay. As
the shuttle doors closed, the outer hull of the colony erupted with a series
of explosions. When Sted moved to the cockpit to get a better view of
the damage, he saw that the interior of cargo bay three must have given
way. Atmosphere was pouring out of the breach, along with melted and
twisted pieces of cargo. He also saw suited and unsuited bodies floating
listlessly among the detritus of what looked like a pitched battle.
Charger, this is Commander Richardson. The squad is back aboard
the shuttle. We have two casualties. The entire area around cargo bay
three on the colony has been destroyed with multiple casualties. I recommend
you coordinate a rescue mission with the colony. There may be
a few suited survivors outside of the cargo bay.”
Charger copies,” Captain Landsted replied. “Make your best time
back. I don’t want you exposed to any retaliatory strikes. We have five
destroyers inbound to either finish off this hidden shipyard or board and
secure the facility if they surrender. We won’t be dealing with survivors
from those explosions until the action is over.”
Commander Kim Cho’s voice sounded over Shuttle II’s speakers,
Shuttle I is clear of passenger bay seven.” Sted and the shuttle pilot could
see the other shuttle pulling away from the Northern Song colony as it
accelerated in a wide arc back toward the USpN Charger.
“Northern Song, this is Captain Landsted aboard USpN Charger. You
are ordered to stand down all forces aboard. We will give you one hour to
accept full surrender of your facility to the United Space Navy. If you do
not acknowledge surrender, your facility will be destroyed. No ships will
be allowed to depart from your colony. Please observe the five additional
destroyers inbound from Earth. Their ETA coincides with your one-hour
window. Acknowledge receipt of these orders.”
Charger, this is Northern Song acknowledging receipt of your orders.”
With that settled for the moment, Sted returned to the shuttle bay
from the cockpit to check on the status of Chandler and Singleton.
When he got there, both had been stripped of their battle armor and
were strapped to medical gurneys with IVs running into their arms. That
meant both men were still alive.
Sted turned to Gomez. “What’s their status?”
“Singleton took a hit to the back of his helmet that knocked him unconscious.
We’ve stabilized him for now, but the docs onboard will have
to check him out, because he hasn’t regained consciousness. Chandler
lost his left arm below the elbow. The suit saved his life, but he’s still in
shock. We’re keeping him warm and hydrated for now. There’s nothing
else we can do until we get him back to the Charger.”
“Thanks, Lieutenant,” Sted replied. “We should be back aboard in the
next ten minutes. I’ll go forward again and report their condition to the
doc so he can be ready in the shuttle bay.”
With that, Sted turned back to the cockpit to make his report, hoping
the doctor would be able to patch up the two marines. He didn’t want to
lose anyone under his command. He thought of little David Barns being
carried away in the ambulance, never to be seen again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s