Hey, glad to see you today!
I’m going to put up one more ‘random’ sample from Cassidy Four; next week, assuming that I remember how I’m going to do this, I’m going to start over from the beginning of Cassidy 4 and post sequentially. This is the same thing I’m going to do with the first three volumes as well, so this is going to give you a great opportunity to read them all for free.
Of course, at the rate of one chapter (or part of a chapter) per week per book, it may be better for you to go to Amazon and just get the book. They’re all free on Kindle Unlimited, and if you don’t have KU you can buy them all in e-book format for less than ten bucks.
Just click the image below, or you can click the BUY ME NOW button at the end of the post. If Amazon tries to tell you they’re out of stock, laugh at them and click on the link to the individual book you want.
Right, so on with the show!
Some background to the scene: the Wolves – the Multifunction Orbital Vehicles, which I also refer to as shuttles – have been dispatched to intercept an object. This object is on a course that will impact Njord, their massive orbital habitat, and so they have to stop it.
“Why do we get the fun jobs?” bitched Menace.
“Because we’re the best,” Flashdance answered right back. “Range.”
“Two hundred k klicks.”
“Time to intercept?”
“Ten minutes minus.”
“Nymeria Actual, Wolf Actual.”
“Go ahead Flashdance,” said Double Dip. She was flying backup for Alexander, trailing the MOV by fifty klicks.
“Menace says we’re ten minutes minus. You want to go over this one more time?”
“Nope. What’s to go over? You close to five klicks from a bomb that could obliterate you in a heartbeat, and if anything goes wrong I get to tell your boyfriend that you died a hero.”
“Funny, Double Dip.”
“I thought so. Seriously, why aren’t we just blowing these stupid things up? It’s not like my squadron hasn’t been training to do that for weeks or anything.”
“Ours not to reason why. Well, if we screw it up, then your squadron will get the chance to clean up the mess.”
“Yeah, I’d rather not. Who’s going to keep me from puking on the Admiral at my next promotion if you’re not around? And I really don’t want to be CAG yet.”
That got a grin from Flashdance, remembering the promotion ceremony. Was it just last year?
“Five minutes,” said Menace.
“Time to get our game faces on. Talk to you on the other side.”
“Throttling back,” replied Double Dip, opening the distance a bit further. She knew, up close and personal, what one of the antimatter bombs could do and had no desire to get anywhere near one again. “Don’t be stupid.”
“That’s your job, Double Dip.” Shannon switched to the squadron channel.
“Wolf Squadron, prepare to engage. Match speed but do not, repeat, do not do anything until after our run. Either we’ll have pointers for you, or we’re going to be a bad example for you. Out.”
“Times like this I wish we mounted shields,” muttered Menace.
“Times like this I wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young,” replied Flashdance.
“Oh? What did she tell you?”
“I don’t know; I didn’t listen.”
“Great. Two minutes. Warming up tractor beams. Closing speed two KPS and dropping.” The field of approaching bombs showed on the sensors like glitter scattered across construction paper. The distance between targets ranged from a low of eight klicks to a high of fifteen; obviously there’d been some spread in their billion-plus kilometer journey.
“I’ve got it on my scanner. Putting it on the screens.”
Their target popped up on the screens built into their cockpit’s optical sapphire windows. From this distance it was little more than a glittering point. It wasn’t until they were only ten kilometers away that they began to resolve any detail.
Menace was bent over his instruments, calling off the information as Flashdance handled the final navigation. “Confirming composition. Neodymium, 1.2 meters across, 1.4 meters long. Slight rotation, less than two RPM.”
“Njord, Nymeria Actual. Target is rotating around longitudinal axis. Will this make a difference?”
“Hold one,” Kyran answered immediately. “Diana?”
“Calculating. Negative. Rotation should increase stability on imparted trajectory but should not interfere with course modification.”
“Flashdance, Diana says you’re good to go.”
“That isn’t precisely what I said, Commodore.” Kyran waved off the AI’s complaint.
“Thank you, Commodore.”
Flashdance inhaled deeply, held it. “Ready?”
“Fuck no. But hey, I always wanted to make it big. Let’s do this thing.”
“Call it, EM.”
“Range, five point one klicks. Speed is matched at 152.4 KPS. Activating tractor beam.” He made a couple adjustments. “Power at two percent. We have a lock.”
The Wolf began to be pulled off-course by the target.
“Compensating for drift,” Flashdance said, applying gentle pressure to her controls. “Maintaining separation.”
“Increasing power. Ten percent. Fifteen. We’ve got it hooked.”
“Beginning course adjustment.” Another breath. This was the trickiest part. If there was a mechanism to detect the change, then who knew what would happen next. A massive boom was the most likely scenario.
“Coming around.” It was really a minor adjustment, she thought. Only a few degrees, a slight boost to the speed, and the shiny ball of instant death would speed past Njord to a rendezvous with the Ocean of Storms. She giggled.
“Shiny ball of instant death,” she said around another giggle. “On new course. New speed 155.9 KPS.”
“And cutting tractor beam. How about you back us away from your shiny ball of death?”
She looked at the sensors. “Instant death. Get it right. Proximity check. Clear.” It wouldn’t do to bump into another shiny ball. Or a Wolf.
“Clear,” he agreed.
“Applying delta-v.” Slowly at first, then more quickly, they put distance between themselves and the bomb.
“Ten klicks. Twenty. Thirty. Fifty. Out of blast radius and getting happier by the second,” said a relieved Menace.
“Njord, package has been redirected. Alexander is clear.” She could vaguely hear cheering behind Kyran’s voice as they replied.
“We show good separation. Well done, Alexander.”
“Thank you. Twenty-two to go.” They kept moving until they reached 200 klicks, then slowed to observe.
Subutai, Wrangler’s MOV, had been chosen as the lead for the next phase. He made his approach as gradually as Flashdance had, coming to a zero relative velocity six klicks from his target. Then the rest of both his Flying Tiger squadron, minus the Leonidas, and Wolf Squadron moved in on theirs. In a few minutes all twenty-two of the remaining bombs had an accompanying MOV station-keeping nearby.
“On my count,” Wrangler said. “Activate tractor beams, two percent power, and get a good lock. Three, two, one, activate.”
“Dammit!” came over the channel. Flashdance’s display ID’d the Martel.
“What’s wrong, Big Mac?” she commed.
“We’ve got lock, but the tractor’s not holding power level and we can’t disengage.”
“All units, break lock and back off!” she radioed instantly before returning to the troubled Tiger. “Okay, Big Mac. You’ve got this. What does Bantha Fodder say?”
McClymond’s EM spoke up. “I’ve got a power fluctuation in the main transfer bus,” he said. “It’s cycling up and down between one and three percent power.”
“Fodder, this is Menace. Did you try resetting the circuit?”
Flashdance stole a look at her display. All the other MOVs had fled, pulling the max accel their CM felt comfortable with, and were now in a rough sphere two hundred klicks back from the Martel. “Let’s give them more room,” she said. “A thousand klicks.”
More slowly, but not much, the MOVs got into motion to achieve their new positions. Flashdance sent a quick message to Wrangler and his XO to get everyone organized again and keep them calm before returning her attention to Menace.
“…bypass B, then reset fourteen.”
“Bypass B, reset fourteen. No joy.”
Menace made sure his mic was off before he spoke. “Something’s really fucked with that bird. Their tractor should have disengaged with that.” Opening the mic, he said, “You’ve got it cross-circuited somehow. It’s drawing power from another system.”
Menace shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. You’re going to have to do a hard pull on the avionics, shut them all down, and do a manual reboot.”
Flashdance focused back on her sensors, trying to pull as much detail from their systems as she could. There was something going on with Martel’s target, but she couldn’t pin it down. When in doubt, ask.
“Njord, Flashdance. Diana, I’m getting odd readings from one of the bombs.”
“Tapping your feed. Your readings are increases in gamma radiation.”
“Gamma radiation? Okay, I see that now. Why?”
“Gamma radiation is produced by – Flashdance, get them out of there.” Diana’s normally calm voice was suddenly urgent.
“No can do,” she answered. “Their tractor won’t disengage.”
“Analyzing telemetry. The relay at Delta 12 slash B is fused to the relay at Beta 12 slash C.” Diana broke into Martel’s comms. “Pull board 6 Sigma, Fodder!”
“Huh?” said the confused EM.
“Gamma spike!” yelped Flashdance as the world turned white. Her helmet opacified instantly; that and the optical sapphire saved her from blindness. Moving on automatic, she pivoted Alexander away and red-lined the drive, but even that could only add 2 KPS per second.
“Move, move, move!” she heard over her comms, not recognizing Double Dip’s voice.
“Wave front impact imminent,” she heard. Diana.
“Executing emergency shut-down!” shouted Menace, immediately throttling the fusion reaction and powering down every system except comms and life support.
“Six seconds. Five.”
“Crew secure!” shouted Flashdance, taking her hands from the controls and wrapping them about her helmeted head.
Then the hand of God reached out and shook them.
Thanks for reading! Oh, look, there’s the BUY ME NOW button I promised you.