Monday, June 6, 2011

Untitled Chapter 18

Park spent the next couple of days devising his plan.  He originally planned to steal the ship parked out front, but Mas and Sypha took shifts patrolling the grounds around the house.  Park found it to be a pointless impediment to his plan so he decided to make them unwitting accomplices in his theft of the X-88.  He made a lot of network queries about his ship and where it was impounded trying to glean what kind of security he could expect to find there without actually asking about the security.

In the meantime, Bo had gotten back on his feet.  Mas fashioned a sling for his arm, and he wore a robe to cover the large bald spot on his back.  He was already starting to talk about getting back to Frian, but off-world travel was still restricted to authorized military craft.  Even though the ship they had used for their escape was a space-worthy military transport, they wouldn’t be allowed to leave the planet until further notice.

The first order of business was to retrieve his rebreather from the diplomatic compound.  Park hoped Bo would want to stay at the cottage and rest, but he doubted he would be that lucky.  Just as he feared, Bo was eager to go collect his things as well.  Mas and Sypha weren’t as keen on the idea, but they agreed to go now that the Granthiam bombardment was over.

Despite taking heavy damage to key infrastructure in the opening salvo of the war, the Klavacs had regrouped and retaken control of their skies.  The reason they were able to beat back the Granthiam ships so easily was because the assault on Klavaci was a feint.  The ships that had entered Klavaci orbit under the guise of diplomacy had retreated to join the rest of the Granthiam fleet blockading the disputed mining planet.  While they destroyed defense and communications targets on and around Klavaci with hypersonic impactors, the bulk of the Granthiam forces had overrun the mining planet.

The planet was currently at its farthest point from Klavaci meaning the Klavac fleet would have to fight its way through a newly deployed minefield and the whole of the Granthiam fleet before they could even consider a ground assault to retake the planet.  Whether that was brilliant planning by the Granthiams or dumb luck would be decided by the victors.

They hovered above the ruins of the estate surveying the damage and looking for a place to land.  They found a relatively untouched area near the east garden and put down there.  The diplomatic estate wasn’t a viable military target.  In fact, it only had one conceivable  value as a target.  The Granthiams had attacked the estate to make a statement, and they spared no effort in getting their message across.

The dead and wounded had been recovered, but nobody had begun to clear the rubble yet.  Meters-wide impact craters scarred the grounds to such an extent that they had to take a circuitous route to cover the otherwise short distance to what was left of the dome.  Only a few pieces of the curved steel support structure remained standing.  Huge piles of wood and steel flanked the remains of the dome where they had been dumped during the search for survivors.

“You guys help Bo,” Park said to Mas and Sypha as they approached the first pile of rubble, “I’ll shout if I need you.  Bo, you got anything specific I should keep a look out for?”

“If it’s Frian, it’s mine,” he replied.

“Well, that’s pretty much the answer I would expect from a cat,” Park said to himself as he started digging into the pile.

Several hours of digging through rubble later, Sypha yelled out, “Jim!  We have found your breathing apparatus!”

Park ran over to their pile to get it from him, but he could see a problem with it right away.  Only a few inches of tattered hose hung from the side of the unit.  Sypha found his pressure suit and mask a few minutes later.  The pressure suit had a tear in it, but that wouldn’t be an issue unless he had to land on Mars.  The mask was a total loss, but that wasn’t a deal breaker either.  He wouldn’t have a HUD, but he should be able to set the controls from memory.  He’d be fine unless he did something colossally stupid like setting the max G’s to ten.  The cockpit of the X-88 was pressurized and held about an hour of breathable air of its own.  So as long as he could get the rebreather working, he’d still be in business.

They gave up the search for Bo’s things when the sun began to set even though they still had the light of a full moon.  The moon hung even larger in the sky than the sun.  To Park’s eyes it looked just as bright as the sun, and his companions had almost preternatural night vision.  He didn’t object to returning to the cottage though because he needed to get to work fixing his rebreather.

On the way back to the cottage, Park was amazed to find the rebreather still worked.  He held the hose over his nose and smelled crisp clean air without even a hint of burning.  He left it turned on so it could recharge itself and stowed it in a locker in the back of the transport.  It would be easier to explain leaving it in the ship than why he wanted to take it with him when they went to start the repairs on the X-88.  So far his plan was going as well as he could have hoped.  Now all he needed to do was get into the cockpit of the X-88.

Park spent most of that night looking at satellite images.  He wouldn’t have a HUD so he needed to find a guide star.  He started with the Milky Way and worked backwards.  There were enough memorable groupings of stars to get him pointed in the right general direction, but there was nothing he could use as a definitive aiming point.  For a trip of thirty million light-years, the right general direction wouldn’t be good enough, but it was the only option.

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