CHAPTER NAVIGATION BAR
TALES OF BUFFALO COMMONS
" DAM "
On the western side of the dam was a tree covered hill. The mound had been man-made, by the dirt scooped from the basin where the dam now stood, during construction. In the last hundred years, without traffic and maintenance, a green covering of wild grass and woodland had overtaken it, to the point where now, no one could tell it hadn't always been that way.* * *
Here, a third of the ground forces were dropped. Tagged as Charlie Squad, this group, under the leadership of Senior Leftenant Algiers, began their ascent, through the dense woodland thicket, up the hill and in position, just out of sight near the western gate of the road that ran along the dam's lip.
The second drop the Lander made was on the eastern side. Captain Martin Tremblay and what would become Alpha and Bravo Squads were dropped in a tiny meadow nearly two clicks from the dam, down wind and off the waterway by five kilometres.
The approach would be smooth, no steep inclines or apparent dangers, but the foliage was dense in parts and they didn't cover the distance in the time he had hoped. Tremblay shook his head, it was never that easy.
When they came to a gravel road this larger group split up. Leftenant Gavin Tomlinson took Ensign Hastings and Blocker, along with six noncoms, and started along the side of the roadway, ready to dive into the bush should anyone come up the road. This would be his insurance force and Tremblay would not trigger his group until this squad had reported they were in position.
With luck they'd make good time, get into solid positions around either the camp or the main access to the road across the dam, and be able to identify, from secure positions, the opposition force and likely place the hostages were being held.
Tremblay took the rest of the Squad, Ensigns Josie Siu and Jack Kalter, the Medico Pepperidge and the remaining noncoms (led by Staff Sergeant Rozmin Storey) back into the forest, resuming a path that would only described 'as the crow flies' if the beast were drunk.
Two-Hundred and sixteen meters off their target Tremblay stopped. Branchless trees were starting to appear along what might once have been a clearing that led directly to the dam. Attached to the top of each was a thick, black wire. This wasn't for power transmission, that was obvious as the wires were singular, too thin, and going in the wrong direction.
Tremblay pulled out his Link and scanned the wire. Low impedance capability. Not good for much. He started leading his troopers down the semi-clearing, figuring if nothing else, that they'd make up some of the lost time.
Here and there the wire was broken, decades of decay having taken their toll. At one point, some seven hundred metres from target, the line dropped to the ground.
They followed it a bit as it continued, woven through the grass, toward the first of many small buildings at the dam maintenance site being used by the reconstruction team.
Tremblay did a sectional scan of the wire and linked to Cimarron through the Lander. Normally breaking comm-silence like this was a serious no-no, but the briefing indicated their opposition wasn't coordinated, and had no eavesdropping capabilities, so it wasn't a concern.
The reading came back and Tremblay turned to Kalter. "Any ideas?"
Kalter nodded as he approached, "transmission lines for land based telecommunication system."
Tremblay looked down at the cable. "Are you serious?"
"Can we splice into it?"
Kalter looked back at him confused, "With what, sir?"
Tremblay held up his Link. Kalter bit his lip, a frequent nervous tick which indicated he was thinking hard, and closing in on a solution. Tremblay would never let this onto Kalter, who continued to join their poker games despite having a 'tell' that nearly everyone knew about, and a losing streak of epic proportions.
"I think we can pull it off on this end, but unless the other end has a working Comm it won't do much good."
"How long?" Kalter reached for his kit, a small set of fine quality tools he kept in one of the pouches on his uniform belt.
He'd started carrying the kit after an earlier mission where the sight on his Marwayne 350 rifle was shot up but the circuitry inside was still intact, just dislodged. The kit had a micro-saudering pen, fissure etch stylus and various self-sustaining clamps and tweezers.
"If the interface matches it'll only be a couple of minutes."
He kneeled at the cable and began splicing it while trying to remember how land-line telephones worked again. They'd covered it in basic electronics back in elementary, but that was a very long time ago.
Direct current or cycled charge, alternating current? No, the resistance capacity of the cable ruled that out. Direct current it was then. For some reason 12 volts was sticking in his head.
He flipped a Universal Access port open on his Link, happy that he'd opted for the outdated connector. Even power transmission was wireless now. Kalter selected the closest power match he could toggle the Link down to and then began making the physical connections with the cable.
It seemed like dozens of tiny wires. He tried to remember how it worked and then gave up. Carving a clean slice through the cable he heated up the entire cross-section and jabbed it against the access plate. He knew each nano of the plate was on a separate channel and that the internals would begin grouping matching channels.
Seconds later the display came to life with a schematic of which wires were part of what circuits.
A series of tiny pulses sent through the circuits slowly built up the board until he'd basically recreated his entire Science lab from scratch. It also confirmed that this stretch of wire went nowhere.
"Alright," said Tremblay as he peered around the horizon, ever vigilant for threats, "we move in closer."
Dani Bennett's legs were killing her, specifically the thighs, which had tightened up about an hour ago and were now screaming.
She'd given up trying to keep her hands behind her head, risking the ire of her captors as she lowered them. She knew, that if she didn't straighten her legs out soon, that she'd have a Charlie Horse so powerful that the scream would be heard in orbit. She began to rise, a move which momentarily accelerated the muscle knotting and which forced her to bolt upright with a yelp.
This startled her two nearest captors, who both moved forward holding their rifles threateningly toward her until they saw what her problem was. Dani tried not to make eye contact, that was something someone had once told her about captors, don't make eye contact, but she couldn't help glancing at them as she pulled her leg back by the ankle, stretching it out.
Then, hoping to stretch out the hamstrings, she leaned forward. She bent down perfectly, the yoga she'd been practicing was a godsend, she thought, as she brought her face between her ankles. Her eyes were closed, he lips parted, almost moaning at the welcome feeling of relief.
It hadn't occurred to her that the move might be sexual until she opened her eyes and saw three of the hostage takers standing against the far wall behind her. They were staring at her ass.
Dani bit her lip realizing she needed to stand upright and return to her seat before their leering matured to more serious thoughts. She rose, as casually as one could when they knew they had every set of hungry eyes on them, and she reached down with her right hand, guiding herself to sit again.
She paused, half way down, rethinking the position she was moving into, choosing instead to sit on her backside, with her legs stretched out in front of her, a more comfortable position for sure.
The others in her party, female engineers to the last, took her lead and rose, slowly in most cases, to stretch out, careful not to place themselves in provocative positions as Dani had. And yet, despite the dirt on their bodies from a week's hard work without a shower or bath, and all their best efforts to move in non-suggestive ways, the fact that each of them was relatively young, meant their motions would draw similar leers from the others.
The distractions caused by each of the stretching captives provided Dani with an opportunity to check out her captors. She figured they were natives, First Nations as was the common term these days, Indians as they were once known. They were well groomed, yet dressed in rags and scraps. Like cultured gentlemen forced to costume as wildmen.
Dani figured that was probably consistent with a culture that had been cut off from textile manufacturing for over a century, but that assumption was challenged by one very obvious fact. Their weapons were modern.
Each and every one of them carried short powerful rifles that Dani thought looked modern, in fact, they looked like the guns favoured by the Military, but even when one of them got closer to her Dani couldn't see the stenciled serial number on the side of the stock that would be a telltale sign that the gun was a Marwayne.
Dani leaned back. OK, not Marwaynes but then what? They might not be the latest version of whatever they were but they weren't museum piece either. Maybe a generation back, certainly more modern than what they could've bought a century ago.
Someone was supplying these people, and supplying them very well. But why?
* * *