CHAPTER NAVIGATION BAR
TALES OF BUFFALO COMMONS
" EQUUS "
Senior Fleet Lieutenant Vogel barked the commands while gliding his armoured beast between the motionless monsters of this old growth forest. This was the true thrill of the Hornet. His craft rushed through the forest, banking between trees with the agility of a hawk, while its sheer mass guaranteed a string of hard impacts, as the menacing craft clipped tree branches, cutting a swath of destruction as it went. * * *
The armour hull meant it could easily smash through the trunks of any of these trees with barely a scratch, it was designed as an airborne tank and lived up to its billing quite well, but the pilot knew that would be foolhardy and dangerous.
As effective as the internal compensators were, the most common ailment, short of death, for a Hornet pilot was internal bleeding caused from abrupt maneuvering or sudden impacts. The body wouldn't be thrown about because of the internal force fields in the cabin, but for the organs inside that body it was something altogether different.
By the time Hunter exited the tree cover he was already moving at half the speed of sound. He'd gone from dead stop to the Dam basin in fifteen point two seconds and was climbing the downstream face of the Dam, bringing the full weapons pod active as he counted off the approach.
He glanced at the Theatre display checking off that "Candy", "King", "Dusty", "Coffee" and "Foster" had made their positions. Whatever he was heading into he knew he had back up and they were ready to charge.
- - - YAW – Negative One Point Two Seven One, banking right / ROLL – Zero Point One One Zero, Negative One One One to avoid that branch / PITCH – Negative Two Point One Six Five, One Six Four / ALTITITUDE – Seventy Five Point Four Four Metres and rising / MOTION – Forward – Forty Two KMH and slowing - - -
Vogel stopped Hornet 3 just below the lip of the dam, about two-thirds of the way from the east side. Steadying the craft he reached over and popped the O-T-H trigger.
A small panel on top of Hornet, thirty centimetres across, four centimetres wide, began to extend upwards like a small, black "T". This thin aerial unit continued until it had elevated itself a full metre above the top of the craft, and then it slowly rotated until it was parallel to the dam.
No one would have noticed it, it was too small, too thin to bother with, but this little black bar, barely more than a wire, was equipped with the widest array of recording devices available to the Military, which had a lock on these components, or so they thought.
The 'antenna' recorded full Reznay video, streaming three dimensional images of such high quality that playback on a compatible system would induce vertigo among those afraid of heights. The details recorded included chemical analysis of the dam and air, along with standard meteorological data. Fact was, a full Reznay theatre could even match the humidity and ionization in the air.
The array had already identified foot treads in the dirt along the lip of the Dam, and where available was isolating and recording sub-molecular DNA information. The processor, connected by secure data link to Cimarron in orbit, was already working on the algorithm to produce mug shots of everyone who'd crossed this facility based on this information, even though much of the particulars would be sketchy at best.
What it could accurately report was that seventeen unknown individuals had been apart of the group that took over the Dam, but that four of them did not enter the structure, instead splitting and heading back into the woods.
That hadn't been why Vogel had come this close to the Dam, but the report was alarming enough that he broke silence to tell Tremblay.
Tremblay bit his lip and brought up his display trying to study the area through the overheads. The news that three of the invaders were hidden somewhere on his side of the river was disturbing, particularly considering they couldn't find any evidence of any mammalian life for kilometers. It was also disturbing, though no where near surprising, that someone had secured the west side of the river.
What was bothering Tremblay was that Algiers was having no luck finding them. Because of the three shots fired at the Dam's bell they knew there was at least one of these people close by, and if that was possible then how far could were the other three?
Four hostiles could be positioned nearby, possibly very close, possibly watching their every move. And one had struck, warning the others, if they needed it. But why do that, Tremblay thought, his brow furrowing, why risk alerting your opponent of your presence? Probably it was to warn those inside that visitors had come, but there remained some nagging questions that Tremblay just couldn't answer.
He reviewed the full track of what had happened through the overhead records, zooming in on the two boats and looking at them closer, there was nothing special about them. He pulled back and looked at the overall scene again trying to put it in context.
He ran the events leading up to this crisis through his head. The captors had come down river, landed well back of the dam, secured their base and approached under forest cover to catch their quarry by surprise.
Exactly like his team had been trying to do.
He turned to Kalter, Sui, and Storey. "Maybe they're not on the offensive; maybe they're playing a defensive game?"
Sui looked at him and nodded. "Like us."
It would explain some things. These people weren't waiting for negotiators, or wanting a ransom, because they didn't need them. The dam was their territory now, had been for almost a hundred years, and they were just defending it, by capturing the intruders and holding them prisoner. That put Tremblay's team in the role of invaders, and that was a whole different, and much more dangerous, game.
He turned to Kalter expectantly. The young techie was still working at completing the circuit. Kalter caught the look his Captain was giving him, but it didn't make him work any faster, if anything the sudden introduction of salty sweat on his lip was an added distraction that slowed him down.
"All three lines, right, sir?" Kalter asked again, hoping the answer from his Commander hadn't changed because, quite frankly, Kalter didn't know how to separate the signals.
The last of the circuits completed in the display, the routing and everything was set. Kalter triggered his unit to slave over to Tremblay's Comm-Link and nodded. The Captain brought the Link up to his ear and activated it.
* * *