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chapter five
Part Four

- - - YAW Zero Point Zero, Zero, Zero / ROLL Zero Point Zero Zero Zero / PITCH Zero Point Zero, Zero / ALTITITUDE Ninety Two Point Six Four Metres even / MOTION Zero - - -

Anything moving through the air creates friction, the faster it moves the more friction is involved and with friction comes heat.   Even though there had been no explosive propellant on the bullets Bear had fired, even though the shots had been fired nearly 120 seconds earlier and the heat had that long to dissipate, even though the ambient water temperature and gentle breeze were causing the winds to drift, the systems on Hornet 3 were able to find the remaining sub-molecular heat traces of the friction caused by their transit.

But the results of the search worried Vogel.   The system was confirming there was no propellant residue and no chemical trace.   That meant the weapon that fired these shots was Coil Induction and that shouldn't be possible.   Vogel called out, "System.  Info-check."

The PAT-F Flight Combat interface responded in its neutral, asexual voice, "For what subject?"   The words hadn't come out sounding anything like a question.   That was by design, early Artificial Sentient interface studies had shown that tones and emotions in these systems, while sounding cool and natural, increased stress levels during combat and crisis, something that had a very detrimental effect on pilots in earlier conflicts, fatally so in some cases.

"Coil Induction Rifles.   When were they invented?   When did they come into use?   Begin search."

The PAT-F system ran a five pronged search through its internal database, and then, because the Combat Security level on this mission had been set to Green, it linked through Cimarron's secure system to the central Information Management database.   The resulting responses totaled sixteen point seven million relevant returns.

The PAT-F algorithmically analyzed these, rejecting all but four of them.   Then, by running it through the Heuristic sub-processor the system was able to isolate the one response whose context fit the question posed by Vogel.

Point seven, six, four seconds later the PAT-F responded, "Coil Induction Ballistic Weapon technology was first developed at 1721 hours January 17, 2067 by the Marwayne Weapons research group in Regina, Westcan.

"The weapon was first miniaturized to a Rifle sized device on January 31st, 2165 by the Cody Rifle division of Magellan Shipyards.   The unit went into mass-production later that year on contract to the Westcan Constabulary.

"It entered Military service with the WestCan Armed Forces in 2173 following the last of seventeen field tests.   End."

Too much information, as usual.   No matter how smart they made these systems they never quite understood relevance.   Still, portable sized weapons of this type were developed after Buffalo Commons was isolated, yet these people had them.

Vogel toggled the switch to let Tremblay know. He also began looking for electro-magnet effect.

The reason Hornets were equipped with the full Rez-nay package in the first place is because weapons technology had evolved to the point where dense core ballistics could be guided in-flight by their guns after firing.   This made the earlier imagining systems practically useless because it was no longer a matter of simple math to determine where a shot had originated.

If you couldn't detect magnetic resonance then you couldn't follow the trail and any sniper smart enough to imbed under a composite camo-suit could direct the bullet to its target like a smart bomb.   A full Rez-nay kit evened the odds, with systems so sophisticated that they could back track the path of a butterfly.

Vogel began scanning for the presence of post-shooting magnetic fields, but there were none.   That meant either the guns were very early models, incapable of directing the shot after firing, or that the users didn't know how to use their weapon properly.

"Ten metres more to the left... Ensign."   Out of habit Vogel almost said "sir", but he outranked the person he was guiding, he even outranked Algiers.   Thankfully he remembered that at the last second because his fellow riders wouldn't let that sort of slip pass when they got back.

Ensign Denise Martine was the other junior officer in Charlie Squad, but despite her rank she'd had some covert training before joining Cimarron.   At Algiers direction she took the lead on the hunt, using her training to coordinate with Vogel and guide the Squad to the point of origin for the shots.   She nodded the three noncoms she'd put up front to step another metre left.   Five other Troopers covered them as the group moved, nearly en-masse back the way they'd come.

Bear stopped moving and held his breath when he saw the invaders turn around.   He pulled the Cody rifle back under its cover, hoping the materials it was made of wouldn't give him away under close scrutiny, because it looked like these people were going to sweep the area inch-by-inch.   As slowly as he could he pulled himself completely under his cover, the air was thin but he'd survive, hopefully long enough for them to pass him by.

Martine fed back their exact coordinates and with a subtle change in tone communicated the next move to the Squad.   It was alarming how focused such a group of people could be.   They moved like one creature, playing a very deadly game of "hot and cold".

Bear found a crack in the cover, light came in, not enough air to satisfy his lungs, but by shifting his head slightly, not very far and not very fast, he was able to follow the approach of these monsters toward his location.   He gripped his rifle and made sure, by touch alone, that it was at the three round burst setting.   If they zeroed in on him, and he was sure they would, they might get him first but he'd take out a few before he died.   He'd take HER out, the one who had killed his brother, for sure.

Vogel shifted in his seat.   Despite the air conditioning of the cockpit and his stable flight position he was sweating.   Five of the tiny displays projecting on the inside of his canopy glass were live feeds from the Rifles of Charlie Squad.   The readings weren't spiking yet, but centimeter-by-centimetre they were closing in.

The algorithms were closing in too.   The certainty indicators on the display were rapidly closing in on a hundred per cent.  Soon he'd have the entire track established, as surely as if he'd been focused on the point of origin at the time of firing.

Bear tensed, he squinted and then said a prayer to his Spirit Guide.   He was soon to see him; the invaders were approaching his position too quickly for him to hope for escape.   His heart raced, his breathing quickened, his time was coming soon.

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