INT – DAY – Kat’s office in BLDG 1701
She sits at her desk, Lag on her computer screen.
Kat: Nothing yet. They said they lost a bunch of surveillance assets about (glances at the clock) fifteen minutes ago. No good real-time in the area right now, but they are moving what they can – soonest is a couple of hours. Wait or risk it?
Lag: Fifteen minutes – about five minutes after we took off. That fast all at once, it must have been planned. Hmmm. Keep digging. We’ll come into the RC low from the south-east. Rough county that way, so they’d only want to move by flying and we would have see them if they were to try an attack outside the declared Mil-Zone.
Kat: When I get anything more, I’ll feed it directly out. Gotta go. Out here.
Lag nods, and the screen goes blank.
Kat leans back in her chair, her brow furrowed in thought.
EXT – DAY – Tajemnica loading ramp, Refugee Camp 1
At the top on each side of the ramp are two armored figures watching / assisting the refugees depart – the three Plataeans and the CEO, all with serious faces. Refugees are streaming down the ramp towards rows of pre-fab shelters, lined up like eight rows of modest-sized translucent plastic greenhouses, four hundred in all, along with larger water and sanitation shacks at the ends and middle. Several aid workers in bright jackets direct them this way and that, but it looks like MASS confusion, and there are obviously not enough aid workers for the huge flow of people surging down the ramp, glad to be on the ground. There is much shouting and general chaos. Suddenly amid the noise and confusion, there is a brief siren’s wail, sort of like a super-CHIRP on steroids, BuuIIP! Then, from every speaker, bull-horn, and loudspeaker, Tajemnica’s voice is heard in the sudden silent pause.
Ship AI: (OC, via speakers everywhere, calm female voice) All refugees will receive a message on their personal com units in a moment with their assigned shelter number and location. Rows are numbered from your left as you disembark, shelters numbered starting from this end. Please go there FIRST and sign in, THEN use the screens in them to locate and contact relatives, as well as get more information.
There is a mass shuffling and murmuring, then a thousand different chimes and ring-tones are heard almost simultaneously, and after a brief moment as they consult them, the chaotic crowd starts flowing smoothly down the various rows, and the aid workers are left standing with nearly nothing to do but look around in amazement. One of them goes up beside the ramp, and starts talking to the CEO, apparently assuming the one that doesn’t look like hired muscle must be in charge.
Aid Worker 1: WE need to assign them locations!
Trask shrugs his shoulder and points to the other side, where Lag stands with Kaushik.
Trask: Talk to him!
The aid worker looks across the ramp, then walks around, through the crowd, to the other side.
Aid Worker 1: YOU can’t DO this! WE need to know who is here, and assign them spots!
Lag: Can I see your list for a moment?
Aid Worker 1: (holding tablet computer defensively) NO!
Lag: (into his wrist com) Tajemnica, can you talk to his ‘puter?
Ship AI: (VO) Done.
Lag: Check it yourself, then. They have all been checked in – we scanned them in when they boarded, and our system downloaded it to yours. We screened out some of the problems for you.
Aid Worker 1: You, uh… (checking his tablet computer) I guess you did. Love it when technology works like it’s supposed to! That makes things a LOT easier!
Lag: Yeah, it does sometimes. Where are you going to put the next five of six loads?
The aid workers face falls, eyes wide.
Aid Worker 1: Five or – WHAT?
Lag: Best guess is at least five thousand more. And it’s a HOT war zone – had one flier crash almost right ON us after it got shot down. You’ll need a LOT more huts, medical, water, and WAY more sanitation. Most of them haven’t eaten in a few days, and we could only afford to give them a small snack on the way in – a 200 calorie emergency bar each took the edge off, settle ‘em down, but they’ll need more soon. We’ll be heading back for more as soon as these are off. And get few medics to get aboard with all the supplies they have, so we can start doing what we can as they come on and in-flight.
Aid Worker 1: You are going BACK into a hot zone? And MORE back HERE?!
Lag: We have a contract that pays for HERE, and people to move because we think they are DIRECTLY in harms way. Better get busy, and put the best people in charge regardless of seniority. Find and use some of the qualified refugees if you have too. Riots get ugly FAST.
Aid Worker 1 looks at him in open-mouthed dismay. Then he closes his mouth, squares his shoulders, nods, and looks at his tablet, then critically at the remaining refugees on the ship. He seems to make a basic decision.
Aid Worker 1: How long do we have before the next load?
Lag: Plan on four hours, give or take. We’ll let you know if otherwise.
Aid Worker 1 gets a pained expression, nods, turns, and heads off fast, shouting.
Aid Worker 1: DODSON! SINGH! PIERSON! GUPTA! Got a SITUATION!
INT – DAY – Tajemnica Bridge
Helton, Cooper, Quiritis, Allonia, and Bipasha are at stations, looking over screens.
Helton: (thinking out loud) Where, where, where… Best hiding, or best visibility? In the Zone, or visible from here? Big battery or lone shoulder-mount? What, what, what… Hmmm…
Quiritis: I’d want to hide fighting outside the declared zone, keep the big stuff inside.
Helton: Good point. Soooo… stick a ManPAD with a shorter range close in here, with good visibility and not a lot of witnesses.
In front of Helton is a map. Suddenly, a icon starts flashing on it in red. It’s a little ways away from the center of the map.
Helton: Found something! Four klicks west! Bare hill-top! Zoom in.
The map zooms in. It shows an animated version of a hill-top with a half dozen dim icons for people. One suddenly snaps brighter. Then another, an icon with an extra symbol over it.
Ship AI: (OC, brisk male voice) Multiple incoming data sources. Confidence good. Three-man ManPAD teams. Launcher.
Two more icons pop into sharp, bright focus. Then another one with an extra symbol.
Ship AI: (OC) More confirming sources. Two teams. Confidence high.
Helton: Ah, good! Now we just go around them!
Allonia: Something to the north, too!
Helton: Let’s keep looking, then… That other hill-top to the south-east. Anything?
Ship AI: (OC) Thermals show four heat signatures. No electronics detected.
Helton: Nothing at all?
Ahip AI: (OC) Negative.
Allonia: Looks like the north side has six people, too.
Ship AI: (OC) Agreed. North hill, six people. Two launchers. Confidence high.
Cooper: Ah, shit. Surrounded.
Helton: We came in right over the south-east hill. Why didn’t they shoot at us?
Quiritis: Maybe they didn’t get word we’d slipped out?
Allonia: Four – one team and a leader?
Helton: Hmm… As soon as we can lift, we need to be knocking tree-tops off. Let’s head straight at the four. When we get closer, we’ll have a better look. If they have missiles, we leave a furrow with the bow where they’re standing – if not, we just part their hair and scare the crap out of them.
Cooper: You want to hit the ground ON PURPOSE?! At SPEED?
Helton: Only if we have no choice.
Cooper: You’re crazy. Interceptors are one thing – planets are different. Bigger.
Quiritis: Just grazing shouldn’t be a problem.
Helton: Note to self – screw port weapons regs, armaments are getting REALLY high priority.