EXT – DAY – open area not far from Tajemnica
Lag and the Camp Col stand next to the body of the tech level compliance officer, looking down at him and Cooper, then around at the destroyed camp around them. The Camp Col seems a bit dazed, looking at it all.
Lag: Too much, too accurate. You NEED to board and bug out NOW.
Camp Col looks at him, then his eyes harden.
Camp Col: No. I will NOT abandon my position unless ordered.
Lag: You are being jammed, and you have lost essentially ALL your transport. You have injured. You MUST leave. NOW.
Camp Col: You can’t carry us.
Lag: I don’t see how this could be a proper tech-level strike. It was FAR to massive and accurate. THEY are in violation.
Camp Col: Tell HIM that. WE can’t call. Jammed and cut lines.
Lag: Get the injured aboard, and start salvaging everything you can, get it near Taj in case we find out more. You CAN do that for sure.
Camp Col relaxes a little bit.
Camp Col: Yes. Yes we CAN do that much.
Getting his mind out of its daze, he gets a set expression on his face as he gets his head back into the reality of the situation, and focuses on actions he CAN do.
Lag and Helton stand, looking across the ship topside and the surrounding smoking base. There are hundreds of new small blast marks all over the ship, as well as dozens of larger ones. Helton whistles as he looks around. Lag squats down, runs his hand over one, feeling it. Helton looks them over, looking at some of the larger one near a drone launch tube bump. Few of the blast marks appear to be much more than splatters of color, with very little penetration or cratering. Lag stands, and looks around at the smoking ruins of the base around the ship. All but one (an APC with a 25mm gun turret on top) of the vehicles are clearly damaged, as well as most of the piles of gear, supplies, gun emplacements, and stuff. There are very few craters that are not on a target – very precise munitions strikes. Soldiers are salvaging what they can, and putting out fires. Obviously, the base has been virtually wiped off the map as a military asset. Helton stands up, runs his hands through his hair, and walks back to Lag.
Helton: Well, I don’t see any holes, so I guess the old gal’s armor is as good as Stenson said, unless we only got hit with smaller stuff than those thing got (tipping head toward wrecked tanks). Hard to believe only six got killed in all that shit that landed on us.
Lag: (looking thoughtful) Yes, it could have been MUCH worse.
Helton: Not a good way to start the day.
Lag: Hmm. I wonder…
On the ground near the lowered cargo ramp.
Base soldiers are hustling around with salvaged gear and supplies. A soldier from the base is carrying a pair of boxes, about 1’x1.5’x8”, with a pattern of 72 circles (6×12) on top. He pauses to talk to one of two sergeants on the ramp.
Flare soldier: Where these?
Ramp sergeant 1: Stack ‘em with the rest of the mixed ammo, next to-
He gets interrupted by BEEP-BEEP and the sound of a small hatch retracting. The look over to the side of the ship, and see a indentation exactly the same size as the boxes the soldier is carrying, and there is a small flashing light inside it.
sergeant: (pointing to the hatch) May as well mount ‘em. One here, and (walks over to the other side and looks up) the other over here.
The soldier inserts the flare dispenser with a shove, and the hatch slides back over it.
A couple of soldiers are carrying a tube (about 2m long, 20cm diameter) on their shoulders up the ramp. Ordnance symbols and tech specs run along the side. They pause on the ramp next to the Ramp sergeant 2 directing the loading on the ramp. They look at him questioningly. He looks at his tablet, holds it up to scan the code on tube, looks at it again, then leads them around to the side of the ship, to where a set of 3 2.5m long angular, streamlined, somewhat raised launcher cover. Slowly, with sand falling out of some of the crevices, it hinges open (bow end up) to reveal the round opening of a missile launch tube. The Sergent eyeballs the inside of the tube briefly, and it looks fine, and there is a small status screen exposed by the open launcher tube that reads “operational: Ready To Load”. He nods, and points to the other, similar tube covers along the flank of the ship.
Sargent 2: Load as many as you can. Empty tubes on the cargo deck aft. If you can salvage more than you can load, see me.
The soldiers unscrew a cap from the back end of the transport tube, reach in and pull out a remove-before-use safety flag with a pin dangling from it, and hold the tube up to the launch tube nozzle, they wiggle it for a moment to line it up just right, then there is a slight sucking sound and the tube shifts slightly to line up perfectly, then a bumping sound, and the tube drops free into their hands. Visible in the front of the launch tube is the front of a missile, with a safety flag hanging on it. One soldier looks at the panel, which now reads “Safety 1 REMOVED. Remove Safety 2 Before Use”. He reaches into the tube, and pulls the second pin and flag out, looks at the panel again. It reads “missile now in LAUNCH READY status. Close?” with a YES and NO button blinking. He pushes the YES, and the tube snaps shut. They toss the safety pins into the tube and close it up. The two soldiers turn to get another one.
Medics work on several injured soldiers. On one bed, Allonia assist a medic working on Quinn. They are putting a bandage around his thigh. There is a lot of blood. He looks pale, but not crying.
Helton is at command, Quiritis at helm, Bipasha at sensors, Camp XO at com.
View is from an angle low to the console, focused close. Unnoticed by anyone on the bridge, who are all busy doing things requiring they look elsewhere, a light on the otherwise totally dark fire control panel slowly comes to life, glowing a dim amber light below one of the old fashioned 3-position switches (currently in the down position, like the rest of them in the row). Then another, and another.
Camera shifts focus from the amber lights, to Helton sitting at the command station, going over the pre-flight check list, he’s talking fast and nearly inaudibly, and the words are lost in the hubbub of pre-flight checks and loading.
The Camp XO is busy coordinating things from the com console, also talking fast into the mic.
On a couple of the screens show various camera views of activity on the ship – salvaged equipment being loaded into the cargo bay, someone walking down a crowded corridor, etc. In the background, there is noise of people checking systems and moving stuff around.
Lag walks slowly in, hands behind his back, head down, looking thoughtful. He walks over to a spot near the weapons-control panel. He looks down at it, looks up at the screens as they view shift around. In one of them, he sees the two soldiers drop the missile transport tube drop it from the loading/launch tube access, and start carrying the missile transport tube away. A slight smile appears slowly on his face. Lag stands up to a sharp parade rest position, faces a large screen, and starts talking in clipped, terse military tones, unlike his normal easygoing manner.
Lag: AARAS display, 40 kilometer radius, all munitions and munitions flight paths, all enemy launchers, vehicles, personnel, and positions, all friendlies, everything of tactical significance.
[AARAS, pronounced ARE-ass, After Action Replay Analysis Schematic]
Everyone else in the room stops what they are doing, and looks silently at Lag in surprise, not having heard the tone or seen the body language before. There is a pregnant pause for a second as the screen remains blank, and no-one moves. Suddenly, a complex graphic appears on the screen in front of him. It is a topographical map of the region with a diagram of all incoming and outgoing missile tracks, shell and bullet trajectories, showing small spheres where there was an explosion or impact, icons for equipment of all sorts. There are a huge number of tracks from three separate enemy locations around the edge of the display (each with dozens of vehicle-group icons and numerous dots representing personnel), as well as a scattering of other locations closer all around, and some coming in from above (must have come from orbit). There are a couple of straight fuzzy lines going from two of the larger enemy bases directly to the center. There are lots of arcs in red going from the red enemy positions, converging on the center of the display, where there are many very short blue lines extending up from what is obviously their current location. There are lots of spheres from explosions overhead where the gunnery directed by the ship had intercepted incoming munitions. The graphic is slowly rotating, showing different angles. It’s clear that a LOT of stuff was fired at them, and they are surrounded, and likely should be dead.
Lag: Orbital launch locations?
The diagram indicates four slightly separate positions above and to the side of their position.
Lag: Play forward from first detected attack.
The topo map remains, but all the munitions paths and enemy locations clear. Then one of the fuzzy straight lines pops into view, and the time counter on one side of the display rolls rapidly by. The ship flies in and lands in the middle of the display. The second straight fuzzy line pops into view.
Helton: What’s the fuzzy line?
Lag: Jamming, hacking, anything electronic. Hmmm… Only red- no counter-measures.
As he talks, a few more enemy icons start to appear. The fuzzy lines suddenly get a lot more intense, and the time counter slows down. Suddenly some stuff starts dropping from orbit, then a bit later a LOT of ballistic arcs start to get drawn, originating from the enemy positions, first ones from farther away and in higher arcs, then faster and flatter arcs, then fired from nearer positions. They all look like they will be converging on the center at about the same moment. Lots more enemy positions, vehicles, and such pop onto the screen. The time counter slows more. It looks like a hopeless amount of stuff is about to crash on them. Suddenly from the center there is a huge eruption of blue streaks upward, causing a descending stream of spheres appear as incoming missiles and shells are shot and explode. There are large explosions high up.
Lag: (crisply) Freeze. Zoom ten thousand meter radius.
The display expands to show more details. There is a LOT of shit in the air, with fire-hose-like streams from the local guns, and a spray of missiles and shells destroying large stuff in flight. There are now small symbols by the larger incoming rounds indicating what type they are. Lag looks closely at it, rotates it around a bit, grunts a bit. The XO quietly whistles his surprise.
Lag: Continue at real time.
The final bit takes only three or four seconds to finish – incoming fire rains down, a lot get intercepted, but enough gets through that the base vehicle symbols go dark, and only the ship and one vehicle remain on the screen. A few of the people icons go dark as well.
Lag: Freeze. Zoom to 3000 meters.
The display zooms in, and the individual tracks are more clearly seen. But it’s clear that most of larger explosions (indicated by the size of the sphere when it blows) were higher up, and it’s mostly smaller stuff that made it through.
Helton: What’s that?
Helton points to where a bit more than a 2500 meters out, most of the remaining munitions had a slight bend in their arc, changing them from a more dispersed pattern to all head toward the ship.
Lag: (thoughtfully, almost to himself) …That… is… interesting. (then crisply). Confidence level of data presented?
The screen gets a “100%” on it in the corner, next to the time counter.
Lag: Data source organic or external?
Inset: The screen adds the note “hybrid data sources.”
Lag: Remove inferred tracks; only display organic observed.
A few lines disappear, but the display doesn’t change significantly.
Lag: (softly, to himself, staring at the screen) Well, well, well.
Camp XO: Damn, that’s a better display than I ever see, even on our best equipment.
Lag: Yes. Almost too good.
Helton: Those course corrections…?
Lag: (talking fast, crisply) Zoom out to 40 kilometers. Show current movement only.
The display zooms out, and there are two small red dots near one of the bases.
Lag: zoom on activity.
The display zooms in on them. The display shows an image labeled “surveillance drones”
Lag: ETA overhead?
Screen reads “16 minutes”
Lag: (to Helton, sharply) Helton, we need to take off in ten!
Helton: Like hell! It’ll take another 30 to do even a basic pre-flight!
Lag: If we’re still here in 30 minutes, we’re here forever.
Helton: (grabbing a mike to announce to the ship, heard also as OC) NOW HERE THIS! LOAD EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING YOU CAN AND GET ABOARD NOW. WE LIFT IN TEN MINUTES, No EXCUSES! Ship crew, man stations and get us spun up for lift! Base personnel, get what you can get on and secure it! Countdown on all screens!
Every screen in the place gets a countdown clock on it – one big one per room, each screen with a small one in the corner, starting at 10:00, then counting down, 9:59, 9:58…
Cut to cargo bay ramp, where everyone was standing around listened to the announcement. Suddenly everyone starts moving VERY FAST, running, grabbing stuff, throwing it wherever and running out for some more stuff, and a there is a lot of yelling and noise and chaos as troops scramble to get equipment on board.
Fade to back.