Chapter 49



Dekker stepped into the communications building, closed the hatch and leaned against it as Sergeant Preston dialed out the screws on one of the com panels. Preston grabbed the curved handles on each side of the panel and yanked it free from the console. He turned the panel over and laid it on a narrow bench, exposing its attached cables and a honeycomb of circuit boards as Lt. Simmons watched over his shoulder.

“Lieutenant,” Dekker said, waving Simmons over.

As she approached him, he could see her expression soften. He put his hand to his forehead, stripping away the sheen of sweat that had forced its way onto his clammy face.

“What is it, Colonel?” she asked.

“I have a care package in one of your carriers that I think should be displaced.”

“The girl?”

“And Jommy.”

“What about the rest of the civilians Ortiz brought with him?”

“They joined the line. Ammunition runners, that sort of thing.”

“Untrained civilians?” Simmons asked. “Are we sure we need to go there?”

“Surviving Dirt Hill is good enough training today, Lieutenant. I’m not sure it’s going to matter much.”

He ran his hand over his forehead again, stripping more sweat from his forehead.

“Are you alright, Colonel?”

“Yeah. It’s just – you know. I’m worried about Jommy I guess. I knew his father.” He feigned a smile, trying to disarm her scrutiny.

“I’ll take care of it,” she said, stepping around him to tug open the hatch.

Dekker pushed himself away from the bulkhead and shuffled to Preston’s bench.

Preston tapped his headset. “Private Martin, I need a stack of oscillators and a burner. Hustle it up.”

“What is your report, Sergeant Preston?”

Preston ran his fingers through the the cables snaking from the back of the panel into the recesses of the console. “Sir, I’m going to try and modify the main transmitter and set its tuner for three different bands – one of which should work for uplink.”

“Why three?”

“I don’t know if it’s using Ka, Ku or S-band.

“Are you sure about those frequencies?  Wouldn’t a tuner be better?”

“I can burn hard coded frequencies much faster than I can wind a tuner. We’re talking about inserting a few chips here, not redesigning the board.”

“What’s your marksman score?” Dekker asked.

Preston turned to look at Dekker. “Sir?”

“I’m just wondering how well a tron as smart as you can fire a weapon.”

Preston grinned. “I’m an expert marksman, sir. Qualified for sniper school, too.”

“Fair enough,” Dekker said. “What about power?”

“We have plenty, as long as we don’t start powering up the rest of the complex”

“How long will you need?”

“Hour or so.”

“And how long to make it mobile?”

Preston’s fingers stopped moving through the cables.


“How long to rig this thing to work on a track?”

“Sir, I’m not even sure I can make it work in place. I have power and an antenna array to work with here. On a track – I don’t even know if we have the power.”

“See what you can work out, Sergeant,” Dekker said. “I don’t think we’ll be able to stay here very long.”

Sergeant Preston fumbled with the cables a moment longer. “Yes sir.”


©2016 Michael J Lawrence