Read DREADNOUGHT 2165 Online

Authors: A.D. Bloom

Tags: #space, #military scifi, #space war, #warships, #scifi action adventure, #military science fiction scifi space aliens, #space action adventure, #war action adventure, #military scifi action, #military science fiction series

DREADNOUGHT 2165 (4 page)

BOOK: DREADNOUGHT 2165
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"Where's your slick, Dirty?"

"My what?"

"Your hiding place."

"Don't play dumb. You hid it somewhere."
Jordo said, "I want to know where."

"You gonna take it away?"

"Where did you get Captain's Horan's codes?
And the plans to print this," Jordo said.

"I made it from scratch," Dirty said.
"It's
my
intellectual
property now. That IP's gonna make me rich."

"Bullshit," Holdout said. "She got it
the same place she got the codes – a big-ass hole in
Hardway's
mainframe."

"Bitch!"

"Shouldn't have cut me," Holdout said to
Dirty. "That's what you get."

"That true, Dirty? What Holdout said?" Jordo
asked, "Is it true?"

"Yeah, yeah. You can get access with my
matchbox computer – the one Shafter gave us. Piece of shite only
let us access two things besides the flight manual: a file with the
blueprints for that hormone and some command codes."

Jordo ran his hand through his hair.
"And that didn't seem
weird
to you?"

She shrugged. "Who the hell cares if it's
weird? You saw how I flew. It was like... the whole world was
standing still. Whatever Paladin and Gusher did, I was six steps
ahead of those chumps."

"Hey..." Gush protested even if it was the
truth.

"I saw every move those two numbnuts made
before they made it," she said.

"Hey!"

"I
owned
that dogfight, Gush. You and Paladin were
my bitches. I could see it all – every move you could possibly make
– every Marine running across the top of the bays... I even saw the
dumbass look on the XO's face when I put practice rounds on the
Marines that were charging him."

Holdout said, "Take
all
the credit why don't you? I was
there, too, sunshine."

"Those were
my
kills," Dirty said.

Holdout pointed to the ship's internal comms
– the squack – a crude audio transducer in a dented metal box set
above the hatch. "She keeps it up there."

"
You
bitch!
"

"Relax, spas," Holdout said. "Squadron
leader Jordo isn't going to take it away. He saw the way we flew.
Jordo likes his pilots bad-ass and dangerous."

Paladin was tall enough to reach the squack
box without standing on anything, but he couldn't open it. His big
paws shook it. Dirty sighed and said, "The transducer pops out from
the center, ya' goon. Don't break it. You can reach inside."

He gripped the edges of the circular module
set in the front of the box and it came away in his hand, trailing
actual wires. Paladin shook his head. "Hell of a ship." He groped
inside and pulled his hand out of the narrow space holding an
apparently seamless fifty-cal sabot round. He handed it to
Jordo.

Right away, Jordo felt how the
ultra-high-density osmium and tungsten alloy round wasn't as heavy
as it should have been. It had to be hollow inside. He turned it
over in his hands looking for a button or a release or a seam of
some kind. Dirty rolled her eyes and mimed a twisting motion with
her hands holding it at top and bottom. "It unscrews," she said.
"Here. Give it." She held her little hand out and Jordo put it in
her bony fingers.

"I'm the one that drilled it out and cut the
threads," Holdout said.

"Yeah, yeah," Dirty said. The lid was on
tight and she had to press it to her belly and twist it like a
stubborn jar to open it. Then, she held up the hollowed-out MA-48
railgun round. "Hold out your hand," she said to him. Dirty gently
tapped the casing with her index finger and what came out in his
palm looked like millimeter-long shards of glass.

He looked at the way the light hit the
crystals and swallowed the lump in his throat.

 

Chapter
Four

 

Hardway
would
make for the Sol-Procyon transit, but first the carrier detoured to
Earth. As the blue jewel spun under them in the black, ringed by
battlestations, Dana Sellis asked Cozen, "What are we doing back
here?" He only pointed from the command chair at the new contact
blinking on the tactical display.

The AT controller console projected an image
of the approaching ship into the air and Ram Devlin could already
see how wide and boxy it was. "That's a Bartok class transport
ship." It had no visible guns.

Comms crackled with static:
"SCS
Hardway
, this is SC
Perth-remote. We will guide the
Charon
in on your two-four-niner. Requesting
clearance to set station 2km to starboard. Command transfer will be
manual-only. We've got control until your people hit the
bridge."

"Clear it to approach," Cozen told Bolo from
the Captain's chair.

"Roger your last, Perth, clearance to
approach. CAP will pass
Charon
through. You have priority."

As she came into sight over the Indian
Ocean, SCS
Charon
passed
close to a convoy of inbound H3 tankers and showed her true scale
by dwarfing them. That ship could hold five-thousand men. "Mr
Devlin," Cozen said, "Your new command has arrived – a ship named
after the ferryman that takes men across the river to hell." Cozen
grinned like he'd made a joke, but since he'd kept his plan for
this mission a secret, his officers didn't get it. He explained,
"The
Charon
is the ship that
will take Mr. Devlin to the Dreadnought's hull," Cozen
said.

Dana Sellis nodded at the projection
of
the approaching transport.
"I'm reading IFF tags from over
5000
exosuits on that ship, but... but they're
all reporting ice cold."

"Perth-remote left the heat off for now,"
Cozen said. "Mr. Devlin knows why. Tell them, Mr. Devlin."

"I imagine that's to keep the crew fresh,"
Ram said. "Apparently, everyone on-board my new command is already
dead."

*****

Bolo and Pardue piloted the longboat
over from
Hardway
. Ram and
Lucy Elan stood behind them with Hollis and Chief Horcheese and a
half-team of redsuits. After they cleared the bays and the carrier
and came about,
Charon
loomed
large in the cockpit canopy. "Don't bother to take your helmets
off," Ram told them over local suit comms. "We're going in through
the airlocks near the topside pads. And there's pressurized atmo
inside, but the air is still too cold to breathe
comfortably."

"Why not use the landing bay?" Lucy
asked.

"You'll see."

Bolo took them straight in at
the
Charon's
port side. Faces
stared out the portholes of that mammoth ship, hundreds, of them.
Ram zoomed in using his helmet. They'd been posed there to look as
if they were alive, but their mouths were wide-open in death like
something had pried their jaws open to escape. If you didn't know
they were dead, then their morbid faces expressed terror and
surprise. The Squidies would never know the difference, he thought.
We're as alien to them as they are to us.

Pardue said, "Where did Cozen find
five-thousand..."

The port side of
Charon
fell away as Bolo flew up the transport's
hull. He turned the longboat and set her down on the forward,
topside pad, right behind the tower on the bow, the ship's command
section.

The airlocks were right in front of the pads
and the longboat's running lights illuminated the two dead crewmen
that had been fixed to ladder rungs outside. Their arms extended in
welcome. "That ain't right," Pardue said.

"Woods. Khazir." Chief Horcheese
half-whispered it on comms. "Cut 'em down. We'll bring them inside
with us."

The dead had been posed everywhere
inside
Charon
, seemingly in
mockery of the living. They'd been leaned up against bulkheads in
pairs all along the passageways as if they were having
conversations and chatting each other up at a party.

The bodies had been posed on
Charon
's bridge as well. The one at
NAV had his hands fixed to the console. "Mr. Devlin," Khazir asked,
"Do you want us to move these bodies out of the way?"

"Leave them," he said. "We're going to
run the ship from the boarding craft. We don't want to be up here
on the bridge when the shooting starts." Ram found
Charon
's vault set in the aft
bulkhead. Inside it was an input pad for his command codes. After
he used them to take control of the ship, the remote command
console unit tied in to Engineering, OPS and NAV blinked at him
from where it had been taped to the bulkhead. He plugged the remote
into his suit and gestured through the menus projected in his
visor. He found the command interface for all the suit heaters and
started warming up the five-thousand bodies on board. By the time
they got to where they were going, those corpses had to appear more
or less alive at first glance.

"They won't stay posed like this," Pardue
said. "Not when they thaw."

Bolo backed into the body at the
ship's OPS console and accidentally knocked it off its seat to the
deck. When it hit, a voice cried out on local suit comms. It
shouted in all their ears, "This is Lt. Barker of SCS
Charon
! Help us! We're under
attack!"

"What the shite!" Pardue kicked the frozen
body out of fright and reflex. In the low gees it bounced off the
console and came back at her.

"Easy!" Ram told the pilot, "It's just a
computer generated voice. Must be tied to the suit's
accelerometers."

"That's sick," Pardue said.
"
Why would they
do
that?"

"So I can yuk it up watching you spas,
Pardue," Hollis said, laughing at her along with with Woods and
Khazir.

"Acting Captain Ram Devlin," Lucy Elan
said.

"Major Elan..."

"Take me below and show me the
fun
stuff." She grinned inside her
helmet. "Show me the armored boarding craft. I want to see Harry's
AB-1As. Show me the Ticks."

*****

One deck down, Ram opened the hatches to the
port side bow lifeboat and what he showed Lucy Elan and Lt. Arroyo
was anything but standard. The inside of the armored boarding craft
was a low ceiling compartment with room for almost thirty, but like
on a tank, the space to fit the people had been only grudgingly
ceded by the designers. Crash couches had been set where higher
priority design requirements permitted.

In the center of the deck was the equipment
the craft had been built around. Above a circular hatch some four
meters across was a PDB derrick – a rig to hold a vertically
tracked plasma drill. "It's a '41," Hollis said. "Same model we
have on the junks, but with a bigger bit." Beams to support it went
from deck to ceiling.

"It's all built around the drill," Ram said.
"The magnetically focused plasma bit on that monster will cut
through two-meters of solid, high-density belt-iron steel per
minute."

"How thick is the alien Dreadnought's
armor?"

He didn't have an answer for Arroyo. Nobody
knew. And nobody was entirely sure what it was made of either.

"It's cozy in here," Lucy said. "And we have
six of these?"

Ram nodded. "We'll launch two squads plus
the drill team in each one. The Ticks are armored against the
Squidies' small arms and their light shells."

Lt. Arroyo shook his head. He wasn't
convinced, "What about the aliens' main guns? Can't they just blow
us off the hull?"

"No ship is designed to shoot at its own
hull," Ram said. "Once landed, the Ticks are only 4 meters high –
low enough that the Dreadnought's recessed tower guns can't aim
down at them. The Squidies will have to come out and pry us off
with a crowbar. And before you ask: the Squidies' inertial negation
and artificial gravity field extends six meters outside their hull.
We won't get thrown off if that beast accelerates or
maneuvers."

"I wish we had more of these Ticks so we
could field a larger force," Arroyo said. "We've got to do this
with less than 150 shooters."

Lucy Elan said, "If we get inside that alien
battleship, 50 will be enough. Hey, how do we get outside?"

"There." Ram pointed at rectangular airlock
doors set in each side. "No airlocks. Just a thick, armored
door."

"And it's only 2 meters across," Arroyo
said. "Great." Ram heard the sarcasm. "I hope we have at least one
side to egress that's not under fire."

"There's a topside hatch, too," Ram said.
"But you have to exit through the topside turret. Each Tick has
five turrets they're all 4x140s like the ones on the gunnery junks.
One on each side and up top."

"Ammo?"

Ram ducked under a conduit and walked to the
port turret. He slapped the feed running down to it from above.
"Mix of sabot and range-det HE flak rounds. Not as much of it as
I'd like. Good news is the guns all run off one central magazine.
This way we won't end up with empty guns on one side where they're
attacking and full guns on our safe side."

"At least
that
part isn't ass-backwards," Arroyo said.
"The rest is serious insanity."

Ram opened the channel to the redsuits and
Chief Horcheese. "How is my new command, Chief? Are we
ship-shape?"

BOOK: DREADNOUGHT 2165
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