Read Koban: Rise of the Kobani Online

Authors: Stephen W Bennett

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Military, #Space Opera, #Colonization, #Genetic Engineering

Koban: Rise of the Kobani (60 page)

BOOK: Koban: Rise of the Kobani
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The only spy worthy activity Crager knew of was the beginnings of the genetic research still being organized. There must have been a leak. If that suspicion were confirmed, this situation had potentially become a real life or death issue for the planners. The risk was worth taking.

Because of the physical benefits the scientists insisted could be realized, if they repeated three hundred year old genetic experiments, this had strategic implications for the entire war effort.

Washing out the three men immediately would alert whoever had sent them that the targets of the witch-hunt knew they were under suspicion. The government couldn’t have any evidence, or there would have been no need for this subterfuge. The “Hell Week” break this weekend must have been the first opportunity for any of the three to make a report or meet their handler. There wasn’t a single incriminating thing the three men
could
have learned from the camp instructors. Only he and Colonel Dearborn were in the loop out of the military staff, and they were generally not directly in contact with the trainees at this stage, and had never discussed their personal opinions with their underlings.

If these three had official high-level help, they might have technology to back them up as well. “Karp, check the typical transducer frequencies used in the camp over the last week. Look for use that can’t be traced to any of our permanent party.”

“Sir, there have been daily transmissions to and from various points in the camp that did not correlate with training instructors, headquarters or support staff, or our civilian personnel with such capability. The transmissions always occur within thirty minutes either side of noon, and they were often centered where candidates had gathered. Following privacy protocol, I do not have recordings of any messages that were not routed through my own communication system, and I would require Colonel Dearborn’s approval to reveal any contents of those I have recorded.”

“I don't think I’ll need our own messages, Karp. Over what power range were these unknown transmissions made? Limited to within the camp or to the outside?” The power invested would suggest the distance of the possible receiver.

“Sir, the incoming signals were always quite strong, the outgoing much weaker. The stronger transmitter was located at high altitude, or in low orbit. The weaker outbound signals had a range of no more than one hundred miles, or less, depending of course on the sensitivity of the...” Crager cut him off.

“OK. That means they didn’t need to leave camp to communicate. However, one of them met someone outside. They gave them something, or received something that wasn’t simply a message. Has the recon team arrived yet, Karp?”

“Yes Sir. They are outside the fence now, where the tracks were found.”

“Link me to whoever’s in charge.”

“That would be Sergeant Claude Williams, Sir. Just a moment.”

A moment later Crager heard, “Sergeant Williams. Can I help you?”

“Claude, this is Bill Crager. Have you and your men checked the footprints I asked you to examine, and looked at that presumed air boat landing site?”

“Hey, morning there, Top. Still dark out here, however we have indeed been looking. There are two particularly odd factors, which I assume is why you are so interested in this. Whoever went out, and came back didn’t actually climb on the fence. The ground impacts, at least the ones your patrol boys didn’t step on or drive over, show that whoever came over the fence must have had a Booster Suit.”

“What? How do you know that?” He did
not
expect that.

“Their kickoff point left deeper impressions both ways, because they did not climb the fence, they jumped over. Only a Booster Suited man could have done that, and even so, it’s pretty damned impressive to clear a twelve-foot fence with two feet of coiled wire on top, and to do it on Heavyside. The landing print depth back into the camp supports that notion, although the landing point on the jump out was walked on and driven over by your intrepid patrol boys, as I mentioned.”

“Crap. This is getting weird, Claude. You said there were two odd factors.”

“I did. Multiply the weird factor by three or four. The landing craft impressions in the little ravine, where the footprints led, left distinctive size and shaped indentations, and the length and apparent weight also match.”

“Spit it out. Match what?”

“I say personally, my onboard AI says, and even Karp agrees, that the indentations match that of a Krall single ship.”

Crager whistled as a comment for his surprise. “I think the weird factor has just cubed. The footprints. What do they tell you?”

“The print size is an average sized boot of standard trainee issue, not the custom spec ops foot gear anyone with a Booster Suit would normally own. Three-quarters of any of your volunteers could leave these size prints. I don’t have an exact boot size yet. Average weight is suggested, but I’ll be able to do better when we make casts, measure depth, and test soil compaction. They appear to have crouched on the ball of their right boot to step into the low hatch on that single ship. Either it was opened for them from the inside, or they could key it open on their own. I have never met anyone that could do it on their own unless they had a freshly dead Krall draped over their shoulder.”

“I don't think we’ll find a dead warrior nearby, and I have not heard any rumors that we cracked the Krall equipment codes, but our scientists have been at it for years. Someone must have been inside to open the hatch, and then departed stealthed when the patrol arrived.”

“Right. My supposition as well. Once alerted by the vibrations on the road, the patrol spotted the faint IR footstep signatures leading to the gully. It appears our sneaky one caught a rabbit,
barehanded apparently, and threw it over and well past the patrol, apparently to use the rabbit’s noise and heat signature to distract them when he ran back to the fence. The strides on the dirt road, when he started to run for the return jump were very long, and also suggest a Booster Suit was helping.”

“Thanks, Claude. Keep looking. I have someone that I suspect for this caper, but he doesn’t have a Booster Suit on right now. I can’t see how or even why the Krall would possibly be involved. This is not at all like them, so my guess is we have some operational single ships in human hands. It’s still good and dark out
there isn’t it?” He had an idea.

“I need my implants to see, but the faint glow on the horizon and my implant clock shows we have sunrise in less than two hours.”

“OK. I may head out in that direction shortly with my suspect. I’ll contact you if I have more questions.”

“Roger, Top. If we find anything really interesting, I’ll Link to you.”

When the Link closed, he gave the AI instructions. “Karp, monitor the unusual transducer frequency we talked about a few minutes ago, and block any outgoing signals on that frequency and notify me.”

“Yes Sir.”

It was unfortunate, but Breaker, on the surface a nice kid and outwardly a patriot, was going to have a fatal training accident before daybreak. Even if he somehow survived, this “accident” would permanently remove him from the training program. The other two men would have some sort of “slip and fall” in the next day or week. Fatal if the evidence supported a need for that result, as he presumed it would. After that, there would be some new prescreening put in place, based on what Crager could find out about these three young men. At a minimum, there would never be another “walk on” allowed.

Breaker appeared to have concealed a Booster Suit somewhere in the camp. How he got one of the tremendously expensive custom-made items was a question for later. If
he
had one hidden in the camp then the other two probably had them as well. The carbon fiber suits could be folded up into a relatively compact size. Something like a medium tote bag could hold one of them, and they weighed only about forty-five pounds for a man of Breaker’s medium size. Crager’s suit, on his large frame, was fifty-four pounds of very powerful synthetic surface muscle.

Winning the war was vastly more important than following paranoid laws passed two generations ago, when the human race was recovering from the brink of self-induced near extinction. Humanity was on a different brink today, more difficult for non-experts to sense because it approached so slowly. Their fear of the last racial disaster was preventing the implementation of our best possible defense in time for it to be useful. Crager was prepared to make his opponents suffer the ultimate sacrifice, on behalf of this must-win war. A sacrifice he was perfectly willing to make himself.

From the comments made by the six scientists on the spec ops program that were part of the budding genetic development project, even the best humanity had
ever
done genetically to enhance clones was not enough to turn the tide against the Krall. However, genetic enhancements, combined with a new generation of Booster Suits and other hoped for technology were necessary steps that had to be taken. Moving forward, a future next step could be figured out
after
this step was taken.

Crager gave the camp AI instructions to continuously monitor the location of Jastrov and Saber, and when possible, record anything they said or did. They would likely discover soon that their transducers no longer worked. He then stepped out of his interrogation cube and released the remaining men back to their barracks, telling them (for the sake of cover) that he would talk to them later. 

He released the three door guards and used the auditorium’s configuration menu to lower the walls and desk, and flow away the top of his temporary interrogation room, leaving only the four men locked in the remaining cube room.

Walking to the holding room, Crager used his retinal pattern and thumbprint to open the single door.

Standing at the door, he said, “Everyone but Breaker return to their barracks. I’ll have more discussions with each of you in the morning. Candidate Breaker here has some extra punitive training to complete tonight. It seems he climbed the fence and left camp, and lied about it to me.”

He looked directly at Breaker, and delivered his cover story. “I don’t care if it was a girlfriend you met, or why you did it, but you were not authorized to leave my compound. I’ll work your ass ragged for that infraction, and more so for lying to me.”

The others started out, with a curious look at Breaker, and a nervous nod to Crager, avoiding his glare.

Jorl didn’t know how he had been found out, but he wasn’t going to waste time denying it just to avoid some easy extra exercise.  He spoke so the others would hear. “Top, you asked me if I had climbed the fence. I did not climb over it, so I technically did not lie to you about that. I wasn’t asked if I had gone outside the camp, which I admit I did.”

“Well, that’s confirmation enough for me, Breaker. You knew what I wanted to know, and you hid it from me by dodging behind the words you carefully selected in your hair splitting replies.”

“Yes, I also admit I did that.”

Good.
He knew the other men had heard him say that, making the discipline he mentioned justified.  “The front door is open men, return to your barracks. Breaker and I will spend some fun time on the obstacle course through breakfast, since he has so much energy to spare.” It sounded innocuous enough. He’d stage the accident to look like the tragic result of a candidate trying hard to appease his Top sergeant after violating a rule. Breaker didn’t suspect that he had figured out what the snooping was really after.

“Breaker, let’s jog over to the track, shall we?”

The two of them left the auditorium, and Crager immediately broke into a trot, and waved Jorl to move ahead of him. “Keep ahead of me as I pick up the pace.” He told him gruffly.

Whoever Breaker really was, and wherever he’d been trained, he was able to use a Booster Suit, which demanded a high level of physical ability to master. As he watched him run now, he noted how smooth and lightly he seemed to cover the ground. He didn’t even hear that slap of his feet that most runners made here on Heavyside.

Crager wasn’t surprised. Breaker’s fifteen-foot vertical leap over the fence, plus the horizontal distance covered proved he was even stronger than many of his spec ops instructors. That leap, on Heavyside, was one that Crager would be hard pressed to match due to his recent reduced level of physical activity. That was caused by the needs of the job of running this camp.

However, Breaker was entirely on his own now, and Crager had the only suit. He was going to push him hard at the start, to judge how fit he really was. He wasn’t going to let him stay on the middle of that bell curve any longer.

He picked the pace up to a run, shoving Breaker’s left shoulder to go faster. They were only a half mile from the track, so he repeatedly increased the pace, forcing Breaker to run all out, taking long strides that matched Crager’s. By the time they reached the edge of the track around the obstacle course, they were nearly in a sprint.

Jorl had easily stayed just a step ahead of Crager, matching every increase he heard in the Top sergeant’s feet striking the ground. This was faster than he’d had to run in training, but not his best speed by any means. It also didn’t seem like Crager had fully peaked either, but they were at the track now. He started around the course clockwise, and suddenly Crager put on a showy burst and passed him, and turned in front and placed a hand on his chest to slow him, as he too slowed while trotting backwards.

BOOK: Koban: Rise of the Kobani
11.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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