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 (9 page)

BOOK: Koban: Rise of the Kobani
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He muted the audio, but assumed that Caldwell might be able to read lips. He probably couldn’t, but since he could do so himself, he wouldn’t sell the man short. “Max, check the recent feeds from the spy bots in our former outpost, SOB-23, and let me see them on my desk screen.”

There was pointless coverage of almost nothing, much more than he expected. That was why he had a bored corporal watch the feeds. “Max, just show me anything you would consider significant, a possible deliberate unauthorized entry, not just animals and windblown weeds.”

This time he had a feed he’d not already seen, shortly after the unknown group entered the first underground garage. It was the same twenty people. There were a few glimpses as they passed along corridors, but he didn’t ask for sound. He’d have his corporal go over this with a full team. “Major, we definitely have a problem we need to investigate. Let me show you a fast pass through what I just saw. Max, send the images from my desk screen out to the major, at the fast play speed I used.” While that feed started, he continued to talk.

“Major, we both need to have our experts look at this closer, but I’ll share what we find with you, if you will do the same. We may have humans working with the Krall. They could enter the base and not trigger the explosives, and could even drive the enemy equipment down there because that won’t be sensed as Krall warriors.”

He saw the video stream finish on his small screen, and he could still see Caldwell’s face, while the major was only able to see the recording. The man was as shocked and confused as he himself had been.

“Major, I’ll be available if the general wishes to speak to me directly, but please pass him my thanks for bringing this to my attention. The base is under his control now, although I want to request permission to infiltrate some of my spec ops teams into those three Novi Sad tunnels, and investigate what’s going on at the base. They can assure us if we can blow those tunnels at will.”

“Yes Sir, Colonel, I’ll pass your request to the general as soon as we sign off. I think we need to find out who these people are as soon as possible. I have the recording, and I’m sure we both will have AI’s scanning records to find out who they are. I’ll keep you advised of what we find. I assume you will do the same.”

“Absolutely, Major. This war belongs to us all. Good day.” He switched off, and brooded a moment, before his AI intruded on his thoughts.

“Sir, I searched death records as you suggested. I have an even stranger facial match than the one for Sergeant Reynolds.”

“OK, put the face on screen, Max, and tell me what you have.”

A close up of a well built, ruggedly handsome, dark-haired,  middle-aged man appeared, and Trakenburg recognized him as one of the larger two men of the four he’d seen previously, in an image taken from the garage recording. Then, a military style hologram, used on ID badges many years ago appeared on the right side of the same screen. It looked like the same man, but the garage image from today looked older, and more weathered, and had a sort of smile on his face.

Under the hologram was the name Thaddeus Greeves, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Poldark Militia. That same Militia had been absorbed into the PU Army when the war started, at the same time Nabarone became Brigadier General of the fledgling Army forces on Poldark.

From having studied Nabarone’s background, Trakenburg knew he was the last commander of Poldark’s small planetary Militia. The date on the hologram was from twenty-three years ago. There was no possibility that the general would
not
know who this man was if it actually was Greeves.

“Is it a positive match Max?”

“Perhaps ninety percent, Sir. As positive as I can be from images taken twenty-three years apart, Sir. The data did not mention a twin or even a brother for the man. However, there is another similarity with Sergeant Reynolds. He was also presumed dead. He was in charge of a security detail that went missing, part of a diplomatic mission twenty-three years ago. He was on a ship apparently captured by the Krall, along with a junior diplomat named Mavray Doushan, the man that made the famous recorded warning about the Krall.”

 

 

 

Chapter 3: Easier Said than Done

 

“Son of a bitch! Stop the damned playback.” Nabarone leaped up and came around his desk to get a closer look at the image on-screen.

“What is it, Sir?” Caldwell was startled by his boss’s vehemence, not his language, which was typical for the rough edged general.

Instead of answering the major, he spoke to the AI. “Carla, rewind the recording up to where
this
man,” he tapped the image on the touch sensitive screen, “passes through the door, and stop play when he looks directly at the spy bot’s camera.”

Standing only feet from the high definition image, Nabarone concentrated on the man’s features and movements as he walked through the doorway, then the face looked directly at the lens as a young man pointed out the moving spy bot. The image stabilizing software held the recording rock steady, despite the gecko-like “wiggle” of the small robot.

“Carla, I want a life-size zoom on the man’s face that I indicated.”

Four feet in front of Nabarone was a face, viewed from a higher, overhead point, which he was sure he recognized. “Carla, can you rotate the perspective to make it a face-on view of him, as if seen from my own eye height?”

The software made it appear the camera lens descended from the ceiling, and now from four feet away, Nabarone, six feet one inch tall, was looking slightly up at a man about five inches taller than he was. He stepped in closer to look at the man’s eyes, and noticed his slight sardonic smile, with a bit of slope to his mouth.

“I believe it’s him!” he stated firmly.

“You think you know one of them, Sir?” The major was even more surprised, and privately a bit skeptical. It was odd if a personal eyewitness ID could beat the computer search running in the background. The AI could process most of the faces of the planet’s male population in a few minutes, and it had been at the task for almost five minutes.

“Howard, on the wall behind my desk, please bring me the framed hologram of myself with my ex-contract wife, my sister, and another man in uniform.” He knew Howard had met his sister, if not his former contract wife.

Carrying the picture to Nabarone, he made the obvious comparison as he approached. “The man with your sister looks like that guy.” He easily saw the resemblance.

“Yes. They were engaged…, oh, about twenty-three or four years ago, before he was lost on a space flight from here to
Bollovstic. Sybil and I have wondered what happened to him, but assumed he had died. Initially we supposed it was a Jump Hole accident, later we suspected it was probably at the hands of the Krall, which would have been three years before we even knew they existed.”

“Excuse me? How would you have assumed that, Sir?” Caldwell was confused.

“I know you have heard of Mavray Doushan, of the ‘Doushan’s Warning’ fame.” It wasn’t a question, since almost anyone in Human Space that wanted to study the start of this bizarre war had listened to that recording.

“Doushan wasn’t alone on that lost ship he was aboard. He was with the Ambassador…, whom I can’t recall his name now, and their families. They also had a small security detail. Thaddeus Greeves, the man in the picture you’re holding was in charge. They all disappeared without a trace, except for that recording. Until now, it seems.

“Thad was taller than me, and always seemed to have a half smile, a bit lopsided, when he was relaxed and happy. Like with my sister in that holo, and I think like on the screen in front of us. I can’t understand how it can possibly be true. Nevertheless, I feel in my gut like it is true.”

Carla, like any AI worth its salt, accepted input from any source it had available, including audio. Nabarone’s remarks had furnished the clues it required to narrow the search.

“Sir, using multiple records of Colonel Thaddeus Greeves from the former Militia archives, and personal recordings you have retained of Militia ceremonies with you and Greeves walking together, I believe that I can say, with ninety-eight percent accuracy, that the man in the new recording is him. An adjustment for slight aging is also consistent with what you see, assuming he continued to spend time out of doors to retain the evident dark tan. He also appears to have maintained an above average exercise regimen.”

“Compared to me, you mean?” Nabarone chuckled, somewhat sorrowfully. Running an Army kept him inside, desk bound, growing pale and a bit heavier.

“No Sir, I was not…,” Nabarone cut her off.

“Carla, what about the sergeant? Howard here already told me you found a recent match for him.”

The AI repeated essentially, what Colonel Trakenburg had learned from his own AI, Max.

Nabarone ruminated on what he knew or surmised. “Two native sons of Poldark, loyal to their world and humanity, beyond question. One was fighting against the Krall for certain, when he was apparently captured and seriously wounded six months ago, but looks healthy now. The other man was likely captured by Krall twenty-three years ago. How do we make a connection between these disparate events, which involve Krall captivity?”

“General, I know you had a personal connection to Greeves, but most outsiders are going to consider collaboration a possibility. Despite never having seen it in a case where the humans were given such freedom of movement.” He saw the reddening in Nabarone’s face and hurried to finish before he was cut off.

“This doesn’t fit the past examples at all sir. The few cases we know of, the prisoners were in deplorable condition, half starved, beaten and often mutilated, to force their reluctant cooperation. The handful of willing traitors have done what the Krall wanted, and then they were killed using particularly gruesome methods, proving even the enemy found them despicable. After so much time, this would be the first example of the Krall even trying to use subtlety or such trickery. I don’t buy it, Sir. You know I will speak my mind if I disagree with you, but this must have some other explanation.”

“I think so too, Howard. Let Trakenburg know what we found, and I’m sure he discovered the same things by now. Both our AI’s have access to the same databases. Give him the go ahead to insert his teams, and offer any assistance we can provide. Perhaps the distraction of a diversionary counter attack would help cover their infiltration to reach the tunnels. I don’t know how his spec ops teams get in and out of enemy lines as often as they do. A lot of them don’t make it back as it is.”

 

 

****

 

 

Ethan’s excited scouting report was relayed by the chief as they were returning to the Mark. Mirikami asked Jacob to Link him and his fellow scout, Richard, with only the SG’s. They would be making the decisions and the over eager youngsters didn’t need to be made more hyper than they were by hearing the report. The previous TG face-offs with the Krall had gone entirely their way, but in a larger fight, anyone, no matter how fast and strong could be killed if shot from behind, or hit by random chance. Mirikami needed to know what they faced, and with his SGs, come up with a strategy.

“Ethan, tell us what you see.”

“Captain, in a valley about a mile from their ship, the Krall just parked four of those small white tanks Sarge described. There were four more already parked there. They also brought three large, heavy armored looking enclosed trucks, made in two sections, with four large wheels on each part. Those trucks have a flexible joint of some kind between them, which lets them bend in the middle when they turn a corner. There are sixteen smaller wheeled motorized carts, which were already here when we arrived, mounting what looks like double plasma cannons on them. The barrels protrude through a curved heavy shield and it all can pivot in a full circle. The cannon bores on them have a much smaller diameter than what we have on the Mark. They are leaving everything unattended, Sir. Parked them, and then ran on foot, back the way they came.”

Mirikami looked over at Reynolds as they rapidly walked into the first parking garage. “
Do you know what the big trucks do, and anything about the portable plasma cannons? The tanks we know about.”

“Sure. The trucks are personnel carriers, to cross a battlefield area under fire from artillery, plasma rifles and even small cannons. They can withstand most mines. How many are there, Ethan? That’s an indication of the number of warriors they might have, because they can hold sixteen in each articulated section.”

“There are only three of them parked below us, but there could be more in the next valley closer to the clanship, and perhaps some by the ship itself. There are eight of the Dragons, and they were just shutting four of them down and getting out of them as we topped the ridge. The sixteen portable plasma batteries were apparently already parked, since they have a lot of dust covering them, kicked up by the later arrivals.”

Mirikami had a question for them. “Ethan, the big truck sections you see, would they fit through one of the big portals of a clanship?”

“It would be a close fit, but I think so, Sir. The Dragons would pass through easy.”

“What are you thinking, Tet?” Reynolds asked. He saw Mirikami fingering his lip.

“That’s a lot of bulk cargo for a clanship. There couldn’t be room for much more than that equipment aboard. Perhaps another large truck to make the usual set of four they prefer, and more Dragons or smaller trucks. What I’m leading up to is that there couldn’t have been much room left inside. Certainly not for five hundred warriors and their arms, armor, food and ammunition. That ship could not have carried so many warriors. Four of the large armored carriers can hold a hundred twenty-eight, sixteen in a section, and they need more warriors for the Dragons and plasma cannons. That second clanship that separated from them probably has most of their warriors. They are weaker now than they will be later.”

“Son,” Thad asked, “you said they parked the tanks and trucks then they left on the run, just like they left the other equipment? All unguarded?”

“We can see through the windshields of the big trucks, they are pointed towards us, and the cabs are empty. The mini tanks only hold one warrior and we saw them leave. The plasma cannons have an open cockpit.”

Mirikami nodded. “We’re on the same wavelength, Thad. If we act fast, we could have ourselves a small armored column if we want one.”

Dillon pointed out the obvious problem. “We need tank operators. I assume we can easily figure out how to drive the trucks, and fire up the portable plasma cannons. Particularly if Sarge here has ever looked at them or seen them in action. But tanks?”

Reynolds looked thoughtful. “Our people could never make
any
Krall stuff work for us, other than the standard hand pistols and run of the mill trucks. I’m betting they will work now, since the tattoos let us steal much more complex clanships.” He suddenly seemed more confident.

“The Dragon driving controls look simple inside, two foot operated tread controls that also steer, stop, reverse, and control speed. They have a large shoe-like place for their feet. Pull with the left foot and the left tread reverses, push on the right foot and the right tread goes forward to pivot the tank left. The farther you pull or push your foot, the faster that side’s tread should move, in forward or reverse, and mechanically there is a different feel when the neutral spot is reached, and a tread would not be moving at all. All that’s supposition since we couldn’t power anything up, but good educated guess work and wire tracing.

“Other embedded wiring shows that a left hand control stick appears to traverse the turret left or right. A right hand stick control is for barrel elevation, and a trigger on either of the sticks can fire the cannon. In the lecture I attended, the speaker was unsure of the function for a button on top of each of the cannon controls, because they didn’t operate any motor or switch the tech people could identify. They were connected to a computer module, which was also linked to the video monitor screens, and it had lines back to the turret and cannon control motors. He speculated it was part of a fire control system. The Krall Dragon drivers can hit a target while moving fast, up and down bumpy terrain, turning quickly, and still track a fighter that is streaking in at them, trying to evade. It’s why we can’t get air cover over, or even very close to Krall lines. The tech people thought either button would lock the gun sight onto a target, where it would stay aimed while the warrior drove and pulled the trigger.

“They had to completely cut the tanks up to trace built-in circuit wiring, and found there are two totally different wiring pathways for redundancy if there were battle damage. There are electronic limiters on motors and plasma cannons, which appear to prevent overuse, or misuse. The Krall do not respect their equipment, and would try to go too fast, turn too sharp, or fire plasma cannons before preheating the ceramic barrels, or fire before the plasma reservoir was hot enough. The degree of redundancy and idiot proofing in design appeared out of character for their normal reckless regard for any caution or safety.”

Mirikami had seen the same simplifying design and high redundancy on the captured clanships, and had an opinion. “The Olt’kitapi probably designed all of the Krall equipment, built with their reckless personalities in mind. The designs place safety limits on the machinery that the Krall warriors are incapable of applying themselves. What else can you tell us about the tanks? And speak louder.” He knew the TGs crowding close to hear, were soaking up every word as they moved up the ramps from the underground garage, into direct sunlight.

BOOK: Koban: Rise of the Kobani
2.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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