Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chapter Fifty-two

The seven soldiers who would make up the assault team met under the canvas tarp next to the big boulder. Swain had volunteered, as had Juan Lopez, a second lieutenant who had been a senior sergeant before receiving his commission, and Pierre Zouave, the second most senior NCO in the company. Hyland hadn't objected to any of the volunteers because it meant that she didn't have to pick them.
Hyland stood with her back to the Citadel. She didn't want to have to look at it because she believed that she would be dead the moment she reached the point where lasers could target them and the problem would be inherited by her second in command. She was trying to ignore the feelings, telling herself that if it was true, then Monier would know it and would have warned her. To this point Monier had said nothing so she took that as evidence the mission would succeed.

She thought about that for a moment and realized that she was arguing both sides of the question. She had no clue about the future. All she could do was attempt to stack the deck in her favor and hope for the best.

"I don't have much of a plan," said Hyland by way of preamble. "We'll follow standard tactics, that is, use whatever concealment we can find and work our way toward the walls of the Citadel. Once we reach the walls, we'll search for a way to penetrate it." She stopped talking and looked at each of the others. She shrugged and said, "I can't see where there is much of a chance for success, but we have our orders. Anybody have anything to say?"

"We are going under the cover of darkness?" asked Zouave.

"For whatever good it'll do. Captain Price has pointed out that the enemy will have enough advanced equipment that we'll probably show up as plainly as if we were approaching under the noonday sun."

"We could maybe use the heat to mask our approach," said Swain.

Price said, "Actually, once the sun is gone, the lava will be radiating heat back into the atmosphere. That should mask us from infrared. At least early in the evening."

"But there are a hundred other ways to detect us," said Hyland. "Anything we do to hide ourselves, that is, anything we do that upsets the natural balance, might call attention to us. I think our best bet is to move slowly and hope the enemy doesn't view us as a threat because there are so few of us and we are moving so slowly."

"That's the whole plan?" asked Lopez. "Move quietly and not look hostile?"

"Basically," said Hyland. "I'm open to any and all suggestions."

"Well," said Swain, "I would think, if we want to look non- hostile, we should take it all the way. No weapons. Move openly and not search for cover. Just head for it like a walk through the park."

"Oh, for Christ's sake," said Zouave. "This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard."

"From now on," said Hyland, "we'll stick to relevant comments." She looked pointedly at Zouave.

"Mine was relevant," said Swain.

"Okay," said Hyland thoughtfully. "I can see that. Move slowly and openly with nothing that looks like a weapon. Maybe a knife but one of those new plastic jobs that the Fleet is trying to palm off on us. Nothing that would give a hostile signature on any of the sensors they must have in there."

"With only good thoughts in our heads," said Price. He wasn't sure if that had been sarcastic or not.

"Something like that," agreed Hyland.

The discussion seemed to die at that point. No one had anything more to say. Hyland looked into each of the faces and wondered what they were thinking. Finally she said, "Everyone grab some chow and sleep. We'll form at 2145 and jump off at 2210. Any questions?"

There were none.

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