Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chapter Thirty-eight

Hyland sat in the darkened rear of the shuttle, waiting until it lifted off, drifted forward and out of the shuttle bay, and then unbuckled her seatbelt. She leaned forward, checked on her pack and then turned her attention to Gotler who looked as if she had just survived her first ride on the universe's largest roller coaster.

"I don't see any point in my being here," she said again.

Hyland ignored the comment and said, "Just what do you know about the enemy on the ground."

Gotler rubbed her belly as if she was wondering if she was going to be sick and then said, "I told you all that I know. Everything that any of us knows."

"Why don't you tell me what you think," said Hyland evenly. "Maybe that will be more helpful."

"I don't think anything," said Gotler. "I don't know much either."

"Then I guess you must be incompetent and that's what I'll report to Major Webb when we return."

Gotler glared at her and looked as if she was going to pout. She shook herself and said, "I am not incompetent. I do not like being forced to deal with information that isn't accurate. When you begin to speculate, you begin to make mistakes."

"Trends," said Hyland. "That's what I need now. What are the trends?"

"We don't have enough information to make any sort of forecast," said Gotler.

"Shit. Tell me something."

"I don't believe there will be much of anyone on the planet. I think it is basically deserted. I think the population moved to the Citadel and then simply died out like the Mayans on Earth. They completed their task and then died because there was nothing left for them to do. The had no goal once the Citadel was finished."

"You don't think we'll meet any resistance?" asked Hyland. She had missed the comment about the enemy going the way of the Maya.

"From an armed force? On the planet? No. I don't think there is an armed force there. I don't think there will be much of anything there."

Hyland leaned back in her seat and snorted. "We're armed to the teeth, prepared for the worst, and you don't think we'll meet any resistance."

"You asked me for my opinion," said Gotler.

"And you told Major Webb about this?"

"He was as skeptical as you are. I merely said that based on the reports it didn't appear that there was any sort of an organized military force on the planet although there did seem to be some computer controlled point defenses."

"Well," said Hyland, "it's an interesting theory. Of course we'll land assuming the worst."

"Of course," said Gotler.

One of the sergeants worked his way back to where Hyland was and said, "I'd like to let the troops roam a little. Let them stretch their legs. We keep them locked up in their seats and they lose the edge. They'll be useless once we make plantfall."

"Keep it reasonable. I don't what the aisles jammed. And I want the squad leaders going over the mission with them one more time."

"Yes, ma'am."

When the sergeant turned to leave, Gotler said, "How soon do we land?"

"Invasion syllabus calls for us to be on the ground just before first light in the morning."

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