Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chapter Twenty-two

Our scouts have punched through the first line of defense of the enemy," said Stone over the intercom.

"Well," said Price, "I guess we're committed now."

"How long before planetfall?" asked Coollege.

"About an hour. Let's make our final check of the gear."

Monier pulled her pack from under her seat, opened it and sorted through it. She pulled out her pistol, held it up and then slammed a magazine home. She set it on the seat beside her. "I'm ready."

"Don't chamber a round until we're on the ground."

"I've had enough training to know that we don't want the thing to fire in here," she said. "They did teach that much in the introduction course."

Price touched each of the items in his pack as if to reassure himself they were real. He pulled his pistol out, checked it carefully and then set it, and a full magazine on the deck near his feet. He sometimes wondered why the command insisted on using the outdated weapons. The laser pistols and rifles, which could sometimes draw power from the environment depending on the circumstances, were considered too advanced. Until they knew what the level of the technology of the enemy was, they used the old stuff. It was effective, it just had resupply problems.

Coollege stood up and said, "I'll check the rifles and the grenade launcher."

Price raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Grenade launcher. I didn't request one."

"I did," said Coollege. "I don't like to leave these things to chance."

"Come on, Jackknife. A grenade launcher. Who's going to carry the ammo for it."

"Ten rounds apiece. The ammo doesn't weigh all that much. It's no big thing."

"Okay," said Price grinning.

As Coollege moved to the rear of the small cabin, Monier leaned close to Price. "What's she so paranoid about?"

"I think it has to do with training. She made a big deal of sneaking a jackknife on a survival mission once. Everyone thought it was great so now she tries to think of things that others overlook. The grenade launcher is the latest of her tricks."

"A grenade launcher could give us a very nice edge in some situations," said Monier.

"Not for a sneak and peak intelligence mission," said Price. "We're supposed to be subtle. There is nothing subtle about a grenade."

Coollege returned and said, "The rifles are ready. Ammo is next to them." She then slipped her pistol into a shoulder holster worn under her black clothing. She shifted the gear in her pack slightly, and the closed it up, checking the balance of it. She slipped it on her back, adjusted it until it was comfortable and then took it off again.

"I'm ready," she said.

Price closed his pack and sat back. "At this point," he said, "I always feel there is something else that should be said, but I never know what it is."

"Then maybe we should just sit quietly, Tree," said Coolledge.

"Maybe so."

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