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Organi - Part 5
Working Title - Story in Progress
“Well,” Lieutenant Hovart scratched his chin as he considered the options. “Blasting it won’t do much good, the bombs will just be destroyed by the field.”
“Do we really know that?” Tarp muttered, leaning against the wing of the tasar. She and Hovart were standing on opposite sides of the vaporizing barrier waiting for Terri to arrive in the Alliance cruiser. The rest of the prisoners were gathered around Hovart, the Islanders standing a few feet to the side of the Mainlanders.
“Stands to reason, Captain,” Hovart continued scratching his jaw. “It destroys everything that comes into contact with it.”
“Hmm,” Tarp’s eyes traveled the length of the thin wire stretched between regularly placed wooden posts that made up the only visible sign of the field. “Key is to cut off the power through that wire,” she said more to herself than the other soldiers.
“What about the control box?” a Mainlander soldier called out. “Can’t you try deactivating it?”
“Too risky,” Tarp responded. “The Alliance probably has a security alert on it. If the wrong code gets entered or someone tries to mess around with it, it’ll set off alarms at some Alliance outpost.”
“And we’d be crawling in Alliance guards before you know it,” Hovart added, his voice clearing revealing his disgust at what he considered an unnecessary question. “But what if we blast the box itself?” he asked.
“Still too risky, I think,” Tarp said, looking up when she heard the sound of the cruiser’s engines getting near. “Ah,” she smiled, “here comes the Sergeant. Maybe she’ll have some ideas.”
“Whatever we do,” Hovart turned to watch the approaching cruiser, “we better do it quick. Tomorrow is shower day and the Alliance guards could be showing up at any time to turn on the pumps.”
“Right,” Tarp frowned at the unwanted complication. “Lieutenant, why don’t you organize the soldiers. Everything that needs to be done to leave the camp should be started. You’ll need food, extra clothing, and containers to carry water. The cruiser can only carry about seven of you, so the rest will have to walk.”
“Gotcha, Captain,” Hovart nodded. “I’ll get them started right away.”
“Good,” Tarp smiled, pushing herself off the wing and moving in the direction of where Terri was easing the cruiser to a stop. She quickened her steps when she saw the cruiser’s door begin to slide open.
“Advisor,” several of the Islanders whispered the word as if they were seeing a ghost when Terri stepped out of the cruiser.
“It is good to see you again,” Terri smiled at the Islanders standing in the prison yard.
“We were told you were dead,” an young soldier murmured. “We thought Mo-Tah had called you to her.”
“Yes,” Terri smiled sadly at the soldier as she walked closer to the barrier.
“Careful, sergeant,” Tarp reached out, stopping Terri’s progress when she moved past her. “Don’t get too close to the fence.”
“I won’t,” Terri patted Tarp’s hand, her way of letting the captain know she would take no chances with the deadly fence. Turning back to face the waiting Islanders she explained, “I am sorry for your despair but Lieutenant Hovart was not trying to deceive you when he told you that. He had no way of knowing we had survived our attempt to escape.”
“Not to mention, I wasn’t expecting you to follow the captain,” Hovart grumbled, returning from issuing his orders to the other prisoners.
“I am sorry about that, Lieutenant,” Terri grinned, “but I did not know myself that I would do that.”
“Hmptf,” Hovart grunted. “Look, I know you mean a lot to your people, Sergeant, and you need time to explain things to them. But we could sure use their help in preparing to leave this place.”
Terri nodded. “We’ll talk later,” she told the Islanders. “Now you need to follow the lieutenant’s orders.”
“Of course, Advisor,” an older soldier answered for the group. “We are glad that Mo-Tah protected you.”
Tarp waited until the Islander received their orders from the lieutenant and moved away to comply before she again brought up the subject of destroying the barrier field. “Sergeant, do you have any ideas as to how we can eliminate that fence?”
Terri studied the obstacle as she spoke. “It has always bothered me as to where the power source for the vaporizer field was hidden.”
As Tarp listened a grin slowly began to spread across her face. “You’re absolutely right, Sergeant. There are no power relay stations anywhere in the valley which means…”
“Which means they probably got it buried right under us,” Hovart shook his head in disgust. “All these months and we’ve been standing on top of it the whole time.”
“Not quite, Lieutenant,” Tarp said, knowing the man was thinking he could have hastened his escape by digging down to the hidden power source and destroying it. “Crystals aren’t too reliable when they don’t have a direct and open link to whatever they’re powering. Burying them would block the link, so without any transfer stations close by my guess is that it isn’t too far from the control box. But I doubt they would have buried it on that side of the fence.”
“Which probably means these posts…,” Terri said from where she was standing near the wooden posts that served as a gate into the camp. It was also where the single strand of wire comprising the fence emerged out of one of the posts and the other end, after circling the camp, disappeared into the other.
“Are hollow and serve as the conduit from the crystals to the wire,” Tarp continued the sergeant’s thought. “And whatever code they enter in the control box must do something to break the connection.
“Cutting off the link and deactivating the barrier,” Terri completed the thought.
“Sneaky buggers,” Hovart muttered as he listened to the women. “But how far down to the crystals? You could be digging for days.”
“Captain, do think you could adjust the scanners in the tasar to answer to the lieutenant’s questions?”
“I think that’s a real good possibility,” Tarp nodded, she was already climbing onto the wing of the tasar. “Lieutenant, get everyone between the food and shower huts and keep them there. As soon as I get locked on the exact location of the crystals, I’ll hit it with a couple of ground piercing missiles. Sergeant, move that cruiser away from here so it doesn’t get damaged.”
Terri ran for the cruiser while the lieutenant began to herd the soldiers inside the camp to the marginally safe zone between the camp’s largest buildings.
Tarp took time to bend over the gunner’s control panels and lock the required missiles into ready position before climbing into her pilot’s seat. Moments later the tasar was lifting off the ground as Tarp maneuvered the craft into the proper position and correct angle for it’s scanners to be aimed directly at the area of ground she hoped hid the power supply for the vaporizer fence.
Furiously punching commands into her control panels, Tarp was finally rewarded with a faint red glow on one of the display screens surrounding her. “Ah,” she cried out, “there you are.” She reached over to her right, flipping a toggle switch and spinning a dial to full magnitude. “Lieutenant Hovart,” Tarp’s voice carried down to the camp through the speakers hidden under the tasar’s wings. “Do you have everyone in position?”
Hovart walked out from the shadows between the food hut and the shower hut. Raising a fist into the air, he pointed his thumb up signaling the captain he was ready.
Tarp took a look out the tasar’s cockpit to see the lieutenant’s signal. She then twisted her head to look out the opposite side and saw that Terri and the cruiser were safely waiting several clicks away from the camp.
“Alright, let’s give this a try. Everyone, take cover,” Tarp commanded, hesitating only a heartbeat before she pressed the trigger unleashing two powerful missiles racing to the ground below her. As soon as the missiles were released, Tarp punched in a series of commands that immediately guided the tasar skyward and out of harm’s way from the impending shock of the blast.
Terri watched from the safety of the cruiser, having raised its blast shields into position. Two bright flashes signaled the release of the missiles and she was glad to see the tasar abrupt departure instantly afterward. She barely had time to blink before she saw a large, dust cloud form where the missiles contacted the ground. An few seconds later, a tremendous explosion rocked the cruiser and Terri raised her arms up in front of her face, instinctively trying to protect herself from the debris slamming into the cruiser.
The concussion caused by the explosion blew apart many of the huts once used to house the soldiers and the air was filled with flying splinters and pieces of wood. One end of the food hut began to buckle as a corner support was knocked out from under the building. Hovart yelled for the soldiers huddled near the collapsing wall to move away, most didn’t need to be warned twice. Those who were slow to respond to his shouts were literally thrown clear of the danger by the lieutenant.
As the debris began to settle, soldiers emerged from their hiding. Many were disappointed to see the single wire of the fence still in place around the majority of the camp even though the gate was no longer in existence.
“Damn,” one soldier spit dirt out of his mouth, “should have known that Midget couldn’t pull it off.”
“Shut up,” Hovart growled as he bent to pick up a piece of board. With a flick of his wrist the small plank was flipped towards the vaporizing barrier. “Looks to me like the Captain did pretty good,” Hovart laughed when the wood flew through the fence to land in a cloud of dust on the other side.
“It’s down,” another soldier shouted as he tossed a rock at the fence and watched it sail through unharmed. Several other soldiers began to shout in joy as they too tested the barrier and found it to be ineffectual.
“Listen up,” Hovart shouted above the others. “Grab your stuff and get to the other side of the fence. Test the section you go through first then don’t waste any time getting past it. We don’t know if it got knocked out completely or for how long. Meet up where the captain is.”
“Nice shot,” Terri said as she exited the cruiser after moving it back to the camp.
Tarp was sitting on the tasar’s wing waiting for the soldiers to gather after they fled the confines of the prison camp. “Thanks. You okay?”
“Yes. Other than a bumpy few minutes, I was too far away to take any damage. And having the cruiser’s shields up didn’t hurt.”
“Glad you remembered them,” Tarp smiled at the sergeant. It was all she could do at the moment since the gathering soldiers probably wouldn’t understand if she wrapped her arms around the woman and kissed her. Which is exactly what she wanted to do.
“Me too,” Terri smiled back at the captain, not at all responding to Tarp’s comment about the shields.
Before either woman could say more, Lieutenant Hovart walked through the crowd of ex-prisoners. He stopped when he reached the front of the gathering, “camp is clear, Captain.”
“Good,” Tarp turned her attention back to the matter at hand, hoping she’d have sufficient time in the coming days to express her feelings to Terri. “Okay, we better get moving away from here as quick as possible. That explosion must have been picked up by Alliance sensors.”
Hovart nodded, saying nothing as he allowed the captain to give the orders.
“Hovart, I want you to take the prisoners and head to that abandoned processing machine at the foot of the mountains. You’ll find a trail a couple of clicks behind it in the forest. Follow it towards the top of the mountains.”
“Okay. Then what?”
“I’m not sure,” Tarp answered truthfully. “That’s as far as we got before we found the tasar warehouse. Hopefully, once you get over the pass, you’ll be able to spot a Confederacy base and head for it.”
“Any chance, we’ll find more tasars?”
“Doubt it,” Tarp shrugged, “we think it was destroyed after we got this one out.”
“So that’s what we heard a few nights ago.”
“What about the cruiser?” Hovart asked. “Can’t take it into the forest.”
“I want you to pick six soldiers, Mainlander or Islander,” Tarp emphasized. “Let them take the cruiser and head for that low pass over there,” she pointed to the opposite side of the valley. “That’s where I’d put a passage route if I wanted a quick way in or out of this valley. Whoever you pick will need to be ready to fight because I’m sure they’ll run into Alliance troops sooner or later. Once they get clear, they can seek out a Confederacy post. Take the hand weapons with you, it won’t be much but it’ll give you some protection and the cruiser has its own arsenal. Whoever finds an friendly post can spread the alarm about the others.”
“What about you, Captain?”
“The Sergeant and I will take the tasar and do the same. By the way, Lieutenant,” Tarp said, seeing the smile on Terri’s face out of the corner of her eye.
“The Sergeant thinks they’re may be other prisoner-of-war camps. Make sure you pass that on.”
“Alright,” Hovart looked skeptically at the sergeant. “Don’t suppose you have any idea where such camps might be?” he asked.
“In the mountains and by the shore,” Terri answered.
“Covers a lot of ground, Sergeant,” Hovart grunted.
“We don’t have time for this,” Tarp’s eyes narrowed and her voice hardened as she spoke to the junior officer. “Just pass on the information, Lieutenant. Let command figure out the details.”
“Yes, Captain,” Hovart nodded. He doubted the existence of other camps but he wasn’t about to bring the feisty captain’s wraith down on him for voicing that doubt.
“Someone’s coming,” a soldier shouted, pointing to a growing cloud of dust across the valley.
“Hovart, get moving. You won’t be safe until you get into the forest. We’ll get airborne and give you as much cover as we can,” Tarp said, scrambling up the tasar’s wing, the sergeant right behind her. “Get the cruiser out of here before they figure out we have it,” she shouted over her shoulder as she hopped into the pilot’s seat and began entering the commands that started the tasar’s engines.
Hovart picked six soldiers to take command of the cruiser before shouting orders to the other soldiers to begin running. En mass, the soldiers left what remained of the prison camp and hurried across the valley floor to the relative safety of the forest and the mountains. Hovart waited for the cruiser to speed away and the tasar to lift off the ground before he followed the others.
“All Mainlanders,” Tarp grumbled as she guided the tasar towards the dust cloud.
“What?” Terri asked as she tightened her safety harnesses. She was sure that the next several minutes were going to be full of lots of turns, twist and flips and she wanted to be secure in her seat. She just wished she had a way to harness her stomach in place.
“All Mainlanders,” Tarp repeated. “Hovart chose all Mainlanders for the cruiser.”
Terri hadn’t noticed which soldiers were directed to the cruiser and was amazed that Tarp had managed to take note of them with all the activity going on around them as they worked to get the tasar in the air. “That’s okay,” she smiled at the captain’s frustration over the lieutenant’s seeming reluctance to merge the two groups of soldiers together.
“How can you say that?” Tarp asked as she studied the screens surrounding her. “Lock the laser blasts in, will you?”
Terri punched a few buttons before she answered, “Locked and loaded.”
“So, how can you say that?” Tarp asked again.
“Not too many Islanders have seen the inside of a cruiser, let alone know what to do with one. So it’s probably better, under these circumstances,” she added, “that Hovart chose Mainlanders.”
“Um,” Tarp frowned, dropping the nose of the tasar as she prepared to make a strafing run over the convoy of cruisers racing for the camp. “Hang on, honey,” she warned as the tasar leveled out, flying a course that would take it directly over the convoy. Tarp started to tap a button, sending regularly spaced laser blasts at the cruisers. “Darn,” she grunted reaching the end of the line of cruisers. Following her commands, the tasar soared back into the sky performing several complete rollovers and rapid direction changes as she avoided the counter attacks from the Alliance soldiers.
“What’s wrong?” Terri asked through gritted teeth. Her hands were holding on to her safety harness so tightly that the knuckles had turned white.
“Wasn’t expecting them to have their blast shields up,” Tarp turned the tasar around, directing it back towards the convoy. “Lock in the ground missiles,” she shouted, “let’s quit playing nice with them.”
“We’re playing?” Terri’s voice shook with nervousness as she changed the weapon configuration as Tarp asked.
“Having the time of my life,” Tarp grinned, the tasar speeding down on the convoy for a second pass. “Let’s see what you do with these, boys,” she laughed, pulling the trigger.
The ground missiles struck the cruisers, having various levels of effectiveness based on the preparedness of the cruiser’s crews. One cruiser took the impact of the missile on its rear and, with the crew having failed to raise the shields protecting that end of the vehicle, was blown completely apart. Another cruiser had shields completely raised but a missile struck the ground directly next to its driving wheels. The blast was enough to force the wheels off their geared tracks leaving the cruiser unable to move.
“Two down,” Tarp shouted jubilantly, “two to go.”
“They’re splitting up,” Terri cried out. As Tarp guided the tasar back out of range of the cruisers’ weapon, the sergeant chanced a look at the convoy.
“I see them,” Tarp turned the tasar to follow the cruiser that was now chasing Hovart and the other soldiers. “Let’s get this one stopped before he can get to Hovart.”
“What about the other one?” Terri twisted in her seat to try to see where the other cruiser was going but the angle and direction the tasar was flying prevented her from being able to see anything.
“Looks like it’s going after our cruiser.”
“Shouldn’t we try to help them too?”
“Can’t do both at once,” Tarp was busy punching new commands into her controls. “I’ve locked a tracker beam on it so we’ll be able to find it. Get ready, here we go.”
Terri braced herself as the tasar flipped over onto its side as Tarp tried to get as much speed out of the small craft as possible.
“Lock in a blast bomb,” Tarp ordered. “I’m not taking any chances on them getting to Hovart.”
Tarp pushed the controls maneuvering the tasar over until they were flying upside down. Then she flew the tasar up into a loop. Before the loop was complete, she rolled the tasar back over to bring it right side up just as they leveled out above the cruiser. A pull of the trigger and the blast bomb was released directly above the Alliance vehicle. Tarp raised the nose of the tasar and it shot straight up into the sky.
The women were unable to see the impact of the bomb but they felt the concussion of the blast as it caught up with the tasar and shook them violently. Tarp struggled to maintain control of the tasar so they wouldn’t be knocked out of the sky.
“Midge?” Terri cried out when the tasar flipped over, spiraling uncontrollably to the ground below.
“We’re okay,” Tarp calmly called back to the sergeant as she furiously punched commands into her control panels.
Terri took a firm hold on her safety harness as she tightly shut her eyes, unwilling to witness their impact with the rapidly approaching ground.
“Come on,” Tarp hissed through clinched teeth. “Come on.”
As if moving in slow motion, the tasar’s uncontrolled spin began to slow until it stopped altogether. Within a distance no more than a few lengths of the tasar, Tarp’s fist slammed against a button and the tasar’s nose lifted. The craft leveled for a brief moment before it sped skyward once again.
Tarp released her held breath in one long hiss. “Knew you could do it,” she grinned as the anxiety of the past few minutes was washed out of her.
“Are we alive?” Terri asked doubtfully, one eyelid barely opened enough to see.
“Most definitely,” Tarp laughed.
With the tasar back flying level and the ground again some distance below them, Terri began to relax. Unwrapping her hands from the safety harness, she was surprised by how stiff and sore her fingers seemed to be. “Have I ever told you how much I hate to fly?” she glared at the back of the captain’s head.
“Don’t believe you’ve ever mentioned it,” Tarp smirked.
“Well, I hate to fly,” Terri shook her head in frustration. She knew how much Tarp loved to fly and recognized that this would probably always be a matter of contention between in the coming years. ‘Coming years,’ she thought, realizing the implications of what she was thinking. “I’d like to spend the next several years with you, Captain,” she murmured to herself.
“You say something, honey?”
Terri smiled. “No, nothing. How about we take care of that other cruiser and land this thing. I’d like to find where my stomach is hiding.”
“We’ll be there in a minute,” Tarp said as she spotted the cruiser in the distance. “And I’ll help you look for your stomach.”
“That’s good because I’m not sure my legs are going to stop shaking for several days.”
“I can help with that too.”
“I just bet you can,” Terri grinned. “I just bet you can.”
By the time the tasar caught up with the only remaining Alliance cruiser, it had already been put out of commission by the Confederacy soldiers in other cruiser.
“Doesn’t look like they need our help,” Tarp said as she eased the tasar onto the ground and opened the cockpit hatch.
Terri remained in her seat for several minutes just enjoying the lack of movement.
“You want to get out?” Tarp smiled at the sergeant as she waited for her on the wing.
“I think I’ll just sit here a while,” Terri responded, her eyes closed and her head leaning back against the seat. “Unless you need me out there,” she was really hoping that wasn’t the case since her brain was still spinning.
“Uh, no,” Tarp frowned. “I don’t think you need to come but,” she paused. “Hey, honey,” she bent down over the sergeant and lowered her voice, “are you okay.”
“I will when my head stops spinning and my stomach returns to normal.”
“I’m sorry,” Tarp mumbled.
“It’s okay,” Terri blindly reached out for the captain, her eyes still closed. “You did what you had to do. I’ll be fine.”
“Captain?” a soldier was standing beside the tasar’s wing.
“Yes,” Tarp answered but she kept her face turned to the sergeant.
“What should we do with the prisoners?”
“Prisoners?” Tarp turned to look at the soldier.
“Yeah, them,” the soldier pointed to a half dozen Alliance guards huddled together next to the wreckage of their cruiser.
“Set them loose,” Tarp said as she walked to the edge of the wing. “We don’t have any place to detain them. Unless you want to take them with you?”
“Prefer not to, Captain,” the soldier shook his head. “Barely enough room in that crate for us.”
“Set them loose, then. They can walk over and join their friends at Beta II.”
“Cut them loose, boys,” the soldier yelled to the other Confederacy soldiers guarding the prisoners. “Make sure you get their weapons and any communication devices first.”
“Anyone injured, Corporal,” Tarp asked as she dropped off the wing to stand beside the soldier, easily recognizing the man’s rank insignia on his shoulder.
“No,” the corporal started to walk towards the others with the captain following. “By the time they figured out we weren’t one of them, we had already done enough damage to their cruiser that they couldn’t do much fighting. What about Hovart and the others?”
“Never got close to them,” Tarp told him. “They should be close to the processor by now. They shouldn’t have any problem getting into the forest before any other Alliance guards show up.”
“Want us to check on them before we leave the valley?”
“We take care of that. I want you to get going as quickly as possible and get out of this valley before anyone else shows up. You may have trouble ahead of you and you don’t need to be wasting time or weapons here.”
“Hurry up, boys,” the corporal called out to the others after listening to the captain’s wishes. “We’ll be on our way in a few, Captain.”
Tarp nodded to the soldier before turning back to the tasar. She was concerned about Terri and didn’t see any reason to stay away from her any longer. “Good luck, Corporal,” she said as she walked away.
“Yes,” reluctantly Tarp stopped to see what the soldier wanted.
“I just wanted to say thanks for coming back and getting us out of that camp. Tell you the truth I was real glad to see you and that tasar. Don’t know of many that would have come back after getting away. Takes a real soldier to know you don’t leave your buddies behind.”
Tarp hesitated a moment before responding. This was the first time any regular soldier had acknowledged her accomplishments. “You’re welcome, Corporal,” she smiled, unsure of what else to say.
“Come on, boys,” the corporal turned to join his comrades on their way back to the cruiser. “It’s time to see if any more Alliance soldiers who want to play.”
“Be careful,” Tarp called out to the men as the door on the cruiser started to slide into place. “Remember the important thing is you get back. Not how much trouble you can cause the Alliance.”
“We’ll see you back at command, Captain. And you can bet that I’ll tell them what you’ve done here,” the corporal added as he disappeared inside the cruiser.
“Doubt there’s anyone there who will want to hear that, Corporal,” Tarp whispered to herself as she turned to walk back to the tasar and Terri.
Continued in Part 6...
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