Thirty-one (part 2)

“Too many, sir,” Brenner said, his voice choked and hushed as he reported on what he was seeing beyond the atmosphere.  “There’s too damned many.  They’re running completely silent—not even broadcasting any IFFs.”

“Can you patch us through some visuals?”  Windsor asked one of the technicians nearby.  “I want to see what we’re up against.”  He cleared his throat and then spoke to his pilot again.  “Brenner, I need a rough count and a shot in the dark on the classes of ship we’re looking at.”

“They’ve deployed two squadrons of bombers so far,” he said, the comm crackling and distorting his voice.  “A carrier, three frigates, two heavies.  We’ve got nothing but the orbitals and one of the frigates is closing on the nearest one.”

Windsor grimaced and cut the voice pickup on his headset again, turning to Tomasi.  “Try to raise the Mission Systems installations.  Make sure they’re still in one piece.”

“And if they’re not?” she asked, her expression slack even as she started to try to bring up a line.

“Then we start beaming the feed of whatever the hell’s about to happen here back to their corporate HQ live and let them avenge the loss.”  His stomach soured as the words left his lips but he knew as well as everyone else in the room that there wasn’t much else they’d be able to do.  “If they’re in one piece, tell them to stay the hell out of this until the enemy’s gone.  Then they’re welcome to sweep in and help pick up the pieces.”

A carrier, three frigates, and two heavy cruisers.  Someone’s here to make a damned point, aren’t they?

He turned to the first tech he’d spoken to.  “Do you have visuals for me?”

“Working on it, sir.”

Windsor nodded slowly and toggled the voice pickup back to active.  “Have they spotted you yet, Brenner?”

“I don’t think so, sir.  Are you scrambling some backup for me?”

“We’re getting intercepts in the air to deal with those bombers,” Windsor said.  He could hear his flight controllers getting two squadrons lifting from this base and another pair at two other bases elsewhere on-planet.  “Hold position unless they’re going to see you.”

“And if they spot me?”

“Run like hell,” Windsor said softly.  “It’s all you can do until your backup makes it there.”

He swallowed bile.

We need some kind of bleeding miracle right now or else everything the Foundation’s built over the years dies here today.

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