Thirty-two (part 4)

“Capships are moving in, Marshal.”

Adam suppressed a wince.  “Put Theta Leader on speakers and give me audio control.”

“Roger that.”

He took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly before Theta Leader’s voice abruptly cut in over the command center speakers.  “—guard is moving in, maybe four ships.  My sensors are saying they’re pretty well-armed, but I can’t get a clear read on the power levels of their lasers.”

“How many total, Theta Lead?” Adam asked.

“Nine ships,” she said.  “Bigger ones are hanging back.  Squadron’s keeping the fighters tied up in the upper atmosphere and low orbit.  Bombers are slipping through, but that’s why Gamma Squadron’s scrambled, right?”  Her breath rasped on the comm as she sucked in a deep breath.  “Sir, what are my orders if these cruisers open fire on the surface?”

The entire room went silent.  Gazes drifted toward Adam from consoles, from sensor screens, expectant.  The whole command center held its breath, waiting to see what Adam Windsor might say in answer to a young pilot’s question.

It’s not like we’ve got much of anyone out there that might help us.

“Split the squadron,” he said.  “Half of you make for the Mission Systems station at Cassini VII.  The rest of you head for New Earth.  Everyone takes recordings of what’s happened here.  You’ve been recording?”

“Yes, sir.  You have to ask?”

“Good girl,” he said, eyes sliding shut or a moment.  “Take those recordings to Mission Systems and the Commonwealth.  Take them to the Wanderers and Argopian and anyone you think will listen.  As soon as those ships open up on us, split.  If they start firing from orbit, there’s not going to be anything you can do to help us.”

Dead silence met him, both in the room and on the comm.  A wave of static passed over the line before Theta Leader’s voice came back to them, quiet and sad.

“Understood, Marshal.”

“Good,” he said quietly, feeling sick but knowing that it was the only responsible order he could give.  There was no hope of evacuation at this point, not with the fleet above and the bombers still active.

They may try to soften us up with a bombardment with more than just their bombers if they think that’ll do them some good.  Then again, the damage to real estate so far has been pretty minimal.

His stomach twisted.  No.  They’re getting ready to send landers and we’re in no position to fend them off the way we’ve got everyone bottled up in shelters.

            Damnation. We’ve managed to doom ourselves without even trying.

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