“NAFN Richard Marcinko, this is Corporal Lewis Grienke aboard the MDF packetship Shadow. Coded message for Commander Gabriel. Please respond.”
Gabriel turned to McTiernan with his eyebrows raised. “There’s a man in that thing?”
McTiernan nodded. “Yes, we were as surprised as you. Damned thing is less than five feet across. Must have been like flying in a coffin.”
An image of the drop capsules screaming through the atmosphere of Poliahu flashed across Gabriel’s mind. “Been there, done that.” He squinted at the image on the screen. “Have you responded?”
“Yes, Ensign Giroux confirmed the receipt of the tight-beam with our own. The corporal is asking for you personally and will not release the message without your code.”
Gabriel shook his head. “I have no idea what code he’s speaking of, but I guess you’d better get me on the line with him.”
McTiernan waved his hand to Giroux and the communications officer opened a channel. “The packetship is still half a million miles or so away, so there’s a three second lag each way.”
“Corporal Grienke, this is Commander Evan Gabriel. I received your transmission, but I do not have a code.”
After a few seconds, the overhead speaker crackled. “Thank you sir, voice code received and accepted.”
Gabriel glanced at McTiernan, who merely shrugged his shoulders. “Didn’t think it would be that simple,” Gabriel said in a low tone.
“He found us, Commander,” McTiernan replied. “He probably isn’t too worried about imposters at this point.”
Gabriel nodded. “Go ahead with your transmission, Corporal.”
Before the voice returned, Giroux called out. “Captain, I’m receiving a data stream overlaid on the transmission. It’s clean. Shall I put it up?”
“Go ahead, Ensign, same screen.”
The image of the ship and its statistics disappeared, replaced by a schematic of the solar system. The Ryokou wormhole was a green square, surrounded by several red threat dots, with Mars a flashing yellow circle. Numbers scrolled down one side of the screen showing distances, estimated armament, positioning, open corridors, and other tactical data.
“Commander, I have a message from Major Andon,” Grienke’s voice continued. “He sends his regards and his congratulations for a mission well done on Eden, but has a significant warning to pass along. And yes sir, he used the word significant. You should be seeing the data I collected on my flight out. It was… tight… getting through undetected, as the wormhole approach is littered with Chinese fighters. I’m sure they didn’t see this packetship, but they probably picked up my wormhole transit. I fully expect them to know you’re on the way. Major Andon’s warning is that these fighters have orders to shoot the Marcinko on sight, no questions asked.”
Several seconds passed in silence. Gabriel squeezed the railing hard enough to make his knuckles go white. “Just like Eden,” he said under his breath.
Grienke went on. “I’ve sent you the data on the wormhole area. I’m also sending you data on the Mars blockade ships as best as we can detect. The bulk of the Chinese ships are at Ryokou, only a handful around Mars. They seem to be putting quite an effort into blocking your entry into the system. Major Andon has also enclosed data on the situation on the ground, which is a second packet I’m sending you.”
Giroux raised his hand. “Received, Captain.”
“Corporal, stand by to be picked up,” said McTiernan.
A few seconds ticked by as the light speed transmission went out and was answered.
“Ah, sir, I’m supposed to continue on to Calypso to be attached to the MDF training force. This mission sort of dovetailed with my schedule, blockade or not. Lucky me, right?” A small laugh came through the speaker. “And while it’s a bit tighter quarters than I expected, I’d rather keep going than join you in a firefight. No offense, Captain.”
“None taken, Corporal,” McTiernan replied. “Safe travels, and thank you for the information.”
“Thank you, sir, and good luck. Shadow out.”
McTiernan shifted in his command chair to face Gabriel. “What is it with the Chinese connection?”
Gabriel shook his head, still staring at the solar system schematic. “Wish I knew, Captain. But I get the feeling we’ll find out soon enough.”
GABRIEL’S REVENGE is the finale of the top-rated science fiction/adventure Gabriel trilogy. Enjoy the scene, like the genre? All three are available for all major ebook platforms, and now paperback: http://steveumstead.com/my-books/