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its return, but using that as a means of assuming the reins of government as well. After that, earth could go
to hell in it's own fashion, as it surely would, given their, to him, continued association with their damnable
animals.
What he would do with the ship was still only vaguely envisioned. He only knew that it would have
to serve his purposes better than it ever could for earth, and he was determined to have it. His men were
ready, selected from his own security forces that he had screened carefully for men and women of similar
bent. If Della or Sean had not already taken the ship, he was ready to do so on his own, with perhaps a
little help from them once entrance was gained.
He knew, of course, that the ship contained only a few rangers, the only force aboard trained for
fighting. He could match them and more, but only up to a point. He had no illusions that Captain Hawkins
would allow more than one shuttle to match orbits with the ship if, and when it returned, and therein lay
the crux: he could certainly gain entrance with his men, but the ship was so huge, with so many still empty
compartments, that there was a good possibility that when striking from the airlock in the direction of the
control room he could be taken from behind.
Selene had objected when he drew technicians from other tasks to refine an old invention once used
on earth in a limited fashion. Back in the previous century, Stephen Harris at Stanford University had hit
upon a laser phenomenon which, using the concept of three energy levels in atoms, and preventing the
absorption at one wave level, induced transparency in a gas or vapor. From there, other researchers had
eventually been able to apply the method to solids.
A crude version of the concept, using multiple beams applicable to solids of varying constituencies,
had been used in the earlier days in Moon City for mining and exploration. Passing, a consummate
policeman, had seen to the upgrading of the technology. Using his knowledge of the materials used in
construction of the ship, and in particular, the materials from which compartment doors had been
constructed, now possessed several hand-held devices which could peer through the door of any
compartment in an instant, telling him whether they were empty or inhabited. There would be no wasted
time securing compartments as they advanced on the control room now and he thought that would be all
the margin he required. All that was left now was for the ship to return, or failing that, to strike for the
other one still being built.
Passing thought of himself as a savior, and in that, he was no better nor worse than any other of his
counterparts throughout history. The thought that he might be consigning millions of people on earth to
death took a very small second place to his own sense of destiny. When the ship did return, and eased
into an orbit around the moon, he alerted his troops.
***
Captain Hawkins was cautious, considering what Della had attempted. He had Masters assign two
rangers to the airlock as the Moon City shuttle approached, and held Masters himself and the remainder
of his small troop in reserve. He over-ruled the ranger Captain when Masters wanted to take that detail
himself. He was reluctant to risk him at the outset, having come to rely heavily on his quiet competence
and common sense. Besides, communications from the shuttle indicated that some personages from earth
were present, allaying some of his caution. He had no way of knowing that Passing had already
confronted the earthmen with drawn gun and confined them under guard. He concealed his own presence
on the shuttle, using one of his trusted underlings for communication.
The fight at the airlock was brief, furious, and deadly. The two rangers were overwhelmed, but one
of them did get a message off before he died, alerting Hawkins and Masters in the control room. As the
Moon City force spread along the corridors, Masters moved out to meet them, leaving Hawkins to
contact personnel in the various compartments that were inhabited.
Passing moved with his transparency device-equipped troops, spraying each compartment they
passed with the multiple beamed ray only long enough to see whether it was occupied or not. Where they
were, he paused only long enough to grenade the door and blast the inhabitants inside. He met little
resistance; very few of the crewmen or scientists were armed.
Masters was at a disadvantage, having to travel a long distance through the corridors before he
could force a confrontation. Big Boy did guide his path, though, and he saw with growing apprehension
that as the Moon City forces moved through the ship, they were going to encounter Jamie's compartment
before he could reach them. It was like a replay of the fight with the Moon City mercenaries in the wilds
of earth, where he had had to make a snap decision to concentrate on an immediate threat and leave
Jamie to survive on his own. To add to his apprehension, they would also reach Della's compartment
even before Jamie's, and he couldn't guess what that would entail.
Passing was excited and pleased with the way it was going. They were meeting little resistance and
killing where they did. Already, they were in the living quarters, having taken over the back half of the
ship completely. He swept the next compartment in line with his transparency ray, and was startled to see
the six-inch wide beam pass over and identify the face of Della Worley behind the door.
He held the hand of the man who was getting ready to grenade open the compartment, and instead
thumbed the speaker tab on the door.
"Della!"
Inside, Della had no idea of what was happening. All she had heard in the last half-hour was
Captain Hawkins announcing that the ship was under attack. The voice shouting at her sounded familiar,
but she couldn't sort out whom it might belong to.
"I can't get out. I'm locked up!" She said. She couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Take cover!" The voice commanded, and she retreated out of range. Shortly, an explosion blew
the door in, and she was horrified to see Passing grinning at her through the smoke.
"Here," He said, passing her a spare hand weapon, one of several his forces had brought to arm the
Moon City crewmen. He was grinning evilly, completely within his element.
She took the weapon as if in a trance, and Passing shoved her out into the corridor among his other
troops. She followed them blindly through the smoke, disorientated. Passing scanned two unoccupied
compartments, then shouted in triumph at the next, as the beam passed over Jamie's tautly expectant
face.
"Don't kill them!" He shouted as the shaped grenade placed by one of his men exploded against the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]