Penny reached the droid’s hand out over the sheet and at the last moment, hesitated. She pulled the hand back until it was a few inches from the edge of the sheet and burrowed the tendril-camera right into the floor. Angling the tendril around until she entered the couch-space she was expecting from the side.
[Well I’ll be damned.] Penny whispered.
In the space under the sheet of MDF, Penny saw a pair of trip-wires. Literal wires stretched across the underside of the floor. Directly underneath the fibreboard were deliberate reinforcements to allow the sheet to take a lot of weight, but also a series of pressure switches.
[What are we looking at Ranger?]
[I’ve never seen a set-up like this before. But at a glance I’d say that the board is meant to be stepped on several times and then…] Penny zoomed in on some of the features underneath the fibreboard. [Yeah… after enough times those explosive packets blow the reinforcements and the victim drops into this hole and breaks the wires. There’s also a line attached the the underside of the fibreboard, rip that up and it sets it off again. I’m not seeing any means to kill the victim so I can only assume the switches are wired up to the main bomb.]
[Is there always a main bomb in these safe-houses?]
[There is if it’s a deliberate trap.] Penny said. [The goal is to get as many enemy personnel wandering around inside when the whole thing goes up.]
LC Amrah rubbed his chin. [Seems needlessly elaborate. Why blow out the floor at all? Why not just rig the place to blow when the pressure switches have been hit enough times.]
Penny shrugged [Sometimes, if we’d been working on the place for long enough, we’d start doing one thing and then have a better idea, so we’d modify the original as much as we could to make it fit. This trap may well have started out like the one I described until someone decided letting you marines track your feet over a bunch of times would work better. If they’ve been using this place up until now it would make sense for them to allow for their own people to walk around a little.]
Penny withdrew the tendril from the floor and stood the droid back up. She looked around the room and noticed the other boards covering a bunch of random-looking spaces about the room.
[At any rate Amrah has a point, that was a lot more sophisticated than anything Rodgers and I put together back in the war.
Captain Niazi grumbled. [Yeah. It’s almost as though he’s had ten years to improve on the idea.]
A noise alerted the Captain to something just off screen. She lightened for a moment. [Looks like it’s our lucky day. The feed from your droid has convinced High Command this house isn’t worth the effort. They’ve authorised an orbital strike at the droid’s exact coordinates. Let’s get you out of there so the Voiders can start warming up the big gun.]
Penny breathed a sigh of relief and turned her attention on getting the droid out the door and back down the steps. She could feel the sweat around her temples begin to cool.
Penny phased her consciousness out of the droid controls and found herself back in her own body.
She sat at the ordnance control console in the mobile C3 centre on the dropship. “Am I in time for the fireworks?”
Amrah looked up from his nanoputer’s controls. “Jagganath’s main gun is 90% ready and climbing.”
“Gather ’round Marines.” Captain Niazi called. “The hammer’s about to drop.”
Penny commanded her helmet to close around her head and activated her flare compensation systems.
Outside the marine high command broadcast an open message across all civilian frequencies.
[All citizens, a controlled demolition is being conducted in this sector. Anyone currently outdoors is instructed to stop whatever they are doing and look down at the ground for the next thirty seconds. For your own safety. This demolition utilises extremely bright light.].
On the vidwindow Penny could just start to make out fleeting wisps of light. They looked like brief, glowing raindrops falling from the sky. Up above the gunners on the Jagganath‘s primary ordnance used the sighting lasers to double-check their targeting data.
“Main gun is at 100%.” Amrah reported. “They’re firing.”
In the silence that fell upon the scene a pillar of light descended from the heavens, splitting the clouds as it came down. The initial beam was little more than light as the marines on the ground radioed a one-foot correction of the beam’s path.
Then the pillar of light flashed even brighter. The flare compensation in Penny’s visor maxed out for an instant. In its wake came a deep rushing sound as several dozen tons of brick, wood, plexiglass and fibreboard were flashed into vapour followed by a deafening thunderclap as air surged in the fill the void. Penny felt the sound hit her in the ribs as much as heard it.
Every marine in the area threw their arms up in the air and hollered as dust caught in the rushing air was kicked up into the sky.
Curious, Penny checked out the aftermath on the feed from the drone sensors. A flawless pit of black glass twelve metres wide and two metres deep sat where the safe house had once stood.
“Looks like the price of obsidian just went down again.” LC Amrah sniggered.
“All right people.” Captain Niazi spoke up. “We’re off the clock as soon as we get this mess cleaned up. Sergeant, take the Corporal here and get this place squared away.”
Penny slumped back in her chair and took a breath.
Captain Niazi waited for the two men to leave before turning back to Penny.
“Thank you Ranger.” She said. Her voice sounded different. It took Penny a moment to realise this was what Captain Niazi sounded like when she wasn’t speaking in her Command Voice.
“It’s not often an outsider shows concern for my people. That you risked your reputation instead of my soldiers’ lives is a gesture I will not forget easily.”
Penny looked up at her from her seat and gave the Marine Captain a tired smile. “It ain’t over yet sister. Don’t be surprised if I don’t call in that favour before I’m off this rock.”
Captain Niazi smirked at her and the command voice came back on. “Whatever you need Ranger, Force Recon has your back.”