Nine hours later...
The Amistad fortress was finally dark and closed, save for a single lit tavern in the Market. The expansive Courtyard was patrolled, but otherwise deserted. The endless crashing water from the spillway had lulled the people to sleep for the night.
Ten kilometers away, the GTA Iron Horse pounded the terra firma, closing fast.
The Bridge was awash in very dim light, as was the SOP for night cruising. The late-night detail made the assignment feel dreamy, unreal. The technical support staff of the Iron Horse worked together over busy comm lines, buzzing with work details.
“Blast shields up, M-One.” Kroh ordered.
Mercenary Frank Hedges (a.k.a. “The Hedge Trimmer”) manned the Tactical station for the Captain of the Guard, Marjorie Skyes, in her absence. He was an M1-class Mercenary, and he primarily conveyed orders to the M2’s, M3’s, and M4’s serving aboard the Iron Horse.
M-One flipped a set of switches on the console. “Shields up, Commander.”
Like giant eyelids, the blast shields locked into position, covering three-quarters of the vast transparent aluminum windscreen. All non-essential portholes along the APC winked shut with armor plate.
The Commander thumbed a comm switch, paging the Garage. “Kroh to away team. Captain Skyes, Mister Steel, prepare to deploy.”
“Ready, Commander.” Skyes answered. “The Cradle is hot.”
“Make this trip worth while, Captain. And come back in one piece.”
“Mister Steel, be careful.”
“Always, Commander. Live long and prosper.”
“Might we all, Steel.” He flipped off the switch.
“M-One, you may give the order.”
The M4’s would report to the Battle Platform. These less experienced Mercs would provide cover for the boots on the ground.
“Alpha team stand ready with hands down, prepare to move up. Omega team, prepare to deploy.”
The Omega complement of M2’s and Three’s would cover the Away team.
Kara Rochelle, dressed in black fatigues and no-nonsense ponytail, called over her shoulder. “Commander, Amistad on horizon! Five point three-zero kilometers, mark!”
The crew could clearly see The Great Border Wall on the horizon, blocking out the stars, and now the tiny points of guard towers along the outer wall of Amistad.
“Mister Gaines, keep her steady...”
Leaning back a bit, Kroh made a fist and pumped his hand open a few times. Men were about to die on his order, again. He clenched his jaw.
“Lock missiles on target.”
The Tactical station’s LCD array glowed red with potential targets. M-One tapped out the red markers overlying the gates of the City.
“Missiles locked on target, Commander.”
Kroh gripped his pad rails. “May luck favor the foolish.”
The Commander of the Iron Horse took a deep breath.
Lily, despite her best efforts to stay awake, had fallen asleep in her dungeon and was dreaming of the Academy. She dreamed she had built it with her own two hands, and it was remarkable, stunning! A beacon of hope in the sunlit Bay...
She breathed the salt air, touring the campus with Verda and ambassador Soval. And Zeph was here! Only that Zee was now a young man, startlingly handsome, with a beautiful young companion by his side...and the Borg were here...No, No, NO, the Borg are here, Zeph!...
The Borg drones crawled about the Academy like ants, the students showing no resistance to the assimilation...Jean-Luc Picard was one of them, he turned his head and spotted her with a red beam...
Chaos reigned, thick and fast. Lily was literally rocked from her bed of stone and dumped to the floor.
Her internal nightmare had been shattered by a real, external one. In her waking moments, surrounded by darkness, she thought she had dreamed the explosion...
End of Book 4