chapter 172: Mike waits for news – has Darcy made it out of the PK prison camp?

== 2064: Northern Logistics offices, Aristillus, Lunar Nearside

Mike turned the stylus over and over in his hands, occasionally pausing to tap it against the table, then rolling it through his fingers again.

The raid should be done by now, the Deladrier on its way back to Aristillus.

He’d gotten reports, a dozen of them – but the one report he wanted, a call from the Deladrier saying that everything was OK, that Darcy was on board, hadn’t come.

There’d been a call from the team just before they deployed, relayed back through the cell phone network, into the cloud, and then to the moon by laser link from a forwarder in Africa.

Then there’d been video from the small stealth drones, the billowing gray mushroom clouds confirming that the gravel boats had hit their targets.

Finally the status reports from the Deladrier’s on-board systems. Those reports had been accidentally binned into a spam folder for seven hours before the raid planning group had found and recovered them.

Mike tapped at the screen with his stylus, bring up the reports yet again. There were tantalizing hints of a story, but not enough to let him – or anyone – understand what had happened. The time-stamps showed the Deladrier was on the ground far too long. The landing gear readouts showed too much weight on board – but then the weight falling, a few hundred kilos as a time.

Then more hints – dumps of proposed flight plans, overrides deactivated on the AG drive.

And then nothing. The last data packet was truncated, cut off mid stream.

The planning group had been over them and over them, looking for clues. Mike hadn’t been able to add anything to their research, despite trying time and time again. He scanned them one more time, trying to tease meaning out of it.

Had the ship launched? Or was it still on the ground in Haiti, the ADF troops dead, Darcy and the rest still captives ?

There was no way to tell. Even the video feed from the drones didn’t help – their view of the prison had been obscured by blowing gray dust shortly after the gravel boats hit, and then – one by one – they’d gone dead.

Mike checked his inbox folder, willing some new message to arrive.

None did.

Darcy had to be alive and on her way back to Aristillus. She had to be.

And yet there was not a single piece of data to show that it was true.

“Mike?”

He hadn’t eaten in the 24 hours since the gravel boats hit. In fact, he hadn’t eaten since about several hours before that – the kinetic energy weapons had still been inbound when he’d last picked the smoked salmon off of a bagel and eaten some, toying with the rest.

“Mike?”

He looked up at one of the ADF guards. “Huh?”

“You’ve got a visitor.”

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