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Somewhere near the Southwestern United States and Mexico border

One Year Ago

“The tether is secure. We’re clear to egress to the entrance.”

“Copy, J.” M slid slowly across the tether under the power of the water jets on the mockup suits. He landed against the hull with a muted thud as his boots made contact with the ceramic composite hull just above the large three-meter-diameter hotel window. He quickly attached another tether to a handhold to keep himself in place, realizing that his maneuvering in space would be much more uncontrollable as there would be no water viscosity to slow his movements and reaction forces. “Removing outer casing cover and setting the hull-clamp.”

“Good, M,” J said while doing his best not to be distracted by the bubbles rising from the rear of the mockup space suit’s automatic buoyancy compensation device, or ABCD. “We’ll have to be careful here or we could explosively decompress the chamber.”

“Doesn’t matter at that point,” M said. “We just won’t have any survivors inside the hotel is all.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” V sounded sincere as he tethered himself beside his companions. “I’m just asking, comrade.”

“Just a thing,” M said. “Initiating impact driver now.”

M pulled a cover from the metallic device revealing two toggles and one red-light push button like an old-school video game cabinet. The device was approximately eight centimeters thick and twenty centimeters on a side. It was somewhat heavy on Earth and underwater but in space that wouldn’t be an issue. In fact, it was more likely that it would be molded in place or bolted to the structure. Inside the box there were several mechanisms. A tubular U-shaped handle protruded from the middle of it, large enough to get a space-suit gauntlet around.

“Firing.” M flipped both toggles and then hit the red push button. Four spring-loaded pitons fired simultaneously inward into the handle mechanism, releasing the box from the ceramic and aluminum layers of the airlock door, generating a slight surge in the water around it. “J, ready to blow the hatch mechanisms.”

“Copy,” J replied. He’d already placed the charges in the predetermined critical points along the periphery of the Davidson-Schwab Inflatable Hotel Module—DSIHM—airlock door and was ready. The door was almost two meters in diameter and had been designed for egress and ingress of Orlan space suits. If it explosively decompressed it could kill them instantly from impact. “Stand clear. Three, two, one.”


“Okay, ready to pull the hatch to the DSIHM airlock,” J instructed.

“Okay in three, two, one!” M said, giving the handle on the interior door a twist and then pushing against it with his jets in the forward position. He pushed until he felt it give and then the hatch let loose, releasing large air bubbles from a trapped air pocket inside. The bubbles floated out and upward to the surface of the large rock quarry. Once the hatch was blown clear, he hit his mockup thrusters and entered feetfirst, waiting for his boots to make contact with the bulkhead nearest him. He fired a burst from the modified underwater pseudo-recoilless paintball gun at a mannequin just inside the airlock compartment, hitting it in the chest with a blue spatter. He quickly tethered off to the main entrance hatch.

“Interior breached. Seal off the outer hatch!” M said.

“Got it.” V thrusted into place slowly and sealed the hatch with a metallic thunk that was muted due to them being underwater. Had they been in space it would have been silent.

“Okay, at this point, either the door to Node three is opened from the inside, or it isn’t,” M said. “Either way, we’re going in. J, while we secure the platform start installing the launcher and secure the warheads to the DSIHM bulkheads.”

“Copy that,” J replied.

“Command? K? Initiate the startup sequences for the launcher and begin the restart of the platform systems.”

“Roger that, M. Initiating the launcher startup sequences. Let me know once they are installed on the DSIHM exterior,” S replied.

“Copy, M. Platform computer system restarting…now.” K said.

“Good…” M waved V and J into the now open platform hatch.

“Take the hill?” V asked.

“Take the hill,” M said.

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