Canto 85 – Digging In
Outpost was abuzz with activity. The airless world had only limited defense from attack. The primary protection had always been the secret of its location. As an airless world, the surface could easily be lasered or bombarded with no atmosphere to interfere with the destructive force. Tron had ordered the mirror fields raised, hoping that some laser fire could be reflected back into the surrounding darkness. He knew, however, that the only hope he had was in his fleet. If they could somehow destroy enough of Admiral Tang’s fleet to make him feel the losses were no longer worthwhile, then maybe the groundside installations could survive intact.
There were still very talented corsairs able to fly fighting ships. Elvis the Cruel and Apache Scout were both peerless star warriors. But Tron had to believe that Admiral Tang had a few potent killers left to his name too. There was every chance that the situation was hopeless and would end in massacre.
Still, there were a few unknowns on Tron Blastarr’s side. The crazy alien star ship known as the Megadeath was the most agile killing machine that Tron had ever seen. The goofball rock-and-roll crew that flew it for Trav Dalgoda was now very adept at handling the alien thing, and Tron had kept them to help in his mad last stand. They were not smart enough to be scared of the upcoming battle.
He was able to send his son onward to Ged Aero on the unknown planet Gaijin, where little Artran would be safe and well-cared-for long after Tron and Maggie’s bones littered the airless sands of Outpost. He had put Artran on the scout ship himself with the somewhat strange courier that had come with the ship from Don’t Go Here. This Bill the Postman really worried Tron. The man was not entirely right in the head somehow.
“Boss,” said Hassan the Elf, breaking Tron’s train of thought, “I have made something that I think might be of help.”
Tron looked at the child-like Peri and the invention he was now holding up. “A suit of armor?”
“Yes, boss. A special kind of suit of armor. It is made up of nanites.”
“Yes, microscopic robots that share a command pulse and can reform themselves into any sort of armor that might be needed.”
Tron looked quizzically at the bluish suit of nanite armor. “How do you make it work?”
“Well… for instance, if you want it to form an anti-grav pack on the back, you just say FLIGHT-PACK.” The suit rearranged itself at Hassan’s command, and an anti-gravity flight-pack instantly took shape on the back side of the armor’s breastplate.
“Does it have weapons?”
“FUSION-GUN!” said the elf with a grin. A man-portable fusion generator and its discharge-barrel formed on the pauldron.
“That’s really good, Elf. That will help. But one isn’t going to be enough to save us.”
“Oh, that’s the best part,” said the Peri. “Nanites can replicate themselves from raw metal ore. Since the planet is mostly metal and crystal, we can set them to making a million copies of themselves in an hour. You have to specify the number, though. We wouldn’t want the little buggers transforming the entire planet.”
“Amazing,” sighed Tron. “If only I had a million commandos to fill them with.”
At that moment Maggie came trotting up to him with a handheld communicator. “The call is for you,” she said, looking grim. “Arkin Cloudstalker has found some allies to help us fight. He says he will visit one more planet and then be on his way to this system. Admiral Tang is sure to follow.”
“Yes. Sure to follow,” said Tron automatically, still gazing at the grinning elf and his newest invention.