Saucer: The Conquest

Saucer: The Conquest by Stephen Coonts

Book: Saucer: The Conquest by Stephen Coonts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephen Coonts
Tags: Science-Fiction
effort to help the humans regulate their internal clocks. And it was empty. She walked carefully along, past the doors to several workshops, toward the steel door that had been locked yesterday. I’m getting accustomed to the moon’s gravity, she thought wryly. A few more days and I’ll look like a native.
    She approached the last bend in the corridor with care. Two men were wrestling a dolly loaded with something heavy. The reactor! They punched in the code; then one man held the door while the other maneuvered the dolly through the entrance.
    As they disappeared into the space, Charley bounded toward the door—and caught it just before it closed.
    She waited several seconds, then pulled it open and followed them through.
    A few feet past the locked door she passed through an air lock, both doors of which stood open. Beyond the air lock the corridor opened into a commodious cavern. The two men with the dolly were off-loading the reactor. Claudine Courbet was hovering nearby, apparently supervising. None of the three noticed her.
    A control console sat facing a large window. Beyond the window, which appeared to be thick, bulletproof glass or plastic, three large objects were visible.
    One of them looked like an optical telescope, a huge one, at least ten feet tall. The largest machine, if it was that, stood at least twelve feet tall and was covered with opaque plastic. Against the wall was another object, a giant cube about six feet high. Power cables three inches thick ran from it to the machine under the plastic.
    Charley recognized the cube—it was a giant capacitor. The solar panels on the surface over their heads would never fully charge it, but the nuclear reactor, if used to generate electricity, certainly could.
    Above the machines beyond the glass was a large metal roof, one that apparently consisted of panels that could be moved by a complicated arrangement of hydraulic rams. This roof must be the object she had seen from outside and thought was a skylight.
    On this side of the window the control console dominated the room. There were four raised chairs, the usual emergency equipment and, against one wall, hangers that held at least a half dozen space suits and helmets.
    The place looked like an observatory. Yet the orientation was wrong. When the roof was opened, the telescope wouldn’t be pointed at deep space; it would be pointed toward earth.
    Now Claudine saw Charley. She looked startled, then approached her.
    “What are you doing here?”
    “I heard you leave the dorm and wanted to see you set up the reactor.”
    Claudine blinked once. “Henri gave you the door code?”
    “Of course.”
    Claudine seemed to accept that. She turned and gestured grandly. “What do you think?”
    “Wow,” Charley Pine said, and meant it.
    Charley walked to the control console and examined the presentations. Computer screens, track balls for maneuvering cursors, LED readouts, a few analog gauges for voltages…
    What is the purpose of this room? What is that large piece of equipment under the plastic cover? Claudine knows, and she expects me to know. An optical telescope, a reactor to generate large amounts of electricity, a giant capacitor, and…? Is this an observatory? Or a weapons platform in high earth orbit?
    “How long will it take to get the system operational?” Charley asked Claudine, trying to sound as matter-of-fact as possible.
    “A week or so, I imagine. If we don’t have any unforeseen problems.”
    “Aren’t there always unforeseen problems?” Charley turned so that she could see Courbet’s face.
    “Let’s hope not. We tested the entire system extensively in the laboratory, worked out the bugs, then brought the components here one by one. The testing phase took three months.” Claudine smiled confidently. “It’ll function properly.”
    Looking through the glass, Charley carefully examined the metal plates and hydraulic rams that formed the ceiling above the machinery. Then she glanced

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