Saturday, March 5, 2016
"What do you mean it's locked?"
Lt. Commander Frank Seldom drifted into the crew module with a look of concern etched on his face. Russia and America had just "gone to war", probably touching off another real world war, over Russia's expanding empire in the Middle East. Syria, Iraq and Jordan had been quickly mopped up in the months following the surprise use of three N bombs, wiping out most of ISIS along with millions of innocents literally in seconds. Nova Russo now controlled some of the largest reserves of crude oil along with their vast natural gas fields, and apparently, that was not enough.
The U.S., arguing it's mandate to defend Lebanon, Israel and it's long time partner, Saudi Arabia, had drawn yet another ephemeral line in the sand, and it had been crossed with the conquest of Jordan. Pressure at home was growing to prevent the literal, Biblical battle of Armageddon by keeping Russia out of Israel, and so no more bluffs could be played. Withered, undermanned, underfunded, and increasingly alone, the US had to act.
"I checked everything this morning according to procedure and it was all good. Sergei was behaving just like he has for the past 5 months, no hint, no glimmer." Mission specialist Maria Blare had spent months on her space born livestock experiments, engrossed in her science, the rapidly shifting sands of political intrigue were moving faster than she cared to comprehend.
"And now we are prisoners in our own space station while a former Russian Air Force officer has control over the largest man made object in the sky." Frank bit his lip and grabbed a tether to stop his forward drift. "Use the B channel and see if you can get in touch with our mission control, give them just the facts. I'll see what I can figure out from here."
Retro rockets made a characteristic momentary boiling noise as a Progress cargo ship pushed itself away from one of the nearby docking rings. The Commander looked out the viewport as the supply ship drifted towards earth, empty of it's cargo and full of trash. Something else drifted into view from the Unity module causing him to curse under his breath.
"He just cut loose the life boat!"
"What the hell is he thinking? Is he on board?"
"I don't know. I'll make the call, get the camera, get pictures. I don't know what good it will do, but maybe it will help later."
"Sir, NORAD reports 4 confirmed launches from Skrytaya Mesto. Standing by to scramble intercept... "
The War Room fell into a sudden hush. The President tented his fingers and frowned. "Nukes?"
"Ah... there is a signature but NORAD says the trajectories are not going to bring these down soon. Looks like orbital insertion. Are they shooting down the space station?"
The robotic arm was in motion again. One experiment module had already been removed from the superstructure, and now it was working on a cargo pod that contained most of the food stores. The life boat had drifted off and successfully reentered the atmosphere, presumably with the one Russian Cosmonaut that had betrayed his fellow crew members by sealing them in their own little prison with a view. Someone was controlling the station remotely.
Over the next hour, four new pods automatically docked with the station at the four vacant docking ports. They were too small to be much in the way of weapons, very much looked like Progress cargo vehicles but with some sort of hopper or aperture on the back end.
"Sid, we've spent billions on the most advanced missile defense system the world has ever seen. Why can't you shoot down four ICBMs for me?"
"Mr. President, we can shoot down anything with an inbound ballistic trajectory. These are all, well, out-bound. We can't touch them."
"Sir, if I may, Roger Eb, Pentagon, if I may, sir, we may be facing an asymmetrical nuclear threat."
"Explain, Mr Eb."
"We are in contact with our crew at the ISS and they confirm four pods have been docked with he station. Our earlier signals along with the readings they are getting now seem to indicate the pods contain several nuclear warheads."
"No sir, you wouldn't launch a missile from space, it would incinerate on reentry. We can send missiles near the edge of space but they travel at a much slower speed and can survive reentry. Sir, my Team thinks these are just little bombs that the Russians are going to maybe sprinkle along as the ISS passes overhead."
"Little bombs, Mr. Eb, as in an orbiting swarm of briefcase bombs?"
"Something like that, sir."