T2

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T2 - COUNTERMEASURES

When Robyn's tiny shuttle passed over Fylingdales Moor in Yorkshire, England, it was picked up on the pyramidal, building-sized FPS-85 phased-array tracking radar, and again by the FPS-92 at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. When Robyn crossed over the west coast of the United States, sha was drawing near to the unidentified track that was Exiler and both contacts flew right over the Goldstone Deep Space Tracking Station near Death Valley, California, for a final refinement of the orbital information. All this was collected by SpaceTrack and forwarded to the President. Soon after that the launch laser at Cape Canaveral was unlimbered.

Over the Great Plains Robyn and Hope were taken aboard and their shuttle abandoned, with no time for introductions. They were strapped in to webbed slings on the flight deck and the double hatch was slammed shut, leaving Kushiel, Barakiel, and all the dependents in the aft section of the ship. Lahatiel ordered the separation of the flight deck section but it was a gentle motion. By the time the ship crossed over the Appalachian mountains, the two sections were fully one hundred feet apart.

In the growing gap Suriel and Barakiel steadily released "chaff" from special dispensers in both sections. Chaff was little aluminum strips, short lengths of aluminum wire, aluminum balls the size of a pinhead, and clouds of aluminum powder. To the eye the space between the two sections of the ship glittered in the sun with fairy dust. To radar, the chaff appeared solid. In the microwave spectrum, Exiler appeared to have stretched to a hundred feet longer than it really was.

The tracking system for the laser didn't care how long the ship looked. It was designed for one purpose, to keep the laser locked onto big water tanks as they flew into the Florida sky. All the tracking system had to do was keep the bore-sighted laser focused on the exact center of the image returned by the radar. But the exact center of the radar image of Exiler was nothing but chaff floating in space between the drive module and the command module. The crew knew when they were being hit by the laser when the monitor screen of the view aft suddenly shifted colors. All those sparkling pieces of chaff were glowing red, much brighter than they had been even in the sunlight. The laser light was so strong radiation pressure was actually pushing the chaff out of the gap, the smaller pieces faster than the larger ones. The change was slow, but still quite visible.

Adnarel complained that the chaff was going to be entirely dispersed before they got over their horizon. Don't worry, Robyn reassured har. It's actually a nice touch. To radar it will look like they cut us in half.

In just ten minutes the ship had dropped sufficiently close to Florida's horizon that air and dust made the laser ineffective. Barakiel skillfully drove the aft section of the ship back into a hard lock with the command module, then he and Kushiel came forward to greet Robyn and Hope.

I'm Robyn Lokken, sha said, and on behalf of all the bene elohim here in Sol system allow me to thank you for your very important role in Project Hope. This little girl is Hope herself, the one and only, and believe it or not she is an artificial person. I guess the term is android.

Remarkable, Lahatiel said. She looks absolutely authentic. Lady Robyn, allow me in turn to introduce the crew of my ship. I am Ophan Lahatiel Gerash, commanding. This is Hashmal Suriel Larund, my operations officer. Over there is Erel Barakiel Antero, my navigator. Next to hym is Sar Adnarel Sala, my weapons officer, and this is my engineer Ravmalak Kushiel Bellon. We also have dependents aft who would love to meet you.

Robyn said, Hope, remember I said people were trying to find you? I want you watch out very carefully for this yang, he is the devil. Literally.

Robyn! You say 'devil' like that is a bad thing, Abaddon retorted.

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