13: The Line
by chaos_eternus

Chapter Twenty-Nine

"Boss,"

Gibbs glanced up questioningly as McGee strode into the temporary office, his voice sounding a little shaken and voiceless.

"I've got something a little interesting here,"

"Well?" he asked holding back his impatience as the younger agent began to fiddle with his computer.

"I found a map in the office of one of Ba'als tools, appears to be…"

The main plasma screen flickered into life and he glanced across then his eyebrows rose slightly, and he nodded, "an airport or airbase."

"Exactly,"

"Do we know which one?" They would have to have security raised there at the least…

"Yes, it's St Athan,"

A major TSS base? Gibbs carefully kept the expletives he learned as a Marine inside his head,

"Or it was."

"Was?" he asked sharply, perhaps a link to a past attack? Something else they could pin on the Goa'uld?

"The base was rebuilt after the NID attack and this map shows the base as it was before that."

He considered this for a moment, his eyes tracking across several very distinctive marks on the screen, "that looks like a plan of attack."

"It is," McGee replied grimacing, "in fact it's the plan of attack. The new forensics guy confirms it… this map was created before the raid was launched…"

"And it matches the initial assault," that he didn't need to check, at least not straight away. This was starting to make a certain horrible sense… "Some of the rats escaped the clean-up."

"Ah,"

Oh he wasn't going to like this was he? Whenever McGee got that tone in his voice… "Go on."

"This file came from Major Carlos O'Byrne's office; he was part of the clean up team and several of the notations on the map match his handwriting."

"One of the attackers made it into the investigation team?"

"Ah, yes, it appears that way."

"Nice work McGee," that he had to admit, it was a good catch. Now they just had to find the bastard.

"Raises an interesting question though," Gibbs glanced up at musing tone of his fellow agent's voice.

"Oh?"

"Was the attack really an NID operation, a trust one or a Goa'uld one?"

Talk about your nasty thoughts… and one which could only had one answer "find out!"


"Do you think they bought it?" Thompson asked wearily.

"The public seems to have," Hammond sighed, "for the most part anyway. As to our enemies, only time will tell."

"Time," he winced as he replied, a note of disgust in his voice, "does not appear to be on our side. The attacks are escalating faster then our ability to defend against them."

"I don't see what else we can do," Hammond noted, "if the negotiations with the Orbanians are successful, then we will gain more resources and more importantly, access to some top notch researchers."

"But the largest ship they have is a frigate at best, most of their fleet is made up of corvettes and patrol ships and obsolete ones at that. Their defences will need to be upgraded… Yes, I will welcome them with open arms but their joining isn't going to solve all our problems and will more then likely exacerbate some."

"Perhaps, but I don't see what else we can do,"

Thompson shrugged, "once the Orbanians are in, we should put a major effort into getting their own shipyards up to date. Yes, they're not capable of building larger hulls but if we can get their militia up to scratch swiftly then perhaps we can get them working on building up our fleet of smaller ships as well. At least they have their logistics up to scratch."

"Even so, the kind of crash building program we know is necessary will stretch their capabilities, particularly their supplies of Naquadah."

"That," the Admiral noted swiftly, "has almost always been our problem as well. We use that damned mineral for too much, from our damned weapons systems to our power supplies. All the Goa'uld or Cylons would need to do to defeat us really is cut us off from our supplies of Naquadah and whilst that might slip past Anubis, I doubt it had escaped Maktenos's notice."

"Agreed," Hammond nodded shaking his head, "bit I don't see what else we can do. ZPE's are only good in-system and are not particularly suited for most military uses, fission plants are larger, produce less power and have hazards of their own… we don't have a lot of other options."

"Well," Thompson shook his head wryly, we need one but I doubt it's going to happen anytime soon."

"There is a suggestion that we should take and hold a Naquadah rich world for mining purposes,"

"With what?" came the cynical reply, "oh I know where they're coming form with that but we barely have the strength to hold what we have… adding more territory to garrison to that is just not an option at the moment."

"We may have to make it one soon,"

"I know General," came the regretful reply, " Minehead… that little present of Apothis's has kept us going for a while. What is the latest report?"

"Five years at current rates of consumption then the rock will be depleted. At which point we will have no native sources of Naquadah left."

"Hardly native George,"

The General shrugged acknowledging the point, "I know but the point stands. We have several small scale workings off-world but nothing serious simply because they are undefendable from space as it stands. Soon, we are going to have to change that."

"Which means fixed and mobile defences, infrastructure…" Thompson rolled his eyes heavenward, spitting out the final work as if it were an epithet, "cost…"

"That will be something to go over once you get out of here again," Hammond noted.

Shooting a disgusted look around the hospital room, he replied, "Apparently I'm going to be in and out for at least five months now which is going to be awkward. Still, at least I have a damned good deputy…"

"Thank you," came the dry response, "but back to the original subject…she flew and apparently quite well. They're still testing but this initial impression is that we may have made it this time."

"Good," Thompson noted, grimacing as he noted his Doctor striding towards the glass door of the room, "but whatever else you do, don't let it slip that the Lancer is still with us."

"Agreed," Hammond nodded, rising from his seat as the door opened behind him, "and in the meantime, I'll have a look at that other issue I mentioned as well."

Nodding his thanks, Thompson sent a pained grimace towards the ceiling as the crabby old Doctor set his cane against the foot bed and started his work once more.


"Never an easy day, eh?"

"No Lord Holmes,"

"Oh just call me Ernest," he shrugged, turning away from the windows of his office and their view over the surrounding 'city' of five thousand, "if we're going to be working directly together we can dispense with the formalities."

"Of course Ernest," relaxing slightly, Tarva leaned backwards in her own seat, her hands resting on the tablet computer in her lap, "but you'll have to forgive me if slip back into formality a bit, I've always been a field engineer not an administrator."

She got a snort in response, "what do you call what you've been doing at the old Alpha Mine the last few years other then administrating the study and analysis of the same mine that damned near killed you!" **

"At least I could still get my hands dirty," came the dry response, "I rather suspect I'll get fewer opportunities for that now."

"True enough I suppose," Holmes sighed, then leaned forward, pressing his hands together as he gazed upon the scarred face of the miner, "but frankly, what I know about mining… well, I wouldn't need to take my shoes off to count it, put it that away.

With the slow build-up of the mines and the associated industries, refining and the like, mining is becoming more and more important and I need someone in my corner who actually knows what they're talking about!

I will of course be bugging you for assistance in geological matters as well, I understand there is significant overlap there but primarily I know we need to increase our production. The thing is, how and that's where you come in."

"Well, as a start, right now we're actually stockpile ore at 3 mines at the moment because the trains to take the materials to the refineries aren't running often enough."

Holmes let out a loud theatrical groan at that, "that's because the Americans have called a halt on new railway construction and acquisition."

Tarva blinked, "for God's sakes, why?"

"The great American overcompensation…" came the dryly humorous reply, "got to do it bigger, harder and better… or in this case, just bigger. Seem to think that the pristineness of Alpha Prime is a great opportunity to forget standard gauge and go straight to broad gauge for much bigger locomotives, bigger wagons…"

"I see,"

"No, you don't," Holmes grimaced, "but I've had my ear bent over this repeatedly by… certain circles. Oh they're right of course, Brunel proved that but the damned bastards can't decide how 'broad' a broad gauge should be and therein lies the problem."

Tarva snorted, "Well, if they try and get that into my mines we'll have a problem. I don't see any reason to switch those from Narrow gauge, too quick and simple to use in the mines… especially the secondary facilities around the Beta mine, too mountainous!"

"Maybe… but right now you're saying the bottleneck is the transport yes?"

"At most of the mines yes," she shrugged, "of course, the stockpile of bauxite where that refinery is being built is frankly starting to make the slate wastes tips at Blaenau Ffestiniog look positively dwarfen."

" Sir Ector is already changing that," the Lord noted, "but her playbook is full so whilst the bigger parts are now coming in, they're not coming in as fast as they might."

"Frankly…" Tarva grimaced, "we're not having the effect we could. From my perspective, in order for the mining industries on Alpha Prime to be worth it we need to be able to produce a significant proportion of this systems metal needs. The requirement was 20%... with a goal of four years ago! We're closest with irons and steels from what I understand, maybe about 15% of the 'general' grades but no specialist or high quality right now, aluminium… well that's a big fat zero right there and don't get me started on copper…"

"And those are the only three we have active mines for," Holmes sighed.

"So far," came the shrugged reply, "but they are the big three. Titanium and Platinum are probably going to be the next two to go for but the issue will be infrastructure and personnel of course."

"There has been a suggestion that we should be going for building materials next,"

Tarva smiled, "that would be a whole 'nother kettle of fish. Limestone, gravel, sand… no real technical difficulty just bulk, the transport situation will need to be dealt with. It would also help with one of my other major issues at the moment."

He raised an eyebrow enquiringly, "Oh?"

"Workers accommodations," came the succinct reply, "they're up to standard certainly… what little of them there is and that is the problem. One of the subsidiary mines around Beta mine, Beta-four has a third of its workforce living in tents. This is in damp mountainous terrain that sees significant rainfall. It's not healthy and frankly its just not on either.

Add to that the lack of passenger services and entertainment and right now we have a potential powder keg."

"The Charlie Mine riot," Holmes noted with a sigh.

"Exactly," Tarva shook her head, "I may not be the best at judging the situation across a population but right now I'm worried. Add to that the severe lack of a civilian police force, minimal medial facilities outside of Ravenbright and an anaemic fire service… if the ground-side starts to get messy and it may well, I can only see one reaction happening and that's a military response."

"You're not the only one to be bringing such reports to me," Holmes admitted, "its one of the major arguments I've been hearing regarding changing construction priorities."

"Well," she nodded, "I'll get the reports and breakdowns for you. There are potential sources near existing settlement for limestone and gravel for certain. I would bet on sand too but will have to check to be certain… in the meantime I would make one suggestion if I may?"

"You may,"

"Tell those fuckers on the Transport and Services Committee to pull their bloody fingers out and get an answer to you within a month at most… with no long distance roads the railways are too central, they cant waste our time playing silly buggers there. Once that's fixed then we may be able to start fixing pricing down for new facilities and maybe getting some work done on them. I would also suggest that those mythical 'regular' passenger services they've been promising us stop being so mythical… they aren't British Rail or whatever the fuck they're supposed to be called nowadays." Tarva grimaced, "that alone would ease some of the personnel tensions a bit… may be buy us some time to deal with the underlying issues."

"Well," Holmes glanced at his watch, "I'll certainly look into that. In the meantime please get me a report together regarding construction materials sources and quickly. I'll have a Paladin assigned to you for that but in the meantime, I have another appointment."

"Of course," shaking Lord Holmes hand, the engineer swiftly left the office.

** 7: Alpha Centauri