Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 12


Marqueli was speaking on the stage now, talking about truth in advertising, her relationship to Carrera through his wife, Lourdes, but also how Jorge’s medical care preceded any relationship except that of soldier and commander between him and the Duque. 

“You’ve heard all this before, I suppose,” said RSM Ayres to Hendryksen.

“One version or another of it, yes.  This isn’t the persuasive part.  That comes when they start talking right and wrong, nature and nurture, and sacrifice and power.”

“Do you buy it?”

“Some of it,” the Cimbrian admitted. “Okay, most but not all.” 

“Are the men going to buy it…no, let me ask a different question; before we speak of buying what are they selling?”

“The short version is that service must come before citizenship, and that citizenship in the absence of service, and in the appearance of democracy, is a fraud.”

Ayres digested that for a long moment, then asked, “And the men, do they buy what the Balboans are selling?”


Cristobal Province, Balboa

While there has never been any such thing as the old joke about “mess kit repair battalions,” there actually were military organizations that did similar things.  Sometimes called “salvage” units, of whatever size, these took damaged, lost, and abandoned equipment and supplies, inventoried them, assessed them, repaired them and issued them at need.  Typically, these had a very close relationship with quartermaster laundry and bath units, because when front line soldiers reduced to rags finally got a shower, their own uniforms were past repair and would be replaced with either new uniforms or used ones from the salvage unit.

Currently four of the five corps level salvage maniples were busily inventorying and amassing the almost incredible haul from the Tauran Union’s late expeditionary force.  There were perhaps as many as one thousand armored vehicle, heavy and not so heavy, a similar number of serviceable or repairable guns and mortars, thousands, tens of thousands, of tons of ammunition, small arms galore, radios, wheeled vehicles, helmets, rations, medical supplies…

“But rounding up the small arms is the priority right now,” said the commander of one such company.  “Small arms and their ammunition.  Oh, and the mortars, anti-armor weapons, and the ammunition for those, too.”

“Kind of strange, sir, isn’t it?” asked the maniple’s first centurion.  “I mean, you would think we’d prefer to feed the Taurans their own food and to use their medical supplies, but, no, we’re salvaging rifles, machine guns, mortars?”

“We only serve and obey, Top.”

“Yes, sir, but, you know, sir, it’s going to be a while.  If we put one hundred men on the small arms alone, and those just in this sector, it’s going to take a month just to clean and preserve them and match them to their ammunition.”

“Yeah, Top, I know.  How about the containers and desiccant? Any word?’

“Just that they’re coming, sir.  Maybe in the next day or two.  Oh, also corps told us we could coat the weapons with used motor oil in a pinch.”

BdL Dos Lindas, Mar Furioso

It’s been, thought Fosa, a very long time since we’ve gone through this ballet.

The dance, the ballet, he had in mind was the complex drill of fueling, arming, and, where needed, moving to the deck the light attack aircraft, the Turbo-Finches and Gabriels scheduled for the attack on the Zhong destroyers covering Marciano’s northern, seaward flank. 

Though it had been months since they’d had to do anything of the kind, the crew had never really stopped practicing during their internment.  As they had regularly, during the interment – standing behind Fosa, who occasionally glanced their way – the handlers coordinated – choreographed – every step, using models laid out on mockups of the flight and hangar decks.

The whole show was made more complex by the need to maintain the existing aerial anti-submarine screen even as the strike package was launched and assembled.

 It’s just possible that they’re in the best form they’ve ever been. 

Anyone else watching the show would have had to agree, as the ballet played out, with the elevators rhythmically lifting aircraft to the flight deck, fuel hoses dragged by men in purple snaking out to top off the fuel tanks, red bedecked ordnance crew moving, jacking up, and attaching missiles to hardpoints.

This last process was particularly of interest to Fosa, as some of those missiles cost a good deal more than the aircraft carrying them.  In particular, the six Shiva-class anti-shipping missiles cost about as two thirds as much as all the other aircraft in the strike package, combined.

Part of the ballet was, of course, getting the aircraft airborne.  This, given the kind of aircraft – basically derived from crop dusters – was much easier for the Dos Lindas than for any other aircraft carrier afloat on the planet.  No catapult was needed, only that the ship nose into the wind, that the yellow suited aircraft handlers ensure the way was clear and give the pilots their signal. 

On the other hand, even as improved, the Gabriels could only carry one missile when launched from the Dos Lindas, rather than the two they could have carried if flying from a fifteen hundred or so foot hard surfaced airstrip on land.  Even at half a load, and even with a strong headwind, the planes typically waddled down the flight deck, and almost disappeared as they sank toward the ocean before rising up again. 

Near gives me a fucking heart attack every time I watch one of those.

Turbo-Thrush Number 72

Number 72, which was the tail number of the plane and had nothing to do with its serial number of the seniority of the pilot, was the command bird for the mission.  As such, it carried, uniquely for this strike, in addition to the pilot, both several extra radios, a senior officer to use them, and a horribly cramped rating to assist.

It had been the first up, piloted by a Warrant Officer Valdez and carrying a Legate Third named Cortez.  The rating also had a name, but nobody much cared about it except for him. 

Both the Gabriels and the Finches were economic with fuel even as they carried a good deal of it.  Their loiter time was impressive, at seven hours for the latter and five and a half for the former.  What made that important was that even taking half an hour to form up the package, they had lots of range still.  This mattered because the Zhong destroyers they were aiming at were a good two hundred nautical miles away.

Zhong Destroyer Changsha, Off the northern coast of Santa Josefina

A frowning helmsman kept his eyes to the front and his ship on course as his captain scanned forward over the calm sea.

There were two destroyers, only, in Captain Liu’s flotilla, Changsha and Chengdu.  In line abreast, they moved toward a rendezvous with the enemy fleet.  Water feathered up to either side of Destroyer Chengdu’s bow as it sliced through the waves at about one quarter speed.  Looking at the sister ship’s bow wave from the side, Liu thought, One quarter speed is plenty; no need to hurry to die.

The Zhong skipper was under no illusions about his chances; they were nil.  He once again glanced left from the bridge at Changsha’s sister ship and thought, I could run.  I could just scuttle the ships and claim we were sunk.  But then someone would talk; someone always talks, and I’d be lucky if my children were not skinned alive. 

And the enemy?  Yes, they’re primitive, too, as much so as, or even more than, my ships.  But they have the numbers. They own the water underneath me, if those Gallic reports are to be believed.  Then, too, something destroyed the Wu Zetian.  My cousin, commanding the Mao Zedong, could not be very specific, but he was nearby when the Wu was destroyed and he warned me to watch out below.  And behind. 

Maybe worse, they own the skies above me.  Primitive aircraft?  Yes.  Not built to purpose?  Yes.  But in the kingdom of the blind…and we are so blind…

I know they’re out there, both my sonar and my radar know exactly where they are, ships out of range of anything I can throw at them.

Of course, we don’t know where their submarines are.  Now will we until it is far too late.  Even so, I’ll make a guess that it’s not submarines I have to worry about today, that those are staying fairly close to their irreplaceable carrier.

So no, my death will come from above…unless they want to send their heavy cruiser to destroy me.  It can; it not only outguns both my ships taken together, it has enough armor to take the hits we cannot. 

    I can just picture the command and staff meeting before the Balboans sailed out, with submarine captains getting into fistfights with the cruisers skipper and the pilots, because everybody wanted the chance to kill us and any of them can do the job.

    The image in his mind of that supposed argument made Liu laugh.  Thought the helmsman, If the skipper can laugh, what do I have to worry about?  His previous frown was replaced with a slight smile.