Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 30
“If we use some demo to open more holes…” Ham let the thought trail off, suspecting, even before the division chief said anything, that it wasn’t such a good idea.
“Nah, forget it. Explosions sensitize other explosives. A bang near the warhead might be enough to set it off.”
“Shit. By the way, son, who are you?”
“Carrera’s son. I’m in command – at least now I am – of the landing force.”
“Then go worry about that. I’ll buy enough time, at a bare minimum, to get the landing force off. But maybe better hurry.”
UEPF Spirit of Peace
Wallenstein was sitting at her own desk, stunned and even paler than usual, when Khan, the husband, burst in. His wife, Iris, stood behind the High Admiral, her hands on the senior woman’s shoulders and her head shaking in denial. Still on the large bed and still showing herself naked from the waist up, the Zhong Empress’ face had turned to stone.
“Why?” Wallenstein asked, her voice tremulous and unsteady. “Why our base? It has…no…well, no serious…military potential. So why? Why this…this little country? Even the…the Federated States…they never dared…dared to attack us there.”
“They probably don’t know there’s no real military potential,” Iris Khan said. “And some people are not rational, thus cannot be deterred.”
“And some people,” said the stone face over the bed, “simply hate with an inhuman hate, a hate they can never let go. You know, Baobei; we’ve spoken of it. That man hates you as I would hate someone who took you from me, or as you would hate someone who took me from you.
“Now you must rise above this, collect yourself, and defend what is yours.”
Slowly, Wallenstein nodded. Then, looking up at the male Khan, she asked, “What can we do? Can we sink their ship?”
“We have nothing guided aboard except for the nukes,” Khan said. “And those…well…we already know the weapons are unreliable…worse than unreliable, really. I am not too sanguine about the guidance systems, either. And the cost of either aspect failing…High Admiral, it would not surprise me if the Federated States went fully nuclear on us simply for launching a weapon aimed at their planet.”
Marguerite looked imploringly at Xingzhen.
“It would be,” said the old-ivory-skinned empress, “anywhere from a day to several days – I am guessing even as much as a week – before the Celestial Kingdom can assemble and move forces to defend Atlantis base. Virtually every strategic asset we have has been supporting our enclave in Balboa.
“They are coming, love, but it will not be immediate.”
“What have we below?” Wallenstein asked.
Khan, the husband, replied, “With the battalion we sent to secure the embassies, there is about one more battalion on Atlantis but…oh, shit…excuse me a moment, High Admiral.”
Moving to an intercom, Khan raised his own shop and asked to speak to Esmeralda. “Ensign,” he asked, “what’s happening on the base?”
Von der Leyen Barracks, Atlantis Base
Show any military veteran with two spare brain cells to rub together a map of a town in which there is a military garrison and ask him to find the barracks. He’ll pinpoint those in anywhere from minutes even down to seconds. There are simply certain common features, common anywhere and any-when man had set up a concentrated military presence, that screams, “Here sleep the soldiers.” It is partly a question of size, partly of relative positioning, partly of regularity, and partly other, more subtle, indicia.
Thus, when Fernandez’s organization had analyzed Atlantis Base from, among other things, photographs brought back by aerial recon flights, there had never really been a moment’s doubt but that the barracks – they had no clue about the name – was the major military installation on the base.
As such, literally dozens of heavy rockets had been scheduled for it.
The barracks were not, as it turned out, as well manned as Fernandez’s boys and girls had thought. Indeed, there was space enough here for more than twice as many security personal, here at the Consensus’ main base, as it currently held. The rest were either securing embassies, the sixteen deemed most at risk, or in one of the three platoon-sized reaction forces set out to the same end, or out in one of the five small camps a few kilometers inland from the coast. In the barracks themselves, exclusive of dependents, clerks, and cooks, were a scant six-hundred and twenty-seven black-uniformed men and women, officers and enlisted, both.
With klaxons sounding from every quarter, and lasers criss-crossing the sky, overhead, the scene outside the buildings was chaos, with near riots breaking out at the doors to company arms rooms, people pushing and shoving, half naked personnel trying to pull on boots or combat harnesses.
Virtually all the personnel stopped as one as, from off in the distance, there came the sound of masses of very large explosions. The sounds all began and ended in the space of under half a minute. Spontaneously, the frenzied attempts to get ready for action resumed. Ten seconds later, someone – several someones, actually – shouted as one of the parade fields to the south erupted with what looked to be the equivalent of between sixty and eighty sixty-millimeter mortar shells.
But those had to have come from somewhere. Eyes began scanning the skies. It wasn’t long at all before one of the security men pointed upwards to several newly forming dark clouds.
That man hardly had time to shout, “Look! There!” before the clouds descended. Von der Leyen Barracks was shortly engulfed by a storm of shells, little just under four-pound bomblets, that rolled across the scene like a wave. In places, standing or running troops found themselves in the middle of the shell storm, buffeted by concussion from all sides, their bodies likewise perforated from all sides by the masses of average seventy grain splinters each bomblet threw out.
Oddly, there were still men and women standing, unharmed or only slightly hurt. They stood unsteadily, swaying to and fro, uncertain whether to be grateful or not that they still lived. But around them, whole sections and platoons writhed and screamed in agony or bled silently in death.
The question of gratitude was moot, as it turned out, because the next salvo consisted of a mix of unitary high explosive and fuel-air explosive warheads. With terrible accuracy, the high explosive hit the roofs and upper walls of the old barracks, drove in, and then detonated. Light shards and heavy sections of masonry burst outward from the blasts. More Earthers fell under that hail.
The fuel-air explosive, on the other hand, seemed to have been aimed for open areas. Anyone unfortunate enough to be found still alive and conscious quickly found themselves amidst clouds of explosive aerosol and then in the middle of quasi-nuclear explosions. The lucky died soonest, the unlucky got to experience both massive overpressure, massive burning, and then minimal enough air pressure that their lungs were literally ripped from their chests and, in some cases, halfway through their mouths. They didn’t really need their lungs anymore, anyway, since the FAE warheads had ensured a level of oxygen in the area less than sufficient to maintain life level.
Miniature mushroom clouds began rising all over the caserne area, “almost a half dozen of them,” later said one of the few survivors in a position to see. And then came the last rockets, the ones bearing a mix of anti-vehicular and anti-personnel mines.