This book is available now so this is the last Snippet.
Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 41
She gave a command and the left quarter images dissolved, to be replaced by a close up from a recon skimmer of the latifundia of the former ambassatrix to Santa Josefina. A large circle of poorly dressed people, thin, dirty, and not very healthy looking, watched two better fed and better dressed men writhe on crosses. Long lines of mostly women and children snaked from the latifundia’s mansion to the crowd, bringing food and drink looted from the main house’s cellars.
I was going to get rid of slavery, here and on Earth, too, as soon as I had the power. I couldn’t get rid of it until then, though. I couldn’t even give a hint that I wanted it gone by freeing my own or I’d have killed the chance to ever get the power. Slavery, especially for sex though not just for that, is too much beloved by the class ones to expect them not to destroy me if I showed I wanted to destroy it.
Another verbal command and the scene shifted back to the island as a whole before dissolving again to show an extremely detailed close up of the base. Marguerite could see tracers slashing back and forth as boys in small groups dashed across streets and alleys. Windows blew out into the streets. There were also scattered small knots of her own people, under guard, being hustled to the northern edge of the built-up area, there to join a larger group under armed guard. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought two of the guards, seated, lacked trousers.
A third of the way through already. We’re not even slowing them down.
Two of her own black clad people sat down instead of proceeding to what was plainly an ad hoc POW holding area. That little knot of prisoners began moving again, and quite briskly, as soon as one of the guards shot both of the sit-down strikers, and without any obvious hesitation.
Fanatical, ruthless, vicious children. None more so than his son. Elder gods, what have I created? What have I let loose on the galaxy?
Wallenstein buzzed her own quarters. “How long until your people arrive on the island?” she asked her lover, the Zhong Empress, Xingzhen.
“There was a delay. I am sorry, baobei; but I believe them when they say they’re moving as fast as they can.”
Should I call them off? No, if they can grab the island outside of the base it’s a bargaining chip – no, don’t pretend you know things you don’t – it could become a bargaining chip. Let it ride.
By that time the base was effectively all in the Balboans’ hands. If there were any holdouts, nothing her ship or the skimmers could sense indicated they were doing anything but trying to hide.
At the same time, from the large collections of non-combatants that had been held outside of the ridge encircling the base from the land, steady streams began moving inward. She watched the progress for perhaps twenty minutes before she identified for a certainty that the civilians – And no, now the prisoners, too – were being marched to the large central park inside the base. She didn’t notice that two small vehicles likewise began moving toward the base’s park. She certainly didn’t have the kind of resolution to see that Hamilcar had likewise shown up at the park.
Still, she was unsurprised when she asked, “Where’s the communicator I gave to Carrera right this minute?” to receive the answer, “At the central park.”
“Put me through to him.”
“Hello, High Admiral. How can I help you this fine day of liberation?”
Little bastard sounds smug enough.
“What do you want?”
Hamilcar glanced over at Irene Temujin, about whom he knew nothing beyond the spiderweb of scars she’d shown him across her back. “After what I’ve seen and been told here, High Admiral, I want your flayed hide nailed to a wall. I will settle, however, for what my father demands: Your unconditional surrender and the unconditional surrender of the entire Peace Fleet, your holdings on the planet, your files, your embassies, and all of your personnel.”
“I think that’s a little ambitious, young man.”
“Is it? Is it once your crews know that if those ships do not surrender, I will, if necessary, set off one or two large nuclear weapons and kill their families here, in toto.”
Impatiently, Ham interrupted with, “Hajar, High Admiral. You know, if anyone does, who destroyed Hajar. You know why. And you know where the nuke we used came from. Lastly, you know we have more.
“Of course, we’ll only use the nukes if we’re rushed. Hmmm…you get visual on this thing, right? Yes, of course you do. Watch this, High Admiral.”
Ham turned the communicator around to one corner of the park. Two men and one woman had been stripped of their clothing and now lay down atop hastily constructed crosses, bound at the wrists and feet to those crosses. He walked forward, to give the communicator a better angle. Then he focused on the woman as a burly centurion took a hammer in one hand and a large nail in the other.
The hammer blurred. There was a loud clang of metal on metal. Blood welled up around the nail. A heart-tearing shriek followed instantly, then grew louder – impossibly loud – as the centurion drove the spike in with another half dozen solid hits.
We have a lot to do, quickly, thought Ham; this is only a part of the play.
UEPF Spirit of Peace
Marguerite wanted to wretch as she saw the nail driven into Claudia Castro-Nyere’s right hand, just outward from the wrist joint. She ordered the Kurosawa to silence as she could not bear the sound of the screaming.
I wanted the evil bitch dead, yes, but not like that.
“You can be as much of a murdering little barbarian as you think you can get away with, young Carrera, but I still will not surrender and, if my people’s families come to harm, your country will be slagged.”
“You sound very confident for something we both know is bullshit, High Admiral. Still, I’ll let you stew for a while, contemplating all the worst we can do. And, you know, while you’re stewing, your crews can stew, too. Carrera the Younger, out.”
What did he mean, ‘something we both know is bullshit’? What does that little bastard know? And how could he know it?
“Khan, what did that little monster mean about ‘bullshit’?”
“I’m guessing that he means we both know the Federated States would go to war, without any restrictions, if we use nukes anywhere on the planet.”
“But he knows about all the nukes we sent down to the Salafi Ikhwan. We sent them because ours didn’t work.”
“Sure, high admiral, but there’s another and more plausible explanation for our sending them nukes from down below; to, again, keep the Federated Stated from blasting us.”
“Maybe that’s it,” she tentatively agreed. But I’m not sure of it. Could we have a spy aboard?
The crowd – half in stunned silence and half weeping – gathering in the central park was on the order of ten thousand or more, between spouses and children, ground crew, grounded pilots on crew rest, administration, etc. It was important to the plan that they be separated out by their connection to the Peace Fleet.
“Shut the fuck up!” The speaker, an intelligence warrant named Robles, stood with a hand-held megaphone stood atop a hastily piled mass of office furniture. “It is critical, both to our purposes and your own continued good health,” the English-speaking warrant said, “that you be segregated by ship and ground function.” He jerked a thumb at a place behind him where the last of three crosses was being erected, each with an agonized class one nailed to it.
“Don’t fuck with us. We don’t care about your special status; you have no special status. You have no rights. You have no privileges. You do what you’re told, when you’re told, and you need not – you and your children – end up on one of those. If you don’t cooperate, however…”
He consulted a clipboard listing the name of every ship in the Peace Fleet. It had never been secret.
“Very good. Now all people connected in some way to the ship, UEPF Spirit of Brotherhood, come forward to me with any bags and children you may have. Quickly now, we don’t have all fucking day…”
UEPF Spirit of Peace
Shorter than Wallenstein by nearly a foot, Xingzhen was still the dominant one. With Marguerite slumped in a chair, head resting on arms crossed on her desk, the Zhong Empress stroked her back and whispered words as soothing as she could come up with. Under the circumstances, these were probably not as soothing as one could have wished for but, for all her flaws, lying was not something Xingzhen generally permitted herself.
“I’ve asked my general staff back home,” she said. “There is a way to save your people and your base. Yes, we can do this.”
“How?” Wallenstein asked, without raising her head.
“I’ve ordered a hold up of the two battalions I was sending. Within two days we will have almost a full division of parachutists assembled on Wellington.”
“I’m surprised it isn’t a full division?”
“It was going to be, but some has to be left behind to make room for a special regiment.”
“Very special. Our army is huge, and our military personnel very high quality. They’re not as well armed as some, but the quality of the people is still the best.
“Even with that, though, some are better than others. This special regiment is a little under a thousand men and has the highest quality manpower in the entire Zhong Empire. It is trained to attack and render useless nuclear facilities; missile silo farms, submarines, air bases; all that kind of thing. The airborne division will land and form up to attack the perimeter of the base. While they are landing, the specials will jump with – do I have to say “special” again? – parachutes that will allow them to glide a long distance. They could go further, I’m told, but they tend to get disorganized and dispersed, so they’ll jump at about sixteen hundred meters and about five kilometers from Atlantis Base. Their jumping will be covered by the mass jump of the airborne division. When the Balboans rush to defend the perimeter, the special regiment will swoop in.
“They’ll be seen, won’t they?”
“Probably not; they’ll go in by night and, yes, before you ask, we expect ten to fifteen percent casualties from the jump and landing alone.”
“It won’t work,” Marguerite said. “What if they get fighters from somebody? Any fighter aircraft and they’ll smash your planes in the air.”
“No,” Xingzhen said softly. “No, they won’t. I have ordered the carrier and the remnants of the fleet to abandon our lodgment – abandon the men in our lodgment – and sail for Atlantis at what they call ‘flank speed.’ If fighters show up, they’ll be met by a fighter screen of our own.”
“But the men in the lodgment…?”
“That war is lost beyond recovery. I’m going to give them permission to surrender, but if and only if the Balboans forgo their demand for ransom.”
Slowly Marguerite raised herself. “But…” she began to object.
“I’m not sure you understand,” the Zhong Empress said, bending over at the waist to bury her face in Marguerite’s fragrant blond hair. “And I know I haven’t been good at showing it – part of the game we play – but I love you and would do anything in my power for you. I think you’re the only one I’ve ever loved. I would do anything.”
“Thank you,” whispered Marguerite, before adding, more loudly, “you must know how terribly I love you, too.”