Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 08
Which, thought Fosa, may become kind of important given that most of the Tauran helicopters were faster than the older modified crop dusters. Wish we’d been able to get more of the Gabriels, but at what they cost…no, not until we can build our own.
The two mixed anti-submarine warfare squadrons that had already sailed out to ping furiously for the presence of enemy submarines reported in that there was nothing out there, which pretty much agreed with Fosa’s existing suspicions.
The question of what happens when a neutral power joins a war, with a belligerent fleet interned by the neutral power, has never come up before. Therefore it was never something the enemy governments even considered. Hence, nobody thought to put a couple of subs out there.
Under his command, the core of the fleet began to make way out of the port, before turning generally east, in the direction of the Cordoban border.
Among the other life forms brought to Terra Nova by the beings called “Noahs,” the most fearsome was probably the meg, or Megalodon, a shark, of sorts, that could range over twenty meters long. It was believed the megs were going extinct, not least because Man had savagely hunted the whales that were the primary component of the meg diet, in some cases and places nearly to extinction.
Megs were hungry all the time, anyway, but when there were no whales around it was still worse. One such very hungry meg, patrolling the mouth of the deep inlet that led to Puerto Bruselas, turned into the port at the sound of the first corvette, churning the water with its propeller.
The meg, being not all that bright, became slightly confused when another propeller began churning the water. It was, at least insofar as a gargantuan shark can be, quite happy at the thought of its upcoming two course dinner.
But then the two corvettes were joined by eight more, along with the more resounding propellers of five frigates.
A whole school of them! Thought the meg. Oh, happy, happy day.
Ah, but, sadly for the meg, both the Dos Lindas and the Tadeo Kurita kicked in to the undersea orchestra. Maybe, thought the meg, I am not all that damned bright. But, ya know, whatever those little things were, the big ones sound a little too big. Maybe better if I go find me a whale, even a small one. Or maybe a couple of seals. Yeah, that’s the ticket; seals.
The meg swam out of the inlet a lot faster than it swam into it.
Headquarters (mobile), Task Force Jesuit, Santa Josefina
Wounded men, dozens of them, lay in rows, perpendicular to the inland highway. It wasn’t much of a highway, to be sure, being macadamized, rather than asphalt, and not really wide enough to use as a two lane road. This was a matter of some concern to the wounded, of course, since a bad road meant a rough ride and, for many, a rough ride meant wounds torn open, bleeding, and pain. Some of the wounded moaned with pain or delirium…or a mixture of both.
Along the road, three civilian Santa Josefinans with horse-drawn wagons were in earnest and loud discussion with one of the Tauran medical officers who wished to rent their carts for cash.
Claudio Marciano, commander of the task force, tried to ignore them all, not out of lack of sympathy for either but because he needed, and they needed him, to think.
“I think,” said Oberst Rall, “that we’re going to end up using this road alone, or maybe this one for the main body but with a group of engineers along the coastal highway crater it behind us and to blow up or burn down every bridge along it.”
Claudio nodded, slowly and deliberately. “I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, Rall, but what’s your reasoning? I mean, we can, after all, move our troops to our destination faster on the coast road. And, as you say, we can make it so the enemy has to crawl to pursue us. So why?”
Rall sighed, then said, “I want us to get under the cover of the rain forest, for protection from a Balboan aerial attack that I am certain is coming.”
Claudio laughed, even though he understood Rall’s position perfectly. Respect for the rulings of the Global Court of Justice had almost completely stymied the air support which had been Task Force Jesuit’s only real advantage over the guerillas. This, in turn, had gone a long way toward seeing them turned out of position after position until the present, which saw them no longer trying to hold but running for their lives.
“It’s no protection,” Claudio finally said, as gently as possible. “He” – He, in this case, clearly meant Patricio Carrera – “doesn’t give a fig – doesn’t give a tranzitree fruit – about any opinion emanating from the GCJ. He despises them. You’ve never dealt with him, have you? I mean in either Sumer or Pashtia?”
Rall shook his head in the negative.
“What would you do, Rall, if you found ‘journalists’ working for the enemy in a war zone?”
“I suppose I’d consult my rules or…”
Marciano cut that off. “I’ve worked with him. Carrera gives them a quick trial and a slow hanging. He doesn’t care in the slightest – no, that’s not exactly right – he takes active and serious joy out of defying and humiliating the whole Kosmo crew, from politicos, to entertainers, to human rights lawyers, to NGO and QUANGO big shots and activists, to international judges.
“So being in the rain forest, while it might have a good deal of benefit for camouflage and concealment purposes, would only draw that much more fire if we were found there.”
Rall looked a bit crestfallen.
“Oh, cheer up,” Marciano said. “We’re going to keep using the main road along the highway, and this piece of horizontal shit, too, despite the risk from the air, because we have to move fast, to get where we’re going and dig in. But I want you to start planning to use this road alone if we must. Moreover…”
A radio operator, sitting in the back of a command car, something like a Jeep on another world at another time, exclaimed, “Sir? General Marciano! Terrible news, sir! Terrible.”
Marciano hurried over. “Hush, boy,” he said, softly, “are you trying to start a panic?”
“No, sir,” said the radio operator, “but…well…we just got word; the Balboan fleet is out of internment and sailing towards us.”
“WHAT!? That’s not…oh, shit, yes it is.”
The radio operator raised an eyebrow and smiled, Marciano’s “WHAT!?” had been louder than his own “Terrible!”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right, son. Rall?”
The Sachsen walked over and stood by as Marciano told him the news, preceded by a “Be very calm and quiet.”
“My God,” Rall said. “How? It’s against…”
“No,” Claudio corrected, “it isn’t. It’s just never come up before that a neutral power, which had an interned fleet, joined the war on the side of that fleet. At least, I don’t know of any such circumstances. Nearest I can think of is a neutral power, anticipating war, that took over a ship under right of angary, and then returned it when they joined the war. And that’s not quite the same.”
“Oh, shit,’ said Rall, “those Zhong destroyers; we’ve got to warn them.”
“To warn them and ask them to buy us some time,” Claudio corrected.
“I’ll get on it,” Rall said.
Marciano nodded, already distracted by what was going on with the horse drawn wagons. He stormed over, as Rall went in the other direction, and demanded to know, “Just what the fuck is going on here?”
The Tauran medical officer – he was a Hordalander captain named Haukelid – said, with more than a hint of anger in his voice, “These peasant sons of bitches don’t want us to take their horses and wagons, sir. Claim they need them.”
“I see,” said Marciano. “Translate for me, would you, that in the first place we must have these wagons, and in the second place we cannot leave them behind for our enemies to take.”
As one man, the Santa Josefinans crossed their arms and shook their heads in negation.
“I see,” said Marciano, not needing a translation for that. “Pity, really, I like horses. But needs must and all.” He drew his pistol and walked to the foremost horse. Muttering, “Sorry, old boy, truly I am,” he pointed the pistol at the horse’s head and began to squeeze the trigger.