Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 20
Aguilar led the way to a set of weapons racks. Inside them, secured with chains and a rotating irregular bar, were more than a score of shotguns.
“The trick,” Aguilar said, “is in the ammunition. We don’t really know what the hull can take, up there, so we figured lighter weight projectiles were inherently better. Not good at range but the range is going to be measured in mere meters, and not many of those. So these are underpowered, can carry a double load of shortened flechettes, thirty-eight of them, of about half a gram, each. We’ve had all the guns tested in zero gravity…”
“How did you manage…?”
“Firing out the rear door of the plane we used to get used to it, ourselves. We were high enough up that we needed oxygen, so we think they’ll operate in vacuum, too.”
“Fair enough. You have enough of these and enough ammunition?”
“More than enough, Duque.“
“All right; take me to meet the troops.”
Flight Warrant Raphael Montoya sat just off the small runway – more of a clearing really – where his Condor rested. He had his back against the auxiliary propelled stealth glider, enjoying the shade and the cooling sea breeze that was one of the few perks to being stationed on the island fortress. He found himself getting weary with boredom and…
“Enough slacking off, Montoya,” came a roar from the strip. Montoya was young and nimble enough to snap straight to attention.
“On your feet, son! We’ve got places to go and people to see!”
Task Force Jesuit, Cordoban-Santa Josefinan Border
From where he stood, Marciano could see a battle position being built, a long, snaking line of Cordoban laborers – very well paid laborers, by their own lights – bringing forward the construction materials the men of Task Force Jesuit were turning into their own little Maginot line in the jungle.
The corner of Santa Josefina Marciano had picked for his last redoubt was comparatively quiet, but for the whine of saws, the smack of axes and picks, the scraping of shovels, and the ever present complaints of dirty, sweaty, exhausted, and still cursing men.
“No goddamned bombing, at least, Rall,” Claudio observed.
The Sachsen nodded, afraid of jinxing things by openly commenting. Even so, he wondered aloud, “Is it because they’re getting ready to hit us hard, because they’re moving their fleet on – west would be my guess, to take on the Zhong – or because we’re so close to the border they’re on weapons hold lest they add another enemy they don’t currently need.”
“All of those,” agreed Marciano, “individually or together, in any imaginable part. How long do you think, Rall?”
“Before the former guerillas of this place catch up to us, invest us, and overrun us?” The Sachsen looked skyward, thinking hard. “The points of their columns will be here in three or four days, I think. They may have eyes on us already. Another week after that…no, make it ten days, before they’re completely present here in full numbers. Artillery sufficient to deal with the kinds of field fortifications we’ll have put in by then? Two months after the Zhong landing goes under, and not a day less.”
“Less, I think,” Marciano said. He chewed his lower lip, contemplatively. “Or, at least, it could be less. The Balboans only have to clear the main highway of the Zhong; then their artillery and, more importantly, the trucks with the ammunition, can pass more or less freely. I’d say two to three weeks after they begin the attack to pinch out the Zhong lodgment, we’re toast.”
Rall considered that then answered, “No, it’s even worse. I forgot for a moment – no, I don’t know how I could have, given the bombing we’ve suffered recently – but now they’re the ones with air supremacy, not us. They can use either their own or hired airships to move as much artillery as they want, even before they clear the highway of the Zhong. We may have as little as two weeks.”
“Two weeks,” Marciano echoed.
Both men grew silent then, contemplating what was likely in store for them in two weeks’ time. They stayed that way, standing in dread silence, until a familiar set of booted footsteps and a familiar voice interrupted them.
“Sirs,” said del Collea, “I have some really…no…appalling isn’t strong enough. I don’t know a word of phrase strong enough. I bear news from hell.” Without another word, he proffered several local newspapers.
“Just give us the gist of it, Stefano,” Claudio ordered, ignoring the newspapers.
“The gist…the gist…oh, sirs; the Moslems have risen back home. Tuscany and Sachsen, Anglia, Gaul, Hordaland, Haarlem…they’re all in flames. The police are routed. It’s murder and plunder and rape from one end of the Union to the other. Our women and girls are being auctioned off on the open market. The Pope’s been hanged inside the New Vatican.”
“Shit,” said Marciano.
“On the plus side,” said Rall, with a Teutonic shrug, “the Pope was more an enemy of Catholicism than the Red Tsar, in his day.”
“You always have to see the bright side of things, don’t you, Rall?”
Rall didn’t answer right away. Instead, he seemed to be listening, to be concentrating on his listening. And then the sirens began to kick in.
Former United Earth Embassy, Aserri, Santa Josefina
As the revolution had advanced, and the capital had fallen to the guerillas, most of the embassies had remained open. Even the Taurans’ embassies had usually retained at least a token presence of locals. One embassy, however, was completely closed, with the legation burnt and most of the workers, even locals, killed. That was the Embassy of United Earth.
Fortunately, a couple of outbuildings, to include the ambassador’s residence, a sprawling twenty-thousand foot mansion, still remained. It was in this that Carrera met the three main commanders of his Santa Josefinan arm of the legions, Villalobos, of Tercio la Virgen, Salas, of la Negrita, and their chief, the Balboan, Lagazpi, normally commander of 5th Mountain Tercio.
“In numbers,” said Lagazpi, “we’re growing stronger all the time.” His two main subordinates nodded at that. “But in combat power, we are, if anything, shrinking.”
“Why’s that?” asked Carrera.
“The new men are untrained, mostly unequipped – we don’t even have enough rifles for every man, not by a long shot – and we’re having to detach experienced cadre to train them.”
“We’re also having some trouble feeding them whenever we move them away from the main highways,” added Salas.
“Uniforms and field gear are completely unobtainable,” said Villalobos. “We’re doing well with finding enough insignia and pieces of recognizable equipment to keep our boys within the laws of war.”
Carrera thought about this information, then nodded in such a way as to convey he held none of them responsible. “Have you managed to re-establish contact with the Taurans?”
Lagazpi answered, “We’ve got eyes on their battle positions, yes – and, by the way, they’re digging in furiously and don’t seem to lack for building materials – but it will be another – what do you think, Jesus – six days before the point of your tercio reaches them?”
“At least that, yes,” Villalobos replied. “We have little motor transport, and not even much animal drayage, while the Taurans wrecked the bridges and a good deal of the road network behind them to slow pursuit.”
“And as for how we’re going to dig them out…” Lagazpi let that thought trail off.
“You’re not, Carrera said. “Just between us three, I just want you to reestablish contact and dig in around them. They don’t leave, except into Cordoba for internment or…maybe by sea. And that’s plenty. No sense in throwing away lives on a cause we’ve already won.”
“Then should I dismiss the new recruits?” Lagazpi asked. “I mean, if we won’t need them to fight.”
“No,” Carrera said, “for Santa Josefina will still need them to vote.“