Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 36
De Oppresso Liber
-Motto of the US Army’s Special Forces.
UEPF Spirit of Peace
At another station, Xingzhen angrily berated someone down below in her ministry of defense. A long cursing session ended with something that, even in Mandarin, sounded a lot like, “Make sure you do.”
“Just what the fuck are they doing?” Wallenstein asked. “Some kind of hostage catch and release program?”
“It’s a new wrinkle,” Khan, the husband, admitted. “We’ve seen them do something like this before, at Plumbadeta, in Sumer.” He began chewing his lip and pacing, as if seeking an answer to a problem that was somewhere in his mind, but coyly hiding.
Marguerite thought back. Ah, yes, push the civilians in and keep them there; then let no food until they surrender. Cheap and easy, just takes a little time.
“And the ship, “Khan continued…
“…is,” the High Admiral finished, “to complete the ring and, based on what that lander reported before they blew it out of the sky, they have some laser capability to prevent aerial resupply or reinforcement.”
The Empress reported that, “It took threatening to extinguish several gene pools down to the last generation, baobei, but two battalions of paratroopers, with a few medium vehicles, will take off in four hours. They’ll have to refuel at Wellington, but those people can hardly restrain themselves from fawning, cringing, and begging to please us. The rest of their brigade will follow in another six hours and the division within twenty-four to forty-eight.”
“And they’ll arrive, that first group?” Wallenstein asked.
Xingzhen rocked her head from side to side, twice before answering, “Twenty-four to twenty-six hours. Sorry, love, but even I cannot move them faster than the planes will go.”
“Computer,” the High Admiral ordered, “get me Battaglia on Spirit of Brotherhood.”
The answer came very quickly, “Ready to fire at your command, High Admiral.”
“Wait!” Khan interjected. “Wait! I’ve got it! Wait!”
“Why?” Marguerite asked.
“When the enemy is seen to be making a mistake…”
“…don’t interfere,” finished his wife.
“High Admiral, the enemy doesn’t know we have help coming and has every confidence that their ship can close the ring. If we destroy the ship their – what did you call it? Their ‘hostage catch and release program’? – will come to a screeching halt.
“So let them continue. Leave their ship alone. Maybe even call Carrera to try to start negotiations. By the time Her Majesty’s paratroops arrive, we’ll probably have every potential hostage the Balboans could have taken, safe in our own hands. Then we destroy the ship, just before the Zhong come in, in ever increasing numbers.
“At that point, we can supply to our heart’s content. We can defend the base. Meanwhile the Balboans will have lost their main source of supply. They’ll be on the wrong side of the logistic stick.”
Wallenstein, though not a ground combat officer, was also no dummy. “So why are they leaving the latifundia slaves behind?”
“I’m guessing,” Khan admitted, “but my guess is that they’ve somehow figured out some of our more, mmmm…cosmopolitan trends, which is to say that, for certain among us – the neo-Azteca spring instantly to mind – those slaves are not people who will suck up food; they are food.”
I had hoped to save my planet and its system, Wallenstein thought. It could be so much better a system and so much better a planet than it is. But very nearly at the top of the to-do list for that was exterminating the slavers, the neo-Azteca, and the Orthodox Druids. No matter, I think Khan has the right of it.
“Yes, High Admiral.”
“Minor delay in plans. Do not fire. Stand down for now. I’ll let you know when.”
“Wilco, High Admiral.”
Breaking that connection, Marguerite told the computer to, “Connect me to the communicator I gave to Carrera.”
Beach Red, Atlantis Island
Before the thing had beeped three times, Ham had it in his hands. “Hamilcar Carrera speaking. May I presume that High Admiral Wallenstein is on the other end?”
There was a long silence on the other end. Finally, High Admiral Wallenstein identified herself and asked, simply, “How and why?”
“Did this end up in my hands? My father sent it to me. Can your ship identify where I am? I imagine so. No matter. He sent it to me because he was quite certain you would be calling…”
UEPF Spirit of Peace
“…and wanted you to know, in no uncertain terms, that the person you were dealing with was even more ruthless than he is. And I am.”
The voice seemed a little high, perhaps, but not unsteady. It didn’t break, at least.
Where? Marguerite mouthed to Khan.
Khan took over the workstation occupied by Xingzhen, gently nudging her away. After some frantic checking, he turned to the High Admiral, wide-eyed, and mouthed back, Atlantis.
Khan then turned back to the station and began pulling up what little was known about the boy. This he forwarded to the High Admiral, who began reading as she was talking.
“I see you are a god, Hamilcar.”
“No, I am not. There are some devoted but deluded people who think I am. These are not the same things.”
Crap, not vain…no vanity to play on.
“And you are on our base, I see.” Let him get the feeling for my presumed omnipotence. Maybe it will help me bluff him, later.
“I’ve already suggested, did I not, High Admiral, that you can track this? Of course, you can’t tell if I am speaking directly or if the communications are being remoted, can you?”
Bloody damned smart little bastard, isn’t he?
“And, no, High Admiral, my father wanted me to assure you that he and my mother beat me to the altar, if not, perhaps, by much. Now, pleasantries aside, what can I do for you?”
“You can call off your attack.”
“No, and if that’s all you wanted to ask, you’ll forgive me if I get back to my duties.”
“The link has been broken,” announced the computer. “Shall I try to re-establish it?”
Wallenstein shook her head, no, then remembered the computer couldn’t see that. “No,” she said, “just keep track of where that comm device is.”
Turning her attention to Khan, the husband, she said, “Now tell me everything we know, everything we can suppose, and every educated guess we can make about that boy.”
“Yes, High Admiral,” Khan said.
Xingzhen then piped in, “The base is not our only problem, Baobei. That fleet that hid under a false banner of internment and which is now at large? I need it tracked and the information sent to my commander below, Admiral Wanyan. As a matter of fact, I need a line to tell Wanyan to move our fleet out of danger.”
“I’ll get someone on it, High Admiral, along with trying to shut the Balboans out of the satellite net.”
“Don’t worry about shutting them out, Commander,” the empress said. We can shut down all the satellites over that part of the world easily enough. That leaves this fleet alone able to scout below.”
“You can, Empress,” said Khan. “If we tried it would be instant war with the Federated States. It might, even if it’s your people doing it. Please, please, just shut out the Balboans but not the FSC.”