The Span Of Empire – Snippet 16
Vaughan’s head snapped up to the main view screen. “Yes!” he exulted. For some unknown reason, the remaining Ekhat ships had lost their cohesion and were simply swarming toward the Terra fleet. The World Harvester was bulling its way through its own fleet in what Flue would have called a reckless charge in another situation, leaving the smaller ships to scatter in disarray and attack as they could.
The two remaining smaller Ekhat ships were pushed out of the way. Dannet, reacting in that matter-of-fact Jao manner, divided the battleships’ fire between them, and they were being hammered. One of them disintegrated in another fireball when heavy beams from one of the larger Ekhat craft caught it from the rear. Dannet shifted the fire of the Lexington to the fourth smaller craft, and it simply disintegrated seemingly at the moment those lasers hit its screens.
“Tell Krant-Captain Mallu the World Harvester is his, but he is to coordinate with Ban Chao,” Dannet ordered after bare moments of studying the plot that now occupied the view screen. “Uldra, take the north, Arjuna, the south, Vercingetorix the one that lags to the east. Subordinate squadrons; make sure the dead ships are really dead. Go.”
Caitlin’s knees were back under her chin, and her arms were wrapped around them. She was aware of Captain Miller standing behind her and Tamt standing by the door to the command deck; and she was aware of Lieutenant Vaughan doing his frenetic best to capture everything of note about the battle and Fleet Commander Dannet’s operation of same. But her focus was on the main view screen, which was displaying the same data as Dannet’s tactical station. The fleet was moving in obedience to the Fleet Commander’s orders, and that included the Ban Chao. Be safe, Tully, she thought.
Tully stood motionless, shock frame gripping his suit. He could have moved slightly if he’d wanted to, but with ramming another ship in the plan and his suit closed up, it was safest to just stay put. He kept one eye on the feed from the command deck’s tactical display that was piped to his helmet’s display, and another on the light bar that ran around the rim of the troop assembly area. The light bar was a reassuring green, so the ram wasn’t imminent–yet.
He spared a thought for his suit.
Humans as a race seemed to specialize in ollnat. That was the Jao word for it, anyway. Sort of.
What the Jao of most of their worlds thought of when they used the word “ollnat” in reference to humans translated as foolishness, or daydreaming, or time-wasting. But to Jao such as the leaders of the Bond, or those who had experienced the conquest of Earth from the “winning” side, or even the newly associated Krant kochan, ollnat, more than anything, meant innovation. And humans were made for innovation, it seemed like. Much more so than the oh-so-stodgy Jao were, at any rate.
The Jao had brought advanced technology with them when they conquered the Earth, and for the most part had made little effort to control it during the occupation years. But the continuing human low-level resistance to the occupation had made it difficult for Jao-tech-based businesses to get started until recently. In the three or so years since Aille krinnu ava Pluthrak (now Aille krinnu ava Terra) had supplanted Oppuk krinnu ava Narvo as governor of Earth, that had changed. There were now easily two dozen or more prosperous companies whose products were based on innovations from the Jao tech-base, with who knows how many startups right behind them. Half of them had the word ollnat as part of their company names.
One of the best was The Ollnat Works. It had started in the Pacific region when a Chinese engineer named Li discovered that the Jao had something they used in their spaceships that made Kevlar look like a paper towel. He teamed up with a couple of friends that he’d met in college in California–a Bengali business genius named Ghosh from Mumbai, and a marketing savant named MacDonald from Brisbane. The rest was history.
The marketing guy called their product Super-K (over the objections of the engineer) for Super Kevlar. Their first production item was fabric woven from small extruded threads of the compound. It had the weight of heavy canvas, and the bullet stopping power of a centimeter and a half of armor plate.
Tully’s experiences in the boarding action during the Valeron expedition had made him very aware that the standard Jao-designed spacesuit was, to put it mildly, not well suited for any kind of close combat. Tully’s description was considerably blunter than that. And that lack of suitability had been at the top of his list of things to fix when he got back.
He’d had a full-on rant already worked up and rehearsed and ready to deliver to Ed Kralik as soon as he could report to the general, only to discover that Kralik had anticipated him and that The Ollnat Works had teamed up with the spacesuit manufacturers to begin delivering improved combat suits for the fleet troops literally the day Tully’s feet touched down on Earth again.
Tully grinned at the thought. Let the old-school Jao think what they would about humans and ollnat. The Jao grunts who filled many of the ranks in the fleet jinau troops had embraced the new suits with the same fervor with which most of them had joined Terra taif.
The light bar suddenly changed from green to yellow.
“Command deck to assault team,” a human voice said in Tully’s ear-set over the main assault team com channel. “Target has begun deceleration to avoid entering the star. It appears to be focusing its fire on Pool Buntyam. Estimate three minutes to ram. Light will go red at minus fifteen seconds. Acknowledge.”
“Acknowledge three minutes to ram, red at minus fifteen. Tully out.”
Caitlyn waved Wrot over. He moved closer, and she spoke.
“What’s happening now?”
Wrot looked over his shoulder at the main view screen. “Dannet has ordered the battleships to englobe the World Harvester, and to destroy the remaining lesser Ekhat ships. This will isolate the World Harvester near the sun for Ban Chao to make their assault attempt on.”
“So when is Tully going to do that?”
Wrot didn’t miss the reference to the man rather than the ship. He looked at the view screen again. “I’d say they’ve already begun.”
Tully tried to shake his head, but the shock frame was still holding him. “What a hit,” he muttered.
He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting from the impact of the ram, but the actual event proved to be beyond that expectation. The kinetic energy of the Ban Chao’s reinforced bow penetrating the Ekhat ship’s hull had been extreme. None of the designers had been sure how the assault troops would experience it as they were cocooned in their shock frames. Tully decided it was an order of magnitude higher than being in a car wreck, but between the combat suits and the shock frames his troops could deal with it.
The light bar switched to blue, and the human voice from the command deck spoke over the all unit com channel again as the shock frames released the troops and began to withdraw into the floor and ceiling. “Ram completed. Front assault doors clear to open. Deploy troops immediately. Acknowledge.”
“Acknowledged. Tully out.”
Tully was positioned right behind the leading elements of Sato’s Alpha Company. He could see most of them were pulling their weapons into position and orienting themselves toward the big blast doors that were sliding apart to open the way into the assault ramp.
“Alpha Company â€“ report.”
“All up, all ready, all go,” was the reply in the Japanese captain’s slightly accented English.
“All ready,” came the response from Torg.
“Good to go, Colonel.” Lieutenant Boatright sounded a bit nervous–that was okay, because Tully was more than a bit nervous himself. But he also sounded like he was in control.