The Span Of Empire – Snippet 15

The Span Of Empire – Snippet 15

Chapter 6

Vaughan captured Dannet’s orders. The battleship formation began to rotate, just as the individual ships rotated on their respective axes. It only took him a couple of second to catch on to why: to reduce the impact of the Ekhat lasers on the ships. He felt good about that realization for, maybe, half a second.

He sobered when he caught a message sent by Vercingetorix. One of their gun decks was open to space and sealed off, damaged by the collision with the last of the Ekhat ships that had attacked them inside the star. He suppressed a shudder, and hoped the crew had managed to evacuate safely. Another note was made; this time about the fact that between the battle off Valeron and this one, in two collisions two different Lexingtons had lost a gun deck, a full spine. Make sure that one gets to the design group.

The Welshman continued to watch and make notes as Dannet stood, hands behind her back, watching the view screen, head slightly tilted. He got the feeling she was waiting for something, but he couldn’t tell what.

****

“So,” Gabe Tully concluded, looking around at his jinau officers in the assault group, “we only have general guesses as to what the interior of that ship is going to look like. Fortunately, we don’t have specific objectives in mind. It’s just ram the ship, debark, create as much hell and destruction as we can, capture as many Ekhats and slaves as we can, and get out while the getting is good.”

Gabe saw First Sergeant Luff’s mouth quiver for just a moment, before he forced it into a straight line.

“Alpha Company will lead out,” Gabe continued, looking at Captain Sato Kobayashi, the Japanese-born company commander. “Sato, terminate every Ekhat you see in that space. They’re too dangerous to let get close to us while we’re trying to un-ship. If we can capture some elsewhere and drag them back to the ship, great. But any of them in the entry space needs to be turned into quivering little pieces of Ekhat meat. Anything that’s not Ekhat but is carrying a weapon also gets hammered. Got it?”

Kobayashi gave a sharp nod, and entered notes on his pad.

Gabe turned to Captain Torg krinnu ava Terra and 1st Lieutenant Richard Boatright, commanders of Companies Baker and Charlie respectively.

“Once the entry area is under control, you guys will debark. Each company will leave one fire team for entry space and ship security, under the command of Major Liang.”

Major Shan Liang, the executive officer of the assault group, looked up from where he was making notes of his own. “And where will you be, Colonel?”

“Probably with Alpha Company.”

Tully saw identical frowns appear on the faces of both the exec and the first sergeant. He held up a hand in a “stop” signal.

“Don’t start, guys. I’ve seen Ekhat in action; with the exception of Torg, none of you, no matter how experienced you are, can say that. You have no idea–you can’t know–just how insane and crazy it will be to face them.”

“I heard that from some of the troops who were with you at Valeron,” Luff said.

Tully shook his head. “And anything they told you just is nothing compared to the piss-your-pants feeling of seeing a giraffe-sized sort-of-praying mantis with too many arms and legs charging you like a racehorse with the intent desire of turning you into a smorgasbord of cold cuts and a stain on the deck.”

“What he said,” Captain Torg muttered.

“The best I can do to share the experience is for me to be with Alpha and First Sergeant Luff to be with Charlie; that’s the best I can do,” he repeated. The first sergeant’s frown disappeared at that. “And Shan,” Tully turned to the exec, “that leaves you holding the bag at the ship. If things go well, you’ll just be helping corral the specimens. If things go in the crapper, you’ll be the last-ditch defense of the Ban Chao. Don’t let me down.”

Major Liang’s face set in very determined lines. “You got it, Colonel.”

Tully looked at Luff. “What’s that old Marine motto you like to trot out, Top?”

“You mean ‘Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome’, sir?” Luff grinned.

“That’s the one.” Tully looked at his officers. “Guys, this isn’t going to be a set piece battle. Watch your sensors, watch the walls, watch your backs. Don’t trust anything. Drop communication links every time you change directions. Fall back if you have to. Yell for help if you need to. This is about breaking shit and grabbing prisoners, not about heroic last stands or forlorn hopes. Everybody clear on that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yes.”

“Yes, Colonel.”

Tully stood. “Good. Now go prep your troops.”

****

Vaughan didn’t catch what it was that the fleet commander saw at that exact moment. He’d have to dig it out of the recordings later. But Dannet shifted to a different posture and said almost matter-of-factly, “All battleships, Fire Plan Alpha 3. All subordinate ships, seal the edges of the zone. No one escapes.”

And with those calm orders, the second phase of the battle for the system began.

Fire Plan Alpha 3 called for the battleships to all concentrate their lasers on the same ship. It took a bit of coordination, Vaughan noted. Dannet had to issue some rapid corrections to get the Arjuna to target the desired ship, but before long all the lasers from all four battleships were focused on one of the smaller Ekhat ships. Despite the attempts of the target to evade, the Jao/human laser crews kept the heavy beams from the battleships focused on the Ekhat ship as if they had been glued there. And in truth, a multi-thousand ton spaceship just doesn’t dance around like a third-grader playing dodge ball, so it wasn’t that hard.

It only took a few minutes for the heavy lasers to overload the defensive screens of the Ekhat ship, and it was rendered into an expanding cloud of navigational hazards.

A few minutes more saw the second of the lighter Ekhat vessels also destroyed.

****

Descant-at-the-Fourth staggered as the dissonance brought by the invaders resurged as the second of her ships disappeared in a flash of light. For just a moment, her voice wavered, and Second-Strong-Cadence and the other Ekhat lost their way altogether. In that moment, the harmony disappeared.

****

Kaln krinnu ava Krant stood by Krant-Captain Mallu, since the lasers were the weapons in use in this phase of the battle. She looked up suddenly, and found her eyes locked with his.

“The flow is free again,” she said. The captain nodded.

Kaln’s head twisted in an odd direction. She left the command deck without a word. Mallu let her go without comment. Her sense of flow was stronger than anyone else’s on the ship, and if she needed to be somewhere else, he trusted her.

****

Tully watched as his jinau troops, human and Jao alike, stepped into their shock frames. There was no way around the fact that the Ban Chao was going to take one monster of a hit when it rammed into its target, and the frames were designed to keep the troops from flying all around the deck when that happened. This was the first time they would be used in combat, though, and he really hoped they worked as well now as they did in the tests he’d seen.

“Hope those things work as advertised, Colonel,” First Sergeant Luff said as he stepped up beside him, faceplate to his combat suit standing open.

“You and me, both. But five-to-one Murphy shows up somewhere.”

“No takers, here, sir. My momma didn’t raise no fools.” The sergeant’s Jamaican accent got a little stronger. “But we’ll deal with that if we have to.”

“Feel free to ‘Improvise, Adapt and Overcome’ as necessary, Top,” Tully said with a grin.

“Will do, sir, will do.” He looked around. “Looks like we’d best get locked in place ourselves.”

“Yep.” Tully slapped the sergeant’s armored shoulder. “Lead the way. It’s Ekhat killing time.”

Not a few of the troops drew some comfort of the almost identical evil grins on the faces of the two men.

 

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29 Responses to The Span Of Empire – Snippet 15

  1. cka2nd says:

    This should be “Not a few of the troops drew some comfort FROM the almost identical evil grins on the faces of the two men.”

  2. BRK says:

    I think David wanted to emphasise the comfort drawn by the others…. instead of putting the emphasis on the grins… which is what happens when you put in FROM instead of of…

    Another possible substitution is putting IN instead of “of”…. That would squarely put the comfort drawn in a preeminent position….

    Depends on what is going to come in the next snippet…

    • David says:

      This one was mine, and neither Eric nor I caught it later. cka2nd is correct–it should have been “from”. Noted for correction.

  3. BRK says:

    I had a question…

    what was so important about the ship that was destroyed that freed the flow ? will it be answered at some point in time ?

    I hope so…

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      I thought the ship was the “flag-ship” and the senior Ekhat on it was creating a “Melody” that both united the other Ekhat ships in the battle and blocked the Jao’s “feel” for the flow.

      Once she was killed, the Jao could feel the flow again.

      • Jeff Ehlers says:

        It doesn’t appear that she got killed, but distracted, and completely lost the thread of the music. It’s like when you’re playing a rhythm game and you get distracted out of the rhythm zone – at best, you’re going to waste several moments fumbling to get back on track, and at worst, you’ll totally lose it.

      • durgollo says:

        It didn’t read that the senior was killed, but that the…shock,,,for lack of a better term, of losing two ships so quickly disrupted her/his song melody. With the loss of “harmony”, not necessarily killing her, the Jao sense of the flow was active once more.

      • Drak Bibliophile says:

        Agree, she was distracted first which broke the “song” (allowing the Jao to feel the flow again) but her death followed quickly afterwards. :wink:

      • David says:

        Jeff and durgullo both get zen points, as both those factors are involved. And it’s “her”.

      • Positroll says:

        The Ekhat “admiral” is on the mega-harvester (flagship). Since so far only two “cruisers / scouts” have been taken out, she should still be alive … q.e.d. …)

        Speculation: Since the “flow” the Jao sense relates to the future and Ekhat singing can “stop” it, does that mean that in some metaphysical sense art trumps matter?
        Or is a singing Ekaht group just better coordinated, this coordination translates to the battlefield (like a drum helps advancing soldiers to remain in lockstep) and therefore increases Ekhat chances to win by “normal”means?

        • Terranovan says:

          I think that it’s more of a telepathic broadcast that the Ekhat developed to better “conduct” “music”. The Jao had the flow sense engineered into them for the same reason, and it’s being useful to them without the Ekhat broadcast is pure coincidence.
          On a related note – “In that moment, the harmony disappeared.” I’m fairly certain that Descant@4th is going to murder someone – not because operations are disrupted and/or the Jao have a freer hand, but because ART!!! and MUSIC!!!

          • Positroll says:

            Yeah, a telepatic broadcast that blocks out the Jao time sense seems the most likely.

            P.S. If all things fail and my first theory is correct, the Vercingetorix can always start to sing the Marseillaise and the Muricans the “Battle Hym of the Republic”. See whether that helps … ;)

      • Andy says:

        The (un)harvester is the flag ship.

    • Andy says:

      It’s still unclear to me if the Jao’s sense of flow is telepathic or otherwise “extra-sensory”.

      But flow seems to be felt as a time table or schedule. If that schedule is too confused, random or complicated, due to the enemy’s actions being too unpredictable, then “the flow is not”.

      On the other hand, the Ekhat created the Jao or the Jao and Ekhat were created by the same yet-to-be-known species. Maybe they’ve got different antennas for the same thing.

      • Nguyen Gia Thai says:

        Ekhat raised the Jaos from an unknown state if I remember correctly. Nothing much is left of the ancient original Jaos. So all the current Jao feature is from Ekhat: very constrained and artificial state of child raising, flow perception, and absolute conservative in term of innovation.

  4. Positroll says:

    1) “between the battle off Valeron and this one, in two collisions two different Lexingtons had lost a gun deck, a full spine”
    More compartmentalisation is usually a good idea on a warship …

    2) “What I didn’t get in book 2 is why a damaged / leaking spine would need to be cast adrift. Why not simply evacuate and close the hatches to the main body of the ship?
    Does the leaking impact the forc fields (hard to believe, given that they withstand solar plasma)?” Seems like they are not doing it this time, anyways …

    3) “Alpha Company will lead out,” … Gabe turned to Captain Torg krinnu ava Terra and 1st Lieutenant Richard Boatright, commanders of Companies Baker and Charlie respectively. “Once the entry area is under control, you guys will debark. Each company will leave one fire team for entry space and ship security, under the command of Major Liang.”
    Only 3 companies? Shouldn’t that be batallions?? After all we know that the overall ground forces are “worth a small brigade” – that’s at least 3000 people. Even if you had 200 men in a company, 3 companies are only 600 men worth – or 1 batallion. Of course, if the 4 BBs also carry 3 such 200 men companies each, we’d get to 5×600=3000. But I’d expect a troop transport to transport more jinau than a BB …

    4) “Fortunately, we don’t have specific objectives in mind. It’s just ram the ship, debark, create as much hell and destruction as we can, capture as many Ekhats and slaves as we can, and get out while the getting is good.”
    Take the bridge and the engine room. Open the rest of the ship to vacuum. Close hull again. Bring Jao engineers. Take mega ship with you … I mean, seriously – they get to see one of the biggest, best and rarest ships the Ekhat have and don’t try to take it over? That’s hard to believe. Even if they really only got 600 men on the BanChao, once the other Ekhat ships are done for, the Lexis are free to send in their ground troops for reinforcement …

    • sensei says:

      I fully agree with #4: the capture and study of any Ekhat ship would be invaluable. To capture even key sections of a harvester ship could provide potentially vital information for the alliance.

      And we have not been told what information was acquired from the Ekhat technology captured by Tully and his men at Valeron’s star.

      • Positroll says:

        Well, we were told in an earlier snippet that the captured Ekhat didn’t reveal anything. From that one might infer that the Ekhat tech, while valuable, and the few captured Anji slaves, didn’t teach the Jao much, either …

        Well, maybe the FC calls Tully and tells him to capture the ship intact – with Kaln bringing some Krant reinforcements ?

    • David says:

      RE #2 – ::shrug:: different situation, maybe different rules of engagement, lessons learned from the Valeron fight… ::shrug::

      RE #3 – Not a troop transport. A specialized assault ship, with a specialized trained troop contingent. Go back and reread the reasons why Ban Chao was designed and built. :-)

      And quit trying to assess jinau formations by our contemporary standards. Should be obvious by now that Jao-run orgs post-conquest are leaner. :-) And that was Eric’s doing, not mine. :-)

      There’s a whole lot of Eric in the Jao. Kathy Wentworth socialized them, but Eric designed them. :-)

      • Positroll says:

        RE #3 – Not a troop transport. A specialized assault ship, with a specialized trained troop contingent. Go back and reread the reasons why Ban Chao was designed and built. :-)

        Sorry but … I did so. And in the same snippet it is said expressly that Tully went back to the Ban Chao because it contains the MAJORITY of the Jinau troops of the expedition. Since every BB has at least one company aboard, there is NO believable WAY* that a mere three companies on the BanChao can constitute the majority of troops (which amount to a small brigade according to Krallik, who is clearly using human terms at the time). 3<4, q.e.d. …

        *(unless for no good reasons companies on BBs that have room for 5000 passengers only carry 1 especially tiny company).

        • cka2nd says:

          I’m being lazy and not re-reading snippets OR comments, but I’m guessing that most of the expedition’s (Operation Purple Sage, was it?) ground troops are at General Kralik’s forward support base (or whatever the military jargon is) while the majority of this particular mission’s ground troops (one battalion sounds right) are on the Ban Chao with Colonel Tully.

  5. Positroll says:

    “Caitlin had to keep her jaw from openly dropping. The Ban Chao was the expedition’s troop transport. It might be better to say, armored assault ship, since the Ban Chao was designed to survive battles within a star’s photosphere. …
    But it would not have occurred to Caitlin until now that the assault ship would be used in a battle where the Jao-human-Lleix forces were so obviously outnumbered. And Tully was over there, because that’s where the majority of his troops were, and he had determined that if this very circumstance came about, however low the probabilities might be, he was going to be with the assault group.”
    http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/2016/05/09/the-span-of-empire-snippet-10/

  6. JStump says:

    Excellent story; thank you for posting these snippets.

    “… the fact that between the battle off Valeron and this one…”, shouldn’t that say, “the battle of Valeron?” (of, not off)

  7. Bibliotheca Servare says:

    “Torg” and “Kobayashi”! Two easter eggs and I haven’t even finished the snippet yet, lol! *hurries back to finish reading*

  8. Bibliotheca Servare says:

    Darn it, had to stop again! So the “singing” definitely has an impact on the Jao sense of “flow” it seems. I wonder if the timesense is just an engineered means of permitting the Jao slaves (when first created) to “harmonize” with their Ekhat masters’ singing…

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