The Span Of Empire – Snippet 18

The Span Of Empire – Snippet 18

That gave the jinau a few seconds.

“Fall back!” Tully ordered over the com. As the jinau made an orderly retreat past him, Tully reached out and grabbed one particular trooper.

“You locked and loaded, Corporal Johnson?”

“Betcherass, Colonel!”

“Wait for my signal, then let them have it.”

Johnson, who was a very large human, said nothing more; he took his position in the center of the passageway, and waited, weapon in hand, as the last of the jinau trickled by him.


The last of the Ekhat heavy ships ceased firing and broke apart. Lieutenant Vaughan pumped a fist silently, then flushed as Dannet looked over at him. He quickly scanned his readouts, and opened his mouth to bring something to the Fleet Commander’s attention when the communications officer beat him to it.

Vercingetorix reports that they have lost atmosphere on two more of their weapons spines–two of the laser decks.”

Flue shaped a silent whistle. Fifty percent of the battleship’s offensive capability lost in one battle. He started querying the Vercingetorix for more details on their damage.

Vercingetorix should withdraw to the photosphere transition and take station on the support ships,” Dannet ordered. “Lexington and Arjuna shape course to join Pool Buntyam in supporting Ban Chao. Subordinate squadrons, continue neutralizing the Ekhat debris.”


“Crazy ass Ekhat,” Tully muttered. None of the attackers, Ekhat or slaves, carried anything other than hand weapons–blades for the most part. No guns, no lasers. It had been that way in the Valeron boarding action as well. He didn’t understand it–maybe it’s against their religion, he thought–but he was thankful for it. It let him wait an additional few seconds before giving the order.

“Now, Johnson!”

The big human was standing three meters in front of the rest of Alpha Company. He leveled his weapon at waist height, and pulled the trigger.

Johnson was carrying a new weapon, one only recently cleared for jinau use, and only for use in space or in dealing with Ekhat. It was a recognizable descendant of the flamethrower, but it was nastier–much nastier.

Twin streams of clear liquids jetted from the nozzle of his weapon, flying over and past the attackers. An instant later, holocaust arrived.

There was a massive flare. Billows of flame rolled back down the passageway, stopping short of Johnson and the other jinau, although Tully thought he could feel some heat transferred through the faceplate of his suit.

The twin tanks in Johnson’s backpack contained the two components of a hypergolic propellant–aerozine 50 and nitrogen tetroxide–easily storable as liquids at room temperature, yet absolutely guaranteed to explode or flash into flame when combined. Tully had seen them demonstrated in the open. Their effect in the confined space of the passageway was almost indescribable.

Of course, the components were incredibly toxic, and in an on-world situation would undoubtedly create some nasty pollution.

On the other hand, Tully considered, the weapon worked whether in atmosphere or the near-vacuum of space, and the Ekhat had no room to complain about cruel and unusual tactics.

One lone Ekhat came out of the dying cloud, droplets of flame dropping from the joints of its suit. It staggered, but still headed toward the jinau with obvious intent.

Johnson leveled his weapon again, and gave a short burst that landed directly on the Ekhat. When the flash of light cleared, there was only a huddled mass lying on the passageway floor with flames licking up from it.

The big human pointed his weapon nozzle up, and looked back with a large evil grin visible through his faceplate. “Ekhat flambé,” he pronounced.

Tully gave the flames time to die down, and to make sure that nothing was stirring down the passageway. “Move out, Captain Kobayashi,” he finally ordered.

The jinau picked their way through the blackened remains of the attackers with comments like “Crispy critters” and “Hey, Johnson, does flame-broiled Ekhat taste like chicken?” But they dropped the humor when they got to where their fire team had been overwhelmed. Several of the Jao troopers took up the task of carrying the bodies. None of them, Tully included, wanted to leave them there.


Descant-at-the-Fourth hurtled down her chosen passageway, followed closely by a couple of immature Ekhat and a throng of the Trīkē servients.

Jao! The other group had reported Jao among the invaders!

The greatest mistake ever made by the Complete Harmony faction, deny it though the harmony masters might, was the uplifting of the Jao. And now that mistake was challenging her harmony in her system.

There was no further report, but she knew where the invaders were, where they had to be. She began a new statement of her aria, singing with force. The youngling Ekhat with her picked up on it immediately, and she felt the harmony begin to strengthen again.

She halted her mob before it exited the passageway, waiting for the harmony to crest . . .



Alpha Company had exited their passageway, carrying their dead, and were halfway across the open space when the XO shouted, “Behind you!”

Tully spun to see a mob of Ekhat and slaves pouring toward them from one of the side passages.


Twelve depleted uranium sabot penetrators slammed into the World Harvester ship in quick succession in an extremely tight grouping. The liquefied metal plasma that erupted in the ship’s engine room vaporized all Ekhat and slaves present, and destroyed all of the control equipment in the room.

The ship’s drive shut down.

So did the artificial gravity.

On the gun deck of the Pool Buntyam, Kaln’s posture slid to one of iron-retribution.


Descant-at-the-Fourth screamed as she felt the harmony crumble. She lunged toward the invaders, but found herself floating in mid-air. No matter how she struggled, she could not put a foot to a surface. Slowly spinning, her rage finally overcame her, and she screamed again and again, atonally, with no thought to harmony.


“Recoilless, take out the Ekhat now!” Tully ordered. “Forget trying to save one for the science guys,” he added as an afterthought. “Just nail them.”

Three Jao and three humans moved up with the heavy recoilless rifles, while the rest of the jinau cleared the back blast lanes. Tully watched as they quickly and methodically eliminated the floating Ekhat. Even one of those monsters couldn’t shrug off the impact of an explosive charge.

Tully saw someone move up beside him from the corner of his eye. His display showed the symbol for First Sergeant Luff. They watched the jinau absorb and overwhelm the remnants of the final charge. Many of the slaves were taken out by the explosions that finished off the Ekhat. But capturing those few that remained in one piece turned out to be a bit of a challenge.

“Looks like we need to schedule some zero-gee drills, Colonel,” Luff said finally.

“Yep,” Tully responded. “See to it after we get back, Top.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It’s all over but the reports,” Tully said to the officers. “Major Liang, get us back on board.”

“On it, Colonel.”


Ban Chao has separated from the World Harvester, Fleet Commander,” reported Lexington’s sensor officer.

Caitlyn sat up straight at the news she had been waiting to hear. “What success did they have?” she asked. And is Gabe alive? was unspoken for the moment.

“Colonel Tully reports nine Ekhat slaves captured and an estimated thirteen Ekhat and an unknown number of slaves killed in the fighting. Six jinau dead, fifteen injured.”

Caitlyn relaxed, and looked up to see a grin on Caewithe Miller’s face that looked to be a match for the one she felt stretching across her own visage.

She looked around as Dannet gestured. “Finish it,” the Fleet Commander said.

The three battleships moved in concert like a lion pride, closing on the wounded Ekhat vessel.


This entry was posted in Collaborators, Snippets. Bookmark the permalink.
Skip to top


20 Responses to The Span Of Empire – Snippet 18

  1. VernonNemitz says:

    In addition to something I mentioned before regarding laser-resistant armoring (ablative mirror-layers), something else occurred to me. Just a few years ago someone figured out how to grow perfect diamond crystals in a vacuum. One planned use for flat sheets of diamond is as a substrate for electronic circuits, like silicon wafers. But the technology is scale-able, and in the vacuum of space….

    Take your almost-finished battleship and put a diamond coating on it, maybe two millimeters thick. Diamond is the best-of-all solid heat conductors; the stuff is so *hard* that heat-vibrations are transmitted through diamond like sound waves, *very* fast. A laser trying to heat the hull at one spot will have that heat spread across the whole surface of the hull. That makes it kind-of tough to poke a hole through the hull with a laser beam.

    Still, the ablative mirroring should be used, also, probably coating the diamond layer. I’m aware the diamond layer would shatter if the ship was used for ramming. That should be relatively rare, and even then, after such an event, ablative coatings can be removed so a new diamond coating can be applied.

    • cka2nd says:

      Would the diamond layer shatter all over the ship, or just around the ramming site itself?

      I remember that in the Star Trek series “Enterprise,” the Enterprise used ablative armoring in place of energy shields, which Earth could not yet produce.

      • VernonNemitz says:

        I don’t know how much of a diamond coating would shatter during ramming. Shattering is a process that consumes energy, so, logically, the more diamond that shatters, the less energy is transmitted to make still-more diamond shatter. I suppose the key fact is the magnitude of the ram-impact.

        For anyone interested, the speed of sound in diamond is 12 KILOMETERS per second. Therefore that is also the speed of heat-conduction in diamond.

    • Johnny says:

      It wouldn’t spread the heat through the entire hull. While it would spread the heat out a bit further than steel would, it’s still only 2 mm and area is still the biggest factor here.

      You could do something like having cooling pipes with water in them circulating constantly throughout the armor. That would allow efficient heat sinking into something with a very high heat capacity and would allow a movement of the heat to a water tank.

      Of course then you potentially have an exploding steam bomb to worry about…

      • VernonNemitz says:

        You perhaps mis-read what I wrote. The diamond layer would spread heat from one spot all across the surface of the hull. Don’t you know why crooks call diamonds “ice”? They are cold to the touch because they conduct body heat of fingertips to the air *that* quickly. The net effect is that the laser energy attempting to heat hull-metal at one spot would be spread out to a greater surface of hull-metal. The net effect is that the laser is trying to melt the entire hull at once. I’m not objecting to an interior heat-transport system, but this no-moving-parts diamond system will work as I’ve described.

        • Johnny says:

          No, I understood what you wrote. You are just getting the science wrong. You’re misunderstanding how heat conducts. While the diamond will spread heat in its 2mm layer far easier than it will to an equivalent area of steel, it isn’t touching an equivalent area of steel. Assuming a thermal conduction ratio of 55:1 between steel and diamond (based on isotopically enriched diamond and standard steel), your 2 millimeter layer of diamond will start conducting more heat to the steel skin beneath it than the diamond perimeter around it at a radius of 22 centimeters (the point at which the area of the circle is 55 times greater than the area of the cylinder walls defined b the circle of diamond and the 2 mm height). That’s hardly “the entire ship”.

          Furthermore, you see the problem that diamond doesn’t have a very high heat capacity. You’d do just as well to have an additional 2 cm of steel to ablate the laser – it would transfer the heat just as well as the diamond over that small circle and it would have a higher heat capacity.

          • VernonNemitz says:

            You need to describe that more clearly; it is not making sense to me. Heat always flows from hot to cold. If what you wrote is true, then as that larger area (than the laser-heated spot) warms, all of that area can use the diamond to conduct heat farther away. In the end, what matters is whether or not the laser can put energy into the metal faster than the diamond (and nearby metal) can conduct it away.

            It occurs to me that one extra trick diamond can do is, by having a non-smooth/bumpy surface (top of layer, not where it touches the hull-metal), it can refract an incoming laser beam and lessen its intensity at the places where it hits the metal. I can see that something rather thicker than 2mm would probably be needed, to take full advantage of that…and in more detail, concavities should be clear, while convexities should be “frosted” (like a frosted-glass door of a shower stall).

  2. Andy says:

    Kaln is embracing ollnat.

  3. BRK says:

    Now flow instead of being a measure of time, is also spatial in Nature….

    Both the Ekhat have it, the Jao have it too though expressed differently…..

    That was clever use of the flow by Kaln….

  4. Positroll says:

    1) Now that’s a bad ass weapon. A simple white phosporous grenade on a stick would do pretty well, too, imO, at least in atmosphere. see wiki/Handflammpatrone

    2) So the Ekhat bridge crew, engine room crew and the rowing attack group are all toast. You got minimal losses on your own. And you content yourself with 9 freaking slave prisoners who for all what we know could be simple cooks ??? Even though the Ekhat are just floating there, a few yards from the ship? And the Ekhat ship ripe for the taking gets also ignored ?? Narvo sure is overrated …

    BTW: if Kaln knows where the engine room is located, why didn’t Tully?

    • cka2nd says:

      “And the Ekhat ship ripe for the taking gets also ignored ??”

      Good point. Never mind booty on this kind of a long-range mission, but what about research?

  5. AG says:

    Positroll asked: “BTW: if Kaln knows where the engine room is located, why didn’t Tully?”

    Did Kaln actually know it was the engine room? I got the impression the flow only “told” her that she needed to fire the guns at that specific moment on that specific target. That doesn’t mean the flow said “here, look, it’s the engine room!”

    • Positroll says:

      Fine by me. In that case, if Kaln can really feel where to shoot when, taking over the ship just became a cakewalk. Just move around and let her take out any concentration of Ekhat (some communication between the 2 would be nice).

      I’m hard pressed to suspend my disbelief here … just doesn’t make sense after all the effort the authors took to talk up this mega ship … If armored troopers with flamethrowers and automaticc weapons can’t beat a few handfull of swordwielding maniacal Ekhats, they will be even more worthless when dealing with the planet. So why not use them now?

      My current tri-partite posture: *blatant disbelief and disgust*

      • Andy says:

        It would make sense that she actually knew where Tully was, just because she followed the comm traffic, and extrapolated where the enemy might come from. Still an incredible “hunch”, but it would explain her behavior without ESP.

        Maybe this is a killer combination of ollnat and flow.

  6. David says:

    Not going to get involved in the discussion. Don’t have the time. But here are some things to think about:


    1. The Jao/human alliance is not an alliance of equals. The solar system is still very much under the control of the Jao. Humans have positions of authority not because they are important humans, but because they have proven they are “of use” to the Jao leadership, and/or are in service to a prominent Jao. Do not read too much into that.

    2. The humans are freer than they have ever been since the original conquest, but their access to and control of space is still very controlled first by Aille, as Governor of Earth, and then by Ronz, as an eminence of The Bond. Yes, they are gaining access, but only in the furtherance of the alliance goals and priorities, which at this point in the timeline are determined by the Jao. You will see some evidence as this story progresses that the humans may be beginning to affect the determination of those goals and priorities, but for this generation and even longer that will be only to the extent the Jao allow. Eric’s Afterword to this novel will explain some things about why this is.

    3. The Jao ride the flow. They do not direct it. It is not under their conscious control. So Kaln (or others) can’t use it in a directed manner. It is, however, as one commenter suggested on an earlier snippet, apparently related to the Ekhat understanding of the flow of the Melody. (Which might provide some explanation as to why the Ekhat chose to uplift the Jao in the first place.)

    Recent snippets:

    It is part of Eric’s universe design that the Jao. Do. Not. Innovate. The Ban Chao is the first new ship class in the Boh-only-know-how-long. Go back to the snippet where the design of the Ban Chao was discussed: it was designed with a specific mission in mind—to board and raid Ekhat ships to capture subjects for interrogation and intelligence gathering purposes. And the action in the last couple of snippets is the FIRST TIME the ship and its crew and jinau have made such an assault—have tested the concept under combat conditions, in other words. And what are they testing it on—a normal Ekhat raider? No, on a ship that may be an order of magnitude larger than a Lex, and one which they don’t have good technical readouts on. As someone noted in an earlier comment, this is the equivalent of making an assault on a major city—only with no maps and no aerial reconnaissance—an assault that would typically require a full division or more. Tully has only three trained assault companies—there may be more troops on the ship, but they are not trained for the raids. Look back at Tully’s stated purpose for the raid at the beginning of Snippet 15–“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.” It should not be surprising that Tully is playing things a bit conservatively. He has little to gain and much to lose if he gets too ambitious at this point. That said, the story is a long way from being over. :-)

    • David says:

      Ban Chao is second new ship class, after Lexington. Misspoke. But first really innovative new ship class. But the rest of the points remain.

      • sensei says:

        Kaln innovated in ‘Crucible’, when she modified the ammo lift to operate faster. Just sayin….

        • David says:

          Yes, she did, and it was made very clear in the passage that such was very unusual behavior for a Jao, with a heavy implication that it was also considered to be disreputable behavior for a Jao.

    • Positroll says:

      Look, it’s your story. But I’m still not buying it (the book, yes, this part no).

      1) All Dannet said was “that ship is your target”. She left the details to Tully. If the ground forces commander is to be a political counterweight to Dannet – as Ed Krallik expressly claimed – he needs to have the authority to decide on his own how far to go here. Especially when the threat from the Ekhat fleet has been essentially neutralized and its now just a question on whether and how to risk the ground troops.

      2) In an earlier snippet, Tully says to his officers “lets take that ship away from the Ekhat”. Can’t mean destroy, because that’s what the BBs are for. Doesn’t need ground pounders for that.

      3) If all they want are 9 freaking slaves, why on Earth would they board the mega-harvester in the first place? You can find those even on an Ekhat scoutship, which they could conquer easily. So why make your own life hard by taking on the biggie, if you don’t try to take it over or at least get the Ekhat in chief as your prisoner ??? And “wreaking havoc” on the MH doesn’t count for anything if you blow it up anyways afterwards.

      4) Killing all free floating Ekhat located maybe a hundred yards from the BanChao when your task is to capture them isn’t conservative, it’s stupid (and maybe a reason for court martial). You got stun grenades. Use them to capture at least one of them.

      5) If the MH is equivalent to a city, then its a freaking ghost town. 3 companies moved 500 m each in different directions (yes, not a straight line, but still) without encountering any serious resistance. And no, sword wielding maniacs don’t count as serious resistance for armored troops with automatic guns and flamethrowers …

      I really, really hope Tully learns that there are lots of now rebelling intelligent prisoners on the ship before they blow it up …

      P.S.: this whole mission is a huge deviation from Jao tradition. Which is why the preceptor gave it to humans in the first place, with Caitlin being in charge.

      P.P.S. I’m looking forward to the afterword, since I can see why the Jao kochan would want to hold humans back, but Ronz knows better (they need an all out effort by humanity or the Ekhat will one day just roll over the Jao when they decide they are too much of a nuissance) and I don’t think 5 billion humans CAN be held back once you accepted them basically as equals.

      P.P.P.S. I am not quite sure what Ailles role is right now as “governor”. Isn’t that office necessarily linked to the colonial structure that was replaced by the taif system? I guess you could make the governor into the eye+hand of the bond, but then why is the preceptor still on Terra?

  7. BRK says:

    Great points by David…

    Somehow the authors need to make them explicit in the book… Otherwise only the folks who know to come here will know the structure of the alliance…

    Another point is where do the Lliex fit into the Jao structure of things being done… How are the Elian and the Kochan/Taif going to get sorted….

    Lliex are not a captive race and the Jao owe them….. So it will be a pleasure seeing how this plays out in the book…

    You have a new species in the Trine… with no idea as to how many Ekhat are there to control the entire planet or system….

    I am looking forward to the debriefing of the captured Trine….

Leave a Reply to Johnny Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.