The Span Of Empire – Snippet 52

The Span Of Empire – Snippet 52

Chapter 28


As designed, the shaped charge had directed almost all of its energy downward against the hull. Boyes felt the equivalent of a hard push against his back from the spillover. He spun in place, to see Clark and Laroche placing their door-openers in the cracks formed by the charge and triggering their operation. A few seconds later they discarded the metal plate and stepped back.

Nolan and Kemal already had the flash-bang grenades in motion through the opening, one-two-three-four.

As soon as the grenades had exploded, Singh and Gomez pulled themselves through the opening, back to back, Super-Tazers leading the way. “Damn!” Boyes heard one of them call out as he pulled himself through on their heels. His external audio sensor began picking up sounds of conflict. As his helmet rose above the interior edge of the opening, he could see Singh and Gomez both facing to his left, firing their weapons as quickly as they could.

Boyes looked to his left. “Crap! Clark, I see six, seven, eight hostiles. Two down, four with what looks like clubs or pipes, and two hanging back.” As soon as he moved clear of the opening he brought his net gun to bear on the closest Khûrûsh-an and fired.


“Shit!” Tully heard Sergeant Boyes exclaim. The video feed from the sergeant’s helmet was really bobbing around. “They’re faster than snakes, and tell the video folks they’re not that much smaller than we are.”

Tully could see the Khûrûsh crewmen dodging and bouncing from wall to wall, swinging lengths of whatever they were holding in each hand. One of them looked for all the world like a four-armed Bruce Lee, his arms were moving so fast. Only the fact that he was having to duck net shots kept him from really laying out one of the boarding team.

Damn, but he should have ignored Liang and Luff. He belonged in that fight!

Just as Tully was about to call out an order, he saw one of the Khûrûsh-an fold up around his midsection, and he realized that the shotgunners had now entered the fray. Even a low charge rubber bullet could take a man down if it hit right. Looks like the same was true of the Khûrûsh as well.


“Yeah!” Boyes heard one of his team yell as the Khûrûsh began to go down before the rubber slugs fired by Nolan and Kemal. He and McClanahan made sure they stayed down by firing nets at them to keep them tangled up and stuck to the deck for now.

“Lieutenant Boatright,” he said over the company frequency as the action started slowing a little.

“Boatright. Go.”

“Their suits are tougher than ours. The Tazer darts are just bouncing off. You have to hit them with the rubber slugs to slow them down enough to net them.”


The last of the four club-armed Khûrûsh, the one whose arms were moving like radial saw blades, went down after being hit three times by the rubber slugs. Just as McClanahan fired a net over him, Boyes saw the larger of the two remaining Khûrûsh-an raise what looked like a pistol. His shout of “Gun!” coincided with the weapon firing. There was a bit of a flash, and he heard Kemal grunt. He looked to see the young Turk’s left forearm floating in front of him, cleanly severed just below the elbow, with blood spurting from his arm.

Things seemed to go into slow motion at that point. Boyes felt himself release his net gun and move for his pistol. His hand seemed to almost be moving in water, it felt so slow. He could see the Khûrûsh-an moving his weapon to target on Nolan. He was pulling the 10 mm from his holster, but it still seemed so slow–too slow. It came up, up, up, and he squeezed the trigger.

Just as the pistol fired, the Khûrûsh-an moved slightly, and what was supposed to be a shot to the shoulder hit him in the throat instead. Everyone, human and Khûrûsh-an, froze for a moment.

“Ah, Lieutenant Boatright?”

“Talk to me, Sergeant.”

“Their suits aren’t tougher than a 10 mil, sir.”



“Eanne!” Tully shouted.


“Get me connected with the Lleix on Lexington who are talking to the Khûrûsh!”

Eanne said nothing, but in a few seconds Tully heard, “This is Pyr,” in his ear bud.

“Pyr, this is Gabe Tully. What is the Khûrûsh command to surrender?”

Pyr didn’t ask any questions. “Noh-rah-zhoh.

“Great! Stay connected.” Tully connected to the Charlie Company frequency. “Sergeant Boyes, you’re about to hear the Khûrûsh command to surrender. Pyr, say again.”



There were now four 10 mm pistols aimed at the last Khûrûsh-an standing, who was also holding one of the gun-like weapons. Boyes flipped his external audio on, and shouted “Noh-rah-zhoh! Noh-rah-zhoh!”

He jabbed at the Khûrûsh-an with his pistol, and forcefully pointed to the deck with his other hand. After a moment, the last Khûrûsh-an bent and placed his weapon on the deck, then stood and held all four arms straight out.

Nobody took their attention off of the Khûrûsh-an, but Boyes’ tension ratcheted down a little. “Carter?”

“Go.” That was Carter’s voice, but Boyes knew the lieutenant was listening.

“We’re ready for the backup and the intelligence team to board. Need a bunch of restraints. These dudes have four arms, remember. Looks like we may need a couple of litters or back boards for their wounded.” He looked to where Gomez was dealing with Kemal’s wound. “Add a medic and a litter for Kemal.” He paused for a moment. “And a body bag, I guess, unless command wants to leave the dead one here.”

Chapter 29

Ban Chao reports that the target crew has been taken aboard, as well as whatever intelligence information could be readily retrieved,” Lexington’s communication officer announced. “Hulk has been abandoned, they are withdrawing to the million-kilometer rally point.”

“Order a withdrawal by all ships to the rally point at cruising speed,” Fleet Commander Dannet ordered. “Cover Ban Chao’s withdrawal.”

Caitlin moved to Lieutenant Vaughan’s work station. “Well?”

He held up a hand. “Initial reports coming in. The Khûrûshil ship had a crew of eight. Two were seriously injured by the disabling attack or the forced entry, unclear yet which it was. They have been retrieved. The commander was killed during the boarding action.”

“What?” Caitlin was aghast. “They were supposed to take them alive!”

“According to the preliminary reports,” Vaughan repeated, “he was firing a deadly weapon at the boarding team in the constrained space of their command deck, and had already seriously wounded one of the boarding team. The team lead was trying for a disabling shot, but the Khûrûsh commander zigged when he should have zagged.” He looked up with a quirk to his mouth. “That’s a direct quote from Colonel Tully, by the way. He also said, ‘No blame for Sergeant Boyes. I’d have done the same thing.'” Vaughan concluded with, “Boyes is the team lead.”

Caitlin took a deep breath, but before she could let it out, Wrot moved into her field of vision. His eyes locked with hers, and she remembered their earlier conversation. She let the breath out in a rush, and said, “Fine. I guess we should be glad the price wasn’t any higher than that. Keep me posted, please, and let me know when they’re ready to send the crew to Lexington.


“That’s it?” Tully asked. “That dinky little thing took off Kemal’s arm?”

There are only so many basic configurations a portable hand-carried weapon can assume once a culture rises above the axe-and-sword and pike-and-bow levels. The weapon that Sergeant Boyes was dandling in a clear plastic bag wasn’t too much different in size and shape than a Beretta pistol.

“That’s it,” Boyes said.

“And it’s not some kind of laser?”

“No, sir. One shot, one brief flash, and Kemal’s arm was floating in the air and he was bleeding like a, pardon the expression, stuck pig.”

“So there was no cauterization effect?”

“Nope. His arm looked more like it had met up with a meat saw and lost. No burns, no blisters, no hint of heat at all.”


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13 Responses to The Span Of Empire – Snippet 52

  1. VernonNemitz says:

    Maybe the weapon shoots something like a bolo, only the connecting wire is fine strong monofilament (I’m reminded of Larry Niven’s “Sinclair monochain” and some other monofilaments he described). If the one who fired that weapon was aiming for cutting the arm, well, such a tactic might be the norm when the usual enemy has 4 arms….

  2. Positroll says:

    All: there is a new short story from this universe out on Baen website …

  3. jsmith says:

    VernonNemitz, good guess. Also less likely to puncture bulkheads.

    Did they leave anything of interest on the hulk to be salvaged? (like blood)

    Caitlin’s constant second-guessing of her team is getting annoying

    • Bibliotheca Servare says:

      No kidding. I’m beginning to wince reflexively every time I see her name. I really hope that she drops the “idiot ball” sometime soon, because she *used* to be one of my favorite characters. And I hope we’ll get an explanation as to why she suddenly has Oudh over the fleet and its tactics in combat! It almost feels like this section was written without reference to the first section, sometimes.

      • John Roth says:

        I sort of agree. On the other hand, I think she’s showing a more typical syndrome where someone who’s used to being a subordinate and being very cautious around people who can kill her on a whim, and who doesn’t have any serious leadership experience, becomes the top leader. It’s similar to what the Major (?) told Tully. She got jumped too high too fast, and doesn’t have the experience.

      • sensei says:

        Have a little more faith in Caitlin. It’s early times yet, and she has much to learn about the realities of combat. I believe she’ll toughen up. And she doesn’t have oudh over tactics, only goals, although goals can certainly dictate tactics. I think she’ll learn to listen to Tully, Dannet, Caewithe, Tamt, Kaln, and, I suspect, Lim.

      • sensei says:

        It seems obvious that the personal growth of Lim and Caitlin are two of the book’s significant threads. So far as the two of them are concerned, the story has just been establishing where they’re starting from.

        • Bibliotheca Servare says:

          Alright, I feel better now. I’ll be patient. I may still grumble from time to time, though, heh. :-)

          • sensei says:

            And you have every right to the occasional grumble. It’s part of the fun that comes with reading these advance snippets. ;-)

            • David says:

              Just remember that grumbling on Eric’s board may receive grumbling from Eric in return. :-)

              Most of the points I would have made have been uttered by others. Caitlin’s advancing up a pretty steep learning curve. Stay tuned.

              Three weeks from today. :-)

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