Avalanche – Snippet 49
Song of Solomon
Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin
It had been a long week, and it looked like it was only going to get longer. John and Sera had been deployed twice already, responding to new major attacks. The Thulians were stepping up their game, and the attacks were coming more and more frequently. First it had been a major railyard near Atlanta; then a nuclear power plant right on the border with Alabama. The power plant had been a tough one; the security forces weren’t a match for the combined Thulian assault. Most of the guards were rent-a-cops with a couple of weeks training, maybe a few years on the job working on a beer gut or counting the days until retirement. With the War on Terror, a lot of them had had AR-15s shoved into their hands, a couple of pamphlets on terrorism and NBC–Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical–precautions, and expected to be prepared to defend the plant. The smart ones had run, when the Thulians had shown up; most of the brave ones had died, despite everything John and Sera had done to help. The plant itself was going to be under repair for at least three months; John didn’t want to think what would have happened if the Thulians had been able to take it out, and the havoc all that nuclear material would have played with the entire South.
John almost missed the days of the pop-up attacks from before the Fall of Metis. If it were still “business as usual”, as it had been back then, he and Sera could have been used a bit more tactically instead of like strategic assets; going and actually hunting the Thulians, instead of responding to their attacks. Recon, infiltration, destroying high value targets or rescuing VIPs were the things that he had used to live for. Hell, if they weren’t on call at all hours of the day, the might have even been able to go visit Zach surreptitiously. Probably not, all told. After all of that shit with the feds, we’re probably being watched more than ever. Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.
No rest for the wicked. They had another call. John and Sera were flying hard and fast for the port in Savannah; it would be the second time they had to defend it. Usually the Thulians didn’t try to hit the same location twice, especially after they knew that it was within range of John and Sera. Almost too late, three Death Spheres had been detected going for the port; one F-15 had valiantly tried to intercept them, but was destroyed, pilot lost. The three Death Spheres were larger than the most commonly encountered ones; not as big as the gigantic one that Vickie and the orbital “Hammer” weapons platform had taken out in the battle at the Superstition Mountains, but still too damned big for John’s liking. Troop carriers, with that crazy space-bending tech. How many suits of armor do they have in there? Dozens? Hundreds? It didn’t matter; however many Thulians there were, John and Sera could not allow the port to fall. It was the fourth biggest port on the East Coast, and losing it would be a horrendous blow to the war effort. There had been some international shipments hit on the open seas already, but it seemed that those were more “might as well” attacks as Death Spheres were on their way to juicier targets.
John double-checked their position on a wrist-mounted PDA; he could “feel” where they needed to go, and had his Overwatch HUD projecting their flight path, but he liked redundancy when it came to navigation. Almost there, darlin’, he sent to Sera; the roar of the fires that were propelling them, in addition to the wind from how fast they were flying, made verbal communication all but impossible.
The situation is very bad, love. I think they are offloading troops into the ocean and having them walk the floor of the bay to the shore. The water will protect them until they are right at the edge of the docks.
It was a different tactic than the Thulians had used last time; a little sneakier, at least for Thulians. Got your boots on? I think we’ll have to kick ’em right back into the ocean, he sent to her with a hint of a chuckle. If only it were that easy.
The port was supposed to have some defenses; Anti-Aircraft guns and missile systems, and two of the missile launchers that used the ECHO/CCCP incendiary loads, as well as several teams of soldiers to man it all and provide ground security. It wouldn’t be enough to hold off a sustained assault, though. That’s where he and Sera came in. Hopefully.
“Heads up. They’re offloading in the ocean.” That was Vickie, confirming what Sera had guessed. “You won’t be able to hit them until they’re out of the water. They must have modded the suits for an onboard air supply. I’ve cleared you through and sent your flightpaths and vectors to the ground support so you don’t get splashed before you can help.”
“Roger that, Vic. We’re breakin’ through an’ ought to have visual on the port right ’bout…now.”
On cue, John and Sera came out of the low clouds they had been flying through, and were greeted with a bird’s eye view of the port of Savannah. Three Death Spheres were descending on it from the east, heading straight for the canal. Streams of AA-shells lashed out at the Death Spheres, the tracers looking like angry fireflies in the early morning twilight. Contrails from surface-to-air missiles trailed up impossibly fast towards the spheres; the missiles either missed, or more often than not, were shot out of the air by actinic energy blasts. The spheres looked like they hadn’t taken any damage by the time they hit the water, submerging completely with tremendous gouts of water splashing out from the impact.
Let’s get to work.
The more that they had been using their battle-sense, the easier it had become for John to enter into it with Sera. Now it hardly required any conscious thought; one moment he was in the Present, and then he was seeing Possibility. Studying the Futures for a moment, he and Sera both knew what they had to do. Instead of diving for the docks or the position in the water where the Death Spheres had submerged, he and Sera simultaneously angled their flight sharply to the right, aiming for a spot over top of one of the defensive emplacements. Looking on from the outside, it would seem like they weren’t reacting quickly enough to what was happening. They weren’t reacting at all, in fact, but anticipating.
Seconds later, two of the Death Spheres emerged from the canal in sprays of water, the first rays of true sunlight striking their glistening hulls. They split from each other, aiming at either end of the docks. The defensive batteries opened up again, trying to track the aggressors, still to no apparent effect; the Thulians had actually been learning, it seemed. Instead of just throwing troops at a problem and counting on the relative invulnerability of their armor, they had adjusted tactics, carefully marshalling their assets. They knew they could be hurt, and did their best to prevent that. Not like the first Kriegers, the ones actually wearin’ swastikas. I don’t like fightin’ this new breed any more than I did their predecessors.
The defenders figured out what was about to happen; the Death Spheres were going to make attack runs on their positions, softening them up for a push from the troopers that the ships had undoubtedly dropped off. Troopers that would be protected by the water until they leapt up on the docks themselves. The soldiers on the docks hunkered down; those that could, at least. The operators on the AA emplacements and missile systems continued to fire their weapons; they knew what the score was. If they stopped firing, there’d be no chance to take down the Death Spheres. Even allowing one to run amok would have been more than enough to catastrophically damage the docks, maybe even the surrounding civilian population. They were there to prevent that, even if it meant dying in place.