Metal Monday–“When Two Worlds Collide”

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I’ve mentioned it in interviews, but I’m a huge fan of When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide.  Apparently, judging from the lyrics, so is Iron Maiden.

 

 

If there’s ever an old sci-fi movie I want to see redone with modern technology, it’s this one.  But only if they get someone competent to helm the thing.  I don’t want a repeat of “The Luckiest Limo Driver In California,’ a.k.a. 2012.

When Worlds Collide will be referenced in a couple of Vergassy Universe short stories.  I’m all about homage to the fiction of my youth, and I read the hell out of these two books.

B-Sides and Outtakes: Armageddon Dawn Part VI

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Chapter 3

 

Pacific Ocean

1200 Kansas Time

 

The first hostile alien vessel to enter Earth’s atmosphere, a Griffin-class assault lander, penetrated the atmosphere at a point two hundred miles to the west of the International Date Line.  As a result, the official Day the Earth ended would be 26 June, 2011.  Hitting the Earth’s atmosphere at several times the speed of sound, the lead vessel was quickly joined by its three consorts, the large arrowhead-shaped vessels’ bows burning bright enough to lighten up the pre-dawn sky.  A full five miles long, two miles deep, and half mile wide, the Griffins were so named because they doubled as both an aerial combatant and a fearsome indirect fire support apparatus.  Normally, a size of Earth received the gentle attentions of ten such vessels, but Kwirh’s violent counterattack had seen to it that reinforcements would be a little bit longer in coming.

The collective sonic boom from their passage made many Christians who heard it, those few who were still thinking of religion at that moment, to think of the book of Revelation and the sounding of the final trumpet.  To those who were able to look up into the sky, the four bright fiery trails seemed to signify the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the beginning of the end.  Across the Pacific, that largest of Earth’s oceans, men and women began to fall to their knees and pray, beseeching their gods for deliverance.

All four ships were detecting a single bright strobe, the source of the signal that had so impudently insulted their sovereign Lord and God of their existence, Emperor Krognar.  In the three trail vessels, a thousand each Orionan shock troopers in their brilliantly scarlet power armor waited, nestled in the drop chutes that led vertically through the vessel’s keels.  They did not care of numbers—the fact that this planet had not raised its shields the instant their fleet came into system or fired any defensive weapons at their incoming vessels indicated that it was technologically stagnant, its population literally easy meat.

Many of their leaders, those that had survived the numerous cauldrons of nameless battles across the stars against the TEC found themselves sickened with disgust that a race from such a backwards planet had managed to give them a handful of bitter defeats.  While King Pyhrrus of Greece was unknown to them, the term Pyhrric Victory would have easily described at least another dozen of the occasions where they had faced the tasty, two-legged beings from this world beneath them.  No matter, according to the life scans busily scrolling across their screens, there would soon be enough food to wash away the foul taste of bile that rose past their two tongues.  In many cases, their faces broke into feral grins, their vaguely feline features and four-inch teeth making them look like evil Cheshire Cats.  If, of course, the Cheshire Cat had had orange-tinged scales, not fur, been fifteen feet tall, had a pair of long, curled horns, and walked on two legs with cloven hooves.

Aboard the fourth vessel, only five hundred larger suits awaited in their drop chutes.  Overall black, a black that had been described as so dark it seemed to swallow one’s soul, nevermind all the surrounding light, the power armor had scarlet shoulder armor attachments, the extra bulk making them look like malicious interstellar linebackers.  These Orionans were all that remained of the Praetorian Guard, Argnor’s personal bodyguards that had failed in their mission.  Krognar, upon hearing of his son’s death, had forbade the Praetorians from committing suicide, the traditional Orionan response to failure.  Instead, he had decreed that the Praetorians would be allowed to end their lives once they had brought to account the Human responsible, a man who’s location continued to strobe near the center of the continent continuing its journey to darkness and the point where the final arks of humanity would lift off towards safety.

As the four ships continued down, down to around fifty thousand feet above the tranquil Pacific waters below, they slowed then almost stopped, detecting their first population center of over a million sentient beings.  Continuing to twenty thousand feet, the four ships continued their descent towards the islands of Hawaii, slowing even further as they reached the thicker air at lower altitude.  It was at that point the hulls of the vessels seemed to come alive, fragmenting in what appeared to be a sudden disintegration.  If any human had been present to lay eyes on the event, he or she might have cried out in exultation, thinking deliverance was at hand.

Those cries would have quickly turned to dismay as the fragments, flat flying wings nicknamed Boomerangs due to their distinctive shape, scurried away from their mother ships.  The Orionans, while disdaining to use fighters in the depth of space, were quite aware of the devastating effect airpower had within an atmosphere.  While far from sophisticated machines, the Boomerangs made up for their lesser technology with a truly devastating forward firepower and a truly robust level of armor.  Leveling off, the one hundred and twenty ‘Rangs headed off like a swarm of bats, arrowing straight towards the Hawaiian Island Chain.

Realizing the entry vector of the assault ships, General Connelly had ordered the evacuation vessels at the various Hawaii base complexes to immediately cease loading and retreat to the U.S. mainland.  He had only been forced to repeat his order twice, the second time threatening to kill the offending captains himself.  With tears in their eyes, screaming their impotent fury at Connelly through their data links, the five men and four women had complied, leaving thousands of trained military individuals to their fates.  Of the nine, four would commit suicide in the following years, still hearing the cries of those pitiful few they left behind in their ears.

Realizing that their last hope for getting off planet had left, scurrying off at high speed low over the Pacific, many of the remaining personnel resolved to defend their families.  The Griffins were closing far too quickly to have a hope of attempting to sail any ships from Pearl Harbor, but there were the roughly two hundred serviceable Navy, Marine, and Air Force combat aircraft stationed in the Hawaiian Islands.  As the Orionan fighters accelerated away from the Griffins, their pilots sighted the approaching human aircraft and howled their joy at opening the hunt.

Due to the limited introduction of retrofits by the United States Armed Forces as well as the basic level of Orionan technology, the mismatch was not as great as it could have been.  Instead of a modern jet fighter engaging a biplane, it was more a case of a 21st Century warplane engaging the early, much more primitive models flown at the closing stages of World War II.  While the Orionans had yet to develop an effective atmospheric laser, the devastating combination of rail guns, anti-matter missiles, and short-range plasma cannon was more than enough to stack the deck in their favor.

The fight took all of 45-minutes, broadcast live to the world.  Only slightly better than a massacre, it left the major cities of Hawaii in flames and all military power in the state broken.  For the Orionans, it cost twelve ‘Rangs.  Given that all the humans in Hawaii were now the property of the bypassing Griffins, it was a small price to prey.  Hawaii would continue to be a tourist mecca, except when these tourists returned it would be to gorge themselves on human flesh.

 

Fort Riley

1245 Local

 

Eric could hear the cries of shock and dismay from where he sat, his armor open so he could enjoy the breeze as it blew around him.  He could hear the buzz of the bees as they went about their business, and the rattle of small arms fire and the occasional boom of a main gun in the direction of Manhattan as the Reservists and Guard went about theirs.  Well, at least it was quick for most everyone around Pearl Harbor, he thought grimly.

Now wouldn’t it be ironic if we had some 50’s sci-fi movie shit go down and we find out the Orionans are allergic to bees or something? he thought.  We like evacuate the planet, come back, and find everyone we’re leaving behind alive, well, and really, really pissed off because we left them to face a bunch of psychopathic walking cat lizards?  Oh wait, let’s not forget rabidly carnivorous, and with an acquired taste for Human flesh.

            Someone nudged him in the back, causing him to jump and startle several nearby bees.  Looking up, shading his eyes, he saw Jack standing above him.  The man held two cups in his hands, extending one towards Eric.  In complete shock, Eric saw the logo familiar to anyone who had lived in the Puget Sound area for more than twenty-four hours.

“Holy shit!” Eric shouted, causing several nearby people to turn and look from where the last of the orderly queues were heading into the rear of the evacuation vessels.  One mother covered her child’s ears and favored Eric with a glare, a move so quaint it caused Eric to break out into laughter.  Stopping, he took a deep pull of the latte, savoring the Hazelnut.

“Okay, laughing at a woman who’s probably just left her entire home behind is probably not the smartest thing you ever did,” Jack said, seeing the woman staring hard at Eric as if memorizing his face.  “I think when we get to Barren someone’s going to get the ass-kicking of their life.”

“Right,” Eric scoffed.  “Hey, my name’s Eric!  Eric Walthers, Star Colonel, one each!” he turned and shouted to the woman.

Eric!” Jack said.  “Get a freakin’ grip.”  Eric turned and looked at Jack, a smile on his face.

“Oh yeah, get a grip my hovertank friend says.  You just don’t get it, do you?” Eric asked.  “This is it.  This is the last freakin’ cup of Starbucks I’ll ever have.  I’ll never see DisneyWorld again.  Never go for a midnight swim in the Pacific, as incredibly stupid as doing that is.  Nope, not Star Colonel Walthers, the most wanted man in the Universe—he just keeps getting the schlong!”

Jack was about to open his mouth, then closed it.  Pondering for a moment, he thought of a different tack.

“What do you think the Reservists are going to think when they see these ships lift off?” Jack asked, the small arms fire at the main gates picking up again.  General Connelly had made the call not to inform the men that they were to be abandoned, realizing that it was absolutely critical that the gates to the post be held to the last possible moment.  Eric found himself stunned once more at the utter cold-bloodedness of his commander, but there was a reason he had been tapped to lead the TEC and it hadn’t been his sparkling personality.

Bet POTUS is regretting that decision right now, Eric thought.  If not, he will be really, really soon.  While Colorado Springs wasn’t a major population center, it was probably pretty high on the Orionan target list thanks to NORAD.  Only the nearby presence of Denver would probably delay the inevitable.  The Orionans’ tremendous appetite for fine dining, which they considered the Humans, usually colored their decisions.

“I’ll be sure to ask them,” Eric replied sarcastically.  He saw Karin striding up behind Jack and nodded towards her as he drank the last of his latte, trying to make the movement seem casual.

“You haven’t told Karin yet, have you?” Jack asked quietly, not seeing the signal or realizing the Dominionite woman was right behind him.  Eric winced, mentally wishing that his friend knew when to shut up.

“Told Karin what?” the Dominionite asked, her features calm and imperturbable as always.  She held a bundle of dandelions in her hand, the yellow flowers strangely quaint for a woman decked out in her armor.

“Who gave you the flowers?” Eric joked, attempting to change the subject.  “Point him out so I can go kick his ass.”

“Your feeble attempts at distraction never work with your own females, what makes you think it would work with me?” Karin asked flatly.  “Tell me what?”

“I asked you a question first,” Eric replied.  Dominionites hated it when Humans were utterly illogical, almost to the point of homicidal rage.  Given that a completely irate Dominionite was going to be the end result any way one sliced it, Eric figured he might as well go for broke.

Karin took a deep breath, her eyes starting to deepen in hue, then suddenly caught herself.

“I have been watching a great deal of human interaction today, Eric,” Karin said, her voice approaching the Dominionite standard for humor.  “While I have always thought your race bizarre despite individuals being completely, as you say, loveable, I never realized the complete range of your species emotions and communication techniques until this morning.  From your sheepishness when I admitted we coupled, and quite enjoyably, last night to the strange female child that handed me these flowers ‘because I looked sad’, I have seen much.”

Eric realized he was screwed.  Dominionites were not happy unless they had someone in what his old wrestling coach had called the “old hucklebuck”, completely helpless and in a world of hurt.  If Karin was happy, that meant the hammer was coming down.

“So, I recognize your tactic for what it is, an attempt to make me upset so that you may avoid telling me whatever it is you have neglected to tell me.  I laud your efforts.”

Eric looked over to find Jack, and found much to his surprise that his friend had disappeared from beside him.  Typical, he thought.

“General Connelly has asked me to be the last pilot off Earth,” Eric said quietly.  “I was going to wait until your mecha was stowed, then tell you.”  Better to tell you a half truth than a whole lie, he thought to himself.

Karin turned towards him, her eyes literally flashing so brightly it looked like summer lightning.  In times of extreme emotions, Dominionites generated a minor static electricity field throughout their body, manifested in their eyes and at the tips of their limbs.  Touching one at such a time was like grabbing onto an old joy buzzer, slightly tingly and very surprising.  Needless to say, it made cross-species relationships rather interesting, and more than once Eric had been glad he didn’t have a pacemaker or undiagnosed heart murmur.

Okay, not the time to think about sex, he thought, Karin’s hands balled into fists.

“If I had told you the information that I was about to share with you,” Karin spat out, “I would think that you would be staying behind to die with your former love.”

“What?!” Eric asked, shocked.

“The woman who still owns a part of your heart, no matter how much you try to fight it,” Karin said, her voice low and angry.  “The one you refuse to find so that you can finally end your relationship in your mind.”

Eric was shocked once more.  His face obviously showed it because Karin favored him with a slight mocking look, the equivalent of a full sneer with humans.

“What, you didn’t think after one of your years of marriage that I would not know you so well, Eric Walthers of Topeka?  For the first year you were with the Confederation you thought of little else, even telling my uncle that you wished you had never been flying the day we came to your world,” Karin thundered.  Eric started backing up, a mistake as it caused Karin to cover the distance between them in two steps.

“Oh, I hated you, and what I considered your pathetic whining.  You killed my bethrothed, albeit through is own arrogance and stupidity, and you had the audacity to complain about unrequited love?  You have no idea how often you flirted with the Dark One while in the middle of your self-pity.”

“Karin, you know I did not intend to kill Qatran,” Eric stammered, never having seen his wife so angry.  “The collision…”

“Do you really think, after six years, that I still have feelings for him?  He was arrogant, the marriage was arranged, and you would never have rammed his fighter on purpose—until today you were never so determined to die.  But can you say the same about this Jessica person?”

“She’s as good as dead, honey,” Eric replied, starting to wave Karin’s concern away.  Karin reached out and snatched his hand, her eyes locking with his.

“I will not allow you to take the easy route out, Eric,” Karin snapped.  “You wish to allow the Dark One to choose what woman you shall spend your life with because you lack the courage to do so yourself.  This is cowardly, and I have never known you to be a coward.”

“What difference does it make?” Eric asked.  “General Connelly…”

“Put out very strict rules regarding who could be taken.  I have done the work you would not,” Karin said fiercely.  “Her DNA is of a superior strand.”

“How do you…?” Eric asked, his eyes suddenly widening.

“Foolish Human, you of all people should realize how bad I am when truly determined,” Karin replied, her voice low and primal.  “You will have to decide, not Death.  I will go get her myself if I have to.”

“What?!  Are you insane, the entire Orionan Fleet is getting ready to begin bombarding this planet, the world is such complete chaos they are having to shoot down people at the gates to this post, and you are talking to me about going to find an individual?!”

Karin’s comment was interrupted by the sound of a couple hundred screams from the direction of the Potemkin, four hundred yards to their south.  Simultaneously, Eric heard the screech of his communications speakers and realized that the last of the civilians had been loaded.  Karin released him, her look clearly telling him that their conversation was not over.  As he sprung for his armor, he saw Jack sprinting towards him from the Wizard of Oz, cycling his helmet back as he came.  Eric finished slipping on his suit and cycling his helmet on just as his friend reached him.

What he saw was not good by half.  Thank you, Murphy, may I please have another? Eric thought, the weight of the world suddenly heavy on his shoulders.  The Potemkin, one of the first vessels loaded with over two thousand family members, had just suffered a critical powerplant failure.  The vessel wasn’t going anywhere for at least three hours.  In three hours, the Orionans would be over the Earth’s horizon and able to engage the vessel as the attempted to take off.  While fighting one Griffin was a fair fight for the evacuation ship, four was far from it.

“Olivia, General Connelly, priority line, right fuckin’ now!” Eric barked to his suit.

“Swear word count now at…” his mother’s voice, recorded from the Birthday CD she had made for his 15th Birthday, started to chide him.  Eric had been trying to improve his temper and command presence as befitting his promotion to Commander of 1st Brigade.  As several of his now subordinate leaders had pointed out, Colonels and above didn’t swear every other word—it started to make people believe the situation was worse than it actually was.

“Olivia, now!” Eric said desperately.

A moment later, General Connelly’s visage appeared in mid-air in front of Eric.  The screams and cries from the Potemkin were growing louder, then suddenly ceased as her captain got on the intercom.

“Sir, we have a problem,” Eric said, then quickly recounted his issue.  Connelly looked as if Eric had struck him, seemingly aging five years in a matter of seconds.  I wonder when the last time he slept was, Eric thought to himself.

“Star Colonel, you need to leave the vessel,” Connelly said tiredly.  “Get the other four out of there.”

“What?!  Sir, I will not…”

“Dammit Eric, it’s only two thousand people.  We are talking the deaths of billions in a matter of hours.  The Heart of Orion just folded out of system with half of the Orionan Fleet.  You know what that means, don’t you?”

Eric felt as if the bottom had dropped out of his stomach.  He physically staggered, then looked up at both Jack and Karin.  Their faces were similarly shocked, Jack’s a total and complete pale.

“We killed Krognar, and now whomever was next in line of succession…” Eric began.

“Is preparing to take possession of this planet, yes.  It will be a blood orgy the likes of which the world has never seen, and what remains of the Orionan Fleet is closing with you as we speak.”

Eric closed his eyes, suddenly absolutely aware of every smell and sensation around him.  It would be the last time he felt Earth’s gravity beneath his feet, saw the rolling green plains of Kansas in front of him.  The Orionan Prophecy had come to pass—Earth had caused the fall of the House of Krognar.  The remainder of the Prophecy, however, spoke of the blue green planet being swallowed in a tremendous orgy of flame, its ashes to be scattered to the solar winds.  The Orionans were big into prophecies, almost as big as they were into eating.  The new Emperor had probably sent away all but those who were most in his favor, the better to dine on the delicacy that was mankind.

Time to run as if the Devil himself was behind me, Eric thought, then stopped.  No, I’m tired of running.

“Sir, if we leave these people, we’re not better than our former leaders,” Eric said firmly.  “First Brigade will buy ourselves time.”

General Connelly’s face colored as if he was going to override Eric, then he stopped.  Sighing heavily, seeing the determination on Eric’s face, he nodded.

“Sir, I’ll need additional elements,” Eric said, doing the calculations in his head.

“No,” Connelly replied.  “You want to play Jim Bowie, I’m going to play Sam Houston.  You fight with what you have there with you, at Riley.  Uplink me your plan.”

“Why?  So you can talk about how brave I was at my eulogy?” Eric asked bitterly.  “Or so you know which way no to run.”

Connelly’s face was set in stone as he looked into Eric’s eyes.

“I will ignore those last remarks and chalk them up to stress, Star Colonel.  Do you have the package?”

“Yes, I have your damn package, it’s aboard Nikita,” Eric replied, referring to his mecha’s nickname.

“Good.  I am rerouting the Hawaiian ships to your location.  Get the rest of the ships out of there, now.”

“Wilco,” Eric said, not quick enough to catch Connelly as he disappeared.

“Karin, I need Commander Wallaby here now,” Eric said, turning to his wife.  Karin nodded, heading towards the Shangri-La.  Jack looked at him, shaking his head.

“Eric, this is insane,” he said darkly.  “You, especially you, cannot be risked in combat right now.”

Eric looked back toward the Potemkin, its hatches opening to allow people to file out from its sides.

“I’m not leaving anyone here, Jack.  Go see to your men.”

“Dammit, I don’t feel like getting blown to smithereens because you’ve got a hero complex,” Jack said, not moving.  Eric turned to look at him.

“Jack, Amy’s on that boat,” Eric replied.  “You want to leave her here?  You want to tell Jason that you left his freakin wife to die?

“Fuck you, Eric,” Jack said fiercely, tears in his eyes.  With that, he turned to go get his battalion ready.

Metal Monday–Concerts

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So last Tuesday (18 October), Korn and Breaking Benjamin came to town.   I took the better half to the concert for her birthday.  Sound problems were all over the place at the Kansas Expocentre, to the point we couldn’t understand the first act (Silver Snakes) over their drums, could only understand the plethora of F-bombs dropped by the lead singer of Motionless In White, and really think the Breaking Benjamin fans got screwed out of what sounded like an awesome concert.  Of course, it was partially made up for by Breaking Benjamin playing The Imperial March:

“But JY, you didn’t copy the whole…”

“Sorry man, had to headbang.  Have this in apology…”

Anyway, as you can hear, not the best sound–and it was worst in person.  So I was a little worried when Korn came out.  Indeed, I even texted a friend, “Jon Davis is going to smite the sound man halfway through ‘Right Now.'”

*pause*

Well, I guessed the opening song right.  However, there is no video of it.  Why?  Because about 30 seconds into the set, as Korn starts playing and I’m almost levitating in my seat, AY said, “Why don’t you just get up–you know you want to.”  Yep, that’s right, I guessed the opening song AND they fixed the sound system (or Jonathan Davis knew how to deal with it).  Ergo, you’re just going to have to deal with the vid from another concert, as thankfully my spouse is a goodie two shoes who didn’t record me headbanging like I was 25 again.  (AY thought about it.  Good and hard apparently.)

 

Yeah, if there’s ever a time when I’m “storming a castle,” “Right Now” is making the track list.

As part of “Deaf Week,” we also went to Shinedown / Five Finger Death Punch (with Sixx AM as one of the opening acts) in Wichita on the 22nd. Now, if you’d told me on Friday in a three-way concert rumble between Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, and Shinedown I’d be picking the them in reverse order, I’d have wondered if someone had brained you.  For those of you who may not recall the third Metal Monday, this is Five Finger Death Punch:

This is Shinedown:

Well, friends, let me tell ya…Shinedown brought it.  I mean, they BROUGHT. IT.  Don’t get me wrong–Jon Davis was just as energetic as he looks in the above video.  However, Brent Smith (Shinedown’s lead) opened up with telling everyone to get out of their chair…and no one sat down for the next hour.  It wasn’t just the pyrotechnics…it was pretty much the back catalog gave Shinedown plenty of ammo to work with.  Just an amazing show…that left Five Finger Death Punch with a tired crowd.

I can’t say it enough–if you like rock, go see Shinedown in concert.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

B-Sides and Outtakes “Armageddon Dawn”–Part V

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Things are tracking along nicely with the end of the world.  By this point if you’re dropping in with no background, strongly suggest you start back here .  Welcome all TOPCON and Time Eddy visitors–hope that you enjoy your visit!

Fort Riley, Kansas

 1000 Local (1100 Eastern)

 

Putting off their characteristic whine, the last of Jason’s fourteen M-9 Powells settled down off of their hoverfans, the thirty-ton tanks’ bulk raising a puff of dust as it settled down heavily onto the Kansas dirt.  Jason turned away from the settling tank back towards main post, now able to hear the rhythmic rumbling of a battalion’s worth of M-1A2SEP main battle moving up from the motorpools to the south.

So hard to believe a force so powerful for this planet is the equivalent of horse and lance for the stars, Jason thought to himself.  There was a low whine coming from the east, gradually building to a crescendo.  Although I think this is about to be reinforced, he thought.

With a flash, the rises to the east of Fort Riley suddenly became alive with movement as the 6th Shock Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Mecha Division, Terran Expeditionary Corps, crested the intervening terrain in a charge that took Jason’s breath away.  Moving at over one hundred miles an hour, seventy-five hovertanks weighing in excess of seventy tons apiece hurtled over the terrain towards Fort Riley.  At a silent signal, all seventy-five hovertanks suddenly came to a dead stop.  At another signal, the vehicles transformed into bipedal mecha, their main guns becoming the end of their left arm, the missile launchers usually mounted abreast their turrets swiveling to flank the “head” of their cockpit.

“Danger, inbound unidentified…” Jack’s helmet indicator began to intone, the Powell’s internal sensors detecting airborne targets via satellite feed.

The rest of the warning was drowned out by the ear-splitting roar of engines, as over a hundred aircraft thundered overhead from east to west, flying a perfect Vs upon Vs formation.  The aircraft, all hailing from the 5th Mecha Dragoons, came in various shapes and sizes.  The two most numerous ones were the Sparrowhawk, a mecha that resembled a tailless cranked delta-wing when in fighter mode, and the Kestrel, fighters that bore a marked resemblance to the American F-15 Eagle yet with swept wings.  Like their hovertank brethren, the aircraft stopped on a dime without signal, the exhaust of their retro-thrusters visible in the humid Kansas air, then transformed into hovering two-legged war machines that sat at altitude, their engines suddenly silent as they hung on repulsors.

“Sir, let me just state how utterly amazing a moment this is,” his gunner, and longtime Japanimation fan Sergeant Clark Blackwell said.  Turning, Jason could see the man standing with tears in his eyes, staring reverentially up at the now descending mecha like they were descending Playboy bunnies.

Too bad he doesn’t know what I do, which is those things are the only thing that can stand on the same battlefield as our soon to be opponents, Jason thought.  Which means that it’s a good thing we’re just here for crowd control, and will be on those damn evacuation ships in a jiffy.

            As Jason watched, one of the former hovertanks strode towards him.  Beside him, Blackwell was almost beside himself in joy, seeing the war machine start to get closer.  The mecha stood just over twenty feet tall and twelve feet wide, the seventy tons moving forward with a measured stride.  While all mecha could move forward using repulsorlifts and thrusters, both of those systems took about twice the energy as simply utilizing the “musculature circuitry”, yet another good enough translation, in the legs.  Unless a mecha had to be somewhere very, very quickly during a fight, it made more sense to divert power to the weaponry systems and shielding, especially in the face of an Orionan ground assault.

The particular mecha in question was a Grizzly, or so Jason’s mind suddenly told him in a flash of cognition that made him a little dizzy.  Jack said the mind flash takes a little bit getting used to, he thought.  Colored in all black with a gold trim, a roaring stylized lion’s visage in the center of the cockpit canopy, the Grizzly was the command mecha for the “Golden Lions”, the 6th Battalion’s nickname bestowed upon them by their first commander, the late Lieutenant Colonel Ajax McCarthy .  One of two hovertank types in the CCDF, the Grizzly like its namesake was designed for close-in battles with the Orionan Horde.  Just over the horizon, near the turnoff for Manhattan proper, were the Woomera fire-support hovertanks of the 7th Battalion, the “Horsemen”.

As Jason watched, the canopy cleared from its opaque mode to reveal a single figure at the vehicle’s controls, obviously female by the contours of the battle armor.  Jason suddenly felt a gust of wind and looked behind and up, watching as the command mecha for the fighters, a Phoenix, descended from above his head and landed just expertly beside the other mecha as it stopped twenty yards short of Jason and Blackwell’s position.  The two massive plasma rifles that constituted the Phoenix’s main armament were retracted to their normal positions, the barrels pointed vertically into the sky behind each of the mecha’s shoulders.  Man, looks like the Japanimation folks got something right, Jason thought, not knowing that the Phoenix pilot had been the guiding force behind the prototype for the mecha.

“Okay, next to that whole threesome fantasy with Natalie Portman and Kirsten Dunst, I’m pretty much at a ten,” Blackwell breathed.  Jason turned and looked at the man, shaking his head.

“Okay Sergeant Blackwell, I’m going to have Top sedate you if you keep making comments like that,” Jason said.  Blackwell looked over at him, and Jason realized he could’ve told the man he would shoot him in both his kneecaps and he wouldn’t have cared.  The short, stocky African-American was in rapture, his brown eyes wider than dinner plates.

“Mecha.  Women mecha pilots.  Multiple types of mecha.  Sir, all we need now is some princess that needs rescuing and we are in Blackwell Heaven,” the NCO breathed.  Jason suddenly found himself thinking of Elvis groupies back in the Sixties, fully expecting Blackwell to scream and faint in a moment.  He turned to say something when the situation suddenly changed.

“You humans and your damsel in distress fantasies,” the walking hovertank boomed from hidden speakers, causing everyone within earshot to jump.  “Any female who finds herself in such a situation lacks the intelligence to be good breeding stock—why would you want to share your bloodline with hers?”

The voice coming from the mecha was obviously feminine, and imperious to boot.  With a hiss, the canopy opened, whipping from left to right as one complete unit.  With an almost feline grace, it’s pilot jumped out, dropping to the ground from a heigh that would have broken most humans’ legs, if not killed them outright.  The pilot hit with only a slight flexing of knees, then started striding over to where Jason and Blackwell were standing..

“Holy shit,” Blackwell said as the woman got closer.  She was easily six feet tall if not more, with broad, muscular hips that met at a narrow, waspy waist.  This waist then broadened back out as it moved up to her full chest and broad shoulders, the entire package moving without the gangly awkwardness of many tall women.  Reaching up, the woman touched the sides of her armor, the helmet portion flipping back then sliding into the back portion of the suit between her shoulders.  The face revealed was a deep, rich chocolate brown in complexion, the features soft and narrow.  If not for the completely sapphire blue eyes, the pilot would look like a beautiful human woman, stunning enough to be a supermodel.

“Okay, I’m going to go see Top now,” Blackwell breathed, captivated by the woman’s beauty.

“Might be a plan,” Jason observed quietly, set back himself.  He had once watched a documentary on ancient Egyptian queens like Cleopatra and Nefertiti that had described their beauty as being without description.  At the time he had scoffed, refusing to believe any woman could be that beautiful—a comment that had gotten a bucket of ice dumped on him and sent his chances of marital relations dropping so low they made Hell seem like Mount Everest.  While Kathy had eventually forgiven him after much flowers and chocolate, he had quietly continued to believe such descriptions were a bit excessive.

Yeah, well, looks like one learns something every day, he thought as the woman walked up to him.

“Jason, close your mouth, you’re drooling,” Jack said as he suddenly came up behind him.  Turning to the female pilot, his face grew hard and he brought his arm across his chest in a form of salute.

“Star Colonel Tobarakh, welcome to Earth,” Jack intoned, his voice low and dignified.  The pilot returned the salute, ending it with a short bow of her head.  Her features softening somewhat, which is to say they downgraded from polite glaciality to cold, she extended her hand towards Jason.

“Greetings Jason Mitchell of Fort Riley,” the pilot said.  “My name is Karin Tobarakh of Adjibouti, the planet of Dominion.”

Jason took the pro-offered hand, suddenly surprised by the strength of Karin’s grip and the nascent strength he felt behind it.  Sweet Jesus, she could crush my hand if she wanted to, he thought.  Jason had once shaken hands with a professional bodybuilder, four time winner of the World’s Strongest Man contest.  At the time he had believed that he would never shake hands with another person as powerful.  Obviously I was wrong about that one.

“Sir,” Jack said, saluting as the pilot of the figher mecha came up beside the woman and dropped his visor.  Jason was shocked to see the features of a human, the man returning the salute.

“Jack, you can stop that shit at anytime,” Eric replied, his voice weary.  Turning, he extended his hand and shook Jason’s.  “Star Colonel Eric Walthers, formerly of Topeka, Kansas.”

Jason sighed in relief, not realizing he had been holding his breath.

“Yeah, I know, it’s good to see a freakin’ human,” Eric said.  “No offense, honey,” he said quickly to the woman.  Karin raised one of her narrow eyebrows at Eric, the ghost of a smile crossing her face for the first time.

“I do not recall you complaining about me being a non-human when we coupled last night, Eric Walthers of Earth.”

There was an extremely awkward silence amongst the four individuals, Eric’s skin blushing as much as someone his shade could.  Karin looked at all three men, then shook her head.

“You humans are such prudes,” she said in her native tongue, utterly beguiling Jason.

“Dear, it’s not polite to discuss what happens between husband and wife in mixed company, especially when you have just met,” Eric replied softly in the same language.  Jason continued to look back and forth between the two of them, the flow of sounds utterly astounding him.  In a perverse reversal of the usual order of things, the family members and non-combatants being loaded on the ships had been the first in line for translator chips.  Space was unforgiving of mistakes, and all it took was someone not understanding that they were about to open a hatch to kill a shipful of people.

“This man finds me desirable, and I did not need a sensor array to tell that had I but offered his subordinate would have coupled with me right here.  Do you not want them to know that you have, and can continue to have, me?  Is our coupling not pleasing to you?”

“You know, I don’t think I need a translator to realize someone’s stepped in deep shit,” Jason said bemusedly.  Jack snickered, turning away to hide his grin.

“You have a mate, Jason of…Jason?” Karin asked, forcing herself to remember Human custom with names.

“Yes, yes he does,” Jack said quietly.  Jason turned and looked at him, then back at Karin.

“Yes, my wife, Amy,” Jason said.  There was a flash of recognition in Karin’s eyes, and she looked quickly back and forth between Jason and Jack.  Before she could say something potentially embarrassing, Jack held up his hand.

“Yes, my ex-girlfriend,” Jack said.  “And yes, I know on your world this would be cause for a blood match to the death.  There’s more than it would take to explain, Karin, let’s just leave it at that.”

“After the idiocy of your most prominent world leaders, nothing surprises me anymore,” Karin said with a shrug.  “My father provided them with various more efficient power sources, cures for diseases, and weapons technology that was several generations ahead of where you would have been normally at this time.”

“General Connelly has taken care of that problem,” Eric replied fiercely, his eyes lit with barely contained fury.

“I am afraid that their being consumed alive isn’t quite going to cut it,” Jason said, his voice heavy.  The enormity of what was going to happen had just started to sink in for him, and he hated himself for being incredibly glad that his and his entire immediate family’s seats on the last ships out of Dodge were guaranteed.  Although I’d love to see Mom’s face when the Tectal showed up at her doorstep, Jason thought with a grin.  The Tectal were the scouts of the CCDF, tall, elfin featured creatures with generally willowy builds and almost human eyes.  While no one could confirm it, according to Jack, most of the humans were reasonably certain the Tectals had been using Earth as a vacation spot off and on for several millennia.  Jason broke out of his reverie to see Jack staring at him.

“Thinking about Lucy when the Tectal shows up at the door?” Jack asked with a big grin.  Lucy Mitchell was enough of a Middle Earth fan that she had camped out for two days waiting on the first movie to be released.

“You know, Dad’s been dead for two years,” Jason observed.  “I think the poor bastard will be lucky if she doesn’t jump his bones right there in the living room.”

“Okay, that’s something most normal folks don’t think about their mother,” Eric said in shock.

“Look, I walked in on my parents when I was ten,” Jason said.  “They figured the cat was out of the bag at that point.  Made them happy—someone they could tell to take my brothers for a ‘long walk’ when Dad got back from the field.”

Jack whipped his head around in shock.

“So that’s why you were always coming by to get me so we could go to the park when our parents were stationed at Fort Lewis!”

“Uh, dude, it’s no big deal—how do you think they got Sarah?  Look’s like Dad got what he paid for with the vasectomy,” Jason said, alluding to the fact military personnel were given free medical care.

There discussion was broken up by the sound of several mecha powering up their weapons, then standing down.  All of htem looked up as far overhead, several contrails indicated the path of a squadron of positively outclassed F-15 Eagles.

“Why do military pilots continue to fly when they are assured of evacuation?  Did not General Connelly advise this planet of their impending doom just one hour ago?”

“Yes,” Eric said heavily.  “Some men are refusing to obey his orders, and are going to defend their families, their homes.”

“They would have more chance of stopping a comet or flying through a star,” Karin said flatly.  “They will be killed like…like flies against a windshield.”  Karin smiled, turning to Eric.  “A good use of your quaint sayings, yes?”

“Yeah, except those flies are our people,” Jason said heavily.  “And that windshield is heading for our planet.”

“You humans are technologically backwards, but you do not lack for courage,” Karin said, her voice touching on sadness.  “It is unfortunate that your leadership was so poor.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not like the average person knew.  There’s a reason they had everyone report to Area 51 prior to shipping out for Barren,” Eric said bitterly.  “Some of us involuntarily.”

“Speaking of your involuntary expulsion to somewhere over the rainbow, have you gotten in contact with Jesse?”  Jack asked, suddenly remembering the picture that Eric carried in his wallet.  Eric gave a short snort.

“What would be the point?” Eric asked, his voice melancholy.  “We were all reported dead, remember?  I even got to read my own obituary and the eulogy delivered by my best friend.  Dumb bastard still owes me the $500 I loaned him for his engagement ring.”

“I suppose you’re going to collect once we get to Barren?”

“No, I’m not.  He collided with a Saudi Tornado over Riyadh,” Eric said quietly.

“Why do you not contact her, Eric?” Karin asked.

The low warbling sound of the post tornado siren sounded off in the distance, cutting off the conversation.  Almost at the same time, there was the sound of several weapons being powered up all around them, the mecha moving to give each other space to align their weapons down I-70 towards the west.  Jason looked as the mecha brought their weapons to bear, then turned back just in time to see Jack, Eric, and Karin all cycle their helmets back over their head, the clear faceshields snapping into place.  All three of them had the same look of intense concentration on their face, speaking rapidly into their microphones.

“Jason, REDCON-1!” Jack snapped, a tinge of fear in his voice.  “Get your soldiers mounted up and back to the evacuation ships, now!”

“What?!  We don’t even have all the family members aboard the vessels yet!”

“Get moving, dammit!  You guys cannot stand in this fight!”

Jason cursed at his friend, then ran back towards A-66, his fourteen M-9s already spooling up.  Thank God Hitchcock is naturally paranoid, Jason thought.  Hopping up on his tank’s front skirt, he felt the Powell shift and lift off the ground.  Sliding into his commander’s station, he plugged up his CVC.

“Okay Apache Five, what’s up?” he asked.

“Sir, I have no clue but Hammer 6 just told us to go to REDCON-1,” Hitchcock replied.  The battalion commander was a huge sci-fi buff, and since the Powell was a hovertank the new battalion nickname had been too good to pass up.  Colonel Donovan had drawn the line at adding the full nickname, citing copyright laws.

“Funny, that’s the second time I’ve heard that.  What’s up?”

“It looks like someone kicked off the aliens’ plans early, because apparently all Hell is breaking loose out in space.”

 

C.C.D.F.S. Huntress

Luna Orbit

1025 Kansas Time

 

“Sir, the enemy is advancing!”

“In the immortal words of Star Colonel Walthers, ‘No shit, really’?!” Kwirh growled.  “Could I get a coherent report?”

“The enemy fleet is beginning to collapse towards Terra, Star Admiral,” Star Colonel Anastasia “Ice Princess” Zdhanov, Third Fleet’s intelligence chief, intoned from her station.  A former Russian spy, Ana was the stereotypical Russian female of that profession-tall, brunette, and beautiful.  The last often distracted men from realizing that she had one of the highest IQs ever recorded, usually to someone’s great dismay when she sank a knife in their exposed back.  Next to Eric, she had been one of the quickest to grasp the nuances and intricacies of space combat and intergalactic warfare.  She had found a niche on Kwirh’s Dominionite dominated staff, accepted quickly due to her cold-blooded military mind and amazing ability to analyze enemy actions.

“I must say, that plan worked all too well,” Kwirh rumbled.

“What exactly did Star Colonel Walthers say in his message?” Ana asked.  She had been sleeping when the message had been beamed utilizing usual Orionan protocols.

“He stated that Argnor had begged for his life before he killed him, then described the great joy he found in shoving his energy lance into his loins.  Finally, he stated how the Crown Prince’s meat was so tainted, his fighting skills so poor, that it had not even been worth consuming, which was why left it for the Tauran crows to feast upon it.”

“So basically insulting all three of the Orionans’ tenets of bravery, fighting skill, and purity of body.  Yep, we’re fighing to the death today,” Ana said, swiveling back around to look at her screen.  She self-consciously pulled her skirt down, brushing her bangs from in front of her eyes.  Had she been on one of the human-crewed vessels, the movement would have distracted every male on the bridge and probably led to a collision with a solid planetary body.  On the bridge of the Huntress, it led to every member of the bridge tightening down their restraints and doublechecking their environmental suits.  If the Ice Princess was nervous, things were very bad.

“Sir, the Illustrious reports all fighters deployed, requesting further orders.”

“Tell her and the rest of the carriers to get the hell out of here after launching their fighters,” Kwirh responded.  Thank God we finished retrofitting hyperdrives on all of the small craft last month during the Mourning Lull, Kwirh thought.  The Orionans had taken six months to bury Argnor, holding a festival of bloodsports, feasting, and combats to determine who would now succeed Krognar.  Given the reports of the intensive combats, it was amazing that any of the Orionan nobility had survived to make the journey to Earth.  There had been no reports on whom had won the right of succession, the news that the Orionans were beginning their general offensive with an attack on Earth superseding all other news.

Illustrious acknowledges and wishes us Godspeed.”

“You humans are so quaint with both your naming conventions and your wishes for good luck,” Kwirh said to Ana, shaking his head.  “Especially with your continued clinging to theology.”

“We have evidence of our God’s works,” Ana said stiffly.  A strictly practicing Eastern Orthodox, she found the Dominionites logical disdain for God disturbing, one of the few downsides to being on the Huntress’s bridge.

“Where is your God now, Ana?” Kwirh asked.

“Almost all religions have a portion of their main tome that deals with the final battle between Good and Evil on Earth,” Ana replied.  “Krognar’s visage is close enough to the common perception of Satan that an argument could be made this is the Day of Judgment, and the Orionans are God’s punishment for our sins.”

“Fighters making contact.”

“Well, if this is so, then I hope your God decides to make himself manifest in our favor, and soon.”

“We will see,” Ana replied quietly.

 

Depictions of fanciful space combat were as numerous as there were sentient cultures.  While the swirling, whirling dogfights that were a staple of atmospheric warfare were almost impossible in space due to the crushing influences of inertia at just barely sublight speeds, Confederation inertial dampeners had made things far more closer than they had been ten thousand years ago the last time that the Orionans and CCDF had met.  Given the crushing advantage in size and numbers enjoyed by the Orionans, it was only their overwhelming advantage in fighters and technology that allowed the CCDF to contest space against the Orionan Fleet.

For their part, the Orionans had tried various ways to counter this advantage, everything from converting vessels up to cruiser size into massive flak batteries to simply filling the mass drivers aboard their vessels with debris and flinging this like a massive shotgun towards the swarm of CCDF fighters.  So far, nothing had consistently worked, especially against the heavily Earth-influenced Third Fleet.  It was just accepted that the CCDF small craft were going to get their licks in, but that eventually enough Orionan capital ships would push through as to make things a costly proposition.  As Ana regularly pointed out, the Orionans would have made marvelous Russians.

So it was far above Earth, as CCDF pilots flung themselves as the advancing Orionan Fleet with a tremendous fervor.  There were numerous examples of bravery that would go undocumented, with a great proportion of these being conducted by the beings whose blue green planet lay at the 3rd Fleet’s back.  In the end, the ferocity of the attack turned back a full third of the Orionan Fleet, several destroyers and even a few cruisers exploding from the stinging attentions of the attacking fighters.

But there was only so much the attack aircraft could do.  As the range closed, the CCDF battleline began engaging at long range with energy weapons, their superior technology giving the CCDF a full four minutes of uninterrupted fire as the Orionans passed the system’s asteroid belt.  With a tremendous explosion, a Gorgon-class battleship was the first capital ship to be destroyed on either side, its foolish captain having underestimated the amount of time it would take to close into Orionan weapons range.  With the majority of its power going to weapons instead of shields, the battleship’s hull was suddenly penetrated by a particle projector, the explosion taking a pair of escorting vessels along with it.

Then the Orionans were in extreme range, and the air between the two fleets suddenly came alive with mass driver slugs, plasma bolts, and anti-matter missiles.  On their side, the CCDF vessels began vectoring at an angle, employing the standard fleet tactic of cutting across the Orionan noses as they exchanged fire, culling a portion of the Orionan Fleet away on their way out of system.

The problem with standard tactics were that an opponent eventually caught on to them.  While Argnor had been the true guiding light for a renaissance of Orionan tactics, his changes had not died with him.  To the utter horror of several Third Fleet captains, the far side of the Orionan Fleet curled away from Earth and hurtled towards the rear of the Third Fleet, sloughing from in front of the nine Emperor-class battleships, so named because they were the flagships of the eight greatest noble houses of the Orionan Empire.  Only two of them, the Emperor’s own ship and that of the heir, were fully equipped with the massive laser that ran the length of the vessels’ keel.  This was a fortunate fact for the CCDF, as the Orionans also moved from in front of the vessels, a departure from usual practice where everything possible was done to protect the Emperor and the Crown Prince.

A moment later, it became blazingly obvious why the way had been cleared from in front of the two battleships.  The massive lasers from both ships fired, the azure bolts stabbing out towards the approaching Third Fleet.  Fortunately warships moved with a lot more agility than planets, and the human captains of the targeted ships had watched enough anime to know what it meant when lesser vessels cleared a path in front of flagships.

With panicked transmissions starting to come from his companion ships, it was at that moment Kwirh demonstrated why he was widely celebrated as the greatest of the CCDF Admirals.  Seeing a golden opportunity to end the war at a stroke, he barked his orders.  Utilizing their superior maneuverability gained by virtue of their smaller mass, and in quite a few cases the helpful hand of gravity, the Third Fleet reversed course and charged right down the throat of the onrushing Orionans, straight towards the advancing Empires.

It was brilliant and suicidal at the same time.  By charging into the Orionan Fleet, Kwirh limited the arcs of fire of most of the Orionan battleline while simultaneously putting the Emperor at risk.  Like a novice chess player suddenly confronted with a looming checkmate, the Orionan Fleet panicked.  Desperate to protect their Emperor, all order and formation disappeared.

It was at that moment that Kwirh played his hole card.  Raising on a massive plume of Lunar dust at the outer edges of the Orionan Fleet, the Fifth Squadron of the still forming Fourth Fleet rose from the light side of Earth’s moon.  Kwirh had slowly infiltrated the ships within the comings and goings of evacuation vessels and resupply ships, their transponders squawking false identity codes as they passed through the Third Fleet.  The security had not been for the sake of the Orionans, as there were no spies amongst the CCDF.  Instead, Kwirh had determined to stiffen his own fleet with the surprise, a move that seemed almost prescient given the current circumstances.

Under Admiral Arvid Thorsen, the Fifth Squadron was composed almost entirely of the oldest Terran exiles.  A former Norse Viking that had been saved from his shipwrecked vessel by the Dominionites over two millennia before, Arvid was one of the oldest Terran exiles.  Having sailed into battle under Eric the Red, been resurrected in what he considered to be Valhalla, and done battle amongst the stars for the previous millennia, Arvid had never truly shaken the trappings of his barbarian past.  Even now, his seat was covered with the furs of the wild bears of Barren, killed at close range with his traditional sword.

Thorsen’s flagship, the Eviscerator, was the newest of the Emasculator-class battleships.  Accompanied by her two slightly older sisters and six Victory class battlecruisers, the Eviscerator quickly closed in mortal combat with the nearest Emperor battleship.  With the Emasculators the CCDF had broken from its usual tradition of smaller, more maneuverable vessels.  While nowhere near the same bulk as an Emperor, the Emasculators were one and a half times larger than the Revenge-class, the next nearest CCDF battleship.  Most of that additional weight went to armament, as demonstrated with great violence to the Orionan Fleet.

While many beings would have attempted to continue their path and attempt to end the war, it was quickly apparent that the CCDF could attempt to kill Krognar or run, but not both.  As the Orionan Fleet reeled from the sudden assault, with the evacuation ships starting to lift off from Earth’s dark side, the call was made.

 

The Huntress shuddered, the impact whipping down her length.

“Shields down to forty-five percent, hull breach decks seven, eight, and nine!”

“Dammit, what was that?” Kwirh growled, turning to look at his sensors operator.

“Sir, we were engaged by the main laser of an Emperor-class battleship, the Star of Argnor from her identification code.  It was a glancing blow.”

“Remind me to strangle the Chief of Intelligence when I see her next,” Ana muttered.

Kwirh was about to retort when there was a massive explosion twenty miles off their port bow.  Looking, he recognized the bow section of the battleship Revenge tumbling crazily away from the blast.

“That was the main laser from the Heart of Orion,” the sensor operator said, his face as pale as a Dominionite’s ever got.  “She was hit dead on.”

“Do we have a clear line to that bastard yet?” Kwirh asked, seeing the Huntress’s viewports start to roll as she was brought around.

“Sir, we cannot…”

“I asked a question, damn you!” Kwirh roared.

“No…yes!” the sensor operator replied, as the battleship Emasculator blasted a pair of Orionan heavy cruisers out of the way.  The CCDF capital ship looked like she had been grabbed by a great beast and had pieces torn from her, flames clearly showing through her viewports.

“Ramming…” Kwirh began.  He did not get to finish as Emasculator, obviously seeing his plan, chose to steal his thunder.  Nimbly avoiding one of her Orionan counterparts, the CCDF battleship hurtled towards Krognar’s flagship.

“Sir, recommend that unless we are going to follow, we go with your original order and get the hell out of here,” Ana said.  “I’m willing to die, but I want it to have a purpose.”

The advancing Orionan Fleet had been thrown into disarray, and would take at least three or four hours to reform.  Looking at the threat display, Kwirh could see four assault ships arrowing for Earth, having made it through the cordon of the charging Fifth Squadron.

“Computer, losses?” Kwirh asked, even as Huntress’s main batteries flayed an Orionan destroyer starting a missile run.

“Twenty-five percent,” the computer replied.  “If we do not disengage the fleet in the next five minutes, the losses will be at least double.  The Orionans are beginning to recover.”

Looking up, Kwirh watched the last minutes of the CCDF battleship.  While the Heart of Orion’s shields had stopped the smaller ship’s charge cold, they had been sufficiently weakened to allow four of Emasculator’s heavy missiles to shoot through to arrow into the ship’s massive hull.  The Emperor’s life threatened, the Orionan Fleet was collapsing back towards the Huntress’s position.  The Emasculator erupted in a silent explosion, her fusion engines venting their fury in an explosion that took a pair of destroyers with her.

“Give that bastard our regards, let’s get the hell out of here,” Kwirh barked.  “Let General Connelly know he has company inbound, and that we are departing system.”

With a roar conducted through her hull, the Huntress disgorged her battery of twenty-six anti-matter missiles.  Each the size of a SLBM on Terra, the missiles had enough warhead power to split an unshielded planet in two.  Unfortunately, the Heart was very shielded, not to mention surrounded by a fleet that was willing to die to save their Emperor.  Four heavy cruisers and a pair of frigates made the ultimate sacrifice, putting their vessels in between the missiles and their intended target.  In the end, only two warheads passed through to explode against the flagship’s armor.  To the cheers of the bridge crew, the Heart lurched hard, spewing atmosphere and propulsion fuel as she turned away from the Huntress.

“That’ll teach them to try something new and leave the family jewels uncovered,” Ana muttered grimly.  Kwirh turned and looked at her.

“My translator must be reading incorrectly.  Did you just say family jewels?” Kwirh asked.  “Why do we care about jewelry at a time like this?”

Ana shook her head, looking out the viewport as the Huntress passed low over Luna, her passage stirring the space dust in the Sea of Tranquility.  Exhaling, she took one last look at Earth, receding behind them.  Turning to her sensors, she could see the first of the evacuation ships starting to take off from Earth’s darkside, away from the Orionan Fleet.  The four assault vessels continued to descend towards Earth, pursued by several remaining fighters.  There was a last furious exchange of fire, causing one of the assault vessels to begin spinning out of control and head towards the planet’s Southern Hemisphere at an angle that almost guaranteed it would hit the Earth as an uncontrollable mass, not a fully intact ship.  Realizing that there was little they could do inside the planet’s atmosphere in their space fighters, the last Third Fleet fighters pulled up and used Earth’s gravity to slingshot past the sun.  With several bright flashes, they were gone.

“Jump in five, four, three, two…”

With a bright flash, the Huntress entered hyperspace, the remainder of the Third Fleet jumping out with her.  Earth’s final hours had officially begun.

B-Sides and Outtakes– “Armageddon Dawn”–Part IV

Standard

If you haven’t been following the story–long story short, the crap has hit the fan for Humanity.  Angry aliens are coming to basically turn Earth into one big butcher shop.  You can pick up the first part of the story here.  This Part begins Chapter 2.  So, without further ado…

Chapter 2: Recriminations and Reckonings

 

Topeka, Kansas

0755 Local (0855 Eastern)

 

With a deep, throaty roar, the sleek looking fighter made another dizzying pass over Forbes Field, moving so fast it was almost a blur.  Its sonic boom rattled all the windows on the base and some of the surrounding communities.  If anyone had gotten a good glimpse of the aircraft, some would have thought the Combat Air Museum’s F-14 Tomcat had been brought out of storage and re-engined.  Others would have believed that the Museum’s hard-working curator had managed to somehow secure an F-15 Eagle from the Air Force, a feat nigh impossible given the USAF recalcitrant aircraft loan policy.  Still more would have thought they were seeing some futuristic prototype, as while the aircraft shared many of the Eagle and Tomcat’s physical characteristics, it’s lines were too smooth, its demonstrated agility as it suddenly stood on its tail and snap climbed for altitude all in one motion too great for both of those wonderful aircraft, the likely G-load so great it would have snapped either fuselage in half not to mention killing the pilot.  Not to mention neither of those aircraft had canards in lieu of tail surfaces, or sharply angled out tail fins like an F/A-18 Hornet.

All would have been wrong, and none would have thought the aircraft was the same Phoenix-class mecha that had been standing guard over the field just a few moments before.  As the aircraft rocketed upwards at near escape velocity, it’s pilot kicked the rudder controls again.  The fighter’s nose whipped sharply to the left, into a cartwheel, the big wing’s control surfaces biting on Earth’s thick atmosphere while its repulsor lifts provided the necessary physical thrust in opposition to Earth’s gravity.  While the surfaces were arguably not necessary, Confederation repulsors having more than enough power to make the turn itself, the Phoenix’s primary concept developer, one Eric Walthers, had pointed out that repulsors took energy, control surfaces less so.  While no Earth metal could have sustained the forces put upon it by the sharp turn the fighter had just undertook, the Phoenix hadn’t been built on Earth.  The energy savings in turn could be used for weapons, or for stronger shields, something always helpful when facing a charge of Orionan armor.

“Okay jackass, you’ve proved your point,” Jack’s comset crackled as he finished the dizzying turn.  “Now get back down here before someone wonders what in the hell you are driving and calls the Air Force.”

“Roger Sir,” Jack replied laconically.  Eric had not been aware that Jack had become fully proficient in the operation of his Phoenix, something the hovertanker had undertaken while Eric was on his honeymoon leave.  While odds had been good the Orionans would still have been so stunned by Argnor’s death, as the ranking remaining officer in the 1st Shock Brigade, Jack had thought it might be a good idea if he learned how to use the brigade commander’s mount, or at least that’s what he told himself.  In his heart, he truly knew he had been motivated to see how the other half lived, and the fact that Eric had been provided with a brand-spanking new Phoenix hadn’t made the decision that terrible.

There was the sound of a warning tone in his helmet, causing him to turn his eyes to the threat display mounted on the left side of the cockpit.  By the time his eyes reached the screen, the computer had analyzed the sensor paint and found it to be non-threatening, changing the tone in his ear.  Shaking his head, Jack keyed his microphone.

“It would appear that the best pilot the Confederation has ever known has put in an appearance,” he stated, deliberately goading Eric.  As the current leader atop the Confederation’s total kill board, Eric was justifiably considered the greatest pilot by many of the alien races that made up the Confederation.  However, among the humans, that topic was quite open for debate, as the current arrival had actually had a hand in destroying several warships, to include a pair of the incredibly tough Orionan battleships.

“Certainly better than anyone who would fly a piece of crap like that mutant,” Star Commodore Kevin Connelly stated snidely, using the derisive name for all mecha.  “Flying one of those things is like a man admitting he lets his wife strap on the ol’…”

“Aren’t you supposed to be running a vacuum or something?” Eric asked.  “Oh, no wait, I’m sorry, that’s supposed to be in a vacuum.  I thought there was some rule against you guys actually flying in atmosphere—something about accidents.”

Kevin growled over the net, biting his tongue.  The incident Eric was referring too involved the first time that Kevin had flown an advanced Confederation aircraft.  His translator chip had made an error in dialect while Kevin and his Dominionite instructor had been eight hundred feet over Barren’s Great Kalahari Glacier.  Eight hours later, after rescue crews had dug down to the plane, they had found Kevin and his instructor having an in-depth discussion on the evolution of Earth swear words and the differences in “English” versus “American”.  While it was an error that any pilot could have made, especially with the translator chip difficulties, the fact was that Kevin had been the first to do it, and he had cracked up a plane and caused an avalanche doing it.

“Commodore Avalanche, I have visual on your aircraft,” Jack said, switching allegiance quicker than a Balkan country during a World War.  He could see the silver Peregrine fighter, its flying wing configuration rather distinctive as Kevin placed it into a bank ten miles south of Forbes Field.

“At ease, Star Major!” Kevin barked, to the great amusement of Eric and apparently a couple others who had been monitoring the net.

“I take it Admiral Tobarakh sent you down with the latest telemetry?” Eric asked over the net.  His battle armor was not as advanced as General Connelly’s, the difference being that his actually had to fit inside a standard mecha cockpit.  That meant he could not conduct a live feed of the Huntress’s sensors without the Phoenix, and that might have been a tight fit within the Combat Air Museum Conference room.  While his briefing was not nearly as important, he still wanted to have decent bells and whistles for when he briefed Kansas’s governor and the gathered military commanders from its posts.  There had been some trouble chasing down some of the Reserve component commanders, but the Kansas State Troopers had gotten it done.  Sure, there were a couple of husbands that would have some explaining to do, especially the one found with his nineteen-year-old neighbor at a Junction City Motel, but Eric figured the end of the world would probably put off divorce proceedings.

Or maybe not depending on whom hubby likes better.

“Well, that and to read you in on the battle plan once you’re done scaring half of Kansas.  By the way, the first evacuation ships have entered hyperspace,” Kevin said.  “Let’s just say if I were you I wouldn’t go anywhere near Barren in the next few weeks.”

“Yeah, well, those folks should thank me, they’re the last ones who get a free trip without getting genetically checked,” Eric snapped.  “If they don’t like it, they can stay aboard and take their chances with the Orionans.”

“Hey, I understand, but just realize not everyone’s a freaking orphan, Eric,” Kevin replied.  “Some folks might have wanted to have a chance to say goodbye.”

“Look, get your ass down here and give me the data, we can have a morality lesson later, Hatcheman Six out,” Eric snapped, cutting his end of the transmission.

There was silence over the command net.  Nominally Eric and Kevin were peers, the rank of Star Commodore being invented to avoid the traditional confusion between a naval captain and a ground forces captain.  While according to Confederation rank conventions Eric was senior due to his higher number of kills, that was a Dominionite invention and didn’t hold much pull within the TEC.  Before the invention of mecha, both men had been in the same squadron, and their honors had been about even.

It was only after Eric had been given command of first a battalion, then his current brigade, that he had started to draw away.  Funny thing about ground combat with hundreds of Orionan battle armor, it tended to give a person a greater opportunity to score.  In the mind of most of the men and women who knew them both, Eric’s higher score didn’t matter, and the fact that he was pulling rank on Kevin at this moment would probably spark a few heated arguments, if not some fights, in various TEC barracks.  It was also completely out of character for Eric, who was usually rather focused and emotionless in tense situations.

That’s not a good sign, Jack thought to himself.  C’mon boss, we don’t need you to start losing it now.  He watched as Kevin’s fighter shot past him then stopped three hundred feet over the Forbes Field tarmac.  After hovering for a moment to lower his landing gear, Kevin brought the fighter straight down in a smooth, effortless landing.  As Jack brought his own craft in for a landing, he saw the Peregrine’s canopy pop open and Kevin hop out, helmet rotating back into his suit.  From the way he was striding, Jack had an idea that there was about to be one hell of a fight.

 

Kevin let the screen door slam shut behind him as he stormed into the aircraft hangar, fists balled and his eyes scanning for the source of his ire.  He saw Eric standing in the museum’s aviation art gallery, his hands resting on the guard rail as he looked over the museum’s primary display aircraft.  Kevin moved to the narrow metal staircase that spiraled up the east side of the gallery platform, taking the steps two at a time, his armored shoes ringing on the aluminum.

“Here’s your telemetry you son-of-a…” Kevin started, then stopped as Eric turned to look at him.  Kevin had never seen a person look as guilty as Eric did at that moment, as if he was carrying the shame of the entire world on his shoulders.

Holy shit, he looks bad.  Kevin had never seen the man so haggard since the early days after First Contact.  While most of the others had volunteered to go fight for the Confederation, Eric and his flight leader had been given the stark choice of leaving Earth or remaining in Area 51 the rest of their natural lives or until the government had gotten around to notifying the rest of the world what had occurred.  While Eric had desperately wanted to believe

 

Weather Mountain

1000 Local (0900 Central)

John Rutledge swam out of unconsciousness slowly and painfully, his head throbbing painfully.  Coming to, he found himself unable to move, affixed with some transparent putty to the wall.  He attempted to blink his eyes, than realized he had no control of any muscles but those in his eyes.  Swiveling these, he saw General Connelly and Conrad conversing near Prime Minister Yeldham.  The woman’s eyes and face were earnest as she said something, obviously a plea for mercy from General Connelly and Conrad to let her down.  Then, with a rush, POTUS could hear her words.

“I’ll do anything you men ask.  Anything,” she was saying desperately.  Connelly placed his hands on Conrad’s shoulder, then turned away.

“Madame Minister, I suggest you make your peace with whatever God you believe in,” Conrad said in his clipped British accent.

“Colonel Bradstock, I’ve seen your records, you are a decent man,” Yeldham said desperately, her chest heaving.  Her blue eyes were filling with tears, her face coloring.  “I have three children, and a husband.”

“I promise to grant them the same mercy I am giving you, Madame Minister,” Conrad said coldly.  “More mercy than my own mum, my brother and sisters, their children, and five billion other people on this planet will probably get.  Now make your peace with God and die with some freakin dignity.”

POTUS suddenly found himself gaining his capacity to speak.  Moving his tongue around his mouth, he looked up as General Connelly stood in front of him.  The General reached up with a flask, emptying some water in the President’s mouth.

“You just killed all of these men,” POTUS said breathlessly, looking at the bodies of the security detachments around the room.

“No, Mr. President, you and the other idiots gathered in this room killed these men,” Connelly said, gesturing at the other world leaders and their aides similarly trapped to the walls.  “I simply rendered them a more merciful killing than you will receive.”

Behind General Connelly, Yeldham stopped uttering her prayers, then looked up at Conrad.  Her mouth opened like she was about to say something, but never got a chance as the Englishman fired the rail gun mounted on the inside of his suit’s forearm.  The device’s slug killed the Prime Minister instantly, evacuating her skull.  Conrad sighed heavily, dropping his arm back to his side.

“Is that what you are going to do with all of us, you bastard?” General Reilly asked from beside POTUS.  “Shoot us in the head then cut our bodies down?  What, too cowardly to fight like real men, you’ve got to…”

Connelly punched General Reilly in the throat, the blow just hard enough to cut him off.  He followed it up with an augmented blow to the top of the head, causing the man to slump back into unconsciousness.  Looking over at him, he checked his vital signs and heaved a sight of relief to see he hadn’t killed the fellow officer by accident.

“I’m cutting her down,” Conrad said heavily.  “She was a good person, even if a bit misguided.”

“Carry on,” General Connelly replied, turning to face the President.

“Was Reilly right?  Is that what you intend to do to all of us?” POTUS asked solemnly.  To his utter shock, Connelly began laughing.  It was not a laugh of happiness, but more one of a man who was just barely holding on to his sanity.

“Mr. President, what Conrad did to Prime Minister Yeldham was a mercy,” Connelly said flatly.  “What will be done to you is justice.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You obviously have a short memory, or we wouldn’t be at this juncture,” General Connelly replied.  “Remember the part the Dominionites mentioned about the Orionans being a carnivorous race?”

The President suddenly felt the bottom drop out of his stomach.

“Oh my God,” he said, his face becoming absolutely pale, his memory recalling the briefing given to him.  The Orionans were more accurately omnivores with an overdeveloped carnivorous side.  What made them such savage opponents and the scourge of the galaxy was the fact they took great pleasure in eating sentient beings.  That little fact echoed in the President’s mind, and he found himself fighting even harder to get free of his trappings.

“Give it up, Mr. President,” General Connelly said quietly.  “This is Dinotilian stasis silk, about thirty to forty times more powerful than steel, yet as flexible as rubber.”

“You bastard!” the President shouted.  General Connelly could tell he was becoming quite agitated and raised his fist.  A red beam of light flashed from Connelly’s suit, and suddenly the President felt his limbs go slack again as his muscles were turned into putty.  To his great terror, he suddenly realized that he could still see and hear everything around him.

“Orionan stunner ray,” Connelly said.  “Now, as I was saying, you are all enclosed in stasis silk.  I would be greatly surprised if any of you are able to break out, and even if you are it will more than likely be after the last evacuation vessels have departed this planet.”  Turning, Connelly looked around the room, realizing more of the world’s allegedly great leaders were starting to stir.  He would have to hurry up, or he would end up having to stun them all.  Downside of that is the sensation isn’t as great, he thought viciously.  Leaning forward, he put his mouth right up to the President’s ear.

“As I was saying, the Orionans take great pleasure in eating sentient beings,” Connelly whispered.  “What the Dominionites failed to mention is that the victim usually lives through the entire event, until their brain pan is crushed in their jaws.  It usually takes them a couple of victims to figure out how to keep a race alive for the longest.”  Reaching into his suit, Connelly pulled out a picture of a smiling young man, the spitting image of his father, and held it in front of the President.

“I think you recognize my son, Captain Francis Jason Connelly, Mr. President?” he whispered fiercely.  “He was the fifth human being captured alive by the Orionans, by the Crown Prince whose death they are coming to avenge.  I received the holovideo four months later.”

POTUS could see tears forming in the other man’s eyes, rapidly blinked away.

“You know what it is to see your youngest son consumed by aliens, Mr. President?  To see them gnawing on his legs while he screams?  To watch as they make their way upwards, all while he is still alive?  No, of course not…but you will.”

The President widened his eyes, the only movement he was capable of.

“Oh, you actually thought when we took your DNA earlier that it was truly to ensure we were able to rescue your families and eliminate any false identifications?”  Connelly chuckled as he looked out the window.  There was the roar of jet engines as a flight of F-22C Raptors passed overhead in tight formation, part of the Combat Air Patrol assigned to cover the leader’s meeting.  Today those aircraft are kings of the sky.  Tomorrow they will fall like clay pigeons.

“Mr. President, entire family lines are going to be ended tomorrow once the Orionans land.  I wanted to ensure that those of the people most responsible were among them.  I am sure once Krognar realizes that you were the former leaders of this planet…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to have any DNA in common with you.  I’m sure a few of your fifth cousins are going to be quite surprised when they find themselves being placed back on shuttles for return back to this planet.”

Conrad came back in at that moment.

“General, we have control of all the world’s communications networks and broadcast stations.  We are are ready for you.”

“Has Eric finished his message to Krognar?”

“Yes, and it is being beamed to the Orionan Fleet as we speak.”

“Hopefully we can get them to jump early and Kwirh can give them a bloody nose.”

“If anyone can do it, Kwirh can.”

“All right, let’s go put the world on notice they’re all about to die and at least give them a chance to make peace with whatever God they believe in,” General Connelly sighed resignedly.  “Get me a direct link with Star Colonel Walthers.”

Metal Monday–When Terror Struck the Land

Standard

Gettysburg.  The name alone brings forth historical visions of desperate fights in wheat fields, bodies heaped before stone walls, and that poor bastard Pickett writing an after action report so incendiary in its rhetoric that General Lee literally had it burned. Whether one thinks that the Union was saved on this day or that Northern numbers and industrial capacity would have made a Southern victory Pyrrhic, the sheer magnitude of this fight cannot be denied.

So hey, what better thing to do than make heavy metal songs about it?!

Today’s offering comes from Civil War (not to be confused with The Civil Wars).  I found this song through an I-tunes recommendation, and it has grown on me the last couple of weeks:

 

Still, if I had to choose songs to commemorate the battle, I’m rolling with Iced Earth’s trilogy from their album The Glorious Burden.

Day 1

Day 2

Let the record show this begins with what I call “A Hancock Pledge.”  Don’t make a pledge asking deities to strike you down if you have to attack your best friend’s position–it can have a bad outcome.

Day 3

No seriously, a bad outcome.

 

Out of the three, I play “Hold At All Cost” the most often.  I have a couple playlists used for desperate scenes or times in my books.  No bayonet charges (yet), but I’m sure fans can guess at least a couple of points where I had this blaring in the background.  Feel free to put guesses in the comments section.