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

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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.”

Throw some chum

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