The Stars Came Back -091- Broadside

Fade in

INT – DAY – Engineering

Stenson and Alvarez are at consoles, watching and monitoring things. Status bars are shifting all over the place, mostly trending toward greens.

Alvarez: Jesus, look at THAT! Never seen power flows that high on the ground.

Stenson: Cross linking and synchronizing the power systems from the tanks. THAT should give us a serious boost.

Alvarez: What about their rail-guns and lasers?

Stenson: When we’re just flying, we get all the power. In combat, they don’t need to fly, so they can use their power to increase rate of fire quite a bit, only heat limited, then feed the excess to us if they do heat-limit. 24 tanks, each with a main railgun round every two seconds, every three from the 120mm, twenty per sec on the light railgun, god only knows HOW many from the lasers as they vary the power depending on target, but figure on at least one per second…

Alvarez: So with all that, why the gravity bombs on the aft ramp, and the missiles?

Stenson: Tactics aren’t really my specialty. The Colonel and First Sergeant usually just say “different tools for different jobs” or “more weapons are better than less.” Ask him the grenade story some time. I know he HATES running out of ammo.

Alvarez looks over the panel a bit, and a light down in a corner blinks a few times, then goes steady as he looks at it.

Alvarez: (puzzled tone) What does “bubblegum status: ALL OUT” mean?

Cut to

INT – DAY – Bridge

Helton, Quiritis, Lag, Bipasha, Allonia

Bipasha: Harbin says course unchanged, trying to look innocent by not doing anything.

Lag: OK, then, go with plan “A” for the orbitals.

Quiritis: Aye-Aye. Approaching drop point. Planetary velocity about nineteen thousand kph. Orbital relative nearly 38. Release and dive on calculated, Taj.

Ship AI: (OC, normal brisk male voice) Aye-aye. Drop in four. Three. Two. One. Away.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – Outside Tajemnica

Tajemnica is in low orbit above the planet, moving along fast. The two dozen grav tanks and their turrets, along with the shifted armor slabs, have changed its appearance considerably. Stark shadows are cast by the sun. The aft cargo ramp is down, and eight cubical crate-like objects, a bit less than a meter on a side each, are gently launched in rapid succession from a cradle attached to the ramp deck, small launching pistons extended behind them. They drift away, a few small spurts of attitude jets adjusting their course minutely as they rapidly drift away from Tajemnica on their inertia. The space near to Tajemnica glows slightly, and it slowly, then much faster, pulls away and downward, streaking back towards the scattered clouds in the atmosphere below. The eight space mines speed on their way, slowly dispersing, to greet the four orbital platforms.

Cut to

Tajemnica Bridge

Lag: Now we go low, give the orbitals something to look at, so they ignore the minor radar signals that look like they are going to miss, and hit target Bravo from above.

Helton: We’ll only have eight turrets, though.

Quiritis: We’ll roll. Have twenty turrets on target, the others to provide stern cover. Tell the tanks to load canister rounds in the big guns for the first three shots, then alternate with HE.

Helton: Canister? You sure?

Lag: Makes sense. Twenty thousand tungsten balls every three seconds to fill the open areas, while the railguns and missiles take the vehicles out. Lasers and light rails can be mostly reserved for shooting incoming, only take out a few vehicles with them.

Quiritis: We can pass a reload of 120mm ammo through the hatch after the obvious targets are gone and we hit the deck. Then peel off four tanks and a couple of APCs to mop up, and on to the next target.

Helton: How long?

Quiritis: Firing for fifteen, maybe twenty seconds. About the same to ground and drop.

Lag: Helton, you and I will try to select the highest priority targets. If you see anything that looks more important for any reason, just tap it on the screen.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – looking down from high above the battalion column

A column of military vehicles rolls along in three lines, fifty meters or so between each vehicle in a line, a hundred meters between the three long, snaking lines. About two hundred vehicles. Wheeled gun platforms, APCs, missile launchers, artillery, armored self-propelled artillery, air defense guns and missiles, troop trucks, command trucks, supply trucks, tankers, recovery vehicles. A self-contained town on the move. A recent rain keeps the dust down. They are driving across rolling savanna hills with scattered brush, and tall bunch grass. Tajemnica drops into view, rolled over at an angle, partially upside down and on her side, spearing down through the air toward the rear of the column. Only four turrets on the lower flank of one side can’t fire at down them. The rest of the guns start firing, the smoke of the 120mm swept away in a moment as she passes through the air. The bustle of the tanks pop up to expose the missile launchers, and from each a couple of missiles streak toward the column to hit specific high-value targets while the main turret guns work their way up the columns, simply shooting everything in a line from above. Some of the vehicles in the doomed battalion suddenly break the line and head for the open, hoping to get out of the way, some swing their guns or missiles skyward to try to return fire, but it’s too little, too late. The areas around the vehicle column erupts in many thousands of puffs of mud or dust that cut down anyone trying to flee their vehicles from the canister rounds. A single pass along the convoy, and all the vehicles are burning, stopped or about to. Tajemnica, still moving fast, levels out close to the ground, and slews around to fly backward. The bow ramp drops, and the two chromed grav-tanks slide out, followed by four hovering grav APCs. Two more grav tanks drop from the lower flanks, one each side. Tajemnica noses up and heads away. The eight vehicles glide to a stop, form a line of paired tanks and APCs, and start heading back down the three columns, the ensure that it is destroyed in detail.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – space, low orbit above the destroyed column

A small orbital bombardment platform, 120 meters long, looking like a simple boxy surface-to-orbit container freighter, but covered with lots of munition drop ports, drifts along, seemingly motionless against the stars, slowly over the tan, blue, and white planet surface below. The sun casts hard, crisp shadows. In the distance, another one drifts along, and a couple of twinkles that move a bit might be the other two. Suddenly there is a flash of the exploding space mine, like a giant claymore. The pellet launch velocity of more than 1200 meters per second, combine with the relative closing speed of more than 10,500 mps, makes the thousands of small steel balls rip lines straight through the whole ship, raking it from stem to stern with hundred of hits. Crews quarters are breached multiple times. Fuel, air, water tanks get blown wide open. Explosives and rocket fuel are detonated or ignited. The ship is designed to avoid sympathetic detonations, but the energy of the impacting projectiles is enough to set some of them off. A half dozen large explosions rip the ship up, but not completely apart. In the distance, the other three platforms are meeting a similar fate.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – airspace high above another Kiv Battalion

Tajemnica screams along through the thin air, contrails streaming behind. The rear ramp lowers, revealing stacks of large bomb-racks. From them a mass of small bombs, only about a meter long and 20 cm in diameter, cascade, scores, then hundreds of them, a veritable waterfall of them going over the edge. As they are are released, small parachutes pop out to slow their decent. The deadly rain starts to drift slowly, silently, toward the positions below.

Cut to

Ext – Day – Laagered Kiv battalion

Aerial view across the rolling plains of savanna, with badlands in the background on one side, a sharp terraforming valley cut on the other, and the troops and vehicles are spread out and ready. Guns are pointed skyward. Missile launchers are pointed up in all directions. Some of the launchers are large dual-missile systems like those the Plataeans took out earlier in their ambush, and some only have one missile on a launch rail, and a few have none and are hastily reloading another from a supply truck. Crews are at the stations. Radars sweep back and forth. Troops not needed for air defense are away from vehicles, hastily digging foxholes. Camouflage nets are up over some vehicles. They are not lined up on a convoy route. They know a shit-storm is headed there way, and they are getting prepared for it as best they can. Suddenly there is pointing and yelling, and the many of the guns go from pointing in all directions and angles to pointing more or less straight up.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – airspace high above another Kiv Battalion

The air is filled with small bombs, drifting down under their little parachutes. Then they start dropping free from their parachutes and falling much faster. Some of them explode with a small bang! and a burst of confetti-like chaff to confuse the Kiv radar. More and more start cutting their chute lines.

Cut to

Ext – Day – Laagered Kiv battalion

There are explosions here and there, and sporadic firing skyward. Not a lot of damage, but the battalion is under attack and they know it. Another explosion here, and air-burst there. Troops keep their heads down. Shrapnel whizzes evilly by, ricocheting with a PINGGGgggg! Suddenly, rising up out of valley cut by the terraforming machine long ago, Tajemnica rises, tilted on her side, bringing nineteen turrets to bear, less than 500 meters from the closest vehicle. The moment a turret is above the rim of the valley wall, they start firing as their guns have a target. Not so much a broadside as a ripping, rolling staccato of fire, fifteen railgun and cannon shots per second, hundreds of light railgun shots streaking through the air, everything close to pointing in their direction gets hit in the first few seconds. The canister rounds fired by the 120mm cannons send wave after wave of metal sleet sideways across the open ground, making it suicide to stand up to move around or attempt to engage with shoulder-fired weapons; anyone in the open had to become one with the ground to have any chance at all. Heavy SAM missiles are targeted by the precision anti-armor missiles launched from the back of the many turrets available. Heavy lasers target anything coming their way, exploding the few rounds of incoming ordnance mid-air. Again, the battalion is reduced in well under a minuted to hulks of exploding, useless, twisted metal, dead and dieing men, and flames. Tajemnica rises up fully above the rim, and slides smoothly toward the carnage. The bow ramp drops, and four more grav APCs slide out to join the four tanks that drop from the side, the armor slabs for the indentations they drop out of being immediately slid back into place. The eight tan armored units line up, and start sweeping forward to mop up anyone left moving, and make absolutely sure than all vehicles and equipment is utterly destroyed. Swift, brutal, effective, efficient.

Cut to

Tajemnica Bridge

Lag: Now we reintroduce ourselves properly to the first battalion we passed by, then drop in pairs to mop up the smaller units, and recover in a few hours.

Ship AI: (Piratically) Been a while since I had a chance to go yardarm t’ yardarm and give a good broadside ta’ scalawags tha’ broke their word. We be in tread-grease for a good while, me thinks, t’ go mix’n me metty-phors.

Helton: That was a lot faster than I imagined.

Ship AI: (Piratically) As I said t’th’ wee lass at the helm, they might be fire’n the first broadside, but we be fire’n th’ last. They flew their colors, ‘n we rammed ‘em down their throats right smartly. Well done, Cap’n, well done!

Helton: Wasn’t really my plan-

Ship AI: (Piratically) But ye be smart enough t’ sail with good folks, n’ listen t’ good advise, Cap’n. That takes more than ya’ know.

Allonia: (somewhat sad sounding) Will any of them survive?

Lag: A few always manage to make it. But not many. That’s what makes soldiers reluctant to breach allowed tech levels. It MIGHT get you an edge, but it could get you killed very dead, really fast.

Quiritis: Sometimes word is sent that lower enlisted men and conscripts can drop everything and walk away immediately, and they are spared because they might not have known any better. Might not have even known it was happening.

Helton looks thoughtful a moment. Then he nods.

Helton: Sounds reasonable. Give ‘em a little while to hear what happened here, then radio them. They drop everything, walk out away from the vehicles with nothing but the uniform on their backs, and troops with less than four years service will just get a hard labor POW sentence.

Lag: That would set a good tone for other units we face, make their decision to give up a lot easier. Swift vengeance AND mercy. More difficult than simply killing them all, but it pays larger dividends long term.

Helton: And we have the manpower aboard to do it properly, now. OK, Bipasha, let’s get on their freq and let ‘em know. Also, send video to the tech compliance board, keep ‘em in the loop. Taj, how long to orbit and back?

Ship AI: (piratically, with avatar) Less’n two bells, cap’n. Tha’ be an hour, fer the lubbers.

Helton: Quiri, head for orbit so we can verify status on the orbital platforms before we drop back down for the rest of em.

The bridge crew get busy, and Helton sits back, a grim smile on his face.

Fade to black

[Just so you are not expecting a continuation of the battle posted next, nothing unexpected happened during the orbital platform check (dead), mop-up of the other units (surrendering where they could, cut down like ripe grain where they didn’t), or the return to base. Mission completed, Kraut & Darch pissed but impotent, grav-tank unit likes Taj and her crew.]




12 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -091- Broadside

  1. “Some of the launchers are large duel-missile systems” I think that duel should be dual

    “They few their colors,”… flew?

    • While you might duel with dual weapons, you are quite correct. catch-of-the-day
      Yes, flew.
      Thanks, as always.

  2. They are driving across rolling savanna hills with ***scatted*** brush, and tall bunch grass.

    • Yeah, there were piles of fecal matter everywhere…. You know, “scat”.
      Another good catch.

      • Just admit it, it was a Freudian slip, you have a fetish, & now we all know about it.


        • Mad Rocket, dontcha know we are the test goats here?

          We dine on that scatted brush and like it so far…

          • Oh, so far I’m loving it! Highlight of my morning when there is a new scene to read.

  3. Ooo-rah! Get some, Taj!

    Today’s nitpicks (that haven’t been covered so far):

    Only four turrets on the lower flank of one side can’t fire at down them.

    Options: “….can’t fire at them…” “…can’t fire on them…” “can’t fire down on them….”


    The areas around the vehicle column erupts in many thousands of puffs of mud or dust that cut down anyone trying to flee their vehicles from the canister rounds.

    Try moving “from the canister rounds” up to where the puffs of mud/dust are. “….many thousands of puffs of mud or dust from the canister rounds that cut down anyone….” I think its called “splitting your subject” or something official-sounding like that. To me, I have to go back and try to piece the sentence back together, find out whether “anyone” is fleeing from the canister rounds, or the puffs are from the rounds….it just reads awkward to me, the way it is, which is like a speed-bump that jars me out of the comfy world I’m in inside my head. I hate it when that happens!


    Another explosion here, and air-burst there.

    “Another explosion here, an air-burst there.”


    Suddenly, rising up out of valley cut by the terraforming machine long ago, Tajemnica rises,

    “Suddenly, rising up out of THE valley….”


    twisted metal, dead and dieing men, and flames.

    “dead and DYING men…” (as far as I know, anyway…which usually isn’t very far. Within easy walking distance, at any rate)


    the armor slabs for the indentations they drop out of being immediately slid back into place.

    “the armor slabs….immediately sliding back into place.” Awkward the way its written now.

    • I was wondering if you were out sick – hadn’t gotten my daily done of critique 🙂
      Good catches, one and all. The dieing men were Picts, thought, so they were blue with envy, perhaps.
      Fixed for the published version. Wanna be on the “final-chapter” editing team sometime soon?

      • I will do my (unedumicated) best if you wish to send me a file or two! I’m assuming you can see my email address, supplied in the “required fields” above?

        LOL “Out sick”….only between the ears! Just been a couple of hectic days, busy at work tryin to keep computers and networks connected…busy at home, tryin to keep the wife sane (har) and the kiddo out of trouble (harhar)…just stepped down from my spot running the video at church (darn burnout and office-politics), and tryin to get the whirlwind of ideas in my head to settle down long enough to start pounding the keys and get my own story started up. But, yeah…excuses aside, I’m still here!

  4. Good descriptions of the action- I can visualize it easily. Better than a movie- no noisy patrons on cell phones.
    I do like very much the idea of giving the troops a chance to just walk away.
    “They know a shit-storm is headed there way” their
    “the battalion is reduced in well under a minuted” minute
    ” n’ listen t’ good advise, Cap’n” advice. Unless it’s pirate-talk.

    • Good nits to catch. Thanks again.
      Advise/advice could go either way – one’s correct, the other is fine Pirate-speak. in the interests of clarity, I fixed it to “standard English.”
      Glad you can visualize it well. Tried to make it both reasonably concise, sufficiently detailed, and realistic enough that it would work.
      The idea of giving some of the violators a chance seemed like the kind of thing they’d do. They are not JUST good killers. Soldiers. Good people. Make their point, and accomplish the mission, but still not going so far they can’t sleep at night.

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