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Written by: Encore4570
Ami, entends-tu le vol lourd des corbeaux sur la plaine?
Ami, entends-tu les cris sourds du pays qu'on enchaîne ?
Ohé, partisan, ouvrier et paysan, c'est l'alarme!
Ce soir, l'ennemi connaîtra le prix du sang et des larmes
Montez de la mine, descendez des collines, camarades
Sortez de la paille les fusils, la mitraille, les grenades
Ohé, les tueurs à la balle où au couteau, tuez vites
Ohé, saboteur, attention à ton fardeau dynamite!
C'est nous, qui brisons les barreaux des prisons pour nos frères
La haine à nos trousses et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère
Il y a des pays où des gens aux creux des lits font des rêves
Ici, nous vois-tu, nous l'en marche, nous l'en tue, nous l'en crève
Ici chacun sait ce qu'il veut ce qu'il fait quand il passe
Ami, si tu tombes, un ami sort de l'ombre, prend ta place
Demain, du sang noir séchera au grand soleil sur la route
Chantons, compagnons, dans la nuit, la liberté nous écoute!
Joseph Kessel, l'hymne de la Résistance, Deuxième Guerre Mondiale
t - 02:00:00
Briefing Room, Supreme Command, Allied Expeditionary Forces
Present: General Snider, Staff officers, civil advisors, orderlies
"Gentlemen, thank you all for attending this briefing on such a short notice. I do not want to abuse your precious time, so I'll come straight to the essentials. Our security forces and expeditionary troops are already briefed and embarked, so security and confidentiality are given. The target will be in range within 48 standard hours or three space warps. Our schedule demands the deactivation of the industrial potential by means of EMP strikes outside the atmosphere and then to secure the main settlements with no waste of time. The inhabitants are not expected to cause any troubles, they are all first generation Europeans, who know and appreciate a strong guidance. Almost all are French, which disqualifies them as soldiers. There is no standing army. Basically, they don't have any armed forces at all. Our first concern will be to help them out of this deficiency. For the time being, by our own security forces, eventually replacing them by conscripts and an official police. Higher ranks will of course be provided by our forces, rank-and-file positions will be filled up with conscripts. Their primary task will be to secure the harvest and protect the transport without friction. Further measures will include the securing of production and maintenance of law and order. All subjects being Europeans, we expect voluntary cooperation right from the start. Dear civilian partners, your investments are showing a high degree of confidence, which you are conceding to our forces. We appreciate this and we will not disappoint you. Officers: DIS-MISS! I have the honor to invite our civilian partners to a drink in the officers' mass. Thank you very much!"
t - 00:00:59 Kemper Air Port Ground Control
Armand Berthier sat slightly bored in front of his RADAR screens, showing the usual absence of traffic, when a number of blips unexpectedly emerged out of the void. Traffic was not bound to specified hours, but Kemper never had had such an importance to create stress at Ground Control. The blips were small, but in sheer numbers they exceeded by far the amount of traffic of a good average three months. They were distributed evenly in a close orbit which would station them regularly around Kemper. Armand sensed that this was not normal traffic and pushed the alert button. A wink later, everything around him exploded like fireworks: Screens burned, cables spraying sparks, the usual slumber light gave way to a blinding flash, then - darkness. The hissing of simmering insulation and an occasional spark was everything audible left. Even the rumble of the air condition, which had reminded him of his strongly-missed home town Quimper, had died. He searched for a lighter, lit a cigar, a capital sin down here under normal conditions, unlocked the emergency escape and made his way out in the light of a burning memo (This made him grin involuntary, finally the red tape was good for something!). Before he left the place, though, he produced a sharp, double-edged dagger from a drawer and a large caliber pistol, which he both strapped to his belt.
t = 0:00:00, Kemper
Yann loved his caterpillar, but there were tasks he preferred to leave to others. Plowing, for example. Endless fields in an endless plain, three kilometers straight ahead, U-turn, change shares, three kilometers straight ahead. The did not even have fences here to interrupt the monotony. Just black dirt. It smelled good, but that was all. No birds. No gulls, no crows, nothing. Plainly boring, these plains. Listening to the radio was no fun either with the diesel engine roaring, and the CB set yielded a few words every other hour. Folks here weren't the chatty kind, except the few occasions when it was worth the time. Kemper had been cultivated for twenty years now and right from the start cereals had grown here like weed. Barley and wheat sold for premium prices, being free of pesticides or fertilizers, thus belonging to the highest quality degree. His income was outstanding and every now and then there was even an interesting task for Yann and his caterpillar, but plowing was not among these. He was being paid by acreage, so he would plow till dusk, sleep besides his tractor and start at dawn. Twelve square kilometers take a sweet time to plow, even with modern equipment. Marie, his sweetheart, did not exactly like this, but when this would be over, there would be enough time till the next task.
His wireless set sprayed sparks, the lights of his caterpillar shone brighter than ever before they blacked out. The diesel carried on for a while, being fully mechanic. Not until the electrical fuel pump failed to fill the fuel lines, the engine would die. Yann left the dead caterpillar in the tracks, reached into a box behind the driver's seat and took his FN FAL out, then the full mags, inserted one into his rifle, and before the dust veil which had accompanied him all the time, had settled, he was off and away.
t + 00:00:01
Hôpital Jean Mermoz, Maquis Ploumanach
Dr. Rieux was sweating behind his mask, while he sewed a coronary bypass to a coronary artery. If this bloody moron had not spent his life eating and drinking beyond any sensible measure, he would not have to dig through layers of fat which would have given honor to a whale and there would have been more space in the thorax. The rib cage opener had had a tough job. To sew this two legged burger would not be a pleasure, either. The scar would not win a beauty contest -
The OP fell completely dark. Not a sound. No LED glowing, no screen, not to mention the OP lights. The smell of charred insulation and ozone tainted the air.
"What goddamn son of a bitch turned off the fucking power?"
There were moments when he would have reported Luc, the assistant surgeon, to the staff office for such a profanity, but now he had beaten Dr. Rieux to it by a tenth of a second. The Patient was dead meat.
As soon as he realized this, his vision blurred and everything seemed to spin around him. He tried to grasp the table, but he collapsed into oblivion.
A nurse found a functioning laryngoscope and in its dim light she managed to lead the staff to the exit of the OP section. She returned once to collect Dr. Rieux, dragged him into a change room and laid him on a stretcher. He would have to take care of himself. She followed the rest to another change room, dressed in plain clothing, took several parcels wrapped in oil paper out of her locker, pushed a small holstered pistol into her trousers' seam, stuffed her pockets with spare mags and left the hospital. She didn't go home, though.
t + 00:00:01, Cathédrale de Ste Jeanne, Kemper
Msg. Dumoulin had been looking forward to his first mass he would have the honor to celebrate in his parish. He had arrived just a few weeks ago, and his bishop used to run a taut ship, but now he had to travel to the neighboring world, which would keep him busy for a while. It had never been easy to run a diocese, even on a single planet. But this task was tremendous, the diocese stretching over four different worlds. Good for an eager little priest who had consciously applied for this diaspora parish. His goal was to live here and establish Catholic tradition here on this frontier world. These people, living their lives at the very brink of civilization, should always know how to find themselves on the proper side of this frontier. He was slightly nervous and even a little late, thanks to him being nervous. But he had been looking forward to this event for so long, that he felt a pleasant excitation taking over. Just as he left the sacristy, all chandeliers exploded and the heavy lamps broke off the ceiling and crashed into the bank rows full of fidels. Stunned, he stared into the disaster, incapable to realize what had happened. Some were trained enough to give first aid, though this would be too late for many of the injured. It took him a while to get his bearings again to administer last rites by the score. It wasn't exactly the way he had imagined his first day in office. Severely injured people were taken care of in location while most of the lesser injured and unharmed left the place if they were not needed for first aid. It took a short time to convert the church into a makeshift hospital.
t + 00:00:01, Kemper University
Marie-France had invited a fellow student. Evenings in a student's home can be lenghty, especially on the eve of an exam, and company helps to reassure yourself, even if both are trembling for a different subject. Her friend Mira was several years her senior and came directly from Earth. She wanted to study a few semesters here to continue her studies later in Warsaw, where she had been born. Marie-France had set up a few candles and switched of the electric light. The kitchen had remained cold this evening and so the explosion of the fridge scared the living daylights out of them. Marie tried the light and the telecom, but nothing worked. They had been lucky; the neighboring apartment had been shaken by an explosion. Marie felt her way through a thick cloud of smoke to the neighbor's door and pushed it open. If anything, the smoke got worse. This was the realm of "Pierrot Digital", a slightly odd computer nerd, who studied Electronics and taught Informatics. She found Pierrot sitting in front of his old tube-screen, whose tube had imploded. The splinters had ripped through Pierre's chest, killing him instantaneously.
She had never known him well, but the during the few occasions, he had acknowledged the "Analogistes" in his closer neighborhood, she found him quite nice.
She realized that there would be no way to rescue him. With a thick lump in her throat she entered his bedroom, took an antique AK 47 off the wall, grabbed a bandolier with loaded magazines and left the apartment. Back in her rooms, she lifted her own mattress, donned a shoulder holster from which a large wooden handle protruded, grabbed several heavy cardboard boxes and ushered Mira out of the door, handing her the clunky Russian rifle. "Allons, enfants!" she yelled and led Mira out of the small village where the University had found its home.
t + 00:00:01, in the swamp area south of the space port.
When his boat's wireless set exploded, "Plastic" Bertrand Cochevelou uttered long rows of unprintable verses in free rhythm. It was already dark enough to see the fire balls in the evening sky and he had realized in no time what that meant. He reached into a shed, pulled an old American submachine gun and a 100 round drum mag out of it. He pushed the mag in until he heard the "click" and swiftly calculated how far the ammo reserve in the bilge might last. Too bad, it was excellent ballast, but the ship would have to do without for the time being. Fortunately, the engines had been off when the EMP strike had reached them. Not even the batteries had taken damage. Heaving a sigh and a curse, he started the engines and proceeded into the swamp.
t + 00:00:01 Frontenac Machinery, Ploumanach
Alain stood in front of this giant CNC mill and mounted a new piece. It was too dark under the huge steel block, so he did not see the flash. What he could not avoid to realize was that several dozen tons of steel were slowly coming down on him. "You ======== ======= ======== ========= of a son of a bitch, I catch you playing with the switch, I'll have your balls toasted for breakfast!" He rolled out through the rapidly decreasing gap between the steel block and the ground, flabbergasted: his colleagues were all running out of the hall, whose floor was covered with the splinters of the ceiling lamps and several machines were burning.
t + 00:00:02 D'Anconia Aerospace Maintenance, Baile Rennes
Solange Lemercier had finished all red tape for the day and was looking for something to prevent her from having an extended weekend. She just had ridded herself of her ex and was not yet used to loneliness. Her assistant had not found anything to distract her either and Solange had told her to call it a day earlier the afternoon. She might attract personal problems like magic, but there was no reason to take it out on her nice secretary. She secretly called her "Bonnemine" after an old Comic, except that this cheerful girl really earned that nickname. Solange never ever had seen her in a bad mood.
Now she switched the lights in her office off only to be rewarded with a hefty jolt of electricity. Fluorescent tubes and computer displays exploded, splinters flying. The smell of ozone spread. Telecom lines were reduced to black shadows beneath the carpets, no use to call anyone. Her personal cell phone was burning a hole through her leather bag, no option either. She threw her glowing bag away, opened her locker to produce an ugly-looking small submachine gun. A matching bandolier and holster, several mags and a few hand grenades, and she left the office. The elevator would not work either, so she turned to the stairwell. She was among the last to leave the office, so she met no one. She did no bother to lock the outer door and set out on her way. Not the way home, this time.
t + 00:00:01 Carnac High Plains, 300 miles south of Baile Kemper.
Ariel Rosenbaum, the first and only tea planter of Kemper, looked down on his plantation. The altitude corresponded to about 6000ft above sea level on Earth, except the climate was warmer and much more arid here. The tea thrived gorgeously and this year he would reap his first harvest. His family partly originated in Georgia, where he had bought the first tea bushes, which he had planted with his own hands. They and the space fare had cost his family's entire fortune, but it would be worth it. With the owner's pride, he looked at acres over acres, greening by his ideas and his pioneer spirit. It had cost him years of working in the cities in menial jobs, taking weekends and his holidays to make his dream real. Some people had uttered concerns that his shrubs might be contaminated by radioactivity, but he had succeeded in convincing every skeptic that the bushes he would grow meant no harm. The first samples of his Grusinian High Land tea, grown on Kemper's fertile ground, had surpassed all expectations. The first full harvest being still on the leaf, the option dealers had already started to besiege his door.
He took a deep drag from his briar pipe, without which scarcely anyone had seen his face. A blue cloud emerged into the evening sky, the sun would be visible for another hour, and then he would celebrate Shobat. In peace and gratitude for being able to live his dream. He had switched off all electrical devices, even the telecom. This would be his first opportunity to rest as it was commanded in the Torah. He would even allow his pipe to go out and would not re-light it until the following dusk. He was still lonely, but a family he would found here. He looked into the rapidly fading daylight only to be blinded by an incandescent flash which threw shadows although Kemper's sun was still visible. At first, he thought of a supernova, but as his mistreated eyes registered several more flashes distributed regularly about the sky, he realized that this was no natural phenomenon. He did not bother to mourn or rage. Instead, he walked to a tool shed and returned riding a hovercraft. On both sides of the driver's seat .50cal machine guns were mounted, behind the rear seat two mortars. HE would understand that this Shobat had to be cancelled.
t + 00:00:05 Allied Forces, Briefing Room
"Gentlemen, this was a tough job and you have performed with excellence. All explosions within less than thirty seconds. Excellent, really excellent, we can measure a decrease of energy production by 99% by now. Data processing, communications and production on Kemper are practically completely paralyzed. We will commence landing procedures immediately. Within eight hours there will be no more "Kemper" but the Protectorate New France!"
t + 00:00:35, at the city fringes of Baile Kemper
Yannick Le Penven had seen the disaster coming. He had bailed out of Baile Kemper through some underground maintenance tunnels. Not far from the city, a primeval forest began, which covered most of the lowlands of the main continent. Humans had not yet expanded beyond the easier accessible highlands and parts of the coasts. The rest was still waiting to be developed. Sure, nobody was in a hurry to do so, and the following generations would surely appreciate the challenge. For the time being, the impenetrable forests were an immense asset. Official maps and plans did not exist and just to mention building departments would have caused homeric laughter. However, neighbors did communicate and people existed whose business was construction and maintenance of sanitary and communications facilities. Yannick was one of those people. He knew the tunnel net beneath the city as well as the back of his hand and had the orientation talents of a sewer rat. His personal depots had remained untouched and the time had come to make use of them.
In an unregistered tunnel, he stored ammunition, first-aid kits, and even some canned food. Some explosives, personal equipment and bric-a-brac completed the image. There were many caches like this on Kemper. One person who had donated quite a lot for them, was the tea planter, who had been just another immigrant with no relationship at all to the idea of the Celtic Worlds. Now, he was friendly and took part in the construction of a new world, so why should they reject his voluntary contributions to the defense? He was a bloody good shot with his old Galil, another asset. Yannick felt dizzy when he contemplated about how much ammo this planter alone had donated. Not until now, Kemper being all for itself, Yannick realized what a foresight this odd guy with his ever-stinking pipe had demonstrated.
Yannick opened an air valve. From now on, all gates could only be opened from underground. Caution beats condolence.
Then he disappeared into the bushland.
t + 00:01:55 in the lowlands north of Baile Kemper
Not all inhabitants of Kemper had been able to disappear unseen into the jungle, but the invaders' intelligence didn't mind. They had commenced landing procedures without bothering to warn the civilians. The first wave was scheduled to touch down in about eight hours. They were to pass over major settlements and spread mayhem and panic with some bombing. Landing in the vicinity of the settlements, they were to seize the public buildings and take control of communication and distribution of commodities. There was supposed to be no military and this was the major asset of this invasion: it was not dangerous. The rank-and-file had been briefed in a different tune, though: they were to assault with loaded weapons and shoot at anything moving, just to please their superiors. Thus, they found themselves crowding the assault shuttles, locked and loaded, asking themselves if they might survive the day. Many were praying, lots asked themselves another time if it had been such a good idea to sign the contract at all.
Sergeant Brinkmyer had overheard rumors, that the population of Kemper had bailed out. That might ease his detail's job, but he did not like it, nevertheless. This assault was said to be a complete surprise, and an organized escape of the entire population did not fit into the tableau. He was uneasy. He had just one intersection to secure; there would be problems if it were jammed with civilian vessels. Anyway, he had to look after his men doing their job.
A slight jolt told him they were entering the atmosphere. Now there was no way back. Another four hours and he would be in action, a good way to get into a better mood.
t + 00:03:43 Air Port Kemper
Armand did not waste any time to secure the Air Port against the invaders. Kemper had but this one and only one line that regularly landed. They knew each other. He marveled about how the invaders would like what they were going to find waiting for them in the grass. The runway itself was a tarmac strip, but there was no taxiway. Instead, there was a stripe covered with local shrub, which was hard in every way you would look at it. IST-ferries were equipped with special tires; the first one got its neatly sliced. The local plants stored silicon in their foliage and could grow on blank rock, even on concrete. To keep the runway clear was easy: the ferries' vortexes would rip the plants off and generously distribute them through the vicinity. He grinned involuntary when he started to muse about more problems the assailants were going to face.
t + 00:08:12
The first gliders passed over Baile Kemper in low-level flight and shot bombs at the residential parts of the city. They caused less damage than intended, the houses being not close enough to each other. Sergeant Brinkmyer was part of the first assault line. Of course, the moron of a pilot overshot his landing zone and brought the glider down on the wrong side of the village. However, he was glad that there had been no casualties at touchdown.
When the rear gate swung open and its rim touched the ground, he barely had to yell orders. His men jumped out of the vessel and spread in the brush as ordered. Some hurt themselves at keen-edged leaves. He reminded the others to be more careful, if they intended to get a pass for the next weekend, then he jumped after them. The privates were in a tense mood and some fired a few rounds when they entered the village, but he could not see anything, and the fire was not returned. He thought to reprimand the nervous shooters for their waste of ammo, but thought better of it. Should they break a few windowpanes, at least they would look like real soldiers.
They passed by some bomb hits. Not exactly an entry for the hall of fame of intelligence. About half of the bombs had damaged gardens and dirt roads, the houses being lower than intelligence had reported. He could but hope that the rest of the planning was of better quality.
All of a sudden, four privates at a time were shooting what the guns were yielding. A fifth joined them with a bazooka, all in the same direction. Splinters and debris flying, but nothing to be seen. He yelled at the bazooka shooter to cease fire and asked whatthefuck they were shooting at. A Pfc answered he had seen something move in a ditch. He ordered the private to reconnoiter, but he found nothing.
However, he insisted on having seen something move. Brinkmyer scolded him for having smoked something in contradiction to the rules, but he objected.
It took them almost an entire hour to cover the four miles to the intersection they had to hold. What disturbed the Sergeant was the complete absence of traffic. No refugee convoys, no civilian vessels, not even a stray pedestrian. Zilch.
Private First Class Nosmo King Washington didn't give a shit. His job was no intellectual challenge, all he needed was his muscles, and that was easy, he had plenty. Sergeant says jump, NKW jumps. Sergeant says eat shit, NKW asks for seconds. Easy and no complications. To read or write was not his domain. Never mind, there would always be sergeants galore to tell him what to do. Today's job was to guard a crossing where nothing happened. Kindergarten job. He did not mind in the least that they had come down four miles off their scheduled landing site. The only thing that made the march unpleasant was the fact that the area was covered with plants toting razor-edged leaves. You had to be fucking cautious to not slice your tender peach skin. In no time at all, every one of them bore the marks on their boots and clothing. Some morons, of course, had to grab some of these leaves and now they were in need of plaster. When they had arrived at the crossing, the job was easy. Hang around, smoke, and hang around. No one passed by anyway. They had started to dig foxholes to secure the post against attacks. Routine. When he had finished his hole, he joined the sergeant, who always had a few cigs to spare, when somebody had done a good job. Sarge even gave him fire this time.
He did not notice the microsecond infrared impulse on his back. He had no senses to. No human does. Sarge yelled at some of the white maggots who were too dumb to dig a bloody hole. Nosmo King had never been sure what the first parts of his name meant, but feel like a king he did. He sat down on a pile of sand bags to watch the fat white maggots sweat. By now, all of them already had blisters on their hands.
Sergeant Brinkmyer hated the guts of this arrogant black jerk. This guy was just good enough to die. Most probably, he would screw up even there and survive the entire battalion. Fools are lucky, and this wretch was stupid enough for three. Now he was sitting on a pile of sandbags and took it easy. He had given him a small joint because he had finished his job first, not because he might like this stupid ass. Just in order to tease the rest so that they might obey better. Brinkmyer took a position to overlook the whole detail, but all he saw was King, who was sitting there obliviously, smoking his goddamn joint.
King's head disappeared in a shroud of red haze. Shreds of black wool flew around, smithereens of brain and bone filled the air and before the body started to fall, the report of the shot rolled through the air. Not until then, the body sagged and dropped on the dirt. All that happened too fast for the detail to jump for cover.
Dammit, in every direction at least a kilometer of open terrain. No way to hide a bloody sniper. One of his privates got his bearings and fired a volley into the void but not even the shooter himself would have expected any results whatsoever.
Brinkmyer kicked his folks in their butts and told them to hurry up to fortify the post. Of course, the sniper was nowhere to be seen. When in the evening, ok, at 2200 sharp, the supply car arrived, he finally got a body bag for the casualty to haul the body away. Not the best way to get bonus points at the HQ...
The sniper had assaulted and escaped entirely unseen.
t + 01:06:00 south of Baile Kemper
In close proximity to the village posing as a capital here, busy caterpillars, supported by some explosives, had been working all night through to convert the little settlement into a military slum. A few container flats were there for the brass, the rank-and-file soldier had to be content with tents. CIC had found a home in the shadow of several large cereal silos, not far from there a mobile hospital, all in the immediate neighborhood of the space port. To the pilots, the 150 ft high silos were welcomed as landmarks, the area being too uniform a primeval forest. The strong red lights on the sturdy columns gave a gorgeous navigation beacon long before the regular landing lights were in sight. ILS had not yet been repaired, which made all approaches to visual flight not exactly pleasant.
In the hospital, a general inspection was being held. The General Staff was inspecting the hospital staff, who were busily trying to make the hospital ready for use while providing medical treatment to the already numerous injured. Lt. General Roeder could not resist the urge to interrupt procedures in order to hold a little speech to cheer up the staff:
"Gentlemen, what I have seen up to now is a good job. Procedures are being followed determinedly and competent, and I am convinced that the hospital will be fully operational until tomorrow evening. It occurred to us, though, that some activities are being called "hostile activities" or "resistance". That sounds as if we were facing a regular army, there is no such thing here. From now on, these activities will be called by the appropriate term and this is "terrorism". They are no freedom fighters, they are common criminals who cowardly snipe on our people. We will answer them with a strong hand! DIS - MISS!"
Not too far away from there, in a maintenance pit beneath the central silo, Andrea Gwernig was working busily. First thing, she had restored power supply and made an inventory. Only three of the five silos were filled with cereals, which was quite an amount. 440.000 cubic feet per silo totaled to 2.2 million cft. The cereals were about half a million cft, which would leave plenty space for her purpose. She opened the covering lid of an inspection glass. It gave view to a pair of immense copper electrodes. Above the glass was another hatch, barely large enough for her. She worked the action, swung the hatch open and climbed up the rungs which were protruding from the wall. Arrived there, she secured herself with a snap hook from her belt and stooped into the chamber. A hint of vertigo touched her when she looked down on the electrodes, but she quickly overcame the nauseating feeling. She fumbled for a short time around until she found the thin rope with a sling at its end. She used all her power to jerk the line, and several paper sacks fell out of a niche, down on the electrodes. It was a close shave as she had to use her full weight to rock the sacks; they almost had taken her down as well. Ten sacks, each one containing 220 lbs of sodium chloride, missed her by a kiss and either landed on the electrodes or close to them on concrete soil, where they burst as intended. She swung back into the maintenance pit, checked the lids for tightness and, relieved, climbed down.
There she cautiously opened a valve until the chamber was halfway filled with water. Shortly before the water level reached the electrodes, she took a small hammer and smashed one of the tiles which covered the walls. Fine-grained sand trickled out. For years, this sand had given support to a heavy slide, mounted on two thick rails made of resistor metal. Without the support of the sand, the slide started to move slowly over the rails, providing increasingly power to the electrodes. Contented, Andrea watched how clouds of fine bubbles of gas emerged from the electrodes. She adjusted the water flow that the electrodes would constantly be covered with about one foot of water. Specially designed tubes would feed the gas directly into the five silos, to fill them from roof to floor and replace the regular atmosphere with a highly explosive mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. Within the next 24 hours, this device would produce grossly two and a quarter million cubic feet of gas. That would require quite a lot of electricity, but Kemper was prepared. Small power plants existed everywhere, just in order to have power for emergencies. Andrea directed her attention to the power gauge. She identified herself with a number code, then she adjusted the counter to close a switch when a certain amount of power had flown. The rooftops of all silos had been equipped with fuses which would ignite the gas when the counter made sure that the silos were completely filled. The invaders would have to steal their bread elsewhere. A last time she checked the proper functioning of the device, switched off the lights, listened to the sound of the electrodes' bubbling and left through the maintenance tunnel. This tunnel was substantially higher than the usual ones, a hanging ceiling being mounted at half height, which carried a load of several hundred tons of rock dust. That would take the power out of the explosion and protect the rest of Kemper's tunnel system. The water pipes were protected as well: they made a double u-turn and would break at a precalculated point instead of transmitting the impulse of the explosion to the entire water supply system.
t + 02:08:25 Landing descent to Kemper Space Port, Shuttle 316
Capitaine Dumoulin was steering the 250 - ton ferry through Kemper's rough mid-summer air. He could already see the five rings marking the roof rims, which made giant silos unmistakeable landmarks for approaching shuttles. To save fuel, he was descending in a glide, and the turbulences kept him busy. To compensate drift, he steered a little to starboard. Then, the airstrip lights were in sight. Some minor corrections and he would hit the center of the runway. The last thing he saw was a giant white cupola, which was rapidly expanding and approached him with terrific speed.
When two and a half million cubic feet of hydrogen/oxygen gas exploded, a shockwave formed which pounded everything within one and a half mile radius into dust. CIC HQ, hospital, almost six thousand soldiers as well as a ferry and Kemper's sole runway for spacecraft use were annihilated. When its speed came down to the speed of sound, it still tore the lungs of a few hundred soldiers and blew several heavy trucks into the air like plastic toys. All weather stations registered the concussion; even several echos and transients could be registered. When the shower of debris hit the ground, there was nothing left to damage. Solely General Snider was left over from the staff officers because he had personally inspected a roadblock, whose incompetent sergeant had managed to receive fire. Could be worse, a Pfc KIA, nothing really exciting. The residents were cowards anyway. The sergeant almost wet his pants, and that was good. When the shockwave reached the roadblock, it blew General Snider into a ditch and the sergeant had to dig him out from a collapsed pile of sandbags. He swore eternal feud to the NCO.
t + 02:23:59 Palace of the United Nations, Geneva, a small conference room
"Gentlemen, please!" Jean-Louis Garre folded the legal-sized paper. "You cannot expect a military operation of this size to work completely as scheduled. You can't bake an omelette without breaking some eggs. Nobody could foresee this slight eight-week setback in the delivery of cereals. Kriegsglück!"
"Now, Monsieur, You have received an advance payment of one million New Euros. We will cancel the check and bill you with the additional costs for replacement deliveries. You were right with the omelette, but it will be your balls we're going to break. Have a nice day."
Garre felt all but easy in his skin. Of course, he and his friends had already forwarded the check.
More pleasant items in his briefcase:
"... Yilderim, Nahide, citizen of EU-Member state Turkey, for the time being a guest student at Kemper University. We immediately request information about her well-being. Otherwise we will withdraw our contributions to your projects and cancel all cooperation with your company..."
"To our surprise we had to notice your company's abusing of the neutral IST Station for a military intervention on our sister world Kemper. Until final investigations are accomplished, your organization will be denied all landing and docking privileges and your employees will be evicted, effective immediately. The transportation of your staff will be provided at your expense by the very next vessel possessing proper capacity..."
"...None of the samples delivered by you were matching neither in quality nor in quantity the standards applicable to the standard we were used to get delivered from Kemper. The standard offered by your company is considered not acceptable. We will grant you a deadline of 72 hours to touch up, else..."
He rang up his partner Armand Flouzat. "AF, we must do something quickly, we can't accept our financers bailing out and our customers blackmail us."
"Sure, I have already booked a ticket and cashed in all accounts I could get hold of. My ferry will take off in three hours. You'd better hurry."
"What do you mean?"
"Hell, if you don't have cold feet by now, I do. Ciao, was nice to do business with you!"
Beep - beep - beep...
t + 03:05:29, in the vicinity of Baile Kemper
Ariel's hoverbuggy was hardly recognizable: the sides bore short wings, the engine had been replaced by a much stronger one and on both sides of the cockpit things had been mounted which resembled strongly horizontal stove pipes, close at the front side with something resembling venetian blinds. The grenade launchers had given way to four .50 BMG machine guns and two 20mm-semiauto rifles. Full auto would have slowed down the strange vessel too much. Together with two friends, they had been working all night through, to finish the job just in time. All was left to do was to mount the vessel on a catapult launcher, warm up the jets and set off. That was scheduled for the early evening. First, they would enjoy a cider and a hearty meal.
t + 03:06:15 on the other side of Baile Kemper
Gwenaël hoped to have everything adjusted. It was too late to change anything: she could not only hear the armored cars, she could already feel them shake the ground. She lay prone in the brush, the stomach pressed flat on the ground, and the vibrations of the strong engines made her shiver. She had six coffin nails armed and ready and pressed her eyes to the optical sights. She let pass the first five tanks. She took aim at the sixth, waited until she saw the tank at the very place it should be and fired. A few yards to her right, a missile roared out of the brush, dragging a smoke trace of a few feet length behind it and hit the tank right in the middle of the hull. As soon as the point of the heavy metal flèchette hit the hull, a charge of explosives drove the arrow through the entire tank. The front armor was smoothly pierced, the arrow fragmented and major parts of it penetrated the engine block, the trough and other parts. Ammunition inside of the tank ignited, the crew was killed instantaneously. The burning wreck neatly blocked the road as planned. The girl activated the next missile and took aim at the second tank. She did not intend to leave the job half done. It took her less than five minutes to destroy the entire convoy.
t + 03:08:22 in the bush close to Baile Kemper
Sgt. Brinkmyer had been ordered to leave his intersection. Now he and his detail were guiding traffic towards a new staging area. The new CIC had decided that it was too dangerous to leave the troops too widely dispersed and had ordered to establish a fortified garrison for the remaining units in the forest. Tanks had flattened or torched part of the vegetation, and now a tent camp was to be erected in the confines of a makeshift wall. Recon details had been sent into the forest after word had been spread that an entire group of AVs had been destroyed. There was not really much traffic to regulate and it was not due to increase on short notice. He was not really reassured when the call came to collect his detail and help to build the camp.
t + 03:09:00 Baile Kemper
Msg. Dumoulin was aware of his situation: he was the highest-ranking representative of the Holy Church on this planet and he was expected to initiate something to justify his presence. He donned his holiday ornate and carried the great crucifix which, among other things, had been blown off his altar. The crucifix had been made of titanium, that made it light, but it still was not easy to carry the ten-foot cross upright. He almost fell in front of the main church portal, when the tip of the cross was caught by the lintel. He regained equilibrium and self-confidence, though, and continued his one-man procession to the makeshift HQ where he wanted to ask for mercy.
His body was never to be found.
t + 03:15:00 somewhat west of Baile Kemper
A convoy of three light AVs, a recon tank and an armored howitzer had been sent into the bush on a recon mission. They were moving along on the main road towards the highland, whose fringe mountains could be well seen in the clear air. The trip was not planned that far, though. They were to proceed some thirty miles and establish a provisional outpost as a base for foot patrols. Ammo and rations for a week.
t + 03:18:25, further west
Ariel's feelings were mixed, as he was sitting in his modified hoverbuggy. It was mounted on the catapult, which would throw him with high acceleration into the air. The strange stovepipes were scramjets and would, provided the whole thing would move, thrust the odd vessel forward. The powerful turbine engine was reserved to provide lift. Short wings should support this effort. All in all the vessel was not exactly a masterpiece of modern design and Ariel was still a little skeptical concerning its performance.
An armored convoy was crawling down a road reserved for heavy vehicles, aiming at the lowlands between Baile Kemper plateau and the mountain chain at the margin of the highlands, where his plantation was situated. They had to cover miles over miles of bushland, scarcely interrupted by small farms.
The bush consisted mostly of fast-growing shrubs, whose high content of minerals made it a tough task to proceed. Wheeled vessels, even caterpillars were to realize very fast what fine quartz dusts could do to unprotected bearings. That was the main reason why Kempériens usually preferred hovercrafts or helicopters.
The catapult's thrust pushed him violently into the upholstery. When the stars in front of his mind started to fade, he found that his vessel had covered a substantial distance towards the convoy. His buggy kept flying in low altitude to make full use of the ground effect, causing a giant veil of dust following him. He approached the convoy from afresh, much faster than the occupants could realize. As soon as the target came in range, he unfolded his reflex sight and opened fire. He fired short burst at all vessels, one at a time.
The .50 cal. machine guns carried alternately incendiary and highly explosive rounds, the 20mm rifles tungsten flechettes. Recoil was tremendous, as was the muzzle flare. The effect on the targets was even worse. The arrows hit with twice the speed of sound and went right through all armor, engines or whatever else would be in their way.
It took a kiss short of 20 seconds to set the last vessel on fire and much less to kill the crews.
Ariel's buggy turned out to be far more agile than he had dared to hope, but nevertheless it was very fast as well. He felt comfortable when he discovered that with a trifle more prop speed he could lift the buggy over the treetops. He did a sharp u-turn and took a final look at the burning wreckage on the ground, then he sped home. He had not even used up half of his ammo.
When he landed at home, he found a big jar of cider waiting for him and his friends eagerly jumped at the buggy to replenish the ammo and take care of maintenance chores.
t + 03:23:59, field camp of the expeditionary forces
Sgt. Brinkmyer paced in front of his guard detail. He had a queasy feeling, though everything seemed to be all right. Observers with night vision devices were staring into the dark, RADAR was active, but nothing to see or hear. The garrison had been rounded up in the field camp after contact to all patrols had been lost. A spaceworthy airstrip was still not available, nor was a ferry which could land on open terrain. No way to get replacement. The invasion's lack of professional preparation was eventually evident even for the rank-and-file trooper. Most troopers were asleep. He hoped, not forever. Up to now, they had lost three men out of every four and the remainders were not exactly in a good mood.
t + 04:03:30, not far away
"Allons!" Marie-France rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and woke up her friend Mira. They had swapped their rifles for RPGs and joined the defensive forces in the woods. Today, their ground tactics were to pay off, they said. Why in heaven was this to happen at such an early hour...
Marie-France and Mira found steaming-hot coffee and fresh croissants at the gathering place, which made them forgive the wee hours. They joined a militia platoon and listened to the briefing.
t + 06:05:00 in the field camp
One hour ahead of official wake-up the troopers were alarmed by the beat of a huge drum. A moment later, the squealing sound of a bagpipe fell in. The troopers were shooed to the walls in virtually no time where they took battle stations. Except for the caterwauling, nothing happened for the time being. Some shot blindly into the bush and got chewed out for wasting ammunition. A quarter of an hour later another bagpipe started to squeal, on the other side of the camp. It might have helped if they had played the same tune, but they did not do that favor to the troopers. A few more rounds into the bush, a few increasingly irritated NCOs yelling at the soldiers.
t + 06:05:30
Four bagpipes with four different tunes from four directions. The number of drums had doubled at least.
t + 06:05:50
At least thirty pipes, from all directions now, some apparently much closer than the first, the drums could no longer be counted.
Alain adjusted his grenade launcher. He would have to wait quite a time for fire orders, but to be prepared ahead of schedule would not be a bad idea.
t + 06:07:12 field camp
Private Harrison lost his temper, he mounted the four-barreled 20-mm-FLAK and took aim at the wall crown. Then he switched to full auto and swiveled the mount. Not until all mags were empty, having killed several dozens of his fellows, an NCO managed to shoot him. The firing line at the wall was stretched out a little thinner. No trooper liked the idea of stepping over the shreds of his comrades.
t + 06:08:00
The din of the drums and bagpipes had melted to an unbelievable cacophony. The bush was impenetrable, for eyes as well as for infrared devices. No animals to be seen, but every time a leaf was moving, soldier shot in that direction. Ricochets were howling, but nothing else happened. Some insisted that the din kept increasing volume, but it had long since passed pain level and was indistinguishable. Large lambeg drums, war pipes and bombardes were playing each one its own tune, not two using the same stroke, not to mention melodies.
t + 06:10:28
Several troopers at the wall had wasted all their ammo in spite of the NCOs' nagging but after some hassle, they were granted replenishment at noon.
t + 06:11:07
As some soldiers collapsed, officers first thought them to be exhausted or having circulation issues. At 110° in the open, this would be no wonder. When the first of them were carried to the medic tent, it became apparent that snipers were firing from the treetops. Well-trained snipers as all troopers were deactivated, none were dead. The snipers were using small caliber rifles with outstanding scopes. They were firing across the entire camp at the soldiers on the opposing wall. Arms and thighs were the preferred targets, but some had even clean hits in their lower jaws. A colonel called that "surgical accuracy".
This news spread faster than bush fire and in no time, soldiers were running away from the wall to seek shelter in the center. Officers yelling at top of their lungs, nobody cared. One officer blindly shot with his sidearm until a Pfc used the butt of his rifle to silence him. Panic had seized command.
When some officers managed to re-establish some rudimentary order, they found the wall being occupied by Kempériens, who started shooting soldiers like turkeys.
To add insult to injury, several ultra light planes crossed the camp at tree top level and dropped grenades and tear gas canisters into the turmoil. Nobody bothered to shoot at them.
A little later, the camp was taken in assault from all sides. Except for a few prisoners, a few dozen injured soldiers were captured and taken care of. None of them was an officer.
Bulldozers collected the dead in a pile at the camp's center. Gasolin was poured over them and a flare set off the macabre campfire. During the following three days, a few additional barrels of gasolin would be dropped by planes, and then the pyre would be allowed to burn down. The ash would be leveled with caterpillars and soil would be filled up.
Place galore to build was available; here the Parc de la Liberté would arise from the ashes.
The surviving soldiers were detained and expelled as soon as the first IST ferry would land on Kemper. IST had agreed to take the troops away, even though probably no one would pay the fare.
t + 07:17:36 UN HQ, Geneva, Earth
Under the presidency of Aristide Claudel, an investigation committee convened to investigate the situation on Kemper. Background investigations were not planned. At the same time, a committee of the International Monetary Fund constituted with the task to unite the economies of the European and Asian countries wrecked by the Kemper disaster. Largest shareholder would be the People's Republic of Great China and India. The mostly bankrupt European countries would for a long time have to depend on the Asian countries' financial support.
To prevent further disasters like Kemper, massive restrictions of economic liberties were proclaimed: no person alone would be allowed to found or fund enterprises, existing private enterprises with gross business volumes exceeding 3 M New Euros were set under IMF control. Local governments were deprived of their economical sovereignty. National sovereignty in the Eurasian Zone was history. Order and security from now on would be provided by troops from Russia, China and Nepal.
t + 07:18:05 Carnac Hochebene
Ariel had prepared himself well, all fires out, no electrical devices on, his beloved briar pipe cold, he sat down on the porch of his small estate and enjoyed the sunset, which would mark the beginning of Shobat. No way, he would not cancel this one.
Everywhere else on Kemper people put candles into their windows to remind of this short war's death toll. The devastation would soon be cleared; the scars in nature would be overgrown or overbuilt. The scars in the hearts would remain, though.
t + 24:09:00
Of all survivors, Sgt. Brinkmyer ranked highest. At the first IST station, he found an investors' welcome committee waiting for him. Four men were facing him in stone-faced silent patience. Only Armand Pasqua, the Executive Director, addressed Brinkmyer:
"You aren't going to tell me that this parcel of rogues is all you could retrieve of our expeditionary corps, are you? Where is the bloody rest?"
"The rest is a pile of ash on the ground of a makeshift field camp. Most probably no one defected, the survivors are all aboard."
"You can't tell me that a bunch of drunk-sodden peasants have shot our well-trained troopers to pieces without any hassle."
"That is a pretty accurate description of what has happened on Kemper."
"Did they hide an invisible army or did they get some help from outside?"
"Neither. They had bailed out into the bush and immediately started to give us hell. What hurt us most was the demolition of the big cereal silos. That cost us more than half our manpower, the better part of our equipment and practically the whole line of command. Not to mention runway and shuttle. That cut us off our supply chain and our structures were defunct. Another failure was to deactivate their energy supplies by EMP strikes. They had more power than they would be able to use."
"How could they organize this without a government?"
"I have no bloody idea. All I can say is that if we ever would see anything of the inhabitants, it was their teeth and claws."
"They allegedly had no army, where did they get their guns?"
"I don't know. All I know is we got hell wherever we showed up. One guy of my platoon was shot at a distance of about one full mile. Others had run into booby traps, some just perished in the forests. We found the dog-tags of two - attached to landmines, as we were to find out."
"I can't believe this tripe, firearms in the hands of civilians is bad enough, but explosives and the knowledge to handle them, how can a government allow that?"
"Monsieur Pasqua, apparently there is no government on Kemper."
He turned away from Brinkmyer, and when he turned back, it was to thresh his fist into Brinkmyer's dumbfounded face.