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HOTPOINT

Wolf Pack (Part IV)
Friday, January 30, 2004

The Serenity crew will go to extreme lengths to deliver their cargo


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3934    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I’m just borrowing his shiny ‘verse for a while.

The 21st Lancers belong to the British Army so I’m borrowing them too. I hope they don’t mind

* * *

Transport Ship Serenity – Lynx Orbit – 2520AD

Wash joined the group ‘I’ve radioed the town and told them we’re sorting out some engine trouble but will be landing within the hour. They seemed to buy it.’

‘Probably sounded like the truth. People always underestimate Firefly’s’ Kaylee offered.

‘People seem to underestimate us on a regular basis too for that matter’ Wash commented ‘that’s why we keep winning’

Zoe moved over to him ‘Don’t get cocky now’ she chided then kissed him on the cheek. ‘We’re good but we ain’t invincible’

River was reassembling her Carbine. She actually found it easier with her eyes closed just letting her hands do the work automatically without trying to think about it.

Mal was thinking ‘River you said these guys were chaotic and undisciplined if we hit then hard enough at the start do you think they’ll cut and run or surrender?’

River slid the bolt of her carbine into place and snapped the mechanism closed ‘I think we could but we’d have to do something spectacular’

‘How about a grenade salvo from the Brimstone?’ Zoe asked ‘That tends to leave an impression’

‘Yes and that impression tends to be in the form of a load of craters. It would look good if I blew a series of holes in the surrounding countryside but they might realise that if we want to rescue the locals we aren’t going to level the town and kill everyone in it’ Steven interjected.

‘Land snipers and pick them off?’ Jayne asked.

Simon decided to offer his thoughts on that one ‘Take too long. Anyway if I was them I’d use the locals as hostages and start killing them one by one’

Everyone looked at him.

‘I said if I was them. I never said I’d do it myself’ Simon continued.

‘You’re spending too much time with Jayne’ Mal told him ‘but you’re right anyway’

‘It would make an impression if we crippled their ships, rained down grenades and shot a few at the same time. A few hundred rounds worth of tracer fire from the machine-gun would make an impact too’ River commented dispassionately as she clipped a magazine into place ‘If they thought they were hopelessly outgunned and we killed a few they might fold before they had much of a chance to think about it’

Everyone looked at River who ignored their looks and thoughts and began checking her spare ammunition clips.

‘And how are we going to cripple their ships. And how many do they have anyway?’ Wash asked ‘forgive me if I’m wrong but we haven’t got anything that will punch a hole in a ships hull’

‘Vera might damage an engine if I hit the right place but I ain’t guaranteeing nothing’ Jayne announced.

‘They have two ships’ River said ‘We could use Stevens hobby, that would be effective at disabling them’

Mal scratched his chin ‘Is it ready?’ he asked the former Lancer.

‘Well I can assemble it quickly and in theory it’ll work but it’s not like I’ve tested the thing’

‘What exactly are we talking about here?’ Wash asked.

Mal looked around the group ‘Steven had an idea and asked me if he could go ahead with it. River’s helped with the design’

‘Design for what?’

Steven smiled ‘Something that will definitely leave an impression’ he said ‘if it works and doesn’t blow us all to hell’

‘The design and the physics are sound’ River stated ‘I can’t speak for the construction or some of the esoteric parts and materials’

‘I’ll ask again’ Wash said ‘design for what? You haven’t been building a rocket launcher or something have you?’

Steven looked quite offended ‘No I haven’t, that would be inelegant. My little toy has a touch of class to it, besides which it’s far more adaptable and the ammunitions easier to make’

Kaylee interrupted ‘Is this what you’ve been taking all the empty coffee tins for and my roll of monomolecular fibre weave?’

‘Yes’

‘And what is it again?’ Wash asked ‘Some kind of Black Project secret weapon you ran across in the war’

‘More of a blast from the past really, I’m stressing the word “blast”’ Steven told him.

‘Are you deliberately trying to annoy me now?’

‘Yes’ Steven told him ‘Hang on I’ll go and get it. Jayne can you give me a hand it’s kind of bulky’

‘Why me?’ Jayne asked.

‘Because you’re kind of bulky too’ Mal told him ‘now get’

* * *

‘And this will work?’ Simon asked

‘I’m fairly upbeat on that point’ Steven replied as he finished assembling the device.

‘Why am I not overjoyed by the lack of a definitive answer on that?’

‘Because you’re not stupid’ Steven answered ‘I’ve secured the base plate to the deck with hull sealant gel. The rest of the frame that secures the main body unbolts so we can leave it here. I’m adding limited traverse to the frame later until then we just aim the whole ship’

‘I just can’t believe the size of it’

‘Normally it’s girls that say that to me. But I’m happy you’re impressed’ Steven said smirking.

Puerile Wessex humour, Simon ignored him.

‘Are you sure you can trust Jayne with your Brimstone’ Mal asked entering the bay. ‘He looks at that thing like Simon here looks at Kaylee when she’s all greased up’

‘Hey’ Simon complained.

‘River’s right your vocabulary is a mite limited’ Mal retorted. He’d have to let Wash know it was his turn to make a crack about the Doctors oily mechanic fetish, they’d been playing it for nearly a year now.

Steven ignored the extraneous banter ‘Jayne gave his Callahan to Zoe to use. If he doesn’t give back my gun she told me she’ll hold Vera hostage’ Steven looked down the sights. ‘I must admit he must really want to fire my Brimstone to let someone else use his rifle. I show less affection to my children than he does to his firearms’

Mal nodded ‘Are you sure this is going to work?’ he asked.

‘Oh ye of little faith’

‘Is that a yes?’

‘You can’t get a definite answer out of him. At least he’s the one firing it if it goes wrong’ Simon interjected ‘well with you here as well I suppose’

‘We get the better end of that deal’ Steven responded ‘If it goes completely wrong we’ll never know it and the rest of you will have to spend the rest of the day scraping us off the cargo bay walls into a bucket’

Simon looked at Mal ‘I’ll be on the bridge with Wash’ he said and fled up the stairs.

‘You’re just brimming with confidence’ Mal said to Steven.

‘We’ll be alright. When is the shuttle due to land?’

Mal looked at his watch ‘Zoe, River and Jayne will be landing in a couple of minutes. Give then ten to get to the outskirts of town, five to get ready then its fireworks time’

‘Wish you were with them?’

‘Yeah but only because I’d rather be there than here loading for you’

‘It’ll work. I’m almost sure of it’

* * *

‘That thing had better work’ Zoe said dropping into position at the edge of the tree line. The township was no more than three hundred yards away.

Jayne was also in the tree line about ninety degrees around the circle with Hanson in the middle. River was wherever she wanted to be, she had a better idea of where that should be than anyone else anyway.

‘There’s two ships in the landing field by the town, bulk haulers a lot bigger than Serenity. Could be a hell of a lot of them’ Jayne said over his headset.

‘No more than three dozen’ River responded.

‘You can see them?’ Zoe asked.

‘No feel them. Some are in the Town Hall getting drunk. People have very distinctive thought patterns when drunk. There’s ten still on the ships, a large group in the building closest to the landing field and a few more scattered around the town’

‘What about the locals?’

‘Town hall too’

‘I’m looking in the door’ Jayne said ‘The hicks are tied up on the floor. Damn this thing is fine you can zoom the camera in so close you can count the hairs up a guys nose at half a mile’

‘I know you want to enjoy that thing but remember you’re only supposed to fire grenades where they won’t hit anything’

‘What if the rest don’t surrender?’

‘Well then you can blow ‘em up and machine-gun them as you see fit. Just don’t put a grenade into the town hall we supposed to be helping these people’

‘Right’

‘Jayne’

‘Yes River’

‘Stop praying they don’t surrender’

* * *

‘This is Wash to all Wolves. We’ll be over the landing field in one minute’ The pilot turned off the radio microphone and turned to Kaylee. ‘If we do set down in a fire-fight I want you to take off as soon as the four of us are off Serenity’

Kaylee looked worried ‘I’m not very good at flying the ship’ she said.

‘You’ll be fine. All you have to do is take off and hover. I’ll talk you back down if you need me to’ the pilot turned to Simon ‘tell her she’ll be fine’

‘Kaylee you’ll be perfectly okay. You’ve flown the ship before’ Simon reassured her.

‘Not being shot at I haven’t’

‘Serenity’s hull is strong enough to stop small meteors. All ships are that’s why we need that monstrosity in the cargo bay to knock out those ships. Bullets will just bounce off so relax’

‘I don’t like it’

‘In that case how about you take my shotgun and go fight and I’ll fly the ship’ Wash said.

Kaylee thought about it ‘How far up should I hover?’ she asked.

* * *

The Raider Captain watched the old Firefly as it came into land. The Mayor had warned him the crew were armed and he thought they were dangerous but by the standards of this hick town that didn’t mean anything.

The haul hadn’t been great financially but they had a couple of dozen women and children and half that number of men to sell and they’d bring a tidy sum. Especially the children, there was always plenty of elements willing to pay good platinum for a young girl or boy.

Now if they captured a ship into the bargain that would make it his best result ever.

His best men were with him waiting to ambush the crew when they got off the ship, he had snipers upstairs to take out the men after that the rest would just give up.

All over by lunchtime he thought. He might go over to the Saloon and pick himself out a nice piece of trim afterwards, if she was good enough he might not even sell her. Well not for a while anyway.

* * *

‘Captain this is Zoe. River says there’s a bunch of ‘em in the closest building to the landing field make that your third target’

‘Will do, alright Wolves lets go hunting’ Mal responded over his headset and hit the ramp controls. The airlock doors slid open and the ramp started to come down just as he arrived back at his position’

‘Load’ Steven ordered and looked through the simple ring sights. Wash was doing the aiming in reality but it was nice to know where the thing was pointing exactly when he fired it.

‘Loaded’ Mal told him and put his hands over his ears this was going to be very loud.

‘When you’re ready Wash’

* * *

The Raider Captain watched as the Firefly suddenly veered off course and slid sideways through the air. He noticed the cargo ramp was open as it turned.

There was something in the cargo bay with someone knelling either side of it.

It looked like a big tube on some kind of stand.

‘Qu tāmāde’ he exclaimed.

* * *

The principle of the recoilless cannon is easy. Take a metal tube, preferably strong enough not to explode (a good 26th Century trick here is to wrap a roll of monomolecular fibre weave around the barrel just in case), put in a propellant charge and a warhead and fire it. The difference from conventional cannon is that the tube is open at both ends and a counterweight shoots out the back when you fire it driven by the same propellant charge.

You can consider it Newtons Third Law in a pure form, action and reaction cancelling each other out. The projectile comes out the front at a goodly rate but the object coming out the back cancels out the recoil so you can fire a really big round fairly fast without needing a large carriage for the gun. You use more mass for the counter weight than the projectile so it doesn’t go as fast or as far as the thing you actually want to fire and there you have it.

You wouldn’t want to be standing behind one of these when it fires because the counterweight will probably knock your head off and a conventional breech-loading cannon with springs or pistons to take up the recoil itself is a better design for artillery overall but it works.

‘Firing’ yelled Steven and pressed the improvised trigger. I small electrical charge detonated a small detonator which in turn detonated a rather larger charge of explosive.

There was a very loud explosion, a large oddly shaped projectile came blasting out the front of the smoothbore recoilless and two coffee tins fixed end to end full of lead shot flew out the back and put a surprisingly impressive dent in the bulkhead at the back of the cargo bay.

A split second later the projectile hit the first Pirate ship near the engine room and blew a large hole right through the hull.

‘RELOAD’ screamed Steven pointing to his chosen ammunition type.

Mal picked up the round slid it up the tube until it clicked into position thanks to a piece of bent wire then quickly pulled his arm out the back.

‘LOADED’ Mal yelled and put his hands over his ears again.

Wash was already swinging the ship so that it was pointing at the next target.

‘FIRING’

Once again, a small electrical charge caused a small explosion which caused a large explosion which eventually caused a hole in a spaceship and another dent in the back of Serenity’s cargo bay.

Mal looked back at the damage he felt bad for his ship and Kaylee was going to be pissed. Next time they’d have to put some kind of shield up, maybe some planking?

The Raiders were starting to run out of the building they were in when Steven blew it to pieces with his third shot, this time high explosive rather than armour-piercing. Wash pulled Serenity into a steep climb out of the way just as Jayne started raining grenades into the less populated parts of town.

‘I can’t believe it worked’ screamed Mal in triumph.

‘I can’t believe it worked’ said Zoe as she started to snipe at the Raiders who were running out of buildings.

I can’t believe it worked thought Steven. And I really should have worn better hearing protection.

* * *

Jayne fired off a whole clip of grenades which spectacularly detonated all around the township then he began mowing down panicking Raiders with the machine gun. He was using a tracer mix that looked pretty spectacular in itself especially with the firing rate set at its maximum 1000 rounds per minute. The targeting computer made it so easy to hit what, or rather who, he was shooting at it was almost no fun at all.

Almost.

Inside the town hall the locals were screaming. The Mayor was trying to calm them down but he thought the drunken Raiders were about to massacre them all any second. They were almost as scared as the townsfolk and any second now one of them was going to lose it.

Somebody else thought so too.

The backdoor flew open and a stun grenade flew in and exploded.

The incredibly loud explosion in the confined space disorientated all and the flash blinded everyone in the room for a few seconds.

There were five bursts of firing.

When the spots cleared from his eyes the Mayor looked up to see a young woman carrying a small rifle.

The six Raiders who had been in the room were all lying dead except for the youngest one who had apparently dropped his rifle and was now cowering on the floor with the young women’s boot firmly placed on the back of his neck. It looked like he had wet himself.

‘This is River I have secured the Town Hall. No friendly casualties’ she said into a radio headset she was wearing.

‘How the hell you get there?’ Mal responded.

‘I moved from cover to cover when no one was looking in my direction. It’s very easy really’ she explained

The townsfolk were lying on the floor in stunned silence looking at her.

‘How… how did you do that’ the Mayor asked

‘Came in with the grenade, took them out, spared this one because he dropped his gun and wasn’t going to fight’ she told him.

‘But how could you see to shoot? Everyone was blinded’

‘Kept my eyes closed’ she said.

* * *

Watchiung from above Mal decided the quantity of opposition fire and movement had fallen to nothing ‘Everyone cease fire’ he ordered ‘Wash take us over the town and patch me into the loudspeaker’.

Serenity hovered over the town.

‘This is the Captain of the Ship hovering above you. We have disabled your vessels and there are grenade launchers, machine-guns and sharpshooters ringing the town. If you do not surrender we will kill every one of you’

‘They don’t look convinced’ Zoe said over the radio. ‘I can see a few holed up in the building directly across the road from the Town Hall that seem pretty determined’

‘Put a grenade into that building’ Mal ordered, his voice both over the radio and the loudspeaker’

Jayne fired a round of high-explosive which blew out one wall and the roof collapsed on top of the rest.

‘I hope I have just made myself more clear’ Mal’s voice boomed out over the town ‘I don’t care if you live or die we just don’t want to waste the ammunition’

‘One of them just walked out with his hands up’ Zoe told him.

‘Anyone else that wants to live will throw his weapons down and walk into the street with his hands held high. You will have a sniper aimed at you so any tricks and you will be ended’ Mal continued over the loudspeaker.

‘Yep they’re doing it. I think the last grenade took then last of the fight of them’ Zoe said. ‘I’ve got Vera on them if you want to move in Jayne. You’re more intimidating than me especially carrying that thing’

‘There are still a lot of them on the ships’ River advised him but they’ll surrender too they seem quite “impressed” with the holes Steven blew in them. They think Serenity must be carrying anti-tank weaponry’

Steven’s hearing had returned although there was still a lot of ringing in his ears ‘I object to the phrase “Anti-Tank”’ he said ‘it goes against the grain’

* * *

By the time Serenity landed the remaining Raiders had all surrendered. The entire fight had been so quick, noisy and decisive they thought they were both outnumbered and totally outgunned. Wash and Simon took shotguns and directed the ones who had been on the ship towards the others gathered in the middle of town Simon walked behind covering them whilst Wash decided to have a look at the damage that had been done to one of the ships.

Mal and Steve double-timed into town.

‘Gorramit Steve what the hell were you firing?’ he asked over the radio.

‘Tried out three different rounds.’ Steven responded ‘The one that got the building was just high-explosive but I put a HEAT into one ship and a HESH round into the other’

‘Heat, Hesh? What the hell is that?’

‘Sorry talking like an Armoured Cavalryman again. HEAT is High-Explosive Anti-Tank. It’s a shaped charge of explosive that directs the explosion one way to cut through armour. You’ll notice the second ship has a smaller hole in it’

‘So what does HESH stand for?’

‘High Explosive Squash Head. It’s basically just a big lump of plastic explosive that goes splat when it hits something. The detonator is at the back of the warhead and hits a split second later. You can really blow a big hole in steel plate with one of those but better than that it turns the metal you hit into shrapnel inside. Even if you don’t fully penetrate the metal it “spalls” underneath and fragments’

‘You run across these in the war?’

‘HEAT yes but Military Laminate Armour is very good at resisting HESH so it hasn’t been widely used for centuries’

‘How did you know about it then?’

‘I’m an academic who used to ride a tank. I read everything I could about things that might have been fired at me even the really archaic stuff.’

‘I saw the dents in the back of the bay. Kaylee is going to kill you’

‘A genius is never appreciated in his own lifetime’ Steven said and joined the others in the centre of town.

Jayne had the prisoners knelling under the cover of his machine-gun whilst River went along the line with a bag of zip ties to handcuff them with. Simon arrived with his charges and after he got them to knell too he helped his sister tie them all up.

A number of them had minor shrapnel wounds, but according to Simon they weren’t life threatening and the crew allowed the Raiders medic who had been on one of the ships to treat them. None of the ones scattered around the town who had been shot by Zoe or Jayne were still breathing, they were both very good at their job.

Steve went to free the locals tied up in the Town Hall, River had left everyone tied up because she didn’t want trouble from them until the opposition were all accounted for so they were all still bound and lying on the floor.

Addressing the Raiders Mal made a big show of what would happen to anyone that attempted to escape. The Captain was very good at making dramatic though earnest threats. He got Zoe to aim a laser sight at various members of the group in turn to show them they really were under the gun-sights of a sniper and then explained just how much the big guy carrying the huge gun would enjoy trying it out on them.

The smile on Jayne’s face was convincing in itself. He had a clip of canister rounds loaded and he really, really, wanted to see what they’d do.

When Steve walked into the Town Hall all the locals started thanking him for their salvation, which was quite nice he thought. He could have done without people telling him he’d be in their prayers though, just not his thing at all.

Steve’s slightly warped sense of humour kicked in. He hushed the group by putting his finger over his lips walked over to the Mayor and got his notebook and pencil out of his pocket.

The Mayor stared as the scarred man slung his rifle, opened the notebook, looked like he was scanning down a list then he checked a tick with his pencil. He looked up again.

‘Okay I’ve got a delivery of five tons of agricultural machinery from Wilkes Moon would anyone care to sign for it?’ he asked.

Part V

COMMENTS

Friday, January 30, 2004 8:05 AM

GEEZER


Even if you don’t fully penetrate the metal it “spoils” underneath and fragments’

Spalls, perhaps?


Just being nit-picky . The story is going great. Keep it up, please.

Friday, January 30, 2004 8:26 AM

HOTPOINT


"Spalls"? AARGH!

Todays lesson. When you're researching the types and effects of anti-tank ammunition on the telephone make sure the military friend you're asking spells things out to you :-(

I apologise for the error

Friday, January 30, 2004 9:36 AM

AMDOBELL


Great! River rocked and it all came together very nicely. I loved the understated ending bringing us back to the point of the whole venture with Steve wanting to make his delivery. Well done, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, January 31, 2004 9:30 AM

ARTSHIPS


It's a joy when a writer brings a lot from outside FF to the story. Superb fun.


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