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Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVI)
Sunday, March 5, 2006

Scylla and Charybdis show the Alliance Navy what real warships are made of


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 4148    RATING: 10    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.

* * *

“No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy”

Admiral Horatio Nelson 1758 - 1805

* * *

INS Charybdis – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

With the Admiral over on Scylla Captain Decker had a somewhat freer hand in the way he ran his own ship than the last time he had taken the ship into battle nearly two years ago against the IAV Pen Lung. Something of an aficionado of Naval Tradition Decker had always maintained the notion that if he ever got to take the Charybdis into a really decent action he was going to do the thing right.

‘Beat to Quarters if you please Mr Peters’ Decker ordered to his second in command. ‘All hands to Battle-Stations.’

Commander Peters activated the ships intercom and ordered the crew to battle-stations. The crew had already put on their lightweight EVA suits in case the ship was holed and now those in the sections more likely to suffer that fate pulled on their helmets and pressurised the suits. Buried deep inside the ship the Bridge crew kept their own helmets off for now but they were close by if needed. Nobody wanted to end their days in a vacuum with their blood boiling out their ears, as a way to go it took too damn long for one thing.

The difference between beating to quarters on Charybdis and her sister ship was that Captain Decker actually had someone rattle a drum while it happened. It was just a pity he couldn’t raise a Battle Flag and put a few snipers in the upper rigging whilst he was at it.

Commander Peters attributed it all to the Captain reading way too many Hornblower books as a child but had never mentioned this theory out loud.

‘Reactors One through Twelve powering up to ninety percent rated power Sir’ the Lieutenant in the Engineer station reported.

Decker listened to the ship as the reactors continued to build in power output. As always they reached the point at which they created a sympathetic vibration in the ship though Charybdis additional mass seemed to dampen the effect somewhat. She was a bit sluggish under thrust getting here too for that matter, not that she was ever speedy by any means. A Maelstroms engines might have been huge by some terms of reference but the Battlecruisers were so heavy their thrust-to-mass ratio certainly wasn’t anything to write home about. Even the great lumbering Alliance Cruisers could outrun her in a fair race, though of course this wasn’t a fair race it was a decidedly unfair battle.

‘Open gunports. Charge Primary Particle Beam Cannon’ Decker ordered and the reactor power was partially diverted from the engines to the massive banks of capacitors that powered the kilometre long Directed Energy Weapon that comprised the ships main armament against other capital ships.

It was a standard comment that being a proper warship Charybdis was really more of a ship built around a weapon rather than a ship that merely carried weapons like the Alliance Cruisers. The three 1000mm diameter railguns also ran almost the full length of the length of the ship and gave the front three quarters of the vessel its triangular section cross-section with the hull constructed so they were just on the inside of the points under the armour. From the front, with the gun-ports open, you could see the three huge mass-drivers surrounding the even wider diameter Particle-Beam Cannon with a few forward-facing torpedo launchers completing the picture.

From directly in front Charybdis looked mean.

Of course the three heavy laser turrets, each larger than a bulk transport, positioned further down the hull, one on each face of the prism shaped majority of the ships length, meant that she looked pretty mean from the side too. Together the laser turrets, the battlecruisers secondary anti-ship armament, actually outgunned any one of the Cruisers they were facing on their own while if you got close enough to the hull the huge number of vertical-launch missile bays, point defence guns and other assorted instruments of death just helped set off the scene.

‘Weapons officer report’ Decker ordered.

‘‘Main gun, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie Turrets charged and ready’ the chief weapons officer, a lieutenant replied. ‘Bow torpedo tubes loaded and ready, all missile racks ready at your order. Directed energy and projectile point defence batteries coming on line. Prima, Secunda and Tertia mass-drivers charging.’

‘Message from Admiral van der Heijden on the Scylla’ the communications officer reported. ‘We are to engage the closest target while she deals with the Kirov.’

Decker nodded in compliance. ‘Gunnery will take control of the ship’ he ordered. ‘As soon as we are in effective range you may fire at will.’

‘Aye Sir’ the Weapons officer replied. To aim the main gun you actually had to aim the whole ship so in combat the gunner steered the vessel using a similar joystick arrangement to the pilots own. A computer autopilot did most of the precision aiming though once a target was selected though.

Decker looked at the cube which was projecting a three dimensional holographic projection of the battle area. ‘Time to target?’

‘Predicted effective Primary Particle Cannon range in two minutes forty-eight seconds Sir’ the Tactical Officer responded.

‘Alpha, Bravo and Charlie turrets will direct fire at the closest vessel until she is disabled then engage any ship that comes into view’ Decker ordered. ‘As soon as any hostile has its drive disabled or ceases firing back find another Capital Ship target. Do not engage smaller vessels I want to swat hornets not mosquitoes.’

‘Sir we have incoming missiles’ the tactical officer reported.

Decker smirked they’d not only seen the latest model Alliance Anti-Ship Missiles in action before they’d even taken a few captured ones apart and had a good idea how to stop them. ‘Full power to the new ECM systems’ he ordered, ‘DEW and Mass-Driver Point-Defence batteries to target anything that gets through.’

The Battleship transferred a fraction of its available reactor power into the new Electronic Counter Measures equipment. A design largely based on the one in use on the AI-X series advance Frigates but scaled up into a device a hundred fold larger using similar parts salvaged from the Pen Lung and integrated into the Battlecruisers original Countermeasures and Sensors. Although not quite as sophisticated as the original it more than made up for it with sheer wattage.

‘Missile Locks broken enemy missiles are self-destructing in order to prevent them heading home.’ Tactical reported. ‘Target in main gun range in thirty seconds’ he said checking another display.

‘Enemy ship targeted’ the Gunner said. ‘Zeus is counting down to fire.’

Decker crossed his arms. ‘Give ‘em hell son’ he said.

‘Shouldn’t that be Hades Sir?’ Commander Peters joked.

‘Just as long as we don’t end up in Elysium later today Mr Peters I don’t care where they go’ Decker replied.

‘FIRING’

* * *

IAV Vasco de Gama – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

The Unification Class Cruiser Anshan had been leading the fleet and it was the first to be struck by the enemy. Admiral de Langara winced as the reports of damage flooded into the Vasco de Gama whilst the air from dozens of holed compartments on the Anshan vented out into space.

As with the smaller Independent Ships that had fought at Sihnon, these battlecruisers seemed to have superior fire-control systems to the same class of ship back in the war. Certainly the Anshan was targeted and fired upon at a slightly longer range than would have been assumed based on previous knowledge of the capabilities of a Maelstrom Class vessel. For that matter the Independent Capital Ships had demonstrated much better ECM than expected too when they jammed the volley of Anti-Ship-Missiles which Kirov had launched.

‘Sir Kirov has been engaged by the second enemy vessel’ the tactical officer reported. ‘Anshan is reporting it is being struck again by the first hostile’s primary armament.’

De Langara winced. The main guns on those things would slice through the armour of his cruisers like an oxy-acetylene torch. Although the Cruisers were more than a match for any conceivable peacetime threat, pirates, raiders or the like, they were not intended for combat against other Capital Ships and did not haul tens of thousands of tonnes of mass of armour plate around the ‘Verse just to waste fuel and negatively effect the ships top acceleration rate. It would have been silly and a waste of taxpayer’s money for the Navy to continue to operate vessels which had no militarily justifiable purpose, in much the same way as the Army had demobilised the vast majority of its heavy combat brigades in favour of a more law-enforcement geared para-military structure.

Of course at the moment higher peacetime defence expenditures wouldn’t have been such a bad investment de Lagara considered. He would certainly have been happier in command of the ship he had captained over Hera during the last days of the war. Now she’d been a real warship not a symbolic one like the Vasco de Gama.

The basic design philosophy behind the post-war series of Cruiser class ships had been the notion of bringing Core Civilisation to the Rim symbolically, if not necessarily in practice as there was no way the taxpayers back home were going to pay to drag the outer colonies up to their standard of living. The symbol of the superiority of the Core Worlds were their gleaming metropolises, with great towers that reached for the stars, so why not have those very towers be that which seized the stars. Let the peon dirt-farmers and scruffy mineworkers out there in the sticks see who the boss was and get just a little glimpse of true civilisation while you’re at it.

Four Cruisers and a roughly equal number of the smaller vessels had been assigned to each target but the greater effective range of the Independent Ships meant that two of the eight Cruisers were already taking heavy damage before they got close enough to join their brethren in concentrating their fire on the individually more powerful battlecruisers.

Anshan has lost one of its main engines Sir’ the Tactical Officer reported. ‘The fleet is coming into weapons range’ he continued in a more positive tone.

‘All ships to open fire as guns bare’ de Langara ordered

Right you bastards, de Langara thought, you like to dish it out but now you’ve got to taste it.

* * *

INS Scylla – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

‘Enemy Fleet is opening fire Admiral’ Captain Raine announced. ‘Looks like mainly Laser Cannon with a smaller number of Particle Beam Weapons. Charybdis and ourselves have bought Secondary Armament on-line’ she continued. ‘No damage from the enemy Lasers, minimal armour damage from the Particle Beams.’

‘Monitor hull temperature’ van der Heijden responded. ‘And get that piece of Alliance go se out of the way’ he ordered pointing at the projected image of the Kirov within the Cube.’

Charybdis reporting enemy vessel neutralised, she is now turning to engage a second target with her Primary Armament.’

“Neutralised” van der Heijden thought. What an interesting euphemism for saying that millions of tons of machinery, with a crew of thousands was now floating lifeless in the black, scorched and rent asunder by beams of projected mass and energy which required a reactor complex that could power a large city. The Admiral wondered how many of the ships crew were not merely dead through exposure to vacuum or internal explosions but had been literally vaporised by Charybdis main gun as it lanced through the vessels metal, ceramic and composite hull.

On the other hand, the Admiral thought, they were only Alliance so fuck ‘em.

‘Send Captain Decker my complements’ van der Heijden ordered. ‘How is our hull taking the incoming fire?’ he asked.

‘Damage still minimal Sir’ the tactical officer replied.

‘ConductorClad’s people’ Captain Raine declared. ‘Next best thing to a gorram Sci-Fi energy shield’ she joked.

* * *

IAV Vasco de Gama – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

‘For the love of God why won’t they just die’ de Langara snarled as the Kirov’s power-plant finally succumbed to the punishment it was taking and exploded blowing the Cruiser into two unequal size sections which slowly rolled away from each other venting atmosphere, laser coolant, hydraulic fluid from the machinery, and reactor plasma into space in an expanding cloud.

The Lasers from several ships glittered in the cloud, visible for the first time as they illuminated the particles of gas and ice crystals from frozen moisture. It was quite pretty on the view screens though eerily quiet of course. A son et lumaire laser show without the son.

He would not really have expected either of the two enemy ships to have really succumbed to the fire being directed on them so soon, they were too well armoured, but he would have expected evidence of at least a few successful burn-throughs in their hull from the batteries of Directed Energy Weapons playing over their surface. It seemed clear that they were also utilising the new armour type, or whatever it was, that the other Independent vessels had used in their raid on Sihnon and it was giving them an ability to soak up punishment at a ridiculously enhanced level.

The Alliance Admiral ground his teeth. ‘All ships direct fire on this vessel. Ignore the other one for now’ he ordered indicating the vessel that had knocked out the Anshan. It couldn’t possibly survive having the combined firepower of six Cruisers simultaneously, if nothing else the rutting heat alone would have to have some effect on the damn thing.

* * *

INS Charybdis – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

‘I think we’re the centre of attention Mr Peters’ Captain Decker observed as the three Cruisers which had been firing at Scylla now added their fire to those already engaging Charybdis.’

‘Yes Sir. Captain Raine will be feeling quite rejected’ Commander Peters replied.

Probably not for the first time, Decker thought to himself. ‘How’s the hull?’ he asked his Engineer who was monitoring the effects of the enemy weapon fire.

‘Temperatures going up but they’ll be damn confused why it’s not climbing faster especially with the waste heat from our own guns’ the Engineer reported. ‘The lines to the flight deck are working just as expected.’

‘We may not be fast hauling that stuff but we’re sure as heck resilient’ Captain Decker commented. ‘OH HELL YEAH’ he suddenly exclaimed then went silent embarrassed at his uncaptainlike outburst as Charybdis Particle Cannon neatly sliced one of the towers off the Cruiser Dortmunder. The Alpha and Bravo Turrets were both engaging the Jiangnan while Charlie was directing it’s own laser cannon into the Magellan along with one of the turrets from Scylla.

‘Hull temperature rising considerably Captain’ the engineer reported.

‘Six Capital Ships shooting at us that’s to be expected Lieutenant’ Decker replied. ‘By rights we should already be leaking like a sieve.’

‘By rights we should be melting Sir’ Commander Peters wryly noted.

‘There’s melting Commander’ Decker replied, ‘just not where they want it to be.’

As the Alliance Lasers scorched into the hull, the superconductor clad surface conducted the heat from the point of impact to resist a burn-through but it couldn’t actually do anything about the heat itself. The hull would get hotter and hotter until the ability of the superconductor to function was badly impaired (the smaller the differential in temperature between the points of laser impact and the rest of the hull the less effectively the heat is transferred) and then Charybdis would be in trouble, as although its armour underneath the superconductor was tough it wasn’t up to protecting the battlecruiser from that many large vessels at once.

So all you need to do is keep the superconductor from overheating but how? Easy, it’s a heat superconductor right so just run some cables made out of the same stuff into a really big heat sink.

A flight bay full of a couple of hundred thousand tonnes of super-cooled ice from a comet is just the ticket especially if the fighters usually based there are off busy elsewhere. The Alliance had in fact noted the two ships additional mass earlier but they just hadn’t known what it was.

The ice was melting fast of course, but as long as the contents of the flight bay were cooler than the hull of the ship the heat would continue to flow into it and Charybdis would still keep fighting.

And meanwhile Scylla was feeling mighty left out and was muscling in on the fight big time. Hell hath no fury like a woman carrying a kilometre long Particle Cannon scorned.

* * *

IAV Vasco de Gama – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

‘Infra Red shows the enemy vessel is heating up Sir but not as quickly as she should be and why we’re not inflicting heavier surface damage is a mystery’ the tactical officer reported. Anshan, Kirov, Dortmunder are now all combat ineffective, Montana is reporting several reactors having to be bought off line because of damage which is effecting her ability to maintain Directed-Energy-Weapon fire. Jiangnan and ourselves are now taking the brunt of enemy secondary armaments.’ the officer continued with a quiet sigh of relief they weren’t the ones taking the brunt of their primaries.

‘What about the Magellan?’ de Langara asked.

‘Considerable surface damage, nothing that affects her combat potential although the second enemy vessel does appear to be disengaging Montana to bring her Particle-Cannon to bare.’

‘We’re giving that big bitch a free hand’ Admiral de Langara hissed.

‘Should I redirect any ships to engage her?’

The Admiral shook his head. ‘Negative, we’ve got to knock one of these things out of the game’ he said. ‘Massed firepower is still our best bet I don’t care what their armour is like if they’re getting hotter, even if not as fast as they should, we’ll burn them in the end then we can deal with the other one.’

* * * INS Scylla – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

Captain Raine would have preferred a clean kill on the Montana but her firing had dropped off considerably and the priority now was to support Charybdis and if not draw some fire their way, which the Alliance Admiral was clearly not falling for, then instead to at least reduce the punishment their sister-ship was taking by thinning out the enemy ranks a bit more.

Magellan targetted’ the gunner reported. ‘Main gun charged and… FIRING.’

Once again the stream of charged particles lanced through the black and cut deep into the other ship the beam becoming visible in the vaporised material, debris and venting gas before it shut down for the capacitors to recharge.

‘Charlie Turret is reporting it just knocked out an Enemy Frigate’ the tactical officer reported.

Admiral van der Heijden swore in Afrikaans. ‘They were under orders only to engage the enemy Capital Ships’ he declared furiously.

‘They were Sir’ the tactical officer explained ‘The Frigate apparently flew into the path of a beam that was about to be fired at the Vasco de Gama and it must have been a catastrophic hit that disabled her engines. She’s drifting now.’

‘Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time’ Captain Raine said shaking her head. ‘Dumb bastards should have had more sense than to get between us’ she declared. Charlie Turret was probably larger than the damn Frigate itself and likely held more personnel for that matter. ‘Someone remind me to send a shuttle over to rescue the Frigate crew later.’

‘Sir the Charybdis is turning her primary on the Vasco de Gama.’

‘Well I hope nothing small gets in the way of that because we sure as hell won’t be able to pick up any survivors’ Captain Raine remarked.

* * *

INS Charybdis – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

‘We’re on the verge of heat shut down Captain’ the engineering officer declared loudly. ‘Our heat sink isn’t so much melted as its practically boiling, the internal pressure in the bay is going to rupture the internal pressure-doors any moment even though we’ve been dumping some excess pressure into our engine exhaust for quite a while to keep the lid on the kettle.’

‘Better get rid of some more of that steam then’ Captain Decker responded, ‘open the main valves.’

To a casual observer it might have looked like the battlecruiser had been badly holed as jets of vapour streamed into the void through pipes that covered the back half of the ship. Indeed on several Alliance Ships that is exactly what they thought and more than a bit of cheering broke out.

But the jet of vapour went on and on, far too much to just be a few compartments expelling their atmosphere, or even a ruptured hydraulic line or two.

The steam crystallised in the vacuum and the lumbering battlecruiser found itself in a vast cloud of tiny particles of frozen water with the enemy laser beams skittering through it.

Of course there was one other effect. Not only was the pressure being released preventing the flight bay from exploding, if you dump gas out of a container the laws of thermodynamics come into play and the temperature of the remainder drops fast as a smaller volume of gas is now left filling a the same volume of space. Like a gas cylinder, or a pressured can of deodorant for that matter, if you dump the contents fast the container gets cold fast.

As the steam vented into space Charybdis cooled off again.

She celebrated by burning a gorram big hole in the enemy flagship.

* * *

IAV Vasco de Gama – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

Warning klaxons sounded as the Particle Cannon ate into the ship which shuddered with the impact and the sudden release of material to space. The crew was all wearing EVA suits so nobody was killed by lack of air in holed compartments but hundreds were sucked into space through the hole with no chance of rescue or survival.

Most vented their own spacesuits once their situation hit home.

‘Water?’ de Langara snapped. ‘What do you mean water?’

‘The gas the enemy ship is losing, according to spectroscopic analysis of the material in the laser beams, is water with large amounts of other trace elements consistent with the makeup of a comet. There’s certainly far too much just to be the ships hydraulics’ the science officer reported, ‘this may account for the additional mass and the ability of the vessel to keep its heat levels down. They’re using a large volume of Ice as a heat sink’ she said. ‘How they can possibly move the heat so efficiently and quickly from the hull to the heat sink is another question and I’ve no idea on that one.’

‘How much damn Ice could they be holding?’ the Admiral asked in amazement.

The science officer checked her computer ‘If they use the largest compartment on the ship that’s the internal flight bay with a length of 180 metres, a width of 50 metres and a height of 40 metres that gives a volume of 360,000 squares metres and with water massing one tonne per square metre…’

‘They’re carrying a third of a million tonnes of fucking ice as a heat sink?’ de Langara exclaimed.

‘Doubtful. they’d likely want to allow the ice some room for expansion to steam but they could certainly carry a lot.’

Magellan says it cannot survive much more damage. Her Captain requests to be allowed to disengage’ the communications officer announced.

‘Permission denied’ the Admiral responded curtly.

Vasco de Gama shuddered again as the Particle Beam Cannon burned into her once more.

‘We just lost the starboard power transmission grid. Backups not functioning’ the damage control station reported. ‘We are redirecting power to the port-side weapons batteries.’

‘Sir we must withdraw’ the ships Captain told her Commanding Officer.

De Langara ignored the advice. ‘Order all ships to empty their missile racks and torpedo tubes against both hostiles. I don’t care how good their ECM is we’ll get in a few hits.’

‘Aye Sir’

* * *

INS Scylla – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

‘Missiles incoming’ the tactical officer reported. ‘All enemy ships are throwing everything they can.’

‘Saturation attack’ Captain Raine noted with a nod. ‘Full power to ECM, point defence to engage at will and tell Alpha, Bravo and Charlie to disengage enemy vessels and target any incoming Heavy Torpedoes they can. Some of those things are the size of a damn aerospace fighter.’

‘Main gun charged and… firing’ the gunner called out.

‘That hit her hard, her main engines have failed. Reactors still running because she’s still hitting Charybdis.’

‘Target with railguns before she can get moving’ Raine ordered.

‘Targetting… Prima, Secunda and Tertia charged and… FIRING’ the mass-driver operator declared.

Moving at a fraction of the velocity of the Particle Beam Cannon that ran the length of the ship between them three 1000mm diameter, four tonne, iron spheres accelerated down their tubes picking up momentum. By the time they had undergone a kilometre of brutal acceleration they were hypervelocity projectiles and they shot from the front of the battlecruiser aimed at the computers predicted location as where the drifting Magellan would be when they arrived.

The crew of the Magellan tried to get the ship moving again but they just couldn’t. Until the engines had failed they, like the other ships, had been making random changes in course and speed to stop something like this happening but they were a sitting duck now.

Scylla’s Railgun rounds hit the ship on the main hull between the second and third towers and broke her back. The structure of the Cruiser already weakened by the Particle Cannon simply came apart at the shock of the impact.

The Independent Battlecruiser was already turning to engage another target as the Magellan’s remaining crew abandoned ship.

* * *

IAV Vasco de Gama – Corsican Asteroids – Toulouse Sector – 2522AD

‘The Magellan has been destroyed Sir. We have succeeded in a small number of missile impacts on the hostiles but nothing serious enough to reduce their combat potential none of our heavy torpedoes got through.’

‘Sir we can’t take this punishment much longer and the ship that just took out Magellan is turning its guns on Agamemnon.’

De Langara head slumped against his chest. ‘Have the Jiangnan engage the other hostile to keep her occupied. We will do the same for the vessel firing at us. Order all other units to retreat’ he said quietly. The Agamemnon was the only Cruiser in action today that had not sustained heavy damage and she and the smaller ships would be needed by the Alliance to live to fight another day.

‘Yes Sir.’

The ship shook under another blast from the enemy’s primary armament; the lights flickered for a few seconds then came back on as power was rerouted through undamaged sections of the vessel.

Admiral de Langara cast his eyes from the tactical displays, to the holographic projection in the cube and then to the ceiling. God was definitely not favouring the Alliance today, he only hoped the almighty would have a change of heart soon because if not then a lot more loyal Alliance patriots would be sucking on vacuum before the war was over.

* * *

Toulouse City – Toulouse – 2522AD

The shuttle came in for a gentle landing on the concrete and the side airlock door slid smoothly open and lowered a ramp while two figures marched to form up either side of it.

A figure appeared in the doorway and took the first step down the ramp just as the band started playing the first verse of the Anthem of the Independent Colonies. Hundreds of Marines and local troops formed up into ranks nearby bought their rifles up in salute in a crisp fashion.

Admiral van Der Heijden snapped to attention and saluted the flag which was being held by a Marine stood just to the left of the ramp front of the shuttle holding the salute until the band stopped.

He took another step just as the band began playing La Marseillaise and stopped moving again not expecting the planetary anthem to be played as well and momentarily unsure what to do.

After a couple of seconds van der Heijden took another step and reached over to the other flag which was being held to the right of the ramp flapping slightly in the gentle breeze, taking the material in his hand he kissed the tricolour flag of the Toulouse Republic just as their anthem stopped playing.

The crowd went wild. Tens of thousands of people cheering only held back from the ceremony by barriers and policemen.

A small delegation was waiting to meet him. A senior officer of the Militia in his full dress uniform and Colonel Taylor of the Independent Marines flanked another figure.

Taylor saluted. ‘Admiral van der Heijden may I present Monsieur Edouard Caillaux the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Toulouse and Brigadier-General James d’Esperay of the Toulouse Militia’ Colonel Taylor began. ‘Monsieur Caillaux was a member of the pre-war planetary government. Both he and Brigadier d’Esperay are the most senior political and military figures from before the first war still on Toulouse’ he explained.

Van der Heijden exchanged salutes with the Brigadier and to his slight surprise the Academic kissed him on both cheeks. ‘It is more than an old man could have hoped to see you Admiral’ he said eyes welling up with emotion. ‘Thank you for our freedom.’

Not knowing quite how to handle the civilian the Admiral addressed the military man instead. ‘Brigadier’ he began, ‘Toulouse is now free but many other worlds are still enslaved and we cannot promise to maintain your liberty unless we drive the Alliance from the entire Rim. Will Toulouse stand by its allies and friends once more and free its brothers and sisters?’

‘How could we not Admiral’ the Brigadier replied. ‘It is a debt of honour if nothing else’ he said. Not to mention a matter of personal self-interest he thought. On its own Toulouse would be crushed and dragged back under the rule of the Alliance, with other worlds it might stand a chance at freedom especially with the new weapons and tactics these returning exiles had bought with them.

Van der Heijden smiled. ‘How soon can you have a Brigade ready to move?’ he asked.

‘Only the one Admiral?’ the Brigadier replied smiling back. ‘I was already planning on at least three if we can get the weapons.’

Colonel Taylor beckoned another figure to join the group who had been standing nearby. ‘Admiral may I also present Commander Jack Foreman of the Independent Navy.’

The Admiral returned the salute Jack Foreman offered and this time it was he that seized the other mans hand to shake. ‘You’ve done wonders Captain Foreman’ he said. ‘And you might like to have your Asteroid Mining crews collect the salvage floating in the Corsicans. Some of the pieces are mighty large though’ he joked.

‘So I’ve heard Admiral’ Jake Foreman replied grinning. ‘I’m guessing that I don’t get a percentage of the salvage rights though?’

‘Don’t push your luck Mr Foreman, you’re a serving officer remember’ the Admiral replied smiling.

Up above the spaceport three squadrons of Angels did a subsonic flypast trailing red white and blue coloured smoke in an imitation of the local tricolour.

‘Shiny’ Kaylee commented happily from her position standing next to the crew of the Serenity and the Valley Wolves on the other side of the port ‘We’ve been invited to a big party at the university this evening. Steve arranged it’ she told everyone, but not for the first time.

‘Too damn early to celebrate’ Mal responded.

‘You’re just not an “up” person are you Mal?’ Wash observed.

‘We’ll all be bathed in blood before long’ Reynolds replied. ‘And we’ll be drowning in it before it’s over. Alliance won’t give up easy just because they took a beating they’ll come back at us hard as soon as they’re able.’

‘I was planning to bathe in wine and girls myself’ Jayne interjected. ‘They’ll be throwing themselves at us around here just you see.’

‘Enjoy it while it lasts’ Mal replied. ‘Going be a long war’ he said earnestly.

Couldn’t hope for a much better start though, he thought to himself while watching the Admiral review the troops. The Taskforce Omega Factory ships were just arriving in orbit too and with Scylla and Charybdis standing between Toulouse and the Alliance Fleet, and with River burning hard for the rim with the Rubicon fleet the balance of power out here clearly favoured the Independents. Pretty soon troopships full of Gaussrifle armed soldiers would be heading out to free the other Browncoat planets guarded by the superior ConductorClad warships of the Independent Navy and the Alliance wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it.

Nice to be on both the right side and the winning one for once.

Shiny.

Part XVII

COMMENTS

Sunday, March 5, 2006 11:38 AM

REAVERMAN


awesome! you left us hangin' last time, but this definately made upfor it and then some! Cant wait for the next one!

Monday, March 6, 2006 6:17 AM

ARTSHIPS


Looks like the Alliance is already dead, it just doesn't know it yet. What can stop the Independent juggernaut?

Monday, March 20, 2006 6:01 AM

SOULOFSERENITY


HP, you've got this war stuff down! The whole space battle was wonderfully done. More!!

- Soul


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Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIV)
Mal Reynolds takes his "Valley Wolves" into action as the fighting on Toulouse escalates

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIII)
The Independent Navy takes the fight to the Core while Mal Reynolds takes his new troops into action on Toulouse

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XII)
Unification Day 2522 goes not as expected

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XI)
Reunions and opening gambits