Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Part Eighty-Four, Chapter Two - The Shellacking of Camp Kill

The narration calls it the Battle of Camp Kill, and also that it "began suddenly and unexpectedly and rushed to a disastrous conclusion."  Since the unexpected "battle" takes place in Apparatus territory, it's safe to conclude that it's a surprise attack that will end in their defeat.  So I guess you can skip these chapters unless you're interested in just how badly the bad guys lose.

We've now caught up to a few hours after the Hightee Heller broadcast, and Lombar's arrived at Spiteos in his flying tank, feeling powerful and vigorous from all the speed and heroin he's taken.  Vigorous or not, he's still concerned that despite the "thousands of tons" of heroin and opium in the castle stores, Lombar doesn't have the amphetamines to keep the Lords under control for even another month.  Sure, the other stuff will be perfect for keeping the rest of the population under control (which he isn't attempting now, for some reason), but I guess you can't expect those lofty Lords to be dependent on anything but amphetamine.

On the upside, reinforcing his army hasn't been a problem.

He was depending right now for reinforcements on the prisons he had almost emptied out: they might be a sorry lot and they might look weird in the ways they wore their uniforms and carried their arms but they were killers, make no mistake about that.  Loosed upon the population with heavy weaponry, they could sweep the mobs away like chaff, screaming "Long Live Hisst!" for giving them the chance to murder, loot and rape.  The million in from Calabar were already setting a fine example in the cities: they were like packs of lepertiges let loose on helpless wool animals.  People had no way now to keep count of the civilian casualties.

"Wool animals."  The author is capable of making the minimal effort at creativity to call his space tigers "lepertiges," but then putters out before he can think of a name for his space sheep?  Not even something like "shoat" or "geep?"  Oh hey, "shoat" turns out to be an alternative to "piglet."

Let's get to the "battle."  There's three hundred Apparatus troop transports parked low in the atmosphere after deploying their hundred thousand passengers, a hundred Apparatus infantry regiments are marching around the parade ground, and though Lombar hears an odd sequence of small explosions coming from the chasm, it sounds like small arms fire, so he decides to ignore them - it's obviously someone executing a prisoner or something like that.  Then he ducks into his tank to get a glass of sparklewater, which the narration informs us saved his life.

From across the parade ground there was a terrible flash!


A moment later a concussion wave hit the tank a harder blow than ever could have been delivered by a warship shell!


"Now wait a minute," you might be thinking.  "We've seen blastguns, which are evidently some sort of energy weapon.  And those assassin ships shot green flames, not explosive projectiles.  Why are Voltarian warships still using shells?"  The answer will be revealed in a few chapters, and it has to do with black holes, those marvelous whirlpools of magnetic force.

The tank was thrown backwards fifty yards in a breath! Men and huts and buildings were flying through the air as though propelled by the most monstrous hurricane that ever hit a planet's face.

Snelz had blown the Camp Endurance shell magazine with enough explosive to level a town! And the magazine had contained enough charge to level a city!

But not Spiteos castle.  Or Lombar's tank.  Or even men, since they're being knocked into the sky rather than reduced to a fine mist by the concussive force.

Three hundred warships, hovering too low and in atmosphere, caught the full blast of the concussion wave!  They went hurtling end over end up into the sky like thrown chaff.  They tumbled in the torn air, battered out of control. 

So the shockwave from the explosion was big enough to reach ships a few miles above the surface, but again, the explosion itself wasn't enough to do any real damage to Spiteos castle, much less reduce the entire vicinity to a big crater.  Or destroy Lombar's tank.

Oh, know what's hilarious about the Apparatus fleet?  No sensors.

High overhead, well above the atmosphere at a height of three hundred miles, a thousand rebel troopships hung, watching the debacle.  They were ignored, as the intercepts had said they would be, by the neutral Fleet.

They dived!

One thousand enemy ships were sitting in the thermosphere right above the Apparatus headquarters, and nobody noticed.  No Apparatus air defense corps picked up radar contacts approaching from space, nobody in the Apparatus fleet happened to glance up at any point.

Mortiiy's hundred thousand ragged rebels land before the dust has settled, and so "with a howling rush, feet hammering, emitting a high keening yell, they fell upon the hated Apparatus survivors with electric bayonets and handguns that bellowed rage point-blank!"  In half an hour 172,000 Apparatus soldiers are slain, with the only resistance coming from a few of those scattered transports, and of course the completely untouched weapon batteries of Spiteos itself.  We're not given any figures for rebel casualties, but it ought to be safe to assume that an army at ground zero of a huge explosion isn't going to put up much of a fight.

I think this was a "battle" in the vein of the 2003 Battle of Baghdad.

But the slaughter of the Apparatus infantry was not the end or purpose of the Battle of Camp Kill.  It was only the preparation.

Oh boy, more one-sided victories over the bad guys.  How exciting.

Back to Chapter One

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