The Taurans had dedicated three hundred sorties to a pre-landing preparation of the island. That was not small change, those roughly two thousand tons. But, it was generally agreed, the Taurans had to do their business and leave before the Zhong reached within two kilometers of the beaches. Otherwise, the world, fate, God, Murphy (who, it was well known, had emigrated to Terra Nova in the first wave), or the Emperor Mong, whom the Zhong and Anglians both disowned, would fuck somebody.
With the ovals and circles at sea straightening now into deadly arrows, pointed not-quite-straight at the beaches, the Taurans half darkened the sky. They lashed down not only at the landing beaches, but at half a dozen others as heavily, and eleven more a bit more lightly, for the deception value. Known, or believed to be known, artillery positions got a special pasting.
Generally speaking, Wallenstein was surprised at the fury of the Tauran assault.
My cousins have apparently got a few grudges from the five minute bomber raids.
The Zhong and Taurans had, if anything, been overly cautious about the use of the latters’ airpower in proximity to the formers’ unarmored Marines. While the first wave of landing craft were eight hundred meters offshore, the last of the Tauran strikers was flying east toward their bases in Santa Josefina.
To smoke was now added a considerable cloud of dust raised by the bombs. Most of the island could not be seen with the naked eye or unaided camera.
“Switching to thermal imaging,” Khan announced. The screen went blank, then red, then to a mix of stark black and red. It took a bit of time for both mind and eyes to adjust.
“Narrow focus on the island and the leading wave,” Wallenstein commanded. “Order Harmony to bring the skimmer in lower, and have them prep another in case we lose this one.”
“Aye, aye, High Admiral,” said one of the communications boffins. Communication was nearly instantaneous, while the skimmer was close in any case. The focus of the crew and their commander narrowed considerably as the first waves of the Zhong Marines splashed ashore
“What’s that?” Wallenstein asked, as the skimmer approached a tilted triple turret.
“We’ve got lasing!” a petty officer announced. “Lasing from the whole northern coast. Lasing from the balloons. Lasing from Hill 287. Lasing…”
The room shook with an inarticulate cry of despair from the Zhong Empress. She saw what Khan saw, and had divined the meaning just as quickly
“It’s a gun; I’d guess an eighteen centimeter gun,” Khan said, his voice heavy with defeat. “On a railway carriage. It came from one of the ammunition bunkers we didn’t attack. I think…I think there are going to be a lot of them. And they’re not lasing for its own sake.”
Tonelessly, hopelessly, he added, “Empress, you should tell the Zhong Fleet to retreat… High Admiral, tell her.” Khan’s chin sank onto his chest. “But, of course, it’s too late for that, isn’t it?”
By now, I expect you know the drill. I have three review copies of Tom Kratman’s The Rods and the Axe to send out to the first three readers willing to read it, then write a review and send it to me before June 25th. If you’re interested, send me an email with AXE in the subject. We have the necessary reviewers now, thank you.