Excerpt From First Draft of Moving The Pieces

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We knew it was going to be a disaster before it happened.

If it had just been the frontal assault, I think the second layer of First Wall's defenses would have held. Starshells were already up and burning; the defenders now had an extra two sixty-fours of paces to kill the charging demons. .43 Caliber machine guns reached out from the second curtain wall even before the first wall blew up, and individual riflemen could pick targets. Mortars kept lofting explosives and caltrops on preset targeting. Entire waves of manesi vanished into the meatgrinder that was First Wall's defenses, legions at a time. Asina was near the middle of the wall; the defenders kept the direct wave from reaching second curtain at her location until the evacuation.

But the direct assault wave wasn't the only attack.

Captain Teroas was a good soldier. He had flamethrower jeeps out to the north as skirmishers, while the mortars at the northern end of the line laid caltrops and pressure sensitive submunitions. The jeeps were as vulnerable to them as the manesi; they had to exit to the east outside the impromptu minefield. Their usefulness as well as their ability to escape would be compromised between the curtain walls anyway. Instead, his men were on the second and third curtain walls as well as in hollow rectangular formations between and behind them. The men knew they were likely to die; Captain-Major Alomar had correctly decided to sacrifice a small portion of his forces in the hopes of preserving the majority, and they'd drawn the short straw by reason of being in the best position to make it count. This was the reason desertion in the face of the enemy was a capital offense in every military in history; any individuals attempting it would be shot down immediately by their fellows. As a result, they all stood and fought.

I had Asina's eyes and ears to make sense of the defense, as well as the orbital sensors. The first reports came in from the airborne Molitors as they bombed demonic formations before they ever came into contact with the defenders on the ground. The accuracy wasn't so good at night; our technology just wasn't up to starlight scopes and the like yet, and demons didn't show up on infrared anyway. But the Air Guard tried their best. One plane would drop a small portion of their napalm load for illumination and confirmation of a target, and then the entire squadron would unload on the targets revealed, then head back to Yonskarr to be refueled and reloaded. There was no way for the Calmenans to know how effective it all was at first, but the Imperial sensors in orbit showed a decent casualty rate among the legions they bombed.

By the second run for the Molitors, the flamethrower jeeps had made contact on the ground and could be used as spotters. It still wasn't perfect, but it was a lot better being able to use the fires ignited by the jeeps together with radio to know where to hit. Local measure was a drum, about thirty-five liters Earth measure, and the jeeps had eight to ten drums worth of napalm; the planes had thirty to forty times as much. But the jeeps had it under pressure where it could be used to spray maybe eighty meters or a little more from the jeep; it made marking edges of targeting areas easy. Just before dawn, one of the jeeps apparently scored a hit on one of the brakiri wonder weapons that had downed our plane a few days before; it lit up the jungle in a premature sunrise. I was told it rained demon parts for better than two eights of breaths, and there was a crater the size of the city of Yalskarr in the jungle where it happened. The Molitors who reported the explosion said there must have been four legions destroyed at the cost of a maniple of jeeps.

By the time the demons hit from the north, it was starting to get light. Had the demon commander been worried about its troops, it likely would have held in the jungle until sundown. But for whatever reason, both the frontal assault and the flanking attack from the north continued into the light of day.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on June 21, 2021 3:51 PM.

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