Sabre-Rattling P2

Tarmel took satisfaction from the discipline his force had shown as transports and shuttles began to sweep toward the planet’s inhabited continents. The cities that had sprouted along the eastern coastline of the more temperature northern hemisphere were now vulnerable, their shields gone and most of their fighters destroyed. Pragmatism had overseen the pinpoint destruction of garrisons and other army equipment before a single Ork had set foot on the surface – a previously unpalatable move for his war-loving people, yet a measure that would preserve his troops, and also whatever experience they gained from the assault.

Only four ships had slipped out of formation and their wreckage would hopefully serve as a pointed reminder to the rest about the importance of following orders. Beside him upon the battleship’s command deck stood Creech, silent and sullen, yet quietly accepting of Tarmel’s new policies. The results were after all, emphatic. Now the troop transports were landing, with only two punched from the sky by defensive beam weapons (which were in turn reduced to rubble by returning fire moments later). The quicker, more nimble shuttles landed first, with armour-clad Orks establishing a perimeter and taking up positions of cover behind civilian vehicles and within evacuated shops and buildings. Each Ork had a rudimentary heads-up display in their new helmet, giving them information on the battlefield about the location of their squad, and Tarmel could tap into any individual feed as and when he wished. The chatter of the troops betrayed their desire to charge headlong into enemy ranks, but this time there were no enemy ranks to attack. The orbital bombardment had all but removed most of the marines and soldiers that would otherwise stand to oppose them.

Not that they were all gone. As armoured vehicles began to roll off the transports, and gunships launched from the retractable roofs, marines, clad in their reactive, powered armour, made their presence felt. The new armour of the Orks alerted them to incoming rocket launches, giving them half a chance to react and evade before explosions battered the buildings and cars they hid behind. The marines were surprisingly stealthy despite their bulky armour – they started firing their rifles – superheated pellets of metal, energy pulses and rocket-propelled grenades peppered the Ork lines.

The Orks though, fought back. Their new gunships, armed with a pair of forward-mounted anti-infantry weapons and with missile launchers on their fore-swept wingtips, zeroed in on the rough location of the enemy fire, liberally spraying the area with weapons fire and sending bits of uber-crete and other building materials everywhere as windows and walls were blasted. Craters were created in the roads, exposing water pipes, computer cables and the power lines to the smoky air, and the Orks now called upon their hovertanks, which sent concussive shells in the general direction of the harried marines. As their cover was rapidly chipped away, the marines, despite their best efforts, also came under attack from the infantry, who moved as a unit, strafing their foe, covering each other as they pressed forward.

It wasn’t perfect. Infected with the lust of battle, several Orks charged forward, firing wildly in the manner of old. They were cut down ruthlessly by the marines. The rest though, continued to squeeze the enemy, who were forced to retreat into a nearby office block, some seven stories high, and seek shelter from the Ork big guns. By now the Commonwealth Army was mobilising, sending infantry, tanks and gunships of their own, but the scale of the Ork assault meant Tarmel’s people enjoyed excellent air cover – fighters streamed toward the surface, strafing what remained of the defence forces protecting the city. A few brave human soldiers did manage to fire off anti-aircraft missiles that downed several fighters and gunships, but not only did the Orks enjoy a vast numerical advantage, their newfound use of tactics was reaping dividends. The humans were unprepared for such a fight, and Tarmel watched through the displays as the building housing the marines was pounded by the mobile artillery. Bricks, plaster, uber-crete, desks, tiles, power cables – it all collapsed in on itself like a house of cards, crushing the marines within, yet even as the building disintergrated amid huge plumes of dust, further shells rained down – the marines were resourceful and capable of surviving impressive degrees of punishment, so they needed to be dealt with thoroughly.

Not all of them were dead – a couple had been isolated from the main detachment, and several Orks were now firing stun grenades and firing short-range EMP weapons to disable their armour and disorientate the enemy. Capturing marines alive was proving to be a huge challenge, given their speed and ferocity, but it was a secondary objective worth pursuing. In the meantime, the Orks moved forward, into the city proper.

Civilians that had survived the orbital bombardment were streaming towards launch pads, but they had already been destroyed. Low-powered cannon bursts from the ships above hadn’t turned the surface into smouldering craters, but the various cargo ships, personnel carriers and private craft were gone, along with the pads and their control centres. Tarmel could not permit witnesses, not yet, but the primary objective had not yet been achieved. His troops drove deeper into the city, encountering sporadic resistance that the complete control of the skies allowed him to squash. His people were gaining invaluable experience, and such a decisive victory would surely boost morale as well. Roads ahead branched out toward different regions of the city, leading toward residential districts, commercial buildings that were already reaching for the sky, and the industrial region, that was still relatively small, given the colony’s young status. The centres of regional and federal government were nestled within the city’s commercial heart, as were other important facilities, and Tarmel wanted them.

More shuttles landed, bringing more troops to the city, this time in forward positions that allowed them to directly attack the impressive capitol building – a gleaming white structure with four cylindrical pillars in front of a set of extravagant walnut-coloured doors. The top of the building was domed, with glass set up in a ring (letting in natural light) around the Commonwealth flag (earth, surrounded by several stars, representing her colonies, a pale blue marble upon a darker blue background) sticking up from the top of the dome. It didn’t much to smash through the door, and other soldiers entered via jump cords via the easily broken windows. The structure had already been abandoned, but the whir of automated gun emplacements (which popped out of concealed panels in the walls and ceiling) momentarily forced the Orks back. A few well-placed grenades took care of the offending firepower.

It occurred to Tarmel that the humans wasted a great deal of resources on their symbols of power. Every desk was polished marble, with flecks of black upon the gleaming white surface. His Orks moved on a deep blue carpet (which had the Commonwealth flag embroidered upon it), and for visitors, the reception area had large, comfortable brown leather chairs, a walnut coffee table and a drinks dispenser. Oak wood doors – not automated ones – were on either side of the corridors leading left and right from reception, and the stairs and lifts behind the main reception desk (a large horseshoe-shaped monstrosity) led to yet more chambers and offices. There was a lot of bureaucracy on display. There were also computers that held data, and a communications office that would hold important messages. It was entirely possible the humans had already destroyed anything of value, but the speed of the assault might have prevented that.

Before long his troops found what they had been looking for – a lower-level room, actually two floors underground, that required fingerprint and card-key access. The door was a large metallic one, magnetically sealed and bolted as well. A pair of Orks placed small plastic pouches at various points around the frame, stepped back, and pressed a detonator. The door fell away with a loud clang, and revealed banks of data terminals, and row upon row of servers that funnelled every civilian, commercial, government and military operation and communique to and from the system. Another pair of Orks arrived, and set about the delicate operation to disconnect the large servers and prepare them for transport. Above them, holes were carefully punched in the Capitol’s roof, removing it, and then the same steps were taken to gently lower clamps from one of the transports and remove the floors that were between the Orks and their objective.

Other Orks arrived to grab the terminals, that were easily unplugged and folded shut. Other computers were being taken from offices, and still more from businesses. Tarmel wanted as much as he could.

When it was done, the Orks climbed back aboard their transports and returned to their ships. Next, with the flick of a green wrist, the Orks completed their mission. Several dozen asteroids were launched at the planet at speeds of fifteen kilometres per second. Some ranged from around twenty metres in diameter, others were over five hundred metres. Several were aimed directly at the colony, whilst others were directed at other continents and even the oceans. Thermal bow shocks started to vaporise the colony and its inhabitants even before the first rock hit the ground, whereupon the very earth seemed to erupt in a series of frenzied bursts, sending matter spewing high into the sky. As more rocks slammed down, the surface became superheated, beginning to glow as it became molten. Nothing was left of the colony, and for good measure, the wreckage of the Commonwealth cruiser was nudged on a course that would take her into the atmosphere, burning up as she went. The orbital defences were likewise pushed, removing any trace of Ork involvement in what had happened. No one would know.

Chapter 3

Fiction

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