Selangor had been busy in the aftermath of their Mars
offensive. Despite severe losses in orbit, their ground forces managed to
secure all of their objectives. The engineers were already making progress on
new underground command centers and had retrofitted captured Australian
centers. New construction was delayed when orders came in from Earth:
Remove all metallics from external structure, especially underground, no
exceptions. Nobody knew what that was all about, but they obeyed. In the
Selangor military you always obey. People who showed too much initiative had a
way of ending up on far northern service.
particular day, the new Selangor command center at Tars Kelitan was finishing
its first week of service. Along the shallow, rock strewn ridges nearby,
revetments and secure positions for the local ground division peppered the
landscape. Newly delivered armor trundled heavily up the road leading in from
the nearest landing port. The new command center had an unusually large crowd
of nine people the norm was four. They were there to troubleshoot the
command center systems and make sure activation and tie-in with supporting
bases went smoothly.
controller San Li was standing outside briefly taking in the view. He had never
been on Mars and was excited to be on an entirely different planet. Like many
people, he considered the war secondary to his personal experiences so far, and
Mars was certainly a different experience. But it was also strangely familiar.
The rocks were still rocks, the dust was still dust and the scrubby small
bushes growing here and there were recognizable to anyone who grew up on Earth.
Mars had a skyline with distant ridges and ravines just like any section of
desert on Earth. Of course here the desert was the entire surface, not just
part of it; no glaciers, almost no standing water.
him most was how beat-up the place was. Rocks on Earth were old by human
standards, but in geologic terms Earth rocks were pretty new, and if you knew
better, the difference was obvious. Rocks on Mars were all old really,
really old, and that was obvious too. They had all been lying in the open to be
blasted by billions of years of wind and erosion beaten, worn and pushed
around into disheveled heaps. It sometimes seemed like none of them were new.
Planet Earth was always in a hurry, Mars thought nothing of taking a million
years to push a half-kilo rock a centimeter to the left. It was really quite
striking and a little bit depressing. But things were slowly improving;
humanity was starting to fill in some gaps when they weren't fighting
that is. Well. he thought, Im sure that's just
sign that something was wrong came from orbit. The mundane hourly interplay of
data suddenly came to life, two dozen ships in orbit reported they were under
MGV attack. There was no warning of approaching ordnance; MGVs simply
appeared on their targets. Within a
minute, defensive systems on the first ships to be attacked were reporting
failure and the vessels began dropping off the network. Tracking reported that
several of them appeared to be losing attitude control.
indications of unidentified vessels entering the atmosphere began to come in.
Plasma trails appeared high in the sky as someone or something came in at high
speed. Automatic warning sirens began screaming; Incoming ordnance.
Almost everyone at Selangor ground installations around the planet pulled out
of their mesmerized state and quickly sealed their uniforms. People were
yelling; Get inside inside inside check room seals get the ground units
moving pull up your hood check status
Several ground divisions were
already starting to move when the first missiles struck home. Whump,
whump. Everyone was certain the long anticipated Australian counterattack
At the Tars
Kelitan base, San Li was already in an elevator headed down to the command
level when the entire building heaved. Fortunately the base elevators were
shock resistant. Li's mind momentarily dwelled on the word 'resistant.' The
elevator stopped with a jerk at his level maybe there was something
wrong with it and Li stepped over to the command console where Engineer
Harees Kwan was already at work with the armory. The rumbling from the
bombardment up on the surface was clearly audible. Li checked status on his
division; vehicles were taking hits and the counterbattery fire seemed to be
having no effect. He kept checking for signs of a ground attack, but there was
none. Not that it mattered, his division was being effectively dismantled by
enemy ordnance that could barely be seen or tracked. Vehicles were going
offline at an alarming rate. Air assets suffered the same horrific beating as
they attempted to deploy.
over at Kwan, who was standing by. Kwan looked back helpless, as if to answer
the silent question, he said; There's nothing to hit. Fire control is on
full automatic, it just doesn't see enough. Our hit rate in the last two
minutes is less than one percent.
Yeah. Li answered. Well there's something out there.
Really? Kwan replied sarcastically. You think so, maybe you
could go out and look, that might help. Li didnt pick up the glove
that Kwan was throwing down; he remained silent and eyed his divisions
stood there and helplessly watched their unit strengths drop lower and lower.
They were being picked to pieces and couldn't do a thing about it. Suddenly
there was a low frequency Ping, whump, crunch, crunch, crunch.
sound along the outer walls. It repeated several more times. Li and Kwan looked
at each other. An adjoining divisional controller notified them that a strange
looking submunition cluster had suddenly appeared and dispensed ground
penetrating units on the surface above the Tars Kelitan command center.
immediately pulled up the base personnel net and warned everyone inside;
Tars Kelitan Base, prepare for tower penetration. Calling up the
Engineering liaison on the next level, he quickly asked; We have enemy
units against the outer walls, can you bring some engineers from the nearest
brigade. We need something to get down there.
anyone could answer, the entire tower vibrated like a giant tuning fork,
stopping everyone in their tracks. A loud roar outside announced the next phase
of the enemy attack. The roaring continued for some moments, followed by a
hissing, cracking sound along the upper structure. Everyone could feel the
floor vibrating. A noise like sand cascading down the support walls announced
the breaching of the bunker, the defensive system reported microbreaches in
dozens of locations. Internal alarms automatically sounded the painfully
obvious: Alert, wall breaches in progress, alert, wall breaches in
the internal base defense sprang to life. Shallow wall hatches popped out and
the officers could see hundreds of thousands of MGV formations moving along the
walls like ants in formation. Tiny reconnaissance drones flew ahead of them in
an attempt to get a handle on an enemy the two men were sure they would not
spot or survive to report. Just as they expected, nearly all of the flight
units disappeared as if vaporized. Reports from the MGV command groups
defending the upper levels showed the base was losing 20% of its available MGV
mass every 30 seconds. They had less than three minutes. The enemys light
tactical aviation might already be on their level if any of the breaches were
large enough. The two men looked at one another, they knew that the tiny enemy
units flying around inside the base would spot and target them at any second,
enemy MGVs were not far behind. The bases automated defense system
informed the nine occupants; Base penetration, enemy MGVs inside tower
casing, countermeasures underway.
right. thought Li to himself. He was first to lie on the ground, followed
by Kwan. The lack of any screaming or medical warnings on the levels above
meant that the other seven crew were probably doing the same thing, or had
already killed themselves. The later was unlikely.
Li lay there
on his back, elbows on the smooth floor and hands folded neatly on his stomach,
a position he could hold for hours. He ordered his sealed uniform to emit the
all spectrum distress/surrender tone. It would be recognized by the invading
enemy units and identify Li as a surrendered noncombatant. If the enemy had
programmed their attack units to accept surrendering humans, Li and now
Kwan would be left alone until larger enemy formations could arrive to
police them up and take them to safety away from the combat forces. It could be
a long wait, but was better than being turned inside out.
while he became dimly aware of several tiny blurry forms hovering in the air
immediately in front of his face, his sensors could barely detect them. The
blur emitted a small spark of light and suddenly his uniform sensors went out,
he was blind and mostly deaf, uninjured, but totally ignorant of what was
happening outside. He could only feel a slight pressure and sensation of heat
at several places around the outside of his uniform. Enemy MGVs which had
apparently wiped out the base defenses were obviously scouring the outside of
Lis uniform, destroying anything that related to data storage and network
access. Li suddenly remembered why people serving in combat areas were not
allowed to have claustrophobia.
room fell silent. He lay there, slightly depressed but also quietly pleased
that he had made the right decision to lay down when he did. After an hour or
so, a voice came to life in his uniform communications suite. Kwan must
have heard the voice too, because he jumped slightly. In an obviously Japanese
accent, the voice addressed them directly; Attention Selangor tower crew,
your base has been rendered neutral. All adjoining military equipment and
support systems have also been rendered permanently inoperative. You may rise
and remain at this installation until your forces come to retrieve you. Base
life support systems have been left intact for this purpose only, we strongly
advise against any further operations at this time. Thank you for your
came silence. Li had no choice, so he carefully opened his hood and looked
around. The room appeared the same as before, except all of the communications
were out of commission. A slight smell of burned synthetics wafted through the
air, and along the outer walls were uneven piles of microscopic debris. The
Japanese left little to chance, Li was sure there would be nothing for the
Selangor to analyze.
Japanese. Li thought to himself. He looked around, and only one word came
to mind: Punishment.
13. Eastern Expedition