Armageddon???? (Part Fifty Up)

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Post by Starglider » 2008-05-04 08:35pm

Fyrwulf wrote: For example, 8 400kt from a US ICBM landing in a pattern around Moscow is going to completely demolish the city and its suburbs, whereas a 25Mt MIRV from a Satan ICBM won't be anywhere near as efficient
Firstly, a 25Mt MIRV is a pretty scary thought. AFAIK the 25Mt Satan is a unitary warhead. Secondly a rough calculation puts the area devastated by a 25Mt blast (at optimum burst height) at 1370 km2. The 400kt warheads take out about 88 km2 each, for 705 km2 total if the blast pattern was non-overlapping (which it isn't, of course). Thus the 8-way MIRVed missile will be less than half as effective as the big one at taking out a soft target (though I imagine the former suffers a lot less attenuation from being deployed as a groundburst). The single nuke will probably use considerably less fissionable material too, as it only needs one fission trigger rather than eight (and is probably a three-stage weapon). It will also be more accurate (not that that matters for a soft target) and probably cleaner (due to more of the yield being from fusion).

But your general point does seem to hold, for a given mass allowance the optimal number of warheads is greater than 1 (but less than 8 I think, for maximising area devastated - Polaris went with three for exactly this reason but I'm not sure if that's still optimal for modern designs).

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Post by JN1 » 2008-05-04 09:42pm

Starglider wrote: But your general point does seem to hold, for a given mass allowance the optimal number of warheads is greater than 1 (but less than 8 I think, for maximising area devastated - Polaris went with three for exactly this reason but I'm not sure if that's still optimal for modern designs).
If memory serves the LGM-118A 'Peacekeeper' and the D-5 Trident II could both carry 10 warheads. In RN service the D-5 only carries as many warheads as the old Polaris system.

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Post by Starglider » 2008-05-04 09:51pm

JN1 wrote:If memory serves the LGM-118A 'Peacekeeper' and the D-5 Trident II could both carry 10 warheads. In RN service the D-5 only carries as many warheads as the old Polaris system.
My point was that three warheads were chosen for Polaris specifically to maximise the destructive effect on a single soft target given a very limited payload. This is an educated guess, but I think that in your examples the 10 warheads were there to allow numerous point targets to be hit (particularly on Peacekeeper in a counter-force role) and to a lesser extent to swamp post-MIRV ABM defences (the British rationale for using Trident), not to maximise aggregate soft-target destructive capability.

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Post by JN1 » 2008-05-04 10:20pm

You're quite right, the Peacekeeper was intended to be used against bunkers and missile silos, AFAIK. Polaris, Poseidon and Trident I were generally targeted on soft targets like cities and airfields, again AFAIK.
Trident II, OTOH, does apparently have a counter-force capability.

No doubt Stu knows more about this area.

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Post by Stuart Mackey » 2008-05-05 12:44am

Fyrwulf wrote:
Stuart Mackey wrote:And introduces the genocide problem :roll:
Not really. Genocide implies the systemic annihilation of a race, which isn't what I'm suggesting here. Just taking out a strategic target in retaliation for the Demons hitting Detroit.
Mass murder might be a better term, perhaps.

EDIT: And anyway, to use a real world example, if some nation were to nuke Detroit I'd happily order every city of the responsible nation glassed were I the NCA. And then I'd send Marines in to kill everything down to the last kitten. But then again, I'm a big fan of disproportionate response and doing something to make a point.
Ok, nice to know you are morally bankrupt, I shall make a note for future reference, thanks.
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Post by Darth Wong » 2008-05-05 12:53am

It's interesting how he would not view the complete annihilation of an entire nation as some awful Machiavellian thing he does to ensure the survival of his own nation by maintaining a severe deterrent despite the personal shame and horror of such an act, but rather, as something he would "happily" or casually do.

It's also interesting how people often deflect moral responsibility for their own positions away from themselves by stating them not as conclusions they've drawn themselves, but rather, as schools of thought that they are fans of, or subscribers to. So instead of saying "I look at the facts and decide that this is the best course of action based on my own personal value judgments", they say "I'm a believer in the <insert name here> school of thought, which says that you ..."
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Post by Stuart Mackey » 2008-05-05 01:03am

Darth Wong wrote:It's interesting how he would not view the complete annihilation of an entire nation as some awful Machiavellian thing he does to ensure the survival of his own nation by maintaining a severe deterrent despite the personal shame and horror of such an act, but rather, as something he would "happily" or casually do.

It's also interesting how people often deflect moral responsibility for their own positions away from themselves by stating them not as conclusions they've drawn themselves, but rather, as schools of thought that they are fans of, or subscribers to. So instead of saying "I look at the facts and decide that this is the best course of action based on my own personal value judgments", they say "I'm a believer in the <insert name here> school of thought, which says that you ..."
Kind of like a version of the Nuremberg excuse, really: I was under orders/It was the accepted doctrine set up by *****. What is disturbing is that they cannot distinguish between the necessity of survival and the necessity of doctrine.
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Post by JBG » 2008-05-05 05:00am

"It's interesting how he would not view the complete annihilation of an entire nation as some awful Machiavellian thing he does to ensure the survival of his own nation by maintaining a severe deterrent despite the personal shame and horror of such an act, but rather, as something he would "happily" or casually do."

To be fair Darth Wong, I don't think that Machiavelli would have countenanced, assuming he could bear to think of the concept, such obliteration of populations. The vacuums created by mass slaughters do provide opportunities for persons such as he but also for far more brutal individuals who tend to prevail in the short term.

"It's also interesting how people often deflect moral responsibility for their own positions away from themselves by stating them not as conclusions they've drawn themselves, but rather, as schools of thought that they are fans of, or subscribers to. So instead of saying "I look at the facts and decide that this is the best course of action based on my own personal value judgments", they say "I'm a believer in the <insert name here> school of thought, which says that you ...""

I am not sure about that. Whether the viewpoint you ascribe to is one of your own invention or one that you have, for whatever reason including a lack of knowledge and/or expertise, adopted as a best fit for your opinions/inclination, either way it is up to you to put up or shut up when defending your opinions ( original or borrowed ) not to mention accept and bear the consequences, intended or unintended, for your stated opinions. Maybe I am just splitting hairs here or maybe I am missing a point about accepting a certain concept or philosophy just because it comes packed together with the rest of one's political beliefs or inclinations??

In a sense to me the point is for the purposes of the story mute as I would not be contemplating the use of ANY nukes at this point. considering the potency of modern chemical weapons, the accuracy of modern guidance systems and the nature of the targets ( almost medieval infrastructure, tough demons and apparently a large number of totally non-combatant demons ) there is no need for, and Stuart may flail me for saying this, weapons as potentially indiscriminate as nukes. Besides and this is a big "besides" Heaven is at present a relatively unknown quantity. One would hope that a way to defeat those fiends can be found that does not involve glass making. Much capability has yet to be used in this story so there is a long way to go before hell or heaven get a dose of instant sunshine. In any event, nuclear devices and the strategies of their initiation are one of Stuart's specialities so I have already spoken probably beyond the bounds of my expertise.

"Kind of like a version of the Nuremberg excuse, really: I was under orders/It was the accepted doctrine set up by *****. What is disturbing is that they cannot distinguish between the necessity of survival and the necessity of doctrine."

Good point Stuart Mackey. In this story elements of "survival" appear to loom much larger.

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Post by Stuart » 2008-05-05 08:06am

Starglider wrote: Firstly, a 25Mt MIRV is a pretty scary thought. AFAIK the 25Mt Satan is a unitary warhead. Secondly a rough calculation puts the area devastated by a 25Mt blast (at optimum burst height) at 1370 km2. The 400kt warheads take out about 88 km2 each, for 705 km2 total if the blast pattern was non-overlapping (which it isn't, of course). Thus the 8-way MIRVed missile will be less than half as effective as the big one at taking out a soft target (though I imagine the former suffers a lot less attenuation from being deployed as a groundburst).
Fyrwulf is right on this one; the catch is that if we use multiple devices in a specific pattern, the blast patterns interlock and reinforce each other producing devastation over a much greater total area. Most of the destructive power of a huge nuclear device is wasted overkill, it doesn't really matter whether a building is hit by an overpressure of 2,000psi or 1,500 psi when 100psi will turn it into powdered rubble. The beauty of using multiple devices is that they create just enough destructive power over a much greater area rather than tremendous destructive power at a single point. The latter is great for taking out small, very hard targets but not for large soft targets.

By the way, 25 megaton devices were very, very rare. I think they're pretty much extinct now
The single nuke will probably use considerably less fissionable material too, as it only needs one fission trigger rather than eight (and is probably a three-stage weapon). It will also be more accurate (not that that matters for a soft target) and probably cleaner (due to more of the yield being from fusion).
Very big nuclear devices tend to be inefficient users of fissile which is another reason why they tended to be very rare. Unitary delivery systems (ie single-warhead missiles rather than MRV or MIRVs are much more accurate these days than multiple-headed ones. The accuracy penalty on MIRVs is very significant and a serious limitation on where and how they can be used. That's why some missiles that were listed as being MIRVs only had single warheads. Others didn't have any warheads at all. (For a quarter of a century I used to live and breathe this stuff)
But your general point does seem to hold, for a given mass allowance the optimal number of warheads is greater than 1 (but less than 8 I think, for maximising area devastated - Polaris went with three for exactly this reason but I'm not sure if that's still optimal for modern designs).
Polaris went to a three-device MRV because it was so inherently inaccurate that there was a serious concern a single warhead would miss completely (it was possible to miss with a nuclear weapon back in the '50s and '60s). The three-device "claw of death" maximized the chance of taking down the target.
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Post by Starglider » 2008-05-05 08:18am

Stuart wrote:Fyrwulf is right on this one; the catch is that if we use multiple devices in a specific pattern, the blast patterns interlock and reinforce each other producing devastation over a much greater total area.
I failed to consider cumulative blast effects. How sensitive is this to timing? I would expect the heat pulse at least to be quite time-sensitive if you want cumulative effects.
Very big nuclear devices tend to be inefficient users of fissile which is another reason why they tended to be very rare.
I'm curious about this (I know, me and my multi-stage device fixation); AFAIK the really big devices were three-stage, and a three-stage device shouldn't need any more fissile than a two-stage device of much lower (a quarter?) yield*. Also, the fissile requirements of a two-stage device should be determined by the energy required to compress the fusion fuel, but it looks to me as if there are sufficient economies of scale in that process to make a single large 3-stage warhead more fissile-efficient (for a given total yield, not given soft-target destruction) than eight relatively small 2-stage warheads.

* Well, actually it might need a third stage 'sparkplug' (I'm not entirely clear on that), but that's still a lot less than another three fission triggers to achieve the same yield from 2-stage devices.
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Post by Stuart » 2008-05-05 08:20am

Stuart Mackey wrote:Mass murder might be a better term, perhaps.
I'd argue that one isn't appropriate either. When doing nuclear targeteering we never - repeat never - deliberately targeted the civil population. We targeted specific objectives whose destruction would fulfill the target plan we were trying to achieve. For example in a counter-transportation plan we might well target a railway marshalling yard and a railway engine construction plant in a given city. The attack plan for that city would rotate around what would be required to destroy those specific targets. The civilian death toll wouldn't figure in the calculations; they were collateral damage, unfortunate but there it was. Having said that, we would calculate the likely effects on the civilian population with the aim of, if there were numerous alternatives for achieving the objectives, determining which caused the lowest civilian death toll and picking that.

That happened quite rarely; usually by the time we'd finished with a city there wouldn't have been much left anyway. If there are strategically important targets within a city, its a pretty fair bet that city is gone. As an example, we targeteered a strike on Australia once. Just a little one, three 50-kiloton devices. We ended up taking out 40 percent of the economy, the Federal Government, the Australian intelligence agencies, the entire ADF command structure, a third of the Navy, half the army and a third of the air force and we would kill or displace (in our language "displace" has a specific meaning - it means people have to move or die) half the population.

One of the reasons why I wrote TBO was to try and get people to think about what nuclear destruction actually meant for the people on the receiving end. It's not pretty, not pretty at all. Definately not an option one should use except as a last resort.
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Post by Stuart » 2008-05-05 08:29am

Starglider wrote:I failed to consider cumulative blast effects. How sensitive is this to timing? I would expect the heat pulse at least to be quite time-sensitive if you want cumulative effects.
Three warheads arriving as an MRV will be close enough. What bad timing tends to do is to cause the interlocking destruction pattern to be lopsided rather than not happen. That's assuming all three devices go off which isn't a given
I'm curious about this (I know, me and my multi-stage device fixation); AFAIK the really big devices were three-stage, and a three-stage device shouldn't need any more fissile than a two-stage device of much lower (a quarter?) yield*. Also, the fissile requirements of a two-stage device should be determined by the energy required to compress the fusion fuel, but it looks to me as if there are sufficient economies of scale in that process to make a single large 3-stage warhead more fissile-efficient (for a given total yield, not given soft-target destruction) than eight relatively small 2-stage warheads.
Most very large devices were achieved by jacketing the core device with additional fissile (much easier and more reliable than multi-staging). That makes them fission-fusion-fission devices. Interestingly, one of the primary benefits of the fusion stage is that it super-compresses the fission core and gives a very high (high 90s) efficiency in that core. In modern US devices, that ratio is so high that most of the yield of the device is actually from the fission core, not the fusion stage. In a very real sense, those devices are actually nearer to be pure fission than fusion devices.

This feeds back into my comments to Stuart Mackay. Note over the years how the size of nuclear warheads has gone down as accuracy has increased. Back in the 1960s, 1 megaton devices and five megaton devices were not uncommon since the missiles they were mounted on were so inaccurate that was the size needed to ensure the target went skywards. The Polaris Claw of Death was the first break in that pattern. By the 1980s and 1990s, strategic warheads that were 350 - 550 kilotons were the norm; now 50 kiloton strategic warheads are not unusual. We use the smallest device we can to guarantee destroying a target simply to reduce collateral damage to a minimum.

One implication of that - we can judge how accurate a delivery system is by looking at the size of warhead deployed on it.
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Post by tim31 » 2008-05-05 11:28am

Stuart wrote:As an example, we targeteered a strike on Australia once. Just a little one, three 50-kiloton devices. We ended up taking out 40 percent of the economy, the Federal Government, the Australian intelligence agencies, the entire ADF command structure, a third of the Navy, half the army and a third of the air force and we would kill or displace (in our language "displace" has a specific meaning - it means people have to move or die) half the population.
I'm not really surprised about that; the bulk of our population and industry are concentrated in a handful of large cities. I'm guessing Canberra was glassed, Sydney was hit either at the CBD or over Fleet East(not far away from the CBD), or possibly somewhere that would have ensured the destruction of both Fleet Base East and RAAF Richmond. The third warhead hit either Melbourne or Perth, in the case of the former probably at HMAS Cerberus.
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Post by Illuminatus Primus » 2008-05-05 02:13pm

Stuart wrote:
Stuart Mackey wrote:Mass murder might be a better term, perhaps.
I'd argue that one isn't appropriate either. When doing nuclear targeteering we never - repeat never - deliberately targeted the civil population. We targeted specific objectives whose destruction would fulfill the target plan we were trying to achieve. For example in a counter-transportation plan we might well target a railway marshalling yard and a railway engine construction plant in a given city. The attack plan for that city would rotate around what would be required to destroy those specific targets. The civilian death toll wouldn't figure in the calculations; they were collateral damage, unfortunate but there it was. Having said that, we would calculate the likely effects on the civilian population with the aim of, if there were numerous alternatives for achieving the objectives, determining which caused the lowest civilian death toll and picking that.

That happened quite rarely; usually by the time we'd finished with a city there wouldn't have been much left anyway. If there are strategically important targets within a city, its a pretty fair bet that city is gone. As an example, we targeteered a strike on Australia once. Just a little one, three 50-kiloton devices. We ended up taking out 40 percent of the economy, the Federal Government, the Australian intelligence agencies, the entire ADF command structure, a third of the Navy, half the army and a third of the air force and we would kill or displace (in our language "displace" has a specific meaning - it means people have to move or die) half the population.

One of the reasons why I wrote TBO was to try and get people to think about what nuclear destruction actually meant for the people on the receiving end. It's not pretty, not pretty at all. Definately not an option one should use except as a last resort.
Oh puh-leeze. If I, looking to kill a couple bad guys, strafed them with gunfire having known ahead of time that I'd wax a half dozen civilians doing it, I would be charged and tried for murder. Maybe not first degree, but murder. That's the relevent definition, the fact you guys assuaged your sense of morality by saying that the mass death of countless millions - as could not have been approached even by Hilter's death machine - as incidental costs to the operation does not change the fact they would be dead (and for many of them the road to death would be such that they'd probably prefer the bullets of Nazi death squads), and that they'd be killed knowingly in pursuit of a goal. By any legal system, and an appropriate parallel, its murder. We just prefer to wrap the anarchic and destructive and amoral interaction between soveriegn states in a cloak of moral relativism and special exceptions to make ourselves feel better. Your job in planning mass murder in accordance with cold survival and strategic calculus is the admittedly, the necessary and vital result of the fact that power in a real world with people follows a Machiavellian rubric. That doesn't make it not mass murder.

That one does not deliberately set out to kill bystanders has not alleviated criminals of criminal culpability for their actions as murderers, nor should it here.
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Post by Starglider » 2008-05-05 02:26pm

Illuminatus Primus wrote:Oh puh-leeze. If I, looking to kill a couple bad guys, strafed them with gunfire having known ahead of time that I'd wax a half dozen civilians doing it,
In total war, the bad guys are strafing you and hitting civilians too. Taking out the bad guys may kill some civilians on their side but it may also prevent them from killing even more civilians on your side.
By any legal system, and an appropriate parallel, its murder.
Legal systems are excessively codified and binary because they have to be to even approach fairness and impartiality. Morality itself isn't.
We just prefer to wrap the anarchic and destructive and amoral interaction between soveriegn states in a cloak of moral relativism and special exceptions to make ourselves feel better.
No not really, it's just based directly on expected utility without messing about with arbitrary inflexible rules. There is plenty of scope for debate in exactly what utility should be assigned to, but certainly there are defensible cases when killing some humans (civilians or otherwise) to prevent the death of even more is justified.

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Post by Illuminatus Primus » 2008-05-05 02:43pm

Starglider wrote:
Illuminatus Primus wrote:Oh puh-leeze. If I, looking to kill a couple bad guys, strafed them with gunfire having known ahead of time that I'd wax a half dozen civilians doing it,
In total war, the bad guys are strafing you and hitting civilians too. Taking out the bad guys may kill some civilians on their side but it may also prevent them from killing even more civilians on your side.
:roll: Situational ethics. We simply say its not murder here and is murder there to it all glide with feel-good about patriotism and protecting the nation. We don't like to admit murder is sometimes an appropriate instrument of public policy. At least just be honest. What you are saying is that in certain circumstances, its okay to use mass murder as public policy because gloves are off on all sides. Fair enough, but don't wrap it in feel-good and pretend its any different. And this "they're doing it too" might be comprehensively valid, except the U.S. is not a no-first-use state. We've publically reserved the right to do so regardless of whether a gloves-off situation has occurred on all sides.
Starglider wrote:Legal systems are excessively codified and binary because they have to be to even approach fairness and impartiality. Morality itself isn't.
Bullshit retort. Are you saying my examples do not constitute murder? That any useful analog would not similarly qualify? Somehow when you're working for an entity which has sufficiently large number of people and enough money and guns, and you use certain terms, then its completely different? Say - when your employer is big and strong and rich enough to be a soveriegn subject of international law - oops there's an appeal back to legalism.
Starglider wrote:No not really, it's just based directly on expected utility without messing about with arbitrary inflexible rules. There is plenty of scope for debate in exactly what utility should be assigned to, but certainly there are defensible cases when killing some humans (civilians or otherwise) to prevent the death of even more is justified.
One, that's still just renaming "murder is sometimes an acceptable or necessary tool of policy" with feel-good because it sounds bad. And the last sentence is totally laughable because our strategic policy and such does not care one iota about the overal morality or calculus of human suffering. It cares about American lives and American interests; its purpose is ensuring the persistence and growth of American power. Our nuclear policy at numerous occassions in our history would obviously result in more deaths than withholding it (if the Cuban crisis had gone hot, we would have killed many more than the USSR did, and had we not used them at all, the USSR couldn't hope to cause the same amount of damage - the goal is not limiting deaths of any humans, its to perserve American power).

In any case, this is not appropriate fodder in the Fanfic thread. This should be split-off or something.
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Post by Starglider » 2008-05-05 03:48pm

Illuminatus Primus wrote:At least just be honest. What you are saying is that in certain circumstances, its okay to use mass murder as public policy because gloves are off on all sides. Fair enough, but don't wrap it in feel-good and pretend its any different.
I don't. But I wouldn't usually call it 'murder' because murder is a specific legal term. Soldiers who cause collateral damage are not guilty of murder in the legal sense.

In fact utilitarian ethics are actually less arbitrary. You're still making a distinction between killing 'bad guys' (which you say is ok) and 'innocent bystanders' (which you say isn't). A utilitarian would hold that all pain, death and suffering is bad and that where possible we should avoid killing the enemy too. Intent does change your effective moral worth; if bad things have to happen to someone, we'd rather they happened to the people who chose to initiate violence. That includes military personnel in an unjust war (of course 'unjust' isn't a nice clean binary quality).
Starglider wrote:Are you saying my examples do not constitute murder?
Not really, I'm just saying it's not helpful to call all instances of premeditated killing murder. It leaves us with no convenient way to distinguish killing for personal greed or revenge with killing to prevent the enemy killing you or your loved ones.
Somehow when you're working for an entity which has sufficiently large number of people and enough money and guns, and you use certain terms, then its completely different?
It isn't appropriate to apply the same legal mechanisms to states as to individuals, because those mechanisms are by necessity a poor and lossy approximation of actual morality, and the best approximation for individuals isn't the same as the best approximation for nation states (or rather, individuals caught up in the actions of nation states, unless you believe in deliberate collective punnishment of citizens for their government's actions). The issue of enforceability is a separate but relevant one; unenforceable laws are worse than useless and it's much more difficult to enforce laws at the international level than the individual one.
One, that's still just renaming "murder is sometimes an acceptable or necessary tool of policy" with feel-good because it sounds bad.
No, it doesn't feel any better. Maybe for you 'murder' has some special miasma of dread that 'killing people' doesn't. For me they sound just as bad, it's just that 'murder' is a bit more specific.
And the last sentence is totally laughable because our strategic policy and such does not care one iota about the overal morality or calculus of human suffering. It cares about American lives and American interests;
So you're saying Stuart is lying about trying to minimise civilian casualties? This should be fun to watch.

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Post by Stuart » 2008-05-05 03:58pm

F-111C, Koala Flight, Approaching Hellmouth

“Koala Flight this is Hellmouth Air Traffic Control. Come to course three-three-fiver, altitude three thousand feet for Airstrip Delta Approach. You are cleared to use Runway 31.”

“G’day cobbers. Everything bonzer down there? Throw another shrimp on the Barbie for us.” Squadron Leader Mackay’s weapons systems operator gave him a pained look. “Don’t blame me, that’s how the septics expect us to talk. Don’t want to disappoint them now do we?” Mackay flipped back to the ATC frequency. “Don’t get in tizzy about us landing, we’ll go straight through.”

The voice on the air traffic control net sounded slightly strangled. “Koala flight, be advised, it is against regulations to fly through the Hellmouth. Please land and your aircraft will be towed through.”

“May be against your regulations mate, not against ours. Anyway, you can’t tow an F-111 like that. Nose is too long and the weight distribution won’t hack it. We’ve got to fly though.”

Mackay’s WSO looked appalled. “Sir, that is utter bullshit.”

“Charlie, I know that and you know that but do you think the liability-obsessed septic down there knows that? Its been almost twenty years since the USAF mothballed it’s Pigs, that kid wasn’t even a lecherous gleam in his father’s eyes back then. He’s not going to take the chance of these birds getting damaged on his say-so. He’ll let us go through, our responsibility, you watch.”

“Koala Flight, this is Hellmouth air traffic control. At your request, you are cleared for flight transit of the Hellmouth.”

“Told you.”

The four F-111s, three strike aircraft loaded down with air-to-surface ordnance and an RF-111 with a full surveillance fit, dipped down and started to skim across the sand dunes towards the black ellipse of the Hellmouth. The book said that the ellipse was 800 feet high and 1,200 feet wide which gave the F-111s plenty of room to make their transitions. Beneath them, the desert was covered with armored vehicles, some parked in long lines, others forming convoys through the Hellmouth. The F-111s were low enough to see the commanders of the tanks and armored infantry carriers sitting in the turrets, to see them look up as the scream of the jet engines grabbed their attention. Some waved and Mackay rocked his wings in response.

“Have you ever seen anything like that?” Charlie Cartwright was awed by the armored vista spread out beneath him.

“Nobody has, not since the Second World War and not so often then. Every armored formation in the world must be closing in on this place. That’s the pattern, armor comes here, infantry stays at home to protect the people back there. You see the roads and pipelines being built as we came in? Hold one, here we go.”

The ellipse was approaching with frightening speed but Mackay wasn’t aware of having passed through it. The blue sky and brilliant yellow sun had simply gone, replaced by the murky redness of the Hell environment. Mackay could feel the engines starting to labor as they gulped air through the filters that kept the worst of the dust out. The Pig was shaking slightly as the filters vibrated in the airflow, casting off the dust before it could choke them.

“Watch those engine temperatures like a hawk Charlie. If they start to climb, we’re out of here. You got the nav beacons?”

“Both of them. Realigning navigation computer now.” One of the purposes of this flight was to establish a comparative base between the Euclidian geometry of Earth and the non-Euclidian environment of Hell. Once that was done, navigation computers could be reprogrammed and another problem facing humans trying to fight in this, the strangest of all battlefields, would be solved. As they were all being solved, just taking one at a time.

“Koala-Three here. Cameras are rolling.”

“Roger, Koala Three. Any electronic emissions?”

“Ours. The spectrum’s full of them. Radar, comms, you name it. Nothing hostile or unidentified.”

“Friendly aircraft, this is Dysprosium Air Traffic Control. Please identify and file flight plan.”

“This is Koala Flight, three F-111C and one RF-111C on armed reconnaissance flight to Dis and the Hellpit. We’ll let you know the course as soon as we figure it out. This place just isn’t right.”

“You’re telling us Koala Flight. Good luck.”

The F-111 flight soared over the Martial Plain of Dysprosium, heading towards the Phlegethon River that represented the front line of the human advance into Hell. That advance had stopped temporarily while the infrastructure needed to support the next phase was being established. More importantly, there was a lot of evidence that a huge new Hellish Army was moving up against the troops digging in along the river. That was one of the things the aircraft had been sent in to check. In the meantime, the Russians were digging in, establishing a defense in depth. The central portion of it was underneath them now, a sea of platoon-sized strongpoints, the arcs of fire of each interlocking in a maze of death and destruction. Mackay couldn’t see them but he knew the gaps between the strongpoints were filled with minefields and razor wire. Backing the whole defense position up was the artillery. The Russian artillery didn’t have the flexibility or precision of its American equivalent but then, Mackay thought, the septics didn’t line their guns up, wheel to wheel, for 30 kilometers either.

“We’re in hostile airspace now Control.”

“We have you on radar, be advised, you are the only friendly aircraft in the area. You can take it as read, if it flies, its hostile. You’re cleared to shoot.”

“Thank you Control. Be sure to tell the air defense guys on the ground we’re here.”

“Already done Koala Flight. If they open up on you, it will be in a friendly manner.”

“Reassuring that. Charlie, warm up the AIM-9Zs. Be good if One Squadron gets the first air-to-air in Hell. Give those upstarts in Six something to chew on.”

“Koala-Three here, take a look below us. I think that’s the hostile army we were told to watch out for.”

“You think?” Beneath them, the ground was covered with demons moving towards the Phlegethon River. Far, far too many to count, they turned the ground black with their number. Some were harpies, they tried to climb and challenge the racing F-111s but they lacked the speed and the ability to climb fast enough. “Control, confirm sighting of hostile force moving on the Phlegethon. Rhinolobsters, baldricks, harpies, you name it. Better tell our Russian friends to keep their powder dry.

“Roger, wilco. For your information, its not just gunpowder they Russkies have got back there. Any sight of Dis?”

“Ahead of us now. High stone walls, as far as the eye can see which isn’t far in this clag. Looks like an old medieval castle, not the Hollywood version, the real thing. Like they have in Wales. We’re going to try and break some glass now.”

Mackay dipped his aircraft and headed for the walls of Dis. The terrain following radar was working perfectly as he skimmed the wall, barely a hundred feet over the crenellations. Inside was a town that looked something straight out the middle ages, a tight mass of buildings separated by narrow alley-like streets. There were baldricks down there, ones that looked up in stunned shock at the monsters that had suddenly crossed the wall and were screaming defiance at all around them as they passed low over the roofs. The demons stood and watched long after the Pigs had gone, awed by the sight and realizing that things were never going to be the same in Hell again.

Unconscious of having caused a spiritual crisis in Dis, Koala Flight arced over the great pit that formed the center of Hell. Mackay looked at the sight below, a supercaldera that would be a vulcanologists dream but represented all of humanities worst nightmares. His thumb itched to pick a target and release his bombs on to it but his orders were strict, fire on ground targets only in self-defense or to protect the reconnaissance aircraft. Still, he could think of the humanity that had to be suffering in the nightmarish scene below and he could promise to come back with every pound of ordnance his faithful Pig could carry. “You got all that Koala-Three?”

“Affirmative.” Koala-Three’s voice was subdued.

“Lets get out of here then.” The four F-111s made a gentle turn, trying to cover as much of Hell as possible. Mackay hoped that, down below, the souls trapped there would see them, some would know what they were and they would spread the word. Humanity was coming with every weapon it could muster and what stood now would not be allowed to stand again.

Banks of the River Styx, Fifth Circle of Hell

“My leader wants to talk, very urgently. Anywhere you wish. It is most important.” Rahab spoke earnestly, Gaius Julius Caesar had been most explicit with his instructions. These humans, living and dead, were what he had spent two millennia waiting for. A way to fight back against the monsters that ran this place.

“Important for him? Or us?”

“For us both I think. He….” Rahab stopped speaking her voice drowned out by a terrible screaming howl.

Lieutenant (deceased) Jade Kim recognized the sky-ripping sound instantly, the sound of jet fighter engines. Even as she looked up, four F-111s emerged from the overcast, their wings stretched out and loaded with bombs, lazily making a turn over Hell. Then, they were gone, on their way back home, just leaving their sound behind. Around her, the living and deceased members of the PFLH were jumping up and down, cheering and smacking each other on the back. Rahab looked at them in amazement.

“What is that terrible noise?”

Kim looked at her, her eyes dancing with joy. “That isn’t noise Rahab. That’s the sound of Freedom.”

High Peak Youth Hostel, Peak District, British Isles

As Lakheenahuknaasi emerged from the portal the first thing that hit her was the overpowering scent of a great deal of blood spilled in a confined space. The second thing was that this part of earth was unpleasantly cold. She found herself in a rather small room packed with demon infantry, whose cloven hooves continued to crunch the smashed remains of wooden furniture. This chamber and the others she could see leading off from it were littered with human corpses, most of them obviously torn apart by demon claws. She stepped lightly around them for now and addressed the squad leader.

“I see that you have not so much secured the area as painted it with human blood. Did they give you any trouble?”

“Very little.” The demon seemed unsure whether he should treat the gorgon was his superior or inferior. “One of them managed to grab a fire-spear and wounded one of my warriors before perishing.”

Lakheenahuknaasi's gaze followed his gesture. The injured demon was sitting on a broken table, in a white room that reeked of stewed vegetables. His left flank looked like a piece of wood riddled by termites, oozing green blood from numerous tiny holes. As she watched the demon yanked the heart out of a human corpse and stuffed it into his mouth. The dead man still held a fire spear in his hands; a chunk of carved wood with two short black metal rods sticking out of it.

“If you require nothing further?” Some of the demons had slung human corpses over their shoulders, undoubtedly as rations for their victory feast.

“Go. But take that fire spear with you. Baron Trajakrithoth may want to examine its enchantments.”

The demon warriors squeezed back through the portal, which promptly closed up behind them, leaving Lakheenahuknaasi alone in the human building. It seemed to be some sort of inn. with a central common area, what was presumably a kitchen (though she could see no cooking fire), indoor latrines (which appeared to have just been emptied) and several rooms full of (mostly smashed) bunks. It could have been a barracks but for the lack of weapons. A large triangular window showed a sunset obscured by clouds, painting the landscape of rolling grassy hills and forested valleys in a mix of oranges and grays. Here and there beams of golden light broke through and highlighted an outcropping or a stream. It almost looked welcoming save for the sparse flakes of snow melting on the window.

Lakheenahuknaasi could see no other buildings, but if this was an inn travelers could arrive at any moment. She made her way down the stairs, taking care not to slip on the blood still dripping from step to step. The door barring the main entrance was broken and warped; the triple indentations and the dead human woman seemingly still trying to grasp its handle bore witness to a last desperate attempt to escape. Stepping over the body, the gorgon yanked the protesting door open and slipped out onto the moors.

Sure enough, half an hour later Tom Sullivan crested the last ridge and sighted the hostel. “Ah, there it is dear.”

Trailing behind him, his fiancée Jennifer was not in the best of moods. “You said we'd be there two hours ago. This is the last time I let you plan the route.” She paused, out of breath. ”I'm never voting Labor again. If Gordon hadn't commandeered all the planes we could be in Italy right now. Tony was so much nicer.” Tom shook his head. He was beginning to have second thoughts about this relationship.

The couple made their way down the track to the building. What they saw there left both retching for a good five minutes. As soon as he'd regained his senses, Thomas reached for his mobile. He'd entered the number of the national demon sighting hotline just before they set off, almost as a joke, never expecting horror like this to come to sleepy Yorkshire. Five minutes later the first police units were dispatched to set up a perimeter and ten minutes after that the first territorial army trucks began to roll out of Worsley Barracks.

Lakheenahuknaasi had long since found a convenient cliff and launched herself into the air. There seemed to be no convenient thermals in this freezing place and she was forced to hook her arm spurs into her wings and flap strenuously for altitude. She became acutely conscious of how conspicuous her metallic bronze scales made her after the first time she flew through a shaft of sunlight and lit up like a disco ball.

Lakheenahuknaasi muttered a satanic curse and wished she'd had the foresight to cover herself in mud. She would've endured the mocking of the other gorgons if she'd known how much safer it would make her feel now. She considered trying to gain the relative safety of the clouds, but her wing and arm muscles were already tiring and she didn't want to risk accidentally over-flying the target. Instead she flew low, weaving through the valleys and trying to stay in the lengthening shadows. Though she did not know it, the decision saved her life; air defense control at RAF Boulmer began enforcing a no-fly zone over the area shortly after she descended to an area its radar could not cover. The inclement weather had kept most walkers at home and left the rest disinclined to watch the skies.

The gorgon flew an erratic course through the twisting valleys for the better part of an hour, with only her perception of the planet's strong magnetic field keeping her heading towards the target. Even using that was hard due to the sheer density of psychic emanations in this part of earth. Clearly the humans had not only learned the art of telepathy, they were using it to constantly gossip with each other. As she flew she saw several isolated farms and the occasional village visible in the distance. Not enough to concern her, but hardly the 'uninhabited wilderness' Baron Guruktarqor had described. Most puzzling were the lights that speed along the black strips, some constant yellow, some flickering white and blue. They could have been chariots bearing torches, but for their impossible speed and brightness, matching or even outpacing her own aerial progress.

Finally, as her wing and arm muscles were ready to give up she crested a hill and saw a great city laid out before her. It was lit so brightly that at first it seemed to Lakheenahuknaasi that the city was already aflame. On closer inspection however it was clear that she was seeing thousands of torches, strung on poles, shining out of windows and attached to moving carriages. This vast sprawling metropolis had to be the target. She could not see the smoke or fires of the forges yet, but that could wait. The immediate priority was avoiding detection while the portal was summoned. Lakheenahuknaasi glided down to a copse near the top of the hill, keeping the trees between herself and the city as much as possible. Once down she crawled into the undergrowth and crouched shivering under her wings. This world of humans was cold, unbearably cold.

The humans should be thanking me she thought, a nice lava lake is just what this place needs to warm it up a bit.' The gorgon began reaching out with her mind, straining to push through the barrier and contact her superiors. Immediately she was hit by the overwhelming babble of human telepaths. Most of the mind-speech was not speech at all, merely indecipherable gibberish. Some of it was comprehensible though. Curiously the humans seemed to have found a way to enchant their musical instruments to transmit their notes into the ether. Lakheenahuknaasi shook her head at the thought of wasting energy on such frivolous magery. Another particularly powerful human mage seemed to be chanting the words 'Hallam Eff Em' several times a minute, accompanied by jangling chimes. She spent a moment pondering the significance of this ritual before deciding that it must be just another symptom of human insanity.

Pushing the human transmissions aside, she broke through the barrier to contact Euryale. The force of greater demon's mind was almost overwhelming. 'This is Lakheenahuknaasi,' she reported 'the human city lies before me. I am ready to guide the portal.” Euryale's response was swift. “I am approaching Jorkastrequar now. Keep the link open and focus your thoughts on the city. They know it not, but a wave of fire is about to carry those pitiful beings straight into our domain.”
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Post by MKSheppard » 2008-05-05 04:09pm

Illuminatus Primus wrote:Oh puh-leeze. If I, looking to kill a couple bad guys, strafed them with gunfire having known ahead of time that I'd wax a half dozen civilians doing it, I would be charged and tried for murder.
Nope. We did exactly that in the run-up to OVERLORD; we bombed the entire french transport network - we knew this was going to kill LOTS of french, but we did it anyway; because we had to slow down German reinforcements to France.
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Post by El Moose Monstero » 2008-05-05 04:17pm

Another excellent chapter, itching for the next one - what right minded Further-Northerner doesn't want to see Sheffield getting a lava lake installed?

Is RAF Boulmer really the nearest base to Sheffield? RAF Fylingdale must be nearer, but is Boulmer the nearest base that does air-traffic control/coordination type stuff?
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Post by Starglider » 2008-05-05 04:24pm

El Moose Monstero wrote:Boulmer the nearest base that does air-traffic control/coordination type stuff?
AFAIK Boulmer does intercept control for the entire UK airspace. Routine movements are handled from civilian ATC centers (Swannick mainly).

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Post by El Moose Monstero » 2008-05-05 04:31pm

Starglider wrote:
El Moose Monstero wrote:Boulmer the nearest base that does air-traffic control/coordination type stuff?
AFAIK Boulmer does intercept control for the entire UK airspace. Routine movements are handled from civilian ATC centers (Swannick mainly).
Really? Wow. You'd never tell by looking at it - friend of mine worked there briefly; could never tell us what she did, but did say it was all underground. All us locals ever knew was that the Seaking helicopters were based there, and that the place stinks of rotten seaweed!

That said, work once took me to what a local historian told us was air defense command for the North of England during WWII - turns out, it was a terraced house in the middle of Newcastle!

EDIT: I do like that about this story, it's an education in of itself.
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Post by Illuminatus Primus » 2008-05-05 04:32pm

Starglider wrote:So you're saying Stuart is lying about trying to minimise civilian casualties? This should be fun to watch.
No, LIAR, YOU SAID that the goal was a utilitarian interest in minimizing overall human suffering and loss of life. It is trivially easy to show that the outcome of U.S. strategic policy at various times in history clearly would not minimize suffering and death had it been carried out, but rather increase it. This is not the same thing as saying that Stuart deliberately wanted to kill people, and you know it, you dishonest shit. But real cute, trying to bait someone with balls into doing your arguing for you.
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Post by Illuminatus Primus » 2008-05-05 04:34pm

MKSheppard wrote:
Illuminatus Primus wrote:Oh puh-leeze. If I, looking to kill a couple bad guys, strafed them with gunfire having known ahead of time that I'd wax a half dozen civilians doing it, I would be charged and tried for murder.
Nope. We did exactly that in the run-up to OVERLORD; we bombed the entire french transport network - we knew this was going to kill LOTS of french, but we did it anyway; because we had to slow down German reinforcements to France.
Exactly. It was necessary to our interests (defeating Nazi Germany). In the pursuit of such national interests, knowingly massacring civilians incidentally to military goal is acceptable and desirable. Which is exactly why we did it. We just prefer not to phrase it like that.
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Post by Starglider » 2008-05-05 04:41pm

Illuminatus Primus wrote:No, LIAR, YOU SAID that the goal was a utilitarian interest in minimizing overall human suffering and loss of life.
Don't be ridiculous (tall order for you, I know). All I said was;
There is plenty of scope for debate in exactly what utility should be assigned to, but certainly there are defensible cases when killing some humans (civilians or otherwise) to prevent the death of even more is justified.
Obviously the US rates the welfare of its citizens above the welfare of non-US citizens, just like every other nation state. That said, while US planners have often made bad decisions due to failure to predict the consequences of their actions, they nearly always believed that their actions would make things better for everyone in the long run. No nation state has a really good record on altruism, but the US is quite high on the leaderboard. It certainly isn't indifferent to non-US suffering and given the amount the US spends on aid any such claim is pretty ludicrous.

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