EDIT: Scene was written with reference to the following portions of the movie Pulp Fiction
This is NOT
canon! This is NOT what Fourth Battlecruiser Division has been sent to Prussia to do. It's out of character for the men involved, it's out of character for the national policy, no such incident involving Shroomarcos has occured, to the best of my knowledge no star system of this name even EXISTS, it's physically impossible to do what they're doing using a hyperdrive, shipboard power plants don't work that way, midspace refueling doesn't work that way, our torpedoes aren't that hard-hitting, our Mk. XIVs aren't (quite) that hard-hitting, I'm not sure we could do the towing thing... in short, it's TOTALLY WRONG.
It's not accurate at all, AT ALL, but I can't help myself, I've been contaminated by the Shroominess! It's this, or scribble crazy stuff all over the walls of my room at home, and that would make my landlord upset.
Well, OK, none of it's canon except for the admirals' middle names: Jules and Vincent, er, Juliusz and Vincente. That part is just too good to pass up.
OK, and the reference to admiral Lisiewicz's curriculum vitae
. That's canon too.
Also, the appearance of the battlecruisers as shown below; they really do
look like this. But the rest?WARNING: NON-CANON MATERIAL!
USS Haruna, Deep Space, roughly six light-months from a Prussian border system
Admiral Antoni Juliusz Lisiewicz nodded at his second-in-command, Vice Admiral Vincente Quirino, over the holoconference, as Fourth Battlecruiser Division prepared for action.
"You remember Ferdinand Shroomarcos? Half-stupid, half-corrupt, used ta call him Ferdy Shroomy Horror."
The junior admiral's image nodded. "Yeah, maybe, fat right?"
"I wouldn't go so far as to call the mang fat. He's got a weight problem. What's the ladrón
gonna do, he's a Third Galaxy dictator."
"I know what you mean, what about him?"
"Well, Maxim fucked his ass up good. And word around the campfire, it was on account of Maxim Chernov's favorite client world." Juliusz took a moment to snap out some commands; the fleet began powering up their hyperdrives.
But Vincente looked curious. "What'd he do, sign an alliance with her?"
"No no no, nothin'that bad."
"Well, what then?"
"He gave her Most Favored Nation trading status."
"Most Favored Nation? That's all?"
"What did Maxim do?"
"Sent a couple of MiniDat guys over to his place. "Operatives," they call 'em. They took him out on the patio of his palace, threw his ass over the balcony. Fucker fell four stories. They had this garden at the bottom, enclosed in glass, like one of them greenhouses- bastard fell through that. Since then, he's kinda developed a speech impediment."
With the transition ready, Fourth Battlecruiser made the jump to lightspeed, bound for the target system. The commlink switched seamlessly to hyperwave, and Vincente clicked his tongue. "That's a damn shame... Still I hafta say, play with plasma, ya get burned."
"You don't be giving Maxim Chernov's new client state Most Favored Nation status."
"You don't think he overreacted?"
"Shroomarcos probably didn't expect Maxim to react like he did, but he had to expect a reaction."
"It was a trade agreement, a trade agreement is nothing, everybody does trade agreements."
"It's laying hands on Maxim Chernov's new client state in a familiar way. Is it as bad as a defense agreement- no, but you're in the same fuckin' ballpark."
OK, that was ridiculous. Juliusz made a chopping motion with his hand.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, stop right there. Defense pacts and trade agreements ain't even the same fuckin' thing."
"Not the same thing, the same ballpark."
"It ain't no ballpark either. Look, maybe your idea of international trade differs from mine, but droppin' tariffs and military cooperation ain't the same ballpark, ain't the same league, ain't even the same fuckin' sport. Most Favored Nation status don't mean shit."
"So, you know a lot about interstellar trade?"
"Don't be tellin' me about interstellar trade- I published papers
on interstellar trade. Role of International Supply Routes in OPFOR Economic Models, With Eye to Optimized Raiding Patterns
, you can look it up in the Naval Review Letters."
"So you've pushed for a lot of Most Favored Nation agreements?"
"Shit yeah. We need all the help we can get, lunatics we got to deal with."
"So, would you ever give the Sheppoes a Most Favored Nation agreement?"I've been set up for that.
He scowled at his screen commander. "Fuck you."
"I mean, could we buy some of them corded phones off of them? All this EM clutter is giving me a headache-"
"Man, you best back off, this is the Kuiper Belt we're passing through."
The image faded: their signals had been reduced to a whisper to avoid tipping off the system defenders' sensor networks, and there wasn't enough bandwidth for visuals. Juliusz glanced at Vincente. Need to make sure our clocks are synchronized
"What time is it?" Vincente glanced at his chronometer aboard Beehive
"Oh-four-twenty-two, planetary capital time."
"It ain't quite time, let's hang back."
The ships had cut their drives, sculling forward slowly in hyper at barely above Heim Drive speeds. This was as good a time as any to finish their conversation.
"Look, just because I wouldn't give no Sheppoes Most Favored Nation status, don't make it right for Maxim to throw Shroomarcos off a building into a glass-motherfuckin-house, fuckin' up the way the ladrón
talks. That ain't right, man. Motherfucker do that to me, he better paralyze my ass, 'cause I'd kill'a motherfucker."
"I'm not sayin' he was right, but you're sayin' a trade agreement don't mean nothing, and I'm sayin' it does. Technocracy's given a million countries a million trade agreements and they all meant somethin'. We act like they don't, but they do. That's what's so fuckin' cool about 'em. This friendly thing's goin' on that nobody's talkin' about, but you know it and she knows it, Doctor fuckin' Chernov knows about it, and Shroomarcos shoulda known fuckin' better. That's his fuckin' client state, mang. He ain't gonna have a sense of humor about that shit."
"That's an interesting point, but let's clear for action."
"What's her name again?"
"Persephone. Why you so interested in the Technocracy's client state?"
"Well, Maxim is leavin' for Altacar and when he's gone, he wants me to base at Persephone."
"Base there?" That could be a real minefield. Rep as a guy who stooges around with Third Galaxy powers, that can stick with you if you don't handle it careful.
"Not that, stupid! Just run some drills. Show them a good time. Make sure they feel secure."
"You're gonna be takin' the Persephone Defense Force out on a training mission?"
"It ain't a training operation. It's like when you and a friendly fleet's admiral go on a joint exercise or somethin'. It's just, you know... good company."Poor bastard. His career's dead.
But Vincente was still talking.
"It's not a training op."
Neu Obersaltzkügelpfalz, Prussian Border World
0430 Planetary Capital Time
The Prussian defense squadron drifted lazily around the L4 point between Neu Obersaltzkügelpfalz and its moon. They were just getting ready for morning fleet evolutions, the ships tanking up on metallic hydrogen cylinders and fullerened-antimatter fuel. They had one of the League's mighty, nigh-invincible Schlachtschiffs
: the greatest, most fearless battleships in this region of space! They had two of the League's deadly Schlachtkreuzers
: devastating high speed railgun platforms! Each of these mighty capital ships was escorted by a quartet of lightly armed missile frigates, as well.
Suddenly, Fourth Battlecruiser Division materialized out of hyperspace, right in their faces. VLA drones shot out from the warships, sweeping the system, but their fire control sensors remained quiet. Admiral Juliusz did the talking, bathing the system in a general broadcast on all frequencies.
"How you boys doin'?"
There was no answer. The Prussians were frozen with terror at the prospect of suddenly having opposition of comparable tonnage appear in their space.
Juliusz turned a tightbeam on the Prussian flagship. "Am I trippin', or did I just ask you a question?"Sterne-Admiral
Heinrich von Haßenpfeffer nervously replied from the flagship, the battleship SMS Panzerblitz.
"Wir sind... ve are doink... OK?"
Meanwhile, Vincente led the screen elements quietly around Neu Obersaltzkügelpfalz's moon, englobing the Prussian ships. Juliusz kept talking.
"Do you know who we are?"
The Prussian admiral shook his head.
"We're countrymen of your nation's friend Dr. Maxim Chernov, you remember the Second Technarch for Foreign Affairs, don't ya?"
There was still no answer.
"Now, I'm gonna take a wild guess here: You're Heinrich, right?"
"Ja, ich bin Heinrich."
"I thought so. Well, you remember your friend Dr. Maxim Chernov, don't ya, Heinrich?"
"Ja, I remember him."
"Good for you. Looks like me and Vincente caught you refueling, sorry 'bout that. What'cha tankin' up on?"
"Antimatter. The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. What kinda antimatter?"
"No, I mean which synthesis method? MacDonald rapid-conversion, Haruhiist CPT-inversion, Jacquelard harmonic oscillator process?"
"Lindemang Technique. That's that New Polynesian method. I heard they got some high-grade antimatter. I ain't never seen any myself, how is it?"
"Mind if I try some of yours?"
Juliusz turned to the ship's captain. "Do a sweep. Locate the fuel depot that battleship is loading from, and stand by to tractor a fuel container out of it." He reactivated the hyperwave 'caster.
"Yours is this one, right, Heinrich?"
"...Yeah." The Sterne-Admiral's
voice was high-pitched and frightened.
Juliusz waved his hand. A tractor beam speared out to the L4 naval fuel station, ripping one of the antimatter fuel pods from its rack. It flew through space towards the Umerian battlecruiser; then short-range force field manipulators engaged, opening the canister and sifting the antimatter into Haruna's
storage tanks, from which it was fed straight to an auxiliary reactor. The admiral checked the power levels from the reactor: they were rising slightly.
"Uuummm, that's some good
antimatter." He fired off a broadcast to the rest of his ships. "Hey, Vincente, you ever try Lindemang Technique antimatter?"
"You wanna bite? They're real good."
"I ain't hungry."
"Well, if you like antimatter give it a try sometime. Me, I can't usually use it 'cause my wife's from Tianguo. She's a matterarian. Which more or less makes me a matterarian, but I sure love some good antimatter once in a while." He turned the tightbeam back to von Haßenpfeffer.
"You know what they call a half-kilo antimatter cell in Altacar?"
"Tell 'em, Vincente."
"Pounder, you know why they call it that?"
"Uh... because they still like to use the old Englisch system sometimes?
"Check out the big brain on Admiral Heinrich! You a smart motherfucker, that's right. The English system." He pointed a laser designator at one of the other racks in the fueling depot. "What's in this?"
"Liquid hydrogen slurry."
"Hydrogen, good, mind if I have some of this excellent fusion material to wash this down with?"
Another tractor shot out and poured the hydrogen into another of Haruna
's auxiliary reactors.
"Mmmm! Hits the spot!" Juliusz turned the tightbeam on one of the two Prussian battlecruisers; CIC identified it as SMS Mariner
, and high magnification optics revealed an imaginative mural painted under the ship's name, showing a magnificent oceanscape with a swarm of seabirds circling above it.
"You, Flock auf Seagullen
, you know what we're here for? The battlecruiser captain, visible on the main display splitscreen alongside his admiral, nodded. "Then why don't you tell my boy here, Vince, where you want the shit on display."
The other Schlachtkreuzer
answered the question. "Die Gelassenh-
," but Admiral Juliusz had already cut off his transmission with a barrage of jamming.
"I don't remember askin' you a goddamn thing." He turned his attention back to the first battlecruiser. "You were sayin'?"
commander swallowed "Ah... if you are goink to do vat I think you are goink to do... I vould rekommend... I suppose it should be the Gelassenheitsee
." His ship helpfully pointed to the area in question on the planet's moon using a quick flash from a broad-band target illuminator.
Vincente ordered one of his destroyers into position to survey the area. "Got it, sir."
Juliusz gave the vice admiral a moment to examine the region. "We happy?"
Vincente nodded. "We're happy."
Haßenpfeffer had finally regained his courage. Broadcasting from his command battleship, he replied. On the one hand, he was in his own territory. On the other hand, he was now faced with a force equal to, perhaps even greater than, that of his own. A battle here would be entirely unlike the "Battle" of Volksland, where he and his fellows had both outnumbered the enemy armada and outgunned each individual Volkslander unit ship-for-ship. Could his fifteen ships match the Umerian's fifteen ships?
In any case, he had to say something
"Look, who are you? I got his name's Vincente, but what's yours?"
"My name's Pitt, and you ain't talkin' your ass out of this shit."Perhaps not, perhaps we are doomed, but I must try for the honor of the most righteous and glorious Star League.
cleared his throat.
"You must understand, Admiral 'Pitt,' that the Prussian Star League promises, deeply, hand-on-heart, to respect the neutrality of the Grand Trunk. As you can see, the Reichstag is not likely to annex or colonise any more territories in the Grand Trunk Region. This policy will remain stable, as a simple matter of necessity, as if we do not, it is likely that we will come under attack. It is simply that the people of Volksland are facing a humanitarian crisis, and we simply cannot help them that much if we do not annex them. There are also the matters of de-fascistification of Volksland, which is looking to be hard if we do not engender a sense of 'Prussianism' in the population, which will be rather hard without annexing them. And then there are the potential security ramifcations - suppose fascists take power in Volksland again? This is a risk we can not afford, so for the moment, Volksland will become Prussian..."
Meanwhile, aboard Haruna
, Admiral Lisiewicz nodded to the captains of his capital ships. Using passive sensors, they checked and double-checked the position of SMS Mariner
, and adjusted their Mk. XIV proton cannons' steering dipoles accordingly. Superconducting magnets hummed to life, generating the supremely powerful vibratory and static electromagnetic fields needed to accelerate and confine a capital-class particle beam. Outwardly, there was no sign of activity.
But the Prussian commander was still talking.
"Again, I must inform you - the League swears solemnly never again to intervene in Sector T-10, and most definitely not in the Grand Coreward Trunk. I assure you that this is a stable solution to the incident, and that we will never annex a territory in the vicinity of the Grand Coreward Trunk again, and that we will uphold its neutrality, for we have the best intentions..."
With another chopping motion of his hand, Lisiewicz turned away from the babbling Prussian and gestured to his captains. In dim-lit, heavily shielded battery direction centers tucked in against the spines of the slender battlecruisers, the call went out:
"Commence primary ignition!"
Nine beamlines went live, deluging the Prussian ship in a blazing rain of hyperrelativistic protons. Light-speed sensors gave the League battlecruiser only a few microseconds of warning, for the beams travelled at only an infinitesimal fraction short of light speed. Subspace detectors were prompter, and indeed gave the Prussian captain a brief moment to realize what was about to happen. The horror had just begun to widen his eyes, though, when the first bursts of high energy particles slammed into his shields.
Still operating at standby energy levels, Mariner's
shields lasted only seconds against the onslaught of the Mark XIVs firing at full wartime charge. Crewmen caught in the beams' zones of effect died swiftly, with heavy radiation shielding that would have allowed them to laugh at point-blank nuclear strikes overwhelmed by the ravenous beams.
The survivors acted bravely, but the crushing blow was too great. A large minority of the ship's crew died in the opening seconds of the attack, and many of the systems in the ship's core hull died with them. Damage control personnel rushed to shut down short-circuiting power conduits and bring up auxiliary systems as klaxons wailed. A few valiant railgunners in Turret Bruno managed to throw capital-class antiship shells back at their foe that came surprisingly close to striking the Umerian ship Armstrong
... but it was too late.Mariner's
armor held together under the storm, a testament to Prussian engineering, and indeed the ship was still in approximately one piece when the Umerian battlecruisers ceased fire. But it was riddled from stem to stern with bubbling, molten, radioactive holes. Where beams had struck over the armored central citadel, there were deep craters gouged in the core hull; where they had impacted away from the ship's heaviest armor belt, the proton blasts had drilled clean through the League battlecruiser, with open space visible on Juliusz's high-magnification optical view of the target through a halo of superheated, yellow-hot hull metal.
would have to be rebuilt almost from scratch before it could ever move under its own power again, let alone fight. The only mercy was that as the remaining crew abandoned ship in hopes of escaping before suffering lethal radiation poisoning, the Umerians ceased fire, permitting them to flee to the planet in their lifepods in peace.
Aboard the Schlachtschiff
, Sterne-Admiral Heinrich von Haßenpfeffer gaped, interrupted in mid-pomposity. Never in his decades of service to the League had he seen a ship of the Kaiserliche Marine
annihilated so quickly, for the Prussians always care to match their battlecruisers against smaller, weaker, more primitive enemies. Like the Volkslanders. It was... it was at once obnoxious- how dare
he interrupt the carefully prepared speech in von Haßenpfeffer's orders?- and horrifying, to see one of his largest units blown out of the ether in under a minute.
The terrible Umerian, though, was now addressing him once again.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Did that break your concentration? I didn't mean to do that
. Please, continue. I believe you were saying something about 'best intentions.'"
But try as he might, von Haßenpfeffer couldn't say a word.
"Whatsamatter? Oh, you were through anyway. Well, let me retort. Would you describe for me what Second Technarch for Foreign Affairs Dr. Maxim Chernov looks like?"
The Prussian still couldn't form words. Shock and fury and fear grappled in his mind, leaving no room for conscious thought. Suddenly, the Umerian admiral snapped, shouting into the monitor with dreadful fury.
"What country you from!?"
His command of interstellar standard English deserted him, and he reverted to the language of his infancy, on beautiful Neu Wien, where the hills were alive with the sound of music...
"'Vas' ain't no country I know! Do they speak English in 'Vas?'"
Von Haßenpfeffer felt near a heart attack, and perhaps that would be best, to release him from the humiliating agony of knowing that he finally faced an armed and competent opponent who was here to hold him accountable for his nation's actions. That there was no escape, no way to weasel out. He knew that his nation's expeditionary fleet had retreated from the Koprulu Zone, the war being over, not wishing to face the threat of being made to play by Koprulu Zone rules.
But now Koprulu Zone rules had come to him!
He stammered again. "...V...Vas
"Then you can understand what I'm sayin'?"
The moment of his doom was upon him, he could sense it, could feel the Sturm und Drang
building. But he could not muster the courage to face his fate squarely. "Ye...yes."
"Now, describe what Dr. Maxim Chernov looks like!"
The paralyzing fear, it was back! "Vas
Targeting lasers lashed his ship. Alarms screamed, and automated systems brought the battleship SMS Panzerblitz
's shields to maximum power, the ship reflexively covering itself in response to the organic crew's complete failure to understand what they were dealing with. But Sterne-Admiral von Haßenpfeffer knew that even the shields of his mighty battleship would not protect him from the wrath of three of these monstrous battlecruisers. Not indefinitely.
For now, though, that Sword of Damocles remained suspended above his head. The Umerians did not open fire.
Aboard the Prussian missile frigates escorting the heavy combatants, a lively debate raged. On the one hand, they were here to support the Sterne-Admiral's capital ships. On the other, the only targets within effective range of their missiles were the Umerian battlecruisers, which were quite alarmingly large. Behind them, of course, there were the Umerians' screen elements. Except for the huge, truly sinister and frightening-looking fleet carrier, the screen ships were more their size. Or maybe they could open up on those tiny little cutters, which looked like something safe to pick on!
But the screen units were out of effective range of the frigates' light missiles. The battlecruisers were
in range, but they were big, powerful units. The frigates weren't going to fire without orders from the flagship. Particularly insofar as it involved fighting a battle against massively superior ships. That was just common sense.
Back on the flagship, on the other hand, Sterne-Admiral Von Haßenpfeffer wasn't going to give the order. The Umerian's wrath and superior firepower had him utterly paralyzed. The targeting radars still screamed in his ship's receivers, intense enough that they had to be dialed down for fear of suffering electronics damage. The Umerian admiral was shouting again.
"Say "Vas" again! C'mon, say "Vas" again! I dare ya, I double dare ya motherfucker, say "Vas" one more goddamn time! Now, describe to me what Doctor Maxim Chernov looks like!"
Von Haßenpfeffer knew that death would come for him, swift and fiery and above all sure
, if he didn't say something. With a final desperate heave, he managed to stammer out a few words, trying frantically to remember the details he'd seen on the news over the years. "Well he's... he's... white..."
"...and he's... he's... bald..."
"Does he look like a BITCH!?"
, Juliusz glanced at his flag captain, who smirked and murmured a few words into the intercom.Haruna
's three Mark Fourteens fired, without the support of the other two ships. Against Admiral von Haßenpfeffer flagship, this would have been only a moderately dangerous attack, and SMS Panzerblitz's
shields could have parried it at full power without too much trouble. But this time, the Umerian particle cannon weren't aimed at the battleship. They were aimed at one of the tiny missile frigates, floating just off Panzerblitz's
The frigate died even more quickly under Haruna's
beams, and even more violently, than Mariner
had under the combined fire of the division.
As soon as the static kicked up by the expanding fireball of wreckage from the missile frigate dissipated, Juliusz repeated his demand.
"DOES DOCTOR MAXIM CHERNOV LOOK LIKE A BITCH?!
"THEN WHY DID YOU FUCK HIM LIKE A BITCH?!
"I... I didn't."
The Umerian admiral was calmer now, speaking in a low voice. "Yes, ya did, Heinrich. Ya tried to fuck 'im. You ever read the Bible, Heinrich?"
Gritting his teeth through the fear, his will totally dominated by the knowledge that those incredible beams could strike any one of his ships at any time, von Haßenpfeffer answered.
Juliusz took a deep breath.
"There's a passage I got memorized, seems appropriate for this situation: Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.
Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great
vengeance and furious
anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is THE LORD when I lay my vengeance upon you."
As before, there was almost no warning when the Umerian battlecruisers opened fire, their beams scouring into von Haßenpfeffer's flagship, flailing its defensive shields like a burning relativistic rain. But SMS Panzerblitz
was no mere battlecruiser, caught unprepared for the onslaught. No, she was a mighty battleship
of the Kaiserliche Marine!
And so her shields held, flickering and fading, with spikes of high-energy particles showering through from occasional gaps, but nonetheless holding. Von Haßenpfeffer felt a sudden surge of triumph- perhaps he and his men were not doomed after all!
His joy buoyed him, and he was about to authorize his fleet to open fire on the lead Umerian battlecruiser, when the first salvo of heavy thermonuclear torpedoes from Vincente's screening cruisers and destroyers slammed into Panzerblitz's
rear. The shields, focused forward to repel Juliusz's onslaught, proved a feeble and inadequate barrier against this new menace.
The large Mark Four "Cantaloupe" torpedo used a far heavier warhead to generate its shaped-charge jet of ionized magnesium. The resulting blast was orders of magnitude more intense and concentrated than the one thrown by the tiny Mark Five missile. The torpedoes carved through Panzerblitz's
stern, gutting the ship along its central axis.
Sterne-Admiral Heinrich von Haßenpfeffer never realized what was killing him as a gout of high-energy magnesium ions tore through his flag bridge. At least it could be said that he died happy and confident.
As one, showing the legendary common sense of the Prussian Navy, the little League missile frigates turned and fled into hyperspace. The Umerians ignored them, allowing them to escape and spread the word of this disaster.
Juliusz now turned his attention to the last Prussian capital ship, the Schlachtkreuzer
. This one had lowered its shields and visibly powered down its weapon systems, slewing its railgun turrets to bear on empty space, far away from any Umerian vessel. Over the radio, he heard a frantic cry coming from the little League battlecruiser.
"Wir kapituleren! Wir kapituleren!"
They were trying to surrender. Admiral Antoni Juliusz Lisiewicz chuckled and replied.
"Very well. Abandon ship and enter your lifepods with all hands. You have ten minutes to comply." Towing a battlecruiser back to Fleet Command was all very well, but he had neither the time nor the inclination to take Prussian prisoners. Especially not time, this would have to be a fast raid, for larger League forces that would be less easily defeated were surely in the neighborhood. So he would complete his business in the Neu Obersaltzkügelpfalz system and go, towing the abandoned warship in his wake but allowing the crew to return unharmed to the planet below.
Juliusz called Vincente's screening ships back towards him, then turned the attention of his battlecruisers to the surface of the moon, to the Gelassenheitsee.
Neu Obersaltzkügelpfalz, Prussian Border World
0530 Planetary Capital Time
Planetary Governor Adam Meier had been rushed down into a bombardment shelter in his nightclothes by his personal Hussar bodyguards when the Umerian ships arrived. He had peered into a holodisplay as Sterne-Admiral von Haßenpfeffer's command was blotted out in a matter of minutes, the heavy battleship and battlecruisers destroyed or surrendered and the light frigates retreating in disarray.
But now that the intruders had gone, withdrawn into hyperspace towing their prize behind them in a lattice of tractor beams, he could safely return to the surface. He had to, to see what had happened with his own eyes, to know what they had done to the solar system it was his lot to govern. Neu Obersaltzkügelpfalz was not a rich world, nor a powerful one, but it was his
world, and he gazed with shock and awe at the devastation the Umerians had wrought in the skies above him.
It was, in its way, beautiful. SMS Mariner
and SMS Panzerblitz
were still visible just above the trees on the western horizon, their red-hot husks visible like two faint, bloody stars. The streaks of reentering lifepods from the League warships slashed through the sky overhead. To the east he could see the rosy fingers of dawn stretching up, turning the black night sky to a deep, rich blue. But none of those were what drew his eye, what led him to raise a pair of binoculars to his face. His hands shook at what he saw; to get a clearer picture he steadied his elbows on the railing of the balcony and looked up.
The Umerian ships had tarried for only minutes. They had disdained to harm any of the orbital infrastructure or habitats in the star system; there had been no civilian casualties from the raid. Instead, they had turned their blazing proton beams on an uninhabited lava plain on the surface of Neu Obersaltzkügelpfalz's moon: the Gelassenheitsee.
The battlecruisers' main armament had panned up and down, back and forth, across the surface, leaving gaping, shallow, lava-filled trenches in their wake. The trenches had not yet stopped glowing with the heat of their creation, and so remained extremely visible.
Neu Obersaltzkügelpfalz's moon was fairly close to the planet. The governor didn't really need the binoculars to make out the message that the Umerian gunners had written on the moon, on his
moon, in letters of fire eighty kilometers high:NEXT TIME, TELL THE TRUTH!