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Chapter 10 The Geek Luftwaffe and the Kragan Airlift

  • At 0245, an attack developed on the northwestern corner of the Reservation, i_he direction of the explosives magazines. It turned out to be relativel_rivial. Remnants of the mob that had been broken up by air attack on the roa_ad gotten together and were making rushes in small bands, keeping well sprea_ut. Beating them off took considerable ammunition, but it was accomplishe_ith negligible casualties to the defenders. They finally stopped comin_round daylight.
  • In the meantime, Themistocles M'zangwe called from Konkrook, appearing in th_creen with his left arm in a freshly white sling.
  • "What the hell have you been doing to yourself?" von Schlichten wanted t_now.
  • "Crossbow-bolt, about half an hour ago. A couple of inches lower and actin_rigadier-General Colbert'd have been talking to you, now, instead of me."
  • "Lucky it didn't have a nitro-capsule on the end. How are you making out? Hav_ankad's people started coming in, yet?"
  • "Oh, yes, about six hundred of them have gotten in already, in the damnedes_ollection of vehicles you ever saw. Kankad must be using every scrap o_ontragravity he has; it's a regular airborne Dunkirk-in-reverse. Kankad sen_ord that he's coming here in person, as soon as he has things organized a_is place. And the geeks here have scraped together an air-force of their own —farm-lorries, aircars, that sort of thing—and they're using them to bomb u_ere and at the mainland farm, mostly with nitroglycerine. We've shot dow_bout twenty of them, but they're still coming. They tried a boat-attac_cross the Channel; that's how I got this. We've been doing some bombing, ourselves; we made a down payment for Eric Blount and Hendrik Lemoyne. Took _ifty-ton tank off a fuel-lorry, fitted it with a detonator, filled it wit_hermoconcentrate, and ferried it over on the Elmoran and dumped it on th_eegarkan Embassy. It must have landed in the middle of the central court; i_bout fifteen seconds, flames were coming out every window in the place." Hi_ace became less jovial. "We had something pretty bad happen here, too," h_aid. "That Konkrook Fencibles rabble of Prince Jaizerd's mutinied, along wit_he others; they got into the hospital and butchered everybody in the place, patients and staff. The Kragans got there too late to save anybody, but the_iped out the Fencibles. Jaizerd himself was the only one they took alive, an_e didn't stay that way very long."
  • "How are you making out with your Civil Administration crowd?"
  • M'zangwe grimaced. "I haven't had to put any of them under actual arrest, s_ar, but we've had to keep Buhrmann away from the communications equipment b_orce. He wanted to call you up and chew you out for not evacuating everybod_n the north to Konkrook."
  • "Is he crazy?"
  • "No, just scared. He says you're going to get everybody on Uller massacred b_etail, when you could save Konkrook by bringing them all here."
  • "You tell him I'm going to hold this planet, not just one city. Tell him _ave a sense of my duty to the Company and its stockholders, if he hasn't; pu_t in those terms and he may understand you."
  • "Yes, I'll try that out on Meyerstein, too. He's in a hell of a state abou_he losses the Banking Cartel are taking on this deal… . Well, I'll call yo_hen there's anything new."
  • By 0330, it was daylight; the attacks against the northwest corner of th_erimeter stopped entirely. Wallingsby had the three-hundred-odd Skilka_aborers at work; he had gathered up all the tarpaulin he could find, and ha_he two sewing-machines in the tentmaker's shop running on sandbags. Jule_eaveney, to von Schlichten's agreeable surprise, had taken hold of his AR_ssignment, and was doing an efficient job in organizing for fire-fighting, damage-control and first aid. Colonel Jarman had his airjeeps and combat-car_orking in ever-widening circles over the countryside, shooting up everythin_n sight that even looked like contragravity equipment. Some of these patrol_ad to be recalled, around 1030, when sporadic nuisance-sniping began from th_ide of the mountain to the west. And, along with everything else, Paul_uinton managed, along with her other work, to get a complete digest prepare_f the situation elsewhere in the Terran-occupied parts of the planet.
  • The situation at Konkrook was brightening steadily. The second wave o_ankad's improvised airlift, reenforced by contragravity from Konkrook, ha_ome in; there were now close to two thousand fresh Kragans on Gongonk Islan_nd the mainland farms, Kankad himself with them. The Aldebaran had reache_ankad's Town, and was loading another thousand Kragans… . There was nothin_ore from Keegark. A message from Colonel MacKinnon had come in at dawn, t_he effect that the geeks had penetrated his last defenses and that he wa_bout to blow up the Residency; thereafter Keegark went off the air… . B_730, the Northern Star had landed the regiment Murderers, armed with first- quality Terran infantry-rifles and a few machine-guns and bazookas, at th_alace at Krink, and by 0845 she had returned with another regiment, the Jeel- Feeders. The three-street lane connecting the Palace and the Residency ha_een widened to six, and then to eight… . Guido Karamessinis, at Grank, wa_till at uneasy peace with King Yoorkerk, who was still undecided whether th_ebels or the Company were going to be the eventual victors, and afraid t_ake any irrevocable step in either direction… . Eight men and four women, th_urvivors of a trading-station on the eastern shore of Takkad Sea, reache_onkrook in a lorry; another trading station, on the south shore, reported b_elecast that the natives there had refused to rise against them, and ha_rucified five of Rakkeed's disciples who had come among them preaching znid_uddabit.
  • At 1100, Paula Quinton and Barney Mordkovitz virtually ordered him to get som_leep. He went to his quarters at Company House, downed a spaceship- captain's-size drink of honey-rum, and slept until 1600. As he dressed an_haved, he could hear, through the open window, the slow sputter of small- arms' fire, punctuated by the occasional whump-whump-whump of 40-mm auto- cannon or the hammering of a machine-gun.
  • Returning to his command-post at the telecast station, the terrain-boar_howed that the perimeter of defense had been pushed out in a bulge at th_orthwest corner; the TV-screen pictured a crude breast-work of petrifie_ree-trunks, sandbags, mining machinery, packing-cases and odds-and-ends, upo_hich Wallingsby's native laborers were working under guard while a skirmish- line of Kragans had been thrown out another four or five hundred yards an_ere exchanging pot-shots with Skilkans on the gullied hillside.
  • "Where's Colonel Quinton?" he asked. "She ought to be taking a turn in th_ack, now."
  • "She's taking one," Major Falkenberg, who had commanded the action at th_ative-troops barracks and the labor-camp, the night before, told him.
  • "General Mordkovitz chased her off to bed a couple of hours ago, called me i_o take her place, and then went out to replace me. Colonel Guilliford's i_he hospital; got hit about thirteen hundred. They're afraid he's going t_ose a leg."
  • "That's a bloody shame!" He pointed to the northwest corner of the perimete_n the screen. "Whose idea was that?" he asked. "It's a good one; I ought t_ave thought of it, myself."
  • "Your new adjutant," Falkenberg grinned. "She asked somebody what those bi_omes, up there, were. When they told her there were ten thousand tons o_hermoconcentrate, five thousand tons of blasting-explosives, and five tons o_lutonium, under them, she damned near fainted, and then she ordered that, right away."
  • More reports came in. The entire garrison of the small Residency at Kwurk, th_ost northern of the eastern shore Free Cities, had arrived at Kankad's Tow_n two hundred-foot contragravity scows and five aircars. Two of the aircar_rrived half an hour behind the rest of the refugee flotilla, having turne_ff at Keegark to pay their respects to King Orgzild. They reported th_eegark Residency in ruins, its central buildings vanished in a huge crater; the Jan Smuts and the Christiaan De Wett were still in the Company docks, bot_pparently damaged by the blast which had destroyed the Residency. One of th_ircars had rocketed and machine-gunned some Keegarkans who appeared to b_rying to repair them; the other blew up King Orgzild's nitroglycerine plant.
  • Von Schlichten called Konkrook and ordered a bombing-mission against Keegar_rganized, to make sure the two ships stayed out of service.
  • The Northern Star was still bringing loyal troops into Krink. King Jonkvank, whom von Schlichten called, was highly elated.
  • "We are killing traitors wherever we find them!" he exulted. "The city i_ellow with their blood; their heads are piled everywhere! How is it with yo_t Skilk?"
  • "We have killed many, also," von Schlichten boasted. "And tonight, we wil_ill more; we are preparing bombs of great destruction, which we will rai_own upon Skilk until there is not one stone left upon another, or one infan_f a day's age left alive!"
  • Jonkvank reacted as he was intended to. "Oh, no, general, don't do all that!"
  • he exclaimed. "You promised me that I should have Skilk, on the word of _erran. Are you going to give me a city of ruins and corpses? Ruins are n_ood to anybody, and I am not a Jeel, to eat corpses."
  • Von Schlichten shrugged. "When you are strong, you can flog your enemies wit_ whip; when you are weak, all you can do is kill them. If I had five thousan_ore troops, here… ."
  • "Oh, I will send troops, as soon as I can," Jonkvank hastened to promise. "Al_y best regiments: the Murderers, the Jeel-Feeders, the Corpse-Reapers, th_evastators, the Fear-Makers. But, now that we have stopped this sinfu_ebellion, here, I can't take chances that it will break out again as soon a_ strip the city of troops."
  • Von Schlichten nodded. Jonkvank's argument made sense; he would have taken _imilar position, himself.
  • "Well, get as many as you can over here, as soon as possible," he said. "We'l_ry to do as little damage to Skilk as we can, but … "
  • At 1830, Paula joined him for her breakfast, while he sat in front of the bi_creen, eating his dinner. There had been light ground-action along th_outhern end of the perimeter—King Firkked's regulars, reenforced by Zir_ribesmen and levies of townspeople, all of whom seemed to have firearms, wer_iltering in through the ruins of the labor-camp and the wreckage of th_quipment-park—and there was renewed sniping from the mountainside. The lon_fternoon of the northern autumn dragged on; finally, at 2200, the sun set, and it was not fully dark for another hour. For some time, there was a_minous quiet, and then, at 0030, the enemy began attacking in force, drivin_erds of livestock—lumbering six-legged brutes bred by the North Ullerans fo_ood—to test the defenses for electrified wire and land-mines. Most of thes_ere shot down or blown up, but a few got as far as the wire, which, by now, had been strung and electrified completely around the perimeter.
  • Behind them came parties of Skilkan regulars with long-handled insulate_utters; a couple of cuts were made in the wire, and a section of it wen_ead. The line, at this point, had been rather thinly held; the defender_mmediately called for air-support, and Jarman ordered fifteen of hi_emaining twenty airjeeps and five combat-cars into the fight. No sooner wer_hey committed than the radar on the commercial airport control-tower picke_p air vehicles approaching from the north, and the air-raid sirens bega_owling and the searchlights went on.
  • As a protection from the sudden fury of the summer and winter gales, th_uildings were all low, thick-walled, and provided with steel doors an_indow-shutters which were electrically operated and centrally controlled.
  • These slammed shut in every occupied building. The contragravity which ha_een sent to support the ground-defense at the south side of the Reservatio_urned to meet this new threat, and everything else available, including th_our heavy airtanks, lifted up. Meanwhile, guns began firing from the groun_nd from rooftops.
  • There had been four aircars, ordinary passenger vehicles equipped wit_achine-guns on improvised mounts, and ten big lorries converted into bombers, in the attack. All the lorries, and all but one of the makeshift fighter- escort, were shot down, but not before explosive and thermoconcentrate bomb_ere dumped all over the place. One lorry emptied its load o_hermoconcentrate-bombs on the control-building at the airport, starting _aging fire and putting the radar out of commission. A repair-shop at th_rdnance-depot was set on fire, and a quantity of small-arms and machine-gu_mmunition piled outside for transportation to the outer defenses blew up. A_xplosive bomb landed on the roof of the building between Company House an_he telecast station, blowing a hole in the roof and demolishing the uppe_loor. And another load of thermoconcentrate, missing the power-plant, se_ire to the dry grass between it and the ruins of the native-troops barracks.
  • Before the air-attack had been broken up, the soldiers of King Firkked an_heir irregular supporters were swarming through the dead section of wire.
  • They had four or five big farm-tractors, nuclear-powered but unequipped wit_ontragravity-generators, which they were using like ground-tanks of the Firs_entury. This attack penetrated to the middle of the Reservation before it wa_topped and the attackers either killed or driven out; for the first tim_ince daybreak, the red-and-yellow lights came on around the power-plant.
  • As soon as the combined air and ground attack was beaten off, von Schlichte_rdered all his available contragravity up, flying patrols around th_eservation and retaliatory bombing missions against Skilk, and bega_ombarding the city with his 90-mm guns. A number of fires broke out, and a_bout 0200 a huge expanding globe of orange-red flame soared up from the city.
  • "There goes Firkked's thermoconcentrate stock," he said to Paula, who wa_tanding beside him in front of the screen.
  • Half an hour later, he discovered that he had been overly optimistic. Much o_he enemy's supply of Terran thermoconcentrate had been destroyed, but enoug_emained to pelt the Reservation and the Company buildings with incendiaries, when a second and more severe air-attack developed, consisting of forty o_ifty makeshift lorry-bombers and fifteen aircars. The previous attack vo_chlichten had viewed in the screen at the telecast station; it was hi_uestionable good fortune to observe the second one directly, having been ou_nspecting the defenses around the ordnance-depot at the time.
  • Like the first, the second air-attack was beaten off, or, more exactly, down.
  • Most of the enemy contragravity was destroyed; at least two dozen vehicle_rashed inside the Reservation. As in the first instance, there was _imultaneous ground attack from the southern side, with a demonstration-attac_t the north end. For a while, von Schlichten found himself fighting hand-to- hand, first with his pistol and then, when his ammunition was gone, with _icked-up rifle and bayonet. It was full daylight before the last of th_ttackers was either killed or driven out.
  • Five minutes later, while he was reloading his pistol-clips with salvage_artridges, the Northern Star came bulking over the mountains from the west.