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.