Stardock: Part 22

Fortunately for Dr. Griffin, most of the spray went to the soldier’s side, splattering everyone to his right.

Predictably, all the soldiers pointed their weapons at us, and began to fire back. Laser and plasma blasts shattered branches, started small fires, and with a thunderous crack destroyed the trunk of a tree.

It fell over.

None of us were in its path, but it was hard to miss seeing bits of wood fly everywhere, some of them burning, followed by what was left getting caught in the branches of other trees three quarters of the way down.

We didn’t stand still. Cassie and I both dropped to the forest floor during the initial barrage of fire. After all, I didn’t know how well my armor protected against plasma blasts.

Through my HUD, I could see everyone move. Jenny had split off into three more of herself, scattering as beams of light hit near her.

Vaughn moved away from all of us, staying near the edge of the woods, but not too near.

That was a good thing. I doubted his costume could stand up to alien weapons.

Jaclyn and Izzy had both launched themselves into the fight as per my plan. Of course, my plan had assumed that Rachel and Bloodmaiden had taken out the troop transports above us.

I didn’t want to find out what kind of anti-personnel weapons they had in place.

The observation bots saw Jaclyn only as a blur, and the effects of her passing. The group of humanoids in front of the building flew backwards, each taking flight in a slightly different direction, sometimes colliding in the air.

They reminded me of bowling pins.

Izzy took the outer ring of power armored combatants, a group with a much wider array of creatures–Hrrnna, and more humanoids, one of whom stood at least twelve feet tall.

In instants, the nearest five were rolling across the lawn, guns flying out of their hands.

The sixth was the twelve foot tall guy. Like Jaclyn, Izzy was little more than a blur, but in her case, a flying blur.

The giant reached out quickly enough to grab her right leg, and slam her into the lawn, firing missiles at her all the while–not that I could see it in detail. For me it was a blur of action and explosions.

Worse, the group Jaclyn had fought began to get up–not all of them, but enough. I didn’t know if this meant that despite what Lim had told us she wasn’t trying to kill them, or more frighteningly, if it meant that their armor could stand up to her blows.

Her voice came over the comm, “Cap? Rocket? Help?”

“I’ll help Jaclyn,” Cassie said, and pushed herself off the forest floor to run closer, gun in her hand.

Anything strong enough to hold Izzy was several times stronger than the Rocket suit. The EMP bots and using sound to break a device were both inconsistent on alien technology. That left me with deadly choices only–the suit’s laser and the “cut through anything” bots.

I didn’t like where that left me, but Lee had always told us to think about the circumstances under which we were willing to kill. I’d always thought I’d be willing to do it if it was necessary to save my life or others’ lives.

This qualified.

That meant that I armed the bots with full knowledge of what I was doing, and fired them off.

Izzy lay on the ground. Black smudges appeared even on the blue parts of her costume. So, something was getting through her shield. She wasn’t dead though.

Even as I raised my arm, she moved her leg.

The giant aimed a plasma rifle at her, and I fired. The bot flew through the forest, dodging trees, and flying into the clearing.

It entered the giant’s armor through the side, barely even slowing as it hit. Then it exploded.

The helmet’s faceplate cracked. Gouts of flame and smoke shot out of the joints. The giant fell over.

Izzy pushed off the ground, and punched an armored Hrrnna, one of the group that had run up while she’d been on the ground.

The punch bent the armor around the Hrrnna’s neck, and it fell over.

I barely had time to process it when the world went white. My helmet, shoulders, and upper chest all felt uncomfortably warm.

The helmet adjusted, and I realized that all the trees around me were burning, and that the branches above me had turned into grayish-white ash. One of the ships must have turned whatever beam they’d used to attack the building’s shield on me.

Knowing I needed to move before they did it again, I ran, watching the error messages run down the HUD. I ran the opposite direction from where Vaughn stood.

I desperately hoped he was prepared for the moment Rachel took down one of the ships.

The sooner that happened, the better. Judging from the error messages, the suit’s armor would be about 70% normal effectiveness when it finished repairing itself.

I didn’t want to get hit like that again.

My HUD showed that Cassie had fired again. A burning white light speared one of the aliens near Jaclyn, and it fell over.

Cassie had killed a… whatever it was, and so had I.

You could argue I’d already done it. The machine race soldiers had been sentient, but whatever we were fighting now was biological. That felt more real.

The explosion inside the giant’s suit replayed inside my head. I’d done it, and it had been so easy. I wasn’t sure I even felt bad about it.

Did that say something about me? I didn’t like it, if it did.

On the other hand, it might be that whatever I felt about it would catch up with me later, preferably when people weren’t trying to kill me.

Another blast of light came down from the transport ships, this time toward Jaclyn even though she was in the middle of the ship’s soldiers.

It burned the grass around them into ash, but the ship’s soldiers? They were still there, and still fighting.

Jaclyn though? Her purple suit appeared to be discolored, even burned where the light had hit.

She swayed, possibly dazed by the light and heat, and one of the soldiers fired a blast of light into her stomach at point blank range.

She didn’t go down. She blurred, and her punch sent the soldier back fifty feet.

I had to admit that it had been amazing, but if it kept up like this, we’d likely lose.

22 thoughts on “Stardock: Part 22”

  1. Well, I’m happy to have gotten done a little earlier than usual tonight. I’m not sure exactly what to say about this episode except that the bit about Lee asking people under what circumstances they’d be willing to kill comes straight out of my experience in training in the martial arts.

    My instructor made a point of getting us to think about that. Beyond the obvious practical application of the question, the less obvious application is that if you aren’t willing to kill/maim/whatever, you shouldn’t practice moves that will kill people. Chances are if you know lethal moves, and train extensively with those moves, you’ll use them in a fight.

    It’s obvious when you think about it, but people mostly don’t have a reason to think about that sort of thing.

    P.S. Geoff, thanks for the donation.

  2. typos

    “whatever beam they’s ” – they’d?

    “to save my life or other’s ” – should that be others’?

    1. IIRC Paladin is in New York as well he can handle the medical stuff.
      And as for the morality of killing in this instance its literally war at this time with the stakes being not only their own lives or a few innocents but the survival of the whole planet, thats more justification than most soldiers ever have in war.

  3. I feel like Cassie’s gun could have taken all of them out with little problem. All she had to do was swipe a continuous beam in a few horizontal arcs and Jackie wouldn’t have even needed to go out there and potentially get heat stroke from all the plasma blasts.

  4. “Through my HUD, i could see everyone move.”

    The Rocket needs bigger “i”s.

    Gotta wonder how a blast like that can affect the heroes but not their own guys in armor. Something special on their own armor, I guess.

    Either way, this is a kill or be killed situation. They stand a good chance, too. Looks like this is a clear case of the enemy not securing victory prior to fighting. Not a good choice. Kinda stinks that all these so-called civilized space races have no problems with rogue members of their species breaking off and attempting to do naughty things to races not yet capable of regular spaceflight.

    That’s how you wind up with situations like this:

  5. Ain’t it funny how fighting is more effective when you’re actually trying to win regardless of how that makes the other party feel?

  6. I’m thinking there are a few possibilities for how the weapon could have avoided affecting the alien soldiers. 1) It’s an extremely precise weapon, and the suits have some sort of transponders, GPS, or just comm gear that can be used to effectively exempt them from targeting. 2) The weapon is limited (or can be limited) to using a certain type of energy, and their shields are (or can be) calibrated to resist that specific type of attack, thus allowing them to use indiscriminate fire support, at least when fighting a relatively low-tech enemy like humanity. Given that they’re here to cause destruction, their property damage worries are minimal, so either option could make sense.

    What I’d be really worried about is microscopic stuff, which could still present a serious threat to Jaclyn or Izzy. Granted, enough raw firepower could probably kill them, but if these aliens have, say, serious nanotechnology or the will to use biological or chemical weapons, things could get ugly fast in ways that no amount of armor or shielding might be able to stop. Given what we know about the Abominators so far, these guys might even consider such methods justified.

    I’m not really surprised by Nick’s reaction to killing. He has emotions, but he doesn’t tend to wear them on his sleeve most of the time, even with regard to his own perceptions; his first response to a situation, especially a dangerous one, is always rational. The combination of introspection and rational thinking is classic Nick, basically. One of the things that makes him a decent tactical lead is the fact that he keeps his cool in basically any circumstance, always trying to see the best move and what’s going to happen next, not just what’s happening now.

    I do wonder how effective and powerful Cassie’s gun is. So far we’ve mostly seen it used on unarmored creatures. Could it take out the spacefaring species’ equivalent of a tank? (if they even have one). Could it take out a small ship? I’m interested to see. I’m guessing it will remain very effective against personnel, even fairly well-protected ones, but not prove sufficient to destroy ships, unless they are very small ones.

  7. Well, Mazzon, winning while taking the other side’s feelings into account has its place in warfare. Sherman’s March was all about that. It was meant to be brutal and destroy stuff all over the place precisely to demoralize the enemy. They could have sat around and killed Southern soldiers for a long time, but they needed a way to bring the horrors of the war to the forefront of people’s minds and make them realize what continued resistance really meant aside from a letter stating that someone they knew died.

    There’s also the treaty situation after World War I, which made things much worse by not taking into account the feelings of the other side. By purposefully putting the blame on Germany’s shoulders and making it bear the brunt of the costs and guilt, it created a situation ripe for someone who wanted to make Germany feel strong again on the bodies of those it has conquered.

    Then the conflict that arose from that at one point had the U.S. Navy suffer a major loss in a surprise attack that only made the country angry. Japan didn’t like them when they were angry.

    There’s still all sorts of talk about the feelings evoked by Fat Man and Little Boy, but one thing’s for certain: Japan doesn’t let depictions of nuclear weapons activating show in their media.

    A great deal of fighting is figuring out where to hit an enemy to knock the fight out of them as opposed to where you can hit them that will make them incredibly determined.

    The guys on the ground will fight. That’s why they’re on the ground. You need to find a good target in the ships or in some sort of base to make them withdraw. Or just kill all the guys on the ground and hope the ships don’t have more.

  8. For instance, a warrior might expect some sort of glorious death or determined death in battle. A warrior is less willing to face his enemy when he knows that instead of some dignified death, he’ll have his opponent shove a hand up his ass instead.

    Kinda like Vlad the Impaler. Not to be confused with Dracula’s car, Vlad the Impala.

  9. “A burning white speared one of the alien”

    ‘light’ or ‘beam’ maybe?

    I wonder how close Rachel is to taking out that ship? That might prove to be the demoralizing blow needed to effectively turn the tide here.

  10. PG: Ah, but that’s two different things. There’s considering how the enemy feels in order to use it as a tool for winning, and there’s considering how the enemy feels in order to let it dictate what you can and can’t do to win.
    And your WW1 example is a third thing, a pointless addition of insult to injury after the war was already won.

    The bottom line here is, that superhero standard M.O. of fighting fair and never causing your opponents any permanent damage is only made possible by overwhelming superiority.
    Superman can afford it because he could kill, dismember and/or rape Lex Luthor any time he felt like it. USA is the biggest military might in the world and mostly fights wars with puny third world countries, and they can’t afford it because they wouldn’t win like that.

    So yeah, I can see how it might cheese Nick off that the alien invaders are actually tough enough that the heroes need to fight seriously against them. Totally ruins the fun of enforcing one’s morals through violence.

  11. There are a lot of reasons to consider what your enemy(ies) think and feel. Frankly, you have to consider it; unless you’re both able and willing to carry through a war of annihilation and kill every last man, woman, and child, you’re going to have to live with the survivors of the other side. Going too far just increases the chances that there will be a next war, ad infinitum, without resolving anything. Unless you’re willing to go all the way, of course, and destroy the other society utterly. That’s a lot of work, though, as well as being something that we generally frown upon in modern times.

    In the case of superheroes, comparing them to soldiers is always flawed; they walk back and forth on either side of being paramilitary or law enforcement, for the most part. I’ll spare the rant on why they refrain from the use of lethal force in general, since I think I did that not long ago, and just point out that superheroes don’t generally hold back because of how villains feel, but rather because of their own feelings and those of the society which they protect, which is another matter entirely. I don’t recall any superhero saying “I won’t punch the Joker too hard, because it might hurt his jaw”.

  12. Last Chapter:

    ““I’m Dr. Griffin,” the woman in front said. She let go of her children’s hands.”

    This Chapter:

    “Fortunately for Dr. Griffin, most of the spray went to the soldier’s side, splattering everyone to his right.”

    Well, all the back and forth about war and morality aside, let’s talk gender. Either Doctor Griffin has an alien tech ability to change gender when exposed to incredible violence, or there’s been some gender confusion in the story.

  13. Here’s what I came up with Jim. I think you were trying to indicate that the spray was dangerous, not just messy.

    “Fortunately for Dr. Griffin, the shrapnel and spray of fluids from the soldier’s exploding head armor was directed to the dead soldier’s right, missing her and her children.”

    Of course there are so many ways to rewrite it, but when I played around with it a bit, I realized it wasn’t a trivial fix without expanding the length of the passage with more detail.

  14. You know, I figure I’d generally be squeamish about killing other humans, and maybe one of the Xiniti, but honestly? Against Aliens, who are literally threatening the planet, I’ll go all Mad Ape with a Rock on ’em. Humans (especially in this universe with the Abominators tinkering) got to where they are by being the most bloodthirsty, avaricious, murdering sons-of-bitches this planet’s ever spat out of its varied cess-holes, and I’d be downright PROUD to show another species just why it’s not a good idea to mess with us.

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