After reluctantly choosing not to butcher three thousand men, women and children, our heroes fly back to the jungle minesite, where the local scavengers are fighting over the corpses of the slain Brigantes. Who the heroes evidently left where they fell, unconcerned with burial rites, even before learning how wretched the Brigantes were.
Jonnie listens to the radio and realizes that with all the talk about Moscow needing fuel and Grozny wanting ore freighters, any eavesdropping Psychlos will have a good catalog of targets to hit. You know, assuming they learn the man-names for the world they've conquered. He considers ordering radio silence, but figures the damage has been done and it could tip off the convoy they're trying to ambush.
Instead he prepares a battle plan for the upcoming bushwhacking. The plane will come in low to avoid detection, the mortar battery on the floating platform will cut off escape, use non-radioactive rounds and non-lethal blast gun shots so there are Psychlos to capture, and so forth. Oh, and Allison the captured Scot might be alive and in the convoy, so try not to kill him either.
Robert the Fox complains about how the only coordinator who speaks Russian is currently with Colonel Ivan as he gets into position, meaning the majority of Jonnie's men can't be briefed. Jonnie cheers everyone up with a joke: there's a hundred Psychlos and fifty humans, so they've got the aliens outnumbered one-half to one. Laugh, dammit!
And then there's Bittie, who's expecting to come along for the battle. Here we're told that yes, Bittie's a romantic who lives in the world of two thousand years ago, with knights and damsels and fire-breathing dragons, and when he grows up he wants to be just like Dunneldeen or Jonnie. Whereas I probably would have put Bittie on mine clearance duty, or possibly traded him to the Brigantes for a screen of disposable mercenaries, Jonnie displays superhuman patience and orders the brat to stay on the plane and radio Jonnie if things start to go wrong, which makes the kid's day.
I have the sinking suspicion that little Bittie will end up saving everyone's bacon with a well-timed radio message. I'm not sure if it's from a dim memory of the upcoming ambush, or if I'm being genre savvy.
And so Jonnie and friends depart, "off in a truck to do combat with tanks." But don't expect another tepid battle scene next chapter, no. Next is another evening with Brown Limper.
Back to Chapter One