Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Part 25, Chapter 3 - Not So Much a Siege as an Annoyance

After getting dressed, Jonnie doesn't rush to take command or head outside to take a look at the situation. Instead he goes to the hospital to check on the wounded from the last operation, because he's all heroic like that. A rousing speech isn't necessary, however, since the Scots are all buoyant from wiping out the Brigantes and settling that blood feud.

I'm trying to remember if there's any Brigante survivors mentioned later, but I'm not optimistic.

Jonnie goes outside after that, where everyone's gathered under the not-a-force-field, and marvels at how inspiring and multinational everything is - Italian-Swiss electricians, Scottish officers commanding Russian and Swedish soldiers, Sherpa hunters, and Chinese laborers. The free peoples of the Earth, all fulfilling their national stereotypes.

The Chinese chieftain and designer of the base, Chong-won, shows off the tricked-out teleportation console - it's been reinforced with armor in the shape of an eastern dragon. Then, as the ground occasionally shakes from distant explosions, he takes Jonnie on a tour of the facility, showing off apartments, an auditorium, and eventually the operations center. By the displays and viewscreens, Jonnie can tell that Singapore, Russia and Edinburgh are all "really catching it."

No, we don't actually see the battles raging over Scotland and Asia. We're not told how the skies boiled with laserfire, how swarms of alien fighters blotted out the sun, how alien drop troops battered at the humans' defenses like a tide of monsters. We're just told that the antiaircraft fire in those areas is pretty heavy, and that the situation is so bad that they have two pilots flying air cover for two separate bases. Seriously: Thor is overhead in Kariba, and Dunneldeen's flying over Edinburgh. That's it. That's how dangerous this invasion is.

Oh, and Glencannon's acting unstable, all shaky hands and unresponsive, staring at pictures from the mission that cost him his friend, and scans of the carrier headed towards them. What could this mean?

Jonnie wants a tour of the defenses, and checks out the Psychlo AA guns they're using outside of the force field dome. They're push-button devices - a computer tracks a target, you hit "fire," the target explodes. Exciting. The aliens are dropping bombs from above the guns' range, but the guns are good enough to blow up the bombs in mid-air. And before you ask, the reason that these guns weren't used to blow the humans out of the sky a year ago was due to the attack being "a total surprise," and Terl letting the defenses go neglected.

My question, though, is why the aliens aren't trying energy weapons. I'm assume blast rifles are analogous to lasers or something, right? And a capital ship could field some pretty big blasters? And those blasters could be used in conjunction with those super-detailed scanners to rain death upon the enemy from high orbit? But no, they're going with bombs that are being intercepted in mid-air, even after seeing how useless the attack is. Heck, the only times the ground's shaking is when the bombs hit so far off target that the humans don't bother shooting them. So not only are these bombs impotent, they're wildly inaccurate and are hitting things ten miles away.

Stupid aliens...

And then, so that something actually happens this chapter, Glencannon jumps into a Mark 32 battle plane and takes off! And so we end on an exciting cliffhanger, a prelude to the last gasp of what passes for action in this book.

Oh, and to give Jonnie credit, when he sees how "bad" things are in Edinburgh he does spend a second to worry about Chrissie, before being assured that she's safe in a bunker.

Back to Chapter Two

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