While Jonnie has been wearing a dragon on his helmet and generally making an ass out of himself, the secondary characters have been locked in fierce combat for days. This chapter is nothing but three little vignettes from the battlefield (for a given definition of "battle") that is Earth (fighting not guaranteed to be truly global in scale).
Colonel Ivan, blistered and singed from his flamethrower, rests in the tunnels beneath the Russian missile base. The blast doors are glowing from a sustained barrage, his planes have been recalled due to running out of fuel and ammo, his radio is down, and all of the thousand mines... where did they come up with a thousand land mines? Were they in the bunker, somehow surviving the centuries when ammunition didn't? Or did the humans somehow produce their own off-screen?
Anyway, the unexpected and unexplained minefield has been depleted from the aliens using the time-honored tactic of throwing soldiers at an obstacle until it goes away. No mention of hovering vehicles to float over the minefield, air transport being used to circumvent the minefield, or battlefield engineers safely destroying the minefield. Stupid aliens.
Chief o' Clanfearghus, who might have been named in the time-shrouded early chapters of the book, is in Edinburgh, which was in ruins before the aliens set it on fire. The bunkers and tunnels under the city have collapsed in places, their anti-air defenses are down to one gun now being used for perimeter defense, and the only pilot left is Dunneldeen, who I thought was the only pilot in the first place and still has yet to be shot down. Chiefy is wounded and cursing his foolishness for making his stand in Edinburgh out of sentimentality instead of relocating to the more easily defended Cornwall minesite like Jonnie requested.
And in Singapore, a Scottish officer Hubbard can't be bothered to give a name is boggling at the aliens' tactics. The Tolneps have blasted a gap under the "atmosphere-armor" dome with sustained artillery fire, even though it cost them twelve tanks and five marines... argh, guys, you have a warfleet. You don't need to land artillery in a combat zone. You bombard the shields from orbit until you open your gap, then send in the marines. There is no reason to lose soldiers beforehand when you have the high ground like this.
Why are all the aliens hopelessly incompetent with their arsenals? Why do I get the feeling that anyone who's played a game of Command & Conquer could annihilate these guys? Why is everyone in the book so freakin' stupid?
Well, a Scottish officer Hubbard... you know what, his name's Steven now. Steve was fully expecting the Tolneps to send in more marines to disable his force field, but they didn't. Instead the other alien ships are headed towards Edinburgh and Russia, while the Tolneps have left the field for their own vessels, which are now heading towards Kariba at great speed. Steve would have been overrun in twenty minutes, but instead the Tolneps have decided to hit Africa. He has his men send a warning to the human base there.
Again, I have to wonder: is any of this necessary? Was the "conference to decide the fate of the planet" not enough? Why another obstacle, another delay? Can't this story just be over with already?
At least next chapter things get back on track.
Back to Chapter Five