Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright (c) 2016, Karl Leffler
Aurora, Part LIV: Strike
Continued from the previous excerpt
9 Sixthmonth 559JR
Lublin, Kingdom of Illyria
Months had passed, during which the Lublin Liberation Front had trained as hard as they could while avoiding discovery and destruction. Arms, munitions, vehicles and other equipment had been fabricated, distributed, and staged for deployment. More members were recruited for the softer war - sabotage and delays in maintenance and supply services to the regime.
Some business owners in Lublin City, the only settlement of meaningful size on the planet so far, had simply disappeared over one night or another, their shops and homes emptied and abandoned, their goods no longer available to the Stefanists. Some warehouses and factories had burned. More than one seagoing ship, full of raw materials such as ores or grain to be processed for government use, had disappeared in storms - stolen and diverted by their crews, who were then fugitives, to support the LLF instead, or simply scuttled at sea. Aurora's submersible One Boat had rendezvoused with one such, towing the crew's lifeboats ashore in LLF-controlled territory. Their captain and first mate had been absent. They had been Stefanists, and they had gone down with their ship.
Stefan sent what troops he could, but his forces were stretched between Lublin, the other colony world Radom, and Illyria herself, all suffering the same unrest - thanks to Khameleon making more disguised visits, each under a different name and "captain", releasing stealthed entry pods, loaded with fabbers and data, to land in Resistance territory.
There were an increasing number of skirmishes, protests, riots - but no actual battles between the Stefanist regime and the LLF. The Resistance was laying low, remaining dispersed and mobile to avoid discovery, conserving its strength for a single decisive blow. The unrest among the people was, as often as not, truly spontaneous, genuine backlash against robbery, rape and murder under color of Stefan's "laws".
Coded messages had been carefully sent to, and by, the agents embedded in the Royal Navy ships over Lublin. For thousands of hours they had worked to subvert, or rather to reclaim, the crews' loyalties. Some crewmembers were true believers in the Usurper, looking forward to their new powers. More had been looking forward to an opening of their worlds to galactic culture, to more freedom and a higher standard of living for themselves and their families - which Stefan explicitly opposed.
Rather than try to use the existing Lublin net, monitored by Stefan's regime, Danner and his crew had fabricated a new one for Agnieszka. The stealthed satellites, using lasers or microwaves for tightbeam communications, making their detection more difficult, had enough reaction mass to avoid collisions, for long enough. Mountaintop relays were easily prefabricated, then quickly installed and camouflaged when regime satellites weren't looking. The fabbers, ever breeding duplicates of themselves, churned out more 'puters to use the net, to coordinate Resistance efforts. These used heavy encryption and frequency-skipping, to prevent both detection and interception.
After thousands of hours of preparation, each cell received their orders, and the signal to execute.
For months the enforcers had made a habit of morning coffee at the Crimson Boar Cafe - never paying, of course. It was usually the same half-dozen, five members of the Lublin Colonial Police and an Illyrian officer assigned to them a year earlier, as Stefan tightened his grip on the kingdom. There were rarely any other customers so early, and none this day; they stayed away until the uniformed predators had left.
Madeleine Pulaski had played the timid, submissive peasant, laughing at the thugs' jokes, letting them fondle her once in a while - lying about a boyfriend in the navy. Fortunately the Resistance had fabricated one for her, pictures and mail to show the thugs to discourage them from having their way with her... as she knew they had done with others. Inside, she swallowed bile along with her pride every day, waiting for the moment she had been assured would come.
Her father had been killed by a rebel bomb in a factory making vehicle parts for the regime. The regime thought the Pulaskis were loyal, holding a grudge against the Resistance. Only the four surviving members of Michael's family knew he was the one who had planted the bomb. It was supposed to have gone off at night, with the factory empty of people. Instead, a surprise inspection of the factory by a Stefanist count and his entourage had caused him to trigger it early, preventing his own escape.
The whole cafe's staff was a Resistance cell - her family, mother, aunt, young brother. When Madeleine saw the message light flashing on her illegal 'puter, concealed among cooking implements in the cafe's kitchen, she nearly dropped the coffee pot she was carrying. Slipping the 'puter into her apron she ducked into the restroom to read it.
She came out with a blank expression, calmly making eye contact with her family, slowly nodding to each. They made their own preparations.
Madeleine's mother, Julia, casually walked behind one of the regime thugs, pulled his head back, and opened his throat with a large kitchen knife. Her sister, Madeleine's aunt Beata, did the same with another.
Oscar, the youngest at only twelve Terran years, in the maneuver he had practiced a hundred times on butchered hogs, late at night with the cafe closed and curtains drawn, jammed more knives into the backs of the necks of two more, one with each hand, sawing and twisting to sever the spinal cords. Hatred gave him strength, for what the pigs wanted to do to his sister, for what they had forced his father to do.
Young Madeleine, blonde and pretty and only 17 T-years old, drew the fabricated M437 plasma pistol the Resistance had delivered to her, and shot the last two pigs in their shocked faces.
They put out the "Closed" sign, locked the cafe doors, and drew the curtains. Hiding the corpses and hosing off the cement floor, they claimed the thugs' weapons as their own - the forbidden 'puter had come with training videos for them - and gathered the regime communicators, to which the 'puter had long since connected wirelessly, accessing the Colonial Police network and giving false responses if queried. Then the Pulaskis waited for further instructions.
With variations, the scene was repeated dozens of times throughout the city. Within an hour, more than half the Lublin Colonial Police ceased to exist. The other half found themselves under open attack, their patrol groundcars trapped by barricades or other vehicles, homebuilt spike strips piercing their tires, Molotov Cocktails of ancient design raining on them. Those on foot met bricks falling from rooftops, secretly-made bows launching razor-tipped arrows, knives in uniformed backs, suddenly-swung farm tools opening unsuspecting skulls.
Some precinct buildings were set afire, their exits blocked, or covered by rifles which the regime thought did not exist. Others were stormed, behind waves of laser beams, plasma bolts or bullets, from weapons fabbed by the Resistance or taken from the corpses of police killed elsewhere. Those in uniform were slaughtered, cages opened, prisoners - victims - freed. Lublin City, her people's hatred simmering for years, rose up to throw off her oppressors.
Maria Slotnik's colleagues, as many as could be warned, had made excuses and escapes, staying home or heading for the hills, burning their uniforms, dropping their badges in rivers or sewers. There would never again be a police force on the planet Lublin.
General Broni Janusz Studnicki, supreme commander of military forces on Lublin, was overwhelmed by requests for assistance from the police, civil administrators, and individual Stefanists of wealth and influence. From the Royal Army base outside the city he dispatched a platoon here, a company there, dispersing more than half his troops, and two of his three companies of tanks. Within hours, word came that the tanks, whose crews had no real combat experience, had been wiped out by the Resistance, using tactics as ancient as digging ditches and as modern as shoulder-fired guided missiles with self-forging penetrators. Studnicki began to panic. He refused to send any more troops off the base, especially keeping the foreign power-armored mercenaries close to hand. Instead he called Wiceadmiral Adam Szerynski of the navy for direct fire support, ordering him to use his ships' heavy weapons on surface targets, whole neighborhoods, which were now controlled by the Resistance.
For his part, Szerynski enthusiastically agreed - the peasants could always breed more of themselves, and Lublin must be held for His Majesty Stefan I. On the flag deck of his flagship, HIMS Gryf, C4, a heavy cruiser mounting twelve Class-9 Marsten Guns, he began selecting targets and giving firing orders to the fleet.
Aleksander Gabreski, one of the half-dozen undercover agents of the LLF, had lost his entire family to the Stefanist regime. He alone had escaped, having been travelling to meet with another Resistance cell, when his home had been raided by the Colonial Police on suspicion of disloyalty. He returned to ashes, and the corpses of his elderly father, his wife, and their three daughters. It was obvious the woman and girls had been raped before being murdered.
The LLF had changed his face and name, given him false orders and inserted him as an officer on Szerynski's staff. For weeks he had been surreptitiously gathering explosives from the stores for the marine contingent aboard Gryf, building a suicide vest. Now he walked up behind Szerynski, wrapped an arm around the admiral's throat, and with a smile, closed the circuit that would reunite him with his family.
The force of the blast destroyed the entire flag deck and blew forward into the cruiser's bridge, killing half the crew there including the ship's captain and XO. The "bridge" was a modern CIC compartment near the core of the ship for protection in battle, so the hull was not breached, but with the sudden loss of any control or orders, the ship was effectively out of action. The rest of the fleet, indoctrinated on a top-down model instead of Jeffersonian individuality and initiative, was paralyzed... for a few minutes.
Komandor Wlad Bialy of HIMS Orzel, C9, declared himself commander of the Lublin Fleet and picked up where Szerynski left off, assigning targets for orbital bombardment. Just as he was about to issue the order to fire, the destroyer Piorun, now under the command of a lieutenant who had helped another undercover LLF agent kill his Stefanist superiors, unleashed a broadside of Class-4 Marsten beams at the cruiser from less than 200 kilometers. Piorun was in turn destroyed in a crossfire from her sister ship Okran and the frigate Czapla, before a third agent aboard the latter used his override device to release containment on the ship's fusion plants.
This went on for several minutes, until only the destroyers Wicher, Grom and Blyskawica and the frigate Zuraw remained relatively undamaged. Wicher began boosting for the hyper limit to flee the system. The new Lublin Fleet commander, porucznik Andrzej Konopka, ordered no pursuit. He then began issuing surface targets of his own, starting with the remaining tank company still on the army base where Viceroy Kordylewski was being held.
Michel Toblach had grown up in central Europe on Terra. Convicted as a juvenile for theft, he had been held in youth prison until of enlistment age, then offered either exile by forced emigration from the Republic, or enlistment in the Exploration and Colonization Service, the Jeffersonian Marine Corps Reserve, to redeem himself. There he had been introduced to power-armor as used by the Regular Marines' elite Mobile Infantry.
Dishonorably discharged from the ECS for theft and sale of government property, he had spent three years in a penal labor camp, followed by exile from any world which flew the Star and Bars. Making his way to the Frontier, with one crime after another, he built his way up to his current position, "captain" of a mercenary "company" consisting of eleven similar men in MI-style power-armor patiently made, a piece at a time, with a pair of old Class Two fabbers, which were just barely large enough to make the torso components.
Toblach was a crook, but still had a sense of honor, and he wasn't stupid. He'd made a contract with the Stefanist viceroy, Duke Wojcik, and if he didn't keep it, word would get out and he'd have trouble landing another.
When reports of city-wide rioting and open rebellion came in to the army base's command center, he began to get the feeling that something more specific was on the way. When a volley of 11-MW laser pulses had rained on the remaining armor company's koszary, leaving molten metal and charred flesh, he'd issued orders of his own. General Studnicki, his brain shutting down, was picked up and carried, faintly protesting, by one of Toblach's troops. Three troopers, Toblach sent to find something orbit-capable and big enough for all of them and bring it, quickly, to where the rest were going - Miroslaw Kordylewski's cell.
Former Colonial Police captain Maria Slotnik, now a lieutenant commanding one of the LLF's combat action arm's four platoons, had been waiting just outside the army base's perimeter for hours, hidden under thermal-and-EM cloaks. When the orbital laser pulses struck, these were thrown aside and 146 Resistance members charged the fence... in which a large gap had been blown by "stray" shots from orbit.
In addition to their MkLIX plasma rifles, every fighter carried a pair of disposable single-shot rockets, not unlike the old panzerfaust or LAWS. With the tanks gone and the inexperienced "regular" infantry panicking, the hired power-armor was the greatest threat.
Holly Cates and Prrg, in their own MI power-armor, had provided live, moving targets for practice with the rockets pouring out of the fabbers, fitted with inert heads. A lot of practice. They shot back, too, with paintballs or stunbolts. The first month, the pair had mopped the field with the Resistance, but a week ago, Cates had declared the LLF fighters second only to the Jeffersonian Marines - and she didn't lie about such things.
Four of Toblach's troops bounced toward the perimeter breach. The moment they touched down they came under concentrated plasma fire, then a wave of shaped-charged armor-piercing rockets. The LLF trampled the scraps as they advanced.
More rockets knocked out gun emplacements, guardhouses, gates and doors. The LLF took casualties - men behind fortifications weren't as quick to run as men caught in the open by fire from the sky - but the LLF pressed on.
Slotnik saw one fighter fall in front of her, cut nearly in half by a slugthrower burst. With his dying act he held up his unspent rocket for a comrade to take. She grabbed it, throwing its sling over a shoulder as she ran past, into the detention building.
Screams came from the cells within, prisoners begging to be released. Slotnik had to ignore them, as she led her platoon, mostly her fellow ex-cops and all volunteers for this phase, toward the Viceroy's cell.
Heavy plasma fire halted them at an intersection of corridors, killing three. "Grenades!" she ordered, and a dozen bounced down the hall, hopefully at least stunning the enemy - but not her own troops. Full-face helmets were part of the LLF's new gear, with hearing and flash protection and breathing filters. "Charge!" She led the rest of the platoon around the corner, laying down plasma from the hip, running headlong into the smoke and dust loosed by the grenades.
She ran into what the Prophet Heinlein described as a one-ton steel gorilla. The power-armored mercenary backhanded her, knocking her a good five meters. She lost her wind and felt ribs snap.
Weakened, she fumbled for the rocket she had taken from her fallen comrade, struggling to turn it, raise it. The mercenary raised his arm, a plasma rifle mounted there, its muzzle glowing from the heat of rapid discharge, the gate to Hell-
Another comrade fired her own rocket from behind her, more of their comrades diving out of the way of the backblast. The rocket struck in the enemy's abdomen... and bounced off without detonating. It was inside the minimum arming distance. The mercenary was distracted by the impact but would recover in an instant.
Its engine spent, the rocket skittered across the floor, coming to rest against Slotnik's body where the enemy had thrown her. She knew the design, it had been explained in detail during her training. The rocket motor would burn for a fraction of a second to eject the weapon from its launch tube and get it up to speed, then a slightly slower charge would burn through an internal safety to arm the warhead once it was far enough away to not endanger the firer - that meant it was armed now. She picked it up in her left hand, felt her skin scorch even through her glove from the heat of the spent engine, struggled to her knees as the armored monster loomed over her, and with all her might thrust the rocket like a dagger into the armored chest.
She awoke outside the building, to a comrade tightening a tourniquet around her left arm, well above the elbow. Her helmet and body armor had saved the rest of her.
Looking up, she saw Duke Miroslaw Kordylewski, rightful Viceroy of Lublin, supported by an LLF fighter under each arm, blinking in the glare of the sun.
Continued in the next excerpt....