Saturday, August 22, 2009

Infantry Doctrine: Rank Zero

The scene:
A capacious hangar-bay, largely empty, completely silent. The walls and floor are grimy, seeming ill-serviced. A starfield twinkles gently outside.


Also, there's a firefight going on.

"I NEED FIRE SUPPORT!" Lieutenant Brown, local commander of Union forces, cries into his helmet-mic. "They've got us pinned down at the south airlock! Need reinforcements pronto!"

"Roger that, Alpha Two," SITCOM replied. "Bravo Four is inbound to your position, ETA one minute. Can you hold out?"

Lieutenant Brown looked back to the firefight, peering over the improvised barrier of crates his platoon had set up. "I think so - wait, no! Damn! Damn! They've got a grenade launcher!"

Had the fight been conducted in atmosphere, a rather satisfying thoomp noise would have followed this declaration, itself followed presently by the powerful whoomp of rapidly expanding superheated gassess. (The shrapnel, even in atmosphere, wouldn't have made much noise.) As it was, though, anyone seeking such noises would have to make them themselves.

"Man down! Man down!" Lt. Brown's NCO cried. "I need fire support now!" Lt. Brown demanded. "He's reloading - get down!" one of Lt. Brown's platoon-members exclaimed.

Had the fight been conducted in atmosphere, a line of green light would have appeared in the air, backscattering from dratted interfering air particles. A hole would have appeared in the grenade-launcher wielding soldier's forehead (wait, actually, that still happened), and then he would have fallen to the hangar deck with a distinct clatter. But alas; the vacuum is a harsh mistress.

"He's down!" one of Lt. Brown's platoon-members rather redundantly exclaimed. "They're falling back!" the NCO more helpfully reported. "Thanks for the sniper-support, SITCOM," Lt. Brown said gratefully. "We've got it from here."

Then there was a rumble in the deck-plating which, even in vacuum, the Union soldiers could feel. "What's that?" one asked. "Look up!" another cried.

"Someone flew a gunship into the hangar!" Lt. Brown exclaimed.

"Is it ours or theirs?" a Union-man asked.

The gunship turned towards them. Its chainguns visibly spun up.

"Theirs!" the NCO shouted. "Take cover!"

Swiftly taking up positions on the other side of their barricade, the Union soldiers cradled their vacuum-rifles in their arms. "What do we do?" one asked Lt. Brown.

"Open fire!" the Lieutenant ordered.

Bravely, as they were trained to, the soldiers popped up over the barricade, spewing small-arms rounds toward the fiendish foe. Callously, the gunship mowed them down with a spray of high-caliber fire, completely immune to their attacks. The hangar floor was swiflty littered with bodies.

"Oh god!" Lt. Brown wailed. "Oh god!"

MORAL: Recognize the limitation of small arms! They are pretty okay at killing human beings. Occasionally, they can even deal with nastier things, like bears, or cape buffalo. But attempts to shoot at anything armoured with anything smaller than a recoilless rifle will only lead to SADNESS.

Shooting at people in general leads to sadness, but that's a separate issue.