O5

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O5 - FIRST LINE

The invasion force peeled away from the side of Trespasser together with a mix of fighters and bombers to provide "air" cover, as it was still called even in the vacuum of space. Debby's nuke had taken out a third of Trespassers' air assets in a few milliseconds. Cautiously, the carrier hung back about fifty thousand miles from Selene with half of her surviving fighters and bombers circling on CSP, or Combat Space Patrol.

Mines were a dangerous nuisance but they were not really considered a game-changer. Abaddon considered them to be good target practice for hyz gunners whenever one popped up from behind the limb of the moon. None had nuclear warheads, but conventional high explosives were nasty enough. Mines were generally easy to avoid, being in orbit where they marched to the precise laws of gravity and their positions were known to all parties at all times, but these mines had a primitive AI and they also had thrusters to maneuver.

When the mines saw the enemy ships they made small alterations in their orbits with puffs of propellant gas. Each one of Belial's and Glenn's ships noticed the discrepancy on radar and changed their own course to swing clear. After a few near-misses, the orbits of the mines were crafted by their internal artificial intelligences, working as a team, into a concentrated phalanx. The invaders dropped closer in to the Moon and became a loose cluster of ships less than fifty miles in altitude. The sharply bending lunar horizon allowed little time for evasive action when hundreds of the space mines popped up over the lunar limb in a gigantic surprise.

A last ditch laser barrage defense was turned against the rapidly closing mines but there were simply too many of them and some of the invaders were too slow and clumsy to get out of the way. Conqueror and Brutalizer in fact, collided, crippling each other for the remainder of the battle.

Six nephilim officers from both ships salvaged what they could of the calamity, jettisoning themselves in their command sections and making their way down to a prearranged rendezvous point on the surface of Selene. But the forty-four angry nephilim troops left behind would continue to flounder in orbit until the Gervasi Crime Family captured them a week later.

Thirteen of the fourteen other transport ships successfully evaded the mine attack. But the Harasser was not so lucky and seemed to walk right into them. The artificially intelligent mines were ecstatic that they could fulfill their intended purpose at last and explode. Harasser was struck by the cresting wave of mines and all 25 soldiers aboard her died.

For her next trick Robyn unleashed dozens of surface-to-space missiles from batteries all over the Taurus-Littrow valley. Half of these missiles were not armed with explosives. Instead they were tasked to haul up inflatable mylar balloons, long strips of chaff, aluminum foil, dummy warheads and canisters of infrared-emitting aerosols. In the middle of all this trash the live Brushfire missiles inside the "threat cloud" were completely hidden by an opaque white smear on radar. When Abaddon realized this and or- dered everyone to switch to visual target acquisition the Brushfire missiles were already on terminal cruise, aided by targeting using passive and active sensors scattered in odd corners all over the surface of the Moon.

Then the fighters, bombers, and troop transports started taking potshots at the rest of the incoming missiles with thumping 80 kilowatt laser firepower, two rounds per second per turret. With all these defensive efforts at a peak the big wave broke and sprinkled only a relative handful of Brushfire missiles through to hit Degrader and Immolator, which were de- stroyed in spectacular, silent explosions with all hands aboard. It was an odd fortune of war that all the hits from mines and missiles were made on transports from Gorpai, none on the ones from Earth. Abaddon's flagship the Insolent escaped damage for the time being, but the fireworks show was just getting started. Robyn said Belial's fiasco had made an odd show of disrespect for the preparations of the inner system to defend itself.

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