P4

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P4 - NORTH MASSIF

Abaddon's  tent was identified by gold and black banners. When  John  Glenn and  his  two pilots entered it they found the Emperor in the middle  of  a meeting with hyz son Azibeel and the surviving yeng and human officers.

Good,  Glenn,  you made it, Abaddon said. You're the last  one  to come in. I already know you took some hits.  Give me your report.

The Molly Brown made it down after all, but we lost sixteen men.

So we finally have a complete picture of what happened. Add nine  humans to your figures, son, and repeat them back for Director Glenn.

Yes  Sire. Azibeel rifled through hyz papers once more and  said,  We have forty three nephilim and one hundred fifty nine humans, Sire. All told that is...202 troops, so just a bit over half of our original strength.

There  was some shocked gasps and murmuring from Glenn and his officers  at that.  Azibeel  cut  them off as harshly as he did just  moments  prior  to Glenn's  arrival. Silence! This mission has not failed!  The  Trespasser remains out of range for now, but she stands ready to escort us  out. As long as one soldier lives this mission goes forward. Is that clear?

The  yeng and men blurted their assent. So after a few adjustments  to  the battle  plan to account for their losses, the forces split up.  John  Glenn took  command of the human troops, the bulk of the  expedition's  remaining strength, and departed to assemble them for the assault up the valley floor of  Yellow Rille. Abaddon planned to assail Taurus City with  the  nephilim from another direction along a smaller rille which paralleled to the east.

From  year of experience, John Glenn knew the Taurus-Littrow area like  the back  of his hand, and had offered to share this knowledge with the  emperor's people during the preparations, but he was puzzled to learn  Abaddon's son Azibeel knew the area as well as Glenn did, perhaps even better.

Leading  hyz forty-two nephilim soldiers, Azibeel started  marching  cross-country  over what Buzz Aldrin once called the "magnificent desolation"  of the  Moon. After the Emperor had forayed onto North Massif  for  forty-five minutes the Yellow Rille (so named because of the many sulfur  outcroppings found  in it) became a steep canyon. Abaddon veered right. Hy climbed to  a small  plateau called Yellowbanks on the bene elohim map, and let  the  big rille go it's own way. As Selene went this was high and rugged terrain, the result of impact volcanism. Yellow Rille itself was a steep channel  carved by  a  river of lava billions of years ago, and undisturbed all  that  time except  from micrometeoroids which pitted the whole surface of  the  satellite. They stayed on the high ground, walking on black gravel and sand  and dust as fine as the ashes left over in a barbecue.  Eventually they reached the lip of the smaller unnamed rille.  

To the west the dull thumping of artillery could not be heard in the  near- vacuum  of the Moon, but it could be felt as vibrations under  their  feet. Orange flashes of warfare illuminated the distant hills.  That was  focused on  John Glenn, who led the bulk of the surviving troops on a  frontal  assault  along  the main road to Taurus some distance from the  city  itself. Defenders began popping up out of the woodwork to stall the invaders with a vast  confusing hodgepodge of engagements. They fired big  towed  five-inch guns,  which  had a range of an incredible 49 miles in the  lunar  gravity. Each  gun,  standing well off, could shoot 3 rounds per minute,  and  these shells began raining randomly down on Glenn's people.    Within 80 feet  of an exploding shell half of Glenn's personnel were injured, on average,  and one-third  of these injuries were fatal. Even a little shrapnel that  would only  cause a minor injury on Earth was sufficient to puncture their  pressure  suits here. So it became a war of attrition, with almost all  of  the losses on Glenn's side.  That suited Abaddon fine.  Hy needed Glenn to provide a distraction so hy could sneak into Taurus through the back door.

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