TKC 232 and 233
Kay leans forward. “Commander Gennerin, no one here is saying another word until we know the truth of what is happening to Massin, and why.”
The man stares at Kay for a time. Slowly he nods and then abruptly smacks the table. We all flinch. “Allin, where is my coffee?”
“Coming, sir!” sails from the galley further along.
Gennerin continues to stare, this time at Hal. Finally he shifts backwards in his seat and folds his arms. “I am a soldier. I follow orders. I can tell you what is happening, but the why is not for me to know of, share or even question.”
The coffee arrives then. Allin bears a tray filled with metal mugs and vessels. The smell emanating from the large urn is beyond divine. I cannot help it – I lick my lips.
The older soldier laughs. “A coffee lover! You may pour for us.” He paused and quickly adds, “Please.” Maybe he realises he cannot command us. “Straight black for me, thank you.”
I stand to dispense the delicious brew, one mug to each. There is milk as well as sugar cubes, and I help myself, indicating to the others to do the same. Gennerin ignores everything to take a mouthful, hot as it is. His sigh after is one of pleasure.
Mine nearly is as well, but I refuse to give him further satisfaction.
We drink our coffee and all is silent. Corporal Allin has been waved away to other duties.
Eventually the commander barks a laugh. “Fine, I will talk. There are nineteen Glonu carriers in orbit. Just over thirty transports have landed. I estimate at least a hundred and fifty attack cruisers are already on patrol.” He places his forearms on the table, clasping his mug. “The carriers are massive, far bigger than anything we have, and carry the stores, weapons and the relief troops. The transports are huge and therefore usually land in open spaces away from the action. They are for ground infrastructure and bring both men and materials needed for battle on the surface of a world. Attack cruisers are self-explanatory, but know they are able to range far and carry much explosive armament.” He lifts one finger when Kay opens his mouth to speak. “Wait. There are at least a hundred thousand Glonu in orbit and there are a hundred thousand already on the ground. They have come to win and with those numbers they probably will.”
I cannot speak; it is difficult to even formulate a thought. The numbers are frightening, but the commander’s summation is even scarier.
Kay leans in to spear the soldier with a direct gaze. “What have you brought into the arena?”
Gennerin inclines his head. “Our ship constructions vary from theirs, but to make the comparison I will keep it simple. We have no carriers, therefore no additional leverage. A carrier is exorbitantly expensive to send into space. We, however, brought fifty transports. They are smaller, and much space is taken up by the shuttles, such as this one. They remain in a wider orbit as a safety measure against Glonu incursion in space. We will not at any time land them. The shuttles ferry men and equipment, and it is hazardous, for we must dodge the cruisers in our path. Thus far ninety shuttles have landed out of a potential two hundred. As vessels go, we have more, but theirs are better.”
“How many soldiers?” Hal rasps.
“Fifty thousand still in orbit. Ten on the ground.”
We all stare at him. No wonder he says the Glonu will probably win. On the ground at the moment, the Ilfin army is at ten percent of what the Glonu has fielded. All counted, the Ilfin are less than half of Glonu capability.