Meta:

Title: He Who Controls The Orbitals-
Tagline: He who controls the orbitals, controls... what?
Type: Oneshot
History:
• 2019-06-18: Originally posted to r/HFY on Reddit (URL reddit dot com slash r/HFY/comments/c2avma )
• 2021-02-04: Reposted here


Foreword from Report on the Human Colony of Gemini IV by Admiral N'tigann

Shortly after my arrival on Gemini IV, I was invited by my counterpart in the human military to tour their planetary defenses. I, perforce, agreed, and arrangements were made for me to be collected from my hotel the following morning.

After my collection, I was surprised to find myself transported not to the spaceport but to a military compound some distance outside the capital. At first I thought that there had been a translation error, and instead of a tour I would instead be reviewing the defenses from the command centre, but my guide instead directed my attention to a large installation; after some moments thought I recognized it as a capital-grade beam emplacement. I asked why such a defense had been constructed on the planetary surface rather than in space where it belonged, and he explained that, by eliminating orbital launch and construction costs, "at least 10 times as many"* weapons could be built for the same increment of cost; in the interests of diplomacy I refrained from pointing out that, due to atmospheric diffusion, such weapons would be considerably less than 1/10th as effective, unless the enemy was within a few planetary radii.

* Note: The human numerical system is base-10, so this should be assumed to be no more than a first-order estimate.

My tour of the facility continued, and it became clear that this compound - but one of several gross of similar facilities about the world, my guide explained - could deliver the firepower of a dozen dreadnoughts, if only there were any hope that an enemy would wander into its myopic range before the battle was definitively decided. It was not until later that I began to comprehend the truth: I inquired about a number of smaller emplacements - obviously too light to be useful against starships - which I could see about the facility, and was told they were intended to engage 'landing craft', a human term which my translator chose to render as 'landing craft'. My confusion was such that I ignored the dictates of diplomacy and pressed my guide for an elaboration - surely there was not sufficient criminal activity on this world as to demand dedicated weapons simply for the purpose of destroying vessels attempting illegal landings? After a brief consultation with my translator, the guide was able to explain: 'landing craft', while literally translated as 'craft engaged in landing', is also a human military term-of-art for a category of small vessels intended to forcibly land a cargo of warriors on an enemy world while being fired on by the inhabitants thereof. It was then that I began to realize the horrible implications - the same implications I am sure are beginning to occur to you.

The remainder of my tour confirmed them beyond a doubt: armouries, stocked by the gross the human equivalent of a militarized version of police long arms. Ground vehicles covered with thin layers of armour and armed with miniaturized ship weapons. Entire crews of military personnel trained exclusively to engage enemies in person on the ground.

It is my conclusion that war against humanity would be fruitless and costly and should therefore absolutely be avoided; if it should prove necessary, it is my recommendation that strategic planetary targets be bombarded from high orbit as soon as space supremacy is achieved, and under no circumstances should we attempt to take or hold human worlds. For it is clear that, somehow, humans are ignorant of the Fundamental Theory of Warfare: they will not surrender a planet if they lose the battle for the space above it. They will fight to the death against any conquest or invasion, and the cost of dislodging them is either ruinous expense or ruinous damage to the very world you wish to conquer.

"He who controls the orbitals, controls the orbitals. If he wants the planet, let him damn well come down here and take it."
- Gen. Bill 'Buck' Cooper, Earth Forces Command