Warning: This piece is intense and contains some things that might not be to everyone's taste. These include graphic descriptions of war, battle, an event described in "Too Much Energy" (spoiler warning for the event -- highlight to read: the mass casualty event), and its aftermath. Also unreliable narrators and witnesses, indoctrination, propaganda, and insincere political posturing. Consider your preferences before reading onward.
During the bombardment, Brakeworm Base was suddenly engulfed in a gigantic ball of what was later determined to be a plasma of the sort that would be created if an object of several tons' weight was translated into subspace at that location. Spreading nearly thirty miles from the base, the plasma ball leveled the west side of Pivot Sound, destroyed almost all of downtown Windage, and caused additional damage across the entire Pivot Sound area, home to over three and a half million.
Estimates of the death toll from the Orion forces' deployment of what is thought to be a new planetary-scale weapon range from several hundred thousand to over two million. Rescue efforts have been hampered due to the collapse of the power grid several hundred miles out from the blast center, which has made many nearby cities unwilling to lend emergency personnel to the rescue effort, as well as slowing access to damaged areas where there may still be some survivors.
We now present a portion of a speech before the Chamber of Delegates by Premier Kenji Wokonde, given two weeks ago as the Chamber convened in the wake of the delegates' having received word of the event:
"As have so many of you, only just now have I been able to hear and see news of the horrific event that recently took place. Filled with such hatred that they would attempt a months-long crossing to strike a blow against the fabric of our culture, and bent on denying us freedom of space in the Lacuna, a brazen Orion assault struck at the key planet Cascabel, where we marshal supplies and forces prior to their entering the Lacuna to protect our people and interests in that distant realm.
"During the assault, the Orion forces saw fit to deploy a previously unknown weapon against the Brakeworm supply base. Subspace engineers posted with Carinan forces detected quantum energy emissions of the sort that accompany transition to subspace. Some survivors who were just beyond the weapon's ultimate reach told of a beam of light reaching down from the skies until it was lost in the fierce radiance of a globe, many miles across, filled with uncountable lightning bolts.
"Our best subspace physicists, armed with this information, believe that Orion has managed to invent a subspace projector, capable of delivering enough of the quantum energy that drives transition into subspace to apply that transition to its target. The size and scale of energy release was consistent with what would happen were the target and its contents inserted into a subspace level known to be accessible under Cascabel surface gravity.
"The cowardly Orion fleet, whether awed or disgusted by the damage wrought to Windage and the Pivot Sound area, quickly vanished from the skies over Cascabel. We have been unable to track them so we might pursue them and have them answer for their heinous crime.
"Since the dawn of our starfaring culture, all those who ventured beyond the reach of the system of our species' birth have abided by the principle that planetary-scale weapons not be used against planets with a self-sustaining population and ecology. The Orion Arm culture has callously disregarded this principle and a million peaceful Carinan citizens have thereby been fed to the flames of war.
"This sickening event, which is now being called the Massacre of Cascabel, will not stand unavenged. Because even the vast width of the Lacuna does not appear to place us sufficiently distant from our foe, we have already begun an offensive to evict their forces from that space and defend it as we would this planet where I now stand. Following that, we will strike against their supply bases and deny them the freedom of space that they sought to deny us.
"I ask those of you seated before me -- is it not a just and proper memorial for the innocents that died in the Massacre of Cascabel that we secure our Arm from any such future incursions? I implore you to authorize the expenditures and offensives required to deliver this message to the barbarians of the Orion arm in a language they will understand, so civilized people throughout the galaxy will affirm that we will not tolerate such brutality."
Please continue to monitor InfoGrid; we will distribute more information about the Massacre of Cascabel as it becomes available.
Plasma, often called "the fourth state of matter", is created when matter absorbs sufficient energy to allow the nuclei and electrons to move independently. Subspace physics in the "An Army of One" universe dictates that objects translated into subspace near an object with a noticeable gravitational field return to c-space (what we think of as normal space) immediately as subatomic particles, releasing all their subspace quantum energy ("SQE").
Starfaring human societies in this universe recognize two classes of weapons: target-scale weapons, for which the damage caused by the weapon has limited scale around the target, and planetary-scale weapons, which can cause global destruction and ecological damage. Any planet with a robust enough and human-tolerant enough ecology to support a self-sustaining human population is recognized as habitable. Current estimates of the minimum viable population for humans range from about 160 up to 10,000 or more. Such planets are likely to be rare enough that any starfaring culture would gain much more by incorporating such a planet into their culture than sterilizing it to deny it to a rival, so interstellar rules of engagement prohibit the use of planetary-scale weapons against a habitable planet.
Continental-scale power transmission grids hold surprisingly large amounts of energy. Failure of grid wires, especially those carrying high current loads (such as those near a power plant), releases large amounts of energy erratically, creating power surges and short circuits via arcing between conductors. Power grid protection mechanisms contain switches that fuse under high current load and reroute the current to ground. Having a large area of transmission wires suddenly dematerialize would generate enough unbalanced load on Cascabel's electrical grid to cause cascading failure over an area roughly the size of the United States western interconnection.