"They look like ore carriers" said the flagship captain "cumbersome low tech leviathans only capable of sub light speeds." "Yet something is partially blocking our attempts at internal scans, we can't get the full picture."
The four carriers, if such they were, were in high orbit and moving around towards the other side of the planet.
"If they are sub light vessels then how on earth did they get here?" cautioned the ever conservative first officer.
"Beats me," replied the captain "but everything we've seen is consistent with a mining world." "A highly automated mining world with, judging from the heat signatures we've detected, a bare minimum of living operators."
Yet as with the ore carriers something was partially blocking the flagships scans of the various installations below.
"I'd caution that we wait for a fuller planetary survey" continued the first officer.
"This world looks ripe for the taking" said the Admiral of the modest star fleet, just now arriving on the bridge, and "easy meat in fact." "No point waiting for a survey ship to get here and conduct a formal planetary survey that could take months." "We're here now and in some force." "In any case, what resistance can we expect from automated mining facilities, a few ore carriers, and a handful of living operatives?"
The first officer was about to suggest that there might be others elsewhere behind the mining operation, but thought better of it. They thought they knew all of the Galactic and Trans Galactic mining corporations and none of them were within light years of here.
The bridge crew took in a three dimensional map of the world below.
"Some three installations stand out as easily the largest and contain almost all of the few living operatives" said the flagship captain "these should be our primary targets."
"We should at least try to preserve the machineries" offered the flagship first officer "they could be of use when our own people come out here." "The mining machineries are very large and some of them could potentially be used against us" countered the flagship captain
They settled on an initial strike involving simultaneous air bursts of JSN's (Just Sub Nukes) over the three biggest installations and the two others that housed living operators. A successful tactic in times past.
This would have an EMP effect that should knock out the electronics down below and a blast that might render the living operatives unconscious without extensively and permanently damaging the heavy machineries. It would also avoid the radioactivity of using BTDs (Beyond Thermonuclear Devices).
"What do you make of it?" asked the flagship captain a few moments after the JSN detonations.
"It's even less clear down there than before" replied the flagship's first observer "there's stuff flying around everywhere."
"Speed is essential" maintained the Admiral "we move now, or lose our advantage."
The five starships of the small fleet were now in a medium orbit and each of them disgorged troop transporters and fighter escorts. The fighters were highly maneuverable and equally adept in space or in a variety of atmospheres. The starships themselves would ride shotgun in the unlikely event that this was necessary.
The fighters went in first, about 40 of them to each of the three largest installations. They made a first high level pass with no response from below and then a second slightly lower level pass again without response from the ground. Even assisted visibility was down to almost zero. The advanced avionics struggling to cope. "We are nearly flying blind here, across the whole spectrum" reported the star fighter squadron leader at the very largest and presumably primary installation. "Respectfully request we wait for improved visibility."
"Can't do that" responded the Admiral from the flagship "time is of the essence, we don't want the machineries recovering from the EMP or the live operators regaining consciousness." "Our star troopers on the ground will be able to see better than the pilots, we have the very latest enhancements" he finished talking to everyone in general and no one in particular.
The Admiral did make one concession. The star troopers would only go in to the largest installation. Though fighters would come in low, ground attacks on the two other very large installations would be delayed. Quietly the big man thought this unnecessarily cautious. His heavily armed and armored, force field and exo-skeleton assisted troopers had kicked ass across much of the Galaxy and in much more formidable places than this.
Ahead of the incoming troop transporters the star fighters came in on a very low and slow approach run to the massive installation. Visibility seemed to have improved a little right across the spectrum as they approached the largest building in the installation. A building relatively low only in relation to its huge two mile plus length.
Then as the fighters continued their approach run the huge building started to move.
"My god, it's not a building at all, but one of the machineries," yelled out one of the pilots as they all banked away to avoid a rapidly opening ravenous maw that must have been two miles long. Not all of them were able to bank away in time. Those unfortunates were instantly melted into slag. The same thing happened on a slightly smaller scale at each of the other two largest installations.
Thankfully the troop transporters were recalled in time.
The Admiral ordered all remaining fighters into formation for a high altitude attack but just at that moment radar, visual, thermal and all other visibility dropped to zero. It was all the fighters could do to return to the orbiting star ships.
Yet the Admiral was far from finished. Ordering the starships to train their energy weapons on each of the major installations. Yet the absolute maelstrom below was worsening and it wasn't possible to get a fix on any of the huge machineries. In frustration the Admiral ordered the fleet to fire blind heavy duty energy discharges into the installations. Though the Admiral did not know it immediately these mostly missed and just obliterated tons of earth. The few direct and near direct hits proved ineffective against force field protected heavy machineries that were of themselves more durable than anything made by man.
As the visibility, throughout the spectrum, again improved the Admiral was starting to talk Beyond Thermo Nukes or BTDs over wide areas of the planet before someone finally pulled him aside and tried to calm him down and to explain a few of the facts of life.
"The whole planet is a rubbish heap then" he exclaimed, still furious beyond belief and looking down below from the flagship "a junk yard"
"That may be a little unkind" responded the first officer. "It looks like a vast array of large scale, high tech, waste management." "Each of the three largest installations appear to be recycling areas but there are monstrous composting areas, and all facets of waste management. Including, probably, some forms of waste management that we have never even heard of." "There's even ordinary country size garbage tips, though why they just don't incinerate that, I have no idea."
Were it not for the loss of the pilots the first officer could almost be enjoying himself.
They had been able to come to these conclusions now because the visibility had again improved below and someone or something below had allowed them to make a full planetary scan.
Perhaps, from the perspective of the highly automated, low labor intensive set up below, it was all just a big misunderstanding. Doubtless those below were hardly trained fighters or warriors.
"We can't nuke em with BTD's Admiral" said the flagship captain "it would be against the Galactic Convention." "Besides whoever is ultimately responsible for this whole set up is probably someone that we don't want to pick a fight with."
As the small star fleet prepared for departure the Waste Management world had the final say in the form of a parting gift.
With everything that had happened no one seemed to notice the approach of the four ore carriers coming around on a slightly faster and higher orbit. That is until several millions of tons of pure crap was dropped, quite accurately, on top of the fleet.
No real harm was done but it did seem like the aliens may have had a sense of humor.