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"You should encounter little organized resistance because the Pfhor are preoccupied. I've been introducing them to the magic of orbital bombardment."
Whether it's (un)holy smiting, meteor showers, nuclear weapons, bricks from bi-planes, ordinary ordnance, or good old napalm, there's lots of ways to rain Death From Above on those below. There's something about Death raining down from the sky that is almost Biblical; it's fear and awe inspiring because there is nothing
the target can do to avoid this airborne doom but "duck and cover". It is at once a powerful and impersonal way to threaten or actually kill someone, hence a great way to establish a villain's power and threat as being on a planetary scale
; on the flip side it also makes the airborne cavalry come to save the hero look angelic and omnipotent in comparison to the efforts of the heroes. Listed below are a few ways to rain this holy judgment:
- The Cavalry, if they arrive in a Gunship Rescue or a Drop Ship.
- Colony Drop, for the space age equivalent of dropping a house on a witch.
- Drop Pod, almost always.
- Giant Flyer, because siccing dragons and/or giant birds on those who would oppose you is just too awesome not to do.
- Goomba Stomp, apply feet directly to head.
- Meteor, for random Armageddon situations.
- Napalm, for the smell of it in the morning.
- Nuke 'em, when mutually assured destruction is no big deal.
- Orbital Bombardment when a spaceship rains death upon a planet.
- Kill Sat, when it's coming from a satellite instead of a starship.
- Planet killers are the extreme form of Death From Above.
- Rain of Arrows, for the medieval version of carpet bombing. Add in some Arrows on Fire for extra fun.
- Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, for the basic Game Master's tool (not coincidentally).
- The Sword of Damocles, certain varieties and the trope namer.
Occasionally leads to Riding The Bomb
For a more personal version of this trope see Vertical Kidnapping
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Anime and Manga
- Nextwave. Widdle cuddly bears... of death! Then subverted by Aaron Stack. "Fear my robot head."
- Another Warren Ellis comic Global Frequency featured the threat of kinetic spears; weapons designed to be dropped from satellites, heat up on re-entry, and strike the ground with the force of a tactical nuke, and as hot as the edge of the sun. Part of a 'die-back' protocol.
- In the Sonic the Hedgehog Archie comic, Dr. Robotnik assembled a fleet of airships and bombed Knothole into a crater, forcing the cast to relocate.
- The skyfurnaces in Christian Gossett's The Red Star, mile-long, heavily armored airships armed with Warkasters (military sorceresses). Each kaster is suspended in a special chamber that allows her to project herself temporarily as a concentrated beam of heat. The effect is pretty terrifying.
- The Cavalry version of Big Damn Heroes coming from above can be seen in Kingdom Come, in which it is dubbed a "Force from on high." Also subverted, as the superheroes involved do not kill anybody.
- Zeus's Master Lightning Bolt in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is a prime example of this trope.
"A two-foot long cylinder of high-grade celestial bronze, capped on both ends with god-level explosives." "The bolt that sheered the top off Mount Etna and hurled Kronos from his throne; the master bolt, which packs enough power to make mortal hydrogen bombs look like firecrackers."
- Three or more times in Animorphs they have a plan that involved having one of them (usually Cassie) fly as high as possible, then turn into a whale over water. Proof that Nice doesn't mean Weak, because she (like all of them) has to turn human in between.
- In the second-last book, Visser One kills the Auxiliary Animorphs and some of General Doubleday's troops by shooting the Pool ship's Dracon cannon from orbit.
- Tobias whenever he's feeling hungry.
- In the Darkwar Trilogy of the Riftwar Cycle, an epic-level demon is going through a portal connecting from the Dasati dimension to the world of Kelewan. Pug's answer? Evacuate the world and drop the moon on top of the portal.
- Pug did it a couple of decades before, by firebombing the flagship of an invading fleet. His fireball bounced back, however.
- Anathem had Rodding. Very simple. Drop a large dense rod from orbit at hypersonic speeds into a dormant volcano. Boom. Repeat.
- In The Big One, Nazi Germany gets the Quintessential Death from Above when it is wiped off the map by a rain of 232 atomic bombs dropped by B-36 bombers. The operation described actually used a real American warplan (AWDP-1) as its basis making this Truth in Television. The idea was to detsroy German warmaking potential. that meant destroying everything that went with it
- The Dresden Files:
- Used to unnerving yet hilarious effect in Blood Rites, where a frozen turkey falling from a commercial airliner kills a vampire in a "freak accident" caused by a malicious curse. The 'done' button popping out is a nice touch.
- This happens offscreen earlier in the book when Harry is told that an early victim of the curse was hit by a runaway car... while waterskiing.
- Also in Blood Rites, Ebenezar McCoy killed a vampire who had challenged his former apprentice, Harry Dresden, to a duel (and had cheated). He did this by pulling a soviet-era satellite from orbit and making it crash onto the vampire's compound, killing the vampire and most of his retinue (sadly it also killed the humans they fed from).
- In the Chronicles of Narnia book "A Horse And His Boy," the main villain, having somehow found himself at a higher elevation than his enemies, declares "The bolt of Tash falls from above!" leaping upon his enemies... and getting caught on a hook halfway down to dangle helplessly for the rest of the battle.
- As if that wasn't bad enough, the villain - having not learned his lesson - repeats the above line again during a rant against the heroes, prompting one of them to rub it in by asking, "Does it ever get caught on a hook halfway?" Apparently, yes, it does.
- A similar system is described in Robert A Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, where a Moon colony uses metal-sheathed multiton rocks tossed at Earth as a weapon - a highly effective and cheap weapon - which would strike any point on Earth with the energy of a tactical nuclear strike.
- Similarly, Shatterpoint had DOKAWs, De-Orbiting Kinetic Anti-emplacement Weapons, described as 200-ton metal rods with thrusters on them. They were lethal, if somewhat less than accurate.
- From the Legacy of the Aldenata series by John Ringo:
- The Posleen invasion was lead off by kinetic weapon strikes on planetary defense centers and various pyramid structures around the world (due to a resemblance to similar structures set up by the Posleen, who consider them important).
- In Hell's Faire, the heroes and the entire population of earth, are totally screwed until the fleet unexpectedly returns and uses kinetic bombardment to destroy every important target on the ground.
- O'Neal's team finds out what it's like to be on the receiving end of it, in The Eye of the Storm (free sneak preview available here, containing the scene in question in Chapter Four).
- The Western Galactic Empire of Robert Zubrin's The Holy Land uses Psioray bombardment. Capable of wide-area bombardment, accurate to within one-tenth of a percent of the range fired, can be tuned to only affect specific groups of beings (even more specifically than species), and reduces the targets to less than an inch in height, while leaving, for instance, local birds, lizards, and predatory insects the same size. Poor Peru. Poor Iowa.
- The Ganymede Takeover (by Philip K. Dick and Robert Nelson) has The Shaft, a miniature psychotropic autonomic dart fired from a satellite, used to kill (on an individual basis) a vast number of key technicians and leaders during the alien invasion.
- The War Against the Chtorr. In an interesting inversion, a group of renegades attempting to booby-trap a helicopter landing field are exposed to a counter-ambush when an orbiting solar mirror is suddenly turned on the area.
- The Reality Dysfunction (part of the Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton). A special forces team floating down a river through enemy territory get some sudden and unexpected support when 5,000 precision-guided kinetic energy harpoons fired from a spaceship slam into the banks on either side. The harpoons are falling so fast no-one hears them until after they land. Then they really hear them.
- The Kinetic-Energy Harpoon is mentioned, although not used on-page, in "The Nano Flower" by the same author; described as a "poor man's nuke"note , they were apparently used in the Slamdown War. That resulted in massive campaign to get a defensive system in orbit, designed specifically to stop them ever being used again.
- In Footfall (by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle) the alien invaders have two versions of this. First, they use space-based lasers and the 'Rods From God' described below to destroy Earth's military forces and insurgents; later, after Kansas is nuked to defeat their first invasion they land the eponymous 'Foot' (an asteroid) in the Indian Ocean to try to force Earth's surrender (it doesn't work).
- A form of this is featured in the climax of the final novel of Tad Williams' Otherland series. The Other tricks the heroes into giving it control of the satellite that it's imprisoned on, and sends the satellite plummeting to Earth, aimed directly at the headquarters of J Corp. Boom.
- In Bones of the Hills, when Jochi and Jebe are being pursued by Khalifa, Jochi sarcastically suggests dropping boulders on the Arabs. Jebe thinks that's a great idea. And it works.
- In Mercedes Lackey's Dragon Jousters series, Jousters ride dragons and Air Joust each other, when there are Jousters on each side of the war. When Jousters either don't find their enemy counterparts or manage to drive off or kill them, they turn on the ground armies, swooping down to have their dragons snatch up a commander, carry him high into the air... and drop him on his own forces. This is said to be highly demoralizing. One of the good Jousters, Ari, has a Heroic BSOD when the group of Jousters he was with, having some spare time, does this to the civilians in an enemy village, even joking about painting a target next time for more sport.
- In Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett it's orbital bombardment with eggs:
flying bot: Crackdown in this area is forecast in ten minutes. Don your protective clothing or seek chthonic safety.
flying bot: Crackdown! Crackdown! Beware of the eggs!
- Since flying warriors (Knights Aeris) are pretty much standard in any army in Codex Alera, this was inevitable. But Tavi's idea for how to use his vast numbers of mediocre Knights (most of whom couldn't fly properly) against an army in the third book really takes the cake: he had them scale up a telescope spell, and had Max use the giant lens to turn the sunlight into a freaking Death Ray.
- Death From The Skies by Phil Plait, a mostly non-fiction book about all the ways the universe could kill us.
- In the Wing Commander novel Fleet Action, multiple Terran Confederation planets are bombarded from orbit by a massive Kilrathi fleet the humans are unable to stop, using antimatter warheads and dirty nukes specifically employed to sterilize worlds.
- Sky Masters by Dale Brown, a Chinese destroyer was about to nuke the city of Davao, the Americans neutralized it by dropping a satellite right on top of it.
- Mentioned to have happened in the history of Wellakh in Young Wizards: their sun is somewhat unstable and flared, burning half the planet to a featureless plain and killing anyone who was there at the time, along with a good number of their wizards in the effort to stop it.
- In Jack Mc Devitt's The Academy Novels, the Omega Clouds are gigantic, mysterious artifacts which travel through the galaxy, coming in waves about 8,000 years apart. They investigate planets they pass, and rain down electrical death from the skies on any civilization foolish enough to use right angles in their architecture.
- Starship Troopers acknowledges that if you just want to kill stuff that lives on the surface, nuking it from orbit is usually much more effective. Two problems with this: the Bugs don't live on the surface, and while the Skinnies do, the humans are hoping to turn them into allies/trading partners in the future and don't want to completely wipe them out.
- As might be expected, the Lensmen get into this particular Arms Race. If you're lucky, they're just tossing bombs at you. If you get them really mad, they target you with a couple of planets moving at several times c. With diametrically opposed vectors. It's called the "nutcracker", and the results are described as the creation of a new, temporary star.
Live Action TV
- Marduk's album Panzer Division Marduk has tanks, bombs and death as its theme. The song "Baptism By Fire" has the lines:
Death from above - The hellfire will soon be unleashed
Death rips the sky - Domination gives praise to the beast
Death from above - Explosions is tearing your soul
Death rips the sky - The bombing is reaching its goal
Death from above - Death or glory, there is no way back
Death rips the sky - Attack, attack, attack!
- Dance-punk band Death From Above 1979
- And by extension, CSS's song "Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above"
- Jets N Guns features the titular tune in its OST.
- The sweet Regina Spektor has the sweetest song "The Sword and the Pen", which has the lines:
What if the sword kills the pen
What if God kills the man
And if He does it with love
Well then it's death from above
And death from above is still death
- Sabaton's song Firestorm, being about the Allies' strategic bombing campaign of World War 2, is all about this trope.
Rage of the heavens
Death from above
Death from above
- "Death From Above" is also a maneuver from the miniatures wargame Battletech, father of western mecha, in which a jump- or flight-capable combat mech aims to land directly atop an opponent, with its plasma-based jumpjets firing. This maneuver is generally one of desperation because it stands a good chance of dumping both attacker and attacked on the ground where they will be easy targets for whoever wanders by or gets up first, but its effects are often devastating since mechs mount their cockpit in the head. Some larger mechs are specifically designed to carry it out such as the 90-ton Highlander, leading to the term "Highlander burial" for a light mech getting landed on by an assault-class.
- Given their firepower and bomb capacity, the larger fighters (aerospace or otherwise) of the setting can also qualify with regard to ground forces if used in the game. (Though the rules give the targets a fair chance of dropping even the biggest fighter out of the sky with a single hit.) The ultimate example, though, at least before the Jihad era brought nukes back onto the battlefield, may be orbital bombardment like the infamous destruction of the city of Edo on the planet Turtle Bay by Clan Smoke Jaguar.
- The CCG Net Runner has a powerful card named Death From Above.
- With a telling bit of flavor text: "They drop rocks; I commandeer battlesats." Needless to say, there's also a card with the meaningful name I Got A Rock that will under the right circumstances hit the Runner with enough 'meat damage' to flatline him or her about three times over...
- Warhammer 40000
- Many Imperial vessels are capable of Exterminatus — an extreme version of Death From Above, which leaves absolutely nothing living on a planet it hits.
- 40k also includes each and every type of Death From Above listed—even hails of arrows on feudal worlds.
- They even have multiple ways to perform Exterminatus, from virus-bombing (which destroys all unprotected organic material on a planet) to cyclonic torpedoes (which shatter the planet's crust)
- Numerous Dungeons & Dragons spells such as Flame Pillar, Flame Strike, Meteor Shower, Storm of Vengeance, Hail Storm, and Call Lightning. It's more common amongst Divine Spellcasters, because Gods enjoy this kind of smiting.
- There's a frequently devised tactic relying on summoning and creation spells. Create a large rock five feet above your target's head and they die easily enough, or summon a horse over them, or whatever.
- As of at least 3.0 Edition, if not earlier, the rules for such spells explicitly do not allow this, as they specify that summoned creatures/items have to appear on the ground. However, there are still a few ways to accomplish something similar- the Earthquake spell can cause a cave in if cast in an underground cavern, while enemies can be buried alive by using Transmute Rock To Mud or Transmute Rock To Lava on a cave's ceiling.
- The spell Cometfall exists explicitly to do the summon rock trick as an actual attack spell.
- Dimension Door (4th level teleport, self + about 200lbs) + Feather Fall (2nd level, 'take no falling damage'). Choose your rock. Touch it. Dimension Door. Drop the rock. The Forgotten Realms setting allows Fey'ri (half-succubus elf) characters to do this at level one, with an innate ability and wings.
- There is a Tiger Claw technique in the Tome of Battle named Death From Above. You jump over your enemy, attack For Massive Damage, and then dismount anywhere next to the enemy.
- Warhammer Fantasy gave us the spells Comet of Casandora, Forked Lightning and Uranon's Thunderbolt. Pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Previous editions also had a particularly impressive exploit based around this trope: anything which went from "Flying High" to ground level without going through the intermediate steps did an impressive number of high strength wounds to itself and whatever it *ahem* "landed" on. This was bad enough with Gryphons, Dragons and Giant Eagles and so forth, but some creatures (like Greater Daemons) were immune to non-magical damage (including falling damage)...
- Nuclear War. 'nuff said.
- Even space-combat game Starfleet Battles has a few in the Marines supplement for planetary combat. You can use Transporter Artillery (teleport a load of anti-personnel and anti-vehicular bombs over the enemy), or, should transporters not be feasible, load the bombs into a missile casing and have a fighter drop it as a cluster bomb. Then there's the fighters that can make strafing runs, and the dedicated ground-attack shuttles...
- The cry "Death From Above!" occasionally appears in the webcomic Dominic Deegan. Dominic's cat, Spark, uses it as his catchphrase when dropping himself onto the head of a (usually much larger) enemy. The same series subverts the entire idea during one story arc, as a villain notes how the city he's threatening was designed to defend against aerial bombardment... then calls up an attack from beneath the earth.
- This incident from Dresden Codak. Admittedly, it's proven later that this thing is a giant walker and not a giant flier, but it's taller than most buildings. I think that qualifies as "above," don't you?
- Inverted in this strip of Least I Could Do, wherein young Rayne has been waiting somewhere (on the ceiling?) for his mom to wake up so he can give her a hug.
- An odd version in The Order of the Stick, where Vaarsuvius is saved from a death knight by the severed head of a zombie dragon falling on it. Also the eternal fate of the Flumphs, although they always survive it.
- The orbiting "Clean Sweep Platform" Wrath Of God in Dave Hopkins' Rework The Dead. The undead have taken over L.A? Call in WOG and vaporise them from orbit. Jack also by Hopkins has Angels, particularly Reckonin', doing this on a regular basis.
- Project Thor (also called either "Rods from God" or "The Sword of Damocles") would have placed bundles of power pole-sized tungsten rods into Earth orbit, with a retrorocket and guidance system attached to each one. The idea was to call down the poles at need, with the rear-mounted guidance system assuring pinpoint accuracy. Sort of a modern-day Rain of Flaming Arrows, save each hit at terminal velocity would have been in the kiloton range. Note that tungsten is the densest metal except for a few that are horrifically expensive; it's nearly twice as dense as lead.
- The reason for using tungsten isn't the density, though, but the melting point. The only substance that remains solid at a higher temperature is pure carbon.
- While still applicable, the rod impact is FAR below the kiloton range - the commonly quoted figure is around a dozen tons of TNT equivalent. These are bunker busters, not weapons of mass destruction.
- The US Navy is claimed to have done a study to deterine the effect on a strike of one of these on a Nimitz-class nuclear powered carrier. The prediction is that it's even odds of a reactor breach.
- Nothing fits this trope quite like the U.S. Air Force. The four best examples:
- The AC-130 "Spectre" Gunship - A conversion of a C-130 cargo plane that replaces the cargo with a 25mm Gatling Gun, a 40mm automatic cannon, and a 105mm howitzer field artillery piece. All can be (and often are) equipped with explosive rounds and the Air Force is considering increasing the caliber of all weapons now that they have ways to compensate for the recoil.
- The B-52 "Stratofortress" strategic bomber - It holds 70,000 lbs. of BOMBS.
- Even better, with software upgrades, each of these bombs can be as accurate as any precision bomb dropped by a strike fighter. This allows the B-52 to act as close-air-support, dropping 70,000lbs of bombs exactly where they're needed.
- The A-10 "Thunderbolt" attack aircraft (A.K.A. the "Warthog") - Basically a flying tank capable of holding over a dozen bombs or missiles and flying in very low, but its main feature is a 30mm gatling gun that fires 65 depleted uranium slugs EVERY SECOND. The plane had to be specially designed with a low stall speed and two very powerful engines just to keep it from dropping out of the sky every time the pilot pulled the trigger.
- For reference, the A-10 was designed and built around its massive gatling gun. Said gatling gun is more than capable of slicing tanks in half. A burst from this weapon can (and often does) shred entire positions, armor, personnel, and fortifications alike.
- And, since the rounds themselves are supersonic, the first warning that someone may have that a Warthog is about to ruin their day is that everything nearby them is suddenly exploding. Followed by the ripping sound of the cannon.
- GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast "MOAB" bomb - The largest conventional explosive device known to man (unless you ask the Russians, who have yet to prove otherwise), this bomb has to be dropped from a cargo plane because it's too big to be dropped by a B-52.
- Just to hammer this point home, you'll find very few people who call this bomb by its official name. Most call it the "Mother of All Bombs." Considering a freaking B-52 Stratofortress can't carry this thing, the title is well-deserved.
- Note: The aforementioned AC-130, being based on the C-130 Hercules cargo plane, can carry the MOAB, as well as BLU-82 "Daisy Cutter", the Grandmother of All Bombs (being more or less ancestral to the MOAB). Cue Howitzer-Bearing Gatling-Armed Megabomb-Carrying Cargo Plane. Did we mention that it's propeller-powered?
- Tropers and Tropettes, I give you the * drumroll* Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power. On top of the baddass name it allegedly has a blast yield of about 44 tons as opposed to the 11 tons of the MOAB. Allegedly- many consider the claims likely exaggerations, and existing video of the device being tested looks a bit fishy (that's why it says the Russians haven't proven their claims above).
- If it is real, it would be a thermobaric weapon, aka a "fuel air bomb", which makes it rather unreliable at best.
- A number of USAF aircraft are joked about (fairly or otherwise) to be this trope incarnate just because they might fall on you. The Vietnam-era F-105 Thunderchief supposedly derives its nickname of "Thud" from this bit of humor.
- The F-104 Starfighter was referred to as the "Missile with a man in it", partially due to its missile-shaped profile and partially due to its horrific safety record (due to a combination of pilot error and being an unforgiving design).
- Also from the United States Air Force is the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP). These Airmen are trained and deployed with the Army, whether they be standard infantry, airborne, air assault, or in some cases Rangers. Their job description basically boils down to: If the enemy shoots at you, drop a 2,000 pound bomb on the enemy's head. Individual TACPs have "dropped" upwards of 200,000 lbs of bomb in the Iraq War alone. If the enemy is too close for said action, the enemy will likely get shot in the face.
- This is the point of indirect-fire artillery. Born on Western Front of World War I and refined between the wars, by the end of the Second World War United States artillery was known for its lethally accurate barrages and rapid response time, while the Soviets massed their artillery by division and corps, unleashing thousands of guns whose combined fire could convert huge swathes of terrain into cratered wastelands. In the modern era it has only gotten worse, as a battery of modern rocket artillery with just six vehicles can wipe out a battalion of tanks or regiment of infantry in a single firing cycle.
- This is pretty much what killed the dinosaurs (although recent research indicates that the earth was trying to become a Lethal Lava Land at the time [again] and that the asteroid was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back). The Cretaceous Extinction was a Class 4 on the Sliding Scale Of Complete Destruction. The impact was explicitly called Death From Above by a History Channel special about the geologic history of the Earth.
- Any aerial predator that feeds on ground-dwelling prey. Special mention goes to eagles.
- During the Cold War the Strategic Air Command (or SAC for short) was this racked up to eleven. To put things into perspective these guys where in control of the nuclear arsenal of the United States of America, our strategy in the event of a nuclear war would be to drop calculated and precise B-52 nuclear strikes to weaken the Soviet's ability to mount a counter-attack and then all of our nuclear warheads from our submarines and Military bases would be launched for an all out assault. As some experts would recount SAC was probably the most powerful Military Force ever known to Mankind, but after the Cold War it had to be shut down because a nuclear threat from the Soviet Union had more or less ceased. The motto of the bomber wing (the guys who flew the B-52s and other tactical fighter planes) was "Death from Above" which makes sense as dropping a nuclear bomb on you definitely counts.
- Project Pluto was an early attempt by the US to design nuclear-armed drones missiles. Propelled by a Nuclear powered ramjet, the missiles would theoretically have near-unlimited range, and be able to fly around on standby mode for years before needing to be refuelled. The project was cancelled due to a combination of the missiles potentially irradiating the atmosphere wherever they went, conventional ICBM rockets being easier to build, and fears that the Soviet Union would develop a similar superweapon of their own in response.