Taurian Invasion 34: On to Kyushu

I was leaning back in my chair when Sylvia walked back in and said. “What are you thinking about?”

“I am literally trying to think of everything.”


“All I’m doing is going in circles. There are too many things that need doing, and I’ve done everything I can until tomorrow, but I just can’t get my mind to slow down or focus.”

She walked around behind me and I jumped when she put her hands on my shoulders, “I’m not going to bite, you goof.”

“Sorry, bad memory.”

“Well, try and relax and stop worrying for a few minutes. You don’t have to do everything yourself, you know.”

“I know, but I ran out of things I can do, so I’m all I can do now is worry.”

“You know, Allen, that is the dumbest thing I heard out of you all day.”

“That’s OK. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve said all day.”

“Now that that’s settled, why don’t we get out of here and go pack you stuff, and when we finish that, you can come over to my place and help me pack.”

“You’ve decided to come!”

“It scares me silly, and I still might chicken out on you, but yes, I’m coming.”

“What made you decide to come?”

“Well, I know you well enough to know that you need all the help you can get. Besides, I’ve never been out of the country before, and how could I turn down such a golden opportunity?”

“Now who’s being silly?”

“Hush, you. You’re spoiling the moment.”

“Isn’t that what I do best?”

“No, what you do best is the thing we’re about to face, and what I do best is make sure that you are at your best to do it.”

We spent the afternoon getting our things ready for our journey. This was not like the other deployments where I could be gone for two weeks and expect that nothing will have changed while I was gone.

We were finishing up at her apartment, when I was struck with a thought. This was going to be the biggest thing that had happened to me since I had come to Prometheus. My mind started going over paths that I had seldom considered, and I asked, “Sylvia, just how much money do I have in my account?”

“You have a good amount saved up. Why do you ask?”

“I really don’t like thinking about money. After my dad died, we never had much money, and there wasn’t much I could do about it. I remember thinking that the only thing I could do for my mother was to use as little as possible. I stopped asking for things and did silly stuff like always buying off the value menu at fast food restaurants. I took great pride in never getting anything new or expensive. That’s kind of why I’ve let you buy everything for me and I never ask how much. I’m still trying to save money for my mom, and yet I’ve never done anything for her since I came here. I guess what I really want to know is what can I do for her with what I’ve made?”

“So, you’ve never looked at you finances?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Ever since you asked me about getting an advance, I’ve been managing your money for you. I pay your bills, buy the things you need, and I have been working with the banking division to invest your surplus monies as wisely as possible. With their help, you have paid off all your student loans, credit cards, and other old debts until you were debt free. Since then, everything has been invested until you need it.”

“How much are we talking here?”

“Currently, all of your funds and investments are worth over two million dollars.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“I’m completely serious.”

“I haven’t even been here a full year yet. There is no way I’m making that much money, even with the promotions.”

“As a Major in the Prometheus security division, you are currently pulling down $120,000 a year, or $10,000 a month. On top of that, you have your original $50,000 signing bonus, combat pay, bounties on aliens killed, aliens killed by those under your command, as well as alien materials recovered, innovation bonuses for your work on the battlesuits, instructional bonuses for teaching new pilots and foreign militaries, and bonuses paid by other governments. And finally interest on your investments. All of this adds up to around 2.1 million dollars. I can give you an exact figure if you want me to look it up.”

“Is this all my money free and clear? What about taxes and stuff?”

“The taxes and such have already been taken care of. Believe me, I go over this stuff pretty carefully, and you’ve earned every bit of that money.”

“And you have been taking care of this for me behind the scenes?”

“It’s there for you for anything you want or need.”

“Then, my dear, I would like to ask you for a big favor.”

* * *

Mrs. Spencer nearly didn’t hear the doorbell over the vacuum. She would later tell people that she thought it was a delivery man until she noticed that he was wearing a suit. “Can I help you?”

“Barbara Spencer?” When she nodded, he handed her a tablet, “You have a video-phone call.”

“Hi mom. How have you been?”

“Well, this is a surprise. I’ve been doing pretty well sweetie.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t called like I should.”

“You’ve been pretty busy from what I could tell from the news and the net.”

“That’s true, but that’s not really an excuse, and I feel bad because now I need to ask you for a favor.”

“You know that I don’t have a lot money, but I’ll do whatever I can honey.”

“Well, I have been doing pretty well at my job, so money is not the problem. It’s more a matter of time. I need someone to go and buy a house for me.”

“A…a house?”

“Yes, A nice four bedroom house with plenty of room for when I’m ready to settle down and raise a family. I’ve got the financing all lined up, but I don’t have time to go look for one. Besides that, I’m going to need a caretaker to live there and furnish it and such. It pays $3,000 a month. I thought maybe you could find someone for that.”

“Allen Victor Spencer! You are either playing a cruel joke or you’re out of your mind, young man!”

“Well, the jury’s still out on my mental state, but I’m not pulling you leg Mom. I’m making really good money now, and it’s about time that I did something for you like you’ve taken care of me my whole life. I want you to buy a house big enough for a family to grow up in and room for you as well. I don’t care where it is, as long as you’ll be happy there. The man who gave you the vid-plate is Mr. Jefferson. He’s a financial specialist from Prometheus’ banking division. He will help you with anything you need for this.”

“Mr. Spencer has placed a considerable sum at your disposal for this task, and it is my job to see that what ever you need is available to you as you need it.”

“So, what do you say mom?”

“I say you better introduce me to the young lady before you start a family, young man.”


* * *

Despite my mother using her “mortify offspring” power, I was in a wonderful mood after pulling my little stunt. I didn’t even mind when Sylvia made me put on my uniform before we went to the big meeting which had been delayed until the evening.

“I don’t know why they said I was to accompany you to this meeting. I don’t know how to even shoot a gun, much less how to plan a war.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t expect there to be any shooting at this meeting.”

“Very funny Allen.”

“But, it got you to smile, therefore I am triumphant!”

“You big goof.”

The meeting was in a cavernous room with a huge table. It had to be for effect because there were plenty of more comfortable rooms that we could have had this meeting in. You couldn’t even see the walls because only the area around the table was lit up. The Director and the Chief Counselor sat at one end of the table and a huge screen was at the other. Tony Moore, our Adjutant General, sat to the right of the Director, and Rodolfo Nevarez, our Head of Operations, sat across from him and to the Chief Counselor’s left. Sylvia and I sat next to General Moore, and Ron Stone, our Chief Diplomat, and his councilor Heather sat across from us (I would have had no idea who he was except we all had plaques with our names and titles on them in front of our places.) Next to Ron sat Colonel Joseph Mather, our US Liaison Officer (lately of NASA.) Filling out the rest of the table were a bunch of blank monitor and camera set-ups for remote attendees.

As I settled in, the Director smiled at me. “Allen, you seem to be in a good mood.”

“I just sent my mother a long overdue gift.”

“Well, I hate to spoil your mood but I need to tell you something before this meeting starts. Tony says that we are sending enough forces to qualify as a brigade. Since you are in charge, you have been given a temporary rank of colonel.”

Tony clapped me on the shoulder before I could protest, “I know that you haven’t done anything spectacular since you made major, but this is a brevet rank just for the mission. I’ll need to work with you to assign other ranks to form a coherent chain of command. Before you give me any lip, just remember that we could have made you a general instead.”

I picked up my nameplate, and sure enough it said: Colonel Spencer Commander 1st Brigade, Prometheus. I sighed and put it back, “Anything else I need to know before we start?”

Angelia gave me a reassuring smile, “Just remember that you were invited to this meeting as a peer, not an underling, and you will do just fine.”

We chatted for a while and Sylvia made sure that I introduced myself to Ron, Heather, and Colonel Mather. Some device on the Director beeped, catching everyone’s attention, “Alright everyone, the show is about to begin!”

I don’t remember everyone who attended remotely, but they all had their names and titles displayed across the bottom of the screens. Ron led the introductions, which my mind wandered from almost immediately. I have a hard enough time remembering names, but I didn’t have a prayer at remembering names I couldn’t even read, much less pronounce. Ron then gave an introductory speech (which I nearly fell asleep to) and then the Director gave a brief rundown of the situation facing us. Then the Japanese Ambassador gave a speech which was translated by Rodolfo. He took about ten minutes to say that, although many Japanese were skeptical, the government decided to take the threat seriously because of the number of dead bio-soldiers washing up on the beaches and being caught by fishermen. The American ambassador didn’t need any translation to put me to sleep, talking about historic alliances and such. This was followed by the Chinese, Russian and South Korean ambassadors, who spoke while I ardently fantasized about having my old game-pad to pass the time.

After an hour of speeches, it was agreed that we would take a recess for dinner. As soon as all the screens went blank, the Director stood, “Let’s have some lights in here!” As I had suspected, we were in a room like the weapons bay. What I hadn’t known was that twenty feet away from the table in any direction, were heavy, black curtains. One of the curtains parted to reveal a second, smaller table that was filled with food. There were name placards in front of the plates, and to my delight, one of my favorite meals from the Main Cafeteria was ready and waiting for me.

Once I had finished most of my plate, the Director asked, “Any questions so far Allen?”

“Why all the theatrics?”

“Spoken like a true warrior. If you are going to play the diplomatic game, you really can’t avoid them. More important, if you play the game right, you can make a difference that can save untold numbers of lives. Once I found that I couldn’t avoid this sort of thing, I decided to have fun with it.”

“So, what’s my part in this play?”

“You? You are the brilliant young hero that comes up with the plan that brings everyone together and leads us to victory.”

“And you’re just telling me this now?”

“You don’t have to do it tonight. Right now, all you have to do is assure them that you will be there and tell them that we can win.”

“So are we going to do anything militarily significant tonight?”

Tony Moore said, “I know it’s a pain, but tonight we are deciding who is on our side and willing to fight with us, and that’s pretty darn significant. We also have to decide where and when the military leaders meet next. We might even decide on the overall commander for the theatre.”

“Well, then my question becomes, what do we know about the likely leaders?”

“Because of Prometheus’ international status, a good case could be made for either you or me to lead the force. Most people know who you are from media reports, and I’m well enough known in military circles.”

“Do you want the job?”

“Not really, most of my experience is in special and covert operations. Besides that, I’m pretty swamped setting up coastal watch grids and advising various militaries on how to upgrade their forces.”

“So, who else is there?”

“Let me see…The South Koreans will probably want to keep their best generals home to watch the North Koreans, so that rules them out. General Chen of China and General Antonov of Russia are both good. If we pick either one of them we could probably count on getting a significant number of their forces to be committed, but it’s an either or proposition. It would also make the Japanese nervous, and they might block either one unless we can show that there’s no other choice.”

“Admiral Douglas of the US 7th fleet could be a good choice. He and his people will be eager to avenge the loss of the Ronald Reagan. General Dupree of the 3rd Marines is a no-nonsense ground commander with good experience in combined arms operations. Among the Japanese, Admiral Ishida is a good choice as he has done good things with the Japanese Navy. General Abe would be great, but he might not accept it as I hear that he is getting ready to retire.”

‘Didn’t Abe go into politics?”

“Actually, that’s backwards. He had served in the military and then got elected to the Upper House. When the Troubles started, he led the movement that reformed the constitution and resigned his post to lead the transition from the Japanese Defense Forces to the Japanese Armed Forces. He makes a lot of people nervous because they think he might want to turn Japan into an empire again. Although I think that is just paranoid rumors, he has turned Japan into a militarily powerful nation for the first time since World War II.”

“Sounds to like the best choices are Abe and Dupree, in that order.”

“What if Abe is retiring?”

“Retirement is a luxury. A man of honor will always set things like that aside when his nation is at stake.”

Angelia’s head picked up at that remark, “That’s a little harsh, Allen. Is something the matter?”

“You’re right. I got some bad news about General Harrison the other day. He’s losing his battle with pancreatic cancer and had to step down last week. They don’t expect him to live more than a couple of months.”

Tony gave my shoulder another squeeze, “Men like him are few and far between, but there are other men of honor ready to step in when the call comes.”

* * *

We returned to the diplomatic table and the aura of gloom was restored. As soon as all of the screens had faces on them again, the meeting resumed. There were a few more minutes of diplomatic pleasantries and then the Russian Ambassador asked bluntly, “It’s all well and good that the fine wizards at Prometheus have foreseen where and when the enemy will strike. I, on the other hand, would like to know just how they can be so sure of their information. Do they, perhaps, have some way of knowing what the enemy has planned that they have not shared with us?”

The Director chuckled, “For the answer to that, I will give the floor to the man who actually figured it out: Colonel Spencer.”

(Thanks for the warning, boss.) “As wonderful as it would be to announce that we had made some fantastic breakthrough in decoding the enemy’s transmissions or some such, I’m afraid that this particular information came from old fashioned detective work. Like many others around the world, I was trying to make sense of the enemy’s actions after they withdrew all their forces to the oceans. Their occasional attacks on shipping and excursions onto land seemed as random to me as they did to everyone else. After reaching that dead end, I looked into rumors and sightings, and found a few possible leads, but after checking the distribution of such things and checking against the records of occurrences in the past, there was no real difference between now and before the aliens withdrew. After this I began checking the locations of bounties that Prometheus pays for alien artifacts and bodies around the world. These finally started to show a distinct pattern. It wasn’t until I plotted these locations on a world map and compared then to previous times that the true pattern emerged.”

I glanced up, and to my surprise there was a world map on the large screen labeled ‘artifacts recovered 12 to 16 weeks ago.’

“As you can see, there is not much there. There are some clumps, but they are scattered all over the place. If you check a more recent time period, a startling difference appears.” As I had hoped, a map labeled ‘artifacts recovered current to 4 weeks ago’ appeared. “The positions of recovered artifacts and remains has changed drastically. For example, remains were being recovered in Indonesia on a regular basis three months ago, but recently, have fallen off dramatically. It seems that the Aliens are concentrating into six distinct areas around the globe.”

“This only gives us general regions, not specific targets or dates. I then checked the major ocean currents against the locations, and got an even clearer picture. The more concentrated the alien forces, and the closer they are to shore, the more concentrated the bodies should be. The greatest concentrations in the world are around the East China Sea. More importantly, as I checked the pattern over time, the movement from Indonesia to the South China Sea was one of the patterns that emerged, the recoveries in the South China Sea have dropped to a trickle. This led me to believe that their movements are nearly completed.”

“Their target seemed to be somewhere on the edge of the East China Sea. To narrow down this large region I looked back at the world picture and asked what the six target regions had in common. The one thing that stuck out was that they all had large islands near a continental landmass. In the East China Sea region, this left two candidates: Kyushu and Taiwan. The final clue came from fishing reports. The fisheries south of Korea and Kyushu have reported a mysterious decline in their populations, while the fisheries in other parts of the East China Sea and adjacent waters have remained unaffected.”

“Now, having said all that, there is still a possibility that I am completely wrong. We are dealing with the bio-mechanical minions of an alien race. All I really have in indirect information on the deployment of their forces. Looking at what we do see, it seems foolish not to prepare for the possibility of their attack. As for the targeting Kyushu itself, the enemy seems to be in a position where they could target any or all of the southern Japanese islands or even the Korean Peninsula. Kyushu is right at the center of the target zone and is a natural place to concentrate our forces to be able to strike quickly and effectively at any possible invasion site.”

This seemed to quiet any opposition for the moment. After an obnoxious amount of discussion, it was agreed that the major military commanders would meet at the Prometheus facility on Kyushu in two days. By all the time all the screens shut off, I was exhausted and completely sick of diplomats.

The Director, on the other hand seemed energized nearly to the point of giddiness. “Allen, my boy, you were amazing! I expected you to say something basic that my charts would back up, but you gave them the whole proof. Not a one of them could say a word against you, and believe you me, they would have if they could have…”

“And he would go on like this for hours,” interrupted Angelia, “but you have a busy day ahead of you tomorrow and you need to get some rest. Sylvia, escort your charge home while I take care of mine.”

* * *

Although I had been sent home to get some sleep, I ended up spending the entire night researching for the upcoming battle. The amount that needed to be done just to get everyone over there was mind boggling. Once there I had to turn a research and production facility into a major military base. At the same time, I had to turn a lose collection of independent strike forces into a coherent fighting force and then integrate that force into an assortment of forces from around the region. This all somehow had to coalesce into a coherent fighting force capable of fending off a force of bio-soldiers that might number more than a million. Sleep could wait.

* * *

Back in the ‘room of gloom,’ Allen’s departure set off a small talk that led to goodbyes and soon the room was empty save for the Director, Angelia, and Tony. The Director leaned back in his chair, “Alright, I’ll bite. Why did you send Allen off like that?”

Angelia sighed and said, “If I hadn’t stopped you, you would have kept him here all night and told him everything.”

“What’s the problem with that? He’s passed every test I’ve thrown at him.”

“But he has not passed some of the most important of mine. He still lacks maturity and depth of wisdom. Do not get me wrong, he is showing great progress in those areas, but he is not there yet.”

“Tony, what’s your opinion?”

“I’m afraid I have to agree with Angelia on this one. He’s a fine officer and a great leader, but he needs to become a real general before he is ready.”

“Alright, I think he’s ready, but I will bow to your collective wisdom.”

* * *

Sylvia came into my apartment, “Good morning sunshine, you’re up and…you never went to bed, did you?”

“Didn’t even try.”

“How are you supposed to function without any sleep?”

“We have this really long plane ride scheduled for later today. I plan on sleeping then.”

“Have you had anything to eat?”

“I’ve been snacking, but I could use a good breakfast.”

“What would you like?”

“Cereal and some toast with peanut butter.”

“You call that a good breakfast?”

“Well, I do, but I know you wouldn’t. It’s deficient in vitamin H.

“Vitamin H?”

“You know, Heat.”

“You know, if I strangle you, they’ll have to find someone else to lead this expedition.”

“I know.” As I stretched and yawned, I took her hand, “How are you doing this morning?”

“Tired, because I didn’t get much sleep last night. Scared silly by the prospect of going into a battle zone. The only reason I haven’t chickened out is because I know that you need me and will take care of me.”

“Sylvia, I will take care of you. Even if it costs me my life, I will keep you safe.”

I could feel her hand trembling as she said, “Do you know how much you mean to me, Allen?”

“No… no I don’t. I’ve always been blind in that area. But, what I do know is how much you mean to me. You, more than anyone, have given me a life and chance for happiness. My life before coming here was empty, lonely, and to a certain extent, futile. You have shown me all the things that I was blind to that were crippling me. So, no. I don’t know what I mean to you, but I do know that you mean everything to me.”

We came into each other’s arms and held tightly for a long time. I thought about trying to kiss her, but frankly I chickened out because I had no idea how to do so and was terrified of ruining the moment. I herd her chuckle to herself and say, “Allen Spencer, just what am I going to do with you?”

* * *

I called everyone associated with the Giant Killers together for a meeting in the weapons bay. We have seventy pilots in our unit, but when we got everyone together like this, it became clear that the whole unit had around 300 people.

I got up on a table and waved my arms to get everyone’s attention, “You’ve probably heard by now that the Giant Killers are going to Japan, and that most of Prometheus’ military is going with us. This is going to be very different from anything we’ve faced before. Instead of an isolated group around a vulnerable taurian base, we are likely to face wave after wave of coming up out of the sea. This time, however, we are not defending some isolated wilderness or tiny village. We are defending a large island that is home to 15 million men, women and children.”

“By ourselves, we and all of the other Prometheus units would not stand much of a chance, but we will not be alone. The entire Japanese Armed Forces will stand with us, as well as major units from the US, South Korea, and other nations. With their numbers and our experience, we will annihilate every bio-soldier that dares poke its head out of the sea.” A bunch of people started cheering, which really threw me off my stride. After everyone settled down, “Everyone, get your things together and get boarded as quickly as you can, we have a lot of work to do and a lot of aliens to kill.”

Sylvia approached me as the crowd disbursed, “That was pretty good. Where’d you learn to rabble rouse like that?”

“Sometimes when I try to speak, everything just seems to come out right. Other times I just irritate people.”

I think you’ll always do well as long as you put your heart into it. You’ve got a…”

“Hey boss!” yelled Lena upon arrival, “You bringing your counselor too?”

“Yes, Sylvia’s agreed to come, and I take it that Sukari is coming as well.”

“Yeah, she said that she needs to teach all of us some appropriate manners, but I think that she was mostly talking about me.

“Well, her knowledge and language skills will probably come in pretty handy. She’s the only one associated with the company that I know of who speaks any Japanese. How long until you two are ready?”

“I’ve already stowed my pack on the plane, but Sukari is busy trying to fit everything she owns into a set of luggage. I don’t think she knows the meaning of traveling light.”

“Not everyone has a warrior’s sensibility. See what you can do to help her. I want to get everyone underway as soon as possible.”

“OK, see you at the motorhome then?”

“No, I’m flying in the C & C jet along with all the medical people.”

She sighed, “OK see you in Japan then.”

I turned to see Sylvia staring at me with a contemplative look on her face. “You really didn’t catch any of that, did you?”

“What? The part about Sukari?

“Never mind, Allen. Honestly, sometimes I think that you’re the most brilliant man in the world, and other times I wonder how you find you way out of bed in the morning. I guess that what I get for getting involved with a Savant.”

“OK, I’m completely lost here.”

“Exactly. Let’s get you back to working with things you understand.”

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Taurian Invasion 33: Storm Warning

Section 5:

Calm Before the Storm

The next few months were very exciting to live through, but would be very repetitious to describe. We would spend a week capturing bases and killing aliens, and then we would go home and spend a week resting and healing while training new pilots. Six pilots were killed (five in battle and one in a stupid traffic accident,) and eight others were injured badly enough to take them out of the program, and another seven transferred to other units (five as company leaders.) I learned to expect two to five pilots to be out for injuries, illness or whatever at the start of each battle and ten to twelve to be out by the end.

I was lucky, as I didn’t lose any of my squad, and in fact, added another member. Lynette joined our squad on a permanent basis because I never knew when I would be needed for something else. Sureshot was promoted to squad leader to free up more of my time for command duties. It was a wild ride and just as it seemed that there was no way that we could lose, all of the remaining Taurian bases disappeared. It was like, poof, and they were gone.

Everything seemed to be at a standstill, until we lost the Reagan. It was sailing from Pearl Harbor on route to Yokosuka, Japan when it was attacked by a swarm of Kraken and Leviathan coming up from below. By the time the attackers were killed or driven off by depth charges and the like, the Old Man was riddled with holes and sinking fast. The loss of such a powerful warship and 516 of its crew was bad enough by itself but the message it sent was far worse: Humanity had lost control of the seas.

* * *

I heard my front door open, and since the clock read 7:05 AM, I said, “Good morning, Sylvia.”

“Have you eaten yet Allen?”

“I was going to have some cereal earlier, but I never got around to it.”

“Then we’re going to the Main Cafeteria to get you a decent hot breakfast.”

As I gathered up my things I decided to take a jab, “I still haven’t found any research on the nutritional value of heat.”

She smacked me in the shoulder and said; “Will you be serious. This is a big meeting with some of the most important people in the company.”

“Yes, and I’ve snored along with most of them through meetings before.”

“Why do you have to have a smart-alec comment for everything I say?”

“Two reasons, really. First, it lets you know that I’m listening to what you’re saying and second, because I occasionally make you crack a smile.”

“You’re cracked enough for both of us. Do you even know what this meeting’s about?”

‘I thought you did.”

“I was just told to have you there at 9:00 sharp.”

“I just hope it’s not another dang promotion. I’m still getting used to people calling me Major.”

“Allen Spencer, don’t you dare even THINK of turning down a promotion for a stupid reason like that.”

I gave her my best mischievous smile, “OK, I’ll be sure to come up with a better one.”

* * *

We arrived after a long drive in an area deep inside the mountain that I had never been to before. It looked to me like our weapons bay, but most of the room had been curtained off, and a large table had been set up for the meeting. The Director and Angelia we already there, and he had a big grin, which meant he was up to something. “Good morning Allen and Sylvia, I trust you two are well.”

“We’re good.”

“Excellent, how is your battlesuit company?”

“At full strength and starting to get bored.”

“Well, we shouldn’t have to worry about that for too much longer.” Definitely up to something. Other people started filing in before I could ask any questions. After everyone else had settled in, Dr Royce was escorted into the meeting from behind the curtains by his counselor. The Director stood up; “As everyone should know by now, the war has entered a new phase and the enemy I coming at us from an new and unexpected direction. They have begun sending their marine bio-soldiers against large ships at sea and have so far sunk one aircraft carrier, twenty-two cargo container ships and a tanker. We need new weapons to counter this new threat, and Herman and his people have been working hard and came up with something brilliant, as usual. Herman.”

“Ever since we got our hands on examples of alien technology, we have been trying to add this into our own systems to give us an advantage over the enemy. While this pursuit has taken us down many false paths, OW!” (Heather looked excessively innocent.) “Getting back to the subject at hand, one of our greatest achievements has been the hybrid technology battlesuit. It is not, however the pinnacle of this technology. We have to take the knowledge and experience from the hybrid battlesuit project and moved it to its next logical step. This journey required many changes to be made and there were many technical obstacles to overcome which my people worked…Ow. Without any further delays, I want to present to you the next level of battle technology: The Type IV Knight Medium Hybrid Battlesuit!”

The curtain opened and there it stood; A thirty foot tall giant; Armed and ready to take on anything that the enemy could throw at us. Part of me wanted to go over it specs so that I could see how it would integrate into our formations. The other part of me was filled with more desire than a frat-boy at a nudist colony. I just sat there with my mouth hanging open, entranced by it until Sylvia kicked me under the table and I realized that my name had been called a couple of times.

The director had an amused smile as he said, “Well, Mister Spencer, does it meet with your approval?”

“It looks awesome, but I need to run it through some trials before I can make any sort of a judgment.”

“I would have thought you had made up your mind by the expression you had.”

“I may be in love, but I think I should get to know her before I propose.” Sylvia kicked me under the table again for that one, but I thought it was funny.

As I had hoped, the prototypes were transferred to my company. We were still first and foremost, test pilots. We gained access to a third bay that housed the Knights, which I allowed everyone to visit, but no one got to pilot one until I felt that they were qualified in the simulators. These suits worked like nothing that had ever been made before, which sounds good until you realize that there are plenty of problems that no one has ever encountered before. The regular way to make something like this was to put some sort of cockpit in the thing and train new pilots from scratch, but that would have been too easy. Instead, they actually had a set of clamps that installed the Warrior battlesuits in the chest and let it control the Knight. Sounds pretty simple as we had already worked out a lot of the bugs from the Warriors, Right? It was chaos!

One of the first pilots to qualify on the Knights was Lena. She had the grace and balance to make a battlesuit do nearly anything, but after three days of trying to pilot the medium battlesuits, she earned a new nickname that stuck with her: The Demolisher! She broke four Knights in three days trying to put them through their paces. It wasn’t that she made any mistakes; it was just that the big suits couldn’t keep up with her. Considering that there were only ten prototypes total and there was a limit on how fast our repair crews could fix them, I ended up having to restrict how often she was allowed to pilot one.

With some of the spectacular falls, crashes and assorted malfunctions those early tests, the only reason that no one got killed was the decision to put a Warrior battlesuit inside the Knights to protect the pilot. I would later learn that the only reason that it had been done that way was because the designers didn’t have time to build a proper cockpit, but I wasn’t complaining. We got into a routine where we would test the Knights until three or more of them broke down and then we would go back and practice in the simulators until the research team fixed them all. It didn’t help anything that both of the Type V scout Knights had catastrophic breakdowns in the first week and were pulled by research for a full redesign.

It was total pandemonium in our unit for about a month and a half until we got the big guys stabilized enough to take them out on the weapons range. We wasted so much ammo! We were having so much fun that Sylvia had to threaten to call security on me one night to get me to send everyone home for the night. I had almost completely forgotten about the war, but that was about to change.

* * *

I was just about to go to bed when my vid-phone began singing Dare to Be Stupid. I answered it expecting it to be Sylvia making sure I was going to bed, but I was greeted by the Director. “Allen, I was wondering if you could do me a favor?”

“Sure thing. What do you need me to do sir?”

“I’m sending you some intelligence reports. Look them over and see if you can see a pattern for me.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll let you know if and when I find something.” I knew that he was up to something, but I was getting used to that. I started looking through the war reports. The Taurians had settled down quite a bit, but they would still make an attack from time to time. A ship here or there, the occasional small harbor or remote beach, but there seemed to be no real pattern, but that couldn’t be true. These were organic robots; they didn’t do things for no particular reason. I called up more and more reports until I became oblivious to anything except this problem. When my vid-phone began singing Another One Rides the Bus, I about jumped out of my skin.

“Well, Allen, what are they doing?”

“Getting ready to invade.”


“Tasmania, Kyushu, Cuba, Newfoundland, Madagascar, and Ireland.”

“All at once?”

“No, they’ll attack Kyushu first.”

“How do you know?”

“Body bounties.”

“Body bounties?”

“If you correct for the currents, that’s where the bodies are washing up that we are paying bounties for, and that’s where they’re massing. We need to get everything we can to Japan before they attack.”

“Why didn’t I see that before? Get some rest, son. You’ve earned it!”

The screen went blank, so I got up and stretched…and my alarm went off in my bedroom. “That didn’t take long.”

Sylvia found me a bit later as I was pouring orange juice into my cereal. “Why did you do that, you goof-ball?”

“I’m not really sure.” She took it away from me. “Hey! I might want to eat that.”

“That’s it. You are not going to work today.”

“That’s probably a good idea. Could you spread the word that everyone in the unit should take the day off? Support staff and all.”


“They should get everything in order. We’re leaving for Japan tomorrow.”

“I haven’t heard anything about that.”

“You’re the third one to know after me and the Director.”

* * *

I took a nap for a few hours and then I called up Tony Moore. “Hello there Major, what can I do for you?”

“Has the Director informed you about moving assets to Japan?”

“We’re in a meeting about that right now. We were planning on calling as soon as you woke up.”

“All right, what did I miss?”

The vid-phone switched to a full room view so that I could see everyone. I had never seen the Director looking so tired. “Well, my boy, we were just going over the situation that you brought to my attention and starting to brainstorm ideas.”

“We are debating where to place our assets and what to tell the world, but we hadn’t come to any conclusions yet. You were the one who saw this problem. What are you thinking?”

“I wish I had had the time to draw up maps to show you the patterns I saw last night, but I’ll try to explain it instead. I was plotting where and how frequently the Taurian bodies were washing on shore, and the bodies are definitely concentrating toward six points. The largest of these concentrations is moving toward southern Japan, and it is the closest to having all the forces in place. All of them should be in position around Kyushu in as little as two weeks, but not more than five. None of the others will be in place for at least eight weeks.”

“Is that why you think Kyushu will be first?”

“That, and it’s the force that started moving first. If we move on this quickly, we can get enough forces in position to defeat their largest attack.”

“Why Kyushu then?”

“I’m not really sure. Their strategy seems clear enough. Go for a large island near a continental landmass, If it were up to me I would have picked Hunan or Taiwan or even Borneo, but the Taurs are heading for Kyushu instead.”

“OK, let my try that a different way. How sure are you that the target is Kyushu and not something else?”

“Last night when I was immersed in the data, I would have staked my life on it. This morning, I’m less sure, but even if it’s not Kyushu, it will be close enough that Kyushu will be a good staging ground anyway.”

“I’ve been going over the data since I signed off with Allen. I think he’s right. Besides, our biggest facility in Japan is in Kyushu and it’s where we would stage anyway for anything in that region. Tony, who could we count on to stand with us there?”

“The Japanese Military have really bulked themselves up since the Troubles. They are well motivated, well equipped and well trained. The only thing that they lack is experience. We can also count on the US forces in the area and most likely the South Koreans as well. The Russians and the Chinese will have forces that can be called on for a price, but I would wait to see how much help we need before calling them.”

“Do you think that’s enough Allen?”

“The number of forces available is fine, but I really think we need to move every combat ready unit Prometheus has there. They have good numbers, but we have the experience. Plus, sending everything will let people know just how serious this is.”


“I don’t know. Putting all your eggs in one basket is always risky.”

“Then you get together with your commanders and decide whose going. I’ll start things rolling on the diplomatic side.”

“Sir, May ask a question?”

“Of course.”

“Do you have someone else who can do that for you?”

“Well, I guess so.”

“Then I am going to push my luck and make a suggestion for all of us here. I just gave all of my people the day to get all of their things in order and get some rest and relaxation before everything starts tomorrow. I may be out of line, but you look exhausted, and this may be that last time that any of us get a chance like this for quite some time. With respect, I suggest that you, and all of your key people take this day to take it easy and get prepared, and tomorrow We’ll start the all out push.”

“He’s got you there.” said Angelia with a big smile, “If you get some rest now, you be able to work better and longer in the long run.”


“Don’t ‘but’ me mister. You’re the one who created the monster. Now, you have to live with the consequences.”

“Very well, I see I’m outvoted here. Angelia, you spread the word to the appropriate people and counselors. We’ll all get some rest and start everything bright and early tomorrow. Allen, I expect you here in my conference room at 7 AM tomorrow morning.”

* * *

After everyone else has left Angelia turned to the Director, “You gave in way too easily on that one. What are you up to?”

“You, my dear, were right on target. I have created the monster. Since the first time I faced him in a video game, I had a hunch that he was the one. He thinks like I do and can see patterns like I can. I have been trying to figure out what the alien’s next move will be for weeks and come up with nothing. I gave him the problem out of desperation, hoping he might be able to give me some leads. He solved the problem in less than ten hours. If he’s seeing the pattern well enough to say that this is the last chance for a good rest, then I damn well better listen.”

“Are you jealous?”

“No…well, yes, a little bit. Part of me is incredibly relieved. I thought I would never find someone else who could see the big patterns like I can. Another part of me is a bit jealous that he beat me at my own game.”

“And you’re sending him right into the jaws of the enemy?”

“I know that you don’t approve, Angel, but that’s exactly where we need him to be.”

“And if he dies?”

“Then we go on as best we can. His responsibilities will take him out of direct combat eventually. We just have to trust in Providence to keep him safe until then.”

* * *

I went and checked on Sylvia at my office at the simulator bay. She was talking to several people as I arrived, so I checked to see who else was in instead of taking the day off like they were supposed to. I heard someone in my office and walked in expecting it to be Sniper. “Rusty, what are you doing here, sir?”

“Just helping out the Doc, and since when do I rate a ‘sir’ from you?”

“Because you’re an older, more experienced warrior who I respect. Besides, calling you ‘dude’ just doesn’t seem right. Anyway, could you let the Doc know I want to talk to her as soon as possible?”

“Sure thing, kid.”

“Thanks pops. I started going through my ‘in’ box as Rusty left. It was a relief to see that nothing was so urgent that it couldn’t wait for tomorrow. I started packing up everything I thought I would need for our extended stay in Japan. Somewhere in that, Sylvia walked in and started going through the things I had set aside. “Sylvia, I have a question for you.”

“Yes?” She said without looking up.

“An important one.”

She whirled around with wide eyes. “What?”

“This isn’t going to be like any of our other deployments. Those were raids, but this is war. I don’t know how long we will be there, so I would like to ask if you would go with me?”

“To Japan?”

“Yes, I’m asking you to go into a war zone, with all its inherent risks, but I’m going to need a lot of help, and having you at my side will make things a lot easier.” I guess the idea really scared her because she was breathing really heavy.

“Let me think about that some. I mean, I would have to find someone to take over my other duties and such.”

“Let me know as soon as you decide. Can you call Angelia and ask her about bringing other counselors as well?”

“I’ll do that,” and she left the room in a rush.

Doc Simmons came in next, “You wanted to see me?”

“I take it you’ve heard about our expedition?”

“Just rumors so far.”

“The Taurians are gearing up for a big push in Southern Japan. I would like for you to round up the people and equipment for a field hospital there. I’m sure the Japanese have plenty of fine hospitals, but I’m not sure how many are out of the danger zone. This is going into an active combat zone, so I want this to be on a strictly voluntary basis, yourself included.”

“Wow, you don’t do things half-way. Can I have Rusty for the rest of the day?”

“You can have him for as long as you need him ma’am.” I met her eyes to make sure she understood the implications of what I said. She nodded and left without another word.

I punched up Tony Moore on the vid-link. “How are things on your end, sir?”

“Well, everyone I’ve talked to is ready to go fight. I just need to figure out what kind of reserve to leave here. Do you have any ideas?”

“I definitely don’t want to take any units who haven’t passed all of their certifications. I also don’t want to take any of the experimentals except for the Knights.”

“Why them?”

“Frankly, because they’re impressive looking. They will give everyone a morale boost and will make good press coverage, but the truth is that we don’t have enough of them to make a strategic difference.”

“As long as you and the other pilots understand the risks and limitations.”

“What does that leave us with?”

“36 companies of hybrid armored infantry and 53 tuskers.”

“Wow, I had no idea we had so many tanks.”

“The number includes new units in the warehouse and those that were scheduled to be delivered to customers, but are being put on hold for the time being. Do you think that’s enough?”

“Not by ourselves. They will make a powerful force, but with the number of aliens that are coming, we wouldn’t stand a prayer by ourselves.”

“Good, you’re keeping things in perspective. The Japanese and US forces will provide the bulk of the troops. We’ll go over the details in the meeting tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll be there sir.”

“Good, now go get some of that rest that you wanted for all of us.”

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Taurian invasion 32: The Date of Infinite Awkwardness

This time when we came back I got to be right in the middle of the festivities! Have I mentioned that I don’t like crowds? It was getting pretty bad until I got pulled up on stage for a photo op with the Director. At least they had food and drinks for everyone and plenty of tables and chairs set up. When I was allowed offstage Sylvia pounced on me and gave me a big hug and a peck on the cheek. That was awesome but surprising as she had never done anything like that before.

I got to do several impromptu interviews and even saw Janet Somethingortheother again. It was a good diversion but I knew that there were a number of essential tasks that had to be done. We had lost Maury and Jessie had taken a serious hit to her leg and there was a possibility that she could still lose it. Two others were hospitalized (broken ribs and a broken arm that happened out of combat) that were expected to make full recoveries.

I also needed to meet with the higher ups about the Australian Method and how to teach it to other units and militaries as well as everything else we learned while there. I needed to actually take over everything else here in our headquarters as company commander. I needed to talk to Sylvia about what happened in Australia. I also needed to debrief and connect with my command staff as well. Somewhere in there I needed to study the things that General Harrison had laid out for me. All of this and I knew for a fact that Sylvia wouldn’t allow me to just give up sleeping for the next couple of months.

Sylvia let me know when it was OK to disengage from the festivities and we headed to my apartment to unpack. “Congratulations, Captain. you’re now well on your way from celebrity to legend. We’re going to have to watch it or you’re going to be swarmed with groupies.”

“I have decided that being famous, although occasionally useful, is mostly a pain in the neck. Have you seen some of the thing they have been writing about you and me?”

“Yes, and don’t worry. There are people taking care of the most obnoxious stuff.”

“It not that big a problem to me because I just don’t pay that much attention, but when it starts hurting those around me; that’s when I get angry.”

“Did something happen?”

“Well you know how Lena is about rumors. Well I had a visit from Rowen, Lena’s child part. She started searching my room for hussies.” Sylvia had just taken a drink and did a classic spit-take and started coughing. “You OK?” She nodded and motioned for me to continue as she got some paper towels, “Well she had heard from her other parts that they needed to watch out for hussies around me. She didn’t know what they were, but she was sure looking for them. That was when I found out what was being said on the net about me and those around me.”

She looked at me with the most wide eyed expression I had ever seen on her. “Seriously! That is what you got from that?”

“I take it I missed something important.”

She started rummaging through her purse. “No. It’s not important, just surprising. We’ll work on that later. I have some news that goes with your promotion. It was decided that you needed an administrative assistant to be your extra hands. So as of today I will be spending part of each day working with you as part of your unit.” She brought out her tablet and showed me the memo.

“Well that’s awesome! Congratulations, you’re now a Giant Killer! So, Madam Secretary, what do we have on the agenda for the rest of the day?”

She rolled her eyes at my attempt of a joke. “Well, you have dinner with the Director, Angelia and General Moore at 7:00. Until then your appointment calendar is clear.”

“As much as I long to just rest and blow off the rest of the day, I have a number of things on my mind that I need to get taken care of before I can relax.”

She took out her tablet and a stylus. “OK. Tell me what you’ve got and we’ll make a plan.”

“I need to debrief my command staff, or at least schedule it. I need to create a schedule to study the materials that General Harrison recommended to me. I need to at least look over the offices to see what I need to take care of now that I am company commander. And, last of all, I need to talk to you about what happened between Lena and me on this trip.”

Sylvia dropped her stylus but quickly retrieved it. “Anything else?”

“Not off the top of my head.”

“Why don’t we start with what happened between you and Lena? You already mentioned the incident with the hussies. What else happened?”

“Lena seems to be divided into more than one person. I’ve heard of this, but I have no idea how it works or what to do about it. Lena has a little girl part called Rowen. I get along with kids really well and I just treated her like I would a kid and that worked out pretty well. I suspected that the main part of Lena didn’t know that Rowan was visiting me and found that out for sure on this trip. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to embarrass her, but I ended up doing so anyway.”

“So are you wanting my help with how to make up with Lena?”

“No. I talked with Lena and we’re getting along now. I just want to know how do you deal with people with different people inside them like that so I don’t end up screwing up and hurting her. Is there some sort of rules for acting around people with her … condition?”

“Lena has multiple personalities. It’s very rare but usually only happens to people who have had very bad things happen to them.”

“Like PTSD?”

“Yes, it’s caused by the  same kind of things that cause PTSD only this is more serious. Lena is also a Savant, which makes her more vulnerable. Sukari and I have been working on ways that we can help her, and we were wondering if you could help us out.”

* * *

Sylvia looked over Allen and resisted the urge to facepalm. “Allen Spencer, you have killed giant killer aliens single handedly and given speeches in front of some of the most powerful men and women in the world. What in the world are you so nervous about?”

“What makes you think I’m nervous?”

Your voice just cracked, you are pale and sweating, and you look like you are about pass out or throw up. Sylvia decided to keep those observations to herself because she didn’t think they would help the situation. “Never mind. You are just going to town with your friend Lena. You are going to do some fun things and then you are going to come home. The only slightly romantic thing you are going to do is hold her hand at some point. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Allen looked like she had just told him that he needed to rip out his spleen with a spoon. He failed to look her in the eyes and lied badly, “I-I think I can handle that.”

The urge to facepalm was rising again but she managed to beat it down through sheer willpower. “You have your note cards and your back up note cards?”


Notes are usually a horrible idea for a date, but after working with him to prepare, Sylvia had run out of alternate ideas with a snowball’s chance in hell of working. “Now when you see Lena, what do you say?”

“I, um, say something nice about her?”

She may have facepalmed a little, “Almost.”

He fished a stack of note cards out of his pocket. “Say something nice about the way she looks.”

“Anyway, it’s time to go pick her up. Just try to relax and have fun.”

“No problem.” he said with a hysterical hint to his voice.

As he drove away, Sylvia sighed and muttered, “I’m going to hell for this.”

* * *

I drove around to the main (impress the visitors) entrance and found Lena waiting with Sukari. I had the first couple of note cards in my hand as I drove and so I: 1)turned off the car, 2) got out to greet her, and 3) asked, “Have you been waiting long?”

“Only a few minutes.”

I had never seen Lena dressed up before. I had seen her in uniform a couple of times, but other than that it had either been t-shirt and shorts or the longjohns that they wore on duty. “Your dress looks nice.” And it did, but she just didn’t look comfortable in it.

“Thanks you look nice too.”

We stood there just long enough to be uncomfortable before I noticed Sukari making shooing motions. Then I remembered to open the door for her. I managed to get us on their way before I ran into the next problem. I was supposed to talk about something, but I could only remember what he wasn’t supposed to talk about. Not work, not the war, not video games, not the other people in the unit, not other girls, not about myself, and not politics or religion. What did that leave? “So, how are you feeling today?”

“Fine, how are you?”

“Pretty good.” Thirty seconds down, four hours to go. I looked around desperately for something to talk about. I saw a mileage sign. “I’ve never been to this city before, have you?”

“Only a couple of time when I was running away from Sukari, but that’s been years.

The obvious question seemed like a bad idea so I continued my desperate search for another topic. I saw a cow! “What kind of food do you like?”

“I’m not picky, I’ll eat just about anything.”

Five minutes down, three hours and fifty-five minutes to go. Oh! I know! “What kind of movies do you like?”

“I really don’t like movies. I kind of get anxiety attacks in movies.”

I took my cards out of my pocket, shuffled through them, and tossed two of them out the window. Lena looked at me funny but didn’t say anything. I really wished that she had. Six minutes down … I really have to quit with the countdown. Let’s see… “Do you have anything you like to do in town?”

At this, Lena looked down and blushed. “I kinda have a lot of bad habits from when I was younger that I’m trying to break.”

I started to reach for my cards to throw the rest of them out of the window, but decided not to bother. What to talk about … I glanced at Lena to see if she was bored. Well duh, I could find out about her. That was even on one of the cards somewhere. “As much as we’ve worked together I really don’t know that much about you.”

“What do you want to know?” She tried to sound casual, but a bit of hostility slipped through.

“I don’t know. Where are you from, what are your hobbies; things like that.” That sounded reasonably safe.

“I’m from SoCal, you know, Southern California. No place in particular. We moved around a lot. Let’s see. Hobbies … You might have guessed that I like gymnastics and shi… stuff like that. I used to like surfing but I haven’t done that in like forever. Oh I like hiking but I don’t really get out there and do much even though the campus has all these mountains and stuff.”

That had seemed safe but she was looking embarrassed. When in doubt, say something nice. “Well, you’re definitely the best athlete we have. But, I’m not supposed to talk about work. Sorry.” That pretty much killed any conversational momentum we had. It was a good thing we were getting near the city. I was following the directions to what Sylvia had said were some “fairly nice” restaurants. I didn’t actually know what they were and since Lena hadn’t expressed any preferences, thought I would pull into the first one that looked interesting. Oh, there’s a steak house. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a real steak house.

I pulled in and found a parking place several rows back. I remembered to get the door for Lena. We got to the front door and there was a bunch of people waiting outside. I went up to the girl at the podium and she said that there was a two hour wait. We retreated a bit and I asked, “What do you think?”

She mumbled, “I think I’d rather get a burger.”

I fished my cards out of my pocket and removed two them and tossed them into a nearby trash can. “You know, I think I saw a Burger King and a Denney’s. What do you think?”

We both laughed and got back in the car. One nice thing about the cities on the Front Range in Colorado is that it’s never far to find a place with a good view. We sat on the hood of the car with a to-go bag between us. I had ditched the jacket and tie and she had left her shoes behind. We had a good view of the stars between the pines.

After we had watched the stars for some time, she asked, “So what was with the cards?”

I laughed self consciously, “It was a list of what I should and shouldn’t do.”

“OK. I understand why I got a list. So, why do you have a list?”

I sighed. “I’m afraid that I’m a giant nerd who has never been on a date ever and I have no idea how to ‘show a girl a good time.’”

“You’re kidding! Not even a date with friends?”

“What friends? I was the weird kid to that no one wanted to hang around with. It was always the same from grade school until I was recruited by Prometheus. This is the first place I have ever been that I felt like I even sort of belonged.”

“I know what you mean. If Prometheus hadn’t taken me out of that Crazy Camp, I don’t think I’d even be around anymore.”

“Well. I for one will always be glad they did. I felt like I won the lottery that day when you said that you’d join my team.” I decided to risk accomplishing my “romantic” goal for the night. I took her hand and said, “I always feel safer knowing you have my back.” She actually smiled shyly and looked down! I must have done something right!

She started to say something, but both of our alarms went off at the same time. The date was over and it was time to head home. We chatted about battlesuit maneuvers on the way home and when we reached the main (impress the visitors) entrance opened the door for her and returned her to Sukari.

Sylvia was waiting for me in the parking garage. I wrapped the evidence of fast food in my jacket and sat beside her in the cart, “Well, how did it go?”

“We didn’t get to see a movie and the wait at the restaurant was over two hours but we talked some and watched the stars for a while and I even held her hand like I was supposed to. Overall … heck if I know.”

“I should have known.”

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Taurian Invasion 31: Learning From Your Superiors

Our victory celebration that night was a big one. The only thing that I think kept it from completely getting out of control was when we heard that Maury had been lost. He had taken a pair of head shots from the initial volley from the first group of Centaurs. Unlike when we lost Zach, Maury hadn’t done anything wrong. He had just had plain old bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t know why, but that made it easier for me to deal with. I only stayed at the celebration for about 30 minutes and then went over to the C & C plane. I had scheduled a meeting with the Australian leadership that evening to go over the plans for the next night.

The Australian officers began filtering in after that and joined in the conversation. We never actually formal convened the meeting we just kept brainstorming with more and more people. There are those who have this image of military men as brainless lemmings that are ready to rush to their deaths as soon as the orders come. They imagine that a military meeting is a stilted affair with all ideas coming from the top down. While the Australian military is much more formal than we are at Prometheus, everyone there knew that lives were on the line (including their own) and they were all engaged and full of ideas and questions for the coming operation.

After two hours of discussion, it was decided that the Australian and Prometheus forces would switch places for the next night’s assault. The Australian forces would be going on the offensive while our company would form the reserve. The Australians were eager to test themselves against the enemy that was invading their homes, and I couldn’t blame them. The decision was the right one and the obvious next step, but for some reason it really bugged me. At the time I put it down to the fact that I would just be watching and would not be able to do anything myself, and tried to push it to the back of my mind, but it never quite went away. I talked to Sniper and we decided that I would watch over the battle from the command center and that he would lead the reserves.

I was a bundle of nerves for the rest of the day as I worried endlessly over what would happen during the next night’s battle. The debacles in China and Southeast Asia were a constant reminder that things could always go very wrong. They had the older, slower mechanical suits and did not have the same training and leadership that we had. In the end all I could do, was to sit down with my command staff and wait to see what happened.

The Australians decided to use a different approach and only had their scout squads sneak past the sentry line. Once their scouts were in position, 1st Company simply ran up to one of the sentries and killed it, then began killing more sentries in a clockwise pattern. 2nd Company went through the gap unnoticed and began setting up defensive positions. The Taurians sent out their standard three forces and immediately their left flanking force ran straight into a preset fire zone without the scouts even needing to ‘nudge’ them at all.

The artillery rain reduced that force from about 200 to around 40. This prompted General Harrison to have the 1st Company captain to move his force in to finish off this group while the other groups were still heading for where his group had killed their last sentry. I was a bit uncomfortable with this decision, as it took them a long way from their supporting units. I thought about saying something, but decided that unless there was a clear danger, I would just be meddling. I’m glad that I held my tongue.

The Australian Heavy Armored Infantry is an elite group of professionals who have plenty of experience. Nitpicking their decisions would have just made me look foolish. General Harrison was an excellent officer with experience going back to the fifty years. My apprehension was replaced with fascination as I watched how expertly he controlled his forces. His people engaged the aliens only when he wanted them to. There were no mishaps or accidental engagements in this fight, just a calculated clash of forces under favorable circumstances.

The scouts were then instructed to draw the left flanking force into another fire zone before the 2nd Company moved in to finish off the survivors. His approach was clean, crisp and efficient, and so different from my own in many respects. I always dealt with the larger bio-soldiers before I took care of anything else. He had made no special arrangements for them and they were falling right alongside their comrades. When the sentry ring started back toward the base, he simply made sure all of his forces were out of the way so that there were no accidental meetings. The last force was not pulled into a fire zone at all. He let them get to their destination and stop while keeping both of his companies out of range. The bio-soldiers simply stopped and looked around when they got there, giving his people plenty of time to put a laser finder right in the middle of them for a bombing run from Australian fighters. The remnants were chewed to pieces by a crossfire from both companies.

They then went on to the Taurian base and dug entrenched positions all around it. The General didn’t trust the distraction ruse to always work, so he devised a new plan. His people all fired a single volley at the enemy and then ducked into the trenches and waited for the firing to stop. I have to admit that it worked just as well as my plan and was faster besides. The storming of the base was anti-climactic after that. After all my worries, they had done a nearly flawless job (three casualties, only one of them fatal) and I had learned a lot from watching an old master in action.

General Harrison invited me to meet with him privately after the AARs. I hastily agreed and found myself sweating for reasons that had little to do with the heat. I entered his office and found him alone. His cap and jacket were hung neatly on a coat rack and he was pouring himself a drink. “Care for a drink Captain?”

“I would be honored to share a drink anytime with a man of your stature.” He poured me a glass of something strong (I think it was scotch.)

“I take it that my lads and I have passed your alien killing test.”

“Frankly, sir, I think that I have a way to go to even be in your league, much less to judge your performance. I just wish I had someone like you to teach me rather than having to make it all up as I went along.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, lad. I learned quite a bit about fighting these beasties for watching what you’ve done, both here and in the Brazilian jungle. But, I’ve also learned quite a bit from a few other blokes over the years. Tell me lad, what sort of military education have you had?”

“None to speak of sir. The closest thing I have is playing strategy games on the computer.”

“A good game can sharpen your mind, but not as much as a good education. You obviously have a good head on your shoulders, or you wouldn’t have gotten as far as you have.” He took a drink and then continued; “I was wondering if you would take some advice from an old campaigner?”

“Any you give me would be really appreciated.”

“Then you need to learn from those who have come before you. Study the old campaigns and their leaders. Study what they did, both good and bad. This way you can pick their brains for good ideas and avoid their mistakes.”

“So how would you suggest going about this sir?”

He handed me a paper from his desk. “Here’s a list of books to start you off.”

“Wow, you’re really organized, sir.”

“I spent some time teaching the lads at RMC Duntroon before the beasties showed up. Feel free to call me up for anything you want to ask in the meantime.”

“I’ll do that, sir, although I’ll try not to take up too much of your valuable time.”

“Don’t worry too much about that, lad. This campaign to clear the northern bush is my last hurrah. I’m too old to finish out this war and I thought that the best I was going to be able to do was train my replacement. If I can pass on what I’ve learned to a few aspiring lads like yourself, then I can rest easy when I go.”

“To learn from feet of someone like you would be a rare honor that I would be a fool to pass up.”

“Then drink up and have at it, lad. We have a lot of beasties to kill before you head home.”

I don’t really like drinking, and Sylvia says this is because I have control issues. This evening I was willing to make an exception. General Harrison was an expert in both the theory and practice of warfare. That evening I learned just how incredibly arrogant I had been in thinking I knew a lot about strategy and warfare. We talked until morning about wars past and challenges and mysteries of this conflict. He finally paused in the middle of a tail and instead of continuing, he began snoring. I picked up and quietly left his office only to find a sleepy aid waiting outside. He assured me that he would take care of the general and I checked in quickly with my staff (boy that sounds strange in my ears) and returned to my motorhome for the night(?).

I started looking up some of the books he recommended and knew what I was going to be doing with my free time in the foreseeable future. I might have read all night (day) if Rowan hadn’t appeared.

“Hi.” and she gave me a big hug. She then started looking around my room intently.

“Are looking for something?”

“The others said that we needed to watch out for hussies around you. What are hussies?”

That innocent quizzical look caught me off guard and I knew I couldn’t laugh. The resulting coughing fit was painful, but it was better than breaking her heart. Once I could talk again, “Let me see. How do I explain this? Hussies … hussies are really mean or bad ladies.”

“Do you know any hussies?”

“You know? I don’t think I do. I’ve run into them before but I try to stay away from people like that.”

“Good. They were really worried about one of them getting a hold of you and using you.”

“Well, I’m glad that you are here instead of any hussies because you give much better hugs.” She gave me a big hug and then climbed into bed while I finished up on the computer and was soon snoozing away. Hussies huh? Why would Lena’s “they” be worried about that when I had never so much as had a girlfriend. Wait a minute. Was this another rumor thing? I began an internet search and turned up far more than I wanted to know. Apparently I had a whole harem and was a big enough bastard to have fathered a whole clan of out of wedlock children. There were entire forums about my supposed exploits and even fanfiction stories. This was ridiculous! I started to write a letter of denial, and only got a few lines before I remembered feeding the internet trolls only made them bigger.

I stopped and turned off my computer and fumed for a while. No wonder Lena was worried! So much of this trash involved her. Lena was a shy person (at least most of her). All this ridiculous attention couldn’t be good for her. That’s right! One of the members of my staff is a PR guy. Maybe he would know what do do about this.What was his name Harry … Larry? At least I have something to work on in the morning. I was able to finally go to bed, but I had disturbing dreams about being chased by something.

* * *

The next two days were spent further refining our assault technique with special emphasis on capturing enemy soldiers and reducing casualties. One of the Australian engineers came up with what turned out to be one of the best life saving techniques of the war. He called it the portable Faraday shield. My people just called it the fence. It was a simple concept: A set of iron rods that you put in front of your firing position when you were setting up an ambush. Orbs from the bio-soldiers had a natural tendency to hit the rods and short out. It wasn’t perfect but something like this might just have saved Maury.

The mystery of where the alien soldiers evacuated to just deepened. We were able to verify that there were more soldiers at the base than we found when we captured the base, but there were always a few soldiers that were deliberately left behind apparently to die. Tony Moore said that they they had people working with the prisoners, but they had to break the language barriers before they could answer any questions, and each species spoke a different language. About all they had been able to figure out so far was that the race of Centaurs seemed to be in charge.

The last night, we decided to up the ante even further, we split our forces and assaulted two bases at the same time. Everything went pretty much as planned, except when we started the second base assault, there were still a bunch of enemy soldiers present. The two assaults had only started a few minutes apart. but somehow that made a huge difference. Two of the soldiers were well armed and did their best to try and hold us off, unlike any of the others we had encountered. They had large handheld personal weapons that threw some sort metal disks that exploded into springs on contact. The weren’t enough to get through battlesuit armor, but they left some serious dents that would have been lethal on unarmored troops.

By the time morning arrived, we had finalized a report on our method for taking Taurian bases (which I insisted that we name the Australian Method). My group was exhausted and ready to head home and the Australians were ready to start organizing a campaign to “take back the outback.” We parted on great terms and promises of further collaboration.

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