Taurian Invasion: Epilogue


Allen crashed long before the battle ended and Sylvia had given him something to make sure he slept. He awoke to find Sylvia once again snuggled against his side. He tried his best to rise quietly but by the third gasp of pain her eyes fluttered open. “I know you didn’t get as much rest as I did, so get some more rest if you need it.”

“As tempting as your offer is, Mr. Spencer, I’m awake now.”

As I struggled to get out of bed with the least pain possible, I noticed that she had fallen asleep fully clothed. That was pretty common for me but a first for her.

I started to just head out but I should have known better. “Just where do you think you are going Mister?”

“To check on the situation?”

“Yes, and you will fully intend on staying only a little while and then you will see one thing after another that legitimately needs your attention and will be there all day.” She began gathering my shower things and pulling out an outfit for me, which was odd because she usually waited until I left the room, and then I noticed that she was getting her own outfit out and getting her shower things as well!

“Uh, what…”

She kissed me without asking. “I can’t take being without you right now.”

I looked into her eyes and they were heavy with emotions; fear being the most prominent. I took her into my arms and she began crying. I may not understand women, but I actually had a moment of clarity. I had dragged her into the middle of a war, and she was terrified. I was her only anchor that allowed her to keep going. I raised her chin and smiled because her face was a mess (another first) and said, “I’m not going anywhere without you.”

* * *

I entered the command center with Sylvia at my side and a blush on my face. “Can I get a situation report?”

Larry looked tired but was beaming. “You got here just in time to have missed everything. The last of the Bio-soldiers are being mopped up and they just finished clearing out the base. All of our troops are either on base or heading back in. All that’s left is the clean up and the victory celebrations!” This was the signal that released everyone. There was cheering and hugging and slapping on the back (which really hurt with cracked ribs.)

The battle has lasted about twenty hours from the first contact on the outer islands until the last mobs were wiped out. As battles go it was rather short but incredibly intense. The Giant killers had lost seventeen pilots to injuries or death, which put our casualty rate at about twenty-four percent. The overall casualty rate of all forces was thirty-two percent which is around the point that units start coming apart. Fortunately, all the units which fought here were elite or special forces level troops and only a few small units had been routed or overrun. In contrast, the enemy casualty rate was one hundred percent, with 1,156,346 bio-soldiers killed according to the official estimates and 322 alien soldiers killed or captured.

The civilian casualties had been very light, with more civilians hurt in the evacuation that due to enemy action. We learned another tragic lesson when we looked at those civilians who had been killed by the bio-soldiers. Almost all of civilians killed had been in vehicles that had ended up on the battlefield. The bio-soldiers had destroyed every vehicle they had come across and had especially targeted moving vehicles. The worst incidents had happened where the bio-soldiers line of march had crossed a major freeway. There would be a lot of recriminations over this, but we simply hadn’t known.

Overall, it had been a grueling fight that had pushed us to our limits, but we had won a major victory. I checked in with generals Dupree and Hodgkin and we decided on a meeting for the next evening for all the ground commanders at the Prometheus base. I contacted General Abe only long enough to get permission to coordinate the clean up of the bio-soldier bodies and other alien materials. I was quick because I knew that as we were winding down, his command center was simply changing gears to fight the naval battle that would become known as the battle of the Southern Seas. They still had the dangerous job of locating and clearing the alien bases on the ocean floor, and there were still enough marine bio-soldiers to be a threat to even major warships.

During all of this, Sylvia had been arranging housing for the Giant Killers as the motorhomes had been confiscated by Doc Sullivan to get the wounded home. She managed to rent out an entire hotel on the Myazaki coast where a massive victory party was held that lasted three days (that I didn’t attend.) She had calmed down quite a bit with the news that the battle was over. When I said that I wanted to go visit the hospital, she said that she had some things to finish up here and said she would join me in a bit, and had Sir Jacobs escort me over.

I found Doc Sullivan drinking a long overdue cup of coffee. “Are you here to see Rico?”

“I actually didn’t know he was here. First, how are you and how is the hospital?”

“I’m exhausted beyond the capacity for rational thought.” She laughed at her own joke. “Not really. The first of the motorhome ambulance flights will be coming back in a few hours with a load of relief doctors and I’ll get some sleep then.”

“I’m going to make that an order and get Rusty here to make sure you follow it. Now, where is Rico?”

“Second row, third bed on the right. He scheduled to go out on the next ambulance flight.”

I followed her directions and thought I had gotten them wrong until I remembered that Rico’s real name was Carlos. I peeked in and saw that he was awake. “Hey Rico, How are you holding up?”

“What can I say man? The drugs are good.”

“I haven’t heard the story, what happened?”

“We had lead our millionth mob into a tank ambush. I hear this sickening crunch and I look down and my arm below the elbow is just swinging in the breeze. Doc said that they saved my arm but I have a lot of surgeries ahead before they know if I will ever be able to pilot a suit again,” He was starting to tear up.

I grabbed his good arm in a warriors clasp. “Rico, you were my first pick for a Giant Killer and that’s never going to change. While you’re recovering you can help out on my command team. I still need your eyes, my friend.”

He let go of my hand and wiped his eyes, “Then I’ll be back as soon as the nurses kick me out.”

* * *

Sylvia fought the urge to panic as Allen walked out and she quickly headed to her room and set up a vid-call. When Angelia’s face appeared she couldn’t help but ask, “Are you alone?”

“Yes. Did something happen with Allen?” Sylvia’s furious blush answered her question. She tried to make her voice as kind and supporting as possible. “Tell me what happened.”

“I panicked. I just knew that if I let him get out of my sight I was going to come completely unglued. And when he was getting ready, I pushed things and followed him into the shower.”

“Did you seduce him?”

“No, I mostly cried on him and he didn’t initiate or I would have.”

Angelia thought about a lot of things she could say at this point but ruled most of them out as unhelpful. “Do you love him?”

“Oh, God yes! Even when I want to smack him in the head with a two by four for being so thick headed, I still love him.”

“Does he know?”

“Yes, we became an official couple after he was injured.”

“And you didn’t tell me? Never mind that. Can you handle his relationship with Lena’s alter that is not likely to change for a while without tearing Lena apart?”

“Well, crap! I’ve had him all to myself since then and I forgot about that.”

“There is a reason we’ve been taking things slowly. He’s not in a position where he can make a choice like that yet. I’m not going to tell you that you can’t date him. In fact I think it will be good for both of you, but you can’t claim him for your own just yet.”

* * *

We stayed in Japan for another week while we organized the clean up and rotated all the combat units out. One of the things that is not obvious from an outside perspective is that it takes longer to move military units out than it does to deploy them. Deploying them is relatively easy because you can do things in an emergency and worry about the consequences later. Once the crisis is over, not only can’t you take the shortcuts that you took earlier. You also often find that you need to clean up the messes you and others made earlier.

The Korean Expeditionary Force and the American forces stationed in Korea and Okinawa had to wait for the Battle of the Southern Seas to end before military convoys could be formed to get them back home. The Prometheus units had to use a hodgepodge of military, commercial and Prometheus aircraft to get them and their equipment home.

And me? Remember when I told that transport pilot to do what it took and we would worry about the paperwork later? Well, it was later. We had sent out a mountain of people and equipment on the outbound transport flights and most of it needed to return, Somehow it had been magically transformed into a mountain of paperwork that I had to go through and sign. So, I worked diligently at developing carpal tunnel syndrome. I also had to authorize expenditures for the expeditionary force. The amounts were staggering! I still have a hard time super-sizing my orders at McDonald’s. Just as I finally conquered the summit of Mt Paperwork, I got word that we were ready to head home.

I was prepared to stay on the C&C plane but Sylvia urged me to go on the motorhome and reconnect with my unit. I started thinking about how long I had stayed away and started feeling guilty on the way over. I had been so busy since my injury that the only one I had seen in my squad was Rico and I hadn’t even known he was in the hospital when I went there.

When I got there I was ambushed by a “welcome home” party. Everyone was glad to see me and I was surprised by the number of minor injuries that everyone had. (It turned out that most of these were from the victory party rather than from combat.) I chatted with everyone for a while, but I soon began getting tired and headed for my room.

The first thing I noticed when I got there was that someone else had been using it. Probably Rowen. I cleaned up a few things and get ready for bed when I heard the door open. I was tackled from behind and when I tried to turn around I was thrown into my bunk. “Rowan?”

“Guess again!” She jumped onto the bed and straddled me pinning both of my arms to the bed with her knees.


When she leaned in and kissed me there was little I could do. “That was for saving my life!” And then she slapped me hard. “And that was for nearly getting yourself killed and then abandoning me till now.”

And now she was crying. It’s completely unfair when women cry. There is this deep ache inside of me that wants to do something to make things better and usually I have no idea how. I worked my arms free and hugged her in this awkward position. I managed to get her to unstraddle me and lay beside me without breaking the embrace. I began stroking her hair and whispered, “Shhh, I didn’t mean to leave you. I’m sorry.” I repeated this over and over like a mantra until she stopped crying and fell asleep.

I had never been slapped by a woman before and I deserved this one. I didn’t mean to but with my injuries and all my responsibilities it had just been pushed to the background. And then there was everything with Sylvia. I knew that you weren’t supposed to sleep with other women when you had a girlfriend, but I couldn’t figure out how this was wrong. There was so much I didn’t know about this kind of thing, but there was so much potential for hurt as well.

* * *

I awoke after a series of vague but disturbing dreams and opened my eyes to see a face staring into mine. I jumped.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Rowan!” I sighed with relief. “I’m so glad it’s you!”

“Are you mad at me?”

“Oh no! I was afraid that you were mad at me.”

“I thought maybe you didn’t like me anymore.”

“Your hugs are my favorite ever. I just got hurt and couldn’t come until I got better.”

“The others said you hurt yourself. I thought maybe you hurt yourself so you didn’t have to come see me anymore.”

“Didn’t they tell you about the monsters we were fighting?”

“I didn’t understand her story.”

“We were in our big fighting robots under the ocean when four big monsters and a giant monster attacked us.” Boy this sounds hokey, I almost stopped and then I noticed that Rowen’s eyes were wide. “One of them came at me and I tried to stab it in its eye, but I missed and stabbed it in the arm. Then it grabbed me with its other three arms and tried to pull my robot apart, but I stabbed it in its brain with my electric trident and it died. While we were fighting I hadn’t noticed it had been pulling me toward the giant monster! The giant monster reached for me and I stabbed the gun in its arm with my electric trident and BOOM, its arm blew up. This pushed me away from the monster. I decided to smack me with its tail and go after my friends.I only had one chance to save my friends. I grabbed onto its tail and climbed up its body until I was above its brain. I had lost my trident and the only thing I had left was torpedo missiles. The giant monster noticed me and tried to grab me. The only thing I could do was fire my missiles even though I was too close and would be caught in the explosion, but it was the only way to save my friends.”


I don’t think I could have made up a less likely story than that but she seemed to be impressed by it. “It is 100% honest and true. You can ask Lena. She was there.”

“It sounds kinda like her story, but you tell it much better.”

“Now, I really want a hug from you , but my ribs are still hurt. Can I get a hug around the neck?” I got a hug that threatened to strangle me, but I enjoyed it anyway.

* * *

Our return to the main campus entailed another victory party. There was an awards presentation ceremony and the Giant Killers received a unit silver star, I got received a gold star and even Rico showed to receive his gold heart. There were five impromptu interviews and promises for 7 more formal interviews. Sylvia and Lena both stuck with me during the celebration, which I’m sure will start more rumors.

Next I went to the hospital where I got to get a shot IN my eye and then they glued my eye shut again. They said that my ankle was healing nicely, but I should stay off it as much as possible. Ribs are problematic as they are constantly being flexed by breathing and other such extreme activity. They gave me several things to help keep me from coughing and told me not to drive or operate heavy equipment for a while.

It was good to be home even though there was so much to do. I had Sylvia start a list of the things that I needed to work on and by the time I got home it had fifty-three items. Sylvia helped me unpack and then picked out a nice outfit for me. I had a private meeting with the Director and then Sylvia and I would join The Director and Angelia for dinner.

Sylvia had given me reason to regret not being able to help her unpack but I was happy as I rode the cart to the directors office. (I let it drive as per doctor’s orders.) When I opened the door to the Director’s office, I thought I had somehow gotten the time wrong because there was a whole room full of people there for my “private meeting.”

“Come in Allen.”

“Did I get the wrong message?”

“No. I just lied about this being a one on one meeting to fool your counselor.” OK. This was definitely not business as usual. I looked around the room and no one was reacting like that was a joke. I sat down at the indicated chair. “This is my personal council where we face the hard questions and make the hard decisions.”

Angelia’s eyes bored into Allen. “We are considering asking you to join, but we have some questions for you first”

Allen quickly took in that Sniper, Rodolfo and Tony Moore were also staring at him intently. Tony was the one who asked, “During the battle of Kyushu, you were able to find the Taurian base and discern the enemy plan. You immediately turned over the information to General Abe and risked untold number of lives by prolonging the war. Why was this?”

I thought for a moment before answering. “To hide the information from him would have been a betrayal of the trust put in me by the Japanese people and the general himself.”

Angelia asked,  “Was it an easy decision?”

I sighed, “No … No it wasn’t. I have a hard time giving up control. I had to not only give up control to someone who had good reason to make what I felt was the wrong decision, I also gave him a plan to minimise the damage if he made that decision. It helped that the general was a man of greater wisdom and experience than me.”

Rodolfo speared me with the next question. “What if instead of instead of General Abe, they had placed some politically connected fool in charge?”

“I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if I could have handed such a decision to a man I didn’t trust.”

The Director stood up and began to pace. “Many years ago I began to realize that the decisions I made would help or harm millions of lives, sometimes at the same time. I realized that I needed people that I could trust to not only serve as a sounding board, but could overrule me if I made a mistake. This council has served that purpose well and though we disagree from time to time, I have never regretted this decision.”

“I had high hopes for you since I faced you as the Alphan Dominion in Peace of Iron.  In every situation we have put you in you have exceeded our expectations. Every time you did, we gave you more authority to see if you could handle it, and the cycle repeated itself. Finally, two weeks ago, I gave you a problem out of desperation that I couldn’t solve … and you solved it.”

Angelia indicated for Tony Moore to continue while she calmed the Director down. “Without your insight, Kyushu would have fallen and we would be embroiled in a massive campaign to get it back. The military casualties alone could have been in the hundreds of thousands, not to mention the civilian casualties that I cannot even begin to calculate. Then the next series of invasions would have hit and humanity would have been fighting for its very existence.”

“Just as important as the victory in Kyushu was the warning that it gave us. Every major power is now arming for full scale war. You pulled out a miracle victory and people changed their hope from Lieutenant Spencer the Giant Killer to Colonel Spencer the General. We need you here to be a part of the planning here at the highest level so that we can act as quickly as possibly instead of going through intermediaries.”

Sniper finally chipped in, “We put you in command because you flipping belonged there. If you didn’t belong there we would have had a bloody mutiny on our hands. You may be a flocking genius with a battlesuit, but you’re also a blasted genius as a general. You may still be a snot nosed kid, but that’s why those of us who have been around the monkey loving block a few times have your back.”

Angelia held up a hand before he could continue and took the floor. “A few months ago, you met the Director and I for the first time and you seemed confused and scared by our machinations. Now you don’t even seem surprised. How much of this had you guessed?”

“I knew that you were manipulating my rise in rank and notoriety. I knew that you had set me up as a war hero and I was trying to work with you as best I could because I knew the importance of that goal. I also understood that you needed me in a position to see everything so that I could help make plans for the war. I still not sure what all the jumps in rank are about, but I can now see that value of me being in a command position and having a command team surrounding me. It still feels wrong to let others fight for me when I can still fight for myself, but I understand the why of it.”

Angelia turned to the Director. “Ha. This time I was right.” She turned back to Allen. “You don’t understand the importance of titles because they don’t make any difference to you. You are just going to have to take my word on this that it is really important to the world at large and there is good reason for giving them to you. By the way, the rank of colonel is permanent now and you will be assigned the rank of general for the next battle. It’s all about giving people the perspective to see the ideas and abilities that you bring to the table and have them take you seriously. Now, do you have any questions?”

I thought for a moment. “Why all the secrecy?”

The director looked sad to the point of brokenhearted. Angelia reached for his hand but he said, “No, I’ll answer. You have probably heard some of the conspiracy theories regarding Prometheus. I thought it all silly and harmless, but my security people didn’t, so I took many of the precautions that they recommended. Then the troubles started to get violent. People started attacking and bombing symbols of capitalism like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. Several groups of loons got together and decided to destroy the masterminds of the military industrial complex.”

“They were given access to a national guard armory and they attacked not only our headquarters, but the homes of all of the Prometheus leadership and every business that we partnered with that had a Prometheus logo. By the time the day was done, 152 people had been murdered, and 82 of the attackers were dead. Angelia and I had been lured to a fake meeting and were ambushed on our way there. Our driver, Charlie Burns, was killed when a rocket hit the engine. The only thing that saved us was the fact that we were in a car that a couple of my engineers had tinkered with as a prototype armored vehicle. Joe, our security man, had a sniper rifle hidden in the car and he managed to pick off a few and get the rest to keep their heads down until Sniper lead a rescue mission. I lost a number of friends, and a lot of employees and my chief financial officer and his whole family were slaughtered by these maniacs.”

“You probably heard in school how that, when the news broke, the corruption was traced all the way to the president. And we, through no wish of our own, were right in the middle of all that. There were five days between the time the president and his group tried to suspend the constitution and when they were arrested for treason. We spent all of that under siege by federal law enforcement agents who had been instructed to seize everything we had an kill us as soon as we were out of the sight of the public. Seizing a weapons contractor is easier said than done, especially when a number of agents defect to your side.”

“In the aftermath of all that, we had to decide what to do. People had been murdered simply because they were associated with us. Did we simply clam up and stop being a part of the community? Should we just cut off all of our business partnerships? Publicly we did. We bought this campus, fired all of our leadership, and ended all our partnerships. In reality, we simply made everything we did anonymous. The campuses became fortresses and we eliminated our tracks from the world. In a strange way, we became the conspiracy that we were accused of being.”

Rodolfo continued the narrative, “Now, the few of us who are publicly known must stay behind our fortress walls or travel like thieves in the night. I have had six attempts on my life and the Director has had many more. We put up with all this because we do believe we are making a difference. If you are looking for public acknowledgements of what you have done, then this is not the place for it. On the other hand, I believe you are the kind of man who does deeds because they are the right thing to do. That is the kind of man we need here.”

Angelia caught his eyes. “If you do join us, you can’t tell anyone, even Sylvia. You are not even to hint about any of the things discussed here unless you are in private with one or more of us. This is for their safety more than anything else.  So, Allen, would you like to join us?”

I thought about it for a moment to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. “If you think that I can be useful, then I would be honored to join.”

The Director rose, “All in favor of Allen Victor Spencer joining us say ‘aye’”

“Aye” It was unanimous.

“The name of our council stated as a joke and is now just ironic. Allen, welcome to the Prometheus Conspiracy.”

To be Continued …

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Taurian Invasion 41: Tsunami

Part Four:


I awoke that morning with Sylvia at my side once more. She had rarely left my side for more than a few minutes and I had to admit, it was pretty nice. I was beginning to dream about what the future might hold for us while watching her sleep, when she stirred. “Good morning, dear one. How do you feel?”

“A bit stiff. I think I slept wrong because my neck is sore. Could you rub it for a moment?”

“I’d be happy to if you’ll let me sit up.” I proceeded to massage her neck in an inexpert fashion. “What do we have on the agenda for today?”

“How about we get breakfast and coffee and then you ask me again? I think that’s all the massaging that my neck can stand. Can I have a kiss?”

“Of course, fair lady.” She got up and got dressed quickly after that.

I was moving slowly this morning, and she caught me at it. “Are you feeling OK?”

I patted my side gingerly, “My ribs are just sore this morning. I was able to sleep most of the night, but there is still a price to pay.”

She gave me one of her ‘don’t mess with me glares,’ “I’ll trust you to tell me if you so much as cough hard while I’m in the shower.”

“Yes dear. So, what do you want for breakfast?”

“Just eggs and toast, and you’d better make some for yourself this time. No more sneaking cereal when I’m not looking.”

“Guilty as charged.” I put on a hang-dog expression and looked at my feet until she laughed.

I hobbled for the galley to make us breakfast, and was just finishing up when she came in. “You’re just in time. I’ll be done in a minute.” She busied herself making coffee while I set up everything on the counter. “Since there is no one else here, does this count as private?”

She smiled coyly, “Yes.”

“Then, can I have a kiss?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

When we parted I looked thoughtful, “I generally don’t like coffee flavored things, but I think I could learn to like coffee kisses from you.”

She whacked me gently on the shoulder, “You are terrible,” and leaned in for another kiss…when her phone rang. “Hello…OK he’ll be right there. They need you in the command center. You go ahead while I gather up breakfast.”

I hobbled there as fast as I could.

“What’s the situation, Eddie?”

“General Dupree has ordered an alert. They have bio-soldiers on the Goto islands near Nagasaki.”

“Contact all units and tell them to get ready. I have a feeling that this is it. Let everyone else know to be on alert.”

“Sir, I have a report coming in from Yakushima Island. Bio-soldiers are coming out of the sea on the southern part of the island. What should they do?”

“Eddie, tell them not to panic. Just stay out of their way and don’t pick up anything until the bio-soldiers have cleared the area. They’re probably just passing through.”

“Got it boss.”

I smelled breakfast approaching, “Is it starting?”

I grabbed a piece of toast, “It’s too early to say for sure, but I think so.” I crammed down the toast as fast as I could. I started to call on Eddie, but he was obviously very busy, “Dear, could you call up Sniper while I scarf some food?”

“Sure, but if you choke, it’s you own fault.”

Soon Sniper’s face was on a small monitor, “I was just about to head to the morning meeting. What’s up boss?”

“The Taurians are on their way. They are crossing over some of the outer islands as we speak. I need you to take the Giant Killers down to the southernmost peninsula east of Kagoshima Bay and be ready to blow away the first group of them.”

“How long until the blinking things arrive?”

“The ones that have been spotted are still a good fifty miles from your defensive position. You should still have several hours, but I have no guarantees this morning.”

“Alright Allen, we’ll be there ASAP. We’ll send those monkey farting things back to whatever hell they came from.”

I gave him a salute, “Good luck and good hunting.”

I had a few good feeds coming in from Yakushima, and they showed a new mob of around one thousand bio-soldiers arriving every ten minutes and they just kept coming. We established open channels with the HQ of the 2nd Infantry, and with those of General Dupree, and General Abe. Tight coordination was our key to victory, if we could pull it off at all.

* * *

I watched with a bit of envy as the troops moved out. Flatbed trucks were moving in and out constantly to take fresh troops out and bring tired troops in. It was one of the limitations of working with hybrid battlesuits. Regular battlesuits just needed to be recharged, which is easy enough to do in the field, but hybrid battlesuits need to be, recharged, fed, rested and put through dialysis. This takes a minimum of two hours, and we did not have as many care stations as we had suits coming in, which added to the time.

Only as our units were going to face the enemy did it occur to me that simply staggering the times I sent groups out would have solved this problem. I would have to put that into effect during combat, which is definitely not the best time.

I called up the 7th Air Force HQ, “Major Brenton here. What can I do for you Colonel?”

“I just need to know when your boys can be in the air.”

“I have a full strike wing ready to take off as soon as we have a target.”

“Then I have a target for you. Yakushima is directly south of here and apparently directly in their line of march.”

“Isn’t that on the restricted list? A world Heritage Site if I recall correctly.”

“The forests in the center of the island are restricted, but the beaches are not. If you hit them going in and out of the water, that I think you can do some significant damage without ruffling too many feathers.”

“I’ll brief my pilots and they will be over the target in 20-30 minutes.” He gave me a crisp salute and signed off.

Sylvia was looking dubious, “I thought you needed permission from General Abe to change the restrictions like that.”

I winked at her, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them. I cover things with the General later.”

“I think you’re pushing it.”

I sighed…and coughed. “Ow. Yes, your right, but this is not the time to worry about these things. If it saves even one life, it will be worth any amount of hassle later.”

“You’re probably right, but I still don’t like it.”

I thought about it and tried not to sigh again, “You’re right, of course. Get Larry and we’ll prepare a press release to let everyone know that we made this decision and why. No sense starting a PR nightmare when we can head it off.” With Larry, Emmy and eventually Harry’s help we crafted a statement about striking the Taurians on Yakushima that, in the end, kept it from being a real issue. By the time we got that to General Abe’s HQ, the strikes were already on their way. I know for sure that they had already made several bombing and strafing runs before I got permission to launch them. That’s not how the official reports read, but that’s politics.

Quite a number of us were watching the feed from the Rumblers as they started their runs. Their napalm a bombs cut a swath through the enemy and we all cheered. Now Rumblers carry an insane amount of munitions, but watching the footage showed me clearly that this was not the answer to all our problems. Each strike could get twenty or so of them, but the sheer numbers of the bio-soldiers made them unstoppable. It was a great way of thinning their ranks though.

Sniper called in after a bit, “Hey boss, we’re in place.”

“Has your fire support team rendezvoused with you yet?”

“No, but they’re on their way. Any ETA on the ugly butters yet?”

“You’ll know how long it’ll take them before I do.

“Seems a shame to tear up the scenery just to put up defensive works.”

“I know, but what else can we do? Just keep your eyes open and don’t let them get the drop on you, OK?”

“You got it boss, Sniper out.”

* * *

The minutes dragged by as we waited for word on when the main force would arrive on Kyushu. Times like this are when the waiting is at its worst. You know they’re coming, but you just don’t know when, and aren’t exactly sure where.

After nearly two hours of waiting, I heard Sniper’s voice over the command channel. “Everyone look sharp and follow me. We have Centaurs on the rocks about two clicks from here.” I changed my monitor to get the feed from his suit, “Holy crab-apples. Eric, do you read me?”

“Yes, I’ve been listening.”

“As soon as they get off the rocks, they are taking off in a straight line at a dead run. They are not forming up or anything like that. Several have already gotten past my boys before we can get into range, and are heading your way.”

“My boys will clean up for you. Eric out.”

“Fire support three, are you listening?”

“We are already in route to your location.”

“I’ve designated point Tango on road 564 which should give us some good ambush possibilities. Let me know when you’re in position. Alright, my people. Let’s hit them hard and fast from the side and they’ll never see us coming.”

Eight Centaurs were clambering up the rocks using all six limbs, and looking like giant bugs more than anything else when the Giant Killers let off a volley that blasted them back into the sea. Within ten seconds, they were replaced by another twenty who were flung back in turn. But for every one they killed, it seemed like two more came out of the sea.

“Sniper, this is Allen. Would you mind some advice?”

“I’d sure as shakes welcome it boss.”

“Have Joey’s squad start digging defensive works and have Leon’s check the local houses for civilians.”

“I thought that this area was under mandatory evacuation.”

“That doesn’t mean everyone listened. Those Taurs are going to gain the road soon and you need to be able to fire without hesitation.”

“You guys heard the boss. Get to it.”

I had to shift my attention elsewhere for a time as new reports of bio-soldiers were coming in from at least three other locations in southern Kyushu. Similar reports were coming from the northern and western coasts at the same time, but there were other forces poised to deal with them. The Taurians seemed to be arranged into loose columns that were all pointed toward the heart of the island. I instructed my forces to meet these thrusts where they were the most vulnerable; As they emerged from the sea.

It was immediately evident that they would need fire support if they were not to be overrun and destroyed. Fifty battlesuits against one thousand bio-soldiers just was not winnable. Each enemy line of march was assigned 3 companies of battlesuits, a company of tanks, and a company of attack helicopters. They could also call on support from naval batteries and artillery fire-bases when they were pressed too closely. Between each of these column forces were clean up companies of unarmored infantry whose job was to watch for additional alien forces and take out any strays that wandered into their areas.

I checked in with the Giant killers as soon as I had gotten all that in motion to see how effective these changes had been on the ground. “Sniper , this is Allen. How are you guys holding up?”

“Well, things were going blasted fine until we ran out of ammo. We’re riding back right now to reload. I hope the other two groups can hold the line until we get our ashes back into the fight.”

“Crud! Let me work on setting up closer resupply points. Anything else being a problem?”

“Other than the enemy bodies are piling up like crazy, none that come to mind.”

I signed off with him and called Jeff Nelson over. Jeff is my head of logistics and was responsible for an awful lot of what was going right at the moment. “Jeff, I need you to do something stupid for me.”

“OK, that makes me nervous.”

“I need to set up mobile supply points just behind the tank companies where the battlesuits can go and get rearmed. I was thinking we could load all the ammo on a truck and send it out.”

“That would be stupid. You need to send out the ammo in pick-up trucks and Humvees that can be loaded and unloaded easier and in smaller loads for better mobility.”

“Take care of it ASAP.” I switched channels, “Sniper, how close is your unit to the base?”

“It should be coming into view in a minute here.”

“Good. I need you to release the Knight pilots for support work.”

“OK, what do you need them for?”

“I need them to put out fires until I can get the mobile supply points set up. Let me run an idea past you. How about taking a squad and having them shuttle ammo and supplies to the rest. You could use what reserve pilots you have or rotate squads or something like that. Does that sound workable?”

“Sounds good. We’ve just never had to face this many enemies without a dog break before.”

“I know. There’s no way that we’re going to be able to pin them on the coast for much longer without getting overrun.”

“So have you come up with something barking brilliant?”

“I’m working out the details right now. I need to get the reports from the rest of the island next.”

“Well let me know when you’ve got something, genius boy..”

He signed off and I began to review how the battle was going. Most of the alien columns had pushed in from the coast, as far as three miles in one case. This was not what I wanted to see, but it was not unworkable. “Encyclopedia, I need a map of Kyushu with the locations of all engagements with bio-soldiers.” Each engagement was marked with a small red ‘x’ and as they filled in, a clear pattern emerged. There were eleven lines of march from the sea toward the center of the island. “Anyone seen Phil?”

“He’s been in and out of the restroom all morning.”

“I need him ASAP.” I went back to working with the map and only looked up when I heard Phil approach. “Phil! You look nearly as bad as I do and I should be in the hospital.”

“I either ate something bad or had a bad reaction to something I ate.”

“Look at this map with me …” I explained the symbols that I had added and asked what patterns he saw.

“I can see what they are doing, but I have no idea why.” Phil swayed a bit and then Sylvia pulled an airsickness bag out of thin air just in time.

As soon as he stopped heaving, I said. “Sylvia, please have the nurse escort him to the hospital and have Sir Jacobs go with them. As Phil was escorted out. I did some quick estimates and pulled up a real-time satellite map and found something after only a few minutes of searching.  “Major Abe, I need your assistance.” She hurried over, “I found the key to this battle, but I need you help explaining it to the general as quickly as possible.” I brought up the map of Kyushu that Phil and I had modified. “The bio-soldiers are coming out of the sea and moving in a straight line as quickly as possible, but they are not heading for any traditional military target. Instead, they are heading for this.” I brought up another picture.

“What is that?”

“This is a current satellite picture of a Taurian base right in the middle of Kyushu in the mountains of the Kumamoto province. Their objective is to get a large force of bio-soldiers here and use that force to start their conquests. Knowing their objective, the general must make a terrible choice and this what you must help him understand.”

The major looked me in the eyes, “You have my full attention.”

“If we wipe out this base, the Taurians will most likely call of the attack and withdraw from Kyushu. We will have won the battle, but the Taurians will be able to replenish their army and be ready to strike again within a few weeks at most with the lessons that they have learned from this battle.”

A coughing fit took me before I could continue, “That hurt. The alternative is to use the knowledge to help draw the bio-soldier army in and destroy it completely. It will take them a minimum of four to six months to rebuild their forces in the region. Can I count on you to make sure he understands this message?”

“I swear that I will get him to understand if I have to write it on his forehead myself.” She saluted and headed for her station. There was definitely the blood of warriors flowing in her veins.

“Eddie, I need to talk directly to General Dupree.”

* * *

A unit of battlesuits came around the hill at a full run and began jumping into a set of trenches beside the road. The last of the armored warriors made it out of the rain of chaff and into the trenches as their pursuers came into sight. A mob of Centaur bio-soldiers that easily outnumbered the battlesuits five to one was backed up by three Cyclops. The battlesuits were temporarily out of sight, but a squadron of  eight Schwartzkoff main battle tanks and eight Stryker III armored combat vehicles were in plain sight a half mile down the road behind a row of rebar stakes. Without pausing, the bio-soldiers charged and began firing.

The Strykers fired short barreled wide mouthed mortar-cannons high into the air and the tanks fired a volley that burst when halfway to their targets. The rounds from the tanks released dozens of thin chains with weights on each end that spun like bolas toward the mob. Unlike bolas, these chains did not wrap around their victims, but sheared through then like giant flying razor blades. Then the napalm rounds from the Strykers hit the rear ranks of the bio soldiers and exploded into an inferno. The battlesuits popped up from their trenches and began mowing down the few survivors while the tanks put standard rounds into the Cyclops.

“Clear. Giant Killer One to Echo Squadron Leader. That took care of this stinking mob. Head to the next ambush point and we will bring you some more suckers.”

* * *

A venerable B-1 bomber cruised over a Kyushu beachhead at twenty-thousand feet. The bomb bay doors opened and a number of bundles of iron rods fell from the plane. The packets each separated into two dozen iron rods with thin steering fins. A small hover drone with a wide angle IR camera had a good view of the whole battlefield. It guided each rod towards a separate IR source until the tiny IR camera on the tip of each rod could see its target. On the ground, hundreds of bio-soldiers simply fell apart after being speared by the iron rods and sliced into sections by the steering fins. All without a single explosion.

* * *

Three Dragon and twenty Wyvern bio-soldiers broke the oceans surface ten miles south of Kyushu and struggled to gain altitude. A navy AWACS picked them up and relayed the information to Battleship California. The battle wagon had four giant turrets each with four guns, but the two turrets amidships had yet to participate in any of the bombardments. These turrets swung south toward the intruders. There was a popping noise a a white swirl at the cannons nozzles, and the flying bio-soldiers jerked suddenly in the air a several large holes appeared in each of them nearly simultaneously. Only a single Wyvern didn’t immediately plunge into the sea, but it was losing altitude from the four large holes that had appeared in its wings. Another pop and two more holes appeared and the Wyvern went to join its brethren.

* * *

Barbara Sullivan looked over the cavern that had become her hospital. Patients appeared in irregular intervals, but the planning had paid off. She was checking on the progress of converting one of the motorhomes in to an ambulance flight for stable patients, when a trio of familiar faces walked in. Mike and Fredgar were carrying Rico in on a stretcher. She hurried over and asked the triage nurse accompanying them, “What’s the situation?”

“He’s in shock and has a traumatically separated right elbow.”

She addressed Fredgar, “Do you know what happened?”

“A chain shot bounced off of something and hit his forearm. It completely shattered the armor joint and we had to cut the last few connections to get it off his arm. If it hadn’t lost some of its momentum, it probably would have taken his arm off.”

“You guys head back, I’ll take care of him.” She began by cutting the glove off of his hand. She suspected he might have a broken thumb, but she needed to make sure he didn’t loose his arm before she dealt with that. “Rico are you with me?”

Without a trace of his usual accent he said, “Yes, Doc. I’m meditating to keep the pain at bay.”

She moved the scanner into position and scanned from the shoulder down. The dislocated shoulder, broken thumb and fractured metacarpals could wait, but the severed radial artery couldn’t. She calmly yelled,  “I need a surgery kit and a blood recycler machine here.”

Rico looked at her with eyes that were not quite focused, “Am I going to lose my arm?”

“With any luck you won’t, but you’re out of the fight for quite some time.”

* * *

Allen took the call from General Abe in the conference room so that they could have a private discussion. “You have given me quite the difficult discussion, young man. Is there any more information you can give me?”

“There should be about one hundred total waves of bio-soldiers for each invasion corridor. There should also be a string of undersea bases to head out to each of eleven staging areas which will be vulnerable once the final wave comes ashore.”

“I see. If we were decide to destroy this army of Taurians, what would you say?”

“I would suggest a deliberate and calculated fallback as the battle progresses in order to give the enemy the illusion of progress in order to minimise the chances of the enemy withdrawing their forces early.”

“And if we were to decide to end this battle swiftly?”

“Then I would suggest that naval resources trace back each of the invasion routes until the staging areas are found, then consider the use of nuclear depth charges to reduce the enemy force as much as possible.”

“I see. What of the Taurian base on Kyushu?”

“I would suggest that as soon as the final wave of bio-soldiers comes ashore, an overwhelming infantry force should assault the base as I expect there to be a sizable force of enemy soldiers waiting to take command of the bio-soldiers.”

“You seem to think that we should draw in and destroy this army of bio-soldiers utterly. Why is that?”

“I believe that it is the shortest path to victory in this war and that it will also lead to the least casualties and destruction in the long run.”

“Thank you Colonel Spencer-san. You have given me the information I need to make this decision.”

* * *

Sniper frowned at his suit display. “Giant Killer One to control. Where is the bloody tactical data on the next wave of Taurs?”

“There isn’t any.”

“How can there be no FLAPPING DATA?”

“Because that was the last mob of bio-soldiers on this route. Return to base Giant Killers. Well done.”

Sniper stood there for a moment and let the knowledge soak in. He fell back against a tree as his exhaustion caught up with him. “About damn time.”

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Taurian Invasion 40: The Painful Waiting

I awoke in darkness and pain and wondered if I was at the bottom of the ocean. Then I realized that I didn’t feel Fluffy around me and wondered if I was dead. I decided that death probably wouldn’t hurt this much and decided to take the big step of moving and groaning feebly.

Sylvia’s voice seemed muffled as she said “Doc, I think he’s awake.”

I seemed to be on a moving gurney, “You’re lucky to be alive after pulling something that stupid.”

“Yes, I know.” I said in a raspy voice, “Can I have some water?” A coughing fit hit me and I nearly choked.

Doc and Sylvia helped me to a sitting position and Doc asked, “No water yet until I finish checking you over. How do you feel.”

“I would have to feel better to feel like I had been run over by a truck,” and my laugh turned into another fit of coughing.

The Doc didn’t sound amused, “Can the jokes, hero, and be specific.”

I took a deep breath which I immediately regretted, “It hurts when I breath, especially on the right side. My head is pounding and I’m hearing a constant high-pitched noise. My left eye is killing me, and other than that I just hurt all over.”

“You were apparently caught in your own explosion and only your inner suit saved you, but you still took some damage from all that pressure. You were brought here by ambulance and someone else did the triage. I going to take the bandages off your head and see what the damage looks like.”

Then the bright light hit me with a sledge hammer and I heard someone far away say, “Bob, get me the eye surgery kit.” Then the green Flamingo came in and started reciting Shakespeare wrong, but that’s OK because he was only a Flamingo.

I awoke again and opened my eyes to find a blurry spinning world in which my left eye wouldn’t open. “Welcome back,” said Sylvia’s voice.

“Wow, everything all spinney and painful. I must have another concussion.”

She laughed, “We’ll let the Doc determine that, but it wouldn’t surprise me,” then she sniffed.

“Are you crying?”

“What do you think you big goof-ball.”

“Aw, come on. Don’t do that,” I pleaded.

“If you’re allowed to get that close to getting killed, I’m certainly allowed to cry when I find out that you’re alright.”

Well, I couldn’t argue with that, and I couldn’t get up and hold her, so I reached out toward the sound of her voice and she took my hand and held it to her tear moistened cheek.

I think I drifted out for a while because she was calm when I remember next. I reached up and felt a patch over my left eye and a bandage on my left ear. Sylvia said in a calm voice, “Leave those alone Allen.”

“What happened to them?”

She sighed, “You ruptured both your left ear and eye. Doc did some surgery on them while you were out. She said to tell you that she glued you eye shut while it healed.”

“So, where is she?”

Sylvia chuckled, “She went to work on some files and is currently drooling on them while taking a nap.”

I laughed and then coughed, “Ow, I wish I could see that but I can’t get anything to come into focus.”

“Well, there’s not much to see. We’re in a partition in the hospital cave. The only things to look at are the ceiling pipes, the privacy screens, and me.”

“Well, that at least gives me one beautiful thing to look at.”

Sylvia sounded very surprised, “Why, Allen, what’s gotten into you?”

I responded a little too literally, “How should I know? I’ve been unconscious.”

She let out a sigh, “I should have known it was the medication talking.”

I knew I should have stopped talking at this point, but it just kept coming out, “I’ve thought you were beautiful since the first day when you bent over to unpack my suitcase for me.” Somewhere in the back of my mind I was screaming at myself to shut up.

“Allen, I can’t believe you said that!”

“I can’t believe I said that either.”

“Go back to sleep, you big goof. You obviously need more rest.”

I wanted to protest and try to explain what I meant, but sleep called me away.

* * *

I awoke with a start and a pounding headache. The good news was that when I opened my eye, the ceiling piped came into focus. I turned my head carefully and had to smile fondly. Sylvia was there in a folding chair sleeping peacefully, still holding my hand. My head made me groan, and she woke up and stretched before opening her eyes. “Oh you’re awake again,” and she yawned, “sorry.”

“What time is it anyway, or for that matter, what day is it?”

“Well it’s the night after you were hurt, as for what time it is,” she pulled out her phone,

“It is precisely 3:26 in the morning.”

“You should go home and get some rest. It’s not like I’m going anywhere.”

“Not likely mister. I don’t trust you out of my sight.”

I took a deep breath, ‘Ow. I can already tell you that I’m out of the fight for the foreseeable future. You don’t have to worry about that.”

She gave me one of her ‘you’re being a dork’ looks, “If you honestly think I’m going to leave your side while you’re in this condition, you’ve got another thing coming. Besides, it sounds like you need more medication.”

“No, I can’t afford to let my thinking get cloudy.” I had to stop for a coughing fit. “Ouch. Well maybe some anti-inflammatories to take the edge off the pain.”

She patted my hand and got up, “I’ll be right back.”

I would have loved to have gotten a nice shot and gone back to sleep, but I had a lot of responsibilities that I was already behind in. I needed to get Prometheus forces into a coherent fighting unit. This would take a lot of work that I had been putting off or not even considering yet. First step in the plan called for me to get back to the C&C plane, so I had to work on that.

Sylvia came back with a nurse I recognized named George. “So how do you feel Colonel?”

“Terrible, but that’s not important right now. I need something for pain that won’t cloud my mind and I need to start the process of getting out of here.”

“Whoa there cowboy. You have taken some serious injuries. Leaving is out of the question until we are sure you’re stable.”

“I’m aware of that, so what do we need to determine if I’m stable or not?”

He began to poke, prod and question me for a while. I was then transferred to a wheelchair and that’s when we found out that one of my ankles was fractured. I received an analgesic shot and then was scanned with an inch of my life.

After receiving a cast, I was then reluctantly released to Sylvia’s tender care. She spent the entire trip back to the C&C plane threatening dire consequences if I tried to hide any weakness or pain from her.

I stopped her rant by saying; “I need to call Sniper immediately.” By this time we had reached the command center and the only one there was Harry Medford. I asked, “What are you doing here at this hour?”

“They needed someone to man the coms while Eddie got some sleep. Apparently he’s been up for over three days straight.”

I chuckled and coughed, “Yow. I need a com channel to wake my XO at an ungodly hour with.”

He laughed, “You got it.”

I expected it to ring for a while but he answered it almost immediately. “You have news…Allen! Shell man. You look like shirt warmed over. What are you doing out of the bleeding hospital?”

“Nice to see you too. I just called to let you know that I’m taking myself off of combat duty and you’ll need to lead the Giant Killers.”

“I was already planning on that. What are you planning on doing?”

“Staying on the C&C plane and doing my job as leader of this force for a change.”

He looked relieved, “Well, that’s a dang fine improvement, but you still look like you need to be in the blinking hospital.”

“If I knew for sure when the aliens were starting their assault, I might consider it. As it is, I feel about as bad as I look so I’m only going to be able to work between naps.”

“How do I know you won’t work yourself to death, genius boy?” Sniper asked skeptically.

“Because Sylvia will be watching me like a hawk and I‘m in no condition to outrun her.”

“Then I will see you in the flanking morning, sir,” and he signed off.

I was glad that had gone well, as resistant as he was to command, but then again I was still in command, even if I wasn’t on the field.

I logged on to a terminal and began to go over reports on what I had missed while I was out. The navy had taken out the other Taurian bases as I expected, but the uncontrolled bio-soldiers had destroyed a number of private craft and killed an unknown number of civilians on those crafts and the beaches.

The war had come home to Japan and the Japanese were pissed. This could be a good or bad thing depending on when the aliens attacked. If they attacked soon, that fury would descend on the aliens and they would support the fight with everything they had. If they delayed for any length of time, that fury would descend on Prometheus and the other military forces. It was a delicate balance that was totally out of my hands.

I turned to reviewing the records of the leaders of the other battlesuit companies and it wasn’t long before I found myself unable to focus. “Sylvia, I need to lie down and I just remembered that our room is on the upper level.”

She walked to my side, “Do you think that you can get up those stairs with my help?”

I put my head in my hands, “I don’t know if I could even get into the wh eelchair.”

“You stay there, and I’ll get some help.”

As I didn’t even think I could get up, I decided to go with that plan.

* * *

The next thing I remember, I woke up in a strange bed and there was someone snuggled up against me. I wondered how my nocturnal visitor had found me, but then I noticed that the hair color was wrong and realized that it was Sylvia next to me. OK this was confusing enough to give me a headache even without a concussion. I wondered what time it was and tried to sit up enough to look around for a clock when Sylvia stirred.

She yawned and stretched, “What do you think you are doing?”

“Um, just trying to see what time it is and wondering if there was anything for my head.”

She smiled wide enough that I could see her teeth in the gloom, “You’re not the one whose supposed to have the headache, but I do have something left over from the last time you had a concussion. Close your eyes. Lights.”

I carefully opened my eye and took in the room as I adjusted to the brightness. “Whose room are we in?”

She rummaged around in her purse; “It’s Sir Jacobs. When we found you passed out at the terminal, he insisted. Here is the pill, but we don’t have any water. Wait right here and I’ll get some from the galley.” She got out of the bed, and that’s when I realized she was only in her shirt from the pantsuit she was wearing earlier. I laid back and closed my eyes so that she could get dressed. I heard her sigh, “So, why did you close your eyes?”

I’m sure I blushed, “I didn’t want to be rude and violate your privacy.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment and then shook her head, “You and I are going to have to have a serious talk when you get to feeling better. Now, I’m going to get some water. You lay back and get some rest.”

I followed instructions and after she left, I wondered once again about women. I could tell that I had done something wrong and disappointed her, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what. I now knew that she liked me, but once again I was lost as to how to interact with people. The worst part was that she was the one who I would usually ask about such matters. I finally decided on a course of action and turned my mind to easier things…like figuring out the plans of alien invaders.

* * *

When she returned, I had worked my way into a sitting position. She looked at me with exasperation, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Medicine first please.” I swallowed the pills and took a…shallow breath. “I am in a bit of a bind here. I really need your advice on how to talk and react to you appropriately. You are my main lifeline on how to deal with people, and I don’t know how to approach you.”

“OK, but one question first. Do you really want to open this can of worms when you are already involved in so much else?”

I sighed and had a coughing fit, “Ow. I need to get some kind of handle on this so that I can deal with the other things. You are one of the most important things in my life that I have that allows me to keep going. I need to be able to lean on you without being constantly afraid that I’ll say something wrong to hurt you.”

She sighed and pulled up the chair so that she could face me squarely, “OK, why don’t we start by you telling me where you think we stand and we will go from there.”

“Let me see,” and I began to tic off points on my fingers, “You’re a beautiful lady and I have been in love with you for, it seems like, as long as I have known you, but I’m both shy and inexperienced. I have no way of knowing if what I feel is the real thing or how to go about the whole thing. It has been only on this trip that I found out that you like me as well, but I still don’t know how much or what to do about it”

Sylvia swallowed hard, “Go on.”

“I don’t know if we’re a couple or if we’re dating or anything like that. I’d like to be, but I don’t know how to tell. I don’t know the rules about touching or kissing or hugging or anything like that, and I am absolutely terrified to mess that up. Heck, I don’t even know the rules about looking or even talking.”

She wiped away a tear, “Talking?”

“Please don’t cry or… or I don’t know what I’d do. Anyway, talking. I don’t know if or when it’s appropriate to say ‘I love you’ or ‘you look beautiful,’ or anything else. I have all these ideas that run through my head as to what I would like to do, but I don’t know what’s acceptable and what’s offensive.”

“OK, we can work on this.”

“More than anything else, I want to know how to stop making you angry all the time. I just want to see you happy.”

Sylvia took a deep breath and started to say something, and then let it out in a sigh. “Allen, that’s an awful lot of things to work on, but we can handle it if we take it one step at a time. While I can’t answer all of your questions immediately, I think I can answer enough of them to set your mind at ease.”

“I can deal with that.”

“Allen, I not only like you, I love you, and have for a while now. I’ve been waiting for you to notice, but I should have known better than anyone that things like this would confuse you. That’s just the way it normally goes. There is an old saying that ‘a man chases a woman until she catches him.’ I kept waiting for you to chase me, but you’re too polite to do so without my permission.”

“I take it that’s a mistake?” I said tentatively.

She looked thoughtful, “Not exactly a mistake, in fact, it’s endearing in its own way. It’s just…unexpected because it’s not the way it’s usually done. As for if we are going out, we’ve done plenty of things that could be considered dates. So we could be a couple if you’d like.” She looked suddenly shy, which was a new one on me.

“There’s nothing that I’d like better.” I said with full sincerity.

She gave me a brilliant smile and a quick kiss, “OK, so I need to give you some ground rules to help you make sense of this.” she took a minute to think and I saw her tic off points on her fingers before she spoke, “First of all, we are in love, and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, both of us have a lot of responsibilities that have to be taken care of. Second, saying things like “I love you” are called endearments. They are appropriate any time we are in private, are to be used with restraint when we are in public, and are not to be used when we are on the job.”

“OK, I’ve got that. Anything else?”

“Yes. The third thing is touching. Kisses and hugs can be had upon request when we are in private, but not in public or at work. Holding hands is appropriate except during work. Last of all, is trying to keep me happy. I know I have a temper, and I will do my best to keep it in check, but being with you has made me happier than I have been in an awfully long time. We’re going to have to take things slowly for a while, but we can make it if we work together.”

She leaned in and we kissed deeply. I was hesitant and inexperienced, but she was gentle and patient in teaching me. When we parted, “Whoa, and I thought concussions made me dizzy.”

She shook her head and smiled, “You are my big goof.”

I laid back and winced at a random ache, “I think this is going to be a lot more fun when I get to feeling better.”

“Don’t get too far ahead of yourself there mister. We’ll worry about that when the time comes.”

“Worry about what?” She just rolled her eyes and I decided that it could wait.

As pleasant a way as that had been to start the morning, there was still a huge job to do and I was the one who needed to do it.

I needed to create a chain of command for the Prometheus forces from scratch and then integrate our force with the other forces on the island. Most of the first part was pretty boring, as it consisted of reading the files of the unit leaders and interviewing them one by one. It was slow work while time was racing by.

After a lot of files were read and interviews were conducted, I finally settled on Mark Stetson for my second in command and battle leader. It was no coincidence that he was an ex-Marine and aggressive to a fault. He wasn’t the type to come up with a battle plan, but he would definitely make sure that one was carried out.

Another thing I did was put Sureshot in charge of the remaining Knights. Fifi hadn’t survived the battle, and that left seven of them to keep everybody’s attention. Using them at all had always been a publicity stunt, and it was working. Every time they moved out of the base, they were followed by a crowd of fans and reporters. This effectively let me focus the spotlight where ever I wanted it just by moving them around. This also allowed me to hide other operations by using the Knights to catch everyone’s eye. They had to do a lot of seemingly useless stuff, but I got them to look it as training and development time.

With tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of thousands of civilians on the move at any one time on Kyushu, the result was vaguely organized chaos. We had to set up firing positions and defensive works in the best positions to repel the invasion, which too often meant we were on private property with an irate owner standing there screaming at us. Resistance to our “militaristic excesses” was especially bad around Nagasaki. Because it was the site of an atomic blast, all the loons and pacifists naturally gravitated to there. Luckily for me, that was General Abe’s problem for the most part.

While General Abe was in overall command, most of the responsibility for planning the actual defense of Kyushu (and the surrounding region) fell to the ground forces commander, General Dupree. He divided the island into sectors and assigned defenders to each sector. The northern sector was assigned to US Army units stationed in Japan and Korea as well as the Korean Expeditionary Force. The Japanese Army was assigned both the eastern and western approaches to the island which essentially gave them the middle bulk of the island to defend. The southern section was assigned to the US Marines and Prometheus forces. Naval assets had been moved into various bays and anchorages around the island, but the bulk of the both US and Japanese ships were being held in reserve to the north.

Our reserves technically included every other military unit in the region except the North Koreans, but there was a definite order of who could be called upon. Most Japanese forces that were not already on the island could be called upon as soon as it was apparent that their areas of concern were secure. About a quarter of the Japanese Armed Forces were already deployed to Kyushu, but this already included most of their best trained and equipped forces. The US Army and Marines had also sent their best equipped forces in the region. The next closest forces would have to be airlifted from Hawaii, Alaska or the west coast, and I had just experienced firsthand how difficult and time consuming that would be. Chinese and Russian forces were much closer, but politics made calling upon them an act of real desperation.

The southern sector included the coastline from Miyazaki to Akune. To defend this area, he assigned Prometheus 1st Brigade under me, the US 3rd Marine Division under General George Hodgkin, US 1st Marine Air Wing under General Clarence Douglas, and the Battleship California and the Bombardment Cruiser Monitor, (anchored in Kagoshima Bay) under Rear Admiral Ned Smoleski. I was assigned as the sector commander, even though General Hodgkin was the ranking officer.

Despite this, George and I got along well and we integrated our forces as well as possible in the limited time we had. While we each had six battalions of troops, the actual units were as different as night and day. I had 36 companies of armored infantry, which included some of the most experienced alien fighters on the planet. These companies had been lumped together on paper to form six larger units they were still in reality 36 distinct units. The Marine battalions were combined arms forces with integrated support units which were able to act in a coordinated manner all the way to the divisional level. It didn’t take much discussion before it was decided that each of the Prometheus battalions would be attached to a Marine battalion and the new combined battalions would under the command of the existing Marine colonel. While this solved my chain of command problem, there were still plenty of problems to keep me occupied.

This mainly left coming up with the actual plan to defend our part of Kyushu. Our standard base assault tactics were of little use here as were standard battlefield tactics for confronting a human army. It would have really helped if we knew how and where they were going to come at us. Were a million bio-soldiers going to start marching out of the sea on a single beach or would they form a ring around the island and just start marching toward the center, or would they do something entirely different?

This is where my experience was able to give us something to work with. Taurians always acted in groups with a single purpose for each group. They would then pursue that goal until they accomplished it; unless they detected something they considered a threat. This single minded group behavior was the weakness that had been the cornerstone which we built our tactics for our base assaults and there was no reason to believe that it wouldn’t still be true.

With this in mind, we developed a plan which included a set of rules of engagement which became known as the ambush doctrine. Rule number one: Never engage the Taurs head on. Always use ambushes, flank attacks, and hit & run attacks. Rule number two: If you cannot wipe out the enemy with the above tactics, pick off any alien soldiers riding herd and then lead them into a larger ambush or run them in circles until help arrives. Rule number three: Never use the same ambush/hiding spot/attack plan twice. Because they do not think for themselves, wiping out a group lets whatever is controlling them know what you just did. This can even be used to your advantage if they think that they know where you are, they often send another group to flank you, which can then be ambushed in turn.

Once we worked out the plan, we submitted it to General Abe (well, George did as I wasn’t up to traveling yet.) He approved our rules of engagement for all commands and then we set about getting out forces ready to implement the plan. We hastily set up a series of observation posts and sensor grids in a vain effort to cover every square inch of the island. Simultaneously, we had our troops start practicing our ambush strategies as hard as they could. Mostly these were field exercises which the occasional live ammo drills as well. It was unavoidable that this would lead to mishaps and injuries, but I didn’t have enough simulators for even a tenth of our troops, so there was really no other choice.

Personally, I was in a world of agony punctuated by moments of bliss. Concussions tend to get worse every time you get a new one, and the first time had been pretty bad. This time I got to add a cracked ankle and ribs to the mix just to maximize the fun. Every wrong movement or breath could lead to excruciating coughing fits that could and did re-crack my ribs. Even when I kept this to a minimum, I still had to deal with the fatigue, headaches and confusion from the concussion.

From this crucible, I learned how to really lean on the people who were supporting me. I had always been a loner and so letting other people so something I could do myself was very alien to me. I had no choice but to find other people to solve problems that would have been well within my capacities if I had been healthy. This allowed me to see that I needed to concentrate on the problems that no one else was in a position to solve.

Sylvia was my lifeline throughout this. She helped me realize my limits, which kept me from collapsing as often and contributed to a faster recovery. She is very protective of me and even fearlessly faced down an entire room full of marine officers to get me a rest break during a meeting that ran long.

That was actually the meeting where George and I further divided our area into four vaguely pie shaped sectors. Our Tuskers and the Army artillery were divided into four fire-bases and the squadrons of A-36 Rumblers were based out of Kagoshima Airport.

Most of the outer islands were ordered completely evacuated as they would be too difficult to defend. It would be hard enough to defend the main island with its extensive coastline and many bays. An evacuation order had gone out to the coastal towns as well and millions fled the island entirely. The roads and ferries were clogged constantly, which made getting units into position a real chore.

I traded my bandages for an eye patch (and Sylvia smacked me after about the fifth time I tried to talked like a pirate.) I did five interviews over the next three days (which has led to the persistent rumor that I am blind in one eye, which I’m not,) two in English, two in Japanese and one in Korean. The interviewers worked around my schedule and weaknesses with a deference that was scary.

The aliens decided to take their time, which was fine with me. Every day extra we had was another day to strengthen our defenses. Only Sylvia knew just how nervous I was that all of my predictions were wrong and everything had been in vain. The only sign that the world could have seen was that my fingernails were practically nonexistent.

Sylvia and I grew closer during this time, and I always attribute it to her love and care that I healed so quickly and completely. By the fourth day, the eye patch and the cast were all that was visible on the outside of my injuries. She started to worry that I might get it into my head that I was feeling well enough for combat, but I knew better. Physically, I was taking things very easy, which allowed me to function pretty well, but I needed painkillers for that functioning. My ribs and lungs had not forgiven me, which I was reminded every time I took a deep breath or had a coughing fit. My ear didn’t entirely heal either, and even though my hearing is still pretty good, I’ve heard a constant high pitched whine in that ear from that time on.

All of this was done while waiting for the other shoe to drop. The aliens were out there as their dead constantly washed up on the shore, but only they knew when they would attack, and the wait was maddening.

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Taurian Invasion 39: Under da Sea …

In the morning, I called my best Knight pilots together for a briefing. “We have a tough one for our first outing for the Knights. Our targets are in a deep channel in the Southern part of the Inland Sea. We suspect that they are Taurian bases, especially because repeated attempts to bomb them with depth charges have ended in the depth charges going off prematurely. It’s our job to find out why and destroy the bases if possible. Any questions?”

Sureshot raised a hand, “Any chance we are going beneath our safe depth?”

“The channel isn’t more than 200 meters at its deepest point. That’s like 600 or so feet? Anyway we are rated to 1,500 feet or so in the pressure tests. On the other hand, no one has ever done this before, so this is part of our job as test pilots to check it out. Everyone needs to be extra careful. This means you Lena.”

“Thanks boss.”

“We are using the whole underwater kit that we practiced with; including the torpedo missiles you like so much Buddy.”

Buddy grinned, “Aww, you shouldn’t have, boss.”

I countered, “Especially after you took four of us out with those thing in our first sim run, but I did it anyway. Any more questions?”

Sureshot raised his hand again, “Do we have any backup on this mission?”

I winced inside, “We will have Japanese Coast Guard and Navy ships overhead with depth charges as well as ASW choppers on station. Anything else … Then let’s suit up and no one goes anywhere unless we all get through both checklists successfully.”

* * *

I walked up to the eight Knights in a row and sighed. The Knight is one of the most powerful battlefield weapons ever devised and I had to order them dressed in clown suits. OK they were underwater adaptation devices, but they looked ridiculous. There were huge fans attached to the arms and legs, buoyancy bags around the waist and search lights all over them. To top it off they were carrying double ended tridents that were bigger than they were. All they needed were the red noses and rainbow hair and their outfit would be complete.

I approached the ground crew and spoke to their leader, “Hey, Pepe, how is Fluffy doing?”

“She is purring like a kitten, Seignior.”

“And how is Fifi?”

Pepe frowned, “Well, she has no red lights so far.”

I rolled my eyes, “Perfect. Do you really feel these things are ready for combat?”

He gave me one of his big grins, “As long as you don’t get shot, you should be OK.”

That got a smirk out of me, “Remind me to put you on the comedy tour.” I climbed into Fluffy and started going through my checklist. Once I completed that, I climbed into the chest of the Knight while still in my battlesuit and plugged Fluffy into Fifi’s control rig. The checklist for the Knight is much longer than that of the warrior and I had left us an extra hour to get everything green-lighted before we left.

Luck was with us and everyone checked in within 45 minutes. We lined up and started out of the base … and that’s when I found out that someone had let the press know that we were going on a mission. Hundreds of people were lining the roads and there were news crews everywhere. “Listen up team, keep your eyes open and step carefully. In a crowd this size, there’s bound to be some Loons. I was planning to walk overland for a while, but let’s take the straight road to Miyzaki instead.” It was still over thirty miles to the coast and we were treated like a parade the whole way. Four times that I remember a person or persons tried to lay down in the road to block our progress while shouting things at us in Japanese. In all cases, the other people along the road dragged the out of the way (and not always gently.)

It was such a relief to get to the beach and be able to get away from the fear that I was going to accidentally squish someone. We waded into the surf with all the grace of an octogenarian without their walker and began marching parallel to the coast. The crowd followed us and we gained an escort of small boats. Luckily, after about a half hour, a coast guard cutter shooed the flotilla off, but we still had our fan club on the shore.

It was another eighty miles until we got to our first target, which meant that we had four hours of wading and swimming after we got into the water. Everything almost went smoothly until I noticed that my visor was fogging up, “Anyone else notice that their internal temperature is going up?”

Lena said, “I’m still comfortable.”

“No I meant outside the Warrior and inside the Knight. I don’t think we’ve ever run them this long while doing something like wading.”

“I think our boys and girls here are getting tired, we should let then rest.” said Sureshot.

I thought for a minute, “I agree. Wade out until we are completely submerged. That will help cool them off and we can use thrusters to move for a while. We’ll just add this to the list of problems for the design team.”

“Why don’t we just stay still?”

“A: We still have a fan-club watching from the shore and B: I don’t want to be a stationary target.”

This worked out pretty well until Rico announced, “I have twelve fast moving bogeys moving in from the southwest.”

I immediately went into combat mode “Everyone get in defense formation, turn on your searchlights, and head for the bottom.” By the time our feet touched bottom, we were in a circle facing out with trident’s at the ready. “Rico, what do we have incomming?”

“Just a sec, they’re staying awfully close to the surface … stand down, they’re dolphins. Sorry boss.”

“Don’t apologize. That was good eyes on your part. Believe me, I’d rather be ready for dolphins or whales than be surprised by Taurians.” With a bit lighter hearts we continued wading or gliding until we got to the entrance of the Bungo Channel and started heading for deeper water and our first target.

As we glided down Rico called out, “I have a faint echo pulse ahead of us. Somebody’s looking for us.”

“Everyone cut your thrusters and drop to the bottom. We’ll proceed on foot. Switch searchlights on.” Let me tell you, slogging across the sea bottom is no picnic. The mud can be hundreds of feet deep and incredibly fine. You can find yourself blind and stuck with little warning. I finally had to say, “Rico, see if you can locate some solid ground or we’re going have to risk detection.”

“I have some rock 150 yards to our right.”

“Get yourself on solid footing and then guide the rest of us in.” He complied and proceeded to guide us from one outcropping of rock to another in a surreal version of hopscotch.

“Boss, I have multiple contacts above us.”

“Everyone, form up around me. What do we have, Rico?”

“I think it’s a patrol of Mermen above us, but their far enough away that their hard to make out.”

“Keep an eye on them and tell us when it’s safe to move.”

“It seems to be an awfully big group or something.” Rico paused while apparently studying his scans, “Every time I think that they’re gone more come onscreen. Anyway, they’re too far away and heading the wrong direction to be a threat to us.”

“OK, then lead on as soon as you are comfortable.” We continued on at a somewhat slower pace as Rico divided his attention.

“Hey boss, I think they are forming an umbrella over their base. All the ones I can see seem to be swimming in a big arc and all seem to be about 26 feet from each other and about 85 feet from the from the surface.”

I laughed, “Way too simple. What you are seeing is their depth charge shield. I didn’t expect them to use suicide troops to stop depth charges, but it makes sense now. OK Rico, can you pinpoint that pulse well enough that we can torpedo it?”

“Give me a few minutes and I can.”

“You have all the time you need.” I checked the outside cameras. There were a surprising number of creatures within the range of our lights. True, some of them were a bit flatter than usual, but that’s war.

“OK boss, I got you a fix, 12 miles north-northwest.”

“Excellent work, remind me to recommend you for a bonus.”

“That’s what you said last time.”

“Yeah, and if you’d checked you’d have seen that you got one.”

“I get a bonus every time!”

“You see how well it works? Anyway, Buddy this is your shot.”

Buddy took up the challenge with enthusiasm “Everyone face north and get into firing positions … Slaving missiles to my command … Setting the lead missile for sonar homing…Setting the rest to follow an fire at intervals … Lead missile away … all missiles away!”

“Let’s swim to the shore in formation people, and keep those tridents ready. There’s going to be a lot of bio-soldiers at loose ends here in a minute.”

Buddy whined, “Don’t we get to stay and watch the explosion?”

“It’s too far away to see underwater.”

“That takes away half the fun.” Just about then the pressure wave rocked us gently, “Never mind.”

We glided to the surface without incident and resumed out trek northward toward the next target. I was on the line with headquarters giving a report when Rico broke in, “I’ve got a bunch of bogeys coming in this general direction. Seems like you were right boss.”

“Lets get all the way underwater and continue onward. Spear anything you come across and toss it up on the shore, but don’t go out of your way. Giant Killer Leader to command. We just popped one base and all the bio-soldiers are at loose ends. Pass this along to the appropriate Japanese military units.” I continued with my report while the rest of my group killed confused Mermen and later Centaurs. Japanese units were called in to scour the coasts and finish the rest of them. “OK troops, we’ve been recalled. Once we figured out how they were stopping our depth charges, the navy boys can handle it from here. Let’s head home.”

There was a chorus of “Aw man,” and similar sentiments.

“We can kill more bio-soldiers that way.” I taunted. That got me grudging acceptance and we started wading/swimming back down the coastline.

We were swimming around a rocky island where it was too deep to wade when Rico came on in a panic, “Bogeys, big ones, at 1500 yards and closing. I count three no four Krakens and a Leviathan!”

There was no time to sink to the bottom and form a defensive position. The Krakens closed in while the Leviathan lurked at the perimeter. Buddy launched a spread of torpedo missiles, which took out one of them, and then they were on us. Krakens are medium bio-soldiers, but they looked freaking huge up close. I stabbed at one which was closing straight toward me. I was aiming for its eye, but cut deep into one of its arms instead. The other three arms grabbed me and tried to pull me apart, but I was already ready for a second jab which I plunged deep into its body and then set off the electric burst.

I took a second to look around and saw that Sureshot’s machine looked damaged and Beth had an extra arm attached. Then I realized that I had been moved away from the others and was exposed, and the Leviathan was closing. One of its giant claws reached toward me and I jabbed at it desperately with my trident and released its charge. The resulting explosion of the bio-soldier’s weapon stunned me in more ways than one. By the time my vision cleared, my trident was gone and I looked around just in time to be swatted by its fluke as it closed in on my friends. I engaged my thrusters at their maximum and yelled into a malfunctioning com, “Get to the shore! I’ll keep this one busy!”

I caught up with the creature’s tail and began pulling myself hand-over-hand toward the area that my display said its brain was buried. It stopped going forward and started groping for me with its claws. I had only one shot before it found me, so I targeted where its brain should be, “Ultimate override! Point blank target! Ripple fire all missiles now!” I heard the last of the torpedo missiles launch just as one of the flailing claws slammed into me, and then the pressure waves hit … I heard Lena call me from a great distance…

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