Taurian Invasion: Epilogue


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.

“Lena?”

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.”

“Really?”

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 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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Taurian Invasion 37: The Price of being Extraordinary


“Sniper.”

“Yeah boss?”

“Detail a couple of squads to patrol the shoreline to look for stragglers for the rest of the day.”

“I don’t think that it’s likely that any dang thing survived that.”

“Agreed, but it will reassure the locals as well.”

“You got it boss.”

I headed back with a group of happy soldiers, while I was slipping into a dark pit inside. We had won the battle, but if someone hadn’t gotten a lucky shot that Dragon could have easily wiped the floor with us. I had ordered everyone to charge the Dragon, prepared to die if that was what it came to.

I thanked everyone for doing a good job and headed for my room to change out of my longjohns. Sylvia was waiting there for me, “Well how did the … OK, what happened?”

“We won.”

“If you look any happier about it, I’m going to put you on suicide watch.”

“I screwed up and nearly got everyone killed.”

“Did you lose anyone?”

“No, everyone’s OK.”

“Then … Oh, OK. Listen to me mister. You are to go get a shower and get right back here in ten minutes or less. Understood?”

“No problem.” I gathered my clothes and hit the showers. I could tell that she was handling me, but I just couldn’t muster the energy to care or object. I shuffled back into the room and found another set of clothes laid out for me and Sylvia nowhere in sight. I sighed and put them on. If Sylvia thought that looking better would make me feel better, then she was dead wrong. I sat on the bed for a time thinking dark thoughts until she returned.

“Good, you’re dressed. Let’s go.”

“What about …”

“I’ve taken care of that, now get moving.”

That was the limit of my resistance and I went where I was told.

We went to a real Sushi restaurant and we talked about all sorts of things (work related topics being forbidden,) and I slowly started coming out of it. I noticed that she was looking very nice in a dress I didn’t recognize, and I although I could remember what had happened, I couldn’t remember why it was so soul crushing.

“Are you feeling better?”

“Yes actually, quite a bit.”

“Good. We just needed to get you out of that environment until you could calm down.”

“Something major just happened, and I think that I really need to understand it.”

“OK, here goes. You know that you have incredible abilities as a Savant, right? Well, there are also some pretty bad drawbacks that often go along with them.”

“I thought that the inability to understand people and social situations were the drawbacks.”

“Unfortunately, they don’t stop there. You just had an incredibly stressful day both physically and mentally. You pushed yourself to your limits and beyond and crashed twice in one day.”

“That’s not good.”

“No, it’s not, but you got accomplished what ordinarily would have been completely impossible. If that raid had happened without you here, the aliens would have probably destroyed the facility and the casualties would have been in the thousands. You made some kind of mistake out there, but you kept everyone safe by not panicking and getting things done. It wasn’t until you calmed down that you crashed.”

“So what exactly happened to me?”

“You had a sudden severe depressive episode.”

“Depression?”

“Yes, depression. You went from victorious hero to suicidal depression in only few minutes.”

“Suicidal?”

“Don’t deny it. I could hear it in your voice and see it in your eyes. Neither you nor I can afford to take this lightly. Suicide is the most common cause of death among Savants, and I’m not going to lose you that way!”

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

“Listen Allen, it’s part of my job to watch out for this kind of thing. We had more than one close call today, but we got through it.”

“Has this happened before?”

“A few times, but this was the worst I’ve seen. On the other hand, it’s past and we can move on. You still have a lot of important things to do, and I’m going to have to keep a closer eye on you.” She took my hand and looked me straight in the eyes, “We can do this together.”

“With you at my side, I can believe that.” I took her hand and brought it to my lips. I felt kind of corny doing so, but it seemed to be well received.

“You, sir, are a goof. A very sweet goof, but a goof nonetheless.”

“I can only work with what I’ve got. If being a goof is it, then I hope you can handle it.”

“Handling you is what I do for a living.”

“Then, my dear, as tragic as it is, we must give up this time of sweet seclusion and return to the cold cruel world. As much as I would like to spend the evening drinking in your beauty, duty calls and I must turn my attention to fouler things.”

“I have never heard you speak like that before. Where the heck did you learn that?”

“Historical role-playing games. Where else?”

She rolled her eyes and we started laughing. I was still smiling as I escorted her out of the restaurant and noticed the man following us. He had seemed a bit out of place at the restaurant, and something about him didn’t strike me as right. I wished I had taken a sidearm (which I had now qualified on,) but I had not been thinking clearly when I left. There were still plenty of nuts out there who would target me for various reasons, and I my face was pretty well known.

I walked with Sylvia down the streets for a bit and realized that blending in with the crowd in a Japanese city was not an option. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any cabs right now, so I decided that a confrontation was in order if he didn’t quit in the next couple of blocks.

I rounded the corner of a building and flattened us against the wall. Before Sylvia could protest I put a finger to my lips and had her back up to give me room. When he rounded the corner, I grabbed his arm and yanked him toward me. I put his arm behind his back and put him in a headlock with my free arm. “Why are you following us?”

He croaked out something that sounded like “Prometheus Security.”

“Where is your ID?”

“Back-pocket.”

“Move and I break your arm.” (I had been studying hand-to-hand as well.) I took out his wallet and saw a pair of ID cards covered in Kanji. Fortunately, the Prometheus logo was prominent on one and so I was inclined to take his word.

I released him and gave him his wallet back. I did my best bow, “My apologies, I didn’t realize that we had an escort.”

“I’m so sorry, this is my fault.” I looked up to see Sylvia with her hand over her mouth, “I knew we had an escort, but I forgot to mention it.”

“Sir. We-must-get you to a-safer-location.”

“We were about to head back, but I didn’t see any cabs.”

“If-you-will allow me. I have-a-car.”

“We would be honored. Lead on.”

* * *

I was changing back into my uniform when I figured out what I needed to do next. “Hey Eddie, can you connect me to the Tusker command please?”

“Well, there isn’t really a Tusker command per se, but I can connect you with their messaging center.”

“That’ll have to do.” It rang for a while.

“Prometheus tanks.”

“Can I talk to your commander?”

“Er, we don’t actually have a commander at this time other than Colonel Spencer. I can try to connect you to him.”

“This is Colonel Spencer. Who is your senior tanker then?”

“That would be Kelton.”

“Please have him meet me at the C&C plane ASAP or send me a message if it’s going to take a while.”

“Will do, sir.”

I hiked over to the C&C plane in the swiftly chilling night. Sea breezes are great for hot days, but they can make for darn cold nights. I was shivering a bit by the time I got to the back of the plane and saw that they had put up a partition with a door on it to keep out the cold. I opened this door to find Sylvia waiting on the other side for me.

“I was about to send out a search party.”

“Well, I’m glad you found me first.”

“Let’s get you in there before anyone has an aneurysm about their particular problem.”

“Lead on, my dear.” She wasn’t kidding. It seemed like all of Kyushu and most of Japan and Korea was panicking about the aliens. This was a job for my public relations officer! “Anyone seen Larry?”

“Over here.”

“OK, we need a press release ASAP in English, Japanese and Korean. We need to say something to the effect of: The aliens have made a probing attack on Kagoshima Bay, but this has been repulsed by the forces that are already gathering from all over the world to deal with this menace. The Taurian forces were routed with only the loss of two heroic Japanese pilots …”

“They fished one of the pilots out of the bay and he was in stable condition last I heard.”

“Oh cool! OK then, one heroic Japanese pilot. There are more alien forces on the way, but be assured that our forces will be ready for them when they come. Your local law enforcement and government agencies will let you know if your area is in danger and if and when evacuations become necessary. Panic only serves the enemy. Doing things in a calm orderly manner will help lead to victory.”

“I may need some help with the translation.”

“Check with Harry over in the communications center. He’s great.”

“I’m on it boss.”

“When you’re done, run it by General Abe’s office for final approval before releasing it.”

“Got it.”

“Eddie, tell all the panicky callers of less than a government minister level that a press release is imminent that will answer most of their questions.”

“On it, boss.”

“OK, who’s here that that doesn’t cover?”

“This is Captain Maeda of the Japanese Coast Guard, Kagoshima section.”

“An honor sir. Our victory would not have been possible without the work of your valiant men.” From the confused look on his face, I was guessing that he didn’t speak much English. “Is my translator anywhere around here?” There was a brief search before he was found in the conference room. I let him translate directly without checking it with a translation program to save time.

“It is an honor to meet you Captain Maeda. I apologize for my impolite reception. I am in your debt for the victory that we just enjoyed would not have been possible without steel nerves of your men showing us the way to the enemy. I am at your service, sir.”

(Thank you for your gracious welcome, warlord. I have news that I dare not entrust to any messenger that I believe needed to be brought to your personal attention. We believe that we have located the Taurian base on the ocean floor near to the entrance to the bay.)

“You are wise as well as brave sir. I will have the Amagi contact you directly to arrange a strike as soon as possible. Your eyes have been a blessing to us this day, captain. I shall rest easier this night knowing I have such valiant warriors on my side.”

“Captain Fredrick is here. He says that you asked him to come.”

“Thanks Sylvia. Captain, I need to talk to someone about how to best deploy the Tuskers, and I hear that you’re the man to talk to.”

“I don’t know if I am ‘the’ man to talk to, but I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have.”

“We need to try and cover as much of the island’s coast as possible with the forces we have and those we have coming. What would you suggest?”

“With just the Prometheus forces or are you including and Japanese or American units as well?”

“I won’t really know that until tomorrow, so let’s start with our forces.”

“I would deploy the Tuskers in pairs on prominent lookout points around the island, with Pachyderm and a fuel tanker beside them.”

“So, one spun up and the other resting at all times?”

“No, that wouldn’t be possible.”

“Explain.”

“The speeds that we accelerate our ammo to cause an awful lot of wear and tear on the acceleration rings. The acceleration tracks have to be replaced after 6 hours of use and the magnetic system needs an overhaul for every 24 hours of use. Tuskers are powerful weapons, but they need a lot of maintenance in order to be kept operational.”

“Can you start working on finding good places to position the Tuskers?”

“We’ve already found a bunch of good sites, but there’s no use deploying until the maintenance vehicles arrive.”

“What’s stopping the Pachyderms?”

“We have to wait for all the tanks to arrive before they send them. Combat vehicles have a higher priority.”

“If I promise to have your maintenance vehicles here by morning, how soon could you start deploying?”

“Pretty much immediately.”

“Then get on it. You’re now my commander of our Tusker forces.”

“I don’t want to be in command!”

“I need someone who understands what is going on with the Tuskers and can clearly tell me what they need to function. You have someone who fits that bill better than you?”

“Well, no.”

“Then you’re it, and if you give me any more lip I’ll promote you as well.”

“Yes sir.”

“Eddie, give me the transport command back at headquarters.”

* * *

After that I answered a few more urgent e-mails and decided to call it a day. I still had the big meeting the next day, and today had been a monster. Sylvia walked with me back to my room and when we arrived was when it hit me. “OK, why don’t you let me grab some clothes for tomorrow and you can have this room.”

“I take it you’re heading for the motorhome.”

“I think that would be easiest.”

“I hope it’s not the company.”

“I have a big day tomorrow, and I don’t think I could get much sleep if I knew that you were right there beside me.”

“You’re so cute when you’re shy.”

“Sorry.”

“Come here you big goof.” She gave me a big hug and a peck on the cheek. “Now you go get some rest and if you dream about me, I won’t mind.”

Well that was enough to keep me warm on the walk over, but I was still glad to get to my room. I opened the door, and there sat my nocturnal visitor.

“I wasn’t sure that you would come.”

“And miss a hug from you, come on.” She came and gave me a tight hug and sat back down.

“They said that you wouldn’t come because of that other lady.”

“Why would they say that? Lena has a counselor too.”

“I dunno. That’s just what they said.”

“Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I’m always going to be you friend.”

* * *

After Allen left, Sylvia sat down and activated the vid-link. When the screen came up, it

showed the Director, Angelia, General Moore were waiting for her. The Director smiled and asked, “How did his first day go?”

“Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that he handled everything that today threw at him. The bad news is that he crashed twice while doing so.”

Angelia perked up, “What caused him to crash?”

“The first time he just got so busy that he forgot to eat or drink for twenty hours straight. I’ve been watching him more closely ever since to keep anything like that from happening again. The second crash was more serious. He made a mistake in combat, and even though no one was hurt because of it, he went into a serious depression. I think that he had not completely recovered from the first crash when he went out, which contributed to the second. I can do a lot, but I can’t be there for him during combat.”

“How did you get him out of it?”

“I, ah, took him out to dinner?”

“Did it work?”

“He recovered completely within an hour or so.”

“Then you did the right thing. This is why I suggested you accompany him. He is going to need you to provide him with structure, routine, normalcy and moral support.”

“Tony, what kind of a mistake did he make?”

“In military terms, he didn’t make one at all. He threw together a plan that successfully stopped an unexpected military assault with minimal casualties, before we had supporting forces set up. What he’s upset about was that he didn’t arrange for artillery support before the engagement. Even if he had asked for the Tuskers to support him, it’s unlikely that they could have been ready and in position in time.”

“Which is all well and good if he is not too depressed to be rational. The problem here does not seem to be with his performance as much as it is with sensory overload. He did just fine until too many things happened in too short a period. As soon as he was taken out of the situation, he recovered completely. He just needs some structure and sense of normality to lean on, and Sylvia will provide that.”

“Yes ma’am. I’ll have a workable routine ready by morning or our morning anyway.”

“Do you have anything else for her Don?”

“Not really.”

“Then you should sign off and get some rest.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

After Sylvia’s screen goes dark, the Director turns to his companions. “We have an awful lot riding on this pair. Tony, do you have any doubts that Allen can handle the military side of things?”

“A military unit is at its most vulnerable when they are in transit and setting up. He handled that assault with relative ease. I have no doubt that he will be up to whatever he faces.”

“Sylvia, can they handle the pressure?”

“Together, they will be fine.”

“Then I see no reason to interfere at this point. We should keep a close watch, but also keep our hands off unless things go seriously wrong.”

“And that, Don, will be harder on you than anyone else.”

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Taurian Invasion 35: Chaos and Preparation


I had hoped to leave as early as possible, but the first plane didn’t get into the air until nearly noon. I ordered every plane to take off as soon as it was loaded, but that didn’t actually make as much difference as it seemed to because we ended up waiting for everyone at Vandenberg anyway so we could have a fighter escort for our flight to Hawaii. I slept nearly the whole first leg and only woke up as we were circling to land. My first impression of Hawaii was that it looked very beautiful, and it would have been even better if I had had the chance to get off the plane.

We were delayed for about five minutes by some FAA blowhard who was having a conniption over safety regulations. He was arguing with the pilots when I got on the radio and reminded him that this was a military flight filled with soldiers and live ammo. I invited him to come discus it with us personally, when he decided to give us clearance.

As soon as we were underway, I contacted the head of Prometheus’ Kyushu facility. Kentaro Tanaka came on the vid-link and I was hoping that the translation software was up to the task, “Good morning sir.”

“How are you this morning, Colonel?”

“Oh, good. You speak English.”

“I’m Japanese American. I was born in Osaka, but I was raised near Sacramento.”

“Thank Goodness. I only have one person that’s fluent in my entire company.”

“I’m already putting together a translator group with security clearances to serve as liaisons for Prometheus units.”

“You’re good, and I appreciate your efforts. On the other hand, I was calling about another matter. I need to know how extensive your underground facilities are.”

“We have about three times as much volume underground as we have above ground.”

“Really, I wouldn’t have guessed that you had enough time to get that much done.”

“We had a head start. Kyushu is riddled with old tunnels from when the government was getting ready for an invasion during the Pacific War. In many cases we just had to reinforce and expand what was already there.”

“I need room for a hospital, ammo storage and possibly some repair bays as well.”

“We’ll do our best with what we have, but why do you want the ammo underground?”

“One sneak attack could blow it and everyone around it to smithereens. Then without ammo for our weapons, we’d be up a creek without a paddle. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I’d feel a lot safer with it underground.”

“OK, I can see you point. What about the hospital?”

“I’ll have my medical chief contact you in a little bit and she can work out the details with you and your people.”

“OK I’ll see you in the morning, or rather eight hours from now as I doubt I’ll be getting any sleep tonight.”

“Sorry, and thanks.”

I signed off and found Doc Simmons and let her know who to contact. She looked ready to smack me for giving her something else to do. I said that she ought to try and get some rest after that and the resulting laughter had a bit of a hysterical edge, so I decided to hide in my room to give her some space.

Sylvia was working at the computer so I asked, “What’ve you been up to?”

“Trying to learn enough about your company and the rest of the Prometheus units to be useful.”

“Wow, what have you learned so far?”

“Well, first of all, we have 312 people associated with this unit going to Japan, of which 310 don’t know Japanese.”

“We have two? Who else beside Sukari?”

“Apparently, Rob Grumman in technical services is also fluent.”

“I have no idea who that is, but it’s good news. Even better, I have received word that they are organizing translators for us on the other end as well.”

“Now I feel like I was wasting my time.”

“Please don’t. That’s actually valuable information. I can tell you from experience that having a translator who knows what you are trying to say is a heck of a lot better than one who you have to explain the concept to.”

“OK, I can accept that. Have you given any thought as to where everyone is going to sleep?”

“Unfortunately, the lucky ones will get an empty warehouse; everyone else will have to make due with tents or an unused corner.”

“I’ll see if I can arrange for better when we get there.”

“If you can, you’ll be a hero. On the other hand, you look like your about to fall over. Why don’t you try and get some rest, and I’ll try and work quietly.”

“OK, you talked me into it. I just need someplace to change.”

“How about I stand in the hall, and you let me know when you’re done.”

“You have a deal, Mr. Spencer.”

I stood there and worried about running into Doc Sullivan until she told me I could come back in. She was in a long baggy shirt with football numbers on it.

“What are you smiling about mister?”

“This is the first time I remember seeing you not dressed up. I kind of like it.” and that got me the first blush I’d ever seen on her.

“Well, I need to get some rest, and you need to get you mind back on your work.”

“OK, sleep well, Sylvia,” and I logged onto my computer.

She sighed and came over and gave me a hug from behind, “This is going to be harder than I thought. Goodnight, Allen. Knowing you’re here makes me feel safer.”

“OK, Goodnight?” I knew I missed something again, but after mulling it over for a moment, I realized that I really didn’t have time to figure it out. Besides, even if having her here didn’t make me feel safe, but it certainly made me feel better.

* * *

By the time we entered the landing pattern for the Kyushu facility, there were three more flights in the air coming from the main campus and six coming from other Prometheus facilities … and they were not the only ones. The world’s focus was about to come upon Kyushu, and I only hoped it was in time, unless, of course, I was wrong. There was always the possibility that I had read the signs wrong. I had already worked myself into a full fledged panic when I heard Sylvia stirring.

Without turning around I said, “What if I’m wrong? What if they decide to hang me from the nearest tree for panicking the whole world for no reason?”

“What…oh. Don’t worry about it. You’re never wrong about this kind of thing. You couldn’t tell flirtation from a death threat, but this kind of thing; Perfect every time.”

I pondered that for a second. “Are you awake?”

“Check back after I’ve had some coffee.”

“We’re on approach. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until after we land.”

“Great.” She might not be awake, but she had the sarcasm down pat.

It was then I realized that with a couple of semi-coherent sentences, she had completely dispelled my panic. “Sylvia, I’ll catch up with you as soon as I can. I need to get things rolling as soon as I can. Thanks, you’ve been a big help.”

“OK…sure,” not sounding at all sure.

I headed for the back ramp as we made our approach (and only ran into the wall twice.) When I got there, Doc Sullivan and her people were already there. I asked her if she had gotten any rest, and she growled something that sounded like as a curse on my family, so I tried to move out of easy throwing distance. When we finally taxied to a stop and the ramp opened, I gave the Doc and her party plenty of room before I ventured out.

It was nighttime in Japan as I went down the ramp, but the lights on the airstrip/parking lot made the Humvee and the three men in US Marine gear clearly visible.

“Colonel Spencer? General Dupree is waiting for you in the conference room inside.”

* * *

I was escorted into the conference room by the marines. Have I mentioned how much I love and respect the US marines and how they scare the snot out of me in person? When they are decked out in their combat gear, I can never get out of the back of my mind how my continued existence is completely dependant on their goodwill, but I digress.

Ken Tanaka was the only person I recognized, but my eyes were drawn to the sixty-something marine who still looked like he could bench press me. I’m not a big believer in fate, but if there was ever someone born to be a US Marine, it was Charles Dupree. I would have wished that I could be in as good a condition as he was when I reached his age, but he was in better condition than I would ever be in my life. Anyway, there I was in a room with a bunch of big American Marines and regular sized Japanese men (yes, it was hilarious.)

The General stood and extended his hand, “Colonel, it’s an honor to meet you. We have a lot to discuss as soon as you get your men settled,” and sat back down.

“The honor is mine, sir,” and I meant it. In two sentences he had proven himself to be completely in charge of the situation.

I turned to my actual host and gave him my best Japanese bow (which was bad.) Poor Ken introduced me to his staff as quickly as he could, abandoned my translator and fled his own conference room. The General turned to my translator and said, “Son, would you mind waiting outside for a few minutes?” He fled, leaving me alone in the room with the General and six marines in combat gear. “Colonel, I’ve checked you security clearance, and you have access to this material. How closely have you been following weapons development by the US Armed Forces?”

“Not as closely as I should have sir.”

“Then you need to familiarize yourself with the latest generation of weapons we’ve deployed. Lieutenant!” The lieutenant produced a vid-player from somewhere in his gear and handed it to me. For about ten minutes they watched me while I watched the vid, but fear had been replaced fascination. When the clip ended the general said, “As you can see, while Prometheus has been perfecting battlesuits and their tactics, the US Armed Forces have not been idle.”

* * *

After escaping the marines, I took my translator and went in search my host, Mr. Tanaka. We were able to discover that he was in his office, but finding that office took nearly a half-hour. Once there, told his secretary, “I wish to talk to Mr. Tanaka alone at his earliest convenience … You do speak English, don’t you.”

His secretary just smiled and said, “Mr. Tanaka has been waiting for you.”

I walked in and his secretary closed the door behind me. Mr. Tanaka rose from his seat and offered his hand, “Good to have an actual chance to meet you, Colonel.”

“The same here, sir, and you can call me Allen.”

“Ah, but this is Japan. In public or any business setting, you will be called Colonel Spencer. You will refer to me as Director Tanaka or Mr. Tanaka, but in private or among friends, I’ll call you Allen if you’ll call me Ken.”

“So are you Ken or Mr. Tanaka right now?”

“Mr. Tanaka until we get some essential items out of the way. We have 153 top secret, and 27 eyes only level projects at this facility. All of them need decisions on whether to terminate, suspend, transfer, minimize or continue them.”

“Did the Director leave any directions? I mean the Main Director…how do you guys refer to the head of Prometheus here anyway?”

“He’s always the Director, while I’m always Director Tanaka. To answer you’re first question, he left everything up to you.”

“Well, that was certainly generous of him. It would probably only take a couple of weeks for me to familiarize myself with everything and make all of the careful decisions necessary, but I’m expecting about a million bio-soldiers to arrive this week.”

“A million? Please tell me you’re exaggerating.”

“I wish I was. I’ve estimated that we have a minimum five days before they are in position to attack.”

“I had no idea.”

“Not many people do. I only figured this out two days ago, and we haven’t had time for press conferences. So far, only key military personnel know.”

“How sure are these estimates?”

“The good news is that time wise it could take as long as three weeks. The bad news is that there is nothing stopping them from attacking before all of their forces get into position. Five days is just the earliest that their forces can all be in position. As for the numbers, that’s more nebulous. Every Taurian base seems to control about one thousand bio-soldiers. My estimate puts the number of bases at somewhere between eight and eleven hundred. That puts my estimate at the high end, but it’s better to prepare for more and get less than the other way around.”

“What are we supposed to do then?”

“You are going to look over that list and figure out what can be moved out of here. We are going to have over 100 flights coming in a day that you can fill with equipment and personnel that would otherwise be leaving empty. All I need to know is what can’t be moved and how to destroy it if this facility is overrun.”

“Destroy? Some of these projects are essential to the war effort.”

“Yes, and that why my other job is to make sure that this facility isn’t overrun. Unfortunately, the enemy may have other plans. I’m not planning on letting them anywhere near this place, but if this is their target, I may not be able to stop them. We have to have contingency plans, just in case. If you’ll arrange the evacuation, I’ll get the military end in place to try and make sure it’s not necessary. Now, what’s first on that list can’t be transported?”

“The bio-soldier research program.”

“Go on.”

“We’ve rebuilt one of the alien assembler units in one of our deepest chambers. We feed it parts; it churns out bio-soldiers. As long as we don’t give them weapons they aren’t dangerous.”

“Terminate them now.”

“They’re well controlled and pose no threat.”

“The Taurian bases can see through their eyes and may just know where they are. I want every alien body and especially every alien core unit or weapon gone from this facility by tomorrow. We might as well have a flashing beacon over us telling them where we are.”

“I’ll get my people on it right now.”

“OK so what’s next …?”

* * *

Six hours later, I made my way back to the C&C plane in a state of exhaustion, which I blamed on a combination of exhaustion, jet-lag and lack of food. I had been so busy with planning that I hadn’t thought about eating. I walked up the ramp and found pandemonium waiting for me. Everyone was talking to me at once, trying to get me to hear some critical bit of information. It was completely overwhelming. Have you ever seen it in a movie where the camera flashes from one face to another and then everything starts spinning around? Well it felt just like that. My knees were buckling when someone put an arm around me and came up under my shoulder.

“ENOUGH! Everyone who has something where people’s lives depend on it follow me. Everyone else, head to the conference room and decide who is next among yourselves, and we will call you as soon as we can. Major! Have the nurse meet us at his room.” I had never been so glad to see Sylvia in my life, and never been more impressed. I was about to say something gushing when she turned on me, “And you! Did you even have enough sense to drink a glass of water in the last six hours?”

“Not …”

“Do I really have to follow you around all day to keep you in working condition?”

“Um …” I said with great suaveness.

“Just how do you survive without any form of common sense … ” and on she went. I knew that she was really furious, because she was starting to repeat herself. It was kind of odd that it wasn’t bothering me until I realized that although she was criticizing traits I had, she wasn’t attacking me directly. This was a good thing, because it just doesn’t look good when one of your battle leaders starts crying because someone yelled at him.

My head was starting to clear and Sylvia was running out of breath as we were climbing up to the deck my room was on. I glanced back to see that there were only three people still following us, and recognized one of the C&C plane’s pilots, “Pete, can you summarize it in ten seconds or less?”

“Eh … this place doesn’t have a control tower and the skies are getting hairy around here.”

“What have you been doing?”

“The other pilots and I have been trying to do it from the cockpit, but we can’t coordinate with anyone else because they don’t speak much English, and we don’t speak any Japanese.”

I thought for a few paces and came up with an evil scheme, “Have Eddie in communications put you in contact General Abe’s office, and then drop it in their lap.”

“That’s kind of …”

“They have the authority to order this problem out of existence. Get on it.”

“Yes sir.”

I finally reached my door and Sylvia eased me down into the room’s only chair. The man at the doorway also was wearing the uniform of a Transport Aircraft Captain, “Do I know you?”

“No sir. I usually fly out of California.”

“OK, now give me the quick version.”

“Well, the people from the facility want to start loading cargo for the return trip, but they don’t have any manifests or authorizations.”

“Captain, I’m going to task you with spreading the word to other pilots. This facility and the region around it are considered an active battle zone as of yesterday. The entire island is under evacuation orders and we are going to do everything we can to assist in that effort.”

“Do we just throw procedure out the window?”

“No, we go according to my battlefield procedure. Once you unload your cargo, the people on the ground have an hour to load up as much stuff as you can get off the ground with. You leave as soon as you’re full, run out of time, or there’s nothing waiting for you. All authorizations are per the head of Prometheus military operations in Kyushu, which is me. We’ll worry about getting signatures after the battle. Manifests are on a ‘best guess as you have time’ basis.”

“Are there any restrictions on the loads?”

“Let me see. They can bring any Prometheus equipment, materials, personnel, relatives, personal items, pets … so no. There really aren’t any restrictions, but you need to let them know that your load-master has complete control over where and how they are loaded. Also, anything or anyone who endangers the flight may be thrown overboard in route.”

“Wow, so this is war?”

“Yes, and in war, time is lives, so get going.”

“Yes sir!”

Sylvia handed me a hot soda which I downed in one gulp and some cookies that I inhaled. “OK, what’s next on the life threatening emergency list?”

“Sir, a large group of bio-soldiers were detected by sonar twenty miles from here entering Kagoshima Bay twenty … two minutes ago and they seem to be heading straight for this facility.”

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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.”

“Where?”

“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.”

“Why?”

“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.”

“Tony?”

“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.”

“But…but…”

“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?”

“Yes.”

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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Taurian Invasion 30: The Right Plan


We moved out at dusk. Fifty men and women in armor clambered off the flatbeds, formed into our squads and moved toward our first checkpoint. This battlefield had about ten times the number of trees than the last, but that still didn’t add up to any real cover. The Australian scouts had found another wash that would allow us to sneak inside the Taurian perimeter and we were planning on heading in as soon as it got dark enough, but we never got the chance.

“Sapper One to base! We took a bad bounce and one of the bloody things spotted us and is in pursuit!”

“Acknowledged.”

“Giant Killer Leader to Sapper One. You’ll never outrun a Centaur in a gully and you’d be and easy target on the plain. What are your weapons?”

“We have M-16s with armor piercing rounds and a .50 cal on an armored Humvee and some grenades.”

“Stop running, deploy your men and kill the Taur as soon as it comes into sight. Your squad is more than a match for a single Centaur as long as you don’t have your back to it.”

“Understood sir.”

“Giant Killers, let’s go, flat out!” We all broke into a sprint at the top speed of our heavy units.

“Sapper One to Giant Killer. We got the bloody sausage, but I have two casualties.”

“Gather your casualties and get back to base ASAP! There are already fifty Taurians heading for your location, and you don’t want to be there when they arrive.”

“Understood, heading for base.”

“Any air units over the battlefield report in.”

“This is Chinook Two. We are in position over the battlefield and we have twelve loads of Chaff ready to drop.”

“Excellent, but I need you eyes right now. There should be a mob of Taurians heading out from the headquarters building. I need you to track their progress and report their location when I ask.”

“Roger that.”

We had a few minutes of running before we reached the site of the skirmish, which gave me too much time to think. I had just given my first order that had sent someone to their death. I wanted desperately to call up the Australian scouts and have the squad leader deny what I already knew in my gut, but I knew that I didn’t have that luxury at that time. I knew that the decision had been the right one, but I was still felt sick because of it.

My thoughts raced like this until we reached the gully. I saw the dead Centaur first, and looked around to find where the Scouts had fought from. I shouldn’t have done that. The blood soaked ground wasn’t particularly gory … and then I saw the arm that had been left behind.

That jolted me to my senses. I couldn’t keep worrying about how I personally was feeling about what had happened. I had to let all of that go and deal with what was about to happen or a lot more people would end up dead. I filled my mind with coming up with a plan to deal with what had gone wrong. The helicopter pilot confirmed that the Taurian force was still at least ten minutes away, so I had time to confuse the enemy.

“Sniper, head east and take out the next ten sentries, Rusty, head west and take out the next eight. I want a hole in their line big enough to take an army through. Once you’re finished, join us at Redoubt One.”

“We still sticking to the plan?”

“Yes, but we’re going to have to make up a few things as we go along. Chinook Two, do you have any Taurian mobs in sight?”

“I have one group with two of the larger monsters headed directly toward your location.”

“Would you indicate their location on the tactical maps.”

“Sorry, sir. This is an old bird and she doesn’t have the equipment to connect to the tactical net.”

“Crud! Give me an estimate of the distance between our forces instead.”

“About 6 kilometers and closing fast.”

“Thank you, Giant Killers, follow me!” We made a sharp turn to the right to keep some distance between us and the Taurs. The light was fading fast, but I didn’t want to chance them spotting us in the twilight. The plan called for us to be in position by the time it was fully dark. Despite the premature contact, the main elements of the plan were still intact. We moved into position and began constructing Redoubt One.

By the time the trenches were complete, Sniper and Rusty had returned, and all of the supporting Australian forces were in position. We would have a couple of hours of almost complete darkness before the moon rose, and I intended to make the most of them. The alien mob that had gone out earlier had stopped at the site of the earlier skirmish and waited there for a few minutes before heading back to their base. The only other activity was units sent to replace the sentries that Sniper and Rusty’s squads had killed and those sent to retrieve their comrade’s bodies.

Leon and Laura’s squads now moved forward to establish reconnaissance positions near the base, while the rest of us set up Redoubts Two and Three. Everything was set and now it was time to kill some Taurians. “Wombat Three, are you ready?”

They had been shadowing the first mob of Bio Soldiers “We have an active paint on the ugly buggers and are ready for some payback!”

“Hornet One and Two you are cleared for your runs.”

“Copy that, we have active tracking and are going in.” Laser guided cluster bombs are nothing new, and I have seen plenty of bombing footage on TV over the years, but seeing it first hand was much more impressive. I was in an armored battlesuit, four miles from where four anti-armor cluster bombs hit and I could still feel it through my feet.

“That got most of them. There are a few of them still moving, should we clean them out?”

“Negative, Wombat Three. There are still more of them where they came from and I don’t want any of them moving in your direction. Leon, what’s the activity like at the base?”

“No mobs are forming as of yet, but I have a rush of bio-soldiers exiting the … Crap, we have a Titan, I repeat, we have a Titan.”

“Alright, Tusker Battery, you are released to kill any large or giant bio-soldiers that you have a clear shot at.”

“Aw, we can’t kill any of the little ones?”

“Can it Tusker-P … actually that’s a good idea as long as you make sure your primary targets are gone and you have an ammo reserve.”

“Will do!”

“Allen, the Titan and three Cyclops just fell.”

“Great Leon, wait two minutes and set off the first noisemaker.” The noisemakers were a new touch which had been suggested by Beth. They were basically just a string of firecrackers that could be set off by remote. She asked why we should risk personnel or even equipment when they could just be reacting to the noise and muzzle flashes. (It turns out that bio-soldiers are stone-deaf but they could still see the flashes, so they worked fine anyway.) We would eventually add this to the Chaff packs as well to add to the confusion.

“Wow, I would hate to have been that patch of weeds. A mob is moving out to investigate.”

“You know the plan Leon; lead them to the slaughter.” Leon lit off one noisemaker after another while shadowing the Taurian mob silently. He led them on this particular wild goose chase until I could see the Taurs in the distance. “I have them.”

“They’re all yours, boss.”

I set off several more noisemakers to draw them on until the entire mob was right in front of the main force. “Launch Chaff.” The Chaff packs bursting made a lot of noise, but very little light, and the Centaurs didn’t react to them. I kept my eyes glued on the mob and when the first piece of Chaff fluttered across my vision I gave the order to fire. I was kind of surprised when Fluffy reported that I had downed three of them. With forty of us and 53 of them, that doesn’t leave much room for doubles, let alone triples, but sometimes you just get lucky. “Good job, everyone. Let’s head for Redoubt Two.”

“Maury’s down.”…and sometimes you get unlucky.

“Take who you need and get him back to base.” Fluffy’s display told me that the whole squad had left. That’s not what I intended to happen, but I was not going to question one of my squad leader’s judgment on the battlefield. That was a significant drop in firepower, but if all went well, we wouldn’t miss it much. On the other hand, relying on things to go your way in battle was a good way to die.

“Allen this is Laura. Three groups are forming and are moving out. All three seem to be about 200 strong and include a Cyclops with a rider.” Well, the Taurians were changing things a bit, but it wouldn’t be enough. “The northern group is approaching Kill Zone One.”

“When they are in it, give the order to fire.”

“Uh, OK. All batteries, they are starting to enter Kill Zone One. The will be completely inside in five, four, three, two, one. All batteries FIRE!” I could see the flashes, although the artillery itself was over the horizon. The flight time seemed so long that I started wondering if they had missed or if the Taurians would escape the kill zone.

Then a little patch of the Australian outback turned into hell. It almost didn’t seem real. The lights and the sound were out of sync, like a bad movie, but the effect was real enough. “That got them! There are maybe two dozen who are still moving.”

“Pick off any stragglers and follow the rest. Only engage if you are confident you can take them down.”

“Yes sir!”

“Leon, are you in position?”

“Just about, and the mob is getting pretty close.”

“All batteries, prepare to fire on Kill Zone Two.”

“Crap! They’re off course, too far north.”

“You know how to draw them in. Don’t give the order until they’re in and you’re clear.”

“Chinook One, I need a Chaff drop between my position and the Taurs. I just took out their rider.”

“Acknowledged. Dropping Chaff now.” Leon needed to enter the kill zone in order to draw the aliens into it, and although it was just lines on the display until the artillery fired, it still felt like I had ordered him into a minefield.

“Wombat Two to Giant Killer Leader, they are pulling their pickets.”

“Acknowledged. Wombat Three, are the remaining units at your location pulling back?”

“Yes sir.”

“You have permission to engage any stragglers that you see fit.”

“Yes sir!”

I was watching Fluffy’s display as Leon zigzagged across the plains. He was expertly herding them toward the kill zone while trimming their numbers with precision fire. I heard him give the order to fire and I remember thinking that he was still awfully close to the kill zone when the night was lit up for the third time. I heard a scream over the radio, “Leon!…” I had to stop for a second to get control of myself, “Situation report. Are you OK?”

“I’m still with you. A stray round hit right by us. Jessie took a hard hit and the rest of us got peppered by shrapnel.”

“Pull your squad back to base and give me an assessment from there.”

“On my way.” There was relief in his tone that told me that I had made the right decision, but that left me two squads down. Besides that, Leon’s squad was the one who specialized in capturing the headquarters building itself, which could cause problems later, but that consideration could wait until all the bio-soldiers were dead. The immediate problem was that there was no longer anyone to monitor the remains of the second group of Centaurs.

“Sniper, take your squad and see how much is left of the mob from Kill Zone Two.”

“You got it Boss. Can I engage the goat sucking things?”

“Feel free to pick off any stragglers. Engagement is up to your discretion. Take them if you think you can.”

“Got down right. We’ll keep these things occupied.”

I was down to 30 battlesuits in my main force, which should be enough to do the job if nothing else went wrong. It helped that the third mob of aliens was potentially the easiest to deal with. The central group had always made a bee line toward the last place that our main force had been spotted. This left them extremely vulnerable to a preset kill zone. Sure enough, this group ran straight into Kill Zone Three without needing any encouragement from us.

The resulting firestorm was both terrifying and beautiful to see this close up. I was watching it with the spectrum shifted toward infra-red by our helmet displays. Fountains of earth and fire went up in strange colors as the ground shook beneath our feet and the pressure waves rolled over us. The effect was hypnotic in its own way as the sensory overload left you dazed in the abrupt silence that followed. I might have stood there staring with my mouth open for a while if I hadn’t seen several Centaurs still moving in the kill zone.

“Let’s finish this group off and go clean up the stragglers.” Within ten minutes we were setting up our positions around the Taurian base itself. The noisemakers really made wiping out the sentry ring a breeze. Unfortunately, Leon’s group was out of action. All of their suits had been damaged by that artillery shell, although only one of them had been seriously injured. The scout squads from the Australian battlesuit companies had arrived, but they were supposed to be learning about how to take a headquarters building, not doing it themselves. Sniper and I had a conference and we finally decided that Laura and her squad would storm the headquarters building.

It turned out to be a good thing, as there were still a group of Gargoyles in the entryway. Unfortunately for the Gargoyles, everyone in our company had gone through a hundred “assault the alien headquarters building” simulations. A few smoke bombs and a lot of ammo later, there were twelve dead Gargoyles and two battlesuits out of the fight (one of ours and one Australian.)

An Australian lieutenant tazer packed the pilot and the others threw grenades that exploded into fire retardant foam (which had been delivered for our scouts specifically for this purpose), which put a real damper on the self destruct mechanism. We had captured our first intact Taurian base! The only bad part for me was that Leon should have gotten the honor, but that’s the fortunes of war.

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.

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Taurian Invasion 29: Taking Command


The next morning back at Prometheus there was a high level meeting. The Director addressed a screen at the end of the room on which Sniper joined the meeting. “Your decision was just a bit abrupt. What made you decide to give him a battlefield promotion at that particular time?”

“Other than the fact that it was long overdue, it was because he hesitated while in the middle of combat, while directing the battle, because he needed to give me an order. My rank, or his lack of it, was in the way, so I took care of the problem.”

“Alright, does Allen seem to be adjusting to being in command?”

“That’s it? You’ve blocked this for months causing me all that freaking grief and now it’s no big deal?”

“Sniper, you are a battlefield commander, and I am a civilian with no military experience. I have to completely rely on the judgment of the people who are in the field; and hopefully I am wise enough to not sit here and second guess your decisions from the comfort of my office. You gave what sounded to me like a valid military reason for a military decision. Unless I hear from one of my other military commanders that you made a bad decision for a bad reason, I am not going to second guess it. Now, how does Allen seem to be adjusting to being in command?”

“Like a duck to water. He is a bit hesitant about the parts that are new to him, but he leads, and so people follow.”

“Tony, what’s your assessment?”

“He’s doing well, but trying to do far too much himself. I’m putting together a list of names to form a command staff for him. I’d pull him for my command group, but he’s still too young to accept being away from the action.”

Angelia caught the General’s attention, “I might have some names for your list, if you think it would be helpful.”

“I wouldn’t dream of making the list without your input.”

“Why a command staff so soon?”

“He has a brilliant combat team that he has put together around himself, but they are not the right kinds of people to be able to help him with the types of problems he is already encountering while trying to come up with workable strategies for the war. So, he has been trying to do it all himself and its starting to show. I think that if we give him the tools, he will be able to use them properly, which will allow him to work more efficiently.”

“Herman, what is the status of the new weapons systems he requested?”

“Well the Chaff systems that he requested are not a really difficult engineering challenge. The biggest problem is to figure out what form of it will provide the greatest distraction for bio-soldiers under low light conditions. We already have several study groups … OW!” The research director looked sharply at his councilor, Heather, who was looking excessively innocent. “Where was I?”

“I was wondering how long it would be until workable Chaff units reached the field.”

“A set of working prototypes will be in Australia tomorrow.”

“Excellent. Anything else on this matter before we move on?”

“Yeah, before I go, how long until Allen starts attending these meetings?”

“If things keep going the way the way they are, I would be surprised if it was more than a couple of months.”

“Great, more waiting.”

* * *

I woke up with a crick in my neck and fifty things running through my head. I had been sleeping in an odd position and one arm was asleep and as I tried to turn and stretch, my elbow clunked into something solid and I heard a sleepy, “Ow!” I turned quickly and saw nocturnal visitor rubbing her forehead and looking at me with wide, frightened eyes.

“Sorry. I really didn’t mean to bonk you.”

She said, “It’s OK,” but her eyes were still full of fear and distrust.

“Please don’t leave, it was an accident.”

She had started to gather herself up but, at my outburst, she stopped and shifted on the bed. She looked me straight in the eye and sneered “What can I do for you Hon?”

OK that woke me up! My visitor was definitely gone. I glanced quickly at the clock which said it was five in the afternoon. I tried to convert that to what time it was at home and failed completely. “I just woke up because I had a crick in my neck. I was going to just go back to sleep when I accidentally woke you. You’re welcome to stay or go; whichever you like.”

She snorted in mixed disgust and amusement and started to get up, then stopped and stared at me intently, “You’re Allen right?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“So you’re the goody two-shoes that has everyone in such an uproar.”

“I guess so.”

“Does you neck still hurt?”

“Uh … yeah?”

“OK then, turn around.” I hesitated, not knowing what she intended. “I’m just going to rub your neck. No big deal.” I turned and sat facing away from her and she began her massage.

No big deal indeed! I had never gotten a real massage before in my life and especially not from a pretty girl. It was having quite an effect on me! On the one hand, this was completely outside of my comfort zone and I was completely embarrassed and had no idea of what I should do. Back to the first hand, I was really sore and very tense from all that had been happening and everything that was coming up. The matter was decided by relaxing effect that the massage had on me, which made me feel like I was going to melt into a puddle at any moment.

And then she started kissing my neck! Now I know it doesn’t fit the macho hero stereotype, but I nearly jumped out of my skin. Despite the battlesuit and the giant killer image that I’d earned, at heart I was still a nerd who lived with his mother, and this scared the tar out of me. I turned to ask what was going on and received the first full on kiss of my life.

She sat back and gave me this measuring look, and sighed, “You have no idea what’s going on, do you?” I simply shook my head no as I was too busy hyperventilating to speak. “Crap on a cracker, now the others are awake and I have to go.”

She closed her eyes briefly, and then opened them and looked around in a confused manner. “I think I’d better go.” Now that was Lena’s voice, but I was too breathless and confused to do more than nod my agreement and get up and out of her way. She hurried out, obviously embarrassed, which confirmed some of my earlier suspicions about her not remembering her nocturnal visits. I felt like I was near figuring out what was going on with Lena until this morning’s events. Now I was completely lost again and flustered besides.

I looked at the clock and tried to figure out how much sleep I got, but decided that it really didn’t matter. There was no way I was going back to sleep after that. I grabbed a quick shower and came back to my computer to continue working. It was actually a relief to bury myself in reading intelligence reports to find out the extent of the alien presence on our world.

I had a group of people arriving this evening (they were already in the air) to form my staff which meant that today was the last day that I had to myself. With the Chaff ordinance not arriving until tomorrow, I decided that we would take two days to get prepared for our first push. The goal would be to take out four Taurian bases in four nights. I needed to come up with at least four battle plans that were similar enough that our people would be able to get into a routine, but varied enough that the Taurians would not know what to expect. I also needed some sort of training routine for our people to prepare on, but getting the simulators reprogrammed in such a short time was simply out of the question. Besides all of that, I had to figure out what to say to the company as the new commander.

* * *

The morning meeting started as normal except that I was at the helm. “Anyone who hasn’t heard about the change in command by now really needs to get out from under your rock more often. Sniper and I have decided to trade places because he for some reason wanted to be promoted down to XO, which left me in charge. Now whenever I got a new boss, the first question I always have is what is he going to change? I have come up with only one major change that I want to make: Some journalist somewhere tried to label me as the ‘Giant Killer.’ I managed to turn that around on my first interview by saying that it was my squad name. By doing that, I wanted to let the world know that I was part of a team who did great things and not some idiot who thought that I could do it all by myself. Now that I think about it, I was wrong to limit it to just my squad. We couldn’t have done it without the rest of you any more than I could have done it without my squad. Therefore, I have made the Giant Killers the official company name.”

“Most of you were here when I was hired and you are the people who turned a series of wild ideas from me into battlefield success. We are now the most powerful and successful alien fighting unit on the planet, but I don’t think that we’ve come anywhere near hitting our limits. In two days, we are going to show the world how to drive the Taurians off of our planet.” I actually got some cheers for that one.

“What I need most at the moment is ideas and suggestions on how to improve and alter the assault we had last night. We had a great success last night, but if we keep doing the same thing over and over, they will eventually catch on and cut us to ribbons. Anyone who has a good or bad idea, please come see me. Even a bad idea could be combined with another idea to make a great idea. Feel free to come see me as often as you like and don’t worry about being a pest. If I think that you’re a pest I’ll tell you. Until then you’re a welcome guest. I’ll have some training exercises for you later this afternoon … tonight … well later anyway. Until then, you’re free. Try not to blow anything up unless it’s an alien.”

As far as speeches went, I thought it was a pretty good one. The only major gaff was that this was the first that Sniper heard that I had accepted him as my executive officer, which I didn’t realize until someone pointed it out to me much later.

I headed back to my room and continued reading intelligence reports. I got a number of visits over the next couple of hours, but I kept feeling disappointed every time I saw who it was. I tried to dismiss the feeling, but it kept bugging me until I decided that I needed to deal with it directly.

Lena came in a little while later and would not make eye contact. “You wanted to see me sir?” (She had never called me ‘sir’ before as far as I could remember, so this was a bad sign.)

“I would like you to listen to a story of something that happened to me and tell me what you think I should do after I finish. Would you be willing to do that for me?”

She looked up with a suspicious glare, “I guess so.”

“While we were in the Amazon, a little girl wandered into my room one night. She seemed lost and scared, and when I asked her what she needed, she just wanted a hug. She seemed very familiar, but I wasn’t sure who she was. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but that seemed like a reasonable request. I gave her a hug which seemed to make her feel better and I sent her off to bed.”

“The next night she returned, but this time she asked if she could stay because she didn’t want to be alone. I still wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew it wasn’t safe for a little girl to be wandering around there, so I let her stay and watched over her while she slept. In the morning she went on her way, only to return each night. I didn’t know what else to do, but I knew that at least I could keep her safe. When we left the Amazon, she disappeared, and she never even told me her name.”

“Her name is Rowan.”

“I thought you might know her, but that’s not the end of the story. I didn’t see her again until last night. It might seem strange, but I was very glad to see her again, and had missed her quite a bit. Unfortunately, I fell asleep in an odd position and woke up hurting. When I tried to shift to a more comfortable position, I accidentally knocked her in the head with my elbow. This seemed to really scare her, and I tried to apologize, but she started to run away. I felt terrible and I asked her not to go, but it was too late and she was gone.”

“To my surprise someone else arrived as soon as she left. She too looked familiar, but I knew I had never met her before, but she seemed to know me. I tried to explain what had happened to Rowan, and she seemed to understand. She offered to give me a neck rub because I was still hurting. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do because she was a stranger, but she seemed to be a friend of the little one, so I let her. When she started kissing that back of my neck, I nearly jumped out of my skin, I turned to ask what was going on, and she kissed me. Now, I am not in the habit of kissing women whose name I don’t even know and apparently it showed. She stopped and told me that she had to go and then you arrived. I’m still not sure what all is going on, but I thought that there might have been some mistaken impressions that needed to be cleared up. I had the feeling that you might know these two, and I was wondering if you could give them some messages for me.”

“I think that I might be able to arrange that.”

“Please let Rowan know that I would never hurt her or let anyone else hurt her on purpose and I am very sorry that I accidentally hurt her. I miss her hugs and hope to see her again soon. As for the other lady…”

“Bubbles.”

“Er, OK. Please let Bubbles know that I wasn’t trying to lead her on in any way. I appreciated the massage, but I’m kind of shy and she really surprised me. If she wants to visit or talk to me, she is always welcome, but I’m afraid I might always be a bit shy around her.”

“Anything else?”

“Just that I want you to remember that you are always welcome to visit and talk as well.”

She hesitated for a moment, “You seem kind of busy, I’d better go.”

“Alright, I’ll see you later.”

I still didn’t know all of what was going on, but I had learned a few things and I certainly felt better. I really wanted to know what was happening, but I recognized that pushing things would only end in disaster. At the very least, our talk let me concentrate on what I was doing without being constantly distracted.

* * *

My decision to meet my new staff as they landed turned out to be somewhat of a mistake. Even though the sun had only been up for a little while, it was still hot enough to make wearing my dress uniform a torturous affair. Add to that just how much of a dust storm a jet landing on a dirt runway raises, and you have all the makings for a bad time.

As the plane taxied to a stop, I stopped coughing long enough to recognize it as the command center that Rodolfo had brought to the Amazon. As the back ramp of the plane opened, a thin man with a crisp uniform and thick mustache greeted me with a perfect salute.

“Major Brent Jacobs reporting for duty sir!”

“Pleased to meet you sir.”

“Yours is the honor sir, as I will be reporting to you as your head of security.”

I should have said something about it being an honor to have him, but his perfect military manners, higher rank and thick British accent had thrown me a bit. I really needed a moment to process what this meant, but I didn’t get it as Major Jacobs led me inside and introduced me to about twenty people in just over a minute. Now I am very good at keeping a huge amount of information straight in my head, but there is a weakness in that I must understand each piece and figure out where it fits in relation to the others in order to do so. The Major seems to be the kind of person who has endless amounts of energy and lives life at a pace that just makes me tired to watch. These things combined into a situation where I was about to panic because I was getting serious information overload during an important event. “Major!”

“Sir!”

“I need to speak to you privately.”

“There is a conference room right here sir.”

Ten seconds of silence was just enough of a break to get myself under control and figure out something to talk to him about. “How many security personnel do you have right now?”

“None have been assigned to this command yet.”

“Then maybe you could help me with a problem. I have a tactical reserve of seventeen pilots who have nothing better to do than sit around and get themselves in trouble. I was wondering if you could find a use for them until they are called on.”

“I can think of a few things sir.”

“If you could get right on that Major, I would really appreciate it.”

He gave me another salute and executed a perfect military turn and was gone. I took a minute to catch my breath and get my thoughts in order. I had just missed a lot of important information during the introductions, and tantalizing bit and pieces of it were gnawing at my subconscious until I found out what was what. I walked back out to the command and control deck looked over everyone and picked the calmest looking one, “Can I have a word with you?” Once the door to the conference room closed, “Would you be kind enough to give me your name and tell me what you do again?”

He gave me a friendly smile that immediately put me at ease, “David Ford, military chaplain.”

“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name the first time.”

“We met back in Brazil, but you were a bit out of it at the time and Sir Jacobs is enough to confuse anyone.”

“Sir Jacobs?”

“We just call him that because he’s British, says ‘sir’ way too much and because it bugs him. He’s fun to tease, but he really knows his stuff.”

“It sounds like you have all worked together before.”

“Most of us have been together for about four years now. The Director had Tony put together a military command team during the Troubles. We got to fly around the world to any trouble spot that involved Prometheus, but there usually isn’t all that much for us to do. When Tony asked us if anyone wanted to join your command team, we all jumped at the chance to do something useful.”

“Do you guys come with the flying command center?”

“I take it Tony didn’t tell you that this plane is now your official headquarters.”

“I was kidding, but it fits the pattern.”

“The Director likes to play his games, but it always seems to work out for everyone in the end. By the way, may I ask what you did with sir Jacobs?”

“I sent him to form my reserve pilots into a security squad.”

“That will keep him happy. I almost hate to get my hopes up, but do you have anything for me to do?”

“You know, there is something that would take a big load off my mind. Three of our pilots were injured in last night’s battle. I really wanted to go and see them, but I just haven’t been able to get to it yet. If you could check in on them and tell me how they are, I would really appreciate it.”

“I’ll take the Doc with me if you don’t mind.”

“Sounds good. That way I can meet him when you get back.”

“Her.”

“If it’s Barbara Sullivan, then I know her.” He nodded and I continued, “If you two could do that right away, that would be great.”

“I’ll take that as a dismissal and get right on it. Should I send someone else in?”

“I need to meet everyone, so send in whoever’s next.”

I spent the next several hours meeting the entire crew of the C&C plane. I now had a staff and command crew of over twenty people that I seemed to have inherited from the Director himself. I found myself surrounded by people who were older and more experienced than me, but who were looking to me for leadership. I needed to know one more thing before I could act, and so I called in Phil Gerard, my strategic consultant. I showed him my assault plan for the Taurian bases to keep his mind occupied and asked him to work on coming up with variants that would keep the aliens guessing. He was able to come up with so many of ideas in such a short period of time that I nearly forgot the real reason for calling him in. After brainstorming for a half hour we had at least twenty workable ideas, “What made you decide to take this assignment?”

“It’s quite simple really. I came for the same reason that I joined Prometheus. I spent twenty three years playing armchair general while spending my days selling paint. When I found out the aliens were coming, my whole life up to that time seemed like a complete waste. I joined Prometheus and took this assignment because, here, I just might be able to make a difference.”

* * *

I finally reached the haven of my motorhome. The state room of the C&C plane was mine to claim, but I really need a familiar place. After meeting everyone and giving them assignments, they started giving me reports on those assignments. I had to admit that they were extremely good and accomplished in a couple of hours what would have taken me several days. The pace was frantic and exhausting, but I felt the kind of exhaustion that you have after a day at an amusement park; so tired that you can barely smile.

Everything was ready for tomorrow. A detailed plan was being given to General Harrison so that he could go over it while my people and I slept (A sixteen hour time difference is a pain in the butt.) I opened the door to my quarters and saw that sleep would have to wait. “Hello there.”

“Hi.” It was Rowan. I thought it was from her posture, but I couldn’t be sure until I heard her voice.

“I am so glad to see you. Going a day without a hug from you is really hard on me.”

“Really?”

“Yep. How are you tonight?”

“Isn’t it daytime?”

“It is here, but it’s night at home. Besides, I’m sleepy and about to go to bed, so night works for me even if it is hot and sunny outside.”

“Sorry that I ran away. I was scared.”

“So was I.”

“That’s silly. Why would you be scared?”

“I was scared that I would never get a hug from you again.”

She gave a little giggle, “You’re funny.”

“I like you too. I like your hugs and I love your smile.” She rewarded me with a bright smile and a big hug for that. “Well, I am very tired, and I am going to bed unless you have something else you want to talk about.”

She frowned as I took my jacket off, “I know you said that you said that hugs make things better, but now that she knows I come here, she might not let me come sometimes.”

“That’s OK. I don’t want to get you in trouble. Just let her know that I said that you can come anytime you want.”

A mischievous smile appeared, “Good, cause you’re her super-lee-er, so she has to do what you say.”

“It doesn’t quite work that way, but, I’ll talk to her for you.” I finished getting ready and she moved over to give me room to lay down.

“Do you want to talk to Bubbles?”

Now it was my turn to frown, “Can I tell you a secret Rowan?”

“Sure.”

“It’s kind of silly, but Bubbles is kind of scary to me. I feel safer with you.”

“OK, I’ll stay with you and keep you safe.”

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Taurian Invasion 28: The First Battle


My first impression of Australia was that it was hot and dusty. It was actually hotter than the Amazon had been, and all of the dust made you constantly thirsty, but I still prefer the outback to the jungle. My reaction to seeing Australian soldiers surprised me. I have never envied anyone else’s clothes before in my life, but I was really jealous of the shorts and short sleeved shirts of the tropical uniforms of the Australian Army!

I was really glad that air conditioners of the Gulf War surplus command tent were in good condition. As I laid out the plan for General Harrison and his staff, I was thinking that it was so nice to not need translators, and then they started in with questions and comments, and I thought for a moment I had been wrong. It actually didn’t take too long to get used to their accents, and we worked together for most of the day getting the plan ready for action.

As the sun set, we finally got suited up and went through our pre-battle checklists. As far as the company went, the number of bad starts were down to 5% which is the kind of numbers you were looking for in a production model. However, my personal confidence was a lot lower than the last battle. I had gotten very little training time in due to my injuries and other duties.

The air units were already circling overhead as we headed out of camp. The whole camp seemed to be in motion as everyone headed toward their assigned positions.

We were jogging to a small gully that the Australians had found that ran into the Taurs perimeter. A lot of hunched running and a couple of crawls later, we were in. We only had two hours to get our defenses in place before everything was scheduled to start. Dirt flew as we dug a series of trenches and berms overlooking our chosen kill zone. We finished quickly and then moved closer to the enemy base and repeated the process twice. As they were finishing the last one, my Giant Killers and Leon’s scout squad headed in toward the Taurian base.

When we could see the mob of Taurians surrounding the base, we each dug a concealment trench. Leon’s squad went on to camouflage theirs, but ours would not be in use long enough to merit such details. “Sniper, everything is ready up here, how is your position?”

“Just waiting on you dumb slowpokes.”

“Giant Killer Leader to base: slaughter the lambs.”

“Acknowledged, commencing operation.”

Prepositioned Australian battlesuit squads obliterated the five bio-soldier sentries closet to our main camp, opening a large gap in their sentry ring. I was watching the mob near the base as this happened. Most of the bio-soldiers were just standing there or pacing, only occasionally would one move into or out of the base. Suddenly, all of the bio-soldiers froze. Two figures ran out of the main building and clambered onto two of the Cyclops. A group of about fifty Centaurs and the two Cyclops who were nearest the direction of the eliminated sentries turned away from the base and took off at a dead run. My squad followed after as soon as they had passed, while Leon’s scouts stayed to observe the Taurians surrounding the base.

One aspect of my plan immediately started going wrong. In the jungle, the Cyclops tended to fall behind because they were not as fast at going around trees as their smaller brethren. In the open ground of the outback, they were not only keeping up with the mob, but they were starting to pull to the head of the group as they were big enough to simply run over bushes and small trees that the Centaurs had to go around. This meant that having my Giant Killers pick them off from behind was out of the question.

Time for plan B. “Giant Killer Leader to Tusker Battery, The Cyclops are yours as soon as they reach the kill zone.”

“Acknowledged, Giant Killer Leader. Be advised to move out of the fire cone.”

“Understood, we’ll be well clear. Sniper, this group is all yours. We’re heading back to the trench by the base to pick up the next group.”

“Alright, we can handle these fruitcakes.”

Looked like my team was out of the first round. “Fluffy, tactical map.” We hit the trench just as the Tuskers opened up on the Cyclops. For all the power and lethality of the Tuskers, they lack the impressive display of traditional artillery. This made them a little hard to market, as most generals and leaders expect a big light and sound show. The people at Prometheus managed to overcome this by calling it stealth artillery. The Tusker has twin cyclonic magnetic accelerator cannons. This means that they spin a set of steel ball bearings the size of softballs around in a circle until they shoot them out going about mach 7. There is no flash, no boom. The first thing you usually notice is that something that was just fine a split second ago, all of the sudden has a big hole in it. Watching it in action is far from being unimpressive; it’s downright spooky.

The Cyclops were running at full speed in the middle of the mob of Centaurs when they both just fell down. That was the signal for the rest of our company to pop up and open fire. Within 30 seconds, all of the Centaurs were dead. While this was going on, I was watching the Taurians gathered around the base. During the battle and for a moment afterward, there was no reaction among the bio-soldiers, then they all froze and none of them moved for two solid minutes. Suddenly, they all started moving at once. About 300 of them formed a defensive ring around the base, while the others formed three groups. The center group consisted of about 100 Centaurs, a dozen Gargoyles, and two Wyverns, who galloped, flew and flutter-hopped off directly toward Sniper’s position. One either side of this group, two flanking groups of about 200 Centaurs and three Cyclops took off in slightly different directions. They were trying the same maneuver that we had seen in the Amazon where one group would approach our forces from the front while the larger forces tried to hit us from the sides.

Unfortunately for them, flanking attacks require surprise in order to be really effective, and both here and in the Amazon, we saw them coming long before they arrived. “Giant Killer Leader to Tusker Battery, you are cleared to take out the Cyclops and Wyverns. Leon, as soon as they are down, it time to play follow the leader.” As they both acknowledged, I was watching my tactical display to for confirmation of when the heavy bio-soldiers fell. The Tuskers went about their tasks with silent efficiency. Within 30 seconds, there were no living heavy bio-soldiers on the battlefield. As I turned to tell my team to move out, the door of the headquarters building opened and something new began emerging. It was so large that it had to wriggle its way out of the door, making it look like the alien base was giving birth to the nightmare creature. “G-giant Killer Leader to Tusker Battery, we have a Titan, repeat we have a Titan.”

“Tusker Battery to Giant Killer Leader, we do not have a clear shot without hitting the headquarters. Do we fire?”

You might have noticed from my little stammer, that the appearance of the Titan had scared the crap out of me (not literally, thankfully.) The panicked part of my mind was screaming, ‘Yes! Make that freaky thing go away!’ But, the logical part of my mind was able to retain control, so I said, “No.” I took a deep breath, swallowed my fear, and was able to come up with a plan. “Tusker-1 & 2, maneuver until you have a clean shot at the Titan. Tusker-P keep locked on it in case it gives you a clear shot or moves out.”

“Acknowledged.”

I changed to my squad’s frequency. “Alright, let’s move out.” It was remarkably hard to get my legs to follow my own orders. The Titan had nearly unnerved me and I really wanted to hide in the trench until it was dead. I was really glad that my duties took me away from it instead of toward it because I don’t know if I could have made myself move towards it at the time. I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure it wasn’t following us, until the mob of Centaurs that was our target came into view. I forced the Titan (mostly) out of my mind and turned to the task at hand. “We’re going against 200 Centaurs this time without any cover. Long range shots to keep their attention only! I don’t care if we get no kills at all as long as we do our job and delay them until the main event.”

“Command to all units. The sentry ring is heading inwards.”

“Crud! Rico, your job is now to watch out for sentries so that one of them doesn’t shoot us while we are looking the other direction. Chinook-1 are you in position over the western flanking force?”

“We are in position and awaiting orders.”

“Unload your cargo as soon as you see fire coming from the Taurians. Giant Killers, fire at will.”

I distinctly heard someone say, “Who’s Will?” It was a running gag in our unit so I ignored it. In our first volley, only Sureshot brought one down (no surprise there,) but the whole mass wheeled around and headed in our general direction. We ran at an angle away from them, so they missed us entirely the first time.

“Why aren’t they firing?”

“I don’t think they saw where our fire came from, but don’t worry, they’ll try to kill us soon enough.”

As soon as we got far enough out to the side that I judged we were out of their field of vision, we let off another volley and dropped three more of them (Buddy missed.) The Centaurs charged in our general direction as we sprinted elsewhere. I was hoping to pull this off a few more times, but Rico let off a volley before we had gotten out of sight of the mass. A lone Centaur sentry was right in our path. Rico had let us get pretty close to it before letting it have it, but that still hadn’t given us enough time. The night was immediately filled with the blue spheres from the Centaurs, and I took a hit in my shoulder, but it didn’t penetrate. I vaguely heard the chopper pilot say he was dumping his cargo, but I was too busy running to reply. We had all taken hits, but the only real damage so far had been that Buddy had lost his recoilless cannon and was down to his rocket launcher. Still, although the Taurs were firing blindly, they were all firing at us. There was a good chance that they would have gotten us too, if the cargo from the Chinook hadn’t arrived just then.

Officially, we called it Chaff, but it was really all of the garbage from the camp being tossed out of the back of a helicopter (we improved the design quite a bit later.) In the Amazon, the Taurians had fired at everything that moved, which meant that they were frequently not firing at us. In the outback, there was very little else for them to fire at. I had hoped that giving them alternate targets would mean that they hit us less often, and it seemed to be working. Most of the garbage was paper that fluttered and blew about in the breeze, giving the creatures lots of moving things to shoot at in the dark. (We were actually saved by paperwork!) With the volume of fire heading our way dramatically reduced, we headed for a nearby gully to regroup and come up with a new plan.

I checked the tactical map to see what the overall situation was. The central mob of bio-soldiers had not reached Sniper’s position yet, and both flanking forces were being distracted. I made Buddy jettison his damaged cannon (We can pick it up later Buddy, ) and we followed the gully for about a half mile and then popped up to fire another volley (I got one, Sureshot got one and Buddy got six with a napalm missile.) I now had a plan for where to lead them other than just around. I was now actively leading them toward the other flanking group. The idea was to run the two groups into each other and try to make them act as one big mob.

After three more volleys, (the second of which my sniper cannon stopped working) we finally had the two groups moving towards a common destination. I sent Leon and his scouts back to watch the base. About this time we figured out that if you drop the Chaff first and then fire through it, it makes your night a whole lot easier.

“Allen, this is Sniper. We took care of these fudge rocks and are ready for more.”

“Head for the main gun line. I’ll meet you there and I’m bringing about 400 guests.”

“I have a set of trenches that we haven’t even used yet.”

“There’s no point. It would just expose everyone to unnecessary risk without any real gain.” Then I remembered that I was talking to my superior, “Unless, you think that using them is a good idea.”

“I’ll meet you at the gun line.” Something was wrong with his reply, but I didn’t have time to figure out if he was pissed with me or not.

It took us two more volleys before we herded the Centaurs in the right direction. As we were making the final sprint to the gun line I hear something that took a big load off of my mind.

“Tusker-1 to command, the Titan is toast, I repeat, the Titan is toast!” I nearly cheered.

“Giant Killer Leader to all units, your prey is on it way. Prepare to fire as soon as we get clear of the kill zone.” We headed for our designated place on the gun line and jumped into our trench, “All units FIRE!”

The combined firepower of an Australian Heavy Armored Battle group into a pre-targeted kill zone left me speechless. I was supposed to add my guns to the maelstrom, but at that point it just seemed like watering the ocean. To my amazement, about a dozen Centaurs survived long enough to be cut down by volley of precision fire. I thought that the firepower of our company was impressive, but it was nothing compared to this. I stood there awed by the spectacle of destruction that I had just witnessed until Lena came and tapped me on the shoulder, “Are you OK Allen?”

“Yeah, sorry, I was just lost in thought.”

“Sniper called you a couple of times and you didn’t respond.”

“Whoops! Sniper, this is Allen, what’s up.”

“Just need to know if we are flogging ready for Phase Two.”

“Absolutely. We should get everyone moving ASAP.”

“Good! Are you OK? I was starting to get worried.”

“Sorry, I was just thinking about some things and got distracted.”

“No problem as long as your sorry apple is OK.”

Phase One had gone extraordinarily well. Within an hour of the first shot being fired, we had wiped out the Taurian base’s entire offensive force as well as all of their heavy units. Phase Two was to wipe out their defensive ring. It took us nearly two hours to get everything into position, but once it was there, it became less of a battle and more of a turkey shoot. An old SWORD robot would fire a burst, the Centaurs would all turn and fire at that point (while the robot dropped into a trench) and three companies of Armored Infantry would slaughter the bio-soldiers from their blind spot. 350 or so dead Centaurs later, Phase Three commenced with three scout platoons (one of ours and one from each Australian company) entering the headquarters building while other squads secured the outlying buildings.

As this was happening, two fuel trucks and a group of engineers with heavy cutting tools arrived at the back of the headquarters building, and began the process of cutting an opening in the wall of the headquarters building. The scouts secured the lower deck of the headquarters and set a watch on the central hall of the upper deck and then went to help the engineers. The engineers carefully cut a hole in a large tank on the bottom level and began draining the fluid in it into the fuel trucks. The tech boys back at Prometheus had determined that this reservoir was what had exploded to destroy the last control room directly above it, so we decided to drain it before we tried to enter another one.

After the tank was dry, the scouts finished securing the upper areas of the headquarters, and finally stood at the entrance to the control room. Leon insisted that he would be the one to enter the control by himself and promptly received both good news and bad news. The good news was that the room did not explode! The bad news was that the room caught fire and he had no way to put it out, so we lost another alien soldier. Poor Leon was so mad it was hard not to laugh. I finally broke down and told him that he would have another chance sooner than he expected.

I only put in a brief appearance at the unit’s victory celebration before slipping out to go to a series of meetings that extended well into the morning. Prometheus and Royal Australian Engineers both assured me that they could put together some more effective and efficient Chaff dispersal systems in short order. The Chaff had really been an afterthought, but it had proven to make a big difference in open country. I had thought that the night on its own would be enough of a handicap to the enemy, but the sheer volume of fire had resulted in numerous hits as well as three serious injuries in Sniper’s group (no fatalities this time.)

After that, I went over to Sniper’s motorhome, and was quite surprised that none of the other squad leaders were there. “Am I early?”

“No, but we needed to talk one on one before everyone else arrives.”

“Did I do something wrong?”

“Did you do something wrong? Are you smoking me? We just took a Taurian base almost completely intact and didn’t lose a single gold drunk man! You just engineered to most brilliant engagement I have ever seen and have probably thought of fifty ways to improve it by now. Haven’t you?”

“I hadn’t counted them.” (I was caught off guard by his accusation and said the first thing that came to mind.)

“The only thing wrong with this whole monkey fishing situation is that you’re not commanding this company, and I’ve decided to fix that right now. As of this minute, I am resigning as commander of the FNC Special Forces First Armored Infantry Company, which leaves you in command. Here are your captain’s bars.”

I gaped at the insignia in my hands, “Are you serious? You’re retiring?”

“Heck no, I’m not flaking retiring. I’m just tired of doing a farting job that I’m not all that good at and never wanted. I took the job because there was no one else qualified and they promised me that they would give the damaged job to someone else as soon as they found someone who was more qualified. Well, my boy, that’s you.”

“Sniper, you’re a darn good commander.”

“No, I’m not. I’m a draping good NCO. I don’t see the big picture the way you do. I see the job at hand and the people around me: That makes me a good NCO. You see the big picture and how everything fits together: That’s what will make you a good commander. Now, I don’t want to leave the company, and since you don’t have an XO, I would be more than happy to fill that position for you, but that’s your decision. But, before you make that decision, your squad leaders are arriving, and you need to tell them what their new company commander expects of them and what our plans are.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Yes!”

“Have you cleared this with headquarters?”

“They know.”

“If you have decided to resign, I don’t see any choice, but we really need to talk about this later.”

The meeting that followed was a bit surreal for me. When I announced the change of command, I expected some shock and protest; I didn’t even get surprise. They all seemed to be expecting it and just took it in stride. The shock and surprise came when I told them that we were not heading home, but were going to take down several more alien bases before we were done. “We did a great job last night, but I know that we are capable of taking down more than one base every two weeks. I see no reason that, once we hit our stride, we can’t be taking down a base every night. More than that, we need to teach the national forces how to do the same thing. Remember, our first job is to make sure that the Warrior battlesuits are ready for action and to show the locals how to use them.”

We spent the next two hours going over the battle with a fine toothed comb and, figuring out ways to improve performance while reducing risk. After refining the plan quite a bit, we then came up with a number of alternate variations and gambits to use to keep the aliens guessing. “Right now we are slaughtering the Taurians because they are predictable. If we become predictable, we will be the ones who are slaughtered next.”

After the meeting broke up, I wanted nothing more than curl up and go to sleep, but I had one more thing to do that couldn’t wait. I went back to my room and smiled when I found my nocturnal visitor softly snoring (at least it seemed to me that she was snoring, while she insists that she never snores.) I sat down at my desk and dialed a connection, while I was waiting, I checked what time it was at Prometheus. To my surprise, General Moore picked right up even though it was close to midnight there. “Hello there, what’s on your mind Captain?”

“I just wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page about Sniper’s resignation.”

“It was a little sudden, but not unexpected. Are you going to keep him on as XO?”

“I’m beginning to think that he’s been my XO for a while and nobody told me.”

“It’s a little more complicated than that, but I think that this arrangement will work out best for everyone.”

“OK, then he’s my XO and I’ll consider that matter settled. That brings to the next thing I need to talk to you about. I just left a meeting where I informed all of the squad leaders that we were not leaving, but were planning on taking down several more Taurian bases before we went home. I realize that I was probably out of line making a pronouncement like that before I had even gotten permission to do so. I need to know if there are any problems with this change in plans, and what procedures I need to go through to make any such changes in the future.”

“Whoa there cowboy. Part of your problem is that your mind moves so fast that you often get ahead of yourself. You are trying to do too much for any one person to accomplish, so you have been taking shortcuts to get everything done. You need a command staff.”

“A command staff? Does Sniper have a command staff?”

“No, but he was just running a company. You, on the other hand are trying to create a strategy that will win the war. That’s a much harder job that will require you to keep in contact with a lot of people on a frequent basis. You need people to help you sort out the permissions, collaborations, research, political and financial considerations and much more. My young friend, you are going to need a group of very talented people around you if you are going to accomplish the tasks that you find before you.”

“How the heck do you get a command staff?”

“It’s like hiring people for any job position. You let people know you are hiring and interview them to see if you think that they fulfill the requirements for the position. Haven’t you ever hired anyone before?”

“No.”

“Well, I assume that you’ve interviewed for a job before.”

“Yes, but I sucked at it.”

“ OK then, how about I recommend some people to you and we’ll go from there.”

“If you think it will help, I’m willing to try just about anything you suggest as long as I don’t have to give up piloting.”

“I’ll send some good people over by tomorrow. Take some time to go over everything in your plan and once your staff arrives, go over it with them to make sure that everything is in order, then call me up for a conference and we will get it final approval and implement it fully. In the mean time, get some rest. You look like you can hardly keep your eyes open.”

“Now that’s the best order I’ve heard all day. I’ll talk to you soon sir.”

“Good night.”

I singed off and looked over at my nocturnal visitor. Too much had changed in just a few hours, and I was too tired to process it. One or two changes and I might have tried to work through them, but so much had happened that I was just overwhelmed. I just lay down next to my visitor and went to sleep.

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