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 41: Tsunami


Part Four:

Tsunami

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled coyly, “Yes.”

“Then, can I have a kiss?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

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

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

I hobbled there as fast as I could.

“What’s the situation, Eddie?”

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

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

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

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

“Got it boss.”

I smelled breakfast approaching, “Is it starting?”

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

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

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

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

“How long until the blinking things arrive?”

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think you’re pushing it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You got it boss, Sniper out.”

* * *

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

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

“Yes, I’ve been listening.”

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

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

“Fire support three, are you listening?”

“We are already in route to your location.”

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

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

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

“I’d sure as shakes welcome it boss.”

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

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

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

“You guys heard the boss. Get to it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“OK, that makes me nervous.”

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

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

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

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

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

“OK, what do you need them for?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

“There isn’t any.”

“How can there be no FLAPPING DATA?”

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

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

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Taurian Invasion 40: The Painful Waiting


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you crying?”

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

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

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

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

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

“What happened to them?”

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

“So, where is she?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can’t believe I said that either.”

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He laughed, “You got it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sylvia swallowed hard, “Go on.”

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

She wiped away a tear, “Talking?”

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

“OK, we can work on this.”

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

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

“I can deal with that.”

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

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

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

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

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

“OK, I’ve got that. Anything else?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Taurian Invasion 39: Under da Sea …


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

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

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

“Thanks boss.”

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

“She is purring like a kitten, Seignior.”

“And how is Fifi?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lena said, “I’m still comfortable.”

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

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

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

“Why don’t we just stay still?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Boss, I have multiple contacts above us.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Give me a few minutes and I can.”

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

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

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

“That’s what you said last time.”

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

“I get a bonus every time!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Taurian Invasion 38: I’m Following Who?


Morning at Prometheus’ Kyushu Base

I awoke alone again and smiled. Some things never seemed to change. Today was going to be the big meeting with all the generals and such to see who was actually in charge of this operation. I seriously considered bringing my handheld with me until I remembered that I hadn’t brought it with me. Oh well. I’d just have to get through the meetings without it and try not to snore too loudly.

I dressed quickly and headed over to the C&C. When I got there, I was surprised to see that the ramp was up and the engines were running. For a moment, I thought that they had forgotten about me and were leaving, then I saw the boarding ramp near the other end of the plane. I ran up the steps and proceeded to the cockpit. “What’s the schedule like for today?”

“I think that you’re the only one we were waiting for. We should be taxiing in about ten minutes.”

“Do you know if my translator’s onboard?”

“I didn’t know that we were waiting for him. If he’s not here, tell him to get his butt in gear. We have a pretty tight time table.”

I headed for the operations center, “Any new crisis while I was out?”

“Nothing that hasn’t already been handled.”

“What about enemy activity?”

“After they popped that Taurian base with depth charges, it’s all been cleanup down there. No other Taurian activity anywhere.”

“Last question. Have you seen my translator?”

“He was poking around here about a half-hour ago. Haven’t seen him since.”

“Let Pete know that we’re ready to go. I’ll be back in a bit.” I went to ‘my’ room and knocked on the door, “You up, Sylvia?” I listened to something incoherent from the other side of the door that I took to mean ‘not really,’ so I waited until she opened the door.

“Good morning Allen.”

“You look exhausted. How much sleep did you get?”

“That depends entirely on what time it is.”

“You’ve got me there. I can never figure it out when we change too many time zones.”

“Well, it wasn’t enough, however much it was. Give me a few minutes to get ready and I’ll be at your side.”

“You sure you don’t want to get some more rest?”

“I’ll be fine as soon as I get some coffee.”

“I’ll meet you at the galley then.” I’m not exactly a morning person, but Sylvia is less of one than I am. I headed for the galley to scarf down some cereal before the plane took off or Sylvia could catch me. The C&C plane had a great kitchen for the purpose of entertaining VIPs. I loved it because I was able to get them to stock all of the foods and snacks that Sylvia wouldn’t get for me.

I made sure that there was coffee in the pot, but I didn’t dare pour one for her. She is very particular about her coffee and I wasn’t about to make that mistake again. I pulled out a sealable cup for her and her cream and sugar.

“If there is coffee, you get to live.”

“Everything is ready for you.”

“I don’t see a mug.”

I handed her the cup. “We are inside a large moving object with lots of delicate equipment. No mugs allowed.”

“Despite the lack of mugs, your offering is found to be acceptable. The next order of business is breakfast.”

“Already ate.”

“Which probably means you had cereal. I, on the other hand, am going to try to find something decent to eat while we go over today’s schedule. According to my cell, it’s 6:33 AM right now. My time is going to be the time we go by no matter what the local time or conditions is. Am I clear?”

“Yes ma’am!”

“We will eat lunch between twelve and one and dinner between five and six. If you are hungry at any other time, I will provide appropriate snacks. Now, we have a very important and busy day today.”

The plane lurched as it started to move. “So what are we doing now?”

“Well. You are going back to the room and putting on your best uniform. You are then to take every ribbon, medal and commendation you have ever gotten and put them on your uniform. They are in your top drawer.”

“Do you know how many of those silly things I have?”

“I know exactly how many, so don’t try to leave any out.”

When I opened my ‘junk drawer’ and looked at all the medals I had to put on, I had to sigh. Most of these things I had received because I was famous and made a good photo opportunity for the local leader. I knew this because I had nearly as many as the rest of the unit combined, and I also knew that I wasn’t that good. Prometheus itself gave only the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Stars as well as the Gold Heart for being wounded. I also had a number of campaign ribbons as well for all the places I had defeated the aliens in. I just stuck them all over my jacket in some sort of wavy line-like pattern and figured that Sylvia would straighten them up a bit. She quickly debased me of that notion as she sicked Sir Jacobs on me and he spent most of the trip arranging the medals ‘suitably’ on me.

We finally landed near Tokyo and emerged into the morning air. Sylvia was in a stunning dress that I hadn’t seen before and she accused me of looking resplendent in my uniform and medals. Our translator, Saiji, was briefing me on what to do if we meet the Emperor, because the meeting was at his place. I personally doubted it because the press wasn’t going to be there, so no photo opportunities.

The palace was beautiful enough to catch even my attention, but also had an ancient lived in air that said that this was no museum. The servants in traditional costumes showed us to the meeting room where I mangled my best bows and greetings to the Eastern officers and shook hands with the Western officers. Everyone stood around and chatted while I listened until a man in a funny hat came in and said something in Japanese that caught everyone’s attention. Everyone bowed deeply and when I looked up again a man in his mid thirties came in and started speaking in Japanese. I was wondering why my translator remained silent until the Emperor repeated his speech in English.

“I welcome the defenders of Japan and allied warriors from around the world. I wish to place my blessings upon this meeting and on each warrior here. Into your hands I place the fate of my nation and my people. May every power under heaven give you strength for this battle.” He repeated this speech in three more languages and then everyone bowed again and he withdrew.

I don’t know what effect was intended by his appearance, but I do know it transformed the meeting immediately. We headed for the conference table without anyone saying a word and got down to business. General Abe rose and everyone immediately gave him their attention. Through my translator he said, “We have heard the Emperor’s blessing and now we must carry out his commands. We have to stop a million or more aliens from destroying our armies and laying waste to our land. A difficult task, at best. We were lucky to have gotten warning from Colonel Spencer-san from Prometheus in time to gather our forces or Kyushu might have been overrun before we had a chance to react.” (I bowed, it seemed the thing to do) “Colonel-san, do you wish to say anything before we get started?”

“Only to nominate you, General Abe for supreme commander of this theater.” There was a general murmur of agreement. “Any opposed?” A few shifted in their seats, but no one raised a hand or voice. “Then I will turn the floor back over to you Commander.”

“Young man, you have all the subtlety of a spring hurricane. I will accept the position of supreme commander and I will pledge my life and my honor to the defense of Japan.”

There was a reply of “Hai” from all of the Japanese officers while the rest of us were still listening to the translation. Shortly after this point, I began to zone out as he started going over with each commander the numbers and expected readiness of their forces. I gave Prometheus’ dispositions when my turn came and promptly stopped paying attention again.

It wasn’t until I heard my name that I woke up again. “… would make a good ground forces commander with his experience with the enemy.”

The Korean commander was recognized, “I would like to honor General Inoue of the Japanese Army as well.”

I held up a hand, “you wish to say something Colonel Spencer-san?”

“I would like to recommend General Dupre of the United States Marine Corps as he has experience dealing with battles on this large a scale which I do not.” This set off a long debate over these candidates as well as others that I tried to stay out of because I was one of the ones being discussed as well as it boring me out of my mind. There were equally rancorous debates over who should be in charge of sea and air assets.

General Abe rose to his feet, “Enough!” He walked around the antique tables and chairs with the military men in them for a moment in silence. “You have demonstrated to me that there is no common spirit within you. You are like a pack of foxes whose tails have been tied together all straining to go as fast as possible while getting nowhere. I will make the decision of who will hold what position. Please return to your hotels and embassies until I call upon you, individually.”

We all got up and spoke in hushed tones like chastised children. As I got up and looked around, I noticed Sylvia speaking to a Japanese officer and wondered what the poor sap had done. She then descended on Saiji and proceeded to give him an earful. I stayed at a discrete distance to avoid being swept into the general melee. I made sure to beat Saiji to hold the door for her (which was technically his job as he was acting as driver as well.)

Once we were underway, she turned to me, “Allen …”

“What, I didn’t fall asleep once!”

“No, you did fine dear. General Abe sent word for us to meet him at his home immediately. You seemed to have actually impressed him.”

“Well, thank you.”

“… but you still should have paid more attention .”

“Yes ma’am.”

We arrived at a military checkpoint soon after and were soon escorted into traditional Japanese house and then to a quiet Japanese room with a low table and no chairs. A graceful matron in a Kimono brought us tea and cookies without a word. She returned with six place settings that held both chop sticks as well as western cutlery.

She finally spoke to tell us through our translator, “My husband will soon be here, Please have a seat and I will offer you what comforts this poor house can provide.”

Of course we complied in our awkward way. Poor Sylvia was worse off than me because her dress wasn’t made for sitting on the floor. It was about ten uncomfortable minutes before the general arrived with the aide that had talked to Sylvia earlier. He extended his hand to me, “Welcome to my humble home Colonel Spencer-san and Miss Lawrence-chan.”

“I am honored to have been invited and to have been served by such a gracious hostess.”

The general says something to his wife who smiled, “You will have to excuse my wife as she does not speak much English.”

“I am humbled by her efforts as her English is one thousand times better than my Japanese.”

He spoke to his wife and she said something back and withdrew from the room with a blush. “She is going to get dinner. You have made a friend Colonel-san.” It was hard for me to tell just who he was talking about, as I am bad at picking up social cues and the General was very good at keeping his demeanor emotionless in the way of Japanese gentlemen. “So Colonel-san, why did you nominate General Dupree for the commander ground forces?”

“He is tough and no nonsense, and will not accept retreat or defeat. He has the experience and the right attitude for the type of battle we will most likely be facing, and is a darn scary man besides.”

He seemed to consider this for a moment, and I thought I saw his mouth twitch. “Many of your peers seemed to think you would make a good ground forces commander.”

“I have all I can handle in trying to take all the independent Prometheus units and make them into a coherent fighting force. I don’t even have a chain of command yet. If I were to take on that job there would be no one to take over my position.”

The General was silent for a moment again before asking, “If I said that you were the best qualified to do so, and I wanted you to take the job?”

“I would do everything I could, including gathering the best advisers I could find, to bring our forces to victory.”

He was silent for several minutes and even closed his eyes for a while before responding, “This is my granddaughter; Major Abe Emiko-chan. She speaks even better English than I do. She will be your liaison for this campaign. I plan to rely heavily on you and your trained alien fighters form Prometheus.”

“Thank you, General Abe. If there is anything I can do, just let me know.”

“I do have one problem that you may be able to help me with, Colonel-san. In order to build a castle, you must lay a solid foundation. We have located several objects in the Inland sea that we think might be Taurian bases, We have tried depth charges, but they seem to always go off prematurely. Do you have any suggestions?”

“I could have my Knight battlesuits check then out. They are capable of deep-water operations.”

“Emiko-chan has the coordinates for these objects.”

“I will deal with them as soon as possible.”

“Then, I believe dinner is ready,” and his wife came in right on cue.

We had a nice traditional Japanese meal, which meant I was completely lost. I don’t know how many mistakes I made but it was probably at least close to a record. I kept my humor through it all and the one thing I noticed was that when I did something particularly bone-headed, one corner of General Abe mouth would twitch up before he could stop it. From that point on I knew that I could trust him. Call me silly, but a man who had that much control and still kept a sense of humor was just worthy of my respect and trust.

We finished the meal without discussing any more business. Once we were finished, we said goodbye to General Abe and his wife and left with Major Abe in tow. She had not said a word so far, but once we got into the car, she turned around and offered her hand, and said in a perfect California accent, “Hi there, Everybody at UC Davis called me Emmy or Emily, I’m fine with either of those.”

I smiled, “How about if you call me Allen, I’ll call you Emmy.”

“Sounds like a deal.”

“You met Sylvia earlier, and this is our driver slash translator Saiji. What brought you to California?”

“I earned an Engineering Degree and was about to transfer to UC Berkley for my graduate work when the Troubles started. I cancelled my plans and joined the JDF, and Grandpa changed everything.”

Sylvia perked up at that, “Sounds like it was hard living in a shadow that long. I noticed that you didn’t say anything at dinner.”

Emmy frowned,”That was mostly for Grandma’s benefit, She’s a stickler for having good manners. No, Grandpa’s great, but it’s a pain that everyone assumes that I got everything because of him.”

“From what I know it’s hard enough being a woman in a military outfit, having to deal with people doubting your qualifications would seem to make it extra hard.”

“It’s been hard to get a date. It seems like everyone is either too intimidated by Grandpa or just wants to use me to get in good with him. Anyway, I shouldn’t be boring you with the details of my personal life.” She turned and pulled out a tablet out of her bag and went through the security protocols to access a top secret file. “OK. Here is the map of all the suspicious objects in the Inland Sea.”

I took the pad, “Two of those are pretty near Kyushu. If the Knights come in this morning, I could probably send out a sortie this afternoon.” Famous last words. It turned out that the Knights didn’t get in until late that evening. I got to spend the whole day trying to turn a gigantic train wreck into the men, machines and supplies of the Prometheus First Expeditionary Brigade.

By the time I got to bed, I was so tired and stressed out that I don’t remember if my nocturnal visitor was there or not. The first operation of the Knight Class Medium Battlesuits would have to wait until morning.

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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 36: Dragons, Wyverns and Taurs, Oh My!


“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.”

OK that got my full attention. I bolted out of the chair fast enough to get a yelp of surprise from Sylvia. “Sylvia, meet me with the nurse and food in the command center. You! Come with me.” I started toward the door and nearly ran down Sir Jacobs and Doc Sullivan. “Doc, follow me. Sir Jacobs, get the command team to the command center now.”

“Sir, the doctor pulled rank on the nurse and I am not a knight.”

“Good and you should be.” I left him to his job and rushed downstairs to the command room, “Eddie; do you have General Abe’s office on the line?”

“Just signed off.”

“Get them back, we have intruders. Encyclopedia, bring me up a map of Kagoshima Bay.” The computer brought up the map without comment, which was covered in Kanji, “Translate to English please.”

“Done, sir.” I keep meaning to change the name and default settings on the command center computer, but haven’t so far.

“Doc, what do you need?”

“You called me.”

“Sylvia called because I was about to collapse, and I suspect you wanted to yell at me anyway.”

She stuck a medical probe on my ear and looked like she was considering several things to call me, but turned to Sylvia instead, “Make sure he gets lots of food and liquids or he will collapse.” She turned and poked me in the chest, “and you better listen to her.”

“Yes ma’am!”

“The field hospital is coming together quite well actually. It seems that they make most of our equipment in this facility, so were doing better than expected on that count. I just never wanted to run anything this big.”

“Doc, I just asked you to put it together. I never said you had to run it. If you feel that you have someone who is better qualified to run this thing, you have my full permission to put them in charge.” She seemed to be pondering that idea, so I turned to the messenger, “Where did the alert come from?”

“The Coast Guard station at Kagoshima.”

“Eddie, what’s our status?”

“I’m in contact with General Abe’s office and a secure vid-link should be up in a few minutes so that you two can talk.”

“Great work! For your next miracle, I want you to see if we can get a direct feed from the coast guard units who are monitoring the aliens.”

“On it boss.”

I turned back to the messenger, “OK, who are you and where did you come from?”

“I’m Harry Medford. I work in the communications center here. They sent me to make sure that there were no mistakes about the message.”

“Great, because I seem to have lost my translator sometime after I entered the plane, and until I find him, I need you to stand by.”

“I can handle that.”

“OK now … what’s next? Sylvia, can you get the first person from the conference room?”

“Not until you’ve eaten something mister.”

“Did Sir Jacobs get back with the food yet?”

“He gave me a couple of meal-trays as you were sending him on his last errand, but there’s nothing to drink.”

The Doc interrupted, “I’ll send someone with drinks up on my way out. You just make sure he doesn’t forget to eat and drink again,” and she headed for the door.

“Don’t worry, I’ll watch him.”

I love meal-trays and Sylvia absolutely hates them, and refuses to buy them for me. They must be the ultimate male food. You just hit the heat tab and when it turns green two minutes later, you have a warm meal just waiting to be devoured without consuming all your time. Sylvia just says that they are pure evil. Therefore, I was truly touched that Sylvia was worried enough about me to actually give me two to eat when someone else gave up a water bottle for me.

As I was finishing off the first one, Eddie brought me back to my surroundings; “The link with General Abe is ready.”

“Wait! You are not talking to the General without your jacket and with gravy on your face.” And so I got ready to face one of the most respected men in Japan with a feeling of embarrassment that is usually reserved for twelve year old boys who have just had their face washed by their mothers in front of their friends.

A bust of and old Japanese man in a general’s uniform came on the main screen. His eyes seemed to hold a great depth of wisdom to me, and I felt humbled. “Good morning General Abe. It is a distinct pleasure to have the opportunity to work with a man of your stature and accomplishments,” and I gave my best impression of a formal Japanese bow.

“Goodmorning Colonel-Spencer-san. Itis-anhonor for-meas-well to-beableto workwithahero thathas vanquished somanyof-ourenenmies.” He was speaking English, but his accent was very thick and he, like many Japanese, tends to speak in bursts of words. I wanted to ask him to repeat himself but I decided that I had understood enough to work with at the moment.

“We have a reports coming in as we speak of an enemy force in Kagoshima Bay.”

“Thefirst-drops havefallen. We-mustlook toseeif thehurricane isuponus.”

“Eddie, what is the status on those feeds?”

Encyclopedia is trying to make sense of them now.”

A picture formed on the screen next to the main one which showed a number of white blobs including a large one that moved slightly with each sonar pulse. Encyclopedia, what’s the apparent speed of the central mass?”

“2.6 kilometers per hour sir.”

“Eddie, are you feeding this to the General?”

“On channel six boss.”

“Ichiro-san? We-haveit Colonel-san.”

“Good. Encyclopedia, project their present course and give me grid lines every five feet, I mean two meters.”

“What do-you-think Colonel-san?”

“This is a tiny force. I mean, there are hundreds of bio-soldiers there but, this is nothing compared to their real numbers.”

“Why do-you-think they-are-here Colonel-san?”

“Because we killed their watchers.”

“Please-explain Colonel-san.”

“We have a bio-soldier research project going on in this facility. I found out about an hour ago that this included live bio-soldiers, and had them terminated. I suspected that any Taurian base within range might be able to tell where they were and see through their eyes. There is also the possibility that they could seize control of them and attack our base from within. I believe the force we are seeing now is proof that I was right.”

“I had-not-heard of such-a program.”

“Just the same, sir. I would urge you to pass on my suspicions and observations to the appropriate people in your government just in case there might be a similar program hidden somewhere else.”

The general put on a thoughtful scowl, “It will-be-done.”

“Anyway, this group doesn’t look to difficult to deal with if you could release some naval aviation units to me. They could hit them with depth charges and I could have one of my battlesuit companies finish off any aliens that make it to the shore of that … is that an island or a peninsula, I can’t tell from this map.”

“It-is-the wondrous mountain-Sakurajima, the-most-active volcano in-Japan.”

“Are there people living on it?”

“Hai.”

“They need to be evacuated as soon as possible.”

“I-will see-to their evacuation if you-will see tothe-aliens.”

“I will see to it sir.”

“You will-find that-the Amagi has-the aircraft that-you need.”

“Thank you sir.”

“Good morning Colonel-san,” and he bowed, which confused me enough that I didn’t do anything in return until after the signal ended.

“Well, that went … I have no idea how that went. Sylvia how did that go?”

“You did fine. You’re just not used to being polite instead of direct.”

“Eddie, get Sniper on the line please. Sylvia, could you look for my translator and get me the first person from the conference room?”

“See if you can keep yourself out of trouble while I’m gone.”

“I’ll do my best, but no promises.”

“I’ve got Sniper here.”

“Put him on station three.”

“Hey, Allen, what’s up?”

“Have everyone in the briefing room in 30 minutes, because we are leaving in an hour.”

“Do we flaming even have the Knights up yet?”

“We’re just taking the Warriors anyway.”

“How about transport?”

“It’s close enough to walk. Don’t worry. As long as the volcano doesn’t go off we have nothing to worry about.”

“What volcano?”

“See you in a half hour, Sniper, bye. OK, Eddie, can you get me the situation room of the carrier Amagi? Harry, unless we are really lucky, we’ll need your help.”

“It will be an honor sir.”

“Feel free to make it more polite than I put it.”

“That’s what I do for a living.”

“The Amagi is on the line and waiting for its Captain to arrive.”

“Thanks, Eddie. Put it on the main screen when they’re ready. Encyclopedia, Give me a translation scroll on the bottom of the screen please.”

“It will be done, sir.”

Amagi’s Captain, on the main screen.”

(Greetings, Colonel-sama. The Amagi and its crew are at your service on this fine morning.)

“Hello, Colonel. What can the Amagi do for you?”

“I have an alien force making its way up Kagoshima Bay, and I need anti-submarine warfare units to hit them while they are still underwater.”

(Greetings, Captain-san. Perhaps you have heard that there are alien invaders in Kagoshima Bay. I have heard that you have Anti-submarine units that can hit them while they are still underwater. Can we count on you?)

(Of course! My pilots will be there within the hour, ready to strike at your command.)

“He can have his pilots over the bay and ready to strike within the hour.”

“Please have your pilots strike as soon as they have a fix on the target. I may take us a while to get there on foot, so please don’t wait.”

(The Colonel-san has full confidence in the skill of your valiant pilots. He is sure that they can devastate the enemy long before he arrives, though he will be racing swiftly to join them. Please accept the honor of the first strike.)

(I swear, my pilots will not fail you, nor forget the honor of striking the first blow for Japan!)

“They will get the job done, thank you.”

After signing off, I turned to Harry; “That was some translating.”

“Sometimes, to get the same intention across, you have to come from completely different angles.”

“This is going to make battle communications fun. I’m going to release you. Thanks for all your help.”

“Anytime.”

“Alright everyone. I’m off to the motorhome and then to battle.” I exited the room and nearly ran down Sylvia in the hall.

“I found your translator in the conference room.”

“Ah, excellent. Follow me … No let’s try that again. I need to brief my troops before we head off to engage the aliens. I would appreciate it if you two would assist me in that.”

“I would be happy to Allen.”

“Thank you.” We got to the motorhome and I started to head for the main room but thought better of it, and headed for my room instead. I checked and found a dozen or so urgent messages that I didn’t have time for yet, and then I checked on the force build up in Kyushu. The Giant Killers were still the only Prometheus unit that was active and were also the closest military unit to the intruders. I recorded a quick message to send to the other commands on the situation, and looked at the clock. I still had ten minutes. I called up Eddie and had him patch me through to the main viewer in the C&C conference room to see if I could deal with any of the problems waiting there. In a masterstroke of delegation, I foisted off all the problems that didn’t need a simple answer onto my C&C staff. I headed off to the briefing feeling suspiciously like I’d been cheating.

I got set up quickly and didn’t even have to tell everyone to settle down. “I see I have everyone’s attention, so I’ll cut right to the chase. We have a large mob of bio-soldiers moving slowly up the bottom of Kagoshima Bay to the south of us. We are the closest battle ready unit and our air-support is already on its way. The plan is to for us to wait on the shoreline while the air units drop depth charges. We get to wipe out any stragglers that make it to shore as soon as they pop their eyes out of the water. So far, this is nothing new.”

“What is new is that there is pretty much no place in Japan that isn’t densely populated. You are going to find buildings everywhere, but that’s not even the fun part. You are to expect stray civilians everywhere. The evacuation process is just starting and is so far voluntary. The fun news is that the particular town we are going to is on an active volcano, so the people there are used to evacuations. If we find that we need to retreat from the beach, we are going to fall back onto the other side of the inhabited zone before we set up another line of defense. Questions?”

“Are you kidding about the volcano?”

“Nope, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, but unless one of you won the lottery today, I wouldn’t worry about it. It erupts all the time, but it’s tame enough that a sizable number of people live on it. Anyone else? OK then suit up. We’re going to hoof it there because we haven’t got time to set up transports.”

Everyone headed out and I headed back to my room to get my longjohns, and found Sylvia waiting for me. “I just wanted to see you off.”

“We should be back before you know it.”

“Just be safe and come back to me.” She leaned in and gave me a quick kiss.

Needless to say, I was in a good mood as we ran toward the bay. Fluffy was keeping me updated with a tactical map as a mixed squadron of ASW and attack choppers preceded us. My poor translator was driving on the road beside us in an SUV, but I was going to have to rely on Fluffy’s translation software for battlefield communications. He was already quite busy trying to keep a crowd from gathering and following us into the battle zone.

A heavily accented voice came over the radio, but I had gotten Fluffy to give me a transcript of all communications in all languages on my screen. “Tiger-claw leader to Giant Killer leader. We are in position over the alien group.”

“You may strike when ready.” I didn’t have a clear view of the bay yet, so I only saw one depth charge drop, but the water columns that erupted showed me that two pair had gone in. After the next set of choppers had laid their eggs, the waters of the bay slowly returned to their previous calm. I had to wonder if those explosions had hit their mark, because there wasn’t much to see. “Tiger-claw leader, do you see any bodies?”

“Hai, there are many bodies coming to the surface now.”

(Sir, enemies have appeared to the south!)

(Prepare to engage enemy air units!)

I ran to the top of a small hill and zoomed in on the southern skies. Two Wyverns were in the air and two more were struggling to get clear of the water. I had a great view as Peregrine missiles struck both of the leading aliens, knocking them backward in the air before detonating. The second set was quickly knocked back into the water before the warheads exploded. I was just about to congratulate the attack chopper’s pilots when something else broke the surface. The long sinuous form just kept growing longer and longer before the last of it came out of the water and sailed into the sky.

It was a Dragon! The largest of the flying bio-soldiers. The giant cannons on its forelegs began spitting out red and orange packages of destruction toward the attack choppers, whose Vulcan cannons were sending back rounds in return. One sphere struck on of the choppers near the tail, and the resulting explosion sent it spinning toward the bay.

“Tiger-claws! Retreat now!” The remaining attack choppers broke off and the ASW choppers continued their exit.”“Giant Killers! Flat out toward the bay! Command Center, what artillery do we have available?”

“None, sir. You didn’t ask for any.”

And that’s when the magnitude of my screw up hit me. I was so busy trying to get my group into position before the choppers got there, that it had never occurred to me to arrange for artillery support. Stupid! “Patch me through to the Tuskers.”

“Tusker bay.”

“How long will it take to get someone into position to fire on Kagoshima Bay?”

“Ten minutes to get there and spin up.”

“Crud! Get on it now! There’s a Dragon bio-soldier unit over the bay as we speak.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Giant Killers! We need to take that thing down with an eye-shot. Anyone within range open fire. If we can’t take it out, we can at least get its attention away from more vulnerable targets.”

All five of the Ajax III missiles we had brought along rose from our column and headed toward the monster. They blossomed with impressive fireballs, but it wasn’t enough to stop the thing. The only weapons that were now in range were our sniper cannons, so we peppered it with pinpricks as it began sending orbs our way. The alien weapons are extremely deadly close in, but at any range, they have a tendency to wander off target. Besides that, they move relatively slowly, which allowed us to dodge the blasts, but as both sides closed, this would become less viable. We were almost in range of our Stingers, when the creature suddenly paused in the air. When I focused in on it, the creature’s ‘eye’ area showed heavy damage. It turned around and dove into the bay, and that was the last we saw of it.

I was a bit behind the rest of the group because of my side trip, and I looked to see a number had already reached the edge of the water and were scanning for targets. “Get behind some cover, people!” Everyone regrouped and began setting up defensive positions while I checked out the maps. The feeds from the Coast Guard slowly began to resolve themselves into something coherent. A much diminished mob of bio-soldiers was moving back toward where it came from.

We had won.

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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 34: On to Kyushu


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

“I am literally trying to think of everything.”

“And?”

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

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

“Sorry, bad memory.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You’ve decided to come!”

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

“What made you decide to come?”

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

“Now who’s being silly?”

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

“Isn’t that what I do best?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m afraid not.”

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

“How much are we talking here?”

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

“You’re kidding right?”

“I’m completely serious.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

“Hi mom. How have you been?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A…a house?”

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

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

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

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

“So, what do you say mom?”

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

“Mother!”

* * *

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

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

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

“Very funny Allen.”

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

“You big goof.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why all the theatrics?”

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

“So, what’s my part in this play?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you want the job?”

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

“So, who else is there?”

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

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

‘Didn’t Abe go into politics?”

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

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

“What if Abe is retiring?”

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

“Tony, what’s your opinion?”

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

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

* * *

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

“Didn’t even try.”

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

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

“Have you had anything to eat?”

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

“What would you like?”

“Cereal and some toast with peanut butter.”

“You call that a good breakfast?”

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

“Vitamin H?”

“You know, Heat.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“OK, see you at the motorhome then?”

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

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

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

“What? The part about Sukari?

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

“OK, I’m completely lost here.”

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

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Taurian Invasion 33: Storm Warning


Section 5:

Calm Before the Storm

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

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

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

* * *

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

“Have you eaten yet Allen?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I thought you did.”

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

“We’re good.”

“Excellent, how is your battlesuit company?”

“At full strength and starting to get bored.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

“Well, Allen, what are they doing?”

“Getting ready to invade.”

“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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