An Onslaught Antagonized, Part Five

This is the final part of “An Onslaught Antagonized,” and I’ve enjoyed writing it – just as I hoped you’ve enjoyed reading it.

Come to think of it, I wonder if I could add to it?

-JB Steele

Chapter Five

Krasnoyarsk Outpost Two, Siberian District, Russia

25 August, 2259 Terra Year

0432 Zulu Time

When the call came through to the oversized command post, the Lieutenant Colonel commanding the base picked it up.

“Tau Base CP, Lieutenant Colonel Davis speaking.”

He listened for a few moments, then waved his arm at a captain. The captain came over quickly. The lieutenant colonel scribbled an emphatic note while he pressed the headset’s speaker to his ear. The captain saw that note read “INVASION INBOUND!!!” He looked up at his boss, who jerked his head in the affirmative. The captain flipped the note over and dashed off at reply, then went over to a controller. He spoke to the man, who started punching buttons, and immediately left the room at a run.

“OK, and when was this supposed to get here? Soon but not sure when? OK, sir, we are locked and cocked and ready to roll.” He looked at the reply note. It said, “Sounding alert” without benefit of punctuation. The base alarms started to sound.

“Yes, sir, we are now on alert, and will deploy a force immediately. Operational control will remain with you, then pass to me. Yes, sir – same to you. Out.”

He stood up.

“OK, people, this ain’t no drill. I want deployment plan Alpha Zed Zero up and running five minutes ago. I want everything in stocks deployed, down to the last firecracker under those rules of engagement. We are now under operational control of Colonel Jacobson, and he wants his perimeter reinforced. Get those IFF units up and dialed into his unit’s codes. We don’t want to be shot by our side.”

The controllers were all too busy to look at each other, but they were all thinking the same thing. Alpha Zed Zero was intended to repel invaders. The button pushing and switch flipping reached a crescendo, underneath the mutters of hurried voices into headsets. The doors opened and a double clutch of security officers took their alert posts. They had personal sidearms for all and all but four had quantum displacement rifles. The four that didn’t have rifles carried disruption rift rifles with small backpacks. Those four posted on all four walls, away from corners.

“Update the plot.” Those words came from Colonel Davis, and at his command the wall above the security officer blanked. It lit up with status updates for all units assigned to the base, showing that most of those units showed ready and awaiting movement orders and the others very close to finishing.

“Establish a dedicated link with Colonel Jacobson’s command post, and identify us as a subordinate unit.”

A chime sounded, and in a corner a communications window opened up with the other command post in the background. Colonel Jacobson looked out at them.

“Colonel Davis? Are you online?”

Lieutenant Colonel Davis stood up.

“Yes, sir, we are, one hundred percent. We are moving out to reinforce your perimeter with everything we’ve got.”

“Just what all do you have? You guys have been mighty secretive.”

“Troops, tanks, guns, and mini-fighters.”

“Wow. Let’s see, I’ll want – “he was interrupted by an orderly, who gave him a tablet with updates. He scanned it quickly. “Jim, the invasion force is headed this way. It’s been sighted with space based assets deploying from a single ship that just popped out from hyperspace. It’s strange, though.”

“How, sir?”

“If they’re sending an invasion force from space, why a single ship and then just enough to hit one spot? This one?”

“Dunno, sir, might want to ask them that.”

“No, I don’t want to give them any ideas. Can you give me overhead surveillance?”

“Sure. They have a loiter time of a little over twelve hours.”

Colonel Davis punched in a quick note on his tablet, and the orders went out. In the launch bays, the armored control stations closed as the pilots hustled in quickly. As they belted in, the automated systems ran diagnostics on the systems that they were preparing to make use of. The pilots settled in and punched buttons to accept the diagnostic results as each telltale lit up green. The only thing left to do was to push the “LAUNCH COMMIT” buttons, and each pilot hammered them down.

The mini-fighters screamed down the rails as the electromagnetic launchers slung them into the air. Before they reached the termination point and became airborne, the encrypted communication links between the small planes and the pilots’ armored shells in the hangers steadied. Redundant links came online. Weapons statuses read out in each pilot’s display, and repeated on an auxiliary status board in Colonel Davis’ control room. The mini-fighters streaked out, their heavy metal based engines pushing them in excess of 30 gees. They spread out in all directions, as a larger, slower airborne unit launched off the rails to take up a position much higher in the sky. This unarmed unit was tasked with overall surveillance, and four mini-fighters loitered with it to protect it. In moments, the others that had advanced ahead saw the front wave of the invasion force setting down in a valley.

“Sir, it looks like they’re about here,” Davis said, tapping a spot on a topographical map, “and they are going to be considerate and use the main road to get here. Uh-oh.”

“What?” Colonel Jacobson said quickly.

“Would you believe that there are two groups of Trippies trying to circle around to the back?”

“You don’t say. Did they read a book of tactics?”

“I don’t know, sir, but in the moments that I had a surveillance look, I saw what could be mortars. Well, it looked like what we have for mortars, but no telling for sure what their version is.”

Colonel Jacobson tapped the more distant group, highlighting it for his staff to see. It projected up on the second auxiliary screen running down the side of the room.

“Jim, I think I’ll send a tiger team out for this group. The other group appears to be closer to your compound, so no sense in crossing response teams. Can you handle that group for me?”

In the other CP, the lieutenant colonel smiled grimly, working his console to send units out to do just that.

“Sir, just forget about them. We’re on it. Also, I’m rolling tanks here, here, here, here, and over here,” the designated areas flashed as he tapped his map. Each tap also allocated those areas for his tank crews to report to with all haste.

“Speaking of tanks, how did you get those?”

“Can’t say, sir, or I’ll lose my Good Conduct merit badge from the Scouts.”

Colonel Jacobson rolled his eyes. He really should have known better than to ask. But, he’d been curious for nearly six months now, ever since the other base had been set up.

“Fair enough. What about the troops?”

“Sir, they left about ten minutes ago, and most of them should be establishing positions around your perimeter. It’s getting about time to get some reports from them.”

“Do they have the right challenge responses for my people out there?”

“Yes, sir, they do, plus the electronic identification tags in their uniforms for the scout vision gear. They’re covered.”

“EID tags, too? We’ve been waiting for ours for four months! How did you get yours?”

“Sorry, sir, you know how it is.” The lieutenant colonel was apologetic in tone as well as words.

Seeing that Davis was doing his best to support him, but unable to talk about things he couldn’t, Colonel Jacobson took a breath and sat down at his console. The screen lit up automatically with the status updates copied from the big screen, and an inset of the other man popped up.

“Okay, Jim, keep this line opened up.”

A different security officer bustled up to the Colonel, and whispered in his ear.

“Sir, we’ve got something disturbing.”

“What is it?”

The man motioned him off to the side.

“Sir, we’ve just discovered a couple of racks of special weapons have been checked out for use.”

“What the hell? Who authorized that?”

“Sir, we didn’t know until a few minutes ago. Somebody futzed with the logs – a skilled somebody, that is – and did it just after the last visual check six hours ago. Computer logs show a discrepancy in count that was corrected by whoever hacked it.”

Colonel Jacobson didn’t need this now.

“Well, who, then?”

“Sir, the ID stamp was Captain Felicia Màrtainn.”

Colonel Phil Jacobson sat down heavily. He looked over at the communications specialist.

“Keep trying to raise them. Master Chief, thank you for your report. Do everything you can to gather more information. If there’s a way to disarm those weapons from here, do it, and don’t wait to ask me about it.”

“Sir, that’s going to be a problem.”

“What? Why?”

The Master Chief at Arms sighed heavily.

“Sir, they knew which ones to get. Our stocks have three inactivated units that are technically “special weapons,” but aren’t fitted with disarmament packages. The nature of their warheads and physics blow every single effort to do that out of the water.”

Colonel Jacobson sat up.

“Are you saying…”

“Yes, sir.” The master chief’s eyes were hard as agate. “They stole two of them.”

Shock coursed over the Colonel’s face. His mind seized on another piece of information.

“Inactivated? Why do we have inactive weapons, and more to the point, why wasn’t I told me had them?”

“We was supposed to get replacements for them, and then get them out of here, but the Defense Appropriations Under-committee and the Hegemony Security Council has had a spat. Every time one of them signs the order, the other one countermands it for some reason or another. So, we still have them, but they’re classified inactive by Hegemony mandate. As for why, well sir, we have specific orders not to discuss them with anyone not on a list of people cleared for it, and your name wasn’t on the list. The only reason I can say anything now is the disappearance of those weapons. You know the next part of what I have to say as well as I do, but I have to say this: No one, not your wife, not your mistress, not anyone here or anyone off this base learns about the existence of those weapons. Sorry sir, but I had to say that.”

“Master Chief, no apologies. You are doing your job, and I hear and accept what you’re saying. I guess we know why Captain Màrtainn and her crew went radio silent. How did they know about these weapons?”

“Sir, we think someone on her crew, or Captain Màrtainn herself, had prior knowledge and blabbed.”

“Wonderful. Keep working at it.”

“Aye, sir, we will.”

“And Master Chief?”

“Yes, sir?”

“I know that you’re in charge of the unit until we get a qualified officer in, but if you want to write a nasty letter to the DAU and the Security Council about their overweening interest in politics over weapons security, I’ll countersign every copy you write.”

The enlisted man smiled, but the bags under his eye belied every bit of humor he might show.

“Aye-aye, sir. I think I might.”

He braced to attention and left.

***

Captain Felicia Màrtainn sat alone in the small conference room. The high-speed team interceptor craft wasn’t as fast as a mini-fighter, but it was capable of low-earth orbit. This allowed it to use parabolas to reach places in quicker times than the shorter ranged craft could do.

She reached into his pocket and pulled out a photo of a couple. In it, on a beach, was a younger Felicia, being held up in both arms of a man with dark hair and laughing blue eyes. The photo showed both of them in a less carefree time of their life, with the threat of war in the distance of future’s reach. She sighed, and her fingertips traced over the man.

“Dima. God, how I wish I could be back on that beach with you, without any worries.”

She gazed at the photo for a few more moments, and tucked it back in her pocket when a discreet knock came on the door.

“Come!”

First Lieutenant Horacio Bisbee came in. He looked at his CO, and without a word opened up a drawer. Two shot glasses came out, and he pulled a flask out of his pocket. He poured a generous shot out in both glasses, then put away the flask. He put her shot down in front of her and waited for her to grab it before lifting his.

“What are we toasting, Horacio?”

“Those left behind, those missed, and an end to this damned war.”

She nodded sadly.

“I’ll drink to that.”

They threw the shots back solemnly. After a moment, she looked at him.

“Horacio, have you ever thought about starting another family?”

He sighed.

“Yes, I have, but every time I did, the ghosts came back. I’ve lost one entire family and barely survived the dreams and the guilt. I couldn’t do it again.”

She nodded, sadly.

“I know it well, Horacio. I know about the tears, the sleepless nights, the changes in your body. I know about the deep abyss in your soul and that Nietzsche quote about it looking back at you.”

Another knock came at the door. Horacio quickly hid the shot glasses, putting them back in the drawer.

“Come!”

A communications rating came in with a tablet. He handed it to Captain Màrtainn.

“Ma’am, that is the text copy of an encrypted automated message burst that we just copied on passive scanners. Invasion warning at Krasnoyarsk Two, and a patrol was wiped out. The Trippy prisoners at the outpost knew about the patrol getting wiped before their comm units could squawk distress.”

“How?”

“Ma’am, the best theory is that the Trippies have some form of telepathy. There must have been enough observation that they believe strongly about it, because they’ve repeated it. Also, there is a specific reason for the invasion, and that reason is that all the prisoners, female and otherwise, are “discarded – used up.” That is the exact phrase they used, ma’am.”

Captain Màrtainn’s face paled, and her lips thinned. To his credit, the communications rating stared back, not breaking eye contact.

“Ma’am, do you want to send a reply or acknowledgment?”

“No. Maintain communications blackout. Nothing goes out.”

“Aye-aye, ma’am.” The communications rating left.

“Did you have something else in mind, Horacio?”

“Ma’am, I just wanted to say it’s been an honor to serve with you, cliché it might be to say that.”

“It’s not a cliché if you mean it. Horacio, it’s been my honor.”

They shook hands over the tabletop.

“Ma’am, we’re almost to the endpoint. About ten minutes out. All systems are checked out and ready, the special weapons have been quadrupled checked, and everyone is ready to do their part. We just need you to give the final word.”

“Well, let’s go, then. We have a place in history to be in.”

Màrtainn rose and lead the way out. The doors closed silently behind them.

***

Smoke filled the command post as Lieutenant Colonel Davis coughed.

“Get those tanks back online!”

“Sir, we’ve lost most of them, but the rest are spinning back up! They report another minute!”

“We may not have another minute! Get one of the micro-fighters on that advance group for air-to-mud!”

“Aye sir!”

Davis looked at the cracked screen.

“Colonel?”

Colonel Jacobson clawed his way back from the floor he’d landed on when the Trippy bombs hit his command post.

“Jim, what’s your status?”

“Sir, I’ve lost most of my tanks and air support, although I still have the airborne early warning system. I can still do precision targeting, and they can still handle the targeting requests from your assets like they’ve been doing. Half of my ground troops are gone, but we’ve stopped the push for now. It looks like the Trippies are massing and trying to reset for another run at us, but I think they’re in just as bad shape as we are.”

“Tell me about it. I’ve got eighty percent casualties all across the board. One punch is all I have left. Everything is contained everywhere but that one corner in the southwest. If we can knock that down, then we can go into the containment areas and secure them from all the Trippy pockets of resistance.”

Colonel Davis slapped at his hand-held device until it came up and showed him the information he was looking for.

“Colonel, I’ve got one tank and maybe three fighters to send. There’s a platoon of heavy weapons nearby, too.”

“Task them all.”

“Tasking.”

A few keystrokes and the unit started smoking. Davis cursed the unit, the place that built it, and the lowest-bidder government contractor that designed it. He crawled across the floor, one leg dragging behind him, and managed to get to his command console. A bleeding Marine helped drag him.

It was a miracle that the screen popped up as quickly as it did, considering all the other damage in the command post. The lieutenant colonel input the tasking commands and held his breath. The communications satellite had been shot out hours ago, and they only had the backup unit. It was buried in a shell similar to the fighter pilots’ shells, and didn’t have as strong connections to the communications network.

The console accepted the commands, and Davis breathed a sigh of relief. It was made longer when the acknowledgments rolled in.

Suddenly, everything stopped.

“The hell?”

He looked at his screen, and Colonel Jacobson looked as mystified as he was.

“Jim? Did everything just stop for you, too?”

“Yes, sir, it did.”

“Get a take from the recon platform, or the fighters. Something. I want to know what’s going on.”

Davis was already doing that, since most of the electronics ratings had been killed in the battle, but he wasn’t going to say that just yet. They had to wait a few minutes, the tension building up as the long seconds ticked by without any noise or anything to break it up.

Finally, the images came back. Trippies lay everywhere. It looked like some lay dead, and others in agony, holding what passed for their heads.

“Sir?”

Colonel Jacobson turned back to the screen, after taking a report from a bruised and bleeding Marine.

“Jim, it seemed to the electronics group that there was a huge EM surge right before everything stopped. Right before that, there was a couple of double-flash signature events at the Grand Canyon.”

“Nukes?”

“Can’t say, Jim. I’ll lose my Good Conduct merit badge.”

The lieutenant colonel shook his head.

“But are we done fighting?”

The colonel looked at the lieutenant colonel on his screen.

“It sure looks that way. However it happened, it’s done. I guess start cleaning up and start doing your reports. Your help saved us, and I’m going to put that in my report. Along with some other things you don’t know about.”

“Aye-aye, sir. Glad to help.” He signed off, confused by the last part of the colonel’s statement, but deciding not to push it. He started the long process of cleaning up.

***

He still didn’t know what stopped the fight, or what killed the Trippies. He had scratched up several squads of Marines with blood in their eyes, and send them out to check. All of them reported back that every Trippy they could find was dead. Most didn’t have any signs of battle injuries, but all of them had apparently suffered extreme agony.

Colonel Davis looked up at the communications rating standing at the door. He waved him in, and watched as the younger man gingerly stepped through what was left of the doorway. He had a sling on his arm that exactly matched the one that the colonel sported.

“Sir, we got a superencrypted message from Captain Màrtainn. We just finished decoding it. There was a lot of data with it, too.”

“From Màrtainn? What is it?”

“Right here, sir.” He handed the colonel a secure high-capacity chip, and retired. Colonel Jacobson slid the chip into his tablet and read the message.

To Colonel Jacobson, or whoever gets this.

I, Captain Felicia Alexandra Màrtainn, UTHMC, make this my last recording. I have no family to leave anything to or anything to leave, thanks to the Trippies. I’m not going to leave a long note. Yes, I stole the weapons, Colonel, and yes, I’m about to use them to take out this Trippy base. It will sacrifice me and my team, but no one here has anything left or anyone to mourn us.

The Trippies have to be dealt with. There has been war for a long, long time now. They have to be exterminated. They have to be completely removed, and I’m going to start the removing, right now.

We’ve dodged a lot of the little pieces of junk they call fighters. All it takes is a close miss from a supraorbital capable craft like this, heavily armored, and the turbulence does the rest. The antiaircraft is closer, but it’s nothing. There isn’t much resistance, almost like most of the Trippies that are supposed to be here are somewhere else. Like, maybe in an invasion force somewhere, raping, pillaging, and looting.

The weapons are armed, and the fail safes are removed. We’ve dodged the antiaircraft fire and are moments away from the Trippy base. There’s no more resistance, and we have a clear shot at the base. The strange thing is, we’re monitoring a lot of EM band transmissions and something else. We don’t know what it is, but it’s easily as powerful as any transmitter. It could be the telepathy that was mentioned in the report of the destroyed patrol. I don’t know. I’m attaching recording logs of everything, for scientific curiosity, if nothing else. I won’t see the results, but someone will.

I’m sending this message out now, with superencryption that will take longer to decode. When that’s done, the Trippies will be gone.

And so will we.

I’m not doing this for madness’ sake. I’m doing it for a very good reason. For every husband, wife, son, daughter, or other family member lost. For every lover, friend or acquaintance. For everyone lost to someone.

For my family.

For Dima.

Captain Felicia Alexandra Màrtainn, United Terra Hegemony Marine Corps, recording.”

THE END

An Onslaught Antagonized, Part 4

An Onslaught Antagonized, Part Four

As promised, here is part four of “An Onslaught Antagonized.” The action picks up a bit.

-JB Steele

Chapter Four

Iwohime’s Rift

Krasnoyarsk Outpost Two, Siberian District, Russia

25 August, 2259 Terra Year

0351 Zulu Time

The near-trees rustled in the wind.

Report.”

The junior scout in charge of the reconnaissance team stiffened as the mental flow of his mindlink parted to allow his Chargemaster to ask for information.

Sire, the thralls have entered this place, and appear to be setting up some kind of equipment.”

Are you able to tell what type?”

Not specifically, Sire, but one remains by both units constantly and takes orders from others. They seem to be well ensconced from random view.”

Then they have some position of importance. Make sure that the attendant is marked. I want this equipment undamaged for further study.”

As you wish, Sire. I have noted it.”

Do you see any evidence of weaponry?”

Yes, Sire, the items they call ‘rifles’ are in plain view. It seems that every thrall has one, and furthermore, each seems to be competent and comfortable with them.”

That is to be expected with those from the warrior caste. We have our own, and observe the same behavior from them as well.”

Yes, Sire.”

For a moment the junior scout felt his vision dim as the Chargemaster appropriated his vision and used it to look around. After his superior had his look, the junior scout was granted the use of his body again.

Very well. Target all and nullify. There are only a few suitable for capture and use. I have noted them, and I desire them here soon. Make sure that you retrieve them. Proceed with this directive at an appropriate time, but do not delay.”

At your command, Sire.”

The junior scout gauged the height of the planet’s star, and waited for the right time.

It took all day, but finally he deemed the time was right. The sun was dipping down and was almost gone from view. He concentrated, and the mindlink flowed to the Chargemaster.

Sire, it is time.”

The answer came back immediately.

Execute.”

At your command, Sire.”

He looked at the visible thralls. These particular ones called themselves “Marines.” That made no sense to him nor did he think it was anything special. He supposed the thrall warriors had to have some kind of designation. He opened up his mindlink again, this time to the others around the area, laying in camouflaged wait. Five were there, by the resting areas. Two by each of the attended machines, and twelve more scattered around tracking the ones that were moving. All reported that they awaited permission to act, and were ready.

Very well. Note these specific thrall and machinery. Begin.”

There were no acknowledgments. The scout remained where he was, using his subordinates’ senses in much the same way as the Chargemaster had done with him. It was his duty to command this operation, not be leading from the front. For a moment, all he could see was dimness, but he switched views and saw a man holding a rifle pointed at his field of vision.

The thrall’s mouth moved, but it was meaningless babble. Then the view went black, and the junior scout knew that his subordinate had passed on. He hurriedly switched to another, who stood nearby and was acting. When he started watching, he saw that the same thrall was now dead, the body twitching in that strange way they had. He observed as three – no, four more – was dispatched.

He changed views again. This time he saw a couple of the thralls that the Chargemaster wanted separated from the stock herd. He sent a congratulatory message burst to the under-scout that used a creative salvo of psionic energy to temporarily disable his targets. The scout watched long enough to confirm that the thralls were being packaged properly, then flipped through his views to find the other three. He found them, but noted that their captured condition wasn’t as good as the first two. He resolved to speak firmly with those under-scouts later.

A familiar face caught his attention. This one was the face of the one in charge, and next to him was his chief subordinate, as near as he could tell. He could see that the first one was shouting something to the machine attendant, and the other was readying one of those rifle weapons. The scout sent a hurried message to the raider whose senses he was appropriating that one should be held alive. The reply was instantaneous and as he watched, both tumbled to the ground.

Good. That will limit their response, to see their leader cut down.”

It wasn’t a surprise to hear the mindlink come alive with the Chargemaster’s comments, but it was strangely comforting to know that he was taking a personal interest. The junior scout sent a suitably humble reply, and turned back to his work.

It didn’t take much longer. He lost several of his raiders to those thrall with the heavier weapons than the ‘rifles,’ but that didn’t matter much. All but the ones that was required by the Chargemaster were terminated as useless surplus. He took stock of his losses and was surprised to see that he’d lost roughly half of his personnel.

That realization shocked him, and dimmed some of the pride in his work. He realized that he was not going to enjoy reporting this to the Chargemaster. There was no help for it, and he decided to look for the machines from earlier. Since the threat was removed, he decided that it was safe to move around and see things for himself.

It took a few minutes. He knew where to go, thanks to the mindlink, but physically getting there took time. As he approached, he saw the deceased thrall and it’s charge. The strange machine lay there on the hard ground. The insensate hand of its attendant was snagged in a strap, but it didn’t seem to be damaged. The indicator lights blinked in the same manner as before, without any change in pattern or frequency. The junior scout motioned for one of the underlings to carry it.

As the underling picked up it, one of the triple legs brushed against the face, and a deedledeedledeedle erupted from the device. It was followed by a similar sound a distance off, in synchronization. Both units sounded three times, then stopped. The junior scout opened his mindlink quickly.

What did you do?”

The underling looked at the face of the machine.

I do not know, but it doesn’t appear to have any damage.”

Very well. Complete your task.”

Yes, Master.”

The junior scout opened his mind up for a general burst, reporting the successful completion of his mission.

***

“Distress call!”

The urgent report from the specialist manning the communications console of the command post got the attention of Major McNary. He was a heavy man, at the high end of the Marine body mass scales, but for all that he could move astonishingly quickly. He appeared at the specialist’s side.

“Talk to me, Owens.”

The communications specialist didn’t look up, focused on his screen.

“Sir, the two quantum comms registered to Lieutenant DeBourchier just squawked distress. I’ve got coordinates, but no voice transmissions. There aren’t any operator biometrics showing signed in, either, on either device.”

“If one wasn’t signed in that could mean they stepped away for a head call or something, but both at the same time… something’s up. Get the reaction force up and moving there. Then sound the alert, base wide. We don’t know what’s out there to come after us here.”

“Aye, aye, sir.” He was already flipping switches and punching big red buttons even as he spoke.

Major McNary picked up the command post phone. He looked up as a disheveled intelligence officer tumbled through the door and tripped over the threshold.

“Lieutenant Fisher! You all right? What’s the hurry?”

The younger officer picked himself up, ignoring the bloody knee. He leaned against one of the consoles and rapped out his report.

“Sir, there’s been a development! One of the Trippy prisoners sneaked some kind of destructive jammer into the detention blocks and blew out the comms. He said that a patrol has just been wiped out to make the first point of several, and that in a few minutes the rest will be made! Sir, he’s saying that an invasion force is coming!”

Major McNary turned to the communications specialist.

“Update the alert. Invasion imminent. Clear for action and load for bear. I want scanners up and operating, both ground and air based. I also want the lookouts posted in doubles. If they’re coming, I want eyeballs seeing them.”

“Yes, sir, passing that along right now.”

The Major nodded.

“Good. Get the Colonel up here, if he isn’t already on the way.”

“Sir, he just called. He’s coming.”

“Good.” The room started filling with people responding to the alert status, and McNary turned to the younger officer.

“Son, you need to get that knee looked at.”

“Fuck the knee…sir. More important things to do.”

The Major smiled to himself.

“I understand. Return to your post.”

Lieutenant Fisher braced to attention, and started out the door. He didn’t make it through before a sergeant from his section dashed through. Unlike his officer, he didn’t trip. The sergeant picked the lieutenant’s face out and got his attention.

“Lieutenant Fisher! New intel! The prisoners at the Canyon have been liquidated as used up, and the invasion force is coming to replenish!”

On the heels of that feverish report, Colonel Jacobson came through the door smoothly.

“What was that, sergeant?”

Everyone in the command post not actively busy came to attention.

“As you were, people. Sergeant?”

The sergeant glanced at the lieutenant, and he nodded, giving the sergeant permission to relate all the updates.

“Sir, we got a couple of pieces of intel just now. One was that there was a reconnaissance platoon wiped out recently, signaling the start of a base invasion, and the other was that the hostages at the Grand Canyon had been “used up.” The invasion force is coming to replenish their supply.”

The senior officer turned to the Major without hesitation.

“Major, get this information to Captain Màrtainn and her crew right now! They’re supposed to be hitting that site, and they’re already shorthanded!”

“Aye-aye, sir.” The Major’s hand slapped the communicator’s shoulder. He had been listening in as unobtrusively as possible, and was already calling it in. The sergeant cleared his throat.

“Sirs? There’s more.”

Major McNary looked at Colonel Jacobson.

“What is it, Sergeant?”

The sergeant looked straight at the major.

“Sir, part of the trippuku missives we’ve got is that Trippy post in the Grand Canyon. Sir, it’s more than a post, it’s a full up base, with all kinds of military hardware. When the Trippy mentioned that patrol in the Rift, he also let slip that the base was immediately going on full alert.”

“Major, go check for launches of any sort – missile, atmospheric craft, orbit interceptors, whatever. There might be more than just us about to get hit.”

The major was about to acknowledge this, when the communications specialist interrupted.

“Sirs, you wanted me to raise the strike team. I’ve got a problem.”

He looked up to see two sets of senior-officer eyes staring at him. Major McNary broke off to pass along the tasking orders for the surveillance satellites.

“Sir, I can’t.”

The Colonel raised an eyebrow.

“Why?”

“Colonel, their barracks has an auto-responder stating that they’ve already left.”

“That’s great. Try to hail them.”

“Sir, I’ve tried that too, but the electronic assets they took with them report EMCON.”

“They went radio silent. Great. I don’t know why they would have, but I guess they have a reason to. Set up a beacon to be triggered by their transponder codes. When they come back online, send this information in an encrypted squirt.”

“Aye, sir.”

The Major interrupted. His query was still working on the screen, so he looked up at his superior.

“Sir, I’m wondering something.”

The Colonel took his eyes off the specialist’s screen and looked up.

“What?”

“Colonel, before we got the raid warning, we copied a distress call from a patrol out in Iwohime’s Rift. They was being overrun and I guess wiped out, but the reaction force hasn’t reported back.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Sir, right after that, we got a runner in from the intel section that said something worrying. He said that one of the prisoners that had been captured recently gave them information about the patrol, and after that, well, you heard the second runner.”

“So how did they know about the patrol being overrun? There wasn’t time enough for any information to flow. I didn’t know about the patrol until a few minutes ago.”

“Well, sir, some of the theories are that they’re using telepathy.”

“What?”

“Well, sir, they don’t have a spoken language, other than those boxes. They don’t manipulate them in any way, or at least I’ve never seen any controls for them. The intelligence guys say that some of the Trippies appear to be concentrating harder than others to use the devices, almost as if they aren’t as trained up on the operation of the things. So mental effort, anyway, seems to suggest telepathy to me.”

“If it’s telepathy, what range do they have?”

“Sir, I don’t know, but based on what I see here, as least as far as Iwohime’s Rift to here. That’s what, about ten or twelve miles from here?”

“Good point. Have we got any of those speech boxes?”

“Yes, sir and plenty, although only a few work.”

“Put some of this civilian scientists to work on finding a frequency to mind-blast them with. If they’re telepathic and those boxes don’t have control surfaces, it stands to reason that they could be interfacing telepathically with it. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, sir, and I’ll get right on that.”

“You do that, Major. I got to call up reinforcements.”

This made the Major stop in surprise.

“Reinforcements? But, sir, there isn’t another base for at least fifty miles around.”

“Oh, but there is. Remember that area with all the razor tipped barbwire and a distinct air of eternal doom and gloom?”

“Yes, now that you mention it.”

“That’s our reinforcement. Where’s the comm?”

An Onslaught Antagonized, Part 3

Hello, all. I’ve been submerged in certain real life considerations that have had to be taken care of, and it has cut into my writing time something fierce. To be honest, it has cut into free time in general. Soon I’ll be back into the swing of things. In the meantime, here is the third part of “An Onslaught Antagonized.”

An Onslaught Antagonized, Part 3

 

Chapter Three

Krasnoyarsk Outpost Two, Siberian District, Russia

25 August, 2259 Terra Year

2130 Zulu Time

Second Lieutenant Mark DeBourchier accepted the salute of his gunnery sergeant and waited for him to move quickly to his post at the back of the formation. When the man stopped and assumed the position of attention, the lieutenant spoke up.

At ease.”

The platoon shifted into a looser formation and looked at their boss.

It’s a fine time to be up and about this bright day, isn’t it?”

The assembled Marines rolled their eyes at their irrepressible lieutenant. It was still dark, but approaching twilight. He went on.

We will be doing light patrol in Iwohime’s Rift. Going to be all day, and part of the night. There was reports of activity of some unspecified nature going on in that area, and we have orders to investigate and report back using quantum comms.”

This generated a stir. Quantum comms was the latest thing that the engineering geniuses had come up with. It was supposed to be able to reach the other side of a planet, using something called a ‘nucleonic baryon relay.’ The lieutenant was interested in science, but this was stuff way over his head. As far as he was concerned, so long as it worked when he hit the ‘transmit’ button, and he could hear what the command base was sending back, he was happy. He didn’t have to worry about this electron doing that to this neutron, or that quark insinuating itself onto another. As long as it worked, he was good to go.

A hand went up. He turned his head.

Yes, Lance Corporal?”

Sir, are we expected to use these new comms as a field test of untried equipment?” The corporal’s face was blankly outraged. DeBourchier sighed, not caring if they saw what he thought.

Yes, Lance Corporal. While I like technical stuff,” several men coughed while remembering some of the machines he’d tried without success, “ours is not to reason why, but to do.”

The lance corporal stiffened.

Aye, aye, sir.”

Lieutenant DeBourchier went on.

Get your field gear on. Report to the armory and draw weapons. Everything is waiting for you. There will be a load-out of rifle, sidearms, and bladed weapons. Reloads also. Delta squad, you will function as heavy weapons, and will draw weapons accordingly.”

An anticipatory shiver ran through the platoon. Lieutenant DeBourchier caught the speculative eye of the gunny, and nodded. Adding sidearms was not the usual procedure while going out on patrol in the area he’d mentioned. In fact, it seemed to be a little heavier than usual. The gunny raised an eyebrow, and the lieutenant shook his head. There would be time to fill him in to the new stuff he had in a little bit.

We don’t have a lot of time for questions or the normal routine, for that matter. There was a possibility of a Trippy scouting party out there in that area and we’ve been detailed to clean it out. There may be others in other areas, and there are other units assigned to check that out. We have our own area of responsibility to worry about. Gear up, people and shag ass over there. No formation run there – we’ll form up in the armory bay and inspect arms, then move out.”

Another glance at the gunny.

And yes, people, I realize this is highly unusual. Get moving. Fall out!”

The group scattered.

DeBourchier motioned his gunny over before he could leave.

Jim, there’s more.”

The gunny was a sixteen year veteran that was up for an early first sergeant post. He knew when things was about to go bad, and this time was one of them. He turned back to his lieutenant, and they started walking to the armory as they talked.

Yes, sir, I figured that there was. That load-out isn’t common.”

No, and neither is the order to remain in place at all costs, if we make contact. We are not to retreat or make tactical withdrawals.”

The gunny stared.

Sir?”

Gunny, all I know is that there’s some tech in the comm units they’re issuing us that have to remain in proximity of any Trippies we encounter.”

Sir, that sounds like these quantum comms are also sensor platforms.”

Gunny, I couldn’t say. I wasn’t given a lot of choice three hours ago, when some new general’s aide got me up out of my bunk. She got me to an unscheduled meeting with the Skipper, the XO, and the other platoon leaders.”

Wow. Skipper must have loved that.”

Gunny – she didn’t say a single word. Whoever that general was, he had her quiet as a church mouse.”

The gunny whistled soundlessly. DeBourchier went on.

That told me a bunch, right there. When they told me about the quantum comms, and gave us a change in operating area, that told me more. Then when they told me that we’d be getting extra rations, that told be even more. Here’s another thing. We’re supposed to have access to special tactical weapons for this mission.”

Sir, wait. Mission? Special tactical? Nukes?”

The lieutenant nodded grimly.

That’s right. If we get overrun by a large force, we can call in nukes. In fact, we will be expected to. And you can’t mention that little fact to the others, except if I’m down, you take over, and the situation is grim.”

The sergeant looked bewildered.

Sir, just what in the hell is going on upstairs?” DeBourchier shook his head in irritation. He wasn’t too happy about any of it.

I don’t know, and I suspect that if I knew I wouldn’t like it any more than I like it now. In fact, I’d like it less.”

They reached the armory, a huge structure with a foreboding look to its construction. They went in, and went through the motions of drawing their weapons. Before they could start, the first squad leader came up to them with their personal gear. DeBourchier grinned.

Davy, that was good. You anticipated us. You trying to become gunny?” The man laughed.

One day, sir.”

I don’t doubt it. Spread the word to get to the armory’s bay and prepare for a very quick inspection.”

The man braced to attention.

Aye-aye, sir!” DeBourchier nodded to him, and he broke off. The squad leader moved quickly and was soon gone.

Sir, everything’s ready for you.” The gunny had already gotten all of his equipment together, and was casting a critical eye over it.

Good, Gunny.”

DeBourchier signed several forms, quickly reviewing them as he did. He slipped on the web belt, and cinched it firmly. He checked the sidearm, a model C1-NC disruptive effect blaster, and assured himself that the charge was completely ready and that there were three extra power cells in complete shape. This went snug into the form fitted holster, and he heard a double retention click.

Next, two standard-issue blades with monomolecular edges. A machete-lengthen blade, and a combat knife with a stout grip. Why he needed two blades, he didn’t know, but his orders had been specific.

After that, the anionic rifle was produced, inspected, and accepted. The Hegemony called this by the dry “BFR-6,” but he and the other Marines called it the Big Daddy. Four reloads for it was accepted also, and not for the first time the lieutenant wondered why the reloads for the blaster and the rifle wasn’t interchangeable. It would make things so much easier.

He looked over the papers one more time, and satisfied himself that things had been properly executed.

We’re good. We’ll form up and get out of your hair.”

The senior sergeant nodded. He wasn’t smiling.

Yes, sir. You guys be careful out there, you hear? Give ’em hell for us.”

Always.” Lieutenant DeBourchier grinned at the man. He turned away to join his men, since he had heard the gunny call for the men to fall in. As he went through the double doors leading to the bay, the armory sergeants glanced at each other.

Mike, they drew more than they usually do.”

Yeah, I noticed that, and it doesn’t make for good thoughts.”

No, it doesn’t, and I hope nothing happens.”

Me, too.”

They turned back to their work, getting ready for another platoon to come in for a similar draw.

In the bay, Lieutenant DeBourchier accepted the salute of the gunny, and they went through an abbreviated inspection. ‘Abbreviated’ was most likely stretching it, as they got through it in record time. The lieutenant had never seen orders with such a sense of urgency dripping from every word, and while he normally would have taken his time, the early morning visit had convinced him. In due course, they completed the cursory inspection.

Right, face! Forward, march!”

The platoon moved toward the wide rolling door that Gunnery Sergeant Katz had opened, and Lieutenant DeBourchier marched his platoon out. He waited for his gunny to get the door back down and rejoin them, glancing over to see him fall into his place.

Double time, march!”

The platoon shifted into a faster movement. They moved down the road, and Lieutenant DeBourchier kept them going. After the base faded from view, the lieutenant slowed them down.

Quick time, march!”

After a few minutes, they came to a spot that was almost a clearing. The lieutenant called for a halt.

Left, face!” As the men turned to face him in their ruler straight ranks, he looked around. “OK, people, we need to set up a post here. Get the quantum comms set up by those trees, about a hundred yards apart, and linked in. Otherwise, you know what needs to be done. Fall out.”

The Marines set up quickly, while a couple of the four squads paired off and started to patrol. The quantum comms fired up and tracked into several linkages quickly. The communications sergeant send several test messages in each band and was pleased to note that the reply messages came back much quicker that his old sets. He looked up at Lieutenant DeBourchier.

Sir, this set is like a dream. Do I get to keep it?”

Fraid not, sergeant. We’ll have to turn it back in when we get back. Hey, did the locator function kick in?”

Locator? Let me check.” A moment passed, and a chime sounded from the machine. “There it goes, sir. Our location is being triangulated and transmitted, with encryption. And the two sets are reporting each others location in separate channels, so if one goes down the other picks it up instantly. And they are doing it together twice or three times as fast as the old sets. This is nice, sir.”

Glad you approve. Get all the kinks worked out and pay attention. You’re going to be giving a report on how it performed to Captain Màrtainn when you get back.”

The look on the man’s face made it hard to keep his own straight, but somehow he managed.

And just to make things worse, I’m supposed to tell you that if you do a good enough job in convincing her that we really could use these things, she’s going to take to see Colonel Hamilton.”

The look was almost pleading. The lieutenant went on, breezily.

So! Work hard on it. I know you’ll do a great job, since you’d never done anything less for me. I have an astounding amount of faith in your ability to close this deal, since it’s plain you really, really like these units.”

Uh, thanks, sir. A lot…”

“You’re very welcome, sergeant! Well, got to go check other stuff, and get ready for standing my watch.”

DeBourchier nodded to the man, and chuckled to himself once he was out of earshot. That was mean of him, almost, but at least the sergeant had been forewarned. His thoughts turned to the job at hand and his grip on his rifle tightened more. He took a moment to look in all directions. DeBourchier was uneasy out here, and trying not to show it.

That’s it for this round. Enjoy, and any comments, please leave here.

 -JB Steele

An Onslaught Antagonized, Part 1

An Onslaught Antagonized, Part 1

This is the beginning of a story that I wrote for the Writers of the Future Contest. I like it – maybe you will, too.

Chapter One

Krasnoyarsk Outpost Two, Siberian District, Russia

24 August, 2259 Terra Year

1328 Zulu Time

 

It was clear on that disastrous Day. As hard as I try to rip it from my memory, I can’t. It’s seared into my brain cells, and it revisits me at night still. It seemed to me that the air was wrong somehow. One minute, it was clear and cool and the best of a fall day’s offerings. The next, it was warm and smoky, right out of a bad horror novel.

Screams rent the air as cars exploded and trees were uprooted. I watched in horror as the most shocking things I’d ever seen advanced upon our little outpost. These… beings… I don’t know what to call them, other than the more or less formal nomenclature. The description was scary enough.

I’m looking at you right now and ignoring the camera. I know this is something you’ve probably heard more than once, from more than a few people, but I don’t care about them. This is my story, or at least as much as I can tell you. The rest’s classified. Sorry.

The shortest was eight feet tall. The tallest, maybe eleven. Three strongly muscled legs sprouted from a thicker trunk, with four arms. Each ‘hand’ had fingers that individually seemed big enough to tear a man’s head straight from his shoulders. The head atop each body was roughly human sized, except bigger by a little bit. I saw one with four eyes, one with three, one with none that were noticeable, and most with five arranged mostly around the head. They didn’t have mouths, or at least anything like a mouth to begin with. All I could really tell that day before ducking down to hide, was that they had some kind of ripping bone protruding from the nominal front, and a rough hide.

I came to find out that the bone indeed ripped flesh, but it acted like a straw, too. God help me, they had their own straws that they stuck into the smoothies of our internal organs. I feel like I’m back there, right now, while I talk to you. Best not to think about that now. It’s too busy right now for trips down memory lane. They have an attack wave moving in on our base, and we have civilians to protect. Mostly women and children.

They seem to enjoy ripping up women the most. Something about our hormones punches the pleasure buttons so hard that they have to have us any way they can get us. They get a high, then they go back to wherever they base from and get laid. Sometimes they take prisoners to prolong the experience, then discard them. Men, they just consider worthless, except for target practice or the odd gambling pieces. They’ve learned how to breed us, but most of them are too impatient with the whole idea of procreation. Besides, a pregnant woman drives them bananas. Those hormones are like crack or meth or something to them. A woman in a family way doesn’t survive long, without help. There’s a window between conception and that first division of the blastomeres, where women are relatively safe. After that, they will kill each other to get to the woman. In comparison, men are just tissue. They use men as expendable slaves or toys, with all the concern of a seven year old with a magnifying glass and few ants.

I’m a team leader of a military unit that specializes in rescuing women from the holding tanks that they use. No unit names – that’s classified, too. My name is Major Felicia Màrtainn, and I save people. I’ve got six men and seven women on my team, and there aren’t any jokes about the men being outnumbered. The so-called battle of the sexes was suspended long ago. Now, it’s the battle of the humans. It’s hard to rescue women, since we have to fight in and fight out. There’s a larger organizational unit that we’re attached to, with the usual staff positions and a chief of staff, and another group on the org chart with a bunch of different scientists. Biologists, chemists, physicists, psychologists, and so on. Just about whatever kind of -ologist you can think of. Several of them are hybrids, experts in more than one field, and we’re never quiet sure how to classify them. We go by pay grades and worry about titles and degrees later.

A side note. No one is quite sure what the aliens call themselves. We never noticed at first if they had a spoken language, much less if they speak to each other. We’ve observed them make motions to each other and direct groups here and there, but no matter how hard the intelligence officers try, there hasn’t been any kind of speech, language or even dialect detected where each other is concerned. They started carrying these strange devices embedded in the exoskeleton that speaks for them. How it works, we don’t know. We can’t ever get our hands on a working model to crack, since they fuse into solid blocks of whatever they use to make it from when they die. We aren’t sure if they even have a name for themselves, so we’ve been calling them the trippies. Three legs, tripod, get it? I didn’t think it was all that funny, either, but got to call them something. People who used tripods in their jobs before they came really hate them.

My second-in-command is First Lieutenant Horacio Bisbee. He was an active duty US Marine Corps officer before, now he’s part of the United Terran Hegemony Marines, like me. All of the services in every country were merged into one global service, with the different services now called ‘partitions.’ Yeah, I know, it sounds stupid. Politicians. You know how it is.

It was a hell of a thing to consolidate everyone and there were plenty of problems. The strange thing is, all the other nations’ seagoing infantry like Horacio get along just fine, no matter the language. I guess it’s true, once a Marine, always a Marine. The various navies mostly got along. The various armies argued a bit, and the air forces all tried to outdo each other until the various leaders of different countries put a stop to that crap.

I’m thinking about a thing we had seen back then, something bad. We were looking out from an outcropping in what used to be the Grand Canyon. It won’t be a tourist attraction ever again, since the trippies found it and blasted office space into the rock. I’m not kidding. Go look at the Grand Canyon now and you’ll see a bunch of regularly spaced holes in the rock that look for all the world like windows in a skyscraper. Some are lit with those portable lights they use. Some are dark. The more ‘offices’ lit up, the busier they are and the closer to setting up an operation. It’s like it’s their main regional field office or something there, with satellite offices reporting in as needed. There isn’t another base that size anywhere in the world that we know of.

We’ve seen it too many times. When it’s dark, hardly anything happens. The last time it was lit up like it was, they hit the Kansas wheat fields and burned away most of the years harvest. That caused a famine. Remember that? That was just five years ago, and the world is just now getting over it. If it hadn’t been for the stockpiles of those awful MREs that every military has, the world would have starved. We escaped that one by the skin of our teeth. That and the other wheat supplies in Russia and rice stocks in Asia and other places.

Right now – well, as of two hours ago – every light is on. Never mind how we got the information, and I’m pushing it now to say this much. We’ve used a lot of assets up to understand that there is something else going on that we don’t like. It come back to that hormone thing that they’re all crazy about.

Horacio and I are sweating this one. Supposedly there are a bunch of women gathered for breeding and other experiments on one of these ‘floors.’ We aren’t sure which one, but we’ve seen quite a few of those floating transport barges they use slide into a wide docking bay in the Canyon. We need more information about how they set up housekeeping in there, but everyone we’ve sent in has been either killed or captured for the breeding experiments.

The idea of using infrared viewers died a quick death. The first front looking infrared scanner, the FLIR, that we flipped on got unwanted attention real fast. A squad was using a FLIR and some kind of quick reaction force from the Canyon hit them hard. They didn’t even bother taking the females in that squad, just hit them with something that burned a permanent shadow into the ground wherever they stood. It wasn’t radiation. Dosimeters didn’t even react when we got there. Horacio and I waved them around for ten minutes and there weren’t any clicks other than what would normally be expected if you were taking a walk in the park.

We’ve lost more people out of our little unit. I’ve given up remembering names, and so has Horacio. People come and go so quick. Whether they get killed in action or get transferred out to fill other slots in the TO&E, there really isn’t any point in trying. If they get injured, then it’s just temporary. I’ve lost the same arm four times and others have similar stories there. If they get killed, well, that’s different.

About the arm. We lucked out, if you can call it that. We rescued twelve women from a tiny detention campsite about eight years ago. It had been hit by a quick response team and all the trippies there found themselves suddenly dead with no time to call for backup. The response team commander was looking around the facility for any other prisoners. He found a machine in one of the infirmaries that regrew limbs. He had the time to look it over and take statements from prisoners about what it did. No one on the team believed it when they heard it. I guess they thought the women were all traumatized. To be fair, I wouldn’t have believed them either. If it had been me, I would have packed them all off to the psychs to muddle around and find out what happened.

Anyway, one of the troopers that was up for rotation soon volunteered to try it out. He had lost an eye a couple years earlier. The commander was very hesitant to let him, but the women convinced him. The trooper lay down, after making a quick will, and got up an hour later. The team’s XO started to make a joke about him using any excuse for a nap, when the trooper complained of a headache and dizziness.

No wonder. That missing eye had regrown, and the trooper’s brain was very confused. It was trying to relearn how to use two eyes after years of just having one eye. He walked around squinting for a week, and had to relearn how to shoot, how to feed himself, even how to dress. He had to relearn a lot because his vision had suddenly went from two dimensions back to three, and it was something that he wasn’t prepared for. At least he could cope with that. He hadn’t been prepared to lose the eye in the first place, but he managed.

You can imagine all the hoopla. The shock and the surprise from the troopers in that unit, when he blinked his baby blues at them and one eye was bloodshot and the other was perfectly clear. The usual innovation that comes with wartime economies, plus a slight uptick in stupid behavior. After some of the world’s finest physicists, biologists, mathematicians, and engineers figured out how it worked, then the world businesses took over. Soon there were regeneration units in every hospital, clinic, medical ship, and first aid station in the world. It seemed that we couldn’t get them to the front line fast enough for all the combat related wounds. The stupid behavior, well, the regen units had that miraculous thing going for them, but they couldn’t fix a severed head or a bled-out body. We found out that they had a downside, but more on that later.

Still, now we are stuck holding the short, sharp end of the stick. It’s pretty grim today, and it seemed grimmer then, but there’s so few degrees between ‘grim’ and ‘grimmer’ that we might as well not bother trying to argue the point. Humanity is stuck in a corner, here on old Terra, and we have to make a move.

We colonized the moon a good twenty years before we otherwise would have. You know how politicians are. Professing they’re here for the good of the city/county/state/nation/world. They’re all the same, whether they wear a suit, a thawb, a cloak of feathers, or run around stark naked. The service has some of them, too. We proud combat units try to keep our distance, but we have to make use of them to get what we need. As far as the civilian politicians, it’s simply breathtaking how a vast majority put their political differences aside when they realized they as a collective were staring down the barrel of alien guns. A figure of speech, yes, since the aliens have so far been unsuccessful in taking the planet. Still, the close calls woke them up and probably the frenzied calls from the constituents had something to do with it.

We lost Canada. Or at least a huge amount of it. Alaska is just cinders now. We had a secret military base there, just us and the polar bears that migrated down, and they found out about it. How, I don’t know. We by-God-knew when they discovered it, because they slipped into orbit and targeted that base. It was just a research project on human endurance. Military, yes, but with a lot of civilian applications.

They used some kind of neutrino-based carrier wave to target the base. Neutrinos can zip through a planet with no problem, so how they contained the neutrinos for a carrier wave, I don’t know. There’s a lieutenant commander in the Navy with no hair left that knows about high-energy physics. He didn’t know how they did it either, but there’s a distracted look in his eye whenever someone mentions it. All he’ll say is, “Collimation leakage,” and that’s it for any kind of conversation for the rest of the day. He slipped up one day while he was examining a piece of captured Trippy particle tech and mumbled, “How the hell does a septaquark even exist?” I knew better than to even ask about septaquarks. I didn’t want agents with identical haircuts, sharp suits, and crow’s feet around the eyes to pay me a visit. Besides, I didn’t think there was anything higher than a pentaquark, anyway.

The targeting was spot on, they tell me. Too bad the delivery systems wasn’t up to snuff. We lost everyone in that base, including the basement dwellers. The thing is, there was much more ‘shock and awe’ going on than just for a simple base. That’s an old term, but I don’t think this was a strike that got royally screwed up. I think it was a full-up battle, against overmatched opponents. There wasn’t anyone higher than a major there, and Major Dmitriy Alesnarovich Koryavin was a good man. Dima was something special, and I cried my eyes out for two days when I heard what happened. That’s all I want to say about him, other than he never got the troops he begged for nor the equipment and training time either.

What’s that? Yes, he did. A whole lot. That’s all I’m saying.

We lost more than the base. We lost enough land mass in that horrific bombardment to alter Terra’s axial tilt, and the seasons to go along with it. It gets really damn hot and really damn cold now, and the seasons don’t keep to the months they used to be in. It starts getting cold in July one year, then June, then May, and the seasons lately have been lasting four or five months. I don’t know how we’re going to handle a Christmas with hundred degree heat, but it’s coming all too soon.

I’m dancing around the real point. That alien office building isn’t going anywhere, and neither are the female prisoners.

We lost Canada, like I said. That base was in Alaska, yes, but close to the Canadian border. That way, the Canadians could “lend a hand” and the Americans could put the funding in the blackest part of the defense budget. Politicians, remember. It didn’t matter one bit. When Alaska was vaporized along with a huge chunk of Canada, they all got the message. It was time to put up or shut up and be herded. The political shock waves were stronger than anything the bombardment could produce, and it was felt in Chile, among places.

They got the lead out. First they voted to keep Alaska’s star on the flag, so that there would still be fifty-six stars, but Alaska now has a gold-bordered black star. They got together and planned to get outposts set up on Luna. Private contractors, the Russians, the Japanese, even the Italians contributed, among others. NASA was resurrected, although it was given a new name for a week. Cape Canaveral and Houston didn’t even get a chance to order new stationery before everyone in the world became the United Terran Hegemony. The acronym is bad enough, but at least it wasn’t something to make it UGH. I hesitate to think about the other languages.

So, a good man died before he could see the broad changes. In a way, that’s good. There are a lot of arguing and old resentments between nationalities, and many senior NCOs are driving themselves crazy trying to make it work. There is a lot of martial law happening. Civilians are helping, for the most part, but there are always some people who never get the memo. Conspiracy theorists and Internet trolls are just two types.

Nobody can walk down to the corner grocery store anymore. We have to have ration stamps, just like a few centuries or so ago, in another war and another time. People have to have good reason for going somewhere, and if they go, they have to get there and get off the road. If they don’t, the military arrests and detains them, until they can find out what’s going on. We don’t like having to do it, but people make things hard on us sometimes, and it’s hard enough as it is. Just like last time, there’s a thriving black market for things like food and fuel.

Beaches, theme parks, and movie theaters don’t exist anymore. Hollywood is almost a ghost town. There are still actors, but they make training films for the military, not big budget films. Somebody made a homemade movie criticizing the restrictions the Hegemony had put in place and urging direct action. It started to have a cult underground following on the Internet with all the people stuck in their homes, but that dropped off quickly when another alien incursion came in. The Trippies had found the video, and whatever passed for intelligence organs in their hierarchy decided that the guy was some kind of underground guerrilla leader recruiting for an offensive. In a way, they were right, but they thought they were the target.

They bombed his town. They didn’t use weapons with the same petaton rating, but it was enough to blow a crater eight and a quarter miles wide. The coastal town the guy lived in was obliterated, and seawater fills the crater now. Windows shattered twenty miles away, and ten miles in, some older houses collapsed. People died without having a clue what was happening, and in more than a few cases, whole communities were gutted.

There were probably twenty or thirty others that apparently were in total agreement with the guy’s ideas and their Internet forum activity stopped at the same time his did. It turned out that every single one got the same treatment, in several countries. Craters, all about the same size, and in the case of the larger metropolises, double and even a triple crater.

Now, no one argues. They take their ration stamps, go home and nurse Trippy hate. The enlistment rates are so high that buses leave nearly every other day. Horacio says that he dimly remembers at least ten different sets of yellow footprints, and all were occupied. He thought some sets were so fresh they were still wet. The other services are probably the same way.

So, old Terra is fighting for her life. Military, business, construction, fabrication, electronic, medical, all those industries and more have geared up. It’s a hard, long fight ahead but what can we do? I personally don’t want to be an undead womb to these aliens. I want them dead.

For Dima, God keep him.