Day 370 Stuart Combine, Liberty, Alchibah
I was sitting having an afternoon drink and oiling up a CAW when Mariana came in the door followed by Capt. Al Steel.
Mariana told Al, “I thought he would be here. You will understand if I go lie down for a while?”
Al produced a gentle bow and said, “Of course, the reason is of course beginning to be rather obvious.”
“Pour yourself a snort and pull a chair Capt. Steel,” I motioned towards the shiny new refrigerator.
He moved to the fridge grabbed a mug from the stack on the side table and helped himself. Moving back to one of the chairs in front of my desk he commented, “I am not overly familiar with Infantry or SF weapons for sure. However that appears to be a marvelous little device for ruining somebody’s day.”
“That it is Al, that it is. It’s an Alchibah MK II Close Assault Weapon, a rip off of the old H&K Model 15 that they built for GSG 9 right before the UNWG put them out of business. Fires the same .45 ACP round that the sidearms do and will even take their mags in a pinch. Single fire, burst of three and burst of five. No full auto, that’s just a damn waste of ammo!
“What this means to you is that we are up to speed on production for weapons for the Assault Force, so it’s time to turn our attention to the Dancer. First, Al have you decided whether you want to permanently stay with the Spacers, come to Liberty or the final option to have it both ways?”
Al’s jaw dropped, “Stuart, how in hell could I or any of my people have option three?”
I gave him my innocent look, “Simple, anyone from the Dancer that puts on the Strike Force Uniform gets a full first settler land grant. After the fight if you wanna go play in space who cares. That was one of the reasons I waited to have this little chat, we had to get that approved first, but with Connor and of course Mariana’s support on the Council it wasn’t an issue. Think I’m gonna have a problem getting a Captain or crew for Dancer?”
“Hell No,” Al replied quickly. “I’ll even be able to trim them down to a fighting crew with spares waiting to take their places.”
“OK, here are the rules as I see them. You wear this patch,” I said pointing to my left shoulder. “You take my orders. I don’t expect your people to earn this one,” I said pointing to my left breast pocket.
“Hell, only my Storm and Board force and one or two special stay behinds are going to have to win that one. You and I can design a patch for your Space Force Forward; you and you only decide what the hell they have to go through to get it.”
He leaned back and thought for a few moments, “On those orders, do you mean Strategic or Tactical? That could make a big difference.”
“Al, besides being a sudden death assassin on the battlefield, I am also a Combat Pilot. Get where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there. There is no way I am going to tell a nose gunner how to fight his or her vessel. Strategic only and we talk about that beforehand. Until we get to the furball it is going to be Travis’s show anyway, he’s in the position of the Admiral Commanding our Carrier after all.”
Al threw up a ragged ass salute with one hand and raised his mug with the other. “OK, you got yourself a Captain. How are you going to use us?”
“I thought you would never ask, and you might wish you had not. We are going to start by pulling three of your 100 MM’s, the fighters need them more. Come on, let me show you what we are going to replace them with.” I stood and moved over to the hidden switch that dropped the stairs to the lower labs. Moving down the stairs I turned and said, “Welcome to HQ Strike Force Alchibah Capt. Steel.”
“I have run scans on this planet so many times you cannot imagine and we never found this,” Al exclaimed. “How the hell did you hide this?”
“It’s rather simple Al, the whole place is surrounded by a pure Gold mesh carrying an Andrews-Hibbs shield. You don’t own a sensor device that can get through that.”
“Is there anything that can?” Al asked in amazement.
“Sure, comm links that are specifically designed to phase through the field. We have not found anything else that will, of course we have no idea what the Guardians can do. Hell, they may be sitting somewhere laughing at us right now.
“But at any rate let me show you what we have for you in place of those 100’s.
“But, when I get through remember one thing. Code of the Warrior still applies, if they kill their drive and drop the ASRS; they have surrendered and they live. If they don’t, we are going to blow them out of Space.
“Except for that Transport! That Baby is what my Force is for, I don’t know how many Slaves they are carrying in Cold Sleep and I don’t care.
”That one we take and those Slaves get to live free!”
Somewhere and Somewhen
The two Guardians looked at each other, One asked, “Does he really mean that?”
The Guardian known temporarily as ‘The Observer’ said, “Observe!”
The screen flashed to a scene of Andy Stuart and Glen Travis in the original Hanna’s place on the Mayflower. Travis stated, “Why don’t you write down what Hamilton asked you, that convinced you to come on this trip and I will do the same.”
Andy looked at him and said, “Fine let’s do it!” As he ripped a page from his ever present notebook.
They passed the pages across the table, the Guardians saw two pieces of paper that were almost identical.
“Well Mr (fill in the blank), if I promise you a (fill in the blank) Commander to match your skills and determination; can you defend a colony world?”
Two men looked at each other and at the same time said, “Yes.”
The Guardians looked at each other. The Observer asked, “Can they truly follow the middle path. Are they the ones who can stop the horde and not become them?”
The second Guardian looked closely at The Observer. “They well could be but, their actions in this upcoming crisis could well determine that!”
HQ, Strike Force Alchibah, Current Time
Al followed Andy through the first set of doors. He stopped and stared at the four CNC machines slowly turning out precision parts in Computer Controlled mode. “OK Andy, I thought you people only had seven of these so far?”
Andy grinned back and swept the room with a wave. “So Al, now you know that I can lie like a Politician. No mention of any of these machines has ever gone on any electronic means. Even the parts they are making are cataloged by hand. The control files never leave the shielded areas, I don’t care if the Guardians can figure this out. But, the damn Goonies don’t get a shot! Wait till you see the next room, that’s really gonna blow your cool.” I open the next door and waved him through.
“What the hell are those?” Al asked. “I have an idea but, there is no way they should be here.”
“Al, they are exact replicas of the 25 MM Bushmaster Chain Guns from the old American Bradley vehicle turrets and they are going to replace two of the 100’s on the Dancer. These will be your medium range defense weapons. Follow me please,” I said as I opened the next door. To where two Bots were assembling an absolute monstrosity. “This Al is one of the Ventral and Dorsal turrets you are going to sprout. We are going to build them here and they will be fitted to the Dancer in the Mayflower dock. Glen is just waiting for us to finish them!”
“Andy, I am not unversed in military history. That looks astoundingly like a a Quad MA Duce .50 Cal setup. What the hell else are you hiding? The 25’s and the .50’s are my defense, I have a feeling you are not going to send me in harm’s way without some offensive capability other than my remaining 100.”
“OK Al, dumb you ain’t. Notice that the door over us is outside of the Kellerman residence, let’s go the other way.” We moved back through the rooms we had already passed through. When we reached the place we had started from I turned and faced Al. “Al, there are damn few people who know what’s on the other side of this door. Glen, Ash, Hibbs, Monroe, Walt, Tim, Gabe, Connor, Me and now you; you ain’t gonna believe this.”
I lead him through room after room of Bots assembling tubes and precious metal wire coils to a final room where a 1/10th scale model was assembled facing a wall of pole tree lumber. “SFC Nug, are you ready for a test shot?”
“Yes Sir, but how many more times do we have to do this?”
“This is it,” I grinned, “when this is is over you guys are going to make that an assembly room for the components of the full deal!”
“Sir,” Nug intoned, “can I say about fracking time.”
“That you can Sergeant, that you can. Al, what you are looking at is a 1/10th scale model of a 5 CM Rail Gun. Let’s go back a room and you can watch from there.” He followed with a stunned look and was glazed in the eyes as I said. “Now understand this is a .5 CM projectile coming out of a magnetic field 1/10 of what we are going to generate. SFC Nug, fire.” Nug pushed the button and the overpressure in the room peaked.
Al Steel stared at the resulting cavity and asked, “You are going to give me something Ten times the power of that at Line of Sight Range? Hell, I’ll beat a Battleship for you.”
“No Al,” I replied, “I am going to give you two of those!”
“What do you think I am going to give LTC. Benjamin?”
Al had just left and I was running over the correlation files I was processing when Mariana waddled back in. That was the appropriate phrase these days and slumped in the overstuffed chair.
As she struggled to pull of her first boot she quipped, “I don’t know whether to be overjoyed, count down the days or shoot your cojones off you smug Bastard.”
“Well,” I replied, “as I’m faster than you the latter is out. As for the first two, at the probable time of my insult; I just can’t seem to recall you yelling anything that resembled ‘Stop, Stop’ you know Bitch.”
I was ducking as I said it and the boot missed me by two feet. “I see you missed the glass!”
Working on her second boot as she said, “I’m pregnant and cranky, I ain’t stupid!
“Besides, Kurt finally got a good Ultrasound on the twins. I think this planet likes one of each, By The Way, if what we saw today is any indication; you might want to find some place to stay that last week cause I am going to be really pissed at you.”
I did my best not to laugh. “OK, what did I do this time that I have no idea of?”
She just glared, “Ever since we figured out that it was twins I was hoping for only one male to hold down the size. Kurt nor I are sure which is larger, not only that, but the fancy bone prediction program of his says that she will be over six feet.
“I am going to be a C-section no doubt. At least we are able to predict it but, if you think I am happy you are wrong!”
“OK,” I said, “but you really can’t blame me for my genes!”
“The hell I can’t,” She laughed, “my privilege as the one who carries the kids. Now, what has you looking so confused. I don’t see that look out of you often, as a matter of fact almost never!”
I just groaned, “I am trying to match possible skills to actual performances and I have one big analomy.
“That is you and Sally at the fight with Jack and his back shooter. How did you not know Sally was there, if you knew he was there?”
Mariana leaned back and sipped her tea, “Because she was not there to my foresight. I could see him but not her. She has as best I can tell, no ability to project, inquire or discern; she is just a damn big null! She’s like walking into a wall in a dark night, she just ain’t there!”
I groaned, “Another damn skill I have to project in.”
“No,” Mariana exclaimed, “it’s just something she is. I don’t know how to explain it. The Benjamin twins recoil from her, JoAnn just shakes her head. Sweetheart, Sally just ain’t there to us. She is a null, she rejects the probes from everything. I would be willing to bet the Guardians can’t sense her either. That’s how scary her null is!
“Not only that, but I have to break it to you. She is not Strike Force, I know she shot; but she did so out of what she thought was absolute necessity. If I have to draw down on you and Kurt both, you are not going to ask her to go up there.”
I had to grin, “Calm down My Life; she is out and Chris Petersen takes her place. But, if she is that opaque; you think Connor might need to be told?”
Mariana’s grin split the room, “Defend she will. I don’t want to be the Wolf that comes after her Cubs.”