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The Tau Ceti Agenda: Chapter Seven
Last updated: Saturday, January 12, 2008 12:15 EST
October 31, 2388 A.D.
Sol System; Orlando, Florida
Saturday, 5:55 AM, Earth Eastern Standard Time
. . . thank you for joining us for this Earth News Network Breaking News Alert. Im Gail Fehrer coming to you live from the anchor desk in Washington, D.C. Sources tell us that a detachment of U.S. Marines have been deployed to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We have no information as to why this has occurred this morning, but we do have reports of gunfire and several explosions taking place at the Magic Kingdom. There is also a report that there are several troop carriers loaded with U.S. Army Airborne Armored E-suit Soldiers headed in that direction. Again, we are not certain why. Another note here is that my inside sources at the White House tell me that the President was taking an unannounced vacation with his wife and daughter, and it is believed that they were spending the evening at the amusement park after hours. If this is true, we can only speculate as to what this means. Is there an attack on the President? Are President Moore and his family in any danger? Gail Fehrer tapped the desk with her fingers repetitively and then looked into another view angle.
Were going to go now to Orlando to field correspondent Calvin Dean. Good morning, Calvin, the anchorwoman said into the screen.
Good morning, Gail. The screen split, showing Gails once-cameraman-turned-famous action correspondent. He nodded at her as if he were looking right at her. Of course, he could see her in his DTM link as if she were right there in front of him.
Calvin, what can you tell us?
Well, Gail, as you can see in the distance, there is Cinderellas castle
at the Magic
Ah, Air Force One is what we are looking at, I assume.
Yes, Gail. That is Air
Force One sitting on the runway at Orlando. President Moore is here, somewhere. Now if he is actually at the
I see. What else can you tell us, Calvin?
Well, we got this video seconds ago. Twenty or thirty U.S. Marine Strike Mecha zoomed over us at high speed towards the park. The screen again switched, showing a group of fighters passing into the night sky at high speed towards the theme park. The image zoomed in as several of the planes converted to bot-mode and dropped near the place where the explosion had occurred previously. There were multiple missiles fired and what appeared to be a serious dogfight taking place above the park.
That is incredible, Calvin. Thank you, and keep us posted.
Were gonna try to get closer.
Good luck and stay safe. Wow, we can only hope that the President and his family are okay. Could this be a new terrorist attack? And what does it mean with the looming election in a couple of days? We have with us Colonel Timothy Vann, U.S. Army Intelligence retired. Colonel . . .
Alright, weve got multiple targets and some of them are armed with railguns. The extraction includes all of the First Family and its bodyguard contingent, Captain Adam Heehaw Elliot briefed the rest of his marines on the secure tac-net. The FM-12s approached the centuries-old theme park at full velocity and had tied into the data passed along to them from the Presidents AIC. The second group is on me. We will go maximum velocity with maximum ferocity straight to the V.I.P. There we go to bot-mode and drop in to surround and protect the extraction. Just before that, Jawbone, you and first group take out anything flying that aint one of us. Got it?
Roger that, boss, Lieutenant Delilah Jawbone Strong responded. The rumor was that Delilah had gotten her callsign as a cadet when she promised a larger male cadet named Sampson last name that if he didnt get off her back, she was going to beat him to death. She likely would have, had several others not stepped in and pulled her off of the young and stupid, bleeding cadet. The story had spread later that she had taken Sampsons jawbone of an ass and pummeled the living shit out of him with it. Jawbone of an ass was a bit too long, but Jawbone had stuck to her like ACME coyote glue, forever.
Oorah, Heehaw! the rest of the squad replied over the tac-net.
Well have this thing cleared out before the Army pukes drop in. Approaching attack zone. Commence, commence, commence! Heehaw ordered. He toggled the transfigure button on the HOTAS and stomped the right, lower foot pedal to give him more slip as the Marine FM-12 Strike Mecha transformed from a fighter plane into a giant armed and armored robot. He gripped the throttle and pushed it full-force forward with his left hand, while controlling the flight path with the stick in his right. The standard HOTAS controls mimicked most fighter control systems that had been developed for centuries. The exception, of course, was the direct-to-mind control links between the plane and the pilot and the AIC. The DTM connections enabled modern fighter mecha to do things that no others in history could have done, even if that did happen to include attacking the Magic Kingdom and an army of flying elephants, magic carpets, and pixies. The rest of second group did the same. Nearly a dozen mecha slowed and transfigured to bot-mode while another dozen screamed past in fighter mode, yanking and banking into randomized approach patterns.
Holy shit, Heehaw! Weve got incoming. There is a literal fucking no-fly zone of red paint on the lidar, Jawbone accelerated ahead and split her group off the main squad and started flying interference patterns against several flying elephants, hoping to create enough of a distraction that Heehaws group could get down and cover the extraction without drawing much unfriendly attention on the way. The virtual sphere around her head was filled with vectors and red blips (a.k.a., targets and a full-up, three-dimensional view of the battlescape). She looked through the sphere with her eyes, lidar, and QMs for real-scale views. Almost immediately she caught a reflection from the moonlight off of an inbound vehicle. Make that, several inbound vehicles, at once. Her biggest concern was trying to decide which target to shoot at first. She manipulated the FM-12 through a nose-over and then yawed and barrel rolled around an inbound hovercoaster car. The car screamed by underneath her plane and just missed her wingman. The fighters were jostled harshly by the atmospheric disturbances left in the wake of the rapidly passing enemy vehicle.
Fox three! she grunted and squeezed her legs and abdominal muscles against the excessive g-forces of her turn. The mecha-to-mecha missile locked its quantum membrane sensors on the powerplant of the hovercoaster and tracked through until it exploded in a white flash, composite parts scattering in all directions. A large chunk of elephant trunk smashed into the cockpit and then bounced harmlessly off the transparent armor. Shit, there is no telling what the damned techs are gonna paint on my plane after that.
Jawbone, Jawbone, you got inbound on your three-nine line left, her wingman Lieutenant Junior Grade Carl Saw Wilson warned her. And right, fuck me, and on our seven oclock!
Take it easy, Saw. Just stay frosty now, Jawbone increased the contrast of her QM display so that in any direction she looked, it was as if she were floating in space and looking in full daylight. The computer removed the plane from her field of view, so she had a completely unobstructed viewpoint of the battlespace. Full QMs often were the make-or-break training flight for modern fighter pilots. Anyone suffering from agoraphobia had extreme problems with the full-sphere QM display, especially when they were in midair. Fighting in space was even worse.
There had to be hundreds of hovercoaster cars screaming through the night sky at the marines. Jawbone realized very quickly that they were outnumbered by at least three to one. The armor and weaponry of the mecha and the BY GOD U.S. Marines inside said mecha would just have to make up for the deficit.
Alright, listen up! We are overwhelmed with the numbers game here, marines. We need to go to full scatter. Wingman groups only, no more than twos. Spread out! If you need to mix mecha modes, do it as you see fit. Jawbone ordered the forward group and then banked just in time to miss incoming. Guns, guns, guns! What the fuck was that?
I think it was a goddamned flying monkey, Saw answered. Fox three!
Affirmative on the flying monkeys. We got an entire squadron of them up here, another voice commented over the tac.
Fuck, are their falling houses too? another voice asked over the net.
Okay, listen up! Jawbone ordered. I want all railgun cannons to go to full auto anti-aircraft algorithms. There are enough targets here that the AICs should have a field day, same as us. I want AICs on cannons and marines on DEGs and missiles.
You got that? she thought to her AIC.
Roger that, maam, James One Nine One Nine Tango Seven replied. The fighter mode FM-12 housed two forty-millimeter cannons. One sat atop the bird just aft of the cockpit and was best suited for targets behind, beside, and above the fighter in most of the upper-rearward hemisphere. The other sat on the belly of the plane and covered the lower and forward sphere. Almost instantly, James locked multiple red-force tracking algorithms against several blue-force, identify-friend-or-foe codes and started firing away. The sky around the FM-12 filled with forty millimeter rounds, moving with relativistic energies into enemy targets. The codes were designed to disable the cannons when any civilian casualties or property damage might occur. The AICs had to modify the codes on the fly to enable them to shoot at rollercoaster rides. Spontaneity and improvisation were the two largest arguments for both marines and AICs.
The heavy railgun rounds fired from the mecha of the entire first group and ripped through the morning air, ionizing air and moisture molecules and leaving behind violet and blue fluorescing trails. Some rounds tracked out of site while others tracked into explosions where the rounds met their targets vital components. Power modules of the hovercars made a beautiful array of reds and oranges when an armored slug of nylon passed through them at two hundred million meters per second.
Whatever AI was controlling the overall attack for the amusement park rides, was quick. It learned almost immediately new flight patterns to maximize the potential for collateral damage and adjusted the hovercoaster cars flight paths accordingly. That mostly consisted of bringing them in lower and closer to the buildings of the amusement park.
The FM-12 pilots responded by flipping through mecha modes and dropping to ground, then shifting modes again and going back to air, and vice versa. Mixing up the modes helped add a confusing mix of convoluted multi-dimensional combat tactics, which was one of the original reasons for developing mecha in the beginning.
Ungh! Watch out now! Jawbone screamed, flexing her thighs and abdominals to their straining point. Guns, guns, guns. She toggled the mode switch on the HOTAS, flipping the fighter plane upside down as it converted to bot-mode. In midair and upside down, she fired the DEG from the hip and swiveled a full circle like a break dancer spinning on her head.
I got you covered, Jaw. Saw followed suit going to eagle-mode, and then he flew just ahead of her headspin, drawing fire and giving his wing leader the edge of being able to focus on offense for a brief moment. Fox three! he cried.
Great job, Saw! Jawbone rolled the bot back through the transfiguration to fighter mode, pouring on the after burners to gain a little bit of altitude following her headlong plummet. Your turn!
Saw tripped the HOTAS to bot-mode and fell over like a crazed diver into a wild head-first spin. This time, the bot spun in the other direction. Jawbone followed the flight pattern and jumped out just in front of his DEG track. The blue-green energy bolts blasted just a few tens of meters behind her into enemy targets; all the while, she drew fire from her wingman. Delilah would have smiled approvingly at the young lieutenant junior grades performance had she not been choking down bile forced into her throat from the high-g corkscrew.
The forward group did its job of distracting and disrupting the strange air force of the no-fly zone. The second group of marines flew like a squadron of giant metal supermen, hell bent on saving the day.
Captain Elliot grunted with the g-forces pressing him against the pilots couch as the mecha rolled through a forward flip, dropping the FM-12 from the sky. The two three-clawed feet of the fighter clanged to the ground about twenty meters in front of the amphitheatre where the President and his family were holed up. A quick survey of the environment led him to the realization that the President and his security detail were pinned down and surrounded in a small corner with only a short rock wall for cover. He would quickly fix that situation. Various fairytale creatures were charging their little redoubt and firing HVARs at them willy-nilly. How in the hell the AI-driven creatures had gotten so armed was a total mystery.
Heehaw marched his mecha between the President and the largest group of attackers, actually squashing under an armored foot an oversized white rabbit with a stopwatch, monocle, and railgun. The pavement and the robot gave way and crunched up under the mechas feet. He sidestepped and then kicked the large armored foot of the mecha across a line of creatures including the Mad Hatter, Mr. Smead, two scarecrows with jack-o-lantern heads, a fairy godmother, and two evil step sisters. Heehaw wasnt sure which one of them was the ugly one, and he squashed them indiscriminately anyway. The marine captain pulled the directed energy gun in front of him with his giant left mechanized hand like a quick-drawing cowboy shooting from the hip and splashed the blue-green energy bolts over a wave of advancing fairytale robots. The burst from the DEG cut through the flimsy AI attackers, leaving them lying on the ground in pieces, sparks flying. He continued kicking and crunching others under foot.
Several FM-12s landed nearby and converged on the amphitheater. In only a matter of seconds, the First Family was completely surrounded by giant armored bots flashing blue-green directed energy blasts in all different directions at the advancing line. To this point, the flying theme park rides had mostly been consumed by the first FM-12 group, but whatever or whoever was controlling them had shifted their modus operandi, and they started altering their flight patterns towards the mecha surrounding the President.
Heehaw! Red force on collision at eleven oclock cherubs three, his AIC warned him.
Holy shit! That cant be good. Captain Elliot jumped upward, firing his boot thrusters and slightly offsetting his trajectory to the rapidly approaching Pegasus. Too late for missiles, he grunted.
He shifted his mecha and grabbed at the wings of the attacking robot just as it passed in front of him. The large mechanized hands of the mecha caught the main spar of the right wing of the flying horse. Heehaw then spun two times completely around, converting the momentum of the beast into angular acceleration like an Olympic hammer thrower before letting the thing fly free into the side of the giant dome at Space Mountain. The flying horse collided back, first into the dome, and then it shattered into sparks and a million pieces of debris and crushed through the roof of the complex.
Alright second team, give us some air coverage to the exit, Heehaw ordered over the net.
You got it, boss. Guns, guns, guns, Jawbone replied. Her fighter-mode mecha spiraled and circled overhead and released several DEG bursts. Heehaw could hear secondary explosions in his external mic monitors following her. Boss, weve got the strangest damned air force attacking us youve ever seen. And there is a shitload of them converging on you!
Just then, one of the hovercars finally picked the right vector and impacted directly into one of the fighter-mode FM-12s overhead. The composite triceratops hit the fighter planes underbelly, where the left-wing spar met the fuselage. The impact did little damage to the heavily armored fighter plane, but the energy transfer forced it into an unstable, three-dimensional spin. The plane continued to spin wildly to the limits of its g-rating, and then it crashed through the Big Thunder Asteroid Mining Colony. The marine never ejected, and there was quite an explosion following the crash on the other side of the park.
Motherfucker, Heehaw muttered.
Adam, Ive got several firing solutions if you want to go to missiles, his AIC alerted him.
Well stick to ground for now. Let Jawbone handle the flyers. If she starts getting into trouble, you let me know. Weve got to keep the First Family covered.
Goddamnit, Thomas! What are these marines trying to do, get us killed? Theyve attracted more fire than theyve avoided. The President kept his head ducked low behind the wall and watched the battle transpire through DTM. They had stopped returning fire since the marine mecha had arrived, hoping to conserve ammo and to avert the enemys attention to the mecha. It had worked, except for the fact that the enemy had diverted its attention to the mecha protecting them.
I see that, sir. Dont you think the surge was to be expected?
They could do better, Thomas! They could do better!
Abigail, wheres my backup plan?Moore inquired.
On his way, sir.
Alright, ground team, I want two-on-two coverage, and start sweeping patterns towards the front gate down Main Street, U.S.A. Lets clear a path to get the V.I.P. out of here. If we have to, well plow this road under. Shit! Heehaws mecha jerked as several railgun rounds zipped into the armor on the torso of the giant bot. Good thing these things arent very good shots. He turned his DEG left and returned the fire.
Get me a channel to the security team leader, Heehaw asked his AIC.
Channel is open, sir, and the detachments client is codenamed Bulldog. It is led by USMC Captain Thomas Washington.
This is USMC Captain Adam Elliot. Captain Washington, were here at your disposal to aid in extraction of Bulldog, over?
Copy that, Captain Elliot. Semper fi! Thomas responded enthusiastically. As you can tell, were sort of pinned down and would appreciate a clear path to the exit, thank you. The damned AI robots are lousy shots, but the hypervelocity rounds have just about chewed away our cover. Weve got to make a move soon!
Affirmitive, Elliott said. We should make a run for the gate. I understand we have three V.I.P.s?
Roger that, Thomas concurred. Bulldog, Mama Bear, and Ice Cream are present. All three need extraction, immediately.
Captain Washington, I suggest that three of my crew carry them out. And I suggest we do it now.
Hold on. Ill get back to you.
Thomas leaned his back against the wall, checking his blaster charge. President Moore sat beside him, reloading his pistol with the last clip he had been given. They were all running out of ammo and were mostly dependent on the mechaheads from here on. It was habit of a good soldier to know exactly how much fire power he had at his disposal at all times. Like someone suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, he double checked the charge reading just to make sure.
Mr. President, Thomas sighed, Im afraid were gonna have to make a run for the door.
That sounds risky, Thomas. What is to keep the aerial vehicles from crashing into us? That mecha just did stop the Pegasus in time.
Id guess thats what the airborne marines are here for, sir. We have to trust theyll do their job. And you have to trust me to do mine. Thomas looked upward briefly at the flashes of DEG fire. We cant just sit here and wait to be overrun.
Alright then, Moore replied, as he dragged his handkerchief across his face wiping away sweat that was forming on his forehead. But Ive got a better idea.
Allison, is our backup plan ready? Moore thought to his AIC.
Yes, sir. Approximately one minute, thirty seconds away.
Good. Tell him to come on in as fast as he can.
Thomas, you just tell the marines to stand by and cover our exit. Be prepared to move in one minute and a half on my signal. Moore looked at his watch reflexively. Allison kept perfect time and there was little need for a watch, but it was a habit that he had gotten into over the years.
Yes, Mr. President.
Heehaw, youve got some serious motion headed your way, Jawbones voice alerted Adam over the net.
I see the red dots, Jaw. Can you elaborate a little bit on what it is? Heehaw replied and then followed with, guns, guns, guns. His DEG tracked across the river to a mock-up Nautilus carrying several AI on its hull. The energy bolt burned through a large merman and then continued on into the forward windows of Captain Nemos famous submarine. The ship cracked almost into two pieces and started taking on water rapidly. It had almost completely sunk before Jawbone responded to his question.
Uh, roger that, Heehaw. I looks like theres a Giganotosaurus, an Allosaurus, a T-rex, a couple of Apatosauruses, maybe a Titanosaur, a handful of Stegosauruses, a Brachiosaur or two, and what looks like a pack of Velociraptors, Jawbone said flatly.
Youve got to be fucking kidding me, Heehaw replied, almost under his breath.
Negative, sir. Youve got the entire compliment of Dinoland coming your way. Shit! Jawbone reversed the throttle and flipped her mecha in a backward pitch-over to reverse direction, just in time to miss what appeared to be a flock of Pteranodons and Pterodactyls.
Holy shit, Jawbone, what the fuck is that, her wingman cried over the net in a panic.
Well, Lieutenant Junior Grade Wilson, that one right there . . . Fox three, one of the robotic replicas of the ancient birds burst into a ball of fire. . . . is a Pteranodon. And that one right . . . guns, guns, guns . . . there is a Pteradactyl. Delilah yawed her mecha through the flight path of the flock, firing her DEG all the while and stirring up the winged beasts confusing them.
How the hell do you know that? Wilson asked.
Not that it really fucking matters right now . . . unh, Jawbone grunted and pushed through a high-g turn. The bladders around her legs began squeezing her like a pneumatic vice. But, Pteranodons dont have teeth, and Pteradactyls do.
If you two are quite finished, get down here and clear out Main Street for me! Heehaw ordered.
Roger that, sir.
Heehaw searched through the virtual battlescape in his mind for the best escape route. He had just about decided that they were going to pick up the First Family in the hands of the mecha and make a run for it when Captain Washington burst through on the net.
Captain Elliot, its Washington.
Negative on your moving the package. The package has arranged for other means of transportation and has warned to be ready to run cover in one minute thirty. I repeat, one minute thirty. Over. Thomas alerted him.
Roger that, captain. Be advised that aerial recon shows a herd of dinosaurs headed our way, and theyll be here soon. Im transmitting the ID tags for them now. Heehaw passed along the tagged red dots in the virtual battlescape so that they would be marked as dinosaurs in all the DTM links with the right command codes.
Acknowledged and understood. I have the data now, thanks. Get ready.
Ready as well ever be.
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