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One Good Soldier: Chapter Two

       Last updated: Monday, September 21, 2009 22:01 EDT



July 1, 2394 A.D.
Mars Orbit, Sol System
Saturday, 7:40 AM, Earth Eastern Standard Time

    “Admiral on the bridge!” Navigation Officer Commander Penny Swain snapped to as USMC Brigadier General Larry “EndRun” Chekov saluted without slowing his full Marine marching pace by the Nav to the Executive Officer’s (XO) station of the U.S.S. Sienna Madira, the flagship of the U.S. Naval Fleet. The Rear Admiral of the Outer Fleet followed behind his XO.

    “At ease, folks.” USN Rear Admiral Upper Half (RADM) Wallace Jefferson paced a little more slowly to the captain’s chair to give Captain Wiggington time to get up and go to her usual seat at the Air Boss station. Wallace nodded to her and had a seat. “Thanks, XO. Get me a status on the ground troops.” The two-star admiral wiggled into his seat and made himself comfortable while giving his bridge crew an approving nod. They were good sailors all of them – even the ground pounders. Wallace took a brief instant to look out the viewscreen as well as the battle scenario DTMs going on in his head.

    By now our tankheads and fighters ought to be wearing down the John Tyler, he thought to Captain Timmy Uniform November Kilo Lima Three Seven Seven, a.k.a. Uncle Timmy, who was both the commander of the AICs and ship’s captain’s AIC. Wallace and Uncle Timmy had been together for over four decades and made such a good AIC-human team that they could predict each other’s responses and thoughts in most situations.

    Roger that, Admiral. The clock is at four hours and seventeen minutes. The Warlords, the Utopian Saviors, and Robert’s Robots have pushed through the Martian National Guard units and the support from the John Tyler and the Abraham Lincoln. And the Gods of War have pretty much cleared the upper ball of enemy fighters, Uncle Timmy replied DTM.

    DeathRay is giving them hell, huh? Aye sir. He and Fish already have a confirmed seven kills apiece. The Gods of War far outmatched both fighter groups from the Tyler and Lincoln.


    “Air Boss!” Chekov shouted.

    “Aye, XO?” Captain Michelle Wiggington responded as she settled into her seat at the commander of the Air Wing station.

    “Status of the support wings?”

    “Utopian Saviors and Demon Dawgs are on the bounce dirtside and the Gods of War have cleared the ball and are crawling the hull, sir!”

    “Good. Ground Boss, status!” the XO turned to the station adjacent to Captain Wiggington.

    “Yes, sir!” U.S. Army Brigadier General James Brantley replied. “Warboys’ Warlords are on the move and have surrounded the target. Colonel Roberts reports his Robots are with them.”

    “Good, Roberts and his Marine will get the job done. ETA to target, Larry?” the RADM asked his long time XO and friend.

    “Hold one, Admiral.” Wallace could see his XO stare blankly into space for a brief moment. Clearly, he was getting a datafeed DTM from somewhere or was having a discussion with Uncle Timmy. Wallace often had a similar stare and it was so commonplace the crew never paid it any attention. Hell, most of them were doing the same. “Aye, sir. Robots look like they will be in the end zone in seventy-three seconds.”

    “Roger that, Larry.” Well, there was nothing really to do but sit back and enjoy the rest of the show in his DTM. His crew had done their jobs and the rapid deployment exercise was going well. It had taken just a bit more than four hours for the Blue Team to deploy and attack. In less than two minutes the end result of those four hours would be that the Madira would have full control over a useless patch of Martian desert that had been designated as a target coordinate. But what Wallace and his XO (and of course their AICs) knew that the rest of his crew did not, was that the U.S.S. Anthony Blair was about to drop out of hyperspace on top of them and QMT teleport an entire contingent of armored e-suit Marine (AEMs), hovertanks, and fighters right into the mix of his tiring soldiers. Those fighters would be a fresh attacking red force. And they would be ready for some payback, since the Madira had beaten them hands down in a previous wargaming engagement.

    “COB, how’s my boat?” Wallace asked his Chief of the Boat (COB) Command Master Chief Charlie Green. Charlie had been Wallace’s COB for more than a decade and the rear admiral was certain that even bad Navy coffee wouldn’t get the man to retire, ever. Wallace looked around the bridge and realized that he had the most senior bridge crew in history and wondered if any of them would ever retire. At least the COB was looking spry and youthful since his recent body rejuv procedure.

    “Well, Admiral, she’s in top form. Top form.”

    “Roger that, COB.” Wallace took the coffee cup from Charlie and half heartedly toasted him. The COB nodded and raised his cup and then took a long draw from it. The COB was famous for his Navy stories and his blacker than black stronger than strong Navy coffee and Wallace could tell from the bite of his cup that CMC Green was still making the meanest cup’a’jo in the fleet. He tried not to grimace at the taste or at the fact that the COB was about to start up one of his stories.

    “Sorta reminds me of that time--”

    “CDC, CO!” the Combat Direction Center a couple decks below pinged the bridge and interrupted what Wallace was sure would be a riveting if not humorous story.

    “Belay that, COB,” Wallace held up a palm to Charlie. “CO, go CDC,” the RADM replied.

    “We’ve got a hyperspace conduit signature opening up thirty thousand kilometers port and ten thousand down, sir!” The voice on the other end trailed off a moment. “It is squawking as the Blair, sir.”

    “Roger that.” Wallace hesitated a few seconds to give his crew the time to respond. He didn’t want to give the exercise too much advantage with his prior knowledge. But at the same time he didn’t want to look like he was intentionally stalling.

    “Sir,” Captain Monte Freeman the ship’s Science and Technology Officer (STO) looked up from his console.

    “What is it, STO?”

    “I’m getting a red force icon for the Blair and it looks like she’s simulating a power up of her DEGs. And there is something else--” the STO began explaining. Alarms blared throughout the ship indicating that they had been targeted by radar and hit by directed energy guns (DEGs).

    Sir, the simulated attack is underway as planned, Uncle Timmy stated into Wallace’s mind matter-of-factly.

    Roger that, Timmy, the RADM thought to his AIC. “CO, CDC!”

    “Go CDC.”

    “We just had a massive increase in the number of troop signatures detected on the ground and they are all squawking simulation red, sir!”

    “Roger that, CDC.”


    “Go Ground Boss!”

    “The Robots report outnumbered and being attacked by a force that just appeared on them from nowhere!” Army Brigadier General Brantley reported.

    “Well, General, I’d suggest they fight back,” the XO added with the most gruff Marine sarcasm he could muster. It just sounded gruff--Chekov wasn’t that good at sarcasm.

    “Roger that,” the Ground Boss replied and then began issuing commands DTM to Colonel Roberts and General Warboys on the red surface below. The Air Boss took the orders given to the Ground Boss to heart immediately and started signaling the fighters to attack any new vehicles entering the mix.

    “Structural Integrity Fields at maximum and start shooting back, folks! Let’s move,” the XO shouted and rerouted simulated power to the SIFs.


    “Aye, sir?”

    “Put us between the Blair and the surface. Don’t want them taking pot-shots at our troops down there do we?” Wallace tapped some virtual icons around his head to plan where to make his next move. Simulations of potential battle scenario outcomes ran quickly in his mindview. With the advent of the new Seppy tech to teleport, the fleet needed to practice fighting against it. And since a few of the fleetships had been equipped with the tech as well, the U.S. military had been wargaming with it. Both the Tyler and the Lincoln had teleported troops in and out and around the battlescape over the past four hours forcing the Madira’s ground pounders, tankheads, and mecha jocks to learn to quickly adapt tactics and think more four dimensionally in their battle reactions. Wallace was becoming proficient at battle tactics and strategies involving troops and equipment appearing and vanishing and reappearing at different locations throughout a conflict. But they had yet to be in an actual engagement with the technology. Practice makes perfect, he thought.



    Captain Benson Harrison, the chief engineer, a.k.a. CHENG, for the U.S.S. Sienna Madira watched silently over his crew from the privacy of his office. His door was locked and he was “indisposed” at the moment. In fact, he was both an observer and – as prearranged by the admiral – a Red Team spy. He kept a very close eye through DTM on the ongoing battle simulation and how his second-in-command, Lieutenant Commander Joe Buckley Jr. was handling the situation of being in charge. To Harrison this was more than a test of his second-in-command of the engineering nexus of the mammoth supercarrier, it was a job interview for his replacement. But Joe didn’t know that.

    Benny, as he insisted his team call him, had watched Joe closely from day one. In fact, on Joe’s first day of duty on the Madira he had performed amazingly as a Main Propulsion Assistant in order to make the ship’s hyperspace jaunt projectors give the ship one last and badly needed jaunt out of the line of fire of an enemy railgun. Amazing and timely performance yes, but his – the then-new lieutenant’s – actions led him and an Engineer’s Mate to be fried through and through with high energy gamma rays. The two barely made it to sick bay before there organs ceased functioning. Fortunately, they survived, were both rejuved, and even commended for their actions. Both were promoted. The Engineer’s Mate resigned as soon as his four years were up. But Joe stayed on as a career man like his father had been. Benny appreciated that, especially after having put in his thirty years for the Navy. And since that day a couple years before he had been grooming Joe to be his predecessor whether Buckley wanted the position or not.

    Melissa, he thought to his AIC. Sim a malfunction in the Damage Control Assessment System. With that shut down he won’t know what is working and what isn’t.

    Aye, Benny, Melissa Four One Four Eight Mike Juliet Oscar replied. Done. “Okay, Buckley, let’s see you get out of this one.” The CHENG leaned back in his seat and smiled.



    “Joe! We just lost the DCAS!” Lieutenant Mira Concepcion shouted from her console at the Damage Control Assistant’s station.

    “Roger that, Mira. Get that thing back up. And get someone visually checking Aux Prop, Main Prop, SIF Generators, DEG power, and catapult field power systems every thirty seconds until that thing is fixed!” Lieutenant Commander Joe Buckley Jr., acting CHENG, ordered in response. Like the CHENG, Joe had worked by the first-name-basis protocol in engineering. It had originally taken him time to get used to the approach, but after a few years of it he found he liked it. On the other hand, Joe was more likely to slip into official Navy protocol in crisis or heated discussions than Benny was.

    “Joe, we’ve got reports from CDC and the STO that the Blair has popped into realspace and is QMT-ing troops and mecha dirtside left and right! They want to make sure the SIFS are set to block a teleported boarding party!” Technology Officer Lieutenant Commander Janet Wilbanks barked her report as she frantically typed in commands on her console.

    “Yeah, I see that, Janet. Keep the structural integrity field frequencies shifting on a random pattern. Any structure to it will allow some weisenheimer with a quantum computer to crack it. Set an AIC-to-AIC connection between your station and the Air Boss to allow any approved boarding to briefly run a standard SIF encryption pattern.” Joe thought about it as he replied. As long as the SIFs were allowed to vary in frequency at random there would be no way anybody could hack the sequence and slip through. The shields would simply be impenetrable as long as they held--theoretically, of course. However, there wasn’t any guarantee that the SIFs would prevent a QMT teleport. The quantum membrane technology used in the teleport projectors was still very new and not well understood. Even though, the U.S. Navy hadn’t figured out a way to use a QMT teleporter to penetrate a ship when its SIFs were activated didn’t mean the Seppies hadn’t. And who knew what kind of bug the sim was going to throw at them.

    “Roger that, Joe.” Janet turned about the work and Joe didn’t give it a second thought.

    “Mira! Where are my main systems visual confirmations? Are we sure everything is working?”

    “First visuals are coming in now, Joe. Everything is clicking hot! The bells are ringing and the whistles are blowin’.”

    “Alright. Don’t make me ask next time. Every thirty seconds until you’ve got your station fixed!”




    “Aha! I’ve got you now, Buckley,” Benny laughed to himself and tapped in a ship-to-ship personal communications link.

    “CHENG Blair. CHENG Madira.”

    “Benny?” the Chief Engineer of the U.S.S. Anthony Blair’s face popped up on Benny’s holoscreen.

    “Hey, Susan. How’s your second doing?”

    “Good, so far. What can I do for you?”

    “Tell your captain if she were to focus on our SIFs that we wouldn’t know if they were down or not for about thirty seconds. They might be able to QMT a raiding party through the back door.” Benny smiled at his counterpart.

    “Really? I’ll pass that along. Appreciate the info, Benny.”

    “Anything I can do for you, as always.” Benny leaned back in his chair a bit and relaxed his back muscles. The holoview shifted to compensate for his change in position.

    “Well, if you put it that way,” Susan paused briefly and stared blankly into space. “My second has a tendency to ignore secondary power conduits. In about three minutes Main Prop is gonna overheat and blow out a main power transfer conduit. I want to see how long it will take him to find an alternative route while he’s under duress. We’ll be dead in the water for several minutes probably.”

    “Got, it. I’ll pass that along to the bridge. They might be able to prolong your overheating problem.”

    “Thanks, Benny. Knew I could count on ya.”

    “Roger that, Suze. Benny out.”

    Melissa, send a message to the CO that we’re gonna be boarded in a few minutes and that the Blair is gonna be stuck in place about the same time. Benny thought as he looked over his ship through the DTM interface. Even though there was simulated damage he was still keeping an eye on the real status of his beloved supercarrier. At least it was still his for now. He hoped he’d have good hands to leave her in.

    Roger that, Benny, his AIC replied.

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