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One Good Soldier: Chapter Six

       Last updated: Thursday, October 8, 2009 21:45 EDT



July 1, 2394 A.D.
Mars Orbit, Sol System
Saturday, 8:07 AM, Earth Eastern Standard Time

    There was just no way in hell that Andy Sanchez, United States Navy Engineer’s Mate Petty Officer First Class, was going to sit in a wiring closet and hide while enemy Marines, simulation or no, marched around on his ship. But first, he needed a plan.

    How can one EM1, unarmed and unarmored, take out a squad of armored-to-the-damned-teeth e-suited hardassed fucking Marines with weapons, and explosives, and lidar, and radar, and infrared, and QM sensors, and no telling what other shit that I ain’t been trained on, he thought. I’m not about to let the Madira lose this wargame if I can do anything about it. But what…

    Joe said to stay put, his AIC Petty Officer Third Class Bebe Six Four Alpha One Sierra reminded him. She had always been an AI that liked to follow orders to a tee. But, she had no choice but to go where Andy took her, being inside his head and all. So, she had learned all the way back to Andy’s fireman apprentice days to not push the spit and polish too much.

    He said to fix something if it needed it. So, we just need to find the right thing to fix. Andy started running scenarios in his mind about how he might be able to slow down a bunch of Marines. He had been repairing and upgrading parts of the ship for the better part of six years now and he understood it well. Not quite as well as Joe and Benny, but well. There had to be some repair trick he’d learned over the years that would let him set up some sort of catastrophe at the right time. But just what was the right thing to do?

    Bebe, pull up the repair and upgrade schedule for this part of the ship. And can you track where those Marines are? He asked.

    Schedule up, Andy. Hmm…track the Marines. Using the internal environment controls I have been able to track a grouping of heat signatures travelling in a pattern that would suggest they are moving carefully and covertly. Also, using the internal sensors I can track them because there is a region of sensors being jammed that seems to be moving. Must be them. There is another group behind us several hundred meters, and one on the other side of the ship.

    Good. Andy thought about it for a moment and then started reading through the maintenance schedule in his head. Bebe, plot that track on a deck overlay map for me and keep it up in my visual. Might as well start heading toward the ones going for Engineering. Pass this map along to the bridge.

    Aye, Andy. Though, I’m not sure we’ll make it to Engineering in time.

    We’ll see. If we don’t, we don’t.

    Andy crawled out of the wiring cabinet and adjusted his orange coveralls. His toolbelt hung on the cabinet door’s handle slamming the door against his back.

    “Shit,” Andy cursed at his clumsiness and told himself to be quiet. Then a thought hit him.

    Bebe, those Marines are in armored e-suits. They’ll be bumping into hatches and shit all the way. They’ll have to take the outer and larger corridors to get where they want to go without damaging the ship. And we know they don’t want to do that, after all, they are U.S. Marines, right? So, can you extrapolate from the motion you are detecting which likely big hatches and passageways they would be taking to potential targets.

    Sure, Andy. Here. Then his AIC highlighted three new paths in his mind. The three groups weren’t going for different locations. Well, one of them was going for Engineering and was already knocking at the door. Nothing he could do for Joe and the rest of the Engineering team. But the other two were headed to the main elevator shaft internal to the upper deck tower located midship, which led to the bridge. Then he noticed one small line on the maintenance schedule that he had almost missed. The line read:

    Main Tower Elevator Repulsor Field Generator Recalibration, Upgrade, and Checkout.

    The main tower elevator shaft was the only internal passage to the bridge and the command crew. Andy didn’t have to think about what to do any longer. He had to shut off that elevator shaft somehow. He started running as fast as he could go in the direction of the forward main elevator. He made a point to stay in the tighter hallways. He also made it a point to beat those Red Team Marines to that damned elevator.

    Patch me through to Joe.



    The Engineering team had managed the patches around the confused and failed damage diagnostics hardware of the DCAS, and just in time as a squad of Red Team AEMs started knocking on the doors three levels out. At first they tried hacking the protocols on the locks. When that didn’t work they went to high explosives – simulated high explosives. The sim boxes that attached to the door made a pop like a firecracker and if the box was set to simulate the right level of HE then the AIC referees running the simulation would open the hatch. It took the AEMs several tries on the first hatch. Joe knew that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes a second and third time.

    What the hell can we do? He thought to himself, not necessarily to his AIC.

    Too bad they’re in suits or we could gas them, Debbie added.

    Hey, do it anyway! Maybe they don’t have their faceplates down. You know how AEMs are about breathing real air anytime they can. That might by us some time. Joe thought more about that approach. They didn’t have much heavy firepower but they did have the power equivalent to a miniature neutron star trapped in the Main Prop hyperspace jaunt projector tube.

    “Everybody on me!” Joe said in his voice of command. The full complement of the Engineering team and the supporting seamen and firemen and fireman apprentices converged on him as he made his way to the center of the room underneath the four meter in diameter pink and purple swirling tube that ran the length of a major portion of the ship. He reached up with his hands and tapped the bottom of the conduit to the projector tube. Then he addressed his team with a somewhat wacky idea. Hell, it wasn’t that wacky – he’d actually done it before. Last time he did what he had in mind it worked, but, and there was always a “but” in these situations, it had nearly killed him and his first Engineer’s Mate.

    “Listen up, everyone. We haven’t got but a few minutes maybe. We’re going to pull a cable from that power coupling on the jaunt drive projector here,” he pointed at the now infamous Buckley Junction. “Tie it around the junction housing and then drag it to both exit doors and then over here to the power unit for Aux Prop. Get to it!” The team scurried about to set up the makeshift power conduit rerouting. The enlisted men and women began pulling the heavy flex-conduit that was several centimeters in diameter and heavy as hell. The senior techs and engineers began rerouting power flow and making certain things were connected, they could get a power flow circuit that would work, and that every breaker in the ship wouldn’t blow.

    “Keri!” Buckley grabbed his Main Propulsion Assistant by the shoulder. “Listen, when this thing is triggered the backup systems and breakers will try to shut it down. You have to make certain that they don’t. You and your AIC have to stay ahead of the ship’s backup hardware long enough for this to work.”

    “Everybody has studied the Buckley Maneuver, Joe. They teach it at the Academy nowadays I hear.” Keri smiled at him. “Besides, I was actually there if you recall. Good thing I wasn’t actually in Engineering when it happened.”

    “Well, I’m just saying.”

    “Understood, sir!” Keri snapped back at her acting CHENG with another smile. “I’ve got it under control.” Joe didn’t say anything more. Keri had been there at the Battle of the Oort when he did this before and he had ordered her out of the room before he and EM1 Shah triggered the Buckley Junction and cooked themselves. He knew that she had seen him and Shah in the hospital with their bodies cooked through and through. She understood.

    “Good, now let’s move.” The sound of a firecracker popping one level out went off. The AEMs were on them.

    It only took the AEMs about a minute to get through to the Engineering Room hatch. But that minute was all the Engineering team of the U.S. Navy flagship needed to set up a nice surprise for them. The team hunkered down behind a makeshift x-ray shelter that several of the enlisted sailors had stacked up. There was a stack of cabling spools, spare power couplings, sheet metal and armor plating, chairs, computer stands, and anything else of any high density they could stack up.

    “I hear them at the hatch, sir!” one of the firemen standing guard at the door shouted.

    “Then get your ass over here under cover, fireman!” Joe turned to his MPA. “Keri, you know, we really ought to consider installing an x-ray shelter in here somewhere.”

    “Not a bad idea, Joe.”

    “Alright, as soon as that door opens snap the trap on our mice.”

    About that time another popper went off just outside the hatch. The lock cycled and the hatch swung open. An infinitely long second or two passed and then another popper went off on the aft hatch. Both passageways were opened and simultaneously AEMs burst through the doors with their rifles drawn.

    “Wait,” Joe whispered to Keri. “We need them all in here.”

    Several more AEMs filed into the large Engineering Room in cover formation. They were getting ever so close to their makeshift redoubt. It was now or never.

    “Do it!” Joe said. “Everybody down.”

    There were no fireworks this time. There were no lightning bolt-sized arcs jumping around the room from deck to bulkhead. There were no vapor clouds from ionized metal being thrown about. And most importantly, in Joe’s mind, was that there were no real hard x-rays cooking his liver and brain! But as far as the sim refs were concerned, it was all there and the AEMs from the Blair were right in the midst of it.

    The AEMs must have been told of their predicament as there was a chorus of “what the…” and “goddamned motherf…” and other such colorful and untranslatable AEM lingo drowning out the hum of the jaunt drive and the other high technology components of a state-of-the-art supercarrier’s Engineering Room. The AEMs had their masks down, probably because of Joe’s gas trick. They hadn’t helped with the x-rays. A moment more of the cursing continued as the Marines started popping up the anti-reflection coated visors one by one. One of them actually twisted his helmet off and tethered it down the back of his armor.

    “Goddamned needed some more sack time any fucking way,” the AEM lance corporal said. He started to sit down but his NCO was on top of him and in his face in a heartbeat.


    They’re dead, Joe. All of them!

    Hot damn! And us?

    The sim has given us fifteen minutes of effectiveness and then we will be listed as casualties. The pile of stuff helped I guess.

    I guess. Joe smiled to himself then stood up.

    “Welcome to the Sienna Madira,” Joe said. One of the AEMs instinctively pulled up his weapon. Joe just smiled and raised his left eyebrow at the man. “Dead Marines have a hard time pulling the trigger on those things. Now, if you folks wouldn’t mind standing over by the port bulkhead out of our way, we have more work to do.”

    “Son of a fuckin’ bitch!” one of the Marines kicked at the deck with his armored foot making a loud clank as he did.

    “Fuck it!” one of them replied. “We’re dead. You fucking move us.”

    “If that’s the way you want it I’ll have one of the firemen pull a repulsor lift in here and have him push you up against the bulkhead. Be advised, we haven’t really trained him on that thing yet and he’s as likely to squish you into the bulkhead as he is to run over you. But if that’s what you want.”

    “Stow that shit, private!” the same NCO turned to Joe. “Lieutenant Commander, we’re out of the game. No need in us causing a ruckus between the two best crews in the fleet.”

    “Thank you, Staff Sergeant.” Joe turned back to his work. The damned AEMs had taken precious time off his fifteen minute clock.

    “You heard the lieutenant commander; I want your dead asses against that bulkhead out of the way.” The staff sergeant clanked his armored boots across the deck to the far side of the room glaring at one of his privates.

    “Mira, Keri, make sure to get the Main and Aux Props back online. We have about fourteen minutes before the sim refs take us out of the game.” Joe thought about their predicament. He’d kept the AEMs from taking Engineering but he had also wrecked a whole bunch of systems. They had work to do.

    “You did it, Joe!” Keri slapped him on the back.

    “Not yet, there’s still two teams of AEMs trying to get to the bridge.”

    “Let our Marines take care of that, Joe. We did our part.” Keri said to her long time friend and colleague. “We just need to make sure the ship is in the best shape it can be before we die.”

    “Right. Maybe.” Joe thought for a few brief seconds as the rest of the team set to work on undoing the damage they had just caused to the ships propulsion hardware and software.

    Joe, EM1 Sanchez is trying to DTM you, Debbie said.

    Patch him through. Joe gave her a second to turn the link on. What’s up Andy?

    Joe, the AEMs are trying to get through to the main elevator up the tower. I need you to help me shut the thing down?

    I don’t know if you can, Andy. Even if you turned the elevator off the AEMs could still climb the shaft.

    I was afraid of that, sir.

    Yes, other than welding the damned doors shut I don’t know how else to stop them so you might as well let our Marines fight it out with them.

    Weld the doors? I could do that sir. I’ll start with the floor they’re on.

    Andy! Absolutely not. We will not weld the doors do you understand me?

    Great fucking idea, sir! Weld the doors. Got it.

    Andy! Andy?

    Sorry sir, having trouble hearing you. Just in case you can hear this, I’m gonna go on over to the main elevator and weld the doors shut so nobody can go up or down them. Then I might look and see if there are some repairs to do while I’m there.

    That’s it, Andy! A repair job.


    Routine maintenance of the repulsor field generator and the upgrade and regularly scheduled maintenance on the braking system we’ve been putting off. Do that.

    Uh, you serious sir?

    Yes. In fact, that’s an order, EM1.Then Joe had it. He had the plan that would stop the Marines from getting up the tower, period. He wasn’t sure he had time to explain to the EM1 what he had in mind.

    Okay, sir, Andy replied.

    The safety regs for upgrading any elevator repulsor systems on the ship required that the elevator shaft be sealed from the inside physically so that nobody could be below the system in case the repulsor control system went nuts and started slamming the elevator car randomly up and down the shaft. There was a cubbyhole for the repair team to hide inside the shaft and out of the way of a stray elevator car if such an emergency occurred. The team had to physically cover the entire shaft afterwards and remove the interlocks by hand. Joe didn’t envy the task that he was giving the EM1. The best part about it, though, was that once the repairs started nobody could enter from the outside for any reason. Even the simulated explosives couldn’t override crew safety protocols. The logged repair start would shut down the elevator until the CHENG signed off on the elevator’s operational safety.

    Andy, as soon as you start the diagnostic of the elevator the shaft will lock down.

    Aha! I get it, Joe. I’d better run, sir. These repairs just keep piling up. It’s gonna be tight, sir. So, be prepared to approve the repair protocol rather quickly, Andy replied and Joe could feel the urgency in his mindvoice. Andy must’ve realized the Red Team AEMs were getting close to the main elevator. You’re a clever son of a bitch if you don’t mind my sayin’ it, sir.

    As soon as you get inside that shaft you let me know and I’ll dog it down for the system upgrade and maintenance. If this shit works I’m crawling in the first door you open and promise to help you do the unlock sequence myself.

    E.T.A. two minutes, sir.



    Two teams of the Blair’s boarding party converged on the main elevator shaft from opposite directions. Major Frances Jones pinged the corridor with her suit’s sensor suite and mapped out the area. Her suit only showed her team and the other one approaching them from head-on. There was no resistance. This was going to be far easier than she had thought. Oh, there had been a team of firemen and a few MPs armed with handguns here and there, but there had been nothing along the lines that a team of AEMs couldn’t handle. Too easy. All too easy.

    “Ma’am, we’re here. Want me to check it out?” her NCO asked.

    “Nah, I got it, Jack.” Frances bounced in front of the main elevator with her hypervelocity automatic railgun (HVAR) at the ready. The metal blue-gray bulkheads and the recessed lighting panels as well as the oversized passageway were exactly like the one on the Blair and other supercarriers she had been on. It always made her feel a little weird to be attacking one of her own ships.

    You could damn near get a hovertank in the supercarrier tower elevators. The double wide doors had to be five meters across when they were fully open. Frances had her AIC hack the electronic lock for the elevator but nothing happened. Then she noticed a yellow and black striped warning sign taped to the door where it joined. The sign read:

    Notice: Main Elevator System is down for regularly scheduled upgrades and maintenance and is temporarily out of order pending recertification of the system’s safety by the Chief Engineer. No entrance to the elevator shaft is to be approved under any circumstances without prior approval from the Chief Engineer. Thank you.

    “What the fuck?” the major said. “Jack, get your ass over here!”

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