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One Good Soldier: Chapter One

       Last updated: Friday, September 18, 2009 20:20 EDT




July 1, 2394 A.D.
Earthspace, Sea of Waves, the Moon
Saturday, 7:40 AM, Earth Eastern Standard Time

    “Watch the Gomer on your three nine line, Dee! He’s gonna lock you up!” Deanna Moore heard blasting in her ears on the tac-net. Her wingman, Jay Stavros, held as close on her ass as he could and continued to nag her about the crossfire, but it didn’t faze her. She had to be cool in order to close the energy gap on the enemy mecha Stinger in front of her.

    “You just cover my ass, Jay! I’m staying with this Gomer in front of us.” Deanna stomped on her left pedal and pulled back on the stick with her right hand all the while trimming the throttle with her left hand to maintain a steady energy relationship between herself and the enemy fighter. “Come on, goddamnit, make a mistake!”

    She pulled into as tight a turn as the Marine mecha could withstand and when she did the g-suit constricted on her legs and abdomen like a giant anaconda squishing its prey. Deanna grunted and cursed against the extreme gravity loading but held her course on the tail of the enemy Stinger.

    Bree, give me some alternatives here! she screamed in her mind at her AIC.

    Roger that, Dee, the AIC responded and placed several red lines and blue lines in her DTM mindview. The lines were alternative aircraft trajectories of hers and the enemy’s fighter spiraling around each other in a corkscrewing sinewy ballet of angular momentum and propellantless propulsion energy application. Too close for missiles-gotta go to guns!

    The yellow targeting X blinked and jumped around in Deanna’s mindview but couldn’t quite lock onto the Stinger. The X blinked red then yellow and then hopped off the enemy fighter again. No matter what type of juke or jink she tried the damned enemy mecha managed to squirm, bob, or roll its way out of her targeting solution.

    “Shit! Come on you bastard…hold…fucking…still…” she grunted against the overwhelming and crushing load on her chest. The g-suit squished her breasts flat as a pancake into her and her abdominal muscles were squeezed so tight that she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to unsqueeze them.

    Then the enemy mecha did something. Dee wasn’t sure if it was brilliant or stupid. The mecha in fighter-mode flipped over forward and began to transfigure to bot-mode. The transfiguration took only a fraction of a second and left the mecha standing upside down on its head and facing Dee and her wingman with both arms pointing forty millimeter cannons in their general direction.

    “Warning, enemy targeting lock established. Warning enemy targeting lock established,” the Bitchin’ Betty of Dee’s mecha chimed.

    Tracers tracked out of the right arm cannon of the enemy fighter across her nose and into the empennage of her wingman’s plane. Dee could see Jay jinking and juking his fighter around inside the firing solution of the enemy weapons and there was little he could do at the time. The rounds continued to rip through his mecha throwing bits of armor plating off into space with an orange and white spray of plasma.

    “Pull out, Jay! Pull out!” Deanna with her hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) slammed the throttle full forward and the stick all the way forward against the stop rocketing her fighter-mode mecha into a horrendous dive toward the deck. “Shit Dee, I’m hit! Eject eject eject!” Jay shouted.

    Just as her mecha nosed down, her wingman’s mecha exploded behind and to the right of her and brilliant orange tracer rounds zipped by her canopy only centimeters away. She didn’t have time to see if an ejection couch cleared the fireball or not. The Gomer off her three nine line to the right was closing in and firing. Then several rounds from the bot-mode mecha that she had been tailing zipped through her tail section, but only caused minor damage. While Jay had been with her it was two against two and she had an enemy in her sights. Things had been looking up. Suddenly, in less time than it takes to blink an eye, the situation had switched in favor of the enemy. It was now two against one and both of them were targeting her. Dee continued down at alarmingly increasing acceleration until it was clear that the mecha behind her and to her right were going to follow.

    They’re on you now, Dee! Bree warned her.

    Roger that!

    Dee toggled the transfigure button on the HOTAS and stomped the right, lower foot pedal all the way down to give her more slip as the Marine FM-12 Strike Mecha rolled and flipped over and then transformed from a fighter plane into a giant armed and armored robot.

    Let’s see if what is good for the goose is good for the gander! she thought. Dee, watch your altitude! Bree warned her. The landscape of the small moon they were fighting over filled her entire field of view and was rapidly approaching. It looked a lot like Pluto’s moon Charon. She gripped the throttle and pulled it full-force backward with her left hand, while controlling the flight path with the stick in her right. The standard HOTAS controls mimicked most fighter control systems that had been developed for centuries with the innovation, of course, of the direct-to-mind control links between the plane and the pilot and the AIC. There had been experiments where mecha had been piloted by AICs alone and those mecha could make maneuvers that human bodies couldn’t withstand. But there was a certain art to combat flying that only humans in the cockpit could bring. The experiments always showed the same results. Human and AICs together in the cockpit always came out on top when flying against a plane with just one or the other in it. The DTM connections between pilot, AIC, and mecha enabled modern fighter mecha to do things that no others in history could have done, and Dee was pushing the combination to the limit.

    The bot-mode mecha now stood on its head, which was upside down in relation to the other fighters, and backwards, facing the pursuing mecha. The g-loading of the full-force reversal caused Dee to vomit dryly into her helmet and her vision began to tunnel in around her. But she fought through it and held onto the HOTAS.

    “Aaaarrhhggg, woooo!” she grunted and flexed her abdominal muscles again, trying to hold off blacking out long enough to lock up her pursuers. Two yellow Xs filled her mind bouncing around the fighter-mode Stinger to her right and the bot-mode mecha on her tail. The Quantum Membrane sensors locked up on the fighter-mode plane and a lock tone sounded in her mind. “Fox three!” she shouted as she loosed a mecha-to-mecha missile. The missile spiraled out towards the enemy fighter leaving a very faint blue ion trail through the almost nonexistent atmosphere of the small moon.

    “Warning, surface collision imminent. Warning, surface collision imminent,” her mecha’s Bitchin’ Betty announced.

    “One more…second…” Dee grunted as the yellow targeting X turned red. “Guns guns guns!” she shouted as she triggered the cannons on both arms. Tracers tracked out and blew the enemy mecha into a fireball of orange and white debris.

    Pull out, Dee! Pull out!

    “Warning, surface collision imminent. Warning…”

    Dee tried to pull the mecha over into a horizontal run with the ground but didn’t make it. Her mecha slammed into the surface just as she began to black out.


    “Apple didn’t fall far from the tree, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir.” Thomas Washington commented to President Moore as they watched the president’s eighteen-year-old daughter, Deanna, on the large viewscreen at the Mecha Combat Training Simulations Center located at the south end of the Sea of Waves near the limb of the Moon.

    “I was never a mecha jock, Thomas,” Moore smiled back at his bodyguard only briefly taking his eyes off the simulation displays. Three other Secret Service agents stood behind them and didn’t flinch or make a sound. The President’s daughter was in a large metal box suspended on repulsor fields. The box whirled and bounced and twisted madly in place simulating a combat scenario. Inside the box was a replica of a U.S. Marine FM-12 Transfigurable Strike Mecha fighter cockpit.

    Deanna had logged thousands of hours in the sim over the last five years and had reached a point where her proficiency was reaching that of a seasoned Marine mecha pilot. Of course she hadn’t gone through all of the basic Marine training as it was against the law to enlist before the age of twenty-one. Deanna was only eighteen and for more than a century, as life expectancies had increased, the age to enter active duty as soldiers, firemen, policemen, and a few other dangereous professions had been set to the legal adult age. So, Dee would just have to wait a few years, but Moore could tell by watching how she handled the simulations that she had the skills to be a good mecha pilot. She just needed the benefit of age and training. And train she had. Since she had been thirteen, Dee had studied and trained and competed in any and all mecha jock activities she could. She had been accepted into the most prestigious military academy in the Sol system. And while there were plenty of skeptics out there, Alexander had never once needed to use their family’s political pull to help her.. Moore hated that Dee had been living in a dorm at the Sea of Waves Powered Armor and Mecha Academy for the past four years instead of at the White House with him and Sehera.

    But Dee had put in the work and Alexander was proud of her. Fortunately, Air Force One often made trips to the Moon. He wished that Dee would have taken up lion wrestling, or football, or shark baiting, or chainsaw juggling, or anything less dangerous instead. But she hadn’t. For the past six years, since that incident in Orlando, she had thought of nothing but being a goddamned U.S. Marine Mecha Pilot. When she saw those Marine tromping around Disney World in bot-mode mecha bringing all kinds of hell to the robot AIs that were trying to capture the First Family her life changed. U.S. Marine Major Alexander Moore wanted to say, “Oorah!” and President of the United States of America Alexander Moore wanted to say, “Good work and your country would be proud to have you serve!” But for just plain old Alexander Moore, hick from Mississippi, daddy to a little girl, it was his little girl, his princess. He didn’t ever want to see her in harm’s way.

    But Alexander knew that Dee was gonna be Dee and the best he could do is support her and try to make her as damned good a Marine as he could manage. That might just keep her alive in the future. He still had three years to talk her out of it. He wasn’t giving that much of a chance – snowballs and Hell came to mind.

    “Goddamned gutsy if not stupid,” USMC Colonel retired Walter “Rat Bastard” Fink III stood behind the president at ease with his hands behind his back.

    “I agree,” Moore turned to the mecha pilot instructor and frowned at the former Marine. Of course, Moore knew well and good himself that there was no such thing as a former Marine. “She is no good to anybody dead. And she can’t move on to the final rounds of the competition either.”

    “Permission to speak freely, Mr. President?” Colonel Fink asked.

    “Go ahead, Rat.”

    “She isn’t thinking of life and death at all, only about killing her opponent to win a competition. She still thinks of this as a game, sir. A game with a reset button. Oh, she is damned good at it and with her and her wingman there we’ll probably snag the trophy at Ross 128 next week. But, I’m here to train Marines, sir, not just simulation competition winners. And like you said, she’s no good to anybody dead, sir.” Fink said without moving a muscle or changing the expression on his face.

    “I think somebody should make her…aware…of her problem, Colonel Fink. Don’t you?” Moore smiled at the instructor.

    “Yes, sir,” Fink replied as a large toothy grin covered his face. “And I think I know just the person, sir.”

    The “box,” as it was affectionately referred to by mecha trainees or “nuggets,” drifted to a resting spot on the floor of the sim center and the side opened up by folding over into steps. Two instructor techs rushed into the box to help Dee out of the pilot’s couch. The box for her wingman a few meters to the left of hers had already been opened. Moore could see the young man’s face was pale and when he stood his legs were shaky.

    Deanna managed to walk upright down the ramp but only with the support of the instructor techs under each arm. Once she made it to the bottom of the ramp she motioned that she could support herself and she then twisted off her helmet. Alexander could tell by the look on her face that she was physically exhausted, but proud of herself for having killed her pursuer. Fink was right. She still didn’t understand the life and death of the predicament that she was considering getting herself into – the predicament of being a United States Marine.

    “Cadet Moore!” Rat shouted with a rough gravelly tone at the “first nugget” as Dee was known.

    “Sir!” Dee snapped-to tightly, her exhaustion showing through her expressionless face. She and her flight gear were soaked in sweat from her shortly cropped Martian-dark hair to her toes, which were a long athletic and curvy one hundred seventy six centimeters down.

    “How do you think you performed on that mission, nugget?”

    “I killed the enemy, sir.” Dee didn’t move or flinch or even blink.

    “Your wingman is dead!”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “You are dead!”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “The entire nation is going on a week of mourning because the First Nugget has died heroically, if not uselessly, in combat! Sorry, Cadet Stavros, but only your family will be mourning for you as you are dead as hell as well!”

    “Yes, sir,” Dee and Jay answered simultaneously.

    “You think this is goddamned game, nuggets?” Fink stood looming over Dee, his nose only inches from her face. Then he glanced and glared at her wingman.

    “No, sir,” Again, simultaneously, Dee and Jay responded.

    “Then what the hell was that! Your mission was to go in and support the recon unit infiltrating that facility and you ended up getting yourself and your wingman killed. Now what if those heart-breaking and goddamned life-taking God-fearing AEMs down there needed some more air support? Huh? Just what in the flying fuck were you thinking? Those Marines had a mission and now because you were too busy up there goddamned hot dogging it out like some goddamned virtual world goddamned gamer this mission has a larger probability of failure. That is failure with a capital fuckin’ F! Do you understand me nugget? Failure!”


    “And fucking failure, with a capital fuckin’ F, is one thing that I WILL NOT accept from my nuggets! Do you two hot shots under-fucking-stand me?!”

    “Yes, sir!” Dee made the mistake of letting her eyes glance at her father standing in the background, but only for a fraction of a second. But that was a fraction of a second too long.

    “Cadet Moore! Do you think just because your Daddy is Alexander Moore, one of the most decorated Marines in the history of the universe, and also happens to have gotten himself elected President of these here United States of America three times in a row that you are gonna get some sort of preferential treatment? Huh?”

    “No, sir!” Dee’s eyes fixed, and glowered, at Fink. Alexander watched his daughter’s body stiffen and he could tell that Fink had hit her main nerve and he seemed to be enjoying himself a little too much. But Moore wouldn’t do anything. If Dee wanted to be a real Marine she would have to make it on her own from here on out with no preferential treatment. He absolutely hated his little girl having to go through this. But, God he was proud of her.

    “Then why don’t you turn around and crawl your asses back into those simulator boxes and let’s do this mission goddamned right this…” Fink continued to yell at the two nuggets for a few minutes as they were loaded back into the simulators by the techs standing by. The two pilot trainees were physically exhausted, but that was all part of the job. A good Marine marches when told and trains harder than everybody else no matter how tired he or she is.

    “Well,” Alexander turned to his bodyguards. “This is gonna take some time, so, why don’t we go find the First Lady and grab some breakfast and shake some hands and kiss some babies.”

    “Yes sir.” Thomas nodded at the President and then to the other agents. He sent a DTM order to Dee’s bodyguard that they would see them at the departure platform in a couple of hours.


    “No, I didn’t really get to talk to her at all,” Alexander smiled across the table at his wife. It amazed him how much Dee looked like her mother and frightened him how much Sehera looked like her mother. The three women could be confused as triplets if Dee let her hair grow back out and if Sehera and her mother timed rejuves appropriately with a family photo. But one thing that both Alexander and Sehera knew for sure was that they never wanted their daughter close enough to Sehera’s mother to ever have such a photo take place. After all, Sehera’s mother, the famous one hundred eleventh President Sienna Madira, a.k.a. Separatist terrorist General Elle Ahmi, was, in their minds, the craziest and most evil human being in the history of mankind. Though Ahmi would argue that she had done what she had with the future of mankind and the United States of America at the heart of it all. But the Moores thought differently.

    “Alexander, what is it?” Sehera asked. Moore had given up trying to hold out on his wife years prior. He must’ve been giving something away with his expression.

    “Nothing really, I just…hate thinking of her in a fighter in some horrific space battle somewhere. It…kills…me.”

    “Ha. The big tough Marine,” Sehera said.. Alexander had stared enemy mecha down practically with his bare hands and beaten them, and once he had killed over ninety of the meanest Separatist thugs all by himself, but his one weak spot was Dee. “She’s your daughter alright.”

    “You’re kidding. She’s more and more like you every day.” Moore fiddled with the blood red steak tips on his plate and pushed at the scrambled eggs with his knife and fork. He took a brief moment to glance out across the moonscape from the window at the Armored E-suit Marine training grounds and staging area in the distance. He knew that place all too well. The reflection of the holoview in the window also caught his attention. Earth News Network ticker tape at the bottom of the reflection was about his tariff plans for the colonies and how the Governor of Ross 128 was complaining of unfair taxation. The window of the restaurant held views to the things that had engulfed his life for a very long time. Moore tried to ignore the view and focus on his wife. She was a much more breathtaking vision anyway.

    “Well then, she should be fine shouldn’t she?” Sehera goaded him again as she reorganized a strand of her long black straight hair out of her face and tucked it back behind her ear where it belonged.

    “What time is her flight again?”

    “We’ve got time. It’s in an hour. She jaunts from here to the QMT facility at Mars orbit, from there she rides the Sienna Madira to the Oort gate, and then she’ll teleport to the Ross 128 system on a passenger transport. The competition isn’t until next Tuesday. We should be able to make it with no problem. I need to spend some face time with the Governor there anyway.”

    “That all sounds fine. I’m sure she’ll enjoy her ride on the supercarrier.”

    “Oh yes, she’ll be fine. Several of ships of the fleet are engaged in wargames there and she’ll get to see them loading up the mecha afterwards before jaunting out to the Oort. Nothing to worry about. Besides, Clay will be with her all the way. And she’s in good hands with Colonel Fink.”

    “You’re right,” she said. Sehera sipped at her coffee slowly and then had an afterthought. “You do recall that you have a meeting with the ambassador from Ross 128 over lunch in the Rose Garden, right?” How could I forget, he thought. But, Moore was amazed at how his wife kept up with him and without an internal AIC to boot. She had an AIC in an earring but wouldn’t allow an implant or DTM connection with the AIC. Her earring used a subaudible signal projected to her eardrum to transfer information. It was slow but safe. Alexander knew that Sehera had a built-in fear of internal AICs and DTMs after watching her mother use them to terrorize the minds of her captors during the Martian Desert Campaigns. Perhaps she would get over it someday. In fact, Sehera had told him that she would get over it when she had to. And to date, she hadn’t had to.

    Abigail? he asked his AIC.

    Yes, sir. Air Force One is standing by and we have everything going according to schedule for today.

    Right then, he thought.

    “Don’t worry, Abigail will keep me on track. The ambassador will be QMTing from Ross 128 to the Oort and then from there to Mars. The John Tyler will bring him in from there and QMT him directly to the White House.” He pushed his plate away from him. He didn’t want the eggs anyway. “If you’re finished we’ve got just enough time to walk around the city a bit.”

    “Suits me.”


    “Approval ratings for President Alexander Moore today are the lowest they have been in the history of his three terms as President of the United States,” stated Walt Mortimer, one of the so-called expert panel members for the Round Table of News and lead White House columnist for the Washington Post, almost too enthusiastically. But then again, the media icon had made his editorial political position quite clear over the course of his illustrious career and the news of the latest polling data from the nation’s capitol pundits fit right in with his agenda. Mortimer had long been considered one of the “graybeards” of reporters on Washington D.C. and systemwide politics helping the populace, but it was quite clear that he was just another of the Beltway Bandits making a living by feeding shit to the American public. But it was a good living. Or at least it had been until Moore came along.

    “His campaign promises following the attack on Mons City and the Martian Separatist Exodus led him to a whirlwind landslide election and his policies following the attack on Disney World and Luna City led to approval from pollsters systemwide which led him to re-election,” Mortimer continued. “Defense against potential terrorist attack from outside the solar system at the expense of systemwide economic growth and a strong defense against inter-system competition of market goods and commerce due to cheaper products from the Colonies seems to have turned the American voters lukewarm on the President.” Mortimer leaned back in his chair and scribbled some notes on a pad in front of him. He maintained a smug look of triumph on his face.

    “The latest polls do suggest that to be how the American people feel about it anyway,” Britt Howard, the show’s host and anchor for the Earth News Network (ENN) at the New York City anchor desk, replied. “It would appear that the ‘defend the system at all costs’ policy is beginning to wear thin. Especially, since the manufacturing base has yet to fully recover since the Separatist Exodus almost twelve years ago. It turns out that the ‘Buy American’ policy of the previous Democrat Administration of President Alberts has been adopted by this Republican Administration but for a different reason. Indeed the President has lobbied extremely hard to increase the tariffs on all imports from the four extra-solar colonies, same as his predecessor. However, where President Alberts used Sol System economic stimulus as the reason, President Moore is using the cost of defending the three heritage colonies and the two new start-ups from the rogue Tau Ceti Separatist system as his reasoning. This policy once seemed to be broadly accepted by the American public, but the latest polls show that the public is overwhelmingly for reducing the burden on the extra-solar colonies in order to increase the number of colony manufactured goods available within the Sol System. Prices have gone up and availability has gone down.” Britt Howard summarized, and then nodded across the round table at the only female on the panel.

    Alice St. John of the System Review, the more radical voice on the panel, replied, “Well, I have to say that I think this will cause the wedge to be driven even deeper between the actual states here in Sol’s System and the colonists at Proxima Centauri, Ross 128, Lalande 21185, and the start-ups at Gliese 581c and Gliese 876d.”

    Alice never minded showing any restraint when calling one of the “elder reporters” on something that she thought was utter bullshit and she particularly agreed with President Moore on most things. Originally, and fortunately, for Alice, she was smart and pretty and therefore what little bit of radical viewership the Earth News Network had liked her and so she was able to keep her job secure. That was until Moore was elected and the Republican viewership of ENN more than quadrupled over night. Between her and the primetime anchor Gail Fehrer, who were both bent toward Moore, ENN had found a new niche to cater news to and thus improve their ratings.

    “The Colonies have shown little interest in getting involved with the military buildup that President Moore has called for. The White House policies since, on the surface at least appear to be purely Sol System defense oriented according to the Governor of Ross 128,” She continued.

    “I agree Alice,” Britt replied. “That does seem to be the present view of the colonists as well as the Dems in both houses of Congress. The colonists’ argument is that they are of no threat and therefore no interest to the Separatists and therefore are being taxed, without representation, unduly. An ambassador from Ross 128 is coming here today to speak to the President and to Congress about waiving the tariff on them as it is pushing them into a recession.”

    “In fact, Britt, the President is talking out of both sides of his mouth on this issue. Though he will not waive the tariff on the Colonies he is asking Congress to approve an economic stimulus package for them. I’m not certain I can see the logic in that.” Walt interjected with a raised eyebrow.

    “That sounds like an oxymoron at first glance.” Britt laughed.

    “Well, it isn’t though,” Alice replied. “The President’s economic advisors all seem to agree that the downturn in the Colonial economies is a temporary effect of the increased tariffs that should be well overcompensated for in the future once they pick up the manufacturing pace and fill the void left by the Exodus and the secession of Tau Ceti. The stimulus should enable them to play catch-up.”

    “Ha, ha. Alice, sounds good on paper. But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting on Congress to approve his package. All of the scuttlebutt on the Hill is that President Moore’s stimulus package is dead on arrival and there are not enough loyal Republican seats in the House to sway that.” Mortimer nodded his head approvingly as he responded.

    “Well, be that as it may,” Britt interjected himself into the debate with an attempt to maintain an even tone. “The main issue for today is that the Separatist took away a major manufacturing source for the country. The citizens in the remaining colonies do seem to have little desire to support this Administration or its policies. In fact the governors of all three of the remaining original colonies have issued statements that their Executive Branch and Judicial Branch lawyers believe that President Alberts’ and then President Moore’s tariff packages to the Congress were and are in violation of the Inter-System Free Trade Agreement and that they have been seeking appeals of the policies through the Supreme Court.”

    “Well, I think that is the right course of action, or perhaps, the only real course of action that could be taken from a colonial standpoint,” Walt Mortimer replied.

    “And one would hope that the remaining colonists don’t take a play from the Separatist’s playbook here,” Alice added. “After all, they are just territories without representation in the House or Senate.”

    “Oh, come now, Alice. You really think in worst case scenarios don’t you?” Mortimer replied.

    “I’m just saying that I hope the colonists don’t feel the same way the original Thirteen Colonies felt when King George upped the tariffs on them to protect them from France. You know what happened then…”

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