The Stars Came Back -081- Delivery

Fade in

INT – DAY – Tajemnica’s cargo bay, as it sits on pad D9

Ramp is down, main airlock door is open, daylight streaming in. There are seven trucks on board, including three tankers. One cargo truck is being unloaded, and there is a large pile of stuff where another had been unloaded. The rest have been driven on and parked, still loaded.

Bipasha watches, then walks up on some soldiers stacking some crates taken from the back of a truck.

Bipasha: You can’t just throw things in like that! You have to stack things carefully, and secure them properly so they don’t go flying around if we lose grav or crash! AND you have to tie down the trucks staying on board so they don’t roll!

Private3: Look, Super, you’re just making a short hop over to the outpost, have your Colonel say howdy to ours, drop off the rats ‘n ammo, ‘n fly back. The only way we are losing grav is if the whole blipp’n planet loses it. And that’s only slightly less likely than finding a Planet Mover’s overdue library book.

Bipasha: Maybe so, but crashing is a LOT more likely-

Private3: Crashing? – well, that’s more likely, but we’ll be dead so… *shrug*

Bipasha looks at him in a way that says she’s thinking over her response, then sort of chuckles and shakes her head.

Bipasha: I’d be happy to have the Sergeant check how well you followed loading instructions…

Private3: Oh, no, no, that’s OK. I’ll make sure I tie them down, tight and proper-like. Just point me to the tie-downs, ma’am!

Dissolve to

EXT – DAY – High over base Raptus Regaliter

A tan expanse of boring with patches of slightly less boring scattered about, in the middle of a wide basin chock FULL of boring, surrounded in the distance by mesas and craggy mountains. The base is a rough circle a bit more than a half-kilometer across, with a collection of dug in artillery, wheeled and tracked combat vehicles such as tanks and APCs, tents, trucks, supply bunkers, and whatnot, and a lot of individual fighting positions. Near the middle is clear space with a line of simple sand-bagged pre-fab storage bunkers. Tajemnica arrows down through the air above it.

Cut to

Aft cargo ramp

Quinn, Allonia, and a couple of the base soldiers stand back a bit from the edge of partially-lowered ramp, watching the expanse of plain pass below, as the wind swirls around and ruffles their hair. All are wearing safety harnesses and lines. The soldier is pointing out things as they pass them.

Soldier: Those are the 120mm artillery pieces. They can shoot for more than 30 kilometers! Into those hills in the distance. That’s an Armored Personnel Carrier.

Quinn: COOL! Can we look closer?

Allonia: I’m sure they’ll be busy!

Soldier: No problem! Be happy to give you the two-cent tour!

Cut to

Bridge

Helton, Quiritis, Cooper, Lag, Bipasha are present

Helton: How many people at the base right now?

Ship AI: (OC, with heavy pirate accent) Thar be three hundred ‘n twenty-one ‘o th’ wretched lay-abouts in port at the moment.

Bipasha: Say again?

Ship AI: (OC, still with accent) Thirrrrty two gentlemen, n’ th’ rest are th’ normal chum-dippers and plank-walkers.

Quiritis: Why the accent, Taj?

Ship AI: (OC, still with accent, as if it was obvious) It be th’ nineteenth o’ September, o’course.

Helton: And that means-?

Ship AI: (OC, still with thick accent) Ne’r ye’ mind, Cap’n, ‘til th’enemy sail is in cannon-shot, so we can hoist the black flag ‘n make buckets ‘o shark-bait of em.

Helton: Ooooo-kay, then, three hundred twenty one scurvy dogs it is.

Cut to

Ground view, from near the perimeter.

Tajemnica glides down smoothly through the air into the center clearing, settling gently down with the aft ramp not far from the storage bunkers.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – Ground-level view of Tajemnica being unloaded

She is very low on her landing struts, almost flat on the ground. A tanker truck drives slowly off the ramp. There is still a lot of stuff stacked and tied down in the cargo bay, but the trucks are all gone. There are a couple of troops in the cargo bay loosening tie-downs and unloading a few things.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – near a few sand-bagged buildings

Cooper, looking dashing in his red uniform jacket, appears to be chatting up one of the few ladies in uniform on the base. She’s pretty average looking, and her baggy uniform conceals her shape well, but she’s interested and he’s new and charming and without chain of command complications, so they walk off towards someplace a bit more private.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – Near a 120mm gun emplacement

Quinn is being shown the gun by a soldier, and Allonia stands nearby, watching. The soldier pushes one of the control buttons, and as he does the barrel of the gun slowly elevates. Then he indicates that Quinn can push another button, and as he does do the barrel slowly lowers. His eyes are wide, and he’s vibrating with excitement.

Cut to

INT – DAY – Command bunker

Lag and a couple of the senior officers are meeting over a large table with a map spread out on it. The bunker is walled in sandbags, and has heavy beams overhead in its low roof. In the background there are several other soldiers, junior officers and a some NCOs.

Lag: Move, counter-move, counter-counter-move, you ended here. I understand how you GOT here. But this place has been static for WAY too long. SOMETHING isn’t right, but if your intel is right, I can’t for the life of me figure out the last half-dozen moves and non-moves each side has made. Which means either there are complete imbeciles in charge on BOTH sides-

Camp Col: (dryly) -more than possible-

Lag: -or your intel is WAY wrong…

Camp Col: But WHERE is it wrong?

Lag: THAT is what I’m here to try to figure out. Hopefully, eyes on the ground can clarify the situation. When your best estimate is a platoon, a company at MOST, and it turns out to be an entire air-defense BATTALION, SOMEONE isn’t doing their job.

Camp Col: I’ve heard the rumors, but that wasn’t our region – what can you tell me about it?

Lag: The ship out there was contracted to fly civ refugees out, got wind of air-defense movement. Your guys said back-bench platoon, we air-dropped a squad in to deal with it. Turned out to be an officer-heavy battalion that we left as a leg infantry company led by a lieutenant. Still not sure why that size unit was there.

Camp XO: Good GOD! With a SQUAD?

Lag: There’s a reason your bosses hired us. Might have done more, but only three of the eight weren’t green recruits, and we only had a few hours to prepare.

The camp officers digest this information, and several emotions play across their faces for a few long seconds.

Camp Col: If you were in charge, based on what you DO know, what would your orders be?

Lag: (thoughtfully) You have some good equipment, and a few good people along with the typical free-force rejects and average guys, but the mix of things and position is ALL wrong. Either some other unit stays here with totally different hardware, or you just pick up what you have and haul ass NOW for any of a half-dozen better spots.

Camp Col: Are we at THAT much risk?

Lag: Not sure what your risk is. I know your OpFor intel is wrong, just not HOW wrong, but your offensive abilities are totally wasted here. The Kiv can mostly just ignore you.

Camp Col: But we have artillery! Air defense! Direct fire! Good soldiers!

Lag: Yes, you do. But you have no obvious targets, and wheels and tracks give you insufficient ability to get to them. You do not appear to be blocking any movement, so you pose no threat that ties up Kiv units.

The Camp Col looks a little surprised, then thoughtful, then concerned, as he looks at it from a new perspective.

In the background, a soldier wearing a headset sits up, and makes a quick adjustment on his set.

Radio Tech: SIR, jamming again. Broad Freq, high intensity… Gone again.

The Camp Col nods acknowledgment, and Lag raises an eyebrow in question.

Camp Col: Jamming bursts happen regularly. More frequently recently, but shorter duration. Not a problem, but a nuisance. Doesn’t seem to cause any problems.

He shrugs it off.

Camp XO: Speaking of tech, I’m assuming you’d not take a prohibited ship to a military base, but should that thing be here?

Lag: It’s unarmed, civilian registered. Feel free to have the compliance monitor check it out. It can haul some equipment and basic supplies and casualties, but not large numbers of soldiers or active weapons systems, limited even then to mid-speed air-drop only, unless the Kiv are in major violation. Speaking of, are you using tech-level only or dual-level with the higher electronics disabled?

Camp Col nods understanding.

Camp Col: Dual level. Powered movement only. Aiming electronics still in place, but certified non-active. Generals didn’t want them fully crippled, but agreed because… well, I’m not quite sure, but here we are.

Lag: Two edged sword – if the Kiv manage to get then reactivated, YOU are in violation, and THEY can rake you over with whatever they have up their sleeves, unless you can prove they did it AND that you didn’t use it.

Camp Col: I just work with what they give me. You understand.

Lag: Yes, indeed I do. Just be REALLY careful. Being on the wrong side of a level violation gets REAL ugly VERY fast.

They both lean in, and start examining the map intently.

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12 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -081- Delivery

  1. So, local bug, with burst transmit capability, disguised as a jamming frequency OR a hacking attempt to re-enable those higher-function electronics.

    Firmware mods are a no-no over radio. Unless the error correction is really good, you could brick your device.

  2. Okay, my first directional beef. You’ve referred numerous times to a system of “Levels of Warfare”, in fact, your entire book is built on this concept. Seems to me that you have to flesh out the concept now, and offer a look at the mechanism for just how the Levels are enforced, by what body, etc. All you’ve said is that a side in war that thinks the level it was fighting has been level-exceeded can pitch a bitch. To who? How is the bitch adjudicated? If it’s adjudicated as a violation, who gives the green light to escalate to new Levels?

    Since this is obviously where you’re going with the storyline, you need to clue us in, Rolf.

    • Good question. I referred to it earlier, but not in detail. ANYONE can take pot-shots with anything they want (up to and including nukes, if the level-breach is big enough) at the units that are found in violation. You couldn’t nuke a Roman-style army for one guy with a pistol, but you COULD drop a hundred pounds of HE on the platoon he’s in.
      Both (any/all) sides can hire or agree to compliance monitors, either individuals (independent contractors that hire out) or companies that provide such services. Not a perfect system (as anyone watching the middle east news in the last thirty years can attest), but good enough to keep most people honest enough, most of the time. Also, for some things, the monitors are paid for by buying film rights to document the action. For example, if two sides agree to a swords-n-sandals war, a media company might have a bunch of hover-cameras and mounted closed-circuit cameras to both monitor compliance AND get footage for movies, as some interested-but-not-involved parties watch. Or, a historic-battle-research firm might pay for film rights to see how things might have REALLY gone down.
      If someone violates the agreed-to tech levels, certified by any of the compliance monitors, then there is a window of time to go after the offending units, for target practice, to settle a grudge, to even the sides up, to get more spectacular footage, or whatever. Most of the exciting stuff happens early on, then people get bored and there are fewer paparazzi on the field as it becomes “old news.”
      As is usually the case, war is politics by other means, and leaders will agree to a war for all kinds of reasons (not always logical, but usually involving some concept of “we can win this way”), as well as NOT agreeing to a war in order to make sure that they can use anything they can get hold of. It’s always balancing risks and rewards, PR vs actions. There are some details on why a primitive-level of battle might be offered or accepted dealing with the finale. (not so subtle hint, there)

  3. Oooooo…sounds like a good fight in the making! Would hacking your opponent’s hardware to cause them to violate the Levels of Warfare be, in and of itself, considered a violation of the Level of Warfare? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Nitpicks for today (geez, yer gonna start banning me from posting, I just know it!):

    The rest have just been driven on left still loaded.

    “…driven on, still loaded.” Or perhaps “…driven on and strapped down, still loaded.”

    ********************************************

    stand back a bit from the edge of partially lowered ramp,

    “…edge of the partially-lowered ramp,…”

    ********************************************

    His eyes are wide, and he’s nearly vibrating with excitement.

    “nearly vibrating” means he’s not vibrating, but close to it…so we wouldn’t see any physical movement out of him. Maybe “…and he nearly vibrated off the seat in his excitement” or “…and he’s physically/literally vibrating with excitement.”

    ********************************************

    You do no appear to be blocking any movement, so you pose no threat that ties up Kiv units

    “You do not appear…”

    ********************************************

    Lag: Two edged sword – if the Kiv manage to get then re-activated, YOU are in violation, and THEY can rake you over with whatever they have up their sleeves.

    “….get them reactivated…”

    • Banned? No. Hired at slave wages as an editor for the final bit, maybe, but not banned :-). When things are quiet… TOO quiet… and no-one is posting about any problems, I start getting worried.
      Good catches. Fixed / clarified.
      As will be made clear later, hacking the other side’s system to put them in violation is prohibited, sort of like a cop planting evidence. Strongly frowned on. But you have to show they did it, which may be hard if you are being totally tech-level compliant. Hence, paying the monitors to keep an eye on things.

  4. “Sand-bagged” and “head-set” are single words with no hyphens. (Sandbagged, headset)

    • Yup. Sure enough. Thanks for the correction.
      I’m using Scrivener, and it says it’s using the American English dictionary, but it red-lines some spellings that I KNOW are OK, but others I’m not as sure of, so I make a small change to the “obvious” likely correct spelling, and if the red line goes away, then I just push on. Sometimes I change it to something that isn’t right, but gets past it, like this.

      • You might want to check the word “such-not.” I’ve never heard of it and I couldn’t find it in a dictionary or a thesaurus.

        • Slang. Likely not a formally correct term, but one I’ve heard forever. Similar to “whatnot.”
          Easy to change to avoid confusion.

  5. Hi Rolf, I stumbled upon this website/blog a few weeks back, and your tale shortly thereafter. I’ve now read every installment. I like the sci-fi/military/Firefly genre and I’d like to say you spin a good yarn. I like your characters and the way you’ve developed them and their relations with each other. Tajemnica is playing it “close to the vest” regarding her sentience. It will be interesting to “watch” how, when, and who she fully reveals herself to (I get the impression her basic personality is female). Anyway, please keep writing, and I’ll keep reading. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the support, and hopefully I can keep on spinning as well a while longer. And, of course, feel free to let others you know that like the same genre know about it. It will eventually be in book form, and I’d like to sell enough to make it worth continuing.
      Yes, Tajemnica is keeping things tight, but there is very good reason for that, even aside from the legal issues, as will be shown eventually.

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