The Stars Came Back-090- Offensive Team

Fade in

EXT – DAY – Expeditionary force parade ground.

A large parade-ground / landing field. Mostly perfect grass, with various concrete landing pads and roadway / taxiway strips. Arrayed are 26 hulking, angular grav tanks (four sets of six in desert camo paint, and two gaudy chromed tanks out in front). Each tank turret has a long heavy rail-gun barrel on one side, a long 120mm main gun center, a light rail-gun on the other side, and the stubby bump of a 15 megajoule laser on top. Raised up from the bustle in back are an array of missile-launch tubes (a row of 6 quad-tube launchers) for display. Behind them are arranged another 20 grav APCs, small turrets sporting a set of light railguns and a Gatling gun, as well as various launchers and antennas. In front of each tank is a three man crew, and in front of all of them all are about 120 men arranged in four platoons, with their leaders in front. Behind them all are three large landing / transport craft (grounded), each noticeably larger than Tajemnica, clearly large enough to carry the men and tanks with room to spare. They have many windows and things sticking out. Multi-function transports, NOT assault landers. In front of the group on one of the immaculate white concrete pads is an officer with arrogant-looking man in his 40s, wearing a gaudy uniform with lots of bangles and stripes, Hitler mustache, and swagger stick, looking out over the arrayed troops. Next to him are five uniformed toadies, and one older guy not in uniform with a barely disguised disgusted look, with a balance-scale badge on his collar. It is clearly a dog-and-pony full inspection, everything perfectly ordered and polished. Troops are at rigid attention, looks of passive boredom on their faces.

major Kraut: (with a malicious smile) Ah, I LOVE to see everything shined up and lined up for inspection! They’ve been standing long enough. Let’s see what stupid shit these dolts and ancient hardware I’m saddled with managed to pull this time.

A chime sounds from the tablet of one of the toadies. He gets a chagrined look, Kraut looks at him with annoyance. It chimes again, louder, insistently. Toady glances down at it, and does a double-take. He clears his throat, hesitatingly.

Toady1: (sounding confused) Uhh… Sir? A ship is in-bound. Headed right here, hot. ID says it’s a… What’s an ACTING Plataean warship? Not one of ours. Coming in… GOOD GOD! It’s coming WAY too fast!

They all look around as if they don’t know whether to run and hide, or what. Kraut looks angry.

Kraut: What the HELL do they mean, interrupting my inspection like this! Who’s commanding that scow! I’ll have his ASS for this!

Toady 2: (pointing) THERE!

They look up, following his finger. Off in the distance, high but dropping and growing fast, is a gray dot streaming a contrail, and what might be smoke. It’s heading right for them.

The troops stand at nervous attention, daring to dart eyes around at the incoming problem. The toadies squawk and start to panic. Kraut gets madder, and doesn’t seem to consider the danger, only the interruption to his greatness.

Kraut: Shoot it down, SHOOT IT DOWN!

Toady3: With what, sir? Everyone is on parade! And it’s OURS!

Kraut: Someone GET on the landing carriers and GET the guns on-line, DAMMIT! MOVE!

No-one moves beyond glancing nervously about, not quite sure who he’s ordering to break ranks.

Close up of the officer cluster. They all stand frozen, looking up at their seeming impending doom. A sonic boom hits them all, then a descending scream of air as it slows, and they wince. They all cringe back as there is a huge, grinding, crunching, dirt-plowing crash, and Kraut and toadies have a cloud of dust sweep by them. A piece of metal, somewhat like a hub-cap, rolls by them, ringing on the concrete, through the dust, in testament to another hard landing. They wave their hands, and gradually the dust clears.

On the field before them is Tajemnica, front landing ramp down, dirt piled up around the corners where it plowed into the field, laying at odd angles with its ass up in the air as if it has multiple landing gear failures, looking more like a derelict than a space ship. In front are a couple of dirty wheeled APCs with gun turrets on top pointing at jaunty angles, an in front of each two ranks of six troops in full modern combat armor, lined up in ragged, uneven lines, sort-of as if for inspection having come in right from a battle. They are off to each side of the ramp a bit, leaving room for other vehicles to board or off-load. A few of them are obviously female. They are all armed differently – no two appear to have the exact same collection of weaponry – and a couple are missing limbs and have obvious prosthetic replacements. Hardened professionals, not just run-of-the-mill uniforms.

Kraut looks at them incredulously.

Lag, wearing full modern armor and helmet so he can’t be identified, walks up to Kraut, who looks at them in disbelief and with growing rage plain on his face. Lag, with exaggerated casualness, brushes some dust from his armor, and looks over the arrayed troops as he approaches.

LAG: (briskly casual) Sorry ‘bout the landing field – in a bit of a hurry, and we had some excitement playing tag with a SAM battery on the way over. Glad to see you have them all ready to go. We can starting boarding any time.

Kraut: (apoplectic, and getting right up into LAGs face) WHO THE FUCK’RE YOU, AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN LOAD?!

Unperturbed, Lag hands Kraut an e-reader, who knocks it aside; old lawyer guy with balance badge picks it up and starts scanning through it. KRAUT glares at Lag, face to tinted armor visor.

LAG: I am here to immediately take command of all available weapons and volunteers I can transport to battle…

Kraut: WHOSE ORDERS AND WHO THE FUCK’RE YOU?!

LAG: According to those orders, I’m the acting Col of the 1st Plataean Space Marine assault battalion. Which means, at the moment, I’m your immediate superior, Major.

Kraut: (looking at his lawyer) WHO THE FUCK IS THIS GUY?!

Lawyer: (a slow smile spreading across his face) He’s right – these order DO let him take command of all garrison material, vehicles, volunteer troops, in full company increments, that he can provide transport for, if they are needed for immediate field deployment.

Lag: The Kiv are in level breach, so we have about a day and a half to deal with the violators.

KRAUT: OVER MY DEAD BODY!

LAG: (Conversationally) I’d really rather not have to arrange that. (takes his helmet off)

KRAUT: YOU!?

LAG: (briskly) Glad to see you again, too. Like old times. Now, let’s get loaded, shall we?

KRAUT: (to formation) NOBODY MOVE! (then, viciously, to lawyer with balance badge) until we get to the bottom of this!

LAG: Oh, yeah. Did you know your security pass-codes are fairly predictable? (he signals with his finger over his head in a circular motion) ROUND ‘EM UP!

Suddenly, all the grav tanks and grav APCs in in the main formation emit the whining of grav-drives powering up and rise, then start moving slowly forward between the ranks of soldiers. The crewmen jump out of the way.

KRAUT: STOP! FREEZE! GET BACK IN FORMATION!

LAG: (casually) Oh, can it, Major – the computers can’t hear you. Well, actually, they CAN, they just won’t pay any attention to you.

KRAUT: You CAN’T take them all – you don’t have room – you couldn’t get more than half of them on board, and your orders are only for COMPANY strength units! (to tanks) GET BACK IN LINE!

LAG: Well, let’s see.

The tanks and APCs move slowly toward Tajemnica. As they get closer, Tajemnica seems to move in an almost anthropomorphic way, like a fighter shaking off a punch, or a dog shaking off water after a swim. As it shakes dirt from the landing free, and gets its many landing strut “legs” back under it, the two dozen large oblong octagonal armor plates seem to shake loose and flutter out then slide back from across pits arranged along it’s flanks and top. One of them has a large and ragged crater in it, going almost all the way through – obviously they didn’t manage to dodge ALL the SAMs. There are 4 along each of the outside hull walls (top flank, bottom flank), and two rows along the top. These “holes” in the armor are just the size for a tank to nestle into them, with its gun turret outside. As the first tank approaches, it sort of bounces on its grav field a couple of times, each time a bit higher, then “jumps” up, then seems to catch, and swings into a lower flank position and locks into place. Then the hull plates slide partially back into place, covering part of the tanks, but leaving the turret free. The top flank tanks have to bounce higher, then settle into their spots. The top-side tanks bounce up and “jump” onto the nose, above the lowered ramp, then slide up and back, into a position. Very quickly, all 24 of the tanks are attached.

At the same time, the APC line up and slide smoothly up the ramp, into the relative dark of the cargo bay, now mostly clear of stuff from the hastily boarded wheeled units.

Kraut and his toadies stare in disbelief. Then he looks back, and sees his two chromed tanks haven’t moved. He smiles evilly.

Kraut: You don’t have room for any more, and those two are part of the company. So, you can’t take ANY!

Lag: We still have room on the bow ramp. They’ll be last to load. Stern ramp is full. Tajemnica has a surprising amount of room. Too bad you can’t have one.

Kraut: (sputters more, red-faced, looking like he’s on the verge of a stroke)

Lag: (to Kraut) Thought so.

Lag steps forward, past Kraut, to address large troop formation

Lag: Hardware I can requisition. Troops need to volunteer. We need to go commit some major gratuitous violence on four Kiv battalions that violated tech-level terms of combat by using prohibited munitions, causing some casualties. We’ve got LOTS of bad guys, and lots of ammo. Rules of engagement are to shoot anyone or anything that moves in the zone with whatever you’ve got. Or, shoot it just to make sure it doesn’t start to move. We have a 34-hour window. Combat pay, and bonuses for prompt completion. Everyone volunteering to come under my command for this mission at this time, take one step forward.

As a group, the entire formation steps forward with the crash of boots, except Kraut’s toadies, and shouts a thunderous “HOOAH, SIR!” The lawyer looks at the troops, then Kraut. He hands the e-reader with orders to one of the toadies, and steps over to Lag’s side. One of the platoon leaders marches briskly over and salutes Lag.

Lt Saber: Permission to load, sir?

Lag: (returning salute) Make it happen. (Lag points to Allonia, now standing beside him in her magnificently anatomically-correct armor, carrying a full-sized battle rifle) Follow her; she’ll show you were to go and draw ammo and supplies to get ready.

As Lt Saber walks after Allonia, he produces a cigar and sticks it in his mouth.

Kraut: (incredulous) LAG, WHAT’N’HELL is a breeder like that doing in ARMOR?

Lag: (deadpan) Careful. She’s a civilian, and a deadly one. SHE doesn’t have to take your shit.

The other platoon leaders (3 more infantry platoon, 4 tank platoon leaders) come up, and he points each one to one of the soldiers from Tajemnica, and they start marching forward to go aboard.

As they start to move, The Warrior Song gives them a marching beat.

Fade to black

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19 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back-090- Offensive Team

  1. I spent the past week reading this whole story “cover to cover”.
    It’s very enjoyable. Excellent characters. Reading an “almost script” as opposed to a novel is unfamiliar but it actually works pretty well just as a story. And I can easily enough imagine this turned into a TV series.
    It’s still not clear where the story is going. Maybe no place in particular, and we’re just supposed to enjoy the journey. If so, that works for me.
    Given where we’re reading this, it’s no surprise — but it’s certainly pleasant to read a story where the author knows about guns and their correct handling.

    • Welcome to the party, and thanks for the kind words. It IS going someplace, and getting there fairly soon (I think… but then, I’ve been thinking that for the last 50k words). Feel free to pass on the lead to anyone you know that is interested in the genre. I don’t know if you read the comments, but I do plan on self-publishing, electronic format, soon, and I’d LOVE to see it turned into a movie series / TV series / Movie of the week / big-screen whatever.
      As to gun handling and such – this is an educational story. I’m hoping people who read it might pick up some facts “accidentally.”

    • It occurred to me that what you said may be the best compliment I could hope for – even when you are not sure where it’s going, not even certain it IS going anywhere in particular, it is still interesting/entertaining enough to be worth reading. That tells me I’m doing something right.

      • Yes, you saw what I intended to say.
        Sometimes a story has merit for the message is carries, but apart from the message it doesn’t do much for the reader. Other times the story is enjoyable as a story — and if it carries a message along with it, so much the better. Good writers can create such stories from time to time — Heinlein did it pretty much all the time, L. Neil Smith also. James Hogan part of the time. Niven rarely, Clarke never really. But often you’re happy to be entertained, and a writer who delivers that is appreciated.

    • You need to read the Bolo series. Very common in those stories for Naval transports carrying Bolos to strap them on externally and use them as gunnery platforms & point defense

    • Thanks for the support. Minor typo, and forgotten link. I meant “the warrior song.”
      Link here


      Crank it up for getting the troops loading up into the mood. A quote from it is referred to in the next episode.

  2. Heh. Served under one or two ossifers who were just like this Kraut guy. Stuffed full of self-importance and over-inflated ego, its amazing (and rather disappointing) they didn’t just float out into the solar system with all of the hot air they produced.

    Minor nitpicks of the night:

    “In front of the group on one of the immaculate white concrete pads is an officer with arrogant-looking man in his 40s,”

    “…an officer with an arrogant-looking man…” Missing an “an” there.

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

    In front are a couple of dirty wheeled APCs with gun turrets on top pointing at jaunty angles, an in front of each two ranks of six troops

    “…jaunty angles, and in front….” “an” should be “and”, methinks

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

    He’s right – these order DO let him take command

    “…these orders DO…” (orders would be plural, or it would be “this order” or “this set of orders”, depending on the speech patterns of the character speaking)

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

    At the same time, the APC line up and slide smoothly up the ramp,

    “…the APCs line up….” (or however you pluralize APC….APCs? APC’s?)

    • Fixed for published version. Thanks, once again. Makes me wonder if readers earlier in the day don’t notice the errors, or just don’t want to bother with saying anything about them? (shrug) Oh, well, as long as they get caught and fixed.
      Typically, you just add an “s” to make an acronym plural. An ‘s would be use to make it a singular possessive (one APC’s crew).

      • I wouldn’t worry about the others….most folks I’ve met in the gunny world are incredibly polite, and most folks I’ve emailed my scribbles to tend to go out of their way to lavish praise upon whatever it was I sent…only to find out, upon a (much later) re-read, that there’s a buttload of misspellings, run-on sentences, sentence fragments, plot holes, physics violations, etc. All I want is one person to step up and say “dude, this has potential, I love _______, but you screwed up the following:” Tell me what you like, what you don’t like, etc. I know I’m not gonna make EVERYONE happy (human nature. I’ll NEVER make everyone happy.), but I would like to improve my writing. That’s a courtesy I try to extend to anyone who’s writing I read. But, I’m still part gunny inside, so I try to be polite, and feel bad for at least six seconds after posting Nitpicks. ::grin::

        • Yup. Sometimes people are just way to polite for their own good, or for the good of those around them. Honesty is critical. Doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to be RUDE about it, of course, but to dance around the truth in order to not hurt someone’s feelings doesn’t usually do them a favor.
          I really do appreciate the corrections, criticisms, and feedback, positive AND negative.

  3. “They are all armed differently, and a couple are missing limbs and have obvious prosthetic replacements.”

    By “armed differently,” do you mean they all have different styles of prosthetic replacements? Or do you mean they have various types of weapons? If you are talking about weapons, you probably don’t want to use the word “arms” in a sentence talking about missing limbs and prosthetic replacements.

    • “arms” = “weapons”, just like in the 2nd Amendment. It seemed clear enough to me. However, given the proximity to the reference to limbs and prosthetics, it might be misread (though not by a majority of military sci-fi readers) so I altered it a bit. Thanks.

      • Ah. So some of them, in accordance with the 2nd Amendment, have attached bear arms? Grizzly, black, or polar? Koala? Panda? Inquiring minds want to know!

        (hehehe)

        • Since this is sci fi, I kept thinking aliens — like those with the octopus tentacles.

  4. Oh, I love Taj’s entrance and the ensuing scene. I never did like standing there looking all spiffy when there was real work to do.

    Would a sonic boom reach the troops before/after/concurrent with Taj’s landing as she would slow to presumeably subsonic just before landing? Curious (but lazy) minds wonder how the shock wave would behave.

    “pits arranged along it’s flanks” its.

    “armed differently” was clear to me- it didn’t seem like a pun, either. Too serious of a scene, even it were a pun.
    Please, please, let Allonia kick Kraut’s ass for that breeder comment.

    • Yeah, I was never much of one for inspections, either. But as an ongoing theme, style vs substance, looking good vs being good, it keeps cropping up. The idea of men of action showing up and hauling away good troops to go DO SHIT, and take them away from a guy like Kraut, right there in the open, just appealed to me. Lt Saber shows up again, at least briefly, later on. He knows stupid shit when he sees it.
      It takes a little while for a ship to slow from hyper-sonic, even with acceleration compensators (that are a little flaky), so the sonic boom would get there first, but not by a long time. They were in a hurry.

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