There was a knock at the door and Dona’s alarm clock was going off.
She groaned, and then, remembering, sat up in bed.
“Just a minute.”
Noya’s still form stirred on the couch, curled up with a spare blanket clenched tight up under his chin.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get it.”
One eye popped open and a rather resigned sound came out of the fellow’s mouth. He’d probably been dreading this moment. Wrapping herself in the late Colonel’s bathrobe, she went to the door.
“Ah, Colonel. I hope you slept well.” Corporal Haliwell trailed off as the figure on the couch, quietly muttering dire imprecations to himself, sat up.
Noya turned and caught the corporal’s eye. Turning away, head hanging, he seemed terribly forlorn.
“So. You’re still here then.”
“Yes, Corporal. I’m still here.”
“Close the damned door, please.”
“Ah, sorry, Colonel.”
“Corporal. I wonder if you can find some sort of uniform for Mister Noya.”
“A—a what? A uniform? Of course.” There was some sardonic evil in that grin.
“Mister Noya will sign the articles of war. He will be issued with full equipment, just as any other trooper.”
Haliwell stood there with his mouth open.
She turned to the man on the couch.
“Don’t worry. Without the proper training, we’ll keep you out of the action. But it makes it a bit easier to feed and house you. Otherwise it’s the homeless shelter.”
Noya stood up, wrapping the blanket around his shoulders like a heavy, patterned toga.
“Yes, Colonel. Thank you. I think that will do very nicely—”
“If you gentlemen don’t mind, I need to brush my teeth and get dressed.”
“Yes, Colonel. I’ll be back in ten minutes.”
“Thank you, Corporal.”
“Come on, Bud. Grab your things. We haven’t got all day.”
Face beet red and with unreadable thoughts racing across that handsome face, Noya began to move.
“Yes, Corporal. Abso-fucking-lutely. One minute please.”
Haliwell’s eyes glittered.
“Do yourself a favour. Don’t talk to me like that after you sign the form, okay?”
“I’m sorry, Corporal. I really am…” Noya had the closet door open and was pulling out a leather suitcase.
He straightened up, giving the corporal another look.
“Won’t happen again, Corporal.”
Haliwell stood patiently, watching.
“Good. Then it’s forgotten, okay?”
“Ah, yes, Corporal.”
Mister Noya was almost as good as his word.
It actually took two minutes, but then he had a few things of his own, two bags, good shoes and a pretty nice looking coat. He did a quick sweep of the suite and didn’t come up with anything else. He seemed to be traveling fairly light. The odds were he wasn’t coming back.
Not to this room, anyways.
Not that he wasn’t good-looking.
True to his word, the corporal was back with the vehicle by the time she was dressed for action.
She’d chosen the skin-tight blacksuit, known for its heat-masking properties and light anti-weapons capability. It would take up to a kilowatt of laser-power and anything up to the average .223 calibre at three hundred metres or greater. Not that it wouldn’t hurt, but a person could survive most hits. Other than a head-shot. Over-warm in summer, they were a bit chilly in winter. Perfect for present circumstances. The material was so fine, the hood and facial cover rolled up into a collar that was thin and comfortable and yet it could be buttoned up tight for full stealth without chafing or being overly-restrictive.
“Ah, yes, Colonel. Trooper Noya signed the form and has received a small advance on pay. He’s being fitted out and, hopefully, learning how to use that com-unit. I’m almost impressed. The gentleman actually has a few skills.”
She grinned wryly at the tone. Haliwell was a good driver, not too fast and not too slow.
It inspired a certain confidence.
Dona was studying the town, the streets, and the houses, mostly small, low frame bungalows not without their working-class charm. There was a lot of pride evident in the rose bushes, neatly-trimmed borders and the pastel colours favoured by the locals. There was no sameness here.
Every house looked like it had been built by a different hand to a different plan—or dream.
“He’ll be helping out with unloading and unpacking. Claims that he’s fired a weapon before. We won’t let him do that without proper training—I told him to keep the gun unloaded until someone smarter than him says otherwise. Apparently he’s studied engineering although he never completed the course.”
He looked across.
“They could use some help with the drones. It’s like people are out of their depth and they know it, so everyone is afraid to be the first one to start. Noya’s got nothing to lose, right. I thought I’d send him over there and see how he does—”
“Very well.” She knew about his education, although they hadn’t had much time to talk. “Yes, that might be the best place for him.’
“Do you trust him?” It was as much warning as legitimate question.
She turned her head.
“That, corporal, is a very good question.”
“We’ll monitor everything, of course.” That was the beauty of the com unit.
They rapidly became indispensable, almost a part of the person in some cases. A simple duty-slash-off-duty switch meant troopers didn’t need personal units, which were banned for obvious reasons. In an emergency, it was better than phoning, potentially, thousands of numbers. The command-override switch took care of that.
“I took his regular phone off of him. Nothing much on it, although he called what might be his mother a few weeks ago.” He’d turn that over to the techs as soon as they hit the command post. “He sent out for pizza the night the Colonel died.”
Using an unauthorized personal com unit under combat conditions was grounds for instant arrest, dismissal, and subject to the terms of military justice. Depending on what was on there, people had been summarily shot.
There didn’t seem to be anything else, and the colonel had a lot on her mind.
Minutes later, Dona and Haliwell entered the command centre, where the catering crew were just picking up after a group breakfast.
“Hey—you. Get Colonel Graham a plate of that. And coffee—a shitload of coffee, get it?”
Haliwell’s eyes gleamed at her.
“I’ll just go check on those drones.”
Dona took the centre of the big room as the more senior officers exited their small offices.
“Progress reports please, one at a time.”
Senior officer on deck, Captain Aaron was the first to respond.
“One. The Unfriendlies hit the window, or the end of it, right on time. That’s when we moved. We have combat commands moving down our three major roads. We have a half a dozen mobile patrols on secondary roads, as well as a couple of trails to the southwest.” All available forces were engaged in one quick dash as the enemy escort had already buggered off, in his words.
They hadn’t deployed any space-based systems insofar as could be determined. Otherwise, they would find out very soon.
“Yes. We’ve ordered all available private aircraft to move to Ryanville. They’ll be dispersed around the perimeter of the field, leaving the hangars as empty targets in the event of enemy air or missile attack.” That went for Roussef as well.
They would keep the bare minimum of aircraft in town. A few unflyable old junkers had been left on the tarmac in front of the terminal, which would look well enough from space.
“We have a work party, mostly civilians, digging trenches and faking up a few armoured vehicles for the downtown area.” The thing there was to create convincing shapes and shadows, with very real activity happening on an hourly basis.
Civilians were involved, and they had been asked to wear dark clothing, outdoor gear and hunting outfits for the enemy satellite. All it took to create a fake tank was lumber and paint, a few nails and a piece of plastic drain pipe for a gun.
A bit of weather might be helpful.
“We’re talking to the local militia. They would like a bigger role than we can safely give them. Also, it’s not clear if they would take orders they don’t agree with.”
“What are they doing now?”
“Sitting around the local hotels, drinking beer and discussing our proposed plan of action.”
“And what’s that?”
“Basically, to use them as a screen, close in to Roussef, giving us additional warning in the event of an attack.”
“Right. Let’s hope they go for it.” Otherwise, they would just be in the way of professional troops, who had orders and operations to carry out in the face of, potentially, an equally-professional enemy force who would show little mercy to anyone caught engaging with them.
“Each combat team is composed of at least one reconnaissance squad. We have one reconnaissance platoon and two of infantry in reserve, ah, essentially for your disposal. All forces are mobile. One Hellion per combat team.” Hellions were armoured scout vehicles, with six-wheel drive, good ground clearance and with the ability to swim bodies of water up to ten metres in depth. “The Hellions are equipped with smooth-bore boosted-projectile launchers, wire-guided missiles, and light automatic weapons. They have good electronic capabilities, including jamming and surveillance. The troops are mostly in Panthers and Pumas, but we have a couple of all-terrain six-bys with each unit. The plan is to set up here, here and here.”
Her stylus traced the arcs of defensive positions just southwest of Walzbruch, south of Roussef on a series of heights overlooking Highway 17, and smaller units to the southwest and in Ryanville.
“Thanks to your foresight, all units are laying fibre-optic cables. We will shortly be able to go off short-range radio, at least to some extent.” The only exceptions were the units in the Deneb City area and foot patrols to the southwest.
The spools had been brought in on the Eliza. Each spool carried five hundred kilometres of fibre-optic cable. It was deployed from a vehicle, and theoretically could even be rewound and re-used.
“What’s their progress so far?”
“No contact, no opposition. No sign of enemy air. Whether the enemy is observing us from orbit is unknown. Civil population is generally positive when contacted. They definitely know the Unfriendlies are here, and they are unappreciative.”
That was understandable.
With enemy ideology entirely based upon their own apocalyptic revelation, calling themselves God’s Elect was only going to get them so far. This mostly applied to the tame minds and enslaved bodies of their own people. Everyone else feared them, and with good reason.
The people of Deneb would not want to be governed, rather oppressed, by such an ideology. The other problem was the battle of the bedroom. With a sea of rather fecund pioneer-farmers flooding onto Deneb, the local population would quickly lose power and even their identity, as the strangers imposed their own belief system. The fact that the Unfriendlies were against any sort of population control would ensure that, sooner or later, they would win out in terms of sheer numbers.
A belief system that placed them firmly at the top of the heap, economically, socially and ultimately historically, could only be bad news. Not just for the colonists, but even more so for the native population, who would have no idea of how to adapt to or deal with such a situation.
After all, it had happened to them only once before…
(End of Part Six.)
Louis has books and stories available from Google Play, many of which are free at any given time. He's having a lot of fun doing this, and hopes you are too.
Image Two. Denebola-Seven, CPCO.
Image Three. Denebola-Seven Chamber of Commerce.
Image Four. Denebloa-Seven Civil Defence Force.
Image Five. Collection the author.
Image Six. Denebola-Seven Civil Defence Force.
Thank you for reading.