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Into the Light Snippet #22

Aliens? Invading aliens? What will Earth do? Well...we may have a few more resources than we first thought. Come join a friendly discussion about David Weber's newest Tor series - "Out of the Dark."
Into the Light Snippet #22
Post by GraysonLady   » Thu Aug 20, 2020 3:54 pm

GraysonLady
Ensign

Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2020 9:34 am

. XXIII.

Fort Sanders, North Carolina

United States

"Well, this should be fun."

First Sergeant Quintrell Robinson's sour tone and equally sour expression might have suggested to some that his sentiment was less than genuine, Major Robert Wilson decided.

"Gosh, aren't you a little ray of sunshine?" he inquired as he gazed at the LZ through his binoculars. "Get a lot of invites to emcee kids' birthday parties, do you?"

"What I do every weekend, Sir." Robinson hawked up a glob of phlegm and spat it out. "Right after I get done stealing all their candy."

Wilson chuckled without lowering the binoculars. They weren't like any he'd had before the invasion — he thought of them as his present from Luke Skywalker — and they were even better than his Hegemony-level contacts. At the moment, they were showing him a razor sharp, incredibly detailed view of . . . nothing in particular. It was, in fact, an empty, pine tree-surrounded field on the grounds of what had once been Fort Bragg and was now Fort Sanders, North Carolina.

Although, to be fair, it wasn't really empty.

Or the pines weren't, anyway.

The day was gray, drear, and humid, and a raw, cold wind sighed around his ears while heavy cloud cover rolled in from the west. The temperature had fallen four degrees in the last hour and the weather satellites promised heavy rain, turning into freezing sleet and then snow late tonight. For the moment, though, nothing was falling out of the skies on him, and he considered that a plus.

"And here I thought you were a fine, upstanding Marine," he told Robinson.

"Oh, but I am, Sir. Or I was, anyway, when I was an honest Gunny. Don't know about this new 'Space Marines' crap, though."

"You and me both, Top," Wilson sighed. "You and me both."

Robinson was nine years younger than he was, but Wilson understood the other man only too well. Robinson had been an active-duty E-7, otherwise known as a gunnery sergeant, when the Shongairi arrived. Wilson had been long retired by then, but even after he'd made master sergeant, he'd always thought of himself as a "gunny." Now he was a major, and that was just . . . wrong, in so many ways.

It wasn't that he'd objected to going back into the Corps. Not really, although as Robinson had just pointed out, it wasn't the "Corps" in which he'd served for twenty-plus years. It was that Wilson was a noncom, not a frigging officer. He'd never been an officer, never wanted to be an officer, and was totally unqualified to become an officer. He'd been very clear about that. Indeed, he'd fought the good fight with all his might.

Unfortunately, neither President Howell, nor General Landrum — nor Dave Dvorak, damn his traitorous, black heart — had seemed to care what he thought about the whole idea. Worse, he never had learned how to say no when someone uttered the fatal words "the country needs you."

He had to work on that.

He had managed to wring at least one concession out of the pushy bastards before he went down to defeat, though. And so one-time Master Sergeant Wilson found himself not simply Major Wilson, but also CO (designate), 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, Space Marines, Continental Armed Forces.

The man beside him had never learned to say no either, he thought now, which was how one-time Gunnery Sergeant Robinson found himself First Sergeant Robinson, and about to become Sergeant Major Robinson and the senior noncommissioned officer of the aforesaid 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, Space Marines, Continental Armed Forces.

Assuming the Continental Armed Forces in general — and the Space Marines, in particular — ever got themselves up and organized, that was.

You're being unfair, Rob, he told himself. Under the circumstances, Landers' boys and girls are actually doing a good job. Not as good as they think they are, maybe, but good. And their screw-ups aren't really their fault, either. Too damned many of them are making it up as they go along. Hell, all of us are making it up as we go along!

Truman Landers had grabbed every surviving military vet he could find — and who could be spared from civilian jobs in the massive reconstruction effort — to staff his CAF. It was just Rob Wilson's bad luck to have been within easy reach when the grabbing started.

"Seriously, Sir," Robinson said, "this here's gonna be a cluster fuck."

"That pessimism isn't helpful, Sar'major," Howell pointed out.

"Hell, Sir. Calling it a cluster fuck's being optimistic!"

Wilson snorted, but Robinson probably had a point. And he'd certainly earned the right to express an opinion. He'd spent most of the invasion in his home state of Alabama, picking off Shongair patrols. He was only about five-five, with skin a shade or two lighter than Wilson's friend Alvin Buchevsky's, but he was built like the proverbial fireplug. He'd spent several years as a DI at Parris Island, and Wilson couldn't imagine the recruit who hadn't crapped himself the first time Robinson got in his face for real.

At the moment, though, what bothered Wilson the most was his certainty that Robinson was right and that Landrum's bright and shiny new planning officers were wrong. Or maybe it would be better to say that they were way, way, way too optimistic. He hoped he was about to be wrong about that. The possibility, however, struck him as . . . remote.

Hard to blame 'em, I guess, he thought. The neural educator's still a bright, shiny new toy. That almost has to make them overestimate it, all by itself. And the fact that they really need it to work as well as they think it will only makes that worse. Course, most of 'em haven't spent nearly as much time with it as I have, now have they?

Well, it was time to see if —

"Here they come," Robinson said in a suddenly much more serious voice, and Wilson nodded as the Black Hawk helicopters pretending to be Starfire assault shuttles swept in over the North Carolina pines with Lieutenant Palazzola's 1st Platoon and Lieutenant Samuelson's 3rd Platoon.

They didn't have real Starfires because none had been built yet, and they didn't have a Starlander they could use instead because they were all too busy on rescue operations. But that was fair, because they didn't have any real powered armor yet, either. The "Space Marines" aboard those helicopters had been outfitted with rudimentary exoskeletons which would duplicate many of the capabilities of the armor being designed as part of Project Heinlein — where movement was concerned, anyway — and the visors and backpack sensor pods they wore were designed to give them at least a rudimentary version of the ultimate armor's HUD and sensor suite. By the same token, they carried modified M-16s fitted with laser training units instead of the notional railgun rifles still being designed, but that was fine. Today wasn't really about the equipment; it was about the training with it in small unit tactics, and simulators would work just fine for that.

Aleandro Palazzola, commanding the "assault force," had exactly zero experience as a Marine or even an Army puke. He was only twenty-five, and he'd been a North Carolina state trooper for less than two years before the invasion. Jeff Samuelson, a Raleigh city policeman before the Shongairi arrived, was only a year older than Palazzola, with no more military experience than he had. Both of them were, however, very, very smart, and their lack of previous military experience was rather the point of today's exercise, because not one of their troopers had any formal pre-invasion military training. Like them, every one of their men and women had been neurally educated for their new duties.

Unlike 1st and 3rd Platoons, Lieutenant Elinor Simpson's 2nd Platoon was already on the ground, prepared to provide the "hostiles" for the exercise under the direct supervision of Captain Brian Hilton, Alpha Company's CO.

Hilton was the only person involved today who'd actually been an officer before the invasion — in his case, a lieutenant in the South Carolina National Guard, who'd spent the invasion working in tandem with Sam Mitchell. While Mitchell supplied weapons and coordination over the entire state, however, Hilton had led one of the most effective guerilla bands making the Puppies' lives miserable in the ruins of the Downstate.

In Wilson's opinion, that meant Hilton was probably better qualified than he was to command the battalion (assuming they ever got it stood up), but he was also barely thirty years old. His experience fighting the Puppies made him the perfect person to command Palazzola's "op force," however, and Simpson — like Sergeant First Class Consuela Curbelo, Hilton's senior NCO — was actually a vet. Curbelo, a tough-as-nails little Texan who described herself as "Tex-Mex and meaner'n a snake," had been an E-4 and a Marine, whereas Simpson had been an E-5 and Army, but they obviously liked and respected once another. Unlike either of them, Staff Sergeant Jacqueline Walsham, Simpson's platoon sergeant, was another Space Marine with no prior military experience. She'd been a first-grade teacher, of all damned things. Until, that was, the Shongairi shot up a fleeing school bus that failed to stop at one of their early roadblocks. They'd killed almost all of her students that afternoon . . . and turned her into their worst nightmare. She'd become the best bomb-maker her resistance group had, and she'd also been their interrogation specialist.

For some reason, every prisoner she'd ever spoken to had told her exactly what she'd wanted to know. Eventually.

By the standard of any pre-invasion infantry platoon, Hilton's op force was definitely top heavy with females, Wilson thought, but that was just fine with him. Once the Heinlein armor was up and running, all the old arguments about upper body strength would become thoroughly moot. Besides, he'd known plenty of tough, competent military women even before the invasion, and all three of these had fought under Hilton's direct command after the invasion. The three of them had needed a lot less neural education to get a handle on their duties, which was the other reason Wilson had picked 2nd Platoon as the opposition force.

Might be you've stacked the deck just a bit, you think? he reflected now, as the Black Hawks raced closer, and then snorted in amusement. Of course he had, and for damned good reasons, too. If this whole NET approach had any bugs, better they find out about them early.

The helicopters swept overhead, then flared and settled into a ground hover, and the men and women of 1st and 3rd Platoon vaulted out of them.

The first bit went well, Wilson thought. Of course —

* * * * * * * * * *

"Go!" Aleandro Palazzola snapped over the platoon's com net, and watched the men and women of the assault force bound directly away from their landing points towards the pine forest surrounding the clearing. They should have looked clumsy in their bulky exoskeletons, but they didn't. Their biofeedback skin suits activated their synthetic "muscles" almost as smoothly as if they'd been naked.

He and Staff Sergeant Cunningham were perfectly placed at the midpoint between the expanding semicircles of 1st Platoon and 3rd Platoon as the helos lifted away. His people raced outward, moving in the two-man "wing" fire teams the new doctrine specified, then went to ground, covering a three hundred sixty-degree perimeter from prone firing positions, and he nodded in satisfaction.

"So far, so good," he murmured to Cunningham over their dedicated link.

"Tempting fate, there, Sir," Cunningham muttered back. The staff sergeant — two inches shorter than Palazzola, with a thin mustache and a scarred right cheek — took a perverse pride in his role of platoon pessimist. "Always room for something to —"

The explosion was less than eight feet behind Palazzola.
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Re: Into the Light Snippet #22
Post by Isilith   » Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:23 pm

Isilith
Captain (Junior Grade)

Posts: 297
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2015 10:58 am

Can not wait for this book.

And I see we dirty humans are already taking their tech and doing things they never thought about doing with it.
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