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 41 
 on: October 03, 2018, 05:00:51 AM 
Started by cairn destop - Last post by cairn destop
Captain Riven pondered a riddle as he stood outside the door.  It required an immediate answer.  Did he just enter the room and disturb whichever officer demanded his presence or did he knock and look the fool waiting for an invitation?  His mind must be exhausted if such a simple question defeated his powers of deduction.   

Another officer entered the same corridor.  Without hesitation, the soldier opened a door and stepped inside.  Captain Riven waited and watched the door he used.  Nothing happened.  Either the room belonged to that officer or the occupant wanted him.  He stood there counting to a hundred, watching the door.  It never opened.

He took a deep breath and grabbed the handle.  The door opened on silent hinges and he marched inside and came to attention.  Nothing dire happened.  No shouts, no screams, no recriminations, and no demands.  The sound of the latch catching as the door closed broke the evil spell his tired mind conjured.

The room appeared quite small for a commanding officer.  At least it did until he saw the lone occupant.  The lady rat had to be old enough to be his grandmother’s mother.  Her pelt had that looseness and lack of color, plus the wire rimmed glasses sitting at the tip of her muzzle did nothing to dispel her ancient appearance.  The lady’s fingers darted across a keyboard of their own volition while her eyes focused on the monitor in front of her.  She couldn’t be the officer as she wore civilian clothing.

After seeing nothing but military personnel within this complex, a civilian startled him.  It also had the effect of having him relax his military bearing.  He checked his surroundings.  The plaster walls all had a light bluish tint.  Even the floor’s tile had a blue color, though much deeper.  If not for the light brown desk, sofa, and area rug, the sole color scheme created a claustrophobic effect within his befuddled mind. 
He approached the lady.

“Captain Riven reporting as ordered.”

Her eyes remained on her screen.  “General Prawner is at another meeting.  I’ll advise him of your arrival but there’s no telling how long he’ll be.  He did tell me to let you wait in his outer office.  Help yourself to the coffee.  It’s the real thing, Captain.”

The rat’s paw left the keyboard and pressed an unseen buzzer.  A section of the wall slid aside, revealing another room.  At least he didn’t have to ponder his options.  The lady said he had been invited inside and that the next room wasn’t his office.  If the room contained a sofa like the one outside, this general might have quite a task waking him.

At least this place had a more earthen tone color scheme.  Considering what hung on the walls, it made sense.  A dozen paintings hung on either side of the hallway, all of them classic masterpieces dating back to the prewar era.  He stood before a painting he admired when he was on leave three years back, Antebellum Green.  The all white female poodle laid stretched out on a sofa in a provocative come-hither pose, the background displayed long green drapes, and four pups sat on the floor in the foreground on green pillows.

A voice intruded.  “I must admit, it’s one of my favorites.”

Captain Riven came to attention when he saw the otter general.  “It’s an excellent reproduction, sir.  Too bad the original was destroyed when the Pavlogen Heritage Art Museum was bombed from orbit a year ago.”

“No reproduction, it’s the original.  Our military intelligence broke their code and alerted us to their intentions.  During a surveillance blind spot, we removed most of the major works.  Pity we couldn’t save it all.  I kept this one for myself.”

“But the reports said everything was destroyed.”

“A military necessity to cover our breaking their code.  Pity they changed it three months later; no doubt standard human security procedure.  Anyway, I didn’t call you here to see my office collection; something far more important requires your presence, Major.  Yes, you’ve been promoted, effective once you arrived here.”

The otter pointed to a doorway at the far end of the gallery.  If Antebellum Green was the real masterpiece, it dawned on him that the other works were also the authentic originals.  Made him wonder what other artifacts these officers possessed. 

“It appears my staff took the word ‘immediately’ a bit too literally.  A blood-stained uniform missing its right sleeve, minimum veterinary care, and no time for food or rest?  Not a good combination for intellectual conversation.  I have a private washroom and can have a clean uniform delivered.  Let’s meet in the morning after you have a good meal and a long rest.”

Sweeter words he couldn’t imagine.  Major Riven didn’t know which sensation ranked first.  When he dropped his bloody uniform, he felt halfway clean.  An invigorating shower with soap and hot water rejuvenated him.  He wolfed down more food than he ever ate while in combat and passed out on the general’s large sofa dressed in nothing but a damp towel.

A slamming door had him scrambling for his sword.  His terror faded when he remembered where he slept.  The otter general pointed to the chair and Major Riven dressed.  Everything brand new and it fit like the proverbial glove.  Without his right paw, dressing proved difficult.  He also missed his sword, which the general confiscated.  After several attempts with his left paw, he surrendered all attempts at tying his boots.
The general opened a large folder and read its contents while he dressed.  When Major Riven ceased trying to do his shoes one-pawed, the general leaned back in his chair.  For some reason, he pictured himself as an insect under the otter’s magnifying glass.  He wasn’t sure if the officer intended examining his specimen or burning it.

“You win a one in ten thousand teaching exemption from military service and loose it to politics.  What were you thinking when you sided with the Hoarders?”

“That file is wrong, sir.  I joined the Sifters, a minor faction within the Hoarders.  We believe some items from the humans beneficial and worth saving while the Hoarders want to keep everything.  I still believe the Puritans wrong for purging everything human but they gained power and I found myself in the military.”

“Human items like Dante’s Divine Comedy and Sun Tzu’s Art of War?  Be glad I intervened after we relieved your outpost.  The Puritans had an agent in your command who discovered your unauthorized material.  I managed to intercept his last communication so none are the wiser.  Their agent died in the battle, otherwise the Puritans would have you executed as a human sympathizer.”

If the general knew of his transgression and intended keeping it secret, he must want something big in return.  An officer on the front learns very fast the art of favors and trade.  Two camps, each holding something the other wants?  You fashion a trade equitable to both sides.  When somebody does a favor for you, expect reciprocation.  The bigger the favor, the greater the payback. 

“Until your arm heals, Major, you’ll be in the medical wing for some much-needed rehab work.  I’ve assigned you a driver who will also act as your temporary aide.  I’m sure you remember him and I know he remembers you.  Just do me the favor of not killing him; his father is a very influential member of the National Herd.  Rumor has it he came within a dozen votes of becoming our Prime Minister.”

 42 
 on: October 01, 2018, 06:42:25 AM 
Started by cairn destop - Last post by cairn destop
No sense asking for directions from the guards.  They would ignore him until relieved, just like everyone he passed.  Captain Riven made his way down the single corridor.  On either side of him were rows of office doors, each with a series of letters and number.  He didn’t doubt those assigned here understood whatever code identified his location.  To him it was nothing but gibberish.  Up ahead he found what he needed, an information directory at a point where several corridors met.

An insistent horn blared in the distance.  The whine of an electric engine on overdrive competed with a blaring horn.  Within the confines of the underground facility, he had no way of determining where the noise originated.  Seeing a line of morphs jumping towards the wall confirmed the location of an approaching vehicle.  The shriek of brakes announced the driver had reached his destination.

“Captain Riven?  Captain Riven?  Has anyone seen . . . oh good, you’re already here.  Unless there’s another ferret officer wandering these halls, I’m guessing you’re Captain Riven.”

The wildcat wore the insignia of a lieutenant and his uniform was inspection ready.  Such a pristine uniform and every bit of fur trimmed to match the current military dress code.  All he had to do was smile and everyone would mistaken him for some recruitment poster.  He even came to rigid attention, executed a perfect salute, and slid into the at-ease position three paces in front of him.  Everything by the book with the exception of his twitching nose.

“With all due respect, you’re not really going to see the general smelling like that.  Completely unprofessional, sir.  Why didn’t you consider a hot shower and a change of uniform before coming here?”

Enough was enough for Captain Riven.  By his reckoning, before the relief column whisked him to the veterinary hospital, he hadn’t slept for two days.  He didn’t consider the time the medical staff operated as restful and all this travel didn’t improve his temperament.  Listening to this meowing kitten’s insults grated on his last nerve.

Captain Riven lowered his shoulder and charged the wildcat, sending him rolling down the hall.  Riven’s booted foot slammed down on the lieutenant’s chest, pinning him to the floor.  Riven drew his sword with his left paw and slashed down at his larger adversary.  The blade sliced through the muzzle whiskers and came to rest against the wildcat’s throat.  Every morph in the vicinity froze as they watched the unfolding drama.  His voice remained icy as he stood over the lieutenant.

“I have been fighting those hairless monkeys for seven days nonstop.  During that time, I’ve been shot, stabbed, and bludgeoned.  I used a kitchen knife to dig out bullets and a sewing kit to mend myself and those who served with me.  My sword has killed more than a dozen humans in individual combat in just the last three days.  I’ve faced twice as many more before that and survived.  I have held comrades in my paws as they died because of my orders.  I haven’t slept much or eaten enough and I sure haven’t had time to bathe in at least seven days.  Now, unless you can claim to have done as much, I’d choose my next words with great care or you might not get a chance to do better.”

The lieutenant licked his lips, his voice betraying his fear.  “General Prawner’s orders were to ‘get you to him yesterday,’ that’s why we need to hurry, sir.”

Captain Riven removed his foot from the wildcat’s chest.  Instead of a pristine uniform, the lieutenant’s blouse had a very muddy impression of his combat boot.  As for his trousers, they were no longer dry nor were they as fresh smelling.  The wildcat’s eyes remained fixated on the sword that sat on his muzzle.

“I don’t give a scat about your orders, lieutenant.  If anyone has to dodge out of the way or you hit that damn horn just once, I’ll throw you out of this thing and run you down with it.  Do I make myself understood?”

“Yes sir.  Absolutely clear sir.  May we depart sir?”

He took the passenger seat and watched the wildcat try to reclaim his dignity.  The yellow puddle and the dirt piles on the pristine floor did not help.  As he engaged the engine, every morph took a step back but kept their eyes on the cart as it accelerated.  Captain Riven sheathed his blade, his eyes fixed on the lieutenant’s face. 

Good thing the driver knew where to go, he got disoriented at the first turn.  At one point the foot traffic became heavy and the driver lifted his paw off the wheel.  Captain Riven cleared his throat and the driver’s paw returned to the steering wheel.  They stopped in a corridor like every corridor they passed in front of a door without a nametag, just a series of letters and numbers. 

As he exited the cart, the driver departed.  At least the driver maintained a sane speed until he reached the end of the passageway.  One turn and the sound of an engine accelerating could be heard.  A horn vigorously applied drifted back to him as the lieutenant made his escape.  That earned a good laugh, the first since the humans attacked.  It felt wonderful.

 43 
 on: September 28, 2018, 04:44:00 AM 
Started by cairn destop - Last post by cairn destop
Captain Riven entered the business foyer and gazed around.  If not for the war, you would think this just another civilian business operation.  To his right, a hallway led to a bank of elevators.  Morphs of every species entered and exited the place dressed in tailored suits.  Some of these morphs stopped at the receptionist desk for directions.

A door to his left drew him closer.  Several morphs passed him as they too entered the building via the door marked employees only.  Those passing too close wiggled their muzzle whiskers or gave a snort when they caught his scent.  By the time they located the rancid odor, Captain Riven had passed through the doorway. 

He clipped the badge his driver gave him to his torn uniform and walked at a casual pace through the room.  The heavy smell of ink and paper overwhelmed him while the printing presses dominated all sounds.  Some of the presses printed civilian items such as advertising circulars.  Many contained patriotic material encouraging older civilians to conserve while others appealed to the youth’s sense of duty.  Interesting but not why he came here.

Captain Riven passed through another set of doors into a duplicate foyer.  This time he turned towards the bank of elevators.  A female rat at the security desk got out of her chair and took no more than one step in his direction before he gave her what he knew was his best “go ahead and try me” stare.  It worked.  She returned to her station.  He kept glaring at her, daring her to try pushing the alarm button.  She dropped her eyes, acting as if her manicured fingernails needed buffing.

He opened the maintenance room door and relayed the material to Elevator Six.  It took time as he had but one paw and his other arm remained immobilized within its sling.  When the designated elevator reached ground level, he pushed inside.  A one quarter twist of his key turned the elevator off and those inside the elevator car filed out, not even giving him a glance.  He set up the barrier and the universal “closed so we can serve you better” sign in the hallway.

A second twist of the key closed the doors and put the car in maintenance mode.  It shouldn’t work but his key turned another quarter turn.  He quickly pressed the buttons in the sequence he learned while riding here.  As he pressed the final button, the elevator lights came on and the car did the impossible.  It went below ground level.

The elevator doors opened on an unknown level deep underground and he retrieved the key.  He didn’t know what he anticipated when he stepped out but an empty room was the very last thing he expected.  The room measured six paces square and the walls reminded him of the dental office he visited while on his last leave.  Even the floor had that sterile off-white color medical clinics favored.  The one thing missing, a door.

As soon as the elevator doors closed, the surrounding walls sank into the floor.  Not much of an improvement.  Captain Riven stood within a plexiglass cell and armed guards manned automated weapon pods mounted into recesses in the floor and ceiling.  At least this room had a door, though he guessed the security monitor activated the locking system.

He approached the monitor and stood on the indicated red X.  The screen lit and he read the instructions for passing this checkpoint.  Paw prints proved difficult with one immobilize arm.  A few seconds passed before a green light appeared and the next identification protocol appeared.  The machine took a retina scan and a nose print without more than a momentary delay.  So far, three of four ID markers passed.  The last one appeared.

“You have got to be joking.” 

The machine wanted him to sing the theme song of Avenger Puppy, a show about a puppy fighting humans with his morph squad of youngsters.  With no other option, he sang the opening lines of the popular cartoon. 

The security door slid open and he stepped into the one morph chamber.  All the weapon blisters receded and the walls rose from the floor.  He had a feeling not too many of those assigned to this base ever went topside.  Bad enough the bio-scans but having him sing to confirm a voiceprint he didn’t even remember making was overkill.  Once the scanner determined he carried no biological or explosive components, the last door slid aside.  He just entered the most secured morph military facility outside those reserved for the Prime Minister or the Chancellor. 

 44 
 on: September 26, 2018, 04:44:05 AM 
Started by cairn destop - Last post by cairn destop
Talk about insanity.  Captain Riven couldn’t think of any other term to describe the last twenty-six hours.  In that one day’s time, an armored column managed to punch through the pass and relieve his command.  Those injured were evacuated to a veterinary hospital.  He hadn’t recovered from his operation when four armed and armored soldiers whisked his furry butt out of the hospital.

They hustled him onto a command hovercraft and broke every speed record getting to the nearest strategic air station.  Still strapped to his stretcher, they loaded him into a supersonic fighter and flew him to the continent of Capricorn.  He thought the base hospital his final stop when they released him from his stretcher.  Such hopes proved premature.

His guards took him down to a high-speed subway and whisked him to an unknown destination.  That’s when the lunacy of the military bureaucracy reared its ugly head.  The four guards who hadn’t left his side pointed to the stairwell and returned to the underground tram, leaving him alone.  Captain Riven had no other option than to use the stairs. 

Hard enough opening doors with his left paw, but every step up bounced his right arm.  Whatever painkillers the vets gave him were wearing off and the discomfort grew.  At least the exit was nothing more than a simple push bar.  He exited the stairwell in an underground garage.  As to the stairwell, a sign had been stenciled on the door reading maintenance room.  His groggy mind couldn’t grasp any reason for such games.

A voice pierced his tired and muddled mine.  “Captain Riven?  I’m your driver, please get in as we don’t have much time.”

The hydrogen powered vehicle accelerated as it rolled through the city at a casual pace.  While he leaned back in the padded seat, his eyes scanned the streets they passed.  He watched the many pups and kittens romping around in the park.  He spotted adults doing the many necessary duties that kept a city functioning. It felt good seeing so many citizens not in a uniform.  Such a relaxing and idealistic view.
The illusion shattered when he crossed over a pontoon bridge sitting next to a stone one destroyed in an earlier attack.  Capricorn was supposed to be a morph secured continent.  Hell, their government operated from the largest morph city, Nestling.  Yet here, wherever here was, Captain Riven observed the obvious signs of a city at war.

Radar installations and antiaircraft gun emplacements appeared on the roofs of some of the taller buildings.  One of the newest high-altitude missile systems had confiscated half the land earmarked for some park.  Military police roamed the streets along with their civilian counterparts.  Every billboard his car passed contained some inspirational message about the war.   His car hit a particularly large pothole and the jarring motion had him curse.

“Sorry about that, sir.  All hovercrafts are considered combat priority so we have to travel by wheeled transport and no tram passes our destination.”

“Don’t mind me.  My painkillers have worn off and this arm is killing me.  The vets removed every bone in my lower arm and packed it with regenerative gel.  Somebody was in such a hurry to get me off the front that they didn’t even use a cast.  Just this temporary splint.”
“You’ll have to excuse the scenic route, Captain.  I’m taking you to one of our most secure facilities and such security extremes are necessary to avoid human detection.  Please review the entry procedures as time will be short.”

The driver handed him a folder than focused his attention on the road.  He continued his meanderings through the city while he read the papers regarding security.  Captain Riven would have to surrender his firearms, assuming he still had them, but could keep the short sword he wore.  After so much time at the front, keeping any form of weaponry eased his mind.

The radio’s soft music stopped when another signal overrode the civilian band.  For the next twenty-five minutes the city would be in a satellite dead zone.  The driver hit a button that activated a military style siren.  He jerked the wheel over hard and the vehicle accelerated down a priority use lane.  Whatever clearance his driver had, every military vehicle encountered gave way.

Another sharp turn and the car entered a civilian business park.  Captain Riven couldn’t find anything distinctive about the brick buildings.  None of them had military personnel or markings.  The only thing differentiating one structure from another being the large numbers facing the street. 

Tires squealed as the car came to a sudden stop.  Pain which had been just below tolerable shot up to agonizing.  Captain Riven fumbled with the door handle and climbed out of the backseat.  He didn’t even get to close the door.  The driver’s acceleration slammed it shut as he roared out of the parking lot.  A glance at his timer showed he had under three minutes to get inside the building before the humans regained satellite coverage of the city.  Plenty of time to read the business logo.

“Creative Artistry Print Company, Adding clarity to the muddled mind.”

 45 
 on: September 24, 2018, 06:51:35 AM 
Started by cairn destop - Last post by cairn destop
It seems my first chapter was too long for the site.  I had to break it into two segments.  Anyway, part one is posted and I anticipate posting the other chapter around the same time.

As always, you can either post your comments, compliments, insults, or observations on this thread or via PM.  I will answer any and all posts.

 46 
 on: September 24, 2018, 06:48:51 AM 
Started by cairn destop - Last post by cairn destop
He rushed down the central path, following a series of twists and turns until he came to a pair of thick black curtains.  Captain Riven parted them and followed a short corridor deeper underground.  A second pair of curtains blocked his path, which he pushed aside.  Four red lanterns gave him just enough light to identify six rows of occupied bunk beds.

Once he removed his helmet, Captain Riven used it like a hammer on the nearest wooden support beam.  The sound of thunder echoed through the room.  Every dog tumbled out of their bunks.  The nearest one recognized who had disturbed their slumber and called for attention.  The soldiers stood by their bunks in various states of disarray as they wrestled with the idea of military protocol or a proper uniform.

“Alright mutts, without any of the usual alpha bragging, which of you is this company’s best sniper?”

A dalmatian at the far end took one step forward.  Captain Riven strolled up to the fellow and just stared, letting the tension build and the silence grow.

“Get our best spotter and whichever shooter would give you the most competition and report to Hanger Three in ten minutes.  Draw a full load for each type of round.  No way of telling what we’ll encounter.”

With that, he pivoted on one heel and made for the curtained exit.  Just before he stepped past the inner curtains, he informed everyone that the camp was officially on condition yellow.  As he departed, he heard the remaining soldiers preparing for the possibility of combat.  At least those soldiers would be ready if things deteriorated fast to condition red.

His memory served him well.  Though the path had many twists to it, it was the most direct one to Hanger Three.  When he pushed pass the blackout curtains, he found a wide room bustling with activity as mechanics scrambled over the different vehicles.  One cigar chewing boxer kept bellowing orders as he prowled the hanger.  One private didn’t respond fast enough and received the kind of tongue lashing soldiers believed only drill instructors possessed.

When the Sargent realized who had entered his hanger, he hustled to his side.  Since they were in a combat area, the boxer abandoned the formality of saluting.  Instead, the boxer took Riven by the elbow to a land zodiac.  At present, the vehicle sat on four stubby legs, its hover engines disconnected.  The land zodiac ran swift and silent on a cushion of air a full foot above the highest terrain within ten meters of their path, an ideal scouting platform.

A young private ran his paw across the exterior while he read through the prelaunch checklist.  One look said it all, like the rat in communications, the young ferret must have arrived with the latest rotation of personnel.  No doubt the Sargent guessed the reason for his discomfort and relayed the fellow’s record and his personal assurance that Private Lewark was the best driver available.  His mind kept fixating on the fact that all his accolades were achieved in a sterile training environment, not in combat.

Three dogs announced their presence just as the private started the engine.  Captain Riven eyed the two who joined the dalmatian.  Like the dalmatian, the shepherd carried his sniper rifle slung over his shoulder while holding onto a large backpack.  Instead of the usual camouflage outfit, the two shooters wore a heat reflective dark suit.  Uncomfortable for long missions since it didn’t ventilate any body heat but it did leave them invisible to inferred detectors.  A definite plus on any night mission.

The third dog, a small terrier carried no weapon but did have the same camouflage outfit.  Instead of a weapon, he carried a tripod mounted scope.  This had to be their spotter.  All Captain Riven could do was hope the fellow competent in such adverse weather conditions.  While the two shooters waited, their spotter packed his gear and mounted the back seat.  The shooters took the middle seats leaving him the jump seat next to the driver.

The zodiac gave a slight hiss than tilted forward.  Four running lights flashed as their driver crossed the hanger for the exit.  The inner doors opened and the craft drifted forward.  The attendant handed the driver his IFF code and the fellow punched it into the transponder.  All running lights winked off and the hanger’s outer doors slid open.

Everything appeared black.  Both moons remained hidden by the clouds as the zodiac crept forward.  The clang of the hanger doors shutting turned into a starter’s pistol.  Private Lewark tipped the bow down and their ride accelerated to full speed in mere seconds.  Ground radar guided the driver as he followed a pre-plotted course over their mine field towards the first bend in the pass. 

Captain Riven tried keeping calm in the featureless night.  Snowflakes became stinging pebbles digging deep into his facial fur as they sped into the darkness.  He knew the distances by heart but without any visual references, the first turn almost threw him from the zodiac.  A glance behind him showed the three dogs not only secured their gear before departure but had strapped themselves down as well.  He followed their example just before the driver executed a second turn that should have hurled him over the side.

It came more as a sensation than anything definitive.  One moment their speed hovered near the upper end of the normal operational limits and the next it became a slow crawl.  The vehicle gave a low whine and Captain Riven felt himself come to a full stop.  The three dogs beat him out of the vehicle even though he traveled with little gear.

Their spotter pointed uphill and all fell in line behind the terrier.  Captain Riven stayed with the spotter as the two shooters disappeared into the night.  While the terrier attended to his equipment, Captain Riven pulled out a pair of high-powered night binoculars and allowed them to rest on his muzzle.  The eerie greenish tint colored everything as he scanned the distance.

A quick check of the compass readings confirmed what he saw.  Humans scurried like ants over the dragon teeth installed at their end of the pass.  Other soldiers worked to establish makeshift bridges across the antivehicle trenches.  Further back, a line of trucks extended to the first turn.  On either side of the road, armored vehicles sat.  Unlike the usual second quality vehicles used on raids, these were top grade armor.  Captain Riven had his confirmation, the humans must be preparing for a major offensive drive.

The terrier interrupted his observations.  “Orders, sir?”

Captain Riven considered his options.  “Find two officers working on those obstructions.”

The terrier muttered into the headset he wore while using his scope.  A moment later he gave the command and two shots echoed as one.  The results were spectacular.  Soldiers dove for whatever cover could be found while others prepared for some defensive move.

“Use explosive incendiary and light the night.”

Again, the terrier muttered into his mike while keeping his scope focused on some distant target.  It seemed to take a much longer time for him to coordinate with the shooters but when he gave the command, the effects proved spectacular.  One truck filled with fuel drums and parked within a circle of battle tanks caught fire.  Fifty-five-gallon drums of high octane fuel exploded like roman candles.  Another truck turned into a fireball setting off a nearby munition stockpile.

The spotter folded his tripod and unscrewed the scope.  His mike sat halfway in his shirt pocket.  The laser comms he retrieved and packed in another pocket.

“I don’t know where you’re going soldier, but we have a job to do.”  Captain Riven snarled at the smaller terrier.

“Begging your pardon sir, but you don’t understand snipers.  First shot is always a surprise.  Second shot gives those hairless moneys our general location.  We take a third shot without moving at least half a mile and they will drop a dozen mortar shells right on top of us.”

“Than you better hope our driver is as good as his reputation.  Antipersonnel, target of opportunity, no officers.  Everyone expects snipers to target the brass.  You shoot a grunt and every soldier will wonder if the next bullet is for them.”

It took longer reestablishing contact with the shooters while the spotter reset his equipment.  Than started a series of contact reports that seemed to be identifying every soldier on the far end of the valley.  These reports continued as shooter and spotter debated the value of each target.  Agreement at last and the spotter gave the standby command.

The terrier covered the mike with his paw.  “When I give the command to fire, get your furry butt to that zodiac, sir.  We will have approximately ten to fifteen seconds before they get a firing solution and another five seconds for the ranging shells to land.  Anticipate a full salvo after another five seconds.  If any of us are still here, we’ll be fertilizing the spring grass.”

Private Lewark must have anticipated the hasty retreat as the vehicle no longer sat on its legs.  The zodiac floated in place, its engines purring.  All four of them jumped over the sides as they scrambled to safety.  Forward thrust came just as the first two shells landed.  One fell on the opposite side of the rise while the second shell landed a half dozen yards in front of them.  Their driver applied maximum thrust even as the air filled with the banshee screech of shells on a downward trajectory.  A series of explosions filled the area just vacated.  Half exploded on contact while the rest detonated several meters above the ground.

They made it beyond the kill zone before a series of high caliber shells further churned the landscape.  Everyone managed to secure themselves and their gear prior to the first turn.  Their driver reduced speed to the normal operating range as he backtracked their course.  All of them kept a watch on their rear, checking for any pursuit.  Either the humans thought they killed the snipers or were not about to expend additional ordinance.

They made the final turn for base when the radio crackled.  “Inbound zodiac, base has gone to condition red.  Adjust transponder and Ident.”
The driver reached for the code box and moved wheel one up a number, the second wheel two notches up, the third wheel three notches up, and the last wheel four notches down and pressed the transmit button.

“IFF verified.  Automated defenses deactivate.  You have thirty seconds to reach departure point.”

The zodiac engines went to full power as they raced across the open field.  As they roared across the field, Captain Riven tried locating the hanger.  With eight seconds remaining on the countdown clock, Private Lewark killed thrust and allowed the zodiac to drift to a stop.  The Captain thought the sound of the hanger doors closing behind them the sweetest sound he ever heard.

Once the craft came to a stop, Captain Riven darted through the hanger.  He raced through each ring as he made his way back to the base’s comm center.  Soldiers passed him going in the opposite direction as they rushed to their assigned station.  His second, Lieutenant Snarken, remained a pace behind him as he entered the innermost ring.  By the time he found the comm center, he had been fully briefed on the status of all defenses.

The female rat still maintained her post.  One glance at the security files showed them armed for self-destruction.  Rice paper sat on a table above a bucket of water, its agitator churning and leaving a puddle on the cement floor.  Captain Riven grabbed the stack of messages and scanned each before dropping them in the bucket.  He hesitated on one that said when the commander of the Northern Pass Fortress last conducted a security sweep.  The final message referred to an updated weather report.

He dug down a few pages and pulled up the weather forecast.  All color drained from his face.  He shouted for the secure laser relay line to HQ.  Somebody had to be there from intelligence.  It took him almost thirty minutes convincing the lower echelons his message important enough to relay to the next level of command.  When a colonel responded, he figured either this guy listened or it wouldn’t matter.

“Colonel, the humans are mounting a full-scale offense.  Alert those guarding the main mountain pass of the attack. . .. They haven’t conducted one for five days. . .. Yes sir, I said five days. . .. That’s why they’re attacking, sir. . .. This weather will ground all air for at least a week.  Our air superiority is worthless. . .. The humans don’t have the time to hunt down our gunships. . .. Tell him to try contacting us in an hour. . .. Well, one of us will look the fool.”

Captain Riven couldn’t believe this fellow’s obstinance.  All he kept saying is winter and heavy snows.  Even mentioned the human’s adherence to some ancient Earth holiday observance.  At least he did pass the information to his immediate superior.   The phone hummed for several moments before a new voice responded.  He never got to confirm his orders before the line died.  His first guess, the humans found their laser relay station and took it out with a hand-held missile.

“Our orders are to hold at all costs, no retreat.” 

He had to shout above the whine of incoming artillery.  The lady rat grabbed her helmet and dove under her desk as the shelling commenced.  None of those shells came anywhere near this bunker and yet she cringed as if the next one might land in her lap.  He would have laughed but remembered his first battle when he was no more than a year older than her.  Captain Riven grabbed her belt and pulled her from under the desk.

“A word of advice, cut off that name tag.  Human spotters will shout out any name they see hoping you’ll poke your head up for their snipers.”  Captain Riven exited the bunker, keeping his head below the rampart.  “Too bad they don’t teach ancient human history.  We are about to become Malmedy or Bastogne.”

 47 
 on: September 24, 2018, 06:47:48 AM 
Started by cairn destop - Last post by cairn destop
Captain Riven exited the comm center and jogged to the command bunker.  He slipped his helmet onto his head as he weaved his way through the trench system, making sure he stayed below the rim.  Instead of entering the bunker, he followed a stairway to the observation post.  The Terratwo sun had risen an hour ago but the surrounding mountains kept this base and the valley they guarded in deep shadows.  A look up at the steel grey winter sky told him not to expect sunshine today.

A mixed terrier poked his head out of the bunker.  “Morning Captain.  All’s quiet.  Both seismic detectors and ground radar stayed green.  Only activity overnight has been from our patrols.  Sentries and scouts reported nothing.”

Captain Riven acknowledged the report as he scanned the valley stretching beyond his defensive outpost.  The mountains were too steep for climbing so he didn’t worry about snipers.  If any of those hairless monkeys tried it, the nightly patrols should have eliminated them before they became a threat. 

His concern focused on an evening infantry or armored assault.  At this time of year, the setting sun blinded them.  Another ten days and the sun would shift far enough to remove any glare.  Until then, they would have difficulties seeing their enemy if they slipped past the automated detectors. 

“Corporal, hold a readiness drill for later today.”  He continued his inspection of the area.

“Captain,” whined the terrier, “we can go from condition green to all weapons hot in five minutes.  Those seismic detectors will give us at least a fifteen-minute warning.  Why your insistence on these pointless drills?”

“I have confidence in our equipment but I’ll not trust my life with it.  Technology can be thwarted but not a pair of sharp eyes.”

He knew the location of the enemy’s camp.  The humans were at the eastern end of this mountain pass hiding behind a series of trenches and dragon teeth emplacements.  Dismantling them would take too much time so Captain Riven didn’t anticipate anything more than probing assaults.  Those never consisted of anything stronger than a half dozen armored vehicles, perhaps a pair of second grade tanks, or a hundred soldiers. 

As a forward base station, his mission was to hold and observe.  Fortunately, High Command saw fit to upgrade their defensive capabilities.  Since the last human offense stagnated, their camp expanded from a slit trench for a dozen soldiers to a viable defensive fortification occupied by almost five hundred morphs.  Better weapons and communications made them a powerful defensive outpost.
“Everything all right commander,” his second in command asked as he exited the command bunker.

“Everything is as it’s been for over six months lieutenant,” Captain Riven replied.  “We are in a stalemate with the humans.  This pass is what they would call temporizing land.  Whichever side moves first will be at the greater disadvantage.  If anything is going to happen, it will be through the mountain pass to our north.”

He adjusted his chin strap to prevent the oversized helmet from slipping over his eyes.  Every time their logistics division resupplied them, he searched for something to fit a ferret instead of the oversized dog ones they kept sending.  Even the smaller rat helmet would be preferable.  Riven understood why the rear echelons kept sending additional dog helmets.  Most of his command consisted of dogs.

Riven likened his base to Dante’s Divine Comedy, a human novel he obtained off the body of some dead soldier too many years ago.  The trench system consisted of nine interconnected rings with each ring defending the outer ones.  If an outer ring fell, the next one in could decimate the invaders while enjoying the protection of those rings behind them. 

The enemy still sent sorties in force to test their resolve.  So far, the humans hadn’t gotten beyond the open field without heavy losses.  Riven saw no reason for the humans to attack this particular pass.  The only way through was along a single and very narrow road.  His artillery had it ranged and he held drills daily to confirm that assumption.  Nothing could go too far off road as you either encountered the sheer mountain wall or came within range of his base.

By the time he inspected the trenches, oversaw the multiple scheduled artillery drills, and checked in with his subordinates, he had little time remaining.  As was his habit, he made a point of taking chow within the mess hall for a different ring each day. 
Today he had the outermost ring, which delayed his return to the innermost circle of his personal hell.  Riven missed his favorite event of the day, the officer’s mess.  One of the drawbacks of command.  By the time he arrived at the innermost ring’s security checkpoint, the setting Terratwo sun touched the eastern mountains where the humans camped.

“Lieutenant Snarken, anything to report?”

“Commander, replacements are delayed due to icy roads.  They should arrive after nightfall.  Those scheduled to go on R and R will have to wait until morning,” replied the wildcat.  “If we get the predicted snowfall, roads will become impassable for a few days.  Expect a lot of complaints from those due to rotate out.”

Captain Riven laughed.  “The humans would call that a SNAFU.  We’ll call it bad karma.”

A glance upward confirmed the lieutenant’s comment.  Grey clouds tumbled in slow motion like dice across the evening sky.  Stars disappeared one by one as the weather system moved eastward.  Even the air held the scent of impending precipitation, though what kind still appeared debatable.  Not ideal conditions for replacements but it kept the humans quiet. 

Captain Riven made his way along the switchbacks until he reached the blackout curtains to the post’s communication’s center.  Officer quarters offered both privacy and comfort but the radio room would learn of anything needing his attention first.  As he did every night, he slept on a simple cot in a storage room near whichever dog had the late shift.  He left the door open and soon fell into a deep sleep.
Her voice intruded on his dream fantasy.  Riven shifted on his cot and glanced at the clock mounted above the radio room’s single entrance.  The hour hand hadn’t passed one yet so he slept less than four hours.  His feet slipped into the boots he removed earlier.  He dressed fast but left his weapons resting on the shipping crate he used as a night stand.

The female rat sat hunched over the radio switchboard, her voice fighting to remain calm.

“Resting . . . you don’t have anything . . . of course I know the chain of command . . . yes sir, a corporal outranks a private but I have my orders . . . proper protocol is to give me your report and I’ll pass it on to my superior before waking the commander.”

Riven startled the rat when he came up behind her.  He grabbed a second headset and plugged into the system.  A somewhat frantic voice kept alternating between hurling insults and insisting he talk to somebody that knew more than regulations.  He waited until the silence at his end had the unknown caller hesitate.

“Unless you’ve been promoted to major in the last few moments, you are speaking to your commanding officer.  Give me a concise report and without the hysteria displayed earlier.”

He wheeled a chair closer and pushed the female rat far enough to the side that he could access the nearby computer.  A check on recent intelligence reports contradicted everything this soldier said.  The pass to the north gave no indication of activity.  Those back in HQ hadn’t issued any advisories regarding human troop movements over the last two weeks. 

“Corporal, gather your team and return to base.”

Riven gave the female rat a long look as she placed all channels on standby.  She made to say something but he held up his paw to silence her.

“You wanted to give me an accurate report and not the ravings of some front-line soldier, commendable and by the book.  However, you’re on the front lines and not back at boot camp.  We do things differently here.”

“How did you know I came from boot camp, sir?”

“Three things.  When I went to bed, there were no rats under my command.  Second, your uniform is pressed.  Third, you smell of soap.  Nobody can keep that clean under combat conditions.”

Captain Riven ordered her to place the installation on condition yellow and advise Lieutenant Snarken of the situation.  He than informed her of his intention of verifying the scout’s report while gathering his gear.  As he parted the blackout curtains, he heard the female rat relay orders to those officers on duty via the comm system.


 48 
 on: September 16, 2018, 07:01:08 PM 
Started by cairn destop - Last post by cairn destop
I welcome any and all comments and will reply to your questions.  First chapter goes up 09/24/2018.  Hope you'll read and enjoy.  Chapters to be released Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week for eight weeks.

 49 
 on: September 16, 2018, 06:57:56 PM 
Started by cairn destop - Last post by cairn destop
This is an update of an earlier topic.  It needed a lot of work.  The story consist of 24 parts and will be released starting Monday 09/24/2018.  A new comment thread will also be made available.  The old story has been removed.  Those who read it will understand why the updated version.  Those who didn't, sit back and enjoy.

 50 
 on: September 12, 2018, 07:24:40 PM 
Started by Kaijugod - Last post by Kaijugod
Chapter 1: The Halo Observatory


Hajmoul Fluge sat, staring at Earth from the small porthole. The blue sphere floated there, floating free. He sighed. He had been away from Earth for five long years. Well, technically, he was only a few thousand miles away. The space station Halo was his home, and would be, his home. He didn’t like it, but it was the hard truth. His family, his friends, his son and daughter, all on Earth. Sure, they sent him cards. Sure, he spoke to them via VidPhone. And, of course, his good friend, Vlad snuck him cigarettes and beer, accompanied with a joke to lift the spirits. But it didn’t help. His term was over in ten more years, and he was scratching of the days on his calendar until then. He hated the station. He hated the taste of the artificial air. He hated the knowledge that if the power generators failed, they’d all die from lack of oxygen. He hated the notion that only a few feet of titanium separated a habitable environment from a deadly vacuum. Hajmoul hated his sorry excuse for an apartment, his dingy shower, his food (Except the food his wife sent). He hated everything on the damn station, including himself for volunteering. Hajmoul unbuckled himself out of the chair and allowed himself to float in the zero gravity. He was tired, but he had work to do. He grabbed the handrails one by one and pulled himself to the observation deck. It was really tiring. The circular shape of the station made it worse. The central hallway made one big loop. He had just left the crew quarters. 135 handrails away was the cafeteria. 170 was the marker for the engineering room. 200 was the lounge and casino. And 250 waste observation deck, and it wasn’t even a quarter of the way around. The station was immense. Hajmoul knew a man who once took an entire day to go from the medical room to the crew quarters. At least it was a good exercise. After about 20 minutes, he was at the observation deck. Now his work began.


Hajmoul pulled himself in the zero gravity to his work chair, and buckled himself in. The observation deck was empty except for him, so it was a really deathly quiet. Hajmoul opened the main shutters and a huge window appeared. He switched on the computer at his desk, as well. Then, he did his job. He observed earth. The Halo Station was, in short, an earth observatory. It was constructed and put into commission by earth’s first ruler, Rian Adamska, in 2368. Ever since WWIII, earth put down its weapons, the people became one. Earth was now one big democratic world, a calm, peaceful place. A new, universal language was set into place. Those of the 21st century would describe it as a mix of German, Spanish, Japanese, and French. This station was set into place to signify the unification of earth. This of course, was a long time ago. About a thousand years ago. Ancient history, as far as Fluge was concerned. As Hajmoul made a log of all the star positions and meteorites, he sang to himself an ancient song, a song sang in the original English language. Apparently, it was sung by a group called “The Beatles”, but he couldn’t be sure. Even the words did not make sense. His mother, who taught him it, his grandmother, his great grandmother, even his great-great grandmother, did not know not what the lyrics meant, but it still flowed nicely. Suddenly, a beeping sound came from the computer. Vlad was calling him! Happy to take a break from this tedious work, he accepted the message. Vlad’s face appeared. “Hey, Haj!” he said with a big grin. “Hello Vlad” Hajmoul answered. “How are things on your end?”

Vlad answered smiling “It’s great here, real water, air, good food. I bet it’s way better than at the station.”

“Don’t push it.”

“Okay, I’m done. Yeah, so how’s it up there?”

“Same as usual.”

“Sorry about that.”

“Don’t be, I signed up.”

“Ah well. You here about the uprising in North Africa?”

“No, I didn’t.” Hajmoul had heard of the uprisings, groups of people that wished for separate governments. The sometimes revolted violently, killing all in their way. “Well, a Communistic party bombed a school in North Africa. All children were killed.”

“All of them?”

“Not a single survivor from that school.”

“My God.”

“Yeah, it’s terrible.”

“How’s Molly?”

“She’s fine. She said the kids are good as well.”

“Good. Y’know, I really miss her. Can you tell her to come up to the station in a few days? I need to see her.”

“Sure. Y’know? What the hell, I’ll come too.”

“See you buddy.”



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