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Major (The United Federation Marine Corps Book 5), page 1
THE UNITED FEDERATION MARINE CORPS
BOOK 5: MAJOR
Colonel Jonathan P. Brazee
Copyright © 2015 Jonathan Brazee
Semper Fi Press
ISBN-13: 978-0692480281 (Semper Fi Press)
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
I want to thank all those who took the time to pre-read this book, catching my mistakes in both content and typing. I want to thank Navywriter, my proofreader, for catching my many typos and mistakes. Any remaining typos and inaccuracies are solely my fault.
Original Cover Art by Panicha Kasemsukkaphat
There are two useless ranks in the Marines, and both of them wear gold.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, we’ve covered our pricks with leaves.
An even older anonymous saying
Twenty armored vehicles of the invasion force made their appearance over the ridge, moving in a tight formation. Ryck was not a fan of such precision—he thought an armored assault should offer a chaotic front where the vehicles’ exact paths of advance could not be anticipated. Still, he had to admit the sight was impressive, and there was nothing between the armor and his position that could stop the force, at least that he could see.
Then, as if on cue, the Cerberus fighter appeared in the sky above the plain as its cloaking system was turned off. It inverted and turned over into a spiral, nimbly evading the missiles that reached up for it. Plasma beams, easily visible to the naked eye, as was normal for Confederation of Free States weaponry, reach down from the fighter to strike the ground armor of the invasion force.
Within eight seconds, the 20 vehicles were taken out. The Cerberus fighter pulled up before executing a victory barrel roll and then swooping low enough for Ryck to feel the air displacement of the two-man craft as it passed over.
“Not sparking bad, huh?” Major Titus Pohlmeyer asked, nudging Ryck in the side with his elbow.
Ryck merely grunted. Titus was his minder, his shadow. He’d been on New Mumbai for four months now as the United Federation assistant naval attaché, and whenever he went on an official event—and on more than a few unofficial ones—Titus was there at his side. It wasn’t as if the Confederation even pretended this was happenstance. It was all out in the open. Every principal member of the Federation mission had his shadow, and that was that.
“This is our VI model,” Titus went on, “and I think any invading force would be hard-pressed to keep an invasion alive after meeting a cohort of them.”
Titus had said “six,” not “VI,” but by now, Ryck was so used to the Confeds’ love of all things Roman that he visualized the Roman numerals in his mind.
“Yes, strictly a defensive weapon, of course,” Ryck said dryly.
“Of course,” Titus agreed. “The Free States do not initiate any invasion of sovereign space.”
This direction of discussion was almost rote by now. Ryck’s participation in the Federation “incursion” into the CF-32 system to rescue the Julianna’s Dream was no secret, as was his subsequent action in the Telchines in the Cygni-B. The Confeds took great pains to remind anyone and everyone that unlike the Federation, from which it had split some 240 years prior, they had never technically sent their Navy into uncontested space without an expressed invitation.
Even the name of their frontline fighter was part of their shtick: “Cerbeus,” the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades, not something that attacked others.
Frankly, Ryck was getting a little tired of their continual reminders. There were enough cases over the last 240 years that could reasonably refute their claim, but he was now a certified, tried-and-true diplomat, much to his dismay. He could no longer speak frankly or act in a direct manner. He had to play the game.
He’d hated his training back in Brussels on Earth. It went against everything he’d learned in his years as a Marine, and at least once a day, he cursed General Ukiah, his godfather and friend, for getting him assigned to the position.
Ryck knew that in many ways, he was a pawn, one of two living Marine holders of the Federation Nova. He was brushed off and trotted out when needed, a grubbing hero. He had to admit that overall, he liked the attention and acclamation, but still, it often got in the way of his simply serving as a combat Marine. He always had eyes on him, and not just those of Titus sitting beside him. Most of the attention on him was from the Federation. He was sure General Ukiah had his best interests at heart, but the general still had his duty to perform, and if getting Ryck assigned to this frustrating billet served the greater good, then Ryck’s personal druthers weren’t worth a bucket of warm rat piss.
Whatever it might do for Ryck’s career—and this was a plum assignment in that regard—Ryck still wasn’t sure he was the best choice for the position. He didn’t think he was as bad at it as he’d feared. The job was mostly just showing up and listening, after all. But he was not in the same league as Captain Franks, the Federation naval attaché and his direct boss, who breathed this stuff. And then there was his history. He’d killed Confederation soldiers in combat, and here he was, watching military demonstrations while rubbing shoulders with the Confed brass. His actions to ensure the sanctity of his truce with the Confed forces in the Telchines was also widely known, but there were mothers and wives in the Confederation who’d lost sons and husbands at his hand, and that had to make an impact, he thought. He knew his assignment was a message from the Federation, but whether it was to let bygones be bygones or to rub the Confed noses in the Federation victory—for that was what it really was, truce or not—Ryck didn’t know.
“Well, that’s the end of the afternoon’s demonstration,” Titus said as the gathered observers rose from the bleachers. “We’ve got the reception back at the O-Club, then the night demo starting at 2200.”
Like Pavlov’s dog, Ryck was beginning to drool automatically at the word “reception,” and not the salivation of anticipation of good food, but the drool of the village idiot. He had learned to hate the finger food that was fed to the gathered contingents instead of a real, honest-to-goodness meal, one you needed a knife and fork to eat, but he hated more the banal conversations, where everyone tried to somehow pull out vital secrets by remarking how tasty the Crab Rangoon was. Ryck had been drilled incessantly in Brussels on how to pull information while revealing nothing, and every diplomat at every reception had received his or her own training, so it all became a silly quadrille court dance with everyone performing the same steps before changing partners and repeating the movements again—and again, and yet again with still another partner.
Captain Franks and others seemed to revel in the maneuverings, but Ryck thought it all a huge waste of time. He couldn’t see anything worthwhile come of it, and in four months, he certainly had not gleaned even a single piece of worthwhile intelligence.
But it was part and parcel of his new job, so he held an arm out to allow Titus to precede him, saying, “Lead on, Major.”
“I can tell you’re thrilled, Ryck,” Titus sa
The Federation was a hodge-podge of customs, from both the old Earth nations and from the new worlds, so Ryck was used to interesting combinations. But he still was privately amused that the Confederation, which was formed by mostly Indian colonists, had an almost religious affinity for the Roman Empire. No one else seemed to think it odd that “Castra Fortitudo,” which was a Latin name, would have an ancient Indian oven at the officer’s club, but it struck Ryck’s whimsy.
Given Ryck’s past combat history and his present job, which was essentially as an authorized spy, he should be more at odds with the Confederation, but there were many aspects about New Mumbai, at least, that he frankly liked. This was an unaccompanied tour, but he thought Hannah and the kids would like it, too, if they had been there with him.
Ryck and Titus joined the movement to the second Charon for the short 60-klick flight from the training area back to the camp center. Ryck had been in six Charons so far, and he wondered if they had all been normal birds or VIP versions. They were obviously military transports, but these were much more comfortable than the Federation Storks Ryck was used to.
Ryck sat down next to Vice-Colonel Enlightenment, the Army attaché from Purgatory. Although senior to Ryck, the two were as close to friends as two men in their positions could be. Micah Enlightenment was a Simonite, a branch of the general Revisionist movement that resulted in the voluntary diaspora that spread across human space. With Hannah being a Torritite, they were almost religious cousins. As a diplomat, Ryck knew that any supposed friendship was suspect. But even if the good vice-colonel would report back anything he learned from him, Ryck still thought the man liked him. And with the Simonites sharing the Torritites’ belief that if Jesus changed water into wine, that was a pretty good indication that the fruit of the vine was to be enjoyed, Ryck and Micah had shared more than a few evenings sampling the best the Confederation could brew or ferment.
“A dog-and-pony show, but still impressive. The Six looks to be a pretty big upgrade,” Micah said to Ryck, knowing full well that both Titus and his own shadow, LTC Bhandari, would be listening in and taking notes.
Ryck nodded as the Charon lifted off. The ability to engage 20 armored vehicles in such a short amount of time was an upgrade, but this was a staged engagement. In actual combat, the enemy would not be so cooperative. Ryck would like to see how the Cerberus VI would fare against an enemy who was taking evasive actions and countermeasures.
The Charon flared in to land about ten minutes later. Hover buses were waiting, and the gaggle was quickly herded into them and taken to the club for the reception. This was a tightly choreographed evolution—the Confeds would not give them an opportunity to sneak off somewhere on their own. Ryck chaffed a bit at this super-control, but he realized that his Confed counterparts on Earth would probably be undergoing even stricter procedures.
The hovers pulled up, and everyone piled out and up the steps into the club. Confed and diplomat alike immediately made their way to the bar. Ryck had never been on this base before, but all clubs seemed to work on the same principle. Bars always seemed to be immediately off to the right or left of the main entrance. Ryck took four bottles of beer, keeping one giving the other three to Micah and their two shadows. This may all be part of a big game, but it didn’t hurt to be civil. They clinked the bottles together and took several sips in silence. The court dance would start in a few minutes after everyone got their drinks, but there was no hurry. They had a few moments to relax.
Ryck sniffed the air as he stood with the others.
“Told you. It’s the tandoori,” Titus said. “Here, let me go get a plate before we start socializing.”
He came back a few minutes later with a plate piled high with chicken and onions. Ryck accepted a leg and tentatively took a bite, put off a bit by the red color. That apprehension disappeared in a flash.
“This is grubbing good!” he exclaimed, forgetting to watch his language.
“Told you. I wouldn’t steer you wrong,” Titus said.
Ryck took a quick look back at the bar. About half of the men and women had their drinks. They still had a few more moments. He quickly grabbed another leg and scarfed it down.
When the court dance started a few minutes later, he gave a sigh and put on his diplomat face, but for once, his belly was happily filled.
“That’s just not true,” Capitaine de vaisseau Silas Beignet, the Greater France naval attaché, insisted with fervor. “Football players have the best stamina of any athlete. You Federation slaves to your so-called football don’t realize your sport is ridiculous. You stop after every set piece because you need a rest!”
“And your soccer, oh excuse me, football players flop on the ground like beached salmon when anyone comes within a meter of them,” Ryck retorted, taking another sip of his beer.
“What about five?” Rear Admiral Forsyth, the Brotherhood military attaché and the senior military man in the foreign delegations to New Mumbai asked. “They never get to rest.”
A shower of crumbled-up napkins flew from around the table to bombard the man. Admiral or not, rank did not matter much at The Alibi, especially when the conversation centered on sports.
Ryck had never played football, but he was an avid five player, and he actually thought the admiral had a good point. Even Beignet had a good point, at least in as far as stamina. But with NFL football being the game of choice in the Federation, he was duty-bound to stick up for it.
He took another sip of his Knossis Ale and simply looked around the long wooden table. The Alibi, with its close proximity to the Slab (the nickname for the Confederation military headquarters), had become the ad hoc meeting place for the various military attachés and observers from the foreign embassies. It was a place to unwind, exchange ideas, and meet informally with their shadows or other Confed personnel.
Admiral Forsyth rarely made an appearance at the pub, but Captain Beignet was a mainstay and always a center of attention. Ryck’s boss, Captain Franks, was usually there, and he encouraged Ryck to spend as much time in the pub as possible. Micah was at the far end of the table, deep in conversation with Col Lim, a Confed logistician. Major Buko and Commander Trieste of the Liberty Alliance had their heads together, ignoring the rest of them. Hans Baker, from the Rottwilhelm Trust, was not technically in the military, but as a level five security manager, roughly on par with a Marine lieutenant colonel, he was a welcome addition to their little group, even if he was at the moment trying to push some sort of weird electronically-augmented sport they played out in the far reaches as having more fit athletes than five, rugby, clipperball, or either form of football. No one was even responding to him, which made Ryck chuckle. Hans’ argument held about as much weight as had Ryck been pushing Marines in PICS playing battleball as being the fittest. It might be fun to watch, but it would hardly tax a Marine’s stamina.
Ryck actually liked Hans, and his conversations with the man had probably produced the most Intel that Ryck had been able to gather in his six months on New Mumbai. “Most” was all relative, though. It wasn’t much, and nothing super-secret. It was more of an alternative way of looking at things and dealing with threats. In the Far Reaches, piracy was more prevalent than closer to the core of human space, and being a business more than a government, the Rottwilhelm Trust went about its security in a different manner than that of the actual governments.
Group Captain Ali from the Advocacy, Junior Regimentist Csonka from New Budapest, and Master Sergeant Biralee from Outback made up the rest of the late afternoon group. Top Biralee was loudly proclaiming the superiority of rugby over the other sports, even shouting down the admiral. The top was officially the Outback military delegation’s admin chief, but it was a poorly kept secret that he had an unofficial rank high up in the indepe
Ryck almost snorted up his beer as he took in the scene. A master sergeant was browbeating an admiral, and no one batted an eye. Sitting at the table in apparent comradeship with him were two men whose forces had fought the Federation, and Ryck had personally killed men from both of their forces. Add in someone from the Soldiers of God, and maybe a trinocular, and it would all be complete.
As a Marine in combat, Ryck knew his enemy. He faced them and joined in combat. Here, while he individually liked many of the men around him, they were all his enemies, in a way. They were all maneuvering against each other in the never-ending attempt to gather that elusive piece of Intel that would put their government on top. Liquor and smooth talking were their weapons. And Ryck’s most valuable personal weapon might be the Sober Up pills he took to keep his buzz at a minimum.
Ryck suddenly couldn’t take it anymore. He needed a hard session at the gym to clear his mind—and take out some pent-up aggression. He stood up and waved his PA over the terminal to pay his bill. Micah, still in conversation with Maj Lim, gave him a wave as Ryck turned to walk out.
New Mumbai’s sun was still up as Ryck left the pub, but it was not as blindingly hot as it had been a few hours before. Ryck ignored the waiting autocabs, deciding that a walk would do him some good. After Captain Franks had warned him during his initial brief that all autocabs were bugged, he had initially avoided them. Now he knew that almost everywhere was under surveillance, and taking a cab was fine. If nothing of import was said in one, then no harm, no foul. But Ryck still liked to walk. Titus had tried to walk with him once, but Ryck’s pace had been brisk, and his shadow had never attempted that again. So walking gave Ryck a feeling of security, even if that feeling was misplaced.
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