These Mist Covered Mountains
Brushfire Wars of the Galactic Intelligence Agency
Chapter 17 – The Annam 5 Intervention – The Roots
By Dr. O. O. Howard
Mars University Press, 3015.
The roots of the Annam 5 Intervention go back to a
vicious internecine war. Fought on the southern continent of the
planet, the Truu, a mountain people, had been fighting for their
independence from the Xoi, a people of the lowlands and coast. The
war began in 2990 and raged through 3007, when it was concluded at
the Five Powers Conference of Terranos Prime.
Ethnically related, the two races hated each other
as only family can. The Xoi and Truu are physiologically similar,
the main difference being coloration. To the offworlder, telling the
difference between Xoi and Truu is difficult. However, Truu tend
toward a more greenish blue skin, while blue predominates in the skin
of the Xoi.
Had they been fighting their war on a barren rock,
no one would have cared. However, Annam 5 was a vital point for
control of space in the sector, as well as having rich deposits of
dark matter precursors in the Central Highlands. As a result, the
Xoran Consortium was funneling aid, primarily weapons and advisors,
to the Xoi. Just as naturally, DOOP was aiding the Truu, primarily
with Earth Special Forces.
The planet was covered by the Omicronian Pact,
which prohibited the introduction of advanced weaponry onto the
planet. The Omicronians enforced an embargo and monitored the planet
closely. Neither DOOP nor the Xoran Consortium could afford to
embroil the Omicronian Empire in the conflict.
The war had a distinctive ebb and flow character.
The southern hemisphere of Annam 5 has two distinct seasons, dry and
monsoon. During the monsoon, very little warfare takes place.
Movement in the costal areas is very difficult, due to flooding. The
mountains are under perennial cloud cover during the monsoon season
Shortly after the monsoon season, the Xoi would
launch offensives into the Central Highlands. They would make slow
progress against the Truu, who fought a mobile guerrilla war against
the invaders. Ambushes, night attacks, and psychological warfare
would eventually bring the offensive to a halt with heavy casualties.
The Truu defended very few locations with static defense.
In 3005, the Xoi opened an offensive designed to
crush the Truu of the Central Highlands. It was a do or die effort,
because the Xoi economy was nearly bankrupt and their people weary of
the war. The Xoi President, Hang Cho Ming, directed that the sacred
Truu shrine of Ashkan be taken before the monsoon. He reasoned that
Truu morale would collapse if this holiest of shrines was taken.
Then the Xoi could dictate peace terms.
The biggest obstacle to the Xoi forces was a
single Special Forces Camp, designated 27 X-Ray. The GIA received
advanced warning of the attack and the Special Operations Division
(SOD) swung into action. They dispatched a mixed brigade of air
support, logistical support units (drawn from the Civilian Reserve
Aerospace Support Squadrons), and a battalion each of Lothian,
Nihonese, and kwaZulu mercenaries for strike and security missions
under the command of Colonel Rodney Pike.
Brushfire Wars of the Galactic Intelligence Agency
Chapter 18 – The Annam 5 Intervention – The Defense of Camp 27 X-Ray
By Dr. O. O. Howard
Mars University Press, 3015.
On the morning of 22 July 3005, the Xoi assault
began. For two successive days, three full Xoi Infantry Regiments
with a total of 12,000 men, bolstered by light armor, assaulted Camp
27 X-Ray. The defenders, a total of 500 Truu warriors, twelve
Special Forces soldiers, and a downed helicopter crew fought
valiantly to repel the assault.
The commander, Special Forces (SF) Captain
Sullivan Lipford had foreseen that geography dictated that any main
attack would come from the North. Even though the Camp was of the
normal “star” pattern, he added additional interior
defenses in case one of the walls was breached. Additionally, he
added some long tunnels that acted as sally ports for the garrison.
The exterior of the camp was well protected by
wire and minefields. CPT Lipford had pre-registered artillery on
every possible assault position within 2,000 meters of the camp. He
also stockpiled large quantities of ammunition at various points
throughout the camp. So, when the Xoi assault began, Camp 27 X-Ray
was as ready as it could be.
Truu patrols harassed the Xoi as they approached,
extracting a toll in casualties and lowering Xoi morale. The Xoi had
so much trouble adapting to war in the cloud forests of the Central
Highlands. CPT Lipford held off hitting them with artillery so as not
to give away pre-registered positions.
Right up until the assault, Colonel Rodney Pike
kept supplies flowing into Camp 27 X-Ray. The last helicopter in had
just finished unloading medical supplies when a enemy mortar shell
struck the tail rotor, grounding the bird, and forcing the crew to
join in the defense. As it turned out, this action doomed the Xoi
Annam 5, 2 kilometers South of Camp 27 X-Ray. Day 1, 0600
Four single rotor cargo helicopters flew in a
staggered line formation, skimming the jungle tree tops. They were
approaching Camp 27 X-Ray from the South, each laden with last minute
supplies for Camp 27 X-Ray’s defenders. A thousand feet above
them, two menacing looking attack helicopters flew cover.
Leela peered through the windscreen of the lead
helicopter, scanning the ground for any signs of anti-aircraft fire.
Amy sat in the copilot’s seat, swiveling her head from side to
side, searching for signs of enemy activity as well. Fry and Bender
were doing the same while clinging to their door guns.
Seeing no sign of trouble, Leela keyed her throat
microphone, “Fox leader to all Kits, follow me. We’ll
land at thirty second intervals. Landing order is Fox 2, 3, 4 and 1.
Unload and get the hell out of there.”
The rest of the flight responded simply with
Leela smiled with satisfaction. The other pilots were a disciplined
group, most of them with years of flying for the GIA’s Ground
Support Branch. The attack helicopter pilots were experienced combat
veterans as well.
As they approached the camp, Leela went into a
loose right-hand turn to allow the other three helicopters to land.
When she completed her turn, she would be on the tail of Fox 4.
Thirty seconds after Fox 4 landed, she would guide her helicopter in
to dump her load of medical supplies. Then it would be time to head
back to base for some cold beer.
She marveled at what her helicopter could do.
After all, it was literally a copy of a museum piece. Because of the
Omicronian Pact, no ‘modern’ aircraft or weapons of any
type were allowed on the planet. Since Annam 5 was still in the age
of gunpowder and fossil fuels, that meant Stupid Ages technology.
In the back of the helicopter, Fry and Bender
began to loosen the straps keeping the load in place. Both worked
with a will, because they knew that the quicker they unloaded the
safer they would be. Any Landing Zone (LZ) was a potential death
trap for a helicopter.
The headsets in Fox 1 crackled, “Fox 1, this
is Fox 3, Over.”
“This is Fox 1, Over.”
“Fox 1, I am taking ground fire…mostly
small arms. There appear to be a few machine guns on the southern
“Roger, Fox 3, I’ll call our escort,
Break…Eagle 1 this is Fox 1, Over.”
“Fox 1 this is Eagle 1, I heard it, we’re
on it. Over”
No sooner had Leela finished speaking than the two
attack helicopters rolled into an attack. She watched as the rocket
pods on the sides of each helicopter fire a hail of 2.75 inch rockets
into the jungle foliage.
Explosion followed explosion as dirty grey smoke,
flame and debris filled the air. By the time Fox 4 flew through the
area, the firing had ceased.
The two attack helicopters spiraled upward to
resume their protective position above the cargo helicopters. By the
time the resumed their position, Leela’s helicopter was making
it’s final approach.
Leela keyed her throat microphone, “Ten
seconds out, stand by!”
Fry responded, “Roger.” Bender only
Five seconds out from landing, the helicopter
began to slow. Just then, a dirty grey puff of smoke followed by a
geyser of dirt appeared one hundred meters away and to the right
front of the helicopter. Amy spoke up, “Mortar fire, eleven
The helicopter touched down and Fry and Bender
frantically began to push the supplies into the waiting arms of a
swarm of Truu soldiers. Mortar rounds began to arrive at the rate of
about one every two seconds, inching closer to the helicopter.
After what seemed like an eternity, the last
bundle was out.
Bender shouted, “Load’s away, let’s
get the hell out of here.”
At that same instant a mortar round landed twenty
meters to the rear of the helicopter. A shell fragment sliced into
the tail rotor, damaging it. Within seconds, it began to come apart.
Leela was the first to realize they were in
trouble. The helicopter was responding sluggishly, even before the
control panel lit up and the crash alarm sounded.
WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP!
“Brace for impact, we’ve been hit!”
Leela shouted. She then keyed her microphone to transmit to home
base, “This is Fox 1. Mayday, Mayday, Mayday! I will attempt
to land her in the camp, Out.”
Mortar rounds were landing all around, flinging
hissing pieces of jagged metal through the air as Fox 1 slammed into
the ground. Dirt flew up, temporarily obscuring the helicopter from
Captain Sullivan Lipford, the Special Forces (SF)
commander of Camp 27 X-Ray ran toward the helicopter with a squad of
Truu warriors as soon as he saw it was in trouble. As he ran he said
a Hail Mary, hoping that the crew would survive.
Annam 5, Camp 27 X-Ray. Day 1, 0645
The white mist enveloping her mind gradually
cleared, and Leela opened her eye. She sat bolt upright, glancing
about her at the unfamiliar setting. Her initial impression was that
she was in an underground bunker of some sort. The damp smell of
bare earth, the rows of sand bags, and the dim illumination all
confirmed it as the grogginess left her.
Fry saw she was awake, “Leela, I’m so
glad you’re awake!”
She shook her head, “What happened?”
“You got whanged on the head during the
crash. It knocked you out cold.”
The crash! It all came rushing back to her…the
helpless feeling as the ship plummeted out of control…the
disjointed slow motion passage of time…the windscreen being
shot thorough with a spider web of cracks…the rotors slamming
into the ground and fracturing into a dozen pieces…the dust
and smoke filling the cabin…then blackness.
What she hadn’t seen was Fry unbuckling her
seatbelt to pull her to safety. Nor had she seen him carry her
across the LZ to the safety of the bunker. So she asked, “Is
everyone else okay?”
Fry shrugged his shoulders, “We’re all
pretty sore. Bender and Amy went to the command bunker with the camp
commander, Captain Lipford. This is the medical bunker where we are
“Are you wounded?” she asked with
concern in her voice.
“Nope, I just wanted to make sure you were
all right. One of the medics, Doc Jennings, said it wasn’t too
serious. But I wanted to be sure.”
“How did I get here?”
“Um…I carried you.”
Before either could speak, the sound of several
mortar rounds landing in the compound reverberated in the bunker,
“CRUMP…CRUMP…CRUMP!” They both fell silent
listening to the muffled roar of the explosions.
A few seconds after the sound of the explosions
died away she gave him a warm smile, “Thanks, Fry. How long
have I been out?”
“Only about fifteen minutes.”
Fry scratched his head, “From what Captain
Lipford said, there’s a whole bunch of Xoi getting ready to
attack the camp. They’ve been dropping a few rounds on the
Camp every minute or so.”
“Where is this…Captain
“He’s in the command bunker about one
hundred meters away.”
Leela made up her mind. She swung her feet off of
the stretcher and stood up…then promptly sat down again. She
was still a bit dizzy, she realized.
As if from nowhere, Doc Jennings was at her side.
“Take it easy Major,” he said in a soft Kentucky accent,
“You’ll be okay if you don’t rush it. That flight
helmet kept your noggin from too much damage, but it was still a heck
of a blow.”
The sound of a sting of explosions echoed through
the bunker, then died away. The smell of cordite drifted through the
bunker, mingling with the other smells of mold, perspiration, and
Being addressed as “Major” reinforced
in her mind where she was…and why. Noting from his uniform
that Jennings was a Staff Sergeant she asked, “Sergeant, what’s
the military situation?”
He smiled, showing a small gap between his front
two teeth, “Ma’am, in my humble but accurate opinion, we
are in a rough spot. A whole danged Xoi Infantry Division is about
to come a’knockin’ at our door. Of course, we’ll
make it pretty warm work for them.”
She grimaced. Jennings obviously wasn’t
going to tell her much. Obviously, she needed to talk to the camp
commander. She felt a little better, so she willed her body to stand.
Jennings and Fry stood up with her, ready to catch her if she fell.
She remained on her feet.
Once she was sure she wouldn’t fall she said
in her most military manner, “Come on Fry. Let’s go over
to the command bunker. I want to talk to Captain Lipford.”
Annam 5, Camp 27 X-Ray, Command Bunker. Day 1,
The sprint to the Command Bunker hadn’t been
too bad, Fry reflected. The two had waited at the Medical Bunker
exit for the mortar rounds to quit falling. Then with Leela leading
the way through the interconnecting trench, they had sprinted like
mad to the Command Bunker, only thirty meters away.
When they entered the Command Bunker, they went
down several flights of stairs before reaching the lowest level.
Bender and Amy were there, chatting with a mixed group of humans and
Here Leela met Captain Sullivan Lipford for the
first time. Her initial impression was of a man in his prime, well
over six feet tall with a shock of jet black hair, a drooping
moustache, and piercing brown eyes.
“Greetings Major,” he had said, “sorry
about you getting stuck here. I’m Captain Sullivan Lipford.
Everybody calls me Sully.” He extended his hand and shook both
Leela, then Fry’s hand.
“Since you’ve made it, I’ll go
ahead and brief you and your crew on the situation.” He
gestured to a sand table where a miniature model of the camp lay,
“Just gather around and we’ll get to it.”
When everyone had taken their place, Sully began,
“Okay let’s begin with the camp. This way is North…the
direction of the initial enemy approach. First, you’ll notice
that the camp looks like an octagon with four triangles that face
Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest. To the North, West,
South, and East are walls that connect the base of the triangles.
Everybody got it?”
“Good. Now in the center of each wall and
at the tip of each triangle is a fighting bunker. For convenience,
we number them starting at the North wall and going clockwise. So
the North Bunker is Bunker Number 1, the bunker at the tip of the
Northeast Triangle is Bunker Number 2, and so on.”
Fry raised his hand. Sully leveled his pointer at
him, “Yes, Sergeant…Fry isn’t it?”
“Yes Sir, so that means that any even
numbered bunker is at the tip of a triangle?”
Sully nodded, “That’s why we did it.
The Truu are simple folks. So we follow the K.I.S.S. principle.”
“It stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid!”
Everyone laughed, even Fry.
Sully waited until the laughter died down, “Now,
in the center of the camp are the Command, Communications, and
Medical Bunkers. As you can see they are laid out in a triangle.
They are connected with trenches. They are our last line of defense.
If the bad guys get to here, we’re in deep dog doo.”
A laugh rippled through the group once again.
Sully moved his pointer to the North of the camp,
“Okay, we have a full Xoi Infantry Division arriving to take us
out. The constricted terrain will force them to conduct any large
scale assaults from the North. We’ve go 500 Truu Warriors, 12
Special Forces, and your crew Major. We only have to kill, wound,
capture, or scare off 20,000 bad guys. Any questions?”
Amy raised her hand, “Sir, 500 against
20,000…isn’t that crazy?”
“No, Lieutenant Wong, it’s not crazy
at all. First of all we have a full wing of GIA fighter bombers as
air cover. We also have three battalions of artillery backing us up.
That’s 54 guns, by the way.”
He swept his pointer over the area around the
camp, “We have extensive minefields and barbed wire all around
the camp. We’ve been preparing this reception for two years.
Last but not least, there is a full Brigade of GIA recruited
mercenaries that’s ready to strike when things are right…so,
no, I don’t think we’re crazy.”
Bender spoke to Amy in a stage whisper, “Look
meat bag, just stick close to me. My motto is safety first.”
Sully turned to Leela, “Major, I’m
going to use your door gunners to man the heavy machine gun at Bunker
One. That will free up one of my weapons guys to work with the
The thought of Fry being positioned where the
heaviest enemy attacks would come caused Leela’s heart to
flutter. Deeply worried she said, “Captain, what gives you the
authority to employ my people?”
Sully smiled, “DOOP Regulations, Major. I’m
Combat Arms, you’re Combat Support. On the ground, I’m
in command. Didn’t they teach you that?”
Leela knew he was right, so she took another tack,
“I want to be in Bunker Number One as well, with all my crew.
They are my responsibility.”
Sully looked at her for a moment before answering,
“I want to keep Lieutenant Wong here at the Command Bunker.
She’s an engineer and might be of some help with
communications. That allows me to put one of my commo guys on the
line as well. But if you want to be at Bunker One, have at it.”
Leela decided to let things be…for now,
“Let’s get everyone into position.”
Sully said, “I feel it in my bones that the ball is about to
Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 1, 0745
The run to Bunker One hadn’t been all that
bad. They had timed their dash to coincide with a lull in the still
sporadic mortar fire which was hitting the camp. They had arrived in
the bunker somewhat winded.
Bender had entered first, followed quickly by Fry
and Leela. When they entered they could see that the inside of the
bunker was dimly lit by a single low-wattage bulb that hung from the
ceiling. The smells of damp earth, Truu bodies, and weapons oil made
the atmosphere seem almost oppressive.
In the wall opposite the entrance was a firing
slit, before which was a heavy machine gun on a pedestal of sand
bags. There were firing slits to the right and left as well, both of
which had medium machine guns poking out of them. All manner of
weapons, ammunition, and military gear lay about the bunker.
Leela could see at least a dozen Truu warriors
were in the bunker. Most were busily loading magazines or inspecting
belts of machine gun ammunition. Standing next to a heavy machine
gun was one of the biggest men Leela had ever seen. He turned to face
her and said with a smile, “Welcome to Bunker Number One. I
hope you have your wills made out.”
Leela shook her head, “Dying isn’t on
our list of things to do today.”
The blonde haired giant laughed. Then he ran his
fingers through his hair, “Ma’am, Sully called us to let
us know you and your crew were coming. I’m glad of the help.”
He patted the heavy machine gun, “The Truu are great guys, they
just can’t handle this monster. It’s good to have a
couple of human sized helpers.”
He stepped forward, extending his hand, “I’m
Sergeant Wolfgang Shreck. Pleased to meet you, Ma’am.”
When they shook hands, Leela’s hand seemed
to disappear in Shreck’s giant fist. Leela was surprised at
how gentle he was, “I’m pleased to meet you as well.
Call me Leela, okay?”
“Okay. So who’s the rest of the
“This is Fry and that’s Bender.”
Shreck extended his giant paw to Fry, then Bender.
They shook hands briefly.
Mortar rounds began to fall outside the bunker
again. The Xoi were obviously trying to hit the bunker, because the
concussion from the explosions reverberated with increasing violence
as the enemy gunners “walked” rounds toward it.
“Maybe they’ll miss us,” Fry
Shreck shook his massive head, “I doubt it.
Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while.”
Several explosions later, a round struck the top
of the bunker, rattling the teeth of everyone inside. A fine rain of
silt drizzled down on everyone. Shreck put his hand over his head to
keep the worst of the silt out of his mop of hair.
One of the little Truu warriors who had been
standing at a spotting scope began to shout excitedly, “They
come soon, Tefwik Doonj, they come soon!”
Shreck stepped over to the scope and peered
through the smoke. He smiled at the little Truu who seemed even
smaller next to his massive frame, “Damned if I don’t
believe you’re right Aja.”
He pointed to Fry and Bender, “Come on guys,
let’s get you ready to make this thing sing. The Xoi are
coming to party!”
Fry and Bender recognized the gun, it was…like
all their weaponry…a copy of a museum piece from the Stupid
Ages. It fired .50 caliber (1/2 inch) projectiles at 550 rounds per
minute and could hit man sized targets at up to two kilometers.
Bender said, “I have dibs on being the
Fry looked irritated, “Why do you always get
to be gunner? I’m a better shot than you. Beside, you don’t
burn your hands when you change a hot barrel.”
Bender smirked, “Wah, wah, wah…you
Shreck, who was standing behind Bender, winked at
Fry as he said in a very serious tone, “Xoi snipers always
shoot the gunner first.”
Bender backed away from the gun as though it were
a refrigerator magnet, “On second thought Sausage Link, have a
Fry stepped up to the gun with a tight smile on
his lip. He did a function check, chambered a round, and stood ready
behind the gun.
Shreck stepped over to where a Truu with a series
of stripes on his uniform sleeve stood standing next to the gun and
spoke to him in a language that Leela had never heard before. The
Truu held his hands together in front of his face, bowed slightly and
said, “Azaam, Tefwik Doonj.”
The little Truu warrior came forward and bowed to
Leela. When he spoke it was in surprisingly good but heavily
accented English, “I am Sergeant Troon of the Truu Army. I
will be your…how you say…bodyguard.”
“I don’t need a bodyguard.”
“Yes Ma’am, but Tefwik Doonj has
ordered it, so it must be.”
Before she could speak, a new flurry of mortar
rounds struck on and around the bunker, causing everyone to hunker
down temporarily deafened.
As her hearing returned, she heard Aja shout
excitedly, “They come now! They come now!”
She stepped forward to peer out the vision slit.
She could see wave after wave of Xoi Infantry clad in green battle
dress advancing toward the camp.
Shreck patted her on the shoulder, “Keep an
eye on the entrance to the bunker. If anyone Xoi should happen to
come through kill ‘em.”
He then turned to face the gun and bellowed, “Fire
only on my command. Shoot low. Remember to mark your targets as
The Truu warriors scrambled to their positions,
poking their weapons through the vision slits, ready to fight.
Leela face the bunker door, placing her back to
the sandbag wall. She chambered a round into her carbine, flipped
the selector switch to automatic, and began her vigil over the bunker
Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 1, 0800
The enemy mortars had stopped firing. The silence
Fry felt a trickle of sweat run down his face as
he peered down the barrel of the heavy machinegun. Before him was a
mass of Xoi infantry, clad in green battle dress with sun helmets on
their heads. They were advancing almost shoulder-to-shoulder, as if
their numbers would intimidate the camp into surrender.
Fry wiped the sweat from his brow, straining to
open fire, wanting to hear the deep throated roar of his gun. Once
the shooting started, he would be too busy to feel the gut-churning
fear that he felt before any fight. Briefly, he glanced at Bender and
their eyes met. Each saw the fear in their friend’s eyes and
Shreck placed his hand on Fry’s shoulder,
“Remember to search and traverse when you open up. Use short
bursts. It’s different firing on the ground than from the
Fry’s mouth was so dry, he couldn’t
speak. Instead, he just nodded.
The mass of Xoi infantry had crossed over 800
yards of open ground. They were within 200 yards of the camp, almost
at the first minefield and wire entanglement. Fry could feel his
muscles twitching in anticipation of release.
Shreck said calmly, “Wait for my command.
The Xoi infantry had reached the first wire
entanglement. The mass of green uniforms seemed to roll over it like
Shreck spoke again with a touch of eagerness in
his voice, “Almost there…wait until they find the
Within seconds several land mines detonated almost
simultaneously, hurling dirt and body parts into the air. Before the
roar of the explosions had died away, Shreck roared, “Fire!
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion.
Fry’s thumbs depressed the firing lever and
the gun came to life. He grasped the handles of the gun firmly as it
bucked from the recoil of the bullets streaking downrange.
Since every fifth round was a tracer, Fry could
see the horrendous effect of a fifty caliber round on the Xoi body.
Arms and legs, struck by the rounds, blew away from their bodies.
Hits in the torso often tore the body completely apart. Heads
“Thud-Thud-Thud-Thud-Thud” the gun
howled its litany of death and destruction. Shell casings flew from
the ejector port and clanked to the ground in a muted counterpoise to
the roar of the gun.
Fry was only dimly aware that the other machine
guns…in fact every weapon in the bunker…were firing.
His entire world was compressed into a tight circle around his gun.
Bodies and body parts began to pile up along the
barbed wire entanglement. Fry found himself wondering, “How
long can they take this?”
Some Xoi threw down their weapons and began to
flee. Fry felt pity for them, but their officers did not. Fry saw
several of those fleeing shot in the back by their officers. He kept
firing, concentrating on places where the most Xoi were clumped
How long this went on, Fry could not tell.
Then he felt Bender urgently poking him in the
ribs. “Change barrels Fry!” Bender shouted, “You’ve
got this one glowing cherry red!”
Fry looked at the barrel in horror. He could have
had a catastrophic malfunction if he kept firing. He shouted,
“Changing barrels!” Bender sprang into action, flipping
the retaining lever and yanking the glowing barrel out of the gun.
Within five seconds the replacement barrel was in
place. It seemed like an eternity to Fry, who could only watch as
the oncoming Xoi were mowed down like grass by the other machine guns
in the bunker and by the withering cross-fire from bunkers eight and
two as well.
He resumed firing into the churning mass, gunning
down dozens of hapless Xoi. Life had returned to normal speed, but
every detail was indelibly etched in his mind.
The air in the bunker became almost unbreathable
from the non-stop firing. The reek of cordite filled the confined
space of the bunker like a pea soup fog.
From behind the Xoi lines, a red flare shot
skyward. The sound of several bugles rose over the din, playing an
eerie tune that Fry didn’t recognize.
“They go now!” shouted Sergeant Troon.
All along the line of the wire entanglement, the
Xoi began to throw dozens of smoke grenades, to cover their retreat.
In a few seconds the entire line of the wire entanglement was veiled
in a billowing curtain of thick, white smoke. Everyone in the bunker
just kept firing wildly through the smoke.
“Cease fire! Cease fire!” Shreck
bellowed repeatedly. After a minute or two, all of the guns in the
bunker were silent.
The smoke began to dissipate, and Fry could see
that the Xoi had wasted no time in retreating. Many were running as
fast as their legs could carry them.
The landscape near the outer wire looked as if it
were moving, as indeed it was, with the Xoi wounded crawling about.
Fry was still too deafened from firing his gun to hear their moans
and shrieks. That would come later.
Bender began to hoot, “Yeah! We are the
Shreck shook his head, “We gave them a
bloody nose this time. They’ll be back.”
Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 1, 0900
Shreck turned to face Fry and Bender, who had just
finished cleaning their 50 caliber machine gun in preparation for the
next attack, “Fry and Bender…take a detail and get some
more ammo. We’re going to need it.”
Sergeant Troon stood up and spoke in Truu to a
little knot of warriors sitting with their backs to the bunker wall.
Four of them stood immediately. Troon switched to English, “These
men go with you. They help carry ammo. They plenty strong.”
Fry asked Shreck, “Where is the ammo dump?”
Shreck shook his head, “I’d forgotten
you haven’t gotten the ten cent tour.” He crouched in
the dirt and drew a quick diagram. He pointed to it with a cleaning
rod, “We’re here in Bunker One. You all came from the
Command Bunker here, right?”
“Okay, about 100 meters behind the Command
Bunker is the ammo dump. It is deep underground.” He looked
serious, “You guys need to shake a leg, because the Xoi are
sure as s**t going to give us a shellacking as soon as they can.”
Leela spoke up, “I’ll carry some ammo
as well. I can’t just sit around.”
Shreck grinned, “Are you sure you’re
an ossifer? That would be great Ma’am. I have a feeling we’re
gonna need every round. By the way, while you are there, pick up
some AT Rockets, will you?”
“Anti-tank Rockets, just in case the Xoi
have decided to violate the Omicronian Pact. If they haven’t
we can sure use them to blast a densely packed formation at close
range. One of those babies will turn a group of Xoi into a long
The group left Bunker One at 10 meter intervals.
Leela led, followed by a Truu warrior, Fry, another Truu, Bender, and
then the remaining two Truu. They left in a crouch, zigzagging as
they went in case the Xoi had left some snipers behind among the dead
They reached the ammo dump without incident. The
Truu warriors on guard admitted them and they descended several
flights of steps before they reached the ammunition.
Leela scrounged around until she found two
Anti-tank launchers. They were rectangular boxes, each containing
four missiles. She grabbed them both by their carrying strap.
“Lord!” she thought, “They sure are heavy.”
Everyone else had picked up a crate of ammunition,
except for Bender who had uncharacteristically grabbed two. When Fry
gave him a quizzical look, Bender had said, “Look Meat Bag, I
don’t want to run out of ammo and have to come all the way back
here under fire to get it.”
Fry shrugged, “Whatever.”
They lugged their heavy loads up the steps,
working up a sweat. By the time they got back safely to Bunker One,
they were soaked in sweat, their lungs were burning, and their
muscles were aching.
Shreck grinned as they entered, “You guys
did all right!” He looked at Leela, “Ma’am, I
wouldn’t mind working with you anytime. You understand the ‘P’
“The ‘P’ Rule?”
“Oh. The ‘P’ for Plenty Rule…it
goes for how much ammo and explosives you want. Most ossifers would
have brought back just one of those heavy buggers.”
Leela smiled, “I like insurance…or
‘P’ for Plenty as you put it.”
Shreck motioned to Fry and Bender, “I need
to show you how to use one of these things…just in case I not
available when they are needed.”
In a quick lesson he showed all three how to fire
the AT Rocket pack to kill an enemy tank.
Just as Shreck concluded the lesson, Captain
Lipford stuck his head through the blast curtain that shielded the
entrance to the bunker. He grinned as he said in a booming voice,
“Just thought I’d drop in and see how the other half
Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 1,0910
Captain Lipford entered the bunker and handed Fry a
small backpack, "I think you left this in the chopper,
Sergeant."Fry smiled, "Thanks Captain, I thought it
had gone up in smoke."The Captain smiled back, then
turned to speak with Leela and Sergeant Shreck.Fry looked
into the pack. There were a couple of chocolate bars, a first
aid kit, and a letter from his adopted mother, Lady Vibia Marcellia.
The letters had arrived that morning...but he had no time to read
them.He smiled as he thought of her. For all her stern
austere manner, she had a kind and loving heart. "A New
Space Roman Matron to the core," Fry mused. He opened the
letter, scanning down the page. It read,"Salve
My Son, Phillip Marcellus, Ambassador Without Portfolio, SenatorIt
has been almost two months since I last saw you. The days go by
serenely here in the Imperial Palace. Your brother, the
Emperor, is quite well. We are all well.Your estate is
prospering under the care of Plautius and Iocasta. That man has
a rare gift of administration. Pity I didn't notice it
earlier.As you may have noticed, I added 'Senator' to my
greeting. No, I have not gone dotty on you. The Senate
inducted you into its ranks for saving the Emperor's life. Of
course, you did that before he was Emperor, but the Senate is rarely
confused by such trivialities. Rumor has reached me that you
have gone off with Leela on some crazy, dangerous mission. I
hope that is not true. My son, your hands were meant to create,
not to destroy! Priapus himself could not make a garden prosper
as you do.The Lady Antistia sends her greetings, as do
Morrigan, Orm and Corvo. My prayers and love reach out to
you across space and time. May Hercules Invictus bless you and
protect you!Ave,Vibia Marcellia"Fry
folded the letter gently before placing it into his backpack.
Then he took out an electronic writing tablet to write a quick
reply,"Salve Mater!Thank you for your recent
letter. I am doing well. Please don't worry yourself, I'd
feel bad if you got any worry lines because of me. I can't
believe they made me a Senator! But that gives me even more
reason to come home to visit.As soon as this job is over,
I'll come home for a week or two to visit. Has it really been
two months?It makes me face each day with proper Roman
courage to know that you are thinking of me. I love you
Mater.Please greet my brother and all of our household.
Stay well.Ave,Phillip Marcellus"He
hit the send button and the message vanished into the ether, headed
for New Space Rome. He put the tablet away, stood up, and
walked over to the forward firing slit. He peered out at the
landscape, wondering if he would ever make it back to New Space Rome
Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 1, 1500
The camp had been under desultory fire all day.
Everyone stuck to the bunkers, which meant that there were very few
casualties. Captain Lipford was patiently plotting the Xoi mortar
and artillery positions without returning fire. He wanted to knock
them out all at once when the Xoi made their next big push.
Leela, Fry, and Bender were all in Bunker Number
One, waiting for the next attack. The waiting had begun to take a
toll on everyone’s nerves. To everyone’s surprise,
Sergeant Shreck pulled a guitar from a wooden footlocker. He sat and
strummed a few cords experimentally before he asked in a loud voice,
“Anybody mind if I sing?”
Leela smiled, “Go ahead, it might raise
morale…or scare the enemy.”
Shreck smiled as he began to sing:
covered mountains, are a home now for me
But my home is the
lowlands, and always will be
return to your valleys and your farms
And you’ll no
longer yearn to be brothers in arms.”
fields of destruction, baptism of fire
your suffering, as the battle raged higher
And though you did
hurt me so bad, in the fear and alarm
You did not desert
me, my brothers in arms”
so many different worlds, so many different suns
We have but one
world, yet we live in different ones
Now the sun’s
gone to hell and the moon’s riding high
Let me bid you fare
well, dear, every man has to die
written in the starlight and every line in your palm
We’re fools to make war on our brothers
As Shreck played a soulful interlude, everyone in
the bunker felt the anguish of war pressing down on their souls.
Shreck continued singing:
“Now the sun’s
gone to hell
And the moon’s
Let me bid you
Every man has to die
written in the starlight
And every line in
We’re fools to make war on our brothers
“Well played,” Leela said admiringly.
Shreck merely nodded in reply as he put his guitar
away. His trained ears had heard the distant “thonk” of
mortar tubes firing toward the camp. Sure enough, the bunker soon
resounded to the “Crump” of exploding mortar rounds.
Shreck coked his head, “Sounds like they’re
trying to work the Command Bunker over.”
Bender interjected, “As long as it ain’t
us, Coffin Stuffer!”
Shreck shot him a look but said nothing for a few
seconds. Then he merely said, “I expect they’ll attack
after sundown. Everybody needs to get some rest and have something
to eat. I suspect we’ll be busy most of the night.”
Leela frowned slightly, “Why are they
waiting for night, Shreck?”
“Well, Ma’am…it’s like
this. The Xoi are not stupid. We bloodied their noses pretty well
this morning. They also know that another daylight attack would
invite us to use our artillery and air support. During daylight our
artillery and air support can see them easily. It’s a lot
tougher at night.”
“Can’t we use night vision devices?”
“Ma’am, except for some pretty
primitive stuff, the Omicronian Pact prohibits the use of most of
that stuff on this world.”
Fry shook his head, “That really sucks.”
Shreck nodded in grim agreement, “Sometimes
it just sucks to be us.”
Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 1, 1900
Night fell suddenly in the tropics. Once minute
there was enough light to see, then…bam…it became very
When night had begun to fall, several Truu
warriors had gone out through tunnels to watch and listen for the Xoi
advance. Captain Lipford knew that the Xoi liked to get as close to
their enemies as possible before opening fire during a night attack.
He also appreciated how stealthy their approach could be.
Shreck was peering out the main firing slit of the
bunker using what looked like a large, elongated soup can. Light
from it’s interior cast an eerie green glow over his facial
features. For a few moments he said nothing. Then he stiffened and
said, “There they are…about 500 meters out.”
Fry squinted into the darkness, “I can’t
see anything Shreck.”
“They’re out there. This stupid ages
excuse for a night vision device can’t see much, but it can
make out several thousand Xoi infantry in close formation.”
Bender snapped, “Crap! Is that all? Why
don’t you just play your guitar some more? That ought to send
Shreck laughed noiselessly, “Okay guys…and
Ma’am…we’re going to let them get a little closer,
then we’re going to fire some illumination rounds. That will
light the whole area up bright as day.”
“Then what?” Leela asked.
“Shreck’s smile flashed in spite of
the darkness, “Well, we keep shooting them down until they run
or they overrun us.”
Shreck went back to watching the approach of the
Xoi infantry, gauging the right moment to ask for the artillery fire
base miles to their rear to fire illumination rounds. While he
watched, a field telephone to one of the forward outposts began to
Shreck picked up the phone and listened. He
grunted a reply as he lay the phone down. Then he turned to the
other occupants of the bunker, “Looks like we’re going to
need those AT rockets. Those stupid Xoi have violated the pact.
There are at least six light tanks headed our way…we should
see them any minute. Damn!”
Shreck picked up another phone with a tag that
read ‘command bunker.’ Leela was close enough that she
could hear both sides of the conversation.
Shreck spoke into the mouthpiece, “CP this
is Bunker 1, we have six…I repeat six…light tanks
headed our way, over.”
“Roger Bunker One, can you confirm model,
Leela could see a look of disbelief flit across
Shreck’s face before he replied in a tone of heavy sarcasm, “CP
this is Bunker One, it’s a little dark for that right now.
Rest assured, I’ll tell you as soon as I know. Out.”
Shreck put the field telephone down with a ‘thump.’
The silence in the bunker was deafening. Shreck
had gone back to scanning the area in front of the bunker,
methodically sweeping the area commanded by it’s weapons. He
lowered the night vision device and said quietly, “Stand to,
guys…but hold your fire. I want to get the maximum effect
from our first volley.”
Everyone feverishly went about preparing their
weapons. Fry and Bender had the .50 caliber ready to fire before any
other machinegun crew…a fact that Shreck noticed. As he
passed them on his way to help the gun crew to their left, Shreck
patted both Fry and Bender on their shoulders, “First rate job
guys. Keep up the good work.”
Once things were to his satisfaction, Shreck
motioned to Leela. When she came over, Shreck looked her full in the
face, “Ma’am, I’m going to have to go outside and
use the AT Rockets to knock out those tanks when they get here. I
want you to take command in the bunker.”
Leela thought for a moment before she answered,
“Okay. What happens if we can’t hold the bunker?”
“Ma’am, then you just haul ashes for
the fighting positions around the Command Bunker. Sully will
probably use you to counterattack when the moment is right.”
He smiled broadly, “Keep smiling, Ma’am, it keeps up the
morale of the troops.”
Still smiling, Shreck lowered his voice to where
only Leela could hear him, “The Devil is coming for dinner and
there will soon be all hell to pay.”
Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 2, 0100
The fighting had raged for five hours, with wave
after wave of infantry attempting to storm the camp. Several times
the Xoi had broken into the perimeter, only to pushed out by
The last attack had been repulsed by a bayonet
charge. Xoi and Truu had locked in deadly embrace. Slash, thrust,
and parry reestablished the defenses…however tenuously. Over
fifty percent of the defenders were either dead or seriously wounded.
Mounds of dead and wounded were piled wherever the
fighting had raged. Xoi and Truu lay entwined in death, closer
than their cultures would ever allow them to be in life.
The Xoi tanks had held off approaching the
perimeter, content to use their main guns to shell the bunkers from a
Inside Bunker One, everyone was panting. The
thick fog of dust and cordite smoke made breathing difficult.
However, leaving the bunker meant almost certain wounding or death.
Everyone’s throats were dry and their lips were cracked and dry
Bender had a dent in his center of his forehead
where a shell fragment had dinged him. Fry had a slight scalp wound
from a similar source. Like most scalp wounds, it bled freely.
Leela had tended his wound, stopping the bleeding with a derma patch.
During the brief lull in the fighting, Shreck
slumped against the earthen wall of the bunker. His normally
melodious voice came out in a raspy bass, “We’re up
against it now. On the next assault the Xoi will go for broke.”
“What the hell have they been doing?”
Leela almost shouted in surprise.
Shreck smiled tiredly, “They haven’t
thrown in their tanks yet. When they do, we’ll know they are
making their final assault.”
“Why is that?” Fry asked.
“Because they don’t want any live
survivors to be able to say that they violated the Omicronian Pact by
using tanks. The Xoi don’t take prisoners, you know.”
“We’re boned!” Bender
interjected, “How do you get out of this chicken outfit?”
“I’m afraid you’re stuck with
us,” Shreck answered ruefully. “The only way out of here
is feet first…or on your own two feet.”
A string of explosions shook the bunker, causing
dust to filter down from the roof and almost knocking the breath out
“Crap!” Fry exclaimed, “What’s
“They are softening us up for the final
attack, I just know it.” Shreck answered.
“How do you know?” Leela asked.
“I’ve been fighting these jokers for
two years…I know.”
The barrage stopped as abruptly as it had begun.
As if in fulfillment of Shreck’s prediction, the high squeal of
tank tracks began to fill the bunker.
“On your feet, boys and girls,” Shreck
shouted as he jumped to his feet, “this is it!”
Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 2, 0110
Shreck was right. Another wave of screaming Xoi
infantry surged toward the camp. The fire from the defender’s
weapons tore great holes in the ranks of the approaching enemy, but
more stepped in to fill the empty spaces.
Fry’s .50 caliber was thumping continuously,
mowing down the enemy directly in front of the bunker. The barrel
began to glow cherry red. Bender shouted, “Fry, we have to
Fry released the trigger and the gun fell silent.
Bender tried desperately to release the barrel, but it was stuck. A
sudden thought flashed through Fry’s mind, “We need to
use some liquid to cool the barrel!” he shouted.
Bender reacted instantly. His mouth opened and
his oil ejector propped out. Then it spewed forth several quarts of
waste oil. The barrel sizzled, then cooled down.
“Way to go Bender,” Fry said, “Lets…”
Before Fry could finish, a round from one of the
Xoi light tanks struck near the firing aperture of the bunker. The
roar of the explosion deafened everyone, while the dirt and debris
which rapidly filled the bunker made seeing and breathing nearly
impossible. The blast wave knocked everyone around like rag dolls.
It was a few seconds before Shreck’s voice
issued from the choking dust and acrid smoke filling the bunker, “I’m
heading out to deal with those tanks.” Leela could see
Shreck’s huge form dimly through the haze as he hefted the
anti-tank rocket pack onto his shoulder. Impulsively she shouted,
“I’ll cover you.”
Shreck paused for a moment, “Okay, Major.”
She could see his teeth flash in the semi-darkness, “Let’s
go open some tin cans.”
Shreck plunged out the back entrance to the
bunker, followed by Leela. They emerged into a scene of incredible
chaos. Thanks to the continuous string of illumination rounds being
fired, the entire landscape was lit up with a garish, flickering
white light that made even the Xoi and Truu seem pale.
Bodies were strewn everywhere, like broken rag
dolls thrown about during a spoiled child’s tantrum. Many were
missing body parts. The smell of blood, cordite smoke, and feces
mingled in an unforgettable blend of death…eau de death. The
continual roar of incoming artillery and mortars, the chatter of
automatic weapons fire, and the zip…zip…zip of rounds
passing close by assailed their ears. Both were momentarily stunned
by the sensory assault.
Shreck recovered first. He pointed to a shell
hole nearby, “Let’s take cover in there, Major.”
They both dove into the hole without standing on
ceremony. Leela noticed there was a torso lying in the bottom of the
hole. Whether it was a Xoi or a Truu torso, she couldn’t tell.
Shreck noticed what she was looking at, “Don’t worry
Major. It ain’t you or me.”
Like a horse shaking a fly, Leela shook her head.
She crawled to the lip of the shell hole. The fight was raging
without let-up. She scanned the Camp and saw the closest Xoi tank.
“Sergeant, there’s one of them.”
“Got it,” was his laconic reply.
With a few deft motions, he extended the four
barreled tube, popped up the sight, and lowered the firing handle.
“Whoosh!” The first rocket streaked
toward the tank. Leela could see it fly, almost as if it were in
slow motion. It hit the side of the tank, right in the cupola. Just
a second after the rocket detonated, all of the on-board ammunition
went up in a tremendous secondary explosion.
The blast wave was so strong it knocked Shreck and
Leela to the bottom of the hole. As Leela got up, her hand rested
briefly on the torso in the bottom of the hole, “Sorry.”
She said reflexively.
Shreck didn’t move, so she shook him. “Come
on Sergeant, let’s go.”
Leela leaned forward to examine him. Blood had
run down the right side of his face and his helmet had a hole in it.
She lifted the helmet, exposing the wound. A splinter of metal from
the exploding tank had penetrated his helmet and sliced into his
brain, killing him instantly.
His eyes were wide open, as if surprised by the
suddenness of his death.
Leela instinctively reached out and closed his
eyes. “Sleep well, Sergeant.’
The roar of another terrific explosion shocked her
back into the present. She peered out over the top of the shell hole
to see that Bunker Number One was a smoking, flaming ruin.
Several figures were stumbling around at the rear
of the bunker, one she recognized instantly. Heedless of the danger,
Leela rose to her feet, waved her arms wildly and screamed, “Fry!
Surprisingly, she caught his eye. He ran toward
her, clutching a carbine. He was absolutely filthy, with several
small cuts on his face and a small dark red wet spot on his upper
left arm. Leela manhandled him into the shell hole.
“Fry, are you okay?”
Fry’s voice cracked as he spoke, “He
was trapped beneath a beam when the bunker blew up. He’s still
alive, but I couldn’t get him out.”
“Crap.” Leela said forcefully. “Well
we have to knock out these tanks before we can rescue anybody. Let’s
Fry nodded and raised up to look for tanks. He
didn’t have far to look. One was on top of the ruined bunker,
spinning on his tracks in an attempt to crush anyone alive in the
“Dirty bastard!” Leela said as she
aimed the launcher. She fired the rocket just in time to strike the
rear of the tank. Her shot ignited the fuel, causing flames and
smoke to belch forth. Only two of the crewmen were able to
escape…for a moment.
Fry’s carbine barked twice and both figures
crumpled back into the inferno from which they had tried to escape.
Leela turned to Fry, “Stay here, I’m
going looking for tanks.”
Fry grabbed her arm, “Like hell you’re
going anywhere without me. We’re a team.”
Leela’s eye glistened and she spoke with
difficulty, “Till death do us part?” Then she growled,
“Okay. Follow me.”
They both slithered out of the shell hole toward
the roar of the fighting around Bunker Two.
Shell Crater between Bunker Number One and
Bunker Number Two, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 2, 0120 (1:20 a.m.)
In less than ten minutes, Leela had knocked out
two more Xoi tanks. Unfortunately, there were two still prowling the
area and Leela had fired the last round from her launcher.
Leela looked at Fry. She was somewhat surprised
to see the look of grim determination on his dirty, blood smeared
face. She was even more surprised when Fry leaped up and began to
run toward the demolished Bunker Number One.
“Fry, get back here!”
Ignoring her, Fry ran through a hail of automatic
weapons fire toward the bunker, weaving and dodging as he went. Dirt
sprayed up all around as bullets tore up the ground around him.
Still he ran on. Then he dove into the smoking crater that marked
the bunker’s remains, where she lost sight of him.
Leela was readying to follow Fry when she him
emerge from the ruins. He was carrying a four barreled rocket
launcher! His arms pumping wildly, Fry sprinted across the deadly
open space. Now even the tanks took notice. In addition to the
small arms fire, the tanks fired their main guns at him!
Incredibly, Fry made it.
He grinned as he handed her the launcher, “I
hope you know how to use this.”
“Give me that.”
Both tanks were advancing toward the crater,
firing as they came. Leela and Fry were showered in dirt and rocked
by the concussion from the detonation of main gun rounds.
“Holy Zombie Jesus,” Leela exclaimed.
“Cover me Fry, I’m going to shut these bastards up!”
They both popped up. Both tanks were less than
150 feet away. A cluster of Xoi infantry was following each tank,
using them as shelter. Fry blazed away with his carbine, while Leela
squeezed off a rocket.
WHOOSH…BAM! The tank on the right lurched
to a halt. Then black smoke poured out of the hatches as the crew
frantically tried to escape. The tank commander was slower than the
rest of his crew. Before he was able to escape, a round struck him.
He slumped back into cupola where flames engulfed him.
“One down, one to go!” Leela shouted.
Fry glanced briefly as she sighted on the last remaining tank. As if
in slow motion, Fry saw the blood spurt from Leela’s left
shoulder as a bullet tore through Leela’s flesh. She fell
backward, dropping the launcher.
“NO!” Fry screamed. Leela was
sprawled on the floor of the crater, her eye closed. She wasn’t
moving. Instantly, a red haze seemed to fall on Fry’s senses.
His vision narrowed down to a small tunnel. All he could feel was a
desire for revenge.
Snatching up the fallen launcher he leaped up onto
the lip of the crater, heedless of danger. Fry fired at the lone
remaining Xoi tank that was less than sixty feet away. The rocket
struck right where the turret joins the body of the tank. The jet of
molten metal generated by the rocket’s warhead ignited the main
gun ammunition storage.
With a deafening roar, the tank and turret
separated. The last thing Fry remembered as the blast wave picked
him up was thinking, “Got you, you bastard.” Then the
darkness engulfed him.
Aboard the DOOP Hospital Ship Mercy, 26 July
The grey mist slowly lifted. Fry wondered, “Where
am I?” The smell of disinfectant and some other hospital
smells assailed his nose. He could hear a soft beep…beep…beep
in the background.
He opened his eyes. He was in a bed of some kind
in a darkened room. “A bed, what am I doing in a bed?”
Then the memory of Leela lying at the bottom of a shell crater struck
He tried to call out, but his tongue felt swollen
and his mouth felt as though it was the bottom of a birdcage.
Clearing his throat, he tried again, “Hey!” he managed to
croak, “Hey! Where am I? What’s going on?”
He heard Leela’s voice from the darkness,
“Fry, you’re awake!” The lights came on. Fry
could see that Leela was standing next to him. She was wearing a set
of blue hospital scrubs, but her left arm was in a sling.
“Leela, where are we? What happened?”
“It’s a long story.”
Fry looked at the tubes running into his arms and
the cast on his upper body, “Well, it looks like I’m not
going anywhere for a while.”
Leela reached out and stroked his cheek
affectionately, “You saved all of our lives.”
“Huh? How’d I do that?”
“You knocked out the last tank. Once you
did that, I was told that Captain Sullivan was able to lead a
counterattack that coincided with the arrival of Colonel Pike’s
Brigade. The Xoi were absolutely crushed.”
“Where’s everybody else?”
“We’re all on the Hospital Ship Mercy.
Bender is hanging around gambling with the crew. He got new legs and
he is fine. Amy is in a convalescent ward two decks down. She was
repairing an antenna outside the commo bunker when she got wounded in
“At least everyone is going to be OK.”
Leela leaned over and kissed Fry on the forehead,
“You never cease to amaze me.”
“I could say the same thing about you.”
“I love you, Fry.”
Ever since the night in Marcellus’ peristyle
garden in Ostia two months ago, the sound of those words still sent
a chill down his spine when he heard them. He smiled back at her
with his best boyish grin, “I love you too, Leela.”
“You devil, don’t you do that to me.
You’re in no shape for action.”
“Maybe not, but I can dream can’t I?”
After years of indecision, Leela made up her mind.
She wanted Fry and that was it, “Fry. I think a September
wedding would be great.”
Fry couldn’t believe his ears, “What?”
Leela leaned forward and kissed Fry soulfully.
When they finished she breathed, “I said that I think a
September wedding would be great.”
“Me too, Leela…me too.”
3016, New-New York
Yancy Fry sat reading a history book. An
exceptionally intelligent, well-built eight year old, he looked like
his father but behaved a lot like his mother. He knew his parents
had been involved in a lot of action, but they had never really
talked about it. Perhaps that was what had fueled his passion for
history. Then a bunch of documents about the GIA were declassified
and he got his first look into their world.
Yancy was reading Chapter 18 of “Brushfire
Wars of the Galactic Intelligence Agency” about the events of
those two days in July 3006. He smiled as he read, “The
initial assault by the Xoi was a simple human wave affair, done with
only a light preparatory artillery fire and insufficient
reconnaissance. Apparently, the Xoi felt that numbers alone would
swamp the camp. They were wrong. The camp defenders repulsed it with
relative ease and light casualties. They were wrong. The Xoi
sustained over 1,000 casualties in the space of 20 minutes of
The Xoi reeled back to reorganize their bloodied
units. For much of the rest of the first day, the Xoi were content
to merely shell the camp. When night fell, two relatively intact
battalions from the 333rd Regiment attacked the northern
wall of the camp on a narrow front, supported by six light tanks.
In spite of all efforts by the defenders, by
feeding the rest of the 333rd and 332nd
Regiments into the assault the Xoi purchased a foothold in the camp.
The Xoi had paid a terrible price, as the two assault Regiments were
consolidated to form a single badly under strength regiment. As a
result of the terrible mauling, they brought in a fresh Infantry
regiment, the 124th, to continue the attack.
In confused fighting that lasted over two hours,
the defenders knocked out all six tanks and punished the enemy
infantry terribly. One tank was knocked out by Sergeant First Class
Shreck before he was killed in action. Four tanks were knocked out by
Major Turanga Leela, a downed helicopter pilot. Although under
withering fire, she continued to knock out tanks until disabled by
her wounds. For her conspicuous gallantry in the face of an armed
enemy, she was awarded the DOOP Medal of Honor.
Sergeant Philip J. Fry exhibited great gallantry
by crossing a fire-swept area twice in order to retrieve an anti-tank
rocket launcher for Major Turanga. Using his carbine, he also kept
the Xoi infantry’s heads down. When Major Turanga was wounded,
he fearlessly took up the rocket launcher and knocked out the last
tank at a distance of only sixty feet. The ensuing blast severely
wounded Sergeant Fry whose actions set the conditions for the
subsequent successful counterattack. For his gallantry and
initiative, Sergeant Fry was later given a battlefield promotion to
Even with their tanks gone, the Xoi made a “go
for broke” assault against that portion of the camp still in
friendly hands. By that time, over two-thirds of the defenders were
dead or severely wounded. As the Xoi assault began to overwhelm the
camp, Captain Sullivan Lipford called artillery fire and Close Air
Support (CAS) directly onto the camp. This severely shook the Xoi
resolve and halted their advance.
On the heels of the artillery fire and CAS,
Colonel Rodney Pike brought in a full battalion of Lothians into the
rear of the now disorganized and demoralized Xoi. At the same time,
CPT Lipford led a counterattack by the survivors of Camp X-Ray 27 –
many of whom were wounded. Capt Lipford was mortally wounded just as
the last Xoi were being driven in headlong flight from the camp. For
his conspicuous gallantry in the face of an armed enemy at the cost
of his own life, CPT Lipford was awarded the DOOP Medal of Honor. The
combined assault crushed the Xoi and removed three Regiments from the
Xoi Army List. The shattered remains of the Xoi forces retreated
down the valley.
The garrison of Camp X-Ray 27 won the day,
although their overall casualty rates exceeded that of the Xoi
attackers. In many ways Camp X-Ray 27 set a casualty record that
could never be surpassed. The total, noted in the Official Records,
was a precisely tabulated 100%. Every member of the garrison was
either killed or wounded during the battle. The camp was as Sergeant
Jennings – one of the Camp Medics – said, “a square
acre of Tophet.”
As the Xoi retreated, the kwaZulu and Nihonese
battalions which had maneuvered into blocking positions further down
the valley finished the job. None of the invasion force made it home
as an organized force. Less than 200 out of the 20,000 invaders
survived. As a result of this battle, the exhausted Xoi sought peace
terms. Not surprisingly, 3006 saw little fighting of any
Yancy closed the book. His parents were so cool!
“One day,” he vowed, “I’m going to be just