Futurama

Fan Fiction

These Mist Covered Mountains
By Ramon_51

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 as well.

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 Regiments1 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 offensive…

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 “WILCO2.” 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 approach. Over.”

“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”

“Roger, Out.”

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 nodded.

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 o’clock!”

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 view.

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 right now.”

“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.”

“What’s happening?”

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 Lipford…anyway?”

“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 damp earth.

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, 0700

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 Truu.

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?”

Everyone nodded.

“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.”

“Kiss?”

“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 counterattack force.”

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, “Okay, Sully.”

“Let’s get everyone into position.” Sully said, “I feel it in my bones that the ball is about to commence…soon.”

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 crew?”

“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 ventured.

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 gunner.”

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 big baby!”

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 blast.”

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 they come.”

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 entrance.

Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 1, 0800

The enemy mortars had stopped firing. The silence was deafening.

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 turned away.

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 air.”

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. Wait.”

The Xoi infantry had reached the first wire entanglement. The mass of green uniforms seemed to roll over it like a wave.

Shreck spoke again with a touch of eagerness in his voice, “Almost there…wait until they find the mines.”

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! Chong Tao!”

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 vanished.

“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 together.

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 greatest!”

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?”

Fry nodded.

“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?”

“AT Rockets?”

“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 division problem.”

“Right.”

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 and wounded.

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’ Rule.”

“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 lives.”

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 again.

Bunker Number One, Camp 27 X-Ray, Day 1, 1500 (3 p.m.)

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:

These mist covered mountains, are a home now for me

But my home is the lowlands, and always will be

Someday you’ll return to your valleys and your farms

And you’ll no longer yearn to be brothers in arms.”

Through these fields of destruction, baptism of fire

I’ve witnessed 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”

There’s 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

But it’s written in the starlight and every line in your palm

We’re fools to make war on our brothers in arms.

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 riding high

Let me bid you farewell

Every man has to die

But it’s written in the starlight

And every line in your palm

We’re fools to make war on our brothers in arms”

“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 (7 p.m.)

Night fell suddenly in the tropics. Once minute there was enough light to see, then…bam…it became very dark.

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 them running.”

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 ring.

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, over?”

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 (1 a.m.)

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 counterattacks.

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 distance.

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 as well.

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 of everyone.

“Crap!” Fry exclaimed, “What’s next?”

“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 (1:10 a.m.)

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 change barrels.”

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.”

No response.

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! Over here!”

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?”

He nodded.

“Where’s Bender?”

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 do it.”

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 ruins.

“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!”

Fry nodded.

“On three…one…two…THREE!”

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 3005

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 him.

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 her legs.”

“Damn.”

“At least everyone is going to be OK.”

“True that.”

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 fighting.

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 First Lieutenant.

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 consequence.”

Yancy closed the book. His parents were so cool! “One day,” he vowed, “I’m going to be just like them.”

THE END

1 322nd , 333rd , and 124th. The 124th was only fully committed on the second day.

2 WILCO is a radio brevity code for, “I have received your order, understand it, and will comply.”

Buddies