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Log of the Month for September, 2003

Dogs of War, And All That Good Stuff
Posted on September 1st, 2003 by Douglas McKnight

It wouldn’t be long now; camped out in command and control, McKnight had the bird’s eye view, the beneficiary of several high flying reconnaissance drones relaying their telemetry to the facility’s large tactical display in real time. But such technological advantages were hardly necessary at this point to notice the advance of the enemy forces. The lookout atop the high tower of Mortar Position One had already reported the approach of the enemy, difficult to distinguish at first from the surrounding jungle, but quickly coalescing into the recognizable form of an infantry column as they emerged onto the streets at the edge of town. By now, McKnight reckoned the men stationed on the ramparts could see the enemy vanguard as well, and before long, the rhythmic s tomp of boots marching on pavement would be audible before it was drowned out by the bone chilling shriek of tank treads.

The exact strength of the enemy force could not be reliably confirmed until the entirety of their number had emerged from the cover of the rain forest canopy, but they were moving in battalion strength at least. It must have been over a thousand soldiers inside the city limits already, and more still coming. With a scowl, McKnight turned to Mrowles, their Mreian liaison, and demonstrated, not for the first time, why he wasn’t in the diplomatic corps.

“I’m lost here. Just what spin on the phrase did you have in mind when you told us you folks were in charge here?”

Naturally, Mrowles started off on something about the constabulary having been caught off guard by the resources and ferocity of the enemy faction, the bulk of their own military regulars too far away to be there in time for it to make much difference, but McKnight had stopped listening about when he’d heard the words “lack of intel”. It seemed that was the official government statement too, and as excuses went, he’d heard better. If the locals wanted to save face, they could do it by helping the marines stop this newest assault.

“Estebez, have all squads report in.”

Those squads were, naturally, rather fewer than McKnight would have liked, but then no single ship in peace time could be expected to set out with the intention of providing the manpower for its own war. All told, the marine complement comprised about a tenth the Atlantis’ crew, making for a whopping total of 102 at his last count. For the purposes of boarding hostile ships and defending their own, that number was usually more than sufficient, but down here, it amounted to no more than an under-strength company squaring off against a potential brigade. Granted, the marines weren’t actually alone against that brigade, but McKnight had never been entirely, unreservedly trustful of any strength other than his own, and t he same thinking, in time of combat, carried over to the unit. The fate of a fighting force would ultimately depend, in his mind, on the competence of that self-same force, not its allies.

All that previous thinking had of course suggested that he had the Atlantis’ entire marine complement at his disposal, which, with the Atlantis chased out of orbit, he didn’t. Subtract from the aforementioned total the skeleton watch left aboard, casualties from the last battle, and a squad that had been waiting in reserve for rapid deployment against enemy batteries, and he was left with more like sixty men. Still, they were sixty good men, and they knew their business. Used properly in support of the several hundred local troops, McKnight figured there remained some chance of convincing the enemy that an attack against their position wasn’t advisable. But he couldn’t pla n on that of course, and so as soon as Estebez had reported that all marines were in their assigned positions, it was time to give a thought toward last minute preparations.

“Mrowles, how goes the evacuation?”

“Completed as of twenty of your minutes ago. All civilians from the surrounding residences have been relocated to designated shelters within the compound, though some concern has been raised regarding the security of their homes.”

McKnight was rather less than sorry he’d not been chosen as the one to field that question, seeing as how it left rather little room for bull shit, and the truth wasn’t likely to be received with jubilation. Security on their homes was non-existent. The verdict was still out on whether they had sufficient troops to hold a walled off defensive position. Keeping a force that size out of an entire city, even one small enough to have been built by people who spent most of their time asleep? Forget it. Still, with luck the residential district would be left intact. Certainly, the nicer homes would be used to billet the officers of the approaching army, but that army’s focus was on stopping the apparently insidious plot to ruin their naptime. Trashing abandoned houses would avail them nothing.

“Guess we’re about as ready as we’re gonna get then. Estebez, put me on the horn. I want this whole place listening in.” Once Estebez had signaled with a nod that he was on speakers, McKnight took a deep breath and began.

“Alright boys and girls, by now I’m guessing you’ve all noticed that we have guests heading for our doorstep. If I guessed wrong, consider yourself advised that an infantry column has been spotted, plus armor support. But we’ve got ourselves a few minutes while they mosey on over, so this is the point where I usually like to make the pep talk.

Those of you in the Star Fleet uniforms, and you know who you are, there isn’t much to say to you. You know who you are, and you know what you represent. You know your jobs, and you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t damned good at them. I do not, therefore, need to tell you that if necessary, you’re going to kick some ass in the immediate future, but this would otherwise be a pretty lame pep talk, so I’m going to anyway. This is what you trained for, people.

As for the rest of you, I haven’t been on this planet long, but I think I’ve gotten a feel for a few things. Particularly, I’ve seen Mreians fight. Everyone here fought well last time, and so I know you don’t need your hands held. Still, I don’t see how it’s gonna do any harm to tell you a little bit about the people Star Fleet sent to help you out. The condensed version will do, I guess. The Star Fleet marines have some fairly old traditions to fall back on. Not so old by your standards maybe, but at least as far back as the last time you were awake.

Mind you, I’m not gonna go into detail about any of them now. Salamis, Iwo Jima, Inchon, Izar, Coridian…every one of us marines has to know these names, but none of you are going to know them, and not one of you has to. All you need to take away from this rambling is that the greatest weapon in the marine arsenal isn’t the rifles, or the artillery, or even those fine armor vests you’ve all been fixed up with. The greatest weapon in our arsenal, one we don’t mind admitting we’re rather fond of, is a brotherhood of valor. A brotherhood of valor, that makes every man worth ten, that’s our slogan.

You better believe I realize that’s a tall claim, but I also guarantee that if it comes to fighting, we’re gonna make good on it. Let me also assure you that we’re trying to contact the enemy commander, and if possible, then we’re gonna give talking it out one more chance. With luck, they’ll be reasonable, but if not, then rest assured, whatever the numbers might say, we’re gonna win this fight. That’s all.”

As the comm. link was shut off, McKnight turned to the man in charge of the tactical nerve center with a grin.

“What didja think, Estebez? Alright for a jumped up Sergeant’s first speech as an officer?”

“Good, sir. Hard to believe you used to be an enlisted man. Most of us assume they teach officers that sort of stuff at the academy.”

“You didn’t think the history lesson was a bit much?”

“Salamis might have been over a few heads, sir.”

Well, that merited a slight frown. McKnight had never met anyone who genuinely took constructive criticism with enthusiasm, but he at least took the sergeant’s point. “It’s the damned history degree acting up again. Any luck raising the enemy commander?”

“Transmission is being received, sir. No response yet.”

And now, the ancient, tried and true formula of soldiery could continue. Perhaps in the fleet, the role of a Federation serviceman was ever changing. A navy dedicated to exploration first, diplomacy second, and military action third meant that some departments, command and science especially, would be in for something a little different every time. But for a marine, a combat soldier first, second, and third, his role was little different from a musket-wielding red coat, despite obvious technical advancements. Hurry to your next objective, and then wait. Seemingly endless tedium, occasionally punctuated by short bursts of intense terror.

Hopefully, there was no terror among the ranks, but in any case, the hurried tedium was over. Every possible preparation had been made, from the soil filled field fortifications shielding the mortars, to the shield generators set up to keep the enemy at bay, to the computerized micro torpedo batteries they had in reserve just in case of an air attack. And now, the enemy commander having been invited to make the next move, it was time to wait.

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