by O. J. Anderson
part 1 of 2
General Billy “Boom Boom” Braddock says, “Okay. So?”
Dr. Philips taps his finger on the monitor’s screen, on which is displayed a full moon. He directs the general’s attention to the lower right area, about the four o’clock position. “Right here. See this dark area?”
Dr. Philips tells the technician, “Go back twenty-four hours.”
Clickity-clickity-click of the keyboard. He again points to the four o’clock position of the moon. The dark area is noticeably smaller. The general grunts, his brow furrowed. Next, the technician brings up an image of the Moon two days ago, the dark spot about half the size. Then three days, four days. Five days ago, there was no dark area.
“Back to current image,” Dr. Philips says. “Zoom in slowly.”
General Braddock watches now with great interest as the image of the Moon enlarges on the screen, soon occupying the entire screen. The dark area getting larger, then breaking into segments. It is eventually apparent that the area of interest is comprised of hundreds of smaller unidentifiable objects. Oddly shaped units interlocking and forming intricate patterns in relation to one another.
“Stop there,” Dr. Philips tells the technician. Before speaking, he gives the general a moment to study the image. Then, softly, he says, “A dozen more will arrive within the hour.”
A dozen more. More what? As head of a super secret extra-terrestrial defense force, a force so secret that it doesn’t even have a name — General Braddock doesn’t even exist, and neither do Dr. Philips and his team of physicists — he’s used to asking questions that don’t have answers. The general asks him, “What do you think it is?”
“Well, sir... We have a theory.” Dr. Philips looks at the two men who haven’t said anything yet. Standing behind the general, one is biting his fingernails, the other is trying to open a pack of nicotine gum. The doctor continues: “These formations are highly organized and symmetrical. Each section established at the middle first, then in concentric rings. Although there are some slight variations in the size and shape of some of the units, they are still assembling in the same coherent manner. It’s almost like a —”
The general has already guessed where the doctor is going with this. “A military force,” he says.
“Yes, that’s correct.” Dr. Philips nods, clears his throat. “We believe that an alien military force is using the Moon as a final staging area in preparation to attack the Earth.”
Silence. The general then asks, “How long?”
Dr. Philips tells the technician to zoom out. A moment later: “Okay, stop.”
From this distance the overall design of the alien force most resembles a honeycomb, with each smaller organizational unit forming smaller, interlocking segments. But there are still some vacant areas. Dr. Philips draws the general’s attention to the upper right area where it is yet to be completed. About one-eighth of the pattern, or brigade, or division, whatever it is, has yet to be filled in.
“The pattern will be complete sometime tomorrow. They could be here within two days,” the doctor says.
Two days, General Braddock thinks. He can’t believe this is happening. It’s really happening.
* * *
After three false insertions, three Blackhawk helicopters land on a super-secret, camouflaged airstrip tucked into a deep valley somewhere in New Mexico. The choppers touch down only long enough for Jack and his crew to jump out, then they shoot back up into the hot desert sky. A hard bank. They disappear over the mountain top.
At the base of the mountain to the left of the strip, Jack sees vehicles and men in uniform. He waves to his crew and says, “Let’s move.” About one hundred meters up the side of the mountain is a small control tower. At the base is a concrete tunnel entrance.
General Braddock, now wearing fatigues and aviator sunglasses, walks across the strip to greet the men. But there’s no time to waste; the squad is hurried inside to an awaiting minibus that takes them deep into the mountain.
Once all essential persons are brought to the briefing room and seated, the lights go dim and several slides of the Moon are shown as Dr. Philips explains his theory about the impending attack on Earth. Neither Jack Creed nor any of his men are surprised by the presentation.
However, Dr. Philips is himself rather surprised that Jack and his men are not at all surprised by the existence of extraterrestrials or an unnamed super-secret extraterrestrial defense force. The doctor is again surprised to find that the squad has extensive experience in this field. General Braddock, though, is not surprised; he knows all about these kinds of teams. He knows everything. It’s his job to know.
Jack Creed wants to know only one thing: “How can an extraterrestrial defense force call itself a force with no troops?”
“We’re too secretive to have troops,” the general says. “Can’t have a bunch of hardheads shooting their mouths off at the local bar after a few beers. Too risky. We have defense mechanisms in place all over the world, but for ground combat, the idea has always been to outfit the existing military with advanced weaponry when the time comes. Safer that way.”
“Got it,” Jack says. “But it looks like the time has come. So why not the Marines? Why us?”
Proud to be associating with such a fine group of men, the general puffs out his chest and announces, “Because you guys are the best! That’s why. You’re the best of the best, dammit!” Then his voice drops slightly. “And besides, we don’t actually know what time it is. This is only a theory. Could be they’re friendly and want to give us the cure for cancer. Could just be a mushroom patch. Who knows? But we’re not going to wait until they’re bombing the crap out of us to find out!”
The general clasps his hands behind his back and snaps his boot heels together, about to deliver some hard truths. “Now, obviously, we can’t go sending government troops up there to wipe out alien lives that we know nothing about. Not a good PR move. And, of course, as we do not exist, we cannot acknowledge your existence. So you’ll be completely on your own as soon as you leave here.”
Jack: “Up there?”
“That’s right. You’re going to the Moon. Science and technology are all fine and dandy, but I believe in troops on the ground. Ain’t nothin’ been invented yet that can beat a superior force of hard chargers. You boys are gonna go up there and shove a boot up that alien ass... and break it off!”
This guy’s singing Jack Creed’s tune. He’s getting that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. He stands and says, “Sir, you give me enough weapons and explosives... and I’ll kill ’em all.”
* * *
The mountain has been cored like an apple, and is itself an underground launch silo. One level below the launch pad, Jack and his men gear up in the weapons section. There is no time for zero gravity training, physicals, or even any indoctrination to the new weapons systems; the beauty of General Braddock’s doctrine, however, is that most of the weapons and equipment are very similar in style and function to the current technology, so the learning curve is short, nearly non-existent for Jack and his men.
“Obviously,” the general says, “traditional gunpowder will not work in space. So what you’ll be using up there is solid fuel ammunition and explosives.”
As the general speaks, Jack watches the small, flat supply vehicle, the one that just towed in a container full of ammo, stop near a fuel point on the other end of the vast concrete space. The driver steps out, unhooks the pump nozzle, and shoves it into the vehicle’s tank. Then, after fueling a moment, he does something very strange: he pulls out the nozzle, still spraying fuel all over the vehicle and floor, and he takes a drink from it as though it were a garden hose.
Jack says to Dr. Philips standing next to him, “What the...”
“Water,” he says. “The technology has actually been around for two decades now.”
“Water?” Jack says. “Gas?”
“That’s right. It’s a pretty standard combustion engine, but with the addition of a device called a bifurcator. It splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, two highly combustible gases. Everything here runs on water. It’s safer, keeps the operating costs down, and it’s good for our secrecy.”
“Right,” Jack says. “So why don’t we all have this?”
“Oh,” Dr. Philips laughs. “Can you imagine what would happen to the price of water if this got out? Giant corporations, countries, all buying up bodies of water, fighting over them. Trying to regulate it. The chaos that would ensue. No, this technology is more trouble that it’s worth I’m afraid.”
“Mm. I suppose so.”
General Braddock, holding up a green disk, is saying: “This is a frisbee grenade. The entire thing is made from what we call PXR compound mixed with ball bearings. It weighs a lot down here, but on the Moon it won’t. Just twist the dial on the top, one quarter turn clockwise, and throw. It’ll blow when it hits something.”
Each man is issued a neat little backpack that conveniently holds and dispenses ten frisbee grenades. Just reach back, slide one out, twist and throw. There are a lot of other goodies too. Small arms are basically bored-out (10 mm) Heckler and Koch MP-5 submachine guns with the solid fuel, hollow-point ammo.
Dr. Philips tells the men, “No need for high-powered assault rifles on the Moon — everything’s high-powered on the Moon. And being that the hollow-point ammo won’t expand until it hits something, we’ve filled the tips with bio-crud. It’s a nice little stew of fifteen nasty waste products, germs, viral matter and the like.”
There are a couple of weird looking anti-matter heavy machine guns for mounting on the lunar rovers, and some frisbee grenade launchers that look something like skeet shooters. Gamma ray sniper rifles. Et cetera.
Jack wants to know how much PXR compound he can get with det-cord, time fuse, pull igniters, and a remote ignition system.
“How much do you want?” the general asks.
“How much you got?”
* * *
All the men and equipment are brought up to the launch pad via a wire-cage cargo elevator. Jack and his squad are all suited up, ready to go to the Moon. When they reach the pad the squad exits the lift slowly, heads craned upward. There are few things in this world that can make these men stop and gawk save for the occasional piece of mass-casualty producing machinery.
“Sweet Sierra Madre,” Jack says, looking up at their ride to the Moon.
There is the one main rocket, white and unmarked, with two gray booster rockets on each flank. Piggybacking on the main rocket is a tricked-out space shuttle gunship. The general says:
“That, boys, is the space shuttle Warrior. It’ll be carrying in you and the three armored lunar rovers to the LZ, then flying air support missions for you on the ground. It’s got two per wing standard helium-neon lasers, which will be ten times as deadly in space as there’s no atmosphere to push through and suck up all the energy. There’s also a main gun that will deploy from the cargo bay once in space; it’s a positron cannon with ten thousand rounds of semi-stable positronium rounds. If we can’t get the job done with this stuff, boys, we don’t deserve to call ourselves soldiers.”
Dr. Philips adds, “It also has an experimental sound-wave thruster. You’ll be covering the 239,000 miles to the Moon in a little under six hours.”
Another elevator takes the men up to the catwalk leading into Warrior. They’re strapped in and sealed up.
General Braddock closing the last latch himself. He comes to a rigid position of attention and salutes, shouting, “Close with and destroy, men! Close with and destroy!”
* * *
Flying nap-of-the-Moon, zooming towards the primary LZ, only sixteen kilometers from the alien army.
The shuttle commander is Colonel Rick “Hollywood” Harwood, and as they approach the landing zone he shouts over the radio, “Two minutes out. Shake and bake, baby!” In preparation for landing, he starts smacking buttons on the control panel, jerking levers, pumping his fist. He high-fives the co-pilot and positron gunner, Lt. Colonel James “Bring The Pain” Percy, then goes back to beating up the cockpit.
One minute out and they start taking fire. The emergency signal buzzes throughout the Warrior; red lights flash. Large white rods, the size of broomsticks, stream towards the shuttle in heavy volume. Whether the rods are solid munitions or energy projectiles neither Hollywood nor Bring The Pain can tell as they’re busy yanking the Warrior through a tight series of evasive maneuvers.
Over the helmets’ com-units, the squad hears: “It’s a hot LZ, boys! We’re going in hot, and we’re going in hard. Hot and hard, baby!”
It soon feels as though they are crashing into the Moon rather than landing on it. The Warrior tweaking, torquing, and rattling. Massive jarring thuds shuddering through their bones. Seems to be taking a lot longer than any landing should, but it’s just Hollywood skidding the shuttle up to the covered position of a nearby crater rim.
Bring The Pain’s got the positron cannon deployed and warmed up before the Warrior even comes to a complete stop, tucked into a nice little firing position behind the thick lip of the crater. The crew chief drops the ramp and shouts, “Go! Go! Go!”
Jack and his crew jump into the rovers. Hit the accelerators. They zip out from the rear of the shuttle. Two go left. One right.
Copyright © 2007 by O. J. Anderson