by O. J. Anderson
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
To most people — combat veterans, gamblers, military planners, strategy game enthusiasts, market analysts, precocious children, etc. — it would seem that Jack and his men are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the alien force about to attack the Earth. It would seem that way because those people are not familiar with Jack Creed’s Fifth Generation Warfare Plan. The 5G inertia-based WarPlan actually requires overwhelming odds in order to succeed, using the weight of the enemy against itself. Like an elephant tripping over an ant.
Each of the armored lunar rovers has a hologram projector encased in a black globe attached to the front end by an extendable monopod. The plan is to have two rovers projecting a large land force at all times; the alien force will catch itself in a crossfire and effectively degrade itself.
The third rover will be dumping its PXR compound around the perimeter of the alien force. When one rover dumps its full load, it will then pick up a concealed hologram position, and the next rover will begin setting charges.
After all three rovers are empty, they will rally at a predetermined link-up point and exfiltrate the Moon on the Warrior.
Jack, in Rover 1 with Rivers, Bones, and Doc, are setting demo first. They circle quickly around the crater, Jack and Rivers opening the cases of PXR compound in the back. They move along swiftly across the moonscape until Bones opens up with the anti-matter machine gun. There’s a platoon-sized alien foot patrol up ahead maneuvering on the shuttle.
The alien troops take no evasive action; they don’t duck for cover, take a knee, or anything. They only stand there, in the open, and return fire. They look like a cross between a troll and a gremlin dressed up like a cockroach for Halloween. Wide, plump bodies. Head build right into their shoulders. Skinny arms and legs.
Jack, Rivers, and Doc dismount and let rip some long bursts of bio-crud bullets. The AM gun rattles heavily, but silently. It does a nice job on the aliens. They burst open when hit, like water balloons. Inside is a grayish paste.
The aliens have hand-held energy weapons, but they’re not all that effective. The muzzle glows white just prior to firing the energy bolt — which moves slowly, so they’re easy to duck and bob. It’s sort of like playing dodge ball.
“Get some!” Jack shouts over the VOX. Fires another burst, then whips out a frisbee grenade.
The four man team lets loose a thick wall of firepower.
There are now so many aliens exploding into liquid that it’s getting hard to pick out targets. Like fighting an army of watermelons.
Rivers hucks a frisbee grenade, but it goes warbling off into space. Doc tries one too. Same result.
“Flick it,” Jack tells them. “Use your wrist. You gotta flick it!”
Doc hits the deck and lays down some crud as Rivers tries another frisbee. This time he flicks his wrist and it flies nicely at the feet of a couple aliens. Blows when it hits the ground. Sends up a funnel of moon dirt and pops open the last couple of bad guys.
Jack and his men move ahead for some quick battle damage assessment before they charlie mike with the demo. They try not to step in any of the goo.
“No skeleton,” Jack says, kicking over one of the deflated alien bodies like an empty space suit. “They’re just a flexible outer shell filled with some kind of gunk.” And that’s about as poetic as Jack can be at summing up an alternate life form. “Let’s move out,” he tells them.
* * *
Over the comms: “We’ve been compromised. Hologram is down.”
Jack hears Rover 2 calling for air support. He looks up in the distance and sees the Warrior coming in low, lasers blazing. Circles of energy blow out from the positron muzzle like smoke rings. Jack can’t see the results.
“Pull back,” Jack tells them. “Start dropping demo. Put it all in one place if you have to.”
Jack and Rivers quickly set out the last two charges. They are modifications on the M-18 Claymore mine: a thick slab of two-inch PXR covered with half-inch ball bearings, all wrapped up in plastic. They fold down the legs. Jab them into the ground. Aim. Then flick the remote detonator switch.
With all the mines set out, Rover 1 takes up a covered and concealed position and fires up the hologram bubble. Out shoots a battalion-sized element of hard-charging knuckleheads all dressed in black. They run straight on into the aliens. Punch a hole in their perimeter. Fight through.
The aliens, apparently seeing no problem with human forms running across the Moon’s surface without space suits, rotate their weapons inward. Start firing. Fratricide begins. The alien mech units shoot themselves with whatever kind of fancy energy weapons they have.
Jack watches the carnage unfold from the rover. He then watches the Warrior come in low and fast for another strafing run. The shuttle banks around the alien force. Hot and hard for another pass. He’s playing it too close. Too risky, Jack thinks. The 5G WarPlan has no use for hotshots.
“Hollywood, this is Black Ace, over.”
“Talk to me, Ace.”
“Yeah,” Jack says, “just wanted to remind you that that shuttle’s our only ride back to Earth.”
Hollywood’s reply comes over the com unit as unintelligible garble. Hooting and hollering. Jack pictures Hollywood and Bring The Pain high fiving again. Shaking his head, he tells them, “Just try not to get shot down.”
“You got that right, big daddy!”
Less than a minute later the Warrior gets shot down. The aliens send up a massive volley of energy bolts. Perfectly timed. The Warrior flies right through it. The shuttle shreds and disintegrates, like an origami crane through a garden sprinkler. The cockpit detaches and is jettisoned deep over the horizon.
* * *
The situation has dictated that the mission be restructured a bit. Just tweaked a little here and there. The brunt of the tweaking being in the how-the-hell-do-we-get-back-to-Earth part. Some of the men are worried; Jack can tell even through VOX. But he’s got it all worked out. They’ll just steal one of the alien craft. All they need are the pilots.
Rover 1 heads straight out over the plains for the recovery. The battle left behind them. Rover 2 is now looking for a ship. Rover 3 is projecting a battalion for a short while longer. Once Rover 2 has a ship, and Rover 1 has the pilots, they’ll link up and get off the Moon. The alien force has been devastated so much at this point that there is no chance of an attack on Earth any more.
To their right side, about six hundred meters away, is another alien infantry unit making a move for the cockpit. But Rover 1 doesn’t even slow down; they cut loose with the whole business: anti-matter, bio-crud, and frisbees. It all goes flying across the moonscape in a hearty display of overkill.
* * *
About twenty minutes later they make radio contact with Hollywood. They’re a little shaken up, but okay. Shortly thereafter, Black 2, Jones, in Rover 2, reports that they think they’ve secured a serviceable space craft.
Jack connects with the pilots. They load up and move out to the coordinates sent by Jones.
But Jones sounds uncertain about something. He says, “I guess it’s a ship. I’m not really sure.”
Hollywood: “Don’t worry about it. If it’s got wings, I can fly it.”
Jones: “It doesn’t have any wings.”
Hollywood: “Well, let’s have a look at it anyway.”
Then, Bring The Pain: “We’ve got about thirteen minutes to make it fly.”
Jack: “What do you mean?”
Bring The Pain: “I mean... the Warrior’s technology is protected against enemy recovery. There are four mini-nukes about to make sure nothing falls into enemy hands.”
Rover 1 stops. They all know it took longer than that to get here. There’s no way to circumnavigate the alien military and make it to those coordinates in time. Unless... Jack thinks.
“How far is it straight line?” Jack asks.
“Couple kilometers,” Rivers says.
“Yeah, if the aliens decide to let us through.”
“They won’t have to,” Jack says. He slaps Doc on the shoulder. Points to a crater lip ahead. Shouts, “Gun it, Doc!”
Doc knows what Jack’s got in mind. They’re going to jump across. Be back in no time. He steps on the accelerator. So crazy it might just work!
Gunning an armored lunar rover is a lot like gunning a golf cart, but it builds up speed gradually nonetheless. Everyone holds on with one hand, ready to fire up the aliens with the other.
The rover hits the lip. Takes off. Major air time. They fly over the depleted alien military, but there are still a number of them left fighting. Jack fires off a few mags down over the side of the rover. Flicks a few frisbee grenades. Soon he can see the two other rovers in the distance. But a problem occurs to him then: there’s no way to descend.
After a hasty calculation, Jack estimates that they’re going to overshoot the link-up point by somewhere between thirty and forty kilometers. Hollywood realizes this too; casts a weird look at Jack.
This realization spreads throughout the Rover 1 team like a bad pun at a proctology convention. Pretty soon everyone’s looking at Jack.
Jack stands. Puts one boots on the edge of the rover. They’re already passing over the link-up point. “Jump!” he shouts.
* * *
Simms and Hollywood are going in for the alien ship. Everyone else waits in a support position behind the berm. Even with only one rover putting out a fake force, the aliens, what there is left of them, are still killing themselves — although the death rate has slowed dramatically since living aliens are now few and far between.
Idiots, Jack thinks. If it hadn’t been for the mini-nukes they could have finished the job off properly. Clean. The way he likes it. Now they’ll be lucky just to get off the Moon, let alone back to Earth.
Jack watches as Simms and Hollywood creep up to a boxy-shaped space craft at the edge of the battlefield. It’s hard to tell by the design whether it’s a fighter, a heavy artillery piece, a mess unit, or maybe even a troop transport. He has no idea at all. He sees the two men pull open a hatch and climb inside.
They wait. But nothing happens. No smoke from the engines. No whining sound. Nothing.
Jack whispers, “What’s your status, Hollywood?”
Jack is startled when the ship leaps off the Moon’s surface, straight upward, zooming out of sight. It disappears into space.
The men lie there behind the berm wondering what just happened to their ride.
The ship returns a few moments later, doing about a thousand klicks an hour, right across the Moon’s surface. It passes overhead, curves back upward, and vanishes into space again.
A broken transmission from Hollywood: “...loose stick... hard... control...”
Jack doesn’t get his hopes up as he sees the ship return a few minutes later. But this time it makes a tight bank above their heads, descends, and lands smoothly. The hatch pops open. Simms waves them in.
* * *
Once underway, Jack wonders if this thing will handle the Van Allen belts. And what about an entry into the Earth’s atmosphere? He taps his gun barrel on the side wall. It feels like a metal, hard anyway. As the aliens were planning to attack Earth, it should be good to go. He asks Hollywood, “Navigation gonna be a problem in this thing?”
“That’s affirmative, big daddy. Gonna hafta eyeball it.”
Nervous chit-chat begins.
Smith: “Well, the good news is that if anyone sees us they’ll instantly be labeled as crazy.”
Doc: “Anyone wonder how four nuclear explosions and all that junk are going to be explained?”
Rivers: “I’m still wondering if those guys were more advanced than us, or less.”
Bones: “Think it’ll leave a crater?”
Rivers: “If it does, we get to name it. That’s the rule.”
Smith: “Why is it that the government can spend untold millions of dollars on the SETI, but anyone who sees a UFO is nuts? Why is that?”
Bones: “I don’t know.”
Doc: “What do you think, boss?”
They lost Jack at “four nuclear explosions.” His eyes are closed and his head tilted back, leaning against the inside of his helmet. His mind back on the Moon. Imagining what four mini-nukes and all that PXR compound are going to look like going off. Maybe happening right now. Oh, the sweet sight of fission! The big show, and he’s missing it.
Ah, well. Not a job well done, but a job done all the same.
Copyright © 2007 by O. J. Anderson