Band of Brothers: Chapter Eight- - Ascension...


Well, it's been a loooooong time (about 3 months) since I've posted a chapter, but you can thank the new school year for that.

I'm not really happy with Chapter Eight, but I figure it's been long enough, so here it is.


Chapter Eight: Ascension

This was it. The day that Jeremy Overstreet became a true soldier. He stood before the mirror in his barracks, checking his dress uniform over for the sixth time. Or was it the seventh? he wondered. But the hell with it. It didn’t matter. He wanted to look his best for graduation, not for Sergeant Bragg, but for himself. And, he had to admit, he looked pretty damn good. His dress blues were neatly pressed, his boots were gleaming, and his white gloves were spotless. To top it all off, Jeremy was in the best shape of his life and, thank God, his hair was coming back in nicely.
“ Yeah,” he whispered, “ I look damn good.”
Jesus Velez, finishing buttoning up his uniform shirt, laughed out loud. “ I didn’t think a man could make love to his own self, but there you are, Germ, living proof.”
Jeremy smiled, taking the barb with good humor. “ I’d rather sleep with myself than some of the trash you picked up in Albuquerque last time we got leave.”
“ Why, you little…” Velez growled, making as if to clobber Jeremy. Overstreet held his hands up to ward off the big Texan.
The two friends laughed. In a few short days, they’d be shipped off to their first assignments. They’d probably never see each other again, but that was okay with Jeremy. He’d never forget Jesus Velez. After all, they had, in a way, grown up together at Scorpion Training Camp. They had arrived as kids, but were leaving as men. He wondered if Justin had felt this way when he had graduated from the Academy at Hilthros.
“ Hurry it up, apes!” Corporal Chester Foreman, one of Bragg’s goons, barked, sticking his head into the barracks. Jeremy did as he was told, finishing the final inspection of his dress uniform and clipping his ceremonial sword to his belt. He found the saber an archaic gesture, but it was tradition, nonetheless.
“ So,” Jeremy was saying as he finished fastening his collar, “ how do you feel, Jesus?”
Velez raised an eyebrow at his friend. “ How’s that, amigo?” he asked.
Jeremy, finished with his uniform, shrugged. “ I don’t know. How does all of this feel to you? Joining the Service; fighting the Kilrathi? To me… it just seems so strange.”
“ Well, to be honest… I’ve been preparing to join the Marines for… well, for years,” Jesus said, grabbing his own sword. “ I’m ready, Germ. I can tell you that much. When I see a hairy furball coming at me, Dor’chak blazing, I’ll sure as shit shoot back, and I won’t miss.”
Cracking a wry grin, Jeremy said, “ Wow. You really mean it. How do your parents feel about it all? Did they approve of your joining the Corps?”
“ My folks are supportive in everything I do, really,” Velez replied. “ When I wanted to become a rock star when I was a kid, they were supportive. When I wanted to become an all-star cricket player, they were supportive.”
“ So why did you choose the Service over all those options?” Overstreet asked.
Jesus Velez settled down on his bunk, a look of longing and remembrance in his dark eyes. He let out a small sigh and said, “ Maria.”
“ Huh?”
“ Oh. Maria Gonzalez, a neighborhood girl when I was in Texas. She was the most beautiful girl you’d ever see, Germ, I swear it to you,” Velez said. “ Long, dark hair. Captivating eyes.” A mischievous grin lit up the Texan’s features. “ Legs that just went on and on. When I first met her, I tell you, Germ, I was tripping all over myself and just acting like a major fool. But eventually I got the nerve to ask her out and she said yes, much to my surprise. So we went out for… well, quite a while. I do believe I loved her.
“ Her brother, Juanito, was a leatherneck,” Jesus continued, suddenly serious.
“ Maria and Johnnie were close. When he bought it at Repleetah, she was crushed. She shut herself off from everybody else around her. She left one day. Just took a ship and left the planet, never to be heard from again. I promised myself the day she left that when I got old enough, I’d sign up for the Marine Corps and avenge both her and Johnnie.” He wiped a tear from his cheek, suddenly embarrassed. “ So, Germ, why’d you join up?”
Jeremy blinked rapidly. He certainly was not expecting that. Jesus Velez had always been the light-hearted, fun guy, and never once had he hinted at his hidden pain. Jeremy Overstreet could not answer why he had waited so long to spill his guts.“ Uh… well, it was one of those spur of the moment things, really,” he replied lamely. “ When I saw on the news that the Cats had hit Tingvallir, I said to myself: ‘ That’s it! I’m joining up!’ I couldn’t sit here on Earth while the Kilrathi devastated the Confederation.”
“ Your dad didn’t like that one bit, though, eh? Yeah, you told me about that.”
Jeremy growled low in his throat in anger, feeling an almost animalistic fury rising within him. “ My father is such a pig-headed, close-minded…! He doesn’t realize what the Cats are doing out there! He thinks anybody who picks up a gun or wedges himself behind a flight stick, like my brother Justin, is a warmonger. The common soldier is the person who wants war the least. They’ve seen the elephant; they know what it’s like. But people like my dad… I’d just love to give him an M-47 and send him out into the middle of a battlefield!”
Suddenly, before Jesus Velez could respond to Jeremy’s emotional outburst, the trumpeter sounded and the soldiers of Scorpion’s Training Camp filed out onto the parade ground. Jeremy looked around. When they had first arrived here, they had looked nothing like this. Now they were the epitome of spit-and-polish military efficiency. It made him proud to be a part of that. A moment later, after a brief pep talk by Sergeant Bragg (who was also decked out in full dress uniform), they were herded toward the Camp’s landing pads and into atmospheric shuttles. Jeremy learned that they would be flown to Houston and the Naval Academy, where the Big Duke himself would speak to them. He didn’t particularly care about seeing Big Duke, however. He only wanted to see his parents, to know that they were proud of him.
He settled into a front seat and idly chatted some more with Jesus Velez and Tim Hendrix. Orlando Smith, Jeremy’s other bunkmate, had broken his back on a training exercise on Luna a few weeks back and had been sent home. It was sad to think that Orlando would never reach his dream of fighting for his race, but perhaps he was better off, Jeremy thought.
Ten minutes or so later, the shuttles touched down on the lush campus of the Terran Confederation Naval Academy at Houston, Texas. The sprawling compound was eye-candy to Jeremy, especially after seeing nothing but desert and the bland, Luna moonscape throughout his entire Marine training. Corporal Freeman and Sergeant Bragg called them into sections, but Jeremy found his attention wandering. The Academy was marvelous. He’d never seen anything like it in all his nineteen years! But, when they had formed up, he forced himself to concentrate as Bragg barked, “ Company… atten-SHUN! Forward! March! Left, right! Left, right!”
The Marines were marched across the Academy’s parade ground to the blaring tune turned out by the Marine Marching Band. Jeremy had never heard so much John Philip Sousa in his entire life before he joined the Corps, but it had grown on him, he was forced to admit. Dozens of civvies (Strange, Jeremy thought, a little over a month ago, I was a civvy!) lined the parade ground, many of them happy parents and relatives. Overstreet looked closely, but, as he had expected, did not find his parents in the crowd. Bragg next gave the order for the saber salute. Again an archaic gesture, but Jeremy performed it as he had been trained, unsheathing the blade, raising the hilt, then dropping the point of the sword to the grass. When it was done they were halted before a viewing stand.
Lieutenant General Amanda Nelson, commander of the Enigma Marine Forces, approached the lectern. “ As general-in-chief of the Confederation Enigma Sector Marine Forces, I am charged with many duties. But perhaps the most fulfilling,” the middle-aged, blond Englishwoman began, “ of which is my task of swearing in the future of Confed; the few and the proud, so to speak. Please raise your right hand.” Jeremy and the other young soldiers did as General Nelson told them. “ Repeat after me: I am the heart of the Confederation…”
“ I am the heart of the Confederation…” they repeated in unison.
“ …A servant of peace. A deliverer of freedom. A guardian of worlds…”
“… As I pave the road to victory, I shall not fear the enemy, for he cannot conquer justice…”
“… As I light the righteous fire of peace, I shall hold life sacred, for it is my duty to rise against evil.”
When the Confederation Service Oath had been completed, General Nelson stepped down from the viewing stand. After saluting the Confederation colors, General Duke Grecko, Commandant of the Terran Confederation Marine Corps, ascended to the viewing stand and stopped before the podium. Big Duke, as he was called, was barely above five feet, but was tough as nails. In a deep, rumbling bass, Grecko began, “ Allow me to paraphrase the great Douglas MacArthur when I say: Duty. Honor. Homeworld. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points; to build courage when courage seems to fail; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”
Grecko paused, apparently looking quickly over his notes, before continuing.
“ Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean. The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase.” Jeremy flinched as those words escaped past Big Duke’s lips. They described his father perfectly. “ Every pendant, every demagogue,” the General continued, “ every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and, I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.
“ But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character; they mold you for your future roles as custodians of the planet’s defense; they make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success, not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fail; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
“ They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be a true soldier, a true gentleman, and a true Terran. You came as children, but you leave as men and woman. And so let me tell you that when I cross the river my last conscious thought will be of the Corps. And the Corps. And the Corps. Semper fidelis.”
The civilians roared with thunderous applause for the General as he descended the viewing stand, but the Marines, indeed true soldiers, remained at attention. In a few moments, the ceremony was over and, a great cry leaping from his throat, Jeremy Overstreet joined his comrades in hurling their service caps up high. He reached up to grab his, but someone beat him to the punch. Annoyed, he looked around to see who had plucked his hat from midair. A smile spread across his face. “ Mom?” he asked, disbelieving. “ What are you doing here?”
Heather Overstreet, tears leaking from her eyes and cascading down her cheeks, embraced her son. “ Oh, Jeremy, I wouldn’t miss this for all the world. I love you so much. And I don’t think I’ve ever been this proud of you in your entire life.”
Jeremy wept too. “ Is… Dad here?”
Sadly, Heather shook her head. “ I’m sorry, son. Your father… I tried to get him to come, but he refused. As a matter of fact, he forbade me from even coming down to Texas to see you graduate.”
“ Well, then how’d you escape Dad’s tractor beam and get down here?” Jeremy asked, confused.
His mother smiled behind her tears of joy. “ I told him I’d be visiting your Aunt Sharon in Kansas. I had to do the same thing when your brother graduated from Hilthros.”
“ That must have been one helluva a lie, Mom,” he responded, a big grin lighting up his features. Heather shared in his laughter. Suddenly, Jeremy was serious. “ Will he ever learn? Dad, I mean?”
Mrs. Overstreet sighed sadly and shrugged her shoulders. “ I honestly don’t know, Jerry. He loves you and your big brother, I know he does, but… He was just raised differently. Grandpa’s brother, Great Uncle Horace, joined the Marines and was killed before the war with the Kilrathi even started. Grandpa instilled into all his children that the military was evil and that it just broke up families.”
“ They’re wrong, Mom. I mean, you heard General Grecko,” he persisted.
“ Excuse me,” a voice said, and Jeremy snapped to immediate attention when Sergeant Bragg appeared as if from nowhere. “ At ease, Private,” Bragg said, and then turned his attention toward Jeremy’s mother. “ Are you Private Overstreet’s mother?” he asked.
Heather Overstreet chuckled. “ Well, I’ll have to get used to hearing ‘Private’ in front of my boy’s name, but yes, I’m his mother.”
“ Sergeant Felix Bragg, ma’am,” he said, holding out his hand. It was at that point that Jeremy realized he had never known his drill instructor’s first name before this time. Now, it seemed to him, he was not so detached to the man. He was closer to him almost. “ I just wanted to say… that you raised a good son. He, well, he saved my life, I’m almost embarrassed to say.”
“ Did he, now?” Heather asked, laying a hand on Jeremy’s shoulder. “ Must be that military instinct within him, Sergeant Bragg. His grandfather on my side of the family was a sergeant major in the Marines, and his brother, Justin, is a pilot out in Enigma Sector.”
Bragg grinned. “ Well, the Service is just one big band of brothers, ain’t it?” The Sergeant tipped his cap to Heather and went off to speak to Jesus Velez’s rather large family.
“ Well,” Mrs. Overstreet said, watching Bragg go, “ he seems like a nice fellow.”
Scratching his head, Jeremy absently said, “ Yeah, I guess he is.”

Three days later, after a much needed R&R, Private Jeremy Overstreet received his first assignment as a soldier in the Terran Confederation Marine Corps. Excited beyond belief, he tore open the envelope to see what he’d be doing. A deadly drop into hostile enemy territory? he wondered. Or a harrowing hostage rescue? “ You got to be fucking kidding me!” he gasped when he saw the orders. “ Guard duty at Moonbase Tycho on Luna!?”
It was the biggest crock he had ever seen! After working his ass off in training, his first assignment was to go to the moon? He’d been to the moon. A bunch of times! Hell, Sergeant Bragg had even taken to them to Luna for training exercises during boot. But, he was forced to admit to himself, he had no choice besides going AWOL, and that was barely a choice in and of itself. So he reluctantly gathered his duffel and took the shuttle to Luna, where he was given his assignment by his new commanding officer, Captain Nate Cavicci. Nate, during duty and after, would always disappear into the Officer’s Lounge with his fellow Captains and Lieutenants, leaving the enlisted grunts to do the real work.
For two weeks, Jeremy served at Moonbase Tycho, sitting half-asleep most of the time at the customs desk outside the main hangar bay. Despite the tedium, he had met some pretty interesting people. A couple of Firekkans had shuffled past once, covered from beaked head to clawed toe in brightly colored feathers, and Jeremy remembered seeing Admiral Vance Richards of Naval Intelligence at least twice. When he was not working, he’d mostly lie on his bunk and stare at the ceiling. This wasn’t how he had pictured being a Marine, especially during wartime. He had trained hard at Scorpion, forcing his body to do things they had never done before, firing an arsenal of weapons from the M-47 semiautomatic, to the C-47 assault rifles and the heavy mass driver scatter guns. That was what he should be using, not a pen at the customs desk. Frankly, he felt his abilities as a soldier of the Terran Confederation were going to waste.
Approximately sixteen days later, however, Jeremy received new orders. Apparently, he’d be assigned to the troop carrier TCS Nathan Hale, captained by Lieutenant Commander Irene O’Brian. The Hale was an old clunker, having been around since the early days of the war, but she still held together despite the years of wear and tear. Yet there was still that smell to the air that hinted at a lack of soap and too few hot water spigots working. The corridors were cramped, hot, and the soldiers felt free to simply drop wherever they were and take a nap; snoring bodies littered the deck everywhere Jeremy stepped.
He learned that he’d be part of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stallworth’s 3rd battalion, the so-called “Wild Animals.” At last, Overstreet thought with relish, some action! The Animals had the reputation of being one of the best in the business, second only to the famed 1st battalion “Cat Killers”, and Jeremy felt proud that he had been assigned to the Hale to fight with them. Stallworth was a wiry black man of about forty-five, a twenty-year veteran of the game who had repeatedly refused promotion after promotion in order to continue commanding the Animals. Senior NCO was Staff Sergeant Brandon Barcalow, an intelligent, scholarly man that had attended Harvard before joining up in late ’59. At first Jeremy had felt lost among so many combat veterans, but he soon found out that that was not as true as he had initially thought.
After meeting with Colonel Stallworth while the Hale was docked at Tycho, Jeremy had reported to the barracks, where the Quartermaster had given him a blanket and a pillow. He dropped the flimsy, military-issue items on his equally flimsy cot and looked around. Gray metal walls, gray metal ceiling, and gray metal floors. “ Hmm,” he murmured.
“ Hey, I’d know that ‘Hmm’ anywhere!” a loud voice suddenly boomed.
Jeremy jumped, but turned around joyously to see Jesus Velez leaning against the doorjamb, a cocky grin on his face. “ Velez,” Overstreet greeted, pumping the Texan’s arm up and down. “ What the hell are the odds, eh?”
“ Yeah, what are the odds?” Jesus said. “ Sorry about that bullshit assignment you got stuck with at Tycho.”
Jeremy shook his head. “ Nah, forget it, man. It’s just great to be back together again. So, made any drops yet?” he asked. “ Spill it, Jesus, have you seen the elephant?”
“ Hell, yeah,” Velez responded, letting out a breath and settling slowly onto his cot, which was next to Jeremy’s. “ I’ve seen it, amigo, and it trampled the hell out of me. I had just arrived on board the Hale when we dropped in on a Kilrathi base on the seventh planet of the Pournelle System. It was a jungle planet; goddamn flies as big as your head, man. It sucked. Anyway, there was s sizable fort on the edge of the main continental mass, overflowing with Cats. Captain O’Brian moved us in, with the TCS Wenceslaus joining in on the fun. There were two Fralthras in orbit who had decided to pop off some ship-to-ship missiles at us. Commander Patterson of the Wence sent out his fighter squadron under Major Garibaldi and we went in.
“ It was madness, Germ, sheer madness. The Wence’s grunts dropped first and then we landed.” Velez sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. He seemed unnaturally pale. Composing himself, Jesus went on, “ The Marines from the Wenceslaus converged on the fort from the northeast, apparently taking some severe losses, while we came in from the southwest. Lieutenant Miller and his rocket crews saturated the jungle around the Kilrathi base and we went in, guns blazing. The fort was heavily defended.
“ We tried to hide behind anything we could, but the Cats knew the area well. Shit, man, I watched my section leader, Sergeant Greene, get his head blown off right in front of me. At first, I was frozen, I didn’t know what to do.” The Texan stood up and began pacing, slamming his fist into his palm. “ But then something came over me. Everything we learned from Bragg at Scorpion came bubbling up to the surface and I took charge. No one else in my section died, Germ. And so they gave me this.” He pointed at the single stripe of a PFC on his shoulder. “ I just did what I had to do, nothing special.”
Jeremy shrugged. “ Well, apparently you did a good thing, pal. Congrats.”
“ Stow it,” Velez snapped, perhaps a tad angrier than he had intended. Sobering, he said softly, “ Sorry, Germ. I didn’t mean it.”
“ Yeah, I’m sorry, too,” Private Overstreet said. “ Go on. What happened on Pournelle 7 after that?”
Velez nodded and continued. “ We put up one hell of a fight, Germ. They may have taken a bunch of our men, but we certainly got our fair share of theirs, too, brother. I most definitely sold them a few their plots in honor of Maria and Johnnie. Anyway, the Wence’s boys advanced on the Kilrathi fort and surrounded it and we came in, but we were just too undermanned. The Cats took apart the guys from the Wenceslaus and Colonel Stallworth had no choice but to sound the retreat. Major Garibaldi and his rocket jockeys escorted us back up to the Hale and we beat it to the Confed base at Yeager. But the Wence didn’t make it to Yeager. A squadron of Jalkehis attacked us at the Yeager jump point in the Pohl System and the Wenceslaus was destroyed. Memento Mori, as they say.”
“ Yeah,” Jeremy murmured. He would not admit it out loud, but Jesus Velez’s horror story had scared the hell out of him. Pretty soon, he realized with dread, he’d be participating in that kind of chaos. Will I have the guts Velez showed when he took over his section after Greene got killed? he wondered. Or will I freeze up the first time I see a Kilrathi storm trooper clomping toward me, its Dor’chak blazing? “ So… uh, when are we due out?” he asked, swallowing away the lump that had suddenly materialized in his throat.
Scratching his head, Velez guessed, “ Few hours, I think. I dunno, I just pull the trigger when they tell me to, I’m not involved in the specifics.” A grin spread across the PFC’s swarthy features and the old Jesus was back. “ In the meantime, however, let me take you around the ship. The Hale isn’t a big boat, but she’s got heart, brother, and that’s what counts in my book. Come on, stow your stuff and let’s get a move on.”
After putting away his personal items in his locker, Jeremy followed his friend down the utilitarian corridors of the TCS Nathan Hale.
First up was the gymnasium, a massive complex located at the ship’s center. A daunting cube of a room, the gym contained a sparring floor (where two grunts were currently duking it out), a full-sized swimming pool, a track, and dozens of equipment. Jeremy did not know how they fit it all in such a small vessel, but somehow they managed. “ Yup,” Jesus Velez was saying, “ we have to stay conditioned in the Marines. I visit the Gym about two or three times a day. Chances are, Germ, you’ll be doing the same in no time at all.”
Jeremy whistled in appreciation at the huge facility and followed his friend out of the room. Next up was Sickbay, where Velez introduced him to Dr. Terwilliger, a man in his early thirties, but with eyes of a man twice his age. Harland had seen many horrors in his career as a military surgeon, and perhaps, Jeremy feared, he would never shake the images. The injured from the Pournelle 7 mission, however, had been evacuated off the Hale and shipped down to Earth, where they would receive far better medical care than on the troop carrier. Jeremy did not want to stay at Sickbay for too long. For one thing, he could not stand looking into Lieutenant Terwilliger’s haunted eyes, and for another, it only served to remind him of his vulnerability.
Private Velez then proceeded to take Jeremy down to view the Gilgamesh-class engine system in the heart of the Nathan Hale. They were stopped halfway there, however, by a Petty Officer who told them that only authorized personnel were allowed to venture unescorted into Engineering. She was polite enough, but as Jesus and Jeremy turned back toward the lift, Overstreet heard his friend murmur, “ Snooty bitch.” Jeremy looked over at him in surprise. “ What?” Velez gasped, feigning innocence. The lift doors closed and it began to take them throughout the ship once again. “ I didn’t want to see the engines anyway,” Velez remarked to no one in particular.
“ Right,” Jeremy said with a grin.
“ Yeah, I don’t care if the Gilgamesh can get this boat up to 247KPS with scoops full open,” Velez continued, as if Jeremy was not even there in the lift with him. “ Nope. I don’t care at all.” The two privates laughed, then the lift finally ground to a halt. The doors opened and Velez grinned. “ Now, let me introduce you to the mess hall, where we leathernecks can sit back and relax.”
Jeremy found himself being dragged into a rather large, rectangular room filled from wall to wall with cold, metal tables. Several enlisted men lounged around the mess, eating or drinking or just talking. Most were large, burly men with shaved heads and bulging muscles. Jeremy was no wimp himself, but he felt like a strand of fettuccine with a head compared to these guys. He did see a few women, though. He was also sorry to say that they were just as intimidating as the men. “ Yeah, they’re not much to look at,” Velez was saying. “ Just stick around the Navy chicks, though, and you’ll eventually see something you’ll like.”
“ Is that right?” Jeremy replied, feigning interest. “ I, uh, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“ Sure you will. Come on, let me introduce you to the guys.” The big Texan led Private Overstreet to a table in the back where seven Marines lounged. “ Guys,” Jesus Velez was saying, “ allow me to introduce to you Private Jeremy Overstreet. We attended boot together and he’s a good guy. Call him Germ; he likes it.”
Scattered “ Hey”s and “How ya doing?”s came Jeremy’s way.
“ Hi,” he greeted back.
Jesus pointed to the first one in the group, a short, bulky man with closely cropped black hair and an equally black goatee. He was sharpening a knife. “ This is Lance Corporal Oliver Davies. We call him ‘Rampage.’”
“ How you doing, Rampage?” Jeremy asked, holding out his hand. Davies studied this red-haired kid before him and snorted, quickly returning his blade to its scabbard. Feeling his cheeks glow warm, Jeremy covered his slip by reaching up with a hand and patting his flattop.
The next Marine at the table was a tall, blond guy whose wire-rimmed spectacles balanced precariously on his long, thin nose. “ Germ, this tall drink of water is Pip, better known as Corporal Piper Sims.”
Unlike like Rampage Davies, Pip seemed polite enough and firmly shook Jeremy’s hand. “ Welcome to the Hale, kid. Stick with the right crowd and you’ll, uh, be taken care of,” he greeted.
“ Right, thanks,” Jeremy said, not quite sure what that comment meant.
Jesus Velez quickly went through the rest of his gang. There was a small, bespectacled black gentleman who looked about twelve years old. His name was Private Walter Eisen, but everyone called him Wall. Legend had it that Wall had once stopped an oncoming air car with nothing but his chest. Whether that was true or not, Jeremy found it an interesting story. John Mill, an English sergeant called The Tank due to his massive size, was next, followed by Ando “Blade” Kotani. Lance Corporal Kiljan “Grinder” Laxness, an Icelandic soldier greeted him warmly and seemed the friendliest of them all.
“ And also, before I forget, is Private Gloria Harmon,” Velez said suddenly. Jeremy looked around and saw a petite young blond woman sitting behind Sergeant Mill. The large Englishman had hidden her from view and so Overstreet hadn’t noticed her before. But now he most definitely did. “ Germ,” Velez whispered, “ you’re staring.”
“ Huh? Oh, I’m sorry. Gloria, is it? Hi. Excuse me,” he stammered and quickly spun on his heel and walked away.
Jesus Velez hurried after him. “ Germ? What the hell? What the heck was all that about, Overstreet? Do you have a fever; should we see Dr. Terwilliger?”
Jeremy leaned against the wall and sighed. “ No, I… I’m fine, man,” he said, although he only half believed it.
“ Yeah, whatever. You wanna tell me just what the hell that was back there?”
“ It was her.”
“ Eh? You mind elaborating, Germ?”
Jeremy quickly looked up to see Rampage, Pip, and the rest of the gang looking their way, and he slipped out into the corridor, motioning Jesus to follow him. Reluctantly, the big Texan tagged along. “ It was… her, man, Gloria Harmon! Man, I went to high school with her. I had the biggest crush on that girl.”
“ Ohhhh,” Velez said with a grin, the single-syllable dragged out into one long sound. “ I see.” He winked at him. “ Boy, do I see.”
“ Yeah. I mean, she was the most popular, most beautiful girl in the entire school,” Overstreet said, talking quickly as he felt his cheeks glow red yet again. “ I bet she never knew I existed, but I approached her once during… sophomore year, I believe it was. I said, ‘Hi, my name’s Oromy Joverstreet,’ and then I managed to trip all over myself! It was the most humiliating experience of my entire life, more so than my defeat at the hands of our dear Sergeant Bragg, and the guys never let me live it down.”
Trying his damnedest to hide his own laughter, Jesus Velez said, “ ‘The guys?’ The guys, Germ? Where are these so-called ‘guys’ now? I’ll tell you where! They’re back on Terra, sipping imported cola and blowing daddy’s money on ski trips! And here you are, serving your nation. Who the hell cares about the ‘guys?’ Look, things have changed, man. I’m sure Gloria has forgotten all about you.”
Through clenched teeth, Jeremy ground out, “ Somehow, friend, that’s not very comforting.” He shook his head in exasperation. “ Hell, Velez, who says I won’t introduce myself as ‘Oromy Joverstreet’ again and trip all over myself, just like I did when I was 15?”
“ Class has been dismissed for a while now, Germ. Get the hell over it. You are a soldier in the Terran Confederation Marine Corps,” Velez barked, doing a very good impression of Felix Bragg. “ And you will not act like a stinking adolescent, you read me, soldier?”
Overstreet snorted in derision and turned away from his friend. “ Look, I don’t need this- -” he began, but Velez cut him off sharply.
“ I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think you need, soldier. You will shut up and listen to me, even if I have to rip open your ears for you and shovel it down in there!”
“ Velez, don’t do- -”
“ Now go back in there and- -”
“ Why don’t you just shut the hell- -”
“ Stow it, soldier! Do it now! Get your ass back in there! Now! Now! Do it!”
Taken aback by Velez’s fiery vehemence, Jeremy instinctively snapped off a salute. “ Sir, yes, sir!” he roared, drawing stares from a pair of passing sergeants. Realizing how foolish he must have looked, he slowly lowered his hand. “ Eh, come on, Velez.” Patting him on the shoulder, Velez escorted Jeremy back into the mess hall and toward the back table again.
Rampage Davies smiled a broken-tooth grin at Jeremy as he took a seat near Gloria Harmon. He felt his cheeks turn red once again, but he remembered Jesus’s advice and tried to ignore his emotions as best he could. “ So, Germ,” Rampage cackled, “ did you go and get your diapers changed?”
“ Shut up, Lance Corporal,” Corporal Sims and Sergeant Mill exclaimed at the same time. Oliver Davies quickly did as he was told and went back to playing with his knife.
As the other guys started talking among themselves about matters Jeremy couldn’t care less about, he turned toward Gloria and opened his mouth. She looked exactly as he remembered her: Slim figure, blond hair, gorgeous face. Funny, he thought, she had been the one person he expected least to have joined the Marines, yet here she was, a simple private just like him. “Hi,” he said.
Gloria acted as if she had just noticed him. “ Oh, hello, Private.”
“ Harmon, right?” She smiled politely and nodded. “ I’m Oromy Joverstreet.”

Salayna System
Enigma Sector
Asimov Quadrant

As the TCS Nathan Hale pushed on toward the Crichton System jump point in the Salayna System, a quartet of F-54C Epee fighters from the TCS Fredericksburg serving as defense and escort, Private Jeremy Overstreet had still seen no action. Shortly after his arrival on board the Marine troop carrier at Sol, Captain O’Brian had been ordered to proceed to Crichton to take care of some business in that star system. Jeremy, or anyone else on board save for the Captain and Colonel Stallworth, did not know what for. He just hoped that whatever it was, it would not end up like the Hale’s failed mission in the Pournelle System. Never could he imagine the sort of sheer terror that Jesus Velez had described in his tale.
Well, whenever he came near Private Harmon, he had an inkling of what the battle on Pournelle 7 might have been like. He knew that he and Gloria were no longer teenagers, that they were supposed to responsible adults in service of the nation, but he could not shake those age-old feelings. When he saw her with the gang in the mess hall or walking down the corridor or even in the gymnasium he froze up and he would feel his ears glow red-hot. His breathing would become shallow and he would suddenly make up any excuse to get the hell out of the area. He was treated with several puzzled stares whenever he ducked out like that, but he just could not be around Gloria Harmon without coming off like a complete fool. “ Hi, I’m Oromy Joverstreet.” What the hell had I been thinking! his brain blurted at him every so often.
Serving on a Marine troop carrier in the middle of a war zone was surely not as heroic and noble as the holos had made it out to be. People watched shows like “Luna Jones: Jumpscout” and played games such as “ Hover-Chopper Assault” and figured space travel must be one big, grand adventure. But those young, idealistic young fools had it all wrong. Space travel was dirty, hot, cramped, tedious (for the most part), and terrifying (for the others). Standing in a long line for a cold, thirty-second shower or a tray-full of equally cold, slimy rations were not Jeremy’s idea of adventure. More like cruel and unusual punishment.
And, hell, what right, in all reality, did Jeremy have to complain? He had not even seen that elephant yet; all he was concerned with at the moment were the Hale’s sub par facilities. But that was war; you had to make certain sacrifices. Like personal space, privacy, a good meal, warmth, and safety among many other things. Sacrifices or no, however, Jeremy Overstreet was in this for the long run. He had had enough of the atrocities committed by the genocidal Kilrathi Empire and would fight the furry bastards for all he was worth. Would he be scared? Hell, yes. Would he back down? Never, if only to prove to his father that enlisting in the Terran Confederation Marine Corps was not a big as a mistake as he had believed. He’d be facing the Kilrathi soon. That was a given.
The Nathan Hale had set out from Sol approximately four days ago, but Jeremy had lost track of time a while back. Captain O’Brian had taken the troop carrier through the Sol System and into the Talos System, where they subsequently jumped into the Ella System. From Ella, they arrived in the Enigma Sector and the Vespus System. Moving into the Hilleman and subsequently the Ellison and Brim Systems, they had taken the Gibson jump point into Salayna where they were currently navigating swiftly toward their destination in the Kilrathi-occupied Crichton System. Throughout the transit, Charles Stallworth kept them on their toes. Thought not as strict as Felix Bragg had been at boot, the Colonel had dragged their sorry hides, as he had eloquently put it, out of their bunks every day at relative dawn. And, sure enough, at relative sunset, “Taps” sounded and all were ordered to report to their berths for the evening, unless there was a drill. As expected, there was a drill every other night.
Yes, Jeremy had been forced to give up some freedom and as a result did not have as much free time as he wanted, but Lieutenant Colonel Stallworth did grant free access to the computer terminals as long as they were utilized during acceptable hours. Jeremy had frequently checked the war news. The Kilrathi Empire was slowly gaining more and more footholds in Terran space and, according the TCN, defeat was right around the corner. He did not know if this was true or not, for he was not a tactician, just a soldier, but it worried him nonetheless. See, Dad, he thought fierily, we are losing this war, and pretty soon you’ll no longer be safe within your little bubble of security on Earth. The Kilrathi will come in droves and they will show no mercy. He also composed letters to friends and family members.
Dear Mom, he wrote in one, I sure hope Dad doesn’t get this before you, ‘cause he’s liable to delete it from your INBOX, but here goes. It’s been a little over three weeks since we last saw each other, and I just wanted to tell you that I’m doing fine. I’ve met up with Jesus (remember, you met him at the graduation) on the TCS Nathan Hale, and we’re swiftly moving toward our next assignment. I would be lying if I said I was not afraid, but you should not be scared either, Mom. I will be fine. Make sure you tell Dad that I love him, despite his stubbornness. Hope to see you soon. Love, Jerry.
He wrote his grandparents as well, and then decided to compose a letter to his big brother, Justin. They had been close when they were kids, despite the eight-year age difference, but as the war took them along different paths, they had grown distant. There was no bitterness between them, as there was between Justin and their father, just a void. Now that they were currently in the same sector of space, however, Jeremy felt that he could easily e-mail his brother on the Antietam.
Dear Justin, he began, it’s been a while since we’ve spoken, what with the war and all, but I felt it appropriate to write you. I trust you’ve heard from Mom now that I have enlisted in the Terran Confederation Marine Corps. It was not an easy decision, and, as you can guess, Dad was none too pleased, but I am proud of my choice. I’ve yet to see any action, and I’m shaking in my boots, but my ship, the Nathan Hale, is quickly making way to the Crichton System, where we’ll engage the Kilrathi. I’m sure you have had your fair-share of action, though. I hope you’re doing fine and that we will be able to see each other soon. Semper Fidelis, you kid brother, Jerry.
As an afterthought, he added, P.S. Just remembered. Happy 27th birthday.
A few hours later, Jeremy returned to the computer console, dripping with sweat after a rigorous exercise in the Hale’s massive gymnasium. Justin had replied to his e-mail. Dear Jerry, it stated and Jeremy thought he could almost hear his brother’s voice, I was very pleased to have received your letter. It is nice to know that my family still remembers me. Yes, I had heard from Mom on your ascension into the ranks of the Terran Marines. Congratulations, kid. And don’t worry about the action. You’ll see enough of it in the days and weeks to come; just stay on your toes and you’ll do fine.
Anyway, some bad news, Justin’s letter continued somberly. My friend and commander, Major Edison, has passed away, as well as a few other of my comrades-in-arms. Just be prepared for the loss of any friends you may make in the Corps, Jerry. It’ll be hard, but you’ll have to move on quickly or become next on the Kilrathi’s hit list. Well, some good news to back it up, as well. I’ve been promoted to Captain and Executive Officer of the Battling Bastards squadron. Ever thought of becoming an officer? Don’t rule it out, kid. More perks, better pay.
Thanks for wishing me a happy birthday, Jerry. I’m sorry I missed yours, but the Antietam was deep in an operation in Kilrathi-held space and I couldn’t get a letter out. Anyway, happy belated 19th birthday, kid. I’m afraid that’s all Captain Ruth’s gonna allow for now, so I’ll go ahead and send this. Take care, your big brother, Justin.
Smiling in contentment, Jeremy saved the letter and placed it with the one he had received from his mother the day before. He was disappointed upon learning that Doug Edison had died. He had never met the pilot who flew under the moniker of Caesar in person, but Justin had talked unceasingly about him in his rare letters to home. What was worse, Edison had a wife and a small son on Arcturus VI, and no one would be able to mend the wounds of his absence for his family. It sort of made him appreciate his own father, but not enough to stop resenting him for his callous attitude toward the military and everything it stood for.
He was suddenly feeling very frustrated and skipped the shower he was preparing to take before he had checked on Justin’s e-mail. He grabbed his duffel from his locker and headed back toward the Nathan Hale’s gymnasium. The expensive equipment was in full use (or out of order, as far as the military press was concerned) and there were no vacant lanes in the swimming pool. Feeling even more frustrated, he slipped on a pair of boxing gloves and began to take his wrath out on an innocent punching bag. He slammed his fist violently into the bag with a right jab, followed by a fierce right cross. Right hook, left jab, right jab, left hook, uppercut, left cross. For good measure, he lashed out with a foot that would have resulted in his expulsion from any boxing ring.
“ My, my, such violence, Private. Does the punching bag owe you money?” a mocking voice boomed from behind him.
“ What do you want, Davies?” Jeremy barked, not even bothering to turn around for he had easily recognized the Lance Corporal’s arrogant tone.
Rampage pressed his hands to his chest in mock astonishment. “ Oh, dear, Private. I just asked a question. You know, I wonder: Does the media have something to do with those violent outbursts you’re currently displaying, or does the blame fall squarely on the shoulders of incompetent parents? I blame the latter, to tell you the truth.”
“ Get lost, Rampage!” Jeremy hissed out between clenched teeth. “ I’ve had enough of your shit!” Ever since his cold attitude toward Overstreet on his first day on board the Nathan Hale, Lance Corporal Davies had done nothing but ridicule Jeremy and quite frankly make his life a living hell. On his second day on board, as the Hale had made its way to the Hilleman System, Oliver had gone as far as to load his scrambled eggs with hot sauce, despite the fact that mere moments before Jeremy had refused the condiment due to the fact that he was allergic to it. Rampage had been given a stern dressing down by Sergeant Mill and Corporal Sims, but that had done nothing to quash his trite schoolyard-bully antics.
“ Hey, I’m trying to be friendly, Germ, to make up for that whole hot sauce incident in the mess hall the other day,” Rampage retorted, acting as if he had been almost physically wounded by Overstreet’s words. “ Don’t take out your inadequacies with the opposite sex- - namely one Private Gloria Harmon- - on me, bub.”
A growl that was almost Kilrathi in nature rose within Jeremy’s throat and he rounded violently on Rampage Davies, his features contorted in rage. Oliver seemed to be taken aback and backed up a few paces, his hands outstretched. “ Hey, don’t take out your, uh, personal frustrations on me, pal,” he blurted.
“ Why don’t you just shut the hell up, pal!?” Jeremy shot back, turning the normal term of endearment into a swear word. “ I’ve had it! Now, should I kick your ass now or later?”
Raising his fists, which were still covered in the boxing gloves, he closed in on his antagonist. Rampage, still acting as if he was innocent, bumped into a weight-lifting machine, his hands still raised, palms up. By now, the little exchange between the two had gathered an audience, and he distantly heard people placing bets.
“ Hey, make way! Make way! Lady with a baby!” Private, First Class, Jesus Velez yelled, pushing his way through the crowd. Jeremy’s friend had just gotten out of the pool and was dripping with water. Shivering slightly, he stepped up to Jeremy and said, “ Are you crazy? What the hell do you think you’re doing, Germ?”
Jeremy vehemently gestured toward Rampage, who stood with his entourage, a definite scowl on his swarthy face. “ This jerk has to be taught a lesson, Jesus. This isn’t a schoolyard; he can’t go around bullying people. Especially during a war when we all need to be united.”
“ Don’t talk to me about your sissy unity crap, Germ!” Rampage called from across the chamber.
“ See?” Jeremy exclaimed.
“ Yeah, I see,” Private Velez said, sighing. “ But you can’t go around striking guys, especially those that out-rank you, Germ. Still… there may be a way to settle this.”
Jeremy, without taking his hate-filled brown gaze off Oliver Davies, whispered to his friend, “ How’s that? Hopefully, it will have to do with me putting that son of a bitch’s head of a goddamned chopping block.”
“ Well, no, but I think I can talk Lieutenant Henderson into allowing a little contest,” Velez replied. He raised his voice so all could hear. “ A single round of Judo, here on the sparring floor. We’ll come to some sort of an agreement laid out by the winner.”
Jeremy locked his gaze on his foe and said, “ If I win, you bastard, you leave everyone you annoy the crap out of alone.” This was greeted with applause from several men and woman on Overstreet’s side of the sparring floor.
“ Yeah?” Rampage asked rhetorically. “ Well, if I win, you take over the KP duties Sergeant Barcalow stuck me with after I put that slime rat in Sergeant Mill’s bunk.” This was greeted with raucous laughter from Davies’ own crowd.
Jesus Velez looked from Oliver to Jeremy and then back again. “ It’s agreed upon then?” When the two future combatants nodded, he said, “ I’ll speak to the Lieutenant and we’ll meet back here on the sparring floor in ten minutes.”
Ten minutes later, Velez arrived in the locker room as Jeremy was securely fastening the brown belt worn around the waist of his gi, the standard jumpsuit worn by a Judo combatant. There were basically three levels of experience in Judo: Beginner (signified by a white belt), intermediate (brown belt), and advanced (black belt). Jeremy, having learned a great deal of the ancient Japanese art while at Scorpion Training Camp, was by no means a beginner, but he was far from advanced, as well.
“ What he’d say?” Jeremy asked as he saw his friend approach him.
Jesus Velez grinned. “ He said as long as you’re able to fight tomorrow when we get into the Crichton System, knock yourself out. Uh, not literally, of course.”
“ Of course. Christ, Velez, why the hell did I even agree to this damn fool contest, anyway?” Jeremy said worriedly. “ I mean, did you get a good look at that guy? He’s huge and he’s had combat experience. I’m no wimp, but I’m definitely no match for Rampage.” He lowered his head into his hands and, dejectedly, said, “ I’m creamed.”
Velez waved the comment off as if it was a pesky insect. “ Forget it, Germ. Rampage may be big, but that also makes him slow. Just keep moving and go in low. Knock the son of a bitch off his feet.”
“ I just hope Private Harmon isn’t there watching, especially if I get my butt kicked.”
“ So what if she’s there? If she won’t give you the time of day, that’s her problem,” Jesus responded, trying his best to cheer up his friend. “ But you never know, Germ, if you wax the bastard, she may be impressed and throw herself on you.”
Overstreet scratched his head. “ Yeah, that’d be pretty sweet, but I don’t know…”
“ For duty, Germ. For honor. For homeworld. Remember what Big Duke said?”
“ All right,” Jeremy said with a wry grin. He slipped in his mouthpiece and, his voice muffled, he said, “ Let’s go kick some ass.”
His bare feet squeaking on the gymnasium’s tile floor, Jeremy Overstreet waded through the sizable crowd gathered around the sparring floor and waited for Rampage to show himself. He was almost hoping the big man would chicken out and not show up, but he knew that was just all too unlikely. “ Show no mercy, Germ,” little Wall Eisen said with a big thumbs-up. Jeremy busied himself with stretching and limbering up while waiting for his opponent to enter the gymnasium.
Soon, Rampage walked out on the sparring floor, his large muscles visible beneath the light cotton of his gi. Thank God, Jeremy thought as he saw the man’s brown belt, Rampage is only an intermediate, too. At least we’ll be on equal footing as far as experience in Judo goes.
“ Combatants step forth,” Jesus Velez’s voice rang out, in his best referee impression. Overstreet and Davies did as they were told. “ This will be one round of randori Judo. You will apply the ancient Japanese art, utilizing the techniques of nagewaza, katamewaza, and atewaza as you were instructed during boot camp. The winner will be the first combatant to hold his opponent in the katamewaza style for the duration of thirty standard seconds. Keep it clean; no hitting below the belt. When the bell rings, come out fighting.”
Jeremy looked a glance at his friend-turned-referee. “ Uh,” he whispered, “ wrong sport, guy.”
“ Eh… right,” Velez said, chuckling nervously. He gave the signal and the three men on the sparring floor exchanged bows before Jesus stepped back and Rampage and Jeremy began to circle each other. Lance Corporal Davies’ dark eyes swam with murderous rage, while Overstreet’s showed nothing but grim resolve. He had to beat this guy, or he might as well jump into an airlock and blow the hatch.
Oliver struck first, lashing out with a foot aimed at Jeremy’s knee. Overstreet quickly sidestepped the blow, summarily hooking his hands into claws and reaching out for his opponent. He clamped on to Rampage and jerked his hands to the left in an effort to throw the big man. “ You’ll have to do better than that,” he ground out, slamming a forearm into Jeremy’s head and sending him spiraling through the air and landing hard on the mat. Jeremy quickly rolled to his feet, but barely ducked the kick that Rampage sent his way.
Jeremy lashed out with his curled hands, catching Rampage repeatedly in the chest. The big, dark-haired E-3 blocked several of the blows and managed to trip Jeremy to the mat again with a sweeping kick. Again, he rolled to his feet, using his momentum to solidly connect his right foot with Davies’ head. Rampage spun through the air and landed on his belly. Wanting to keep the fight fair, Jeremy let his foe get up before launching another attack at him. He swiftly brought his forearm up to connect with Rampage’s head, but the big man easily deflected him, laying into Jeremy with his own, rather vicious attacks.
A kick to Jeremy’s left temple spun him around and sent him to his knees. His mouthpiece flew from his mouth, along with a geyser of surprisingly red blood. Crimson stained his crisp, white gi. Jesus Velez urged him to get back up as, laughing coldly, Rampage Davies approached Jeremy from behind and gathered him a fierce chokehold. Stars burst in the young private’s vision. His blurred gaze suddenly fell on a slim, blond woman in the crowd, about his age. Private Harmon, his voice reminded him. He could not just sit here and lose the match this quickly; he had to fight, for crissakes; take the bastard to the cleaners.
Groping blindly, Jeremy’s hands fell on Rampage’s thick neck and, his muscles straining and a sharp pain rocketing up and down his back, he flipped the bruiser over his back and down hard on the mat. Davies slowly got to his feet, a grin splitting his ugly features. “ Well, well. Aren’t we lucky?” he asked. With a fierce war cry escaping his lips, Rampage charged, his fists lashing out in something not-quite common to Judo or any martial art that Jeremy was aware of. Jeremy ducked to get out of the way of Davies’ crazed punches. He was backing him against a wall. How long could he stave off these onslaughts. Well, Rampage would tire out soon, right? No sooner than me, Overstreet thought glumly.
Jeremy thought about giving up now, but quickly ruled that out. If he just quit, he wouldn’t be too popular around the Hale and his status would go down quite a notch among the boys at the back table. And Gloria Harmon, too, a voice in the back of his mind reminded him. “ Okay,” he whispered through clenched teeth as Rampage launched another frenzied attack at him. “ Time to take this guy to the cleaners!” Sucking in a deep breath, Jeremy ducked low, hitting the mat with his left shoulder and rolling out of the way of a vicious kick. Rampage looked around, shocked to have seen his opponent disappear under him. From his crouching position on the dark blue mat, Jeremy lashed out with a foot, sweeping Lance Corporal Davies to the floor. The big man landed with a great thud. He tried to get up, but Jeremy was already behind him, locking his arms around the son of a bitch’s neck. Rampage strained against the hold and it took all of Jeremy’s might to keep him from slipping loose. “ Stay still, you damned bull!” he hissed.
“ Not… on your… life, pencil-neck!” Rampage snarled, straining even harder now. Jeremy’s arms ached, his muscles protesting against the sheer force Jeremy was placing upon them. Everything seemed to move slowly as molasses, as if someone had lowered the speed of a holo. Dimly, Private Overstreet heard cheering, loud raucous cheering, but he had no clue whether or not its was directed toward him. Frankly, he did not give a damn. He was here to mop the floor with Oliver Davies, not win stardom on board the Hale. Rampage bit into Jeremy’s hand then. He yelped, but did not let go. It was obvious this contest had gone far beyond mere Judo. In his peripheral vision, Jeremy saw Jesus Velez pace along the mat, his mouth moving, but the words were unclear. Then he realized it was a countdown. How many seconds…? he wondered. 15. Just as many more and he’d have won!
Time dragged even slower as those last seconds went by. Jeremy thought he’d drop dead then and there. But… no! Jesus Velez howled in joy, slapping the mat as the thirty-second mark passed. “ Hot damn, Germ! You did it!” the Texan was saying, jumping up and down as if he was a child on Christmas morning. Jeremy finally let go of Rampage, shoving him to the mat just slightly as he did so. “ It’s over, Davies,” he snapped, not caring if his foe heard him or not. “Now remember our bargain, eh?”
“ Shut the fuck up!” Rampage roared, hauling himself to his feet and rushing toward Jeremy, arms slashing. Davies fell on Overstreet like a madman, pounding continuously on the younger man. Jeremy held his hands up to ward off the assault, but Davies was furious for having lost. “ You cheated,” he was bawling. “ The match was fixed somehow, you son of a bitch! I’ll beat your damned brains out!” By this time, Jeremy swore there were tears flowing steadily down Rampage’s stubbly cheeks. He would have laughed at the absurdity of it had he not been getting his ass kicked.
“ Hey!” someone yelled and the crowd surged forward, hauling Rampage off of Jeremy and handing him off to a pair of waiting MPs. For the next few days, Davies was liable to be staring at nothing but four gray walls in the Nathan Hale’s brig. The crowd surged forward again, but this time, instead of handing him off to Military Police, he was hoisted upon their shoulders and carried across the ship’s large gymnasium. Jesus Velez began to sing, “ For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” Jeremy shrugged off the praise. What the hell had he done? Nothing, as far as he was concerned. He had just kicked the ass of a guy that had had it coming to him for a very long time.
He felt a grin come to his face, nonetheless. He had to admit it had felt damn good.

Afterwards, after a long, invigorating shower, Jeremy passed through the gymnasium en route to the barracks with his head held high. Defeating Rampage had been a big boost for morale, his and the Hale’s. Now he felt as if he could do anything. If the Kilrathi came after him, he was convinced he’d nail every last one of them until all that remained was death. He would never know if that was true until the Hale arrived in the Crichton System, however. It was only a few short days away. Hell. It was just too soon. It was odd, really. He wanted to go out and prove himself against the Kilrathi, yet at the same time he wished to find a whole, crawl into it, and sit out the rest of the war.
The gymnasium was empty now, and dark. Starlight peering through the large portholes was the only available illumination. It was strangely beautiful, but, unfortunately, Jeremy had not a great deal of time before “Taps” sounded and he was forced to hit the sack.
He finished drying his auburn hair and paused to throw the towel into his duffel. “Hello,” a voice said out of seemingly nowhere, causing Jeremy to jump. He looked around to find Gloria Harmon standing politely in the dark.
“ Uh… hi, Private Harmon,” he said when he finally found his voice. Nervously, he went back to shoving the towel into bag, but realized that ignoring her was not the best course of action he could have taken.
“ You know I remember you from high school, Private Overstreet,” she said abruptly, causing Jeremy’s mouth to fall open. He pointed to his chest, a puzzled expression on his face. He looked like a fool, but he did not seem to notice. “ Yes,” she continued with a chuckle, although it was good-natured, not mocking. “ We hanged with different crowds, sure, but everyone knew about you. And your brother.”
“ Really?” he asked. He was pretty quiet in school, and had few friends. Sure, there was Buzz, Mitch, and Kylie, but they weren’t more than acquaintances. How the hell did the entire school know who he was? It did not really matter, he told himself.
Gloria nodded. “ Justin was every guy’s hero, to be honest. The big fighter jock. We all figured you’d follow in his footsteps. Why didn’t you join the Space Force?”
“ Why?” he stumbled, realizing he was getting into a conversation with a woman he had admired from afar for five years. “ Oh, uh… Well, after I heard about Tingvallir and what the Cats did to it, I couldn’t sit through four years at Hilthros. I needed to be out there, fighting. The Marines seemed like my best bet. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and my father wasn’t too happy, but I’m proud of my decision.”
“ Keep that in mind when the Cats start shooting at you. You haven’t seen the elephant yet, Jeremy. I have. And so has your pal Velez. We can tell you it’s no picnic. It’s hell. Nothing but a walk in hell.” Gloria shuddered and seemed to draw in on herself. “ I’m sorry. I… just wanted to say hello and tell you did good when you clobbered old Rampage.” She paused. “ Tell you that you did well, I should say.” Gloria had always been the best student in school.
Jeremy shrugged. “ Eh, I suppose I’ll be hearing that for a while. I didn’t do nothing special. Uh… anything special. I just got fed up with that bastard. Uh, pardon me.”
Gloria laughed good-naturedly yet again. “ Forget it, Private Overstreet. We’re both part of this Corps; we’re both soldiers. Might as well talk like a couple of ‘em.” Her smile faltered. “ I’ll be looking forward to fighting next to you, Jeremy. The Lieutenant says we’ll both be part of Sergeant Mill’s section.”
Jeremy opened his mouth to speak, finally feeling comfortable with Gloria Harmon after so long. There was no great social gap separating them now. They were all part of the same conflict, back-to-back with each other. The thought floored him, but Private Overstreet could not shake it for the life of him. Before he could say a word, however, “Taps” echoed throughout the ship. “ Well,” he said, “ time to hit the sack.” Gloria nodded politely and headed toward the female barracks while Jeremy slung his duffel over his shoulder and made way towards his own bunk, whistling a jaunty tune. Yes, he was feeling pretty good right now. But tomorrow he’d go into battle, and perhaps his mood would change.

Langston System
Enigma Sector
Roddenberry Quadrant

The TCS Antietam sailed lazily toward the Streakley jump point, a loose flight of F-54C Epees riding escort. After leaving the Trk’Harna System in the capable hands of Korag and delivering the Kilrathi POWs to Confed forces in the Shelton System, Captain Ruth had received orders from Admiral Halsey himself to report to the Langston System. They had gone up against a Kilrathi refueling ship with a Kamekh corvette as escort, but it had not proven to be too difficult. Major Noble’s squadron had gone in flying Broadswords, dodging the flak and hoping that Major Nomura’s Ferrets kept the enemy off their backs. The VF-104 had been lucky today, however, for the light screen of Salthi light fighters proved no challenge for the Fighting Tigers and the refueling depot and the corvette had been blown to dust before they knew what had hit them.
It was not a major victory in the Confederation’s book, but, Donald thought, any victory is a major victory in my book. That was what it was like to be a captain of a warship. Each day, the small battles, the small victories, were what counted, not the broad fleet actions that occurred every so often. I want to stay in that command chair, Ruth thought, I’ll refuse any promotion I am offered if it will keep me from commanding a ship. It was what I was born to do. It’s probably what I will die doing.
After the main Kilrathi force had been eliminated from the Langston System, Colonel Drake had ordered out several patrols just to be sure that the Antietam had routed every single Cat in the system. Echo and Bravo Wings had encountered a wing of Jalthi heavy fighters hiding out in the system’s nebula. From Captain Overstreet’s reports, the damned six-shooters had played hell with his flight until Garry North’s Foxtrot Wing and Cougar’s Alpha Wing had brought in some much needed assistance. Ruth had monitored the battle from the bridge of the Antietam, wanting to be there with his pilots, just like he wanted to be out there each time the Flight Wing engaged the enemy. But he knew that he could not do that, knew that to do so would needlessly endanger the lives of his crew. He thought again of Mollie Finster, her face now a mass of hideous scars. It had been close with her, far closer than Ruth had ever wanted to go.
The Jalthi had been destroyed, however, and the pilots had returned to the ship with no casualties. Even better than a victory was one where no one, save for the enemy, got hurt. Now the Antietam was heading for the Streakley System, where they’d rendezvous with their new cruiser escort and report to the Dyson System for further orders. More than anything, however, Ruth knew the crew of his carrier needed shore leave. The health and general morale of his people were slipping rapidly. They needed a break from the hell that was this war. Still… Ruth knew that there would be no escaping the strife, not really. It was everywhere, all around them. It was smothering. More than that, it was tiring. Donald Ruth was bone tired.
Whatever spare time he did get (which was few and far between), Ruth tried to enjoy the hell out of it. Moments like now. With the Kilrathi routed from Langston and Commander Jerome holding the conn, Ruth had retreated to the sanctuary of his cabin, drafting letters to Marsha and the kids. It had been a long time since he’d been home, since he’d seen the wife he had first met nearly forty-five years ago. Back then, before the war, times had been simpler. Now it seemed that no one had the time to fall in love and have a family. Ruth kept wondering when Nora would give him a grandchild. She was too busy with Veratek, though, and her husband, Major Greg Powers, TCSF, was serving on board the Lexington. Greg had already been wounded once, leaving him bed-ridden for nearly a year, and Ruth always worried about his son-in-law. What worried him more than that, however, was the thought of how Nora would fair if Greg should die.
Stop it! he scolded himself. This is probably your last time to relax in a long time. Don’t trouble yourself with familial issues. It will eat at you until there’s nothing left, until you’re a hollow shell that does nothing but live on the bridge and give orders. You do not want to be one of those commanders.
Taking a deep breath, Ruth removed his heavy uniform jacket, poured himself a shot of whiskey from the sideboard, and moved to the small bookcase next to his bed. He was proud of his collection of books, real paper books, not the computerized volumes on the market these days. He scanned the many titles, gazing longer at certain ones: Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, George S. Patton’s War As I Knew It, and Heart of Fire, Benedict J. Carter III’s detailed accounts of the war with the Yan. After a while, he chose The Red Badge of Courage. He settled onto the thick quilt of his bed and plunged in at random, having read the book of the young American Civil War soldier Henry Clemens many times before. This was what captivated Donald; the fears and emotions of the common soldier. Those were the true heroes of wars. People like Lee and Jackson, Grant and Chamberlain hardly mattered to the captain of the Antietam.
He read for a few hours, relishing the peace and serenity it offered him. Commander Jerome called him from the bridge, announcing the carrier had arrived at the Streakley jump point. Ruth said he would be right up and reluctantly put the book back on the shelf. “ Another time perhaps, fellas,” he whispered to the books, as if they were old friends. The Captain was in the process of lacing his boots back up when there was a knock at the door; sharp, urgent. “ Yeah, come in!” he barked and the door slid open.
Yeoman Mulligan appeared in the open doorway, appearing pale and hesitant. Donald knitted his brow at the young woman’s ill visage. “ Sam, are you okay?” he asked. “ Do you need to go see Dr. Fletcher?”
With a great effort of will, Samantha moved toward him, holding a piece of paper in a shaking hand. “ I… I am fine, sir,” she said woodenly. “ This… this communiqué came in from Fleet Intell this morning. Lieutenant Garner had me deliver it to you personally.”
His heart sinking, Ruth snatched the printout from his aide’s hand. What the hell was going on? he wondered with dread. Had his worst fears come true? Had the Kilrathi killed Greg, or any other member of his family? He slowly read the report, his mouth hanging open. He could not believe it. Leaning back in his chair, he let the report fall to floor:

To: C.O. TCS Antietam
From: Lt. Cmdr. Russ Jeter, FLTINTL

Captain Ruth, I regret to inform you that the Kilrathi enemy has destroyed the rebel colony of Trk’Harna IV on or about 2665.023. It appears, from information garnered by the TCS Harbin that a Fralthra and fighter escorts arrived in system from Kilrathi Sector HQ around 0250 on said date and commenced with continuous bombardment of Trk’Harna’s surface until all signs of possible resistance were eliminated. The continued assistance of Korag nar Hhallas and his warriors would have undoubtedly proven invaluable to the Confederation’s war effort. With their destruction, it appears that we shall never know. It is truly a sad for Confed, Captain. God be with you. Your Ob’t Servant, Lieutenant Commander Russell K. Jeter, Terran Confederation Fleet Intelligence.

Donald felt cold inside, felt as if someone had punched him in the gut. How can this be? he wondered darkly. We left Trk’Harna less than two weeks ago feeling so confident. Korag and his rebels were so full of hope, and now…this. It was not right, he told himself, it was not supposed to end like this. What had we done wrong? his mind screamed at him over and over. Ruth closed his eyes, felt himself shaking, knew he had to control it, fight it, maintain some semblance of control before his Yeoman. He could not stop it, however, and soon he felt tears coming to his eyes. They had fought so hard, lost so many, for Trk’Harna, and for what? Nothing, he thought. Nothing at all. We fought… and died… for nothing!
Captain Ruth leaned forward, tears in his eyes, not caring whether Sam saw him or not. He knew she would cry too, eventually. The entire ship would. Donald straightened, wiping his eyes with the back of a hand. His hand automatically clenched into a fist at his side. The Kilrathi would pay for this, he knew, they would pay. His voice low, barely above a whisper, Donald Ruth snapped, “ Goddamn this war!”

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
Crap. This will take a while

Overall, not bad. A bit childish at times, but you make up for it. Oh yeah, and your nationalism is really beginning to irritate me. More detailed comment, as usual, come with numbers in front of them...

1. *Just took a ship and left the planet,* - I dunno about this one. Maybe "just took a car and left the city" would be more appropriate? I don't think most Confed citizens have spaceships, cause those things don't come cheap.
2. *It was sad to think that Orlando would never reach his dream of fighting for his race, but perhaps he was better off, Jeremy thought.* - Or at least he would be, if he wasn't paralysed, what with his spine broken and all
3. *general-in-chief* - That's an unusual term. Shouldn't it be Commander-in-Chief?
4. *the great Douglas MacArthur* - The great Douglas MacArthur?
What exactly did he do that's so memorable - except, of course, making an ass of himself in Korea?
5. *And so let me tell you that when I cross the river my last conscious thought will be of the Corps. And the Corps. And the Corps. Semper fidelis.* - Not bad. Mind you, if he hadn't said he's paraphrasing MacArthur, I'd have to accuse you of plagiarism
6. *Yet there was still that smell to the air that hinted at a lack of soap and too few hot water spigots working. The corridors were cramped, hot, and the soldiers felt free to simply drop wherever they were and take a nap; snoring bodies littered the deck everywhere Jeremy stepped.* - It's a very nice description, but what's it doing here? Take a nap in the corridors? This is almost as silly as Justin crawling back into his rear turret
7. *I had just arrived on board the Hale when we dropped in on a Kilrathi base on the seventh planet of the Pournelle System* - Dralthi5, don't you _ever_ look at the map?
Exactly how did the Kilrathi get to Pournelle? Did they take the scenic route through over fifteen systems in Enigma, Argent and Hawking, or did they take the short cut through Sol? More to the point, even if they bothered, why? The Kilrathi have, throughought the entire war, focused on getting to Sol System. That's what Vega Campaign was about, that's what Engima was about, that's what Deneb was about... You must understand, the Kilrathi are not just a bunch of furballs chaotically rolling through space looking for apes to kill. They have a distinct "Terra first" strategy. Why, even in Gwynedd, which at times was just one jump from the frontline, Blair spent ten years without seeing a Kilrathi.
Heinlein I could accept, because it was just one jump from Enigma (and thus probably subject to resource raids), but there's no way there would be even a single Kilrathi in Pournelle - and certainly, Fralthras don't grow on trees.
Why don't you change it to Zelanzny (shouldn't that be Zelazny, come to think of it?)? Then they can retreat through (partially) Kilrathi-controlled Enigma, and get dusted at the Niven jump point. It would also help enhance your Racene action
8. *Jeremy down to view the Gilgamesh-class engine system* - Argh. Excuse me if I (mis)quote Maniac Marshall... "plodding along with a keyboard in one hand and WC books in the other is not going to impress the readers. They know the books." In other words, put down your copy of End Run
. The Tarawa had Gilgamesh engines, but that doesn't mean everybody has them. In fact, you can be certain that they are only used in Gilgamesh class destroyers (and the ships of Tarawa's class). An old clunker like the Hale is probably nothing more than a Drayman or Dilligent anyway, so don't give it the engines of a destroyer.
9. *“ Harmon, right?” She smiled politely and nodded. “ I’m Oromy Joverstreet.”* - Hehe. How did I know...

10. *Standing in a long line for a cold, thirty-second shower or a tray-full of equally cold, slimy rations were not Jeremy’s idea of adventure.* - Aren't you overdramatising it just a bit?
11. *A few hours later, Jeremy returned to the computer console* - Wow, that was quick. I guess there must only be one or two systems between them, if unofficial comms travel so quickly. I mean, normally it takes days.
12. *after I put that slime rat in Sergeant Mill’s bunk* - Oh, come on. Same trick, same punishment?
13. *Everything seemed to move slowly as molasses, as if someone had lowered the speed of a holo. Dimly, Private Overstreet heard cheering, loud raucous cheering, but he had no clue whether or not its was directed toward him. Frankly, he did not give a damn. He was here to mop the floor with Oliver Davies, not win stardom on board the Hale. Rampage bit into Jeremy’s hand then. He yelped, but did not let go. It was obvious this contest had gone far beyond mere Judo. In his peripheral vision, Jeremy saw Jesus Velez pace along the mat, his mouth moving, but the words were unclear. Then he realized it was a countdown. How many seconds…? he wondered. 15. Just as many more and he’d have won!* - Weeeell... that was a nice passage. Real nice
14. *Langston System* - No comments... perhaps you'd care to consider McCaffrey?
15. *Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, George S. Patton’s War As I Knew It,* - Please, do some research and quote a few non-American titles before I kill you. Confed is not America.
Well, at least you added a title about the Yan war
16. *Captain Ruth, I regret to inform you that the Kilrathi enemy has destroyed the rebel colony of Trk’Harna IV on or about 2665.023.* - I thought as much
. But just one Fralthra?

Well, all nitpicks aside, I actually enjoyed this chapter quite a bit... though I wish you waited a week before posting it, because I really should be studying for my French mid-sem exams right now
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Owwtch, what a truckload.

Now, with Matrix the nitpick team would complete.

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All righty then, here we go...

1. Why couldn't ordinary citizens have ships, if only small, shuttle-sized ones? The way I figure it, small, personal ships would as normal as cars. At least in my opinion...
2. True.

3. Yeah, probably. I was reading a bunch of Civil War books at the time, and back then I guess general-in-chief was the title for the head of the army or something.
4. Well, MacArthur just pissed off Truman one too many times I think.
But, hey, MacArthur did some good things back in the Pacific War. Retaking Leyte and other islands would constitute "good things," I guess. He must've done something right, or else Roosevelt would've gotten rid of him.
5. That's why I took care to actually mention MacArthur's name in there
6. Well, that's the way I visioned the Bangor in End Run, so I just sort of wrote my mind was telling me... or something, I don't know.

7. Hey, I look at the map all the time!
Okay, point well taken this time.
8. Okay, sorry.

10. So?

11. Okay, you're right.
13. I don't really see a comment in there...
14. Perhaps, if that'd be better.
15. Yeah, but Captain Ruth is. And I'd rather not mention titles I know nothing about.
16. The rebels have no cap ships and a few fighters, so why not?

Well, I think that covers it for now...

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Hey, that's not fair... you're not supposed to agree with me that much
. Well, at least you didn't agree on every issue.

1. No way. Are private planes the norm? Nope. Only a select few have them, and that's not about to change - not only do they cost a lot, but getting a license requires a helluva lot more work. With spacecraft, it will be even worse since they'll be more expensive, and the license requirements even tougher. Note two things - we have never, ever, in any WC game seen a private shuttle-sized vessel (unless it was a pirate or mercenary). If they were so common, we should have seen millions of them in Priv at least. Second, note the pricetag on a spaceship cruise (in SO fiction) - roughly a year's pay for an average Confed citizen. A cruise is much, much, much, much cheaper than an actual ship.
Even if a private citizen could afford a spaceship, what would he do with it? Go visit Uncle Joe in Sirius? Aunt Thelma in New Detroit? Get real
. Who the hell would want to do that in Wartime? Not to mention that the sheer distance and travel time would make it a distressingly difficult trip. This isn't your usual sunday drive to Texas or whatever. It's more like flying from Alaska to Australia, but going through South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. As far as Confed citizens would be concerned therefore, there is no point in having a private ship. If there is no need, then there is no demand. No demand = no supply. Therefore, we can assume that nobody even bothers making private-sized vessels except really expensive ones for a few business leaders.
3. You're still stuck on the Civil War?

4. MacArthur just did his job, nothing more. He didn't do it brilliantly or badly - he just plain did it. Granted, he was fairly instrumental in making peace with Japan afterwards, but he lost all that when he made a fool of himself with that whole "let's nuke the Chinese" thing. WWII won't have much relevance in the 27th century, and thus he won't either.
6. The Bangor seemed reasonable. Just because there were crates in the corridors doesn't mean there were also people. Why, even on the Intrepid people only slept on the flight deck
10. Well, just be careful
13. Oh, there is one, right on the last line - but I was just congratulating you on a particularly nice paragraph
14. Well, not much better, but I can see the Kilrathi raiding McCaffrey, whereas they would never bother with Langston.
15. If you don't want to mention titles belonging to other nations, then don't mention American titles. Just make up some more post-20th century titles. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what Captain Ruth is - I don't read Polish books from the 14th century, y'know.
16. I suppose, though it seems to me that Prince Thrakhath was far too irritated for just one Fralthra
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Eh, it's just easier to agree with you...

1. So if you live on a planet, then you're basically stuck there forever. Okay...
3. Whadya mean "stuck?" I like learning 'bout the Civil War.
4. From what I know, MacArthur didn't want to nuke the Chinese. It was just Truman's fear that Doug's desire to take the Korean War into China would lead to an all-out war with Red China, but I don't think there was any talk of the atom bomb.
6. ...and in the storage closets...
13. Oh, yeah, sorry, I didn't see your comment. Thanks, though.
14. Actually, I already have plans for McCaffrey later in the story, but I could always change those plans, of course.
15. It's not that I wouldn't want to mention non-American titles, I just don't know that many.
16. Maybe...

You know, Quarto, there's still Chapter Nine to read...

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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Hey, I only argue when I have a good reason to do so

1. No, of course not... though I suppose there's billions who are indeed stuck due to lack of money. But it's not the same as going from city to city. It costs quite a bit, and most people have no reason to bother anyway.
2. That's the problem
3. You're on a first-name basis with MacArthur?
From what I know, Truman was quite right, and I distinctly recall talk about nuclear weapons - though of course I haven't spent any time on American history since that one semester in grade 11.
14. Well now, that does complicate matters. Hmm... there aren't all that many possibilities around Dyson... well, I guess you could use Lucas, though that's already getting somewhat unlikely. Still, I guess the Kilrathi had to get to Dyson somehow (though why they'd want to eludes me).
15. So, like I said, make up some more "later" titles. You could even have some war diaries or something from McAuliffe and the Enyo Engagement.

I know... I actually read it, but I haven't gotten around to posting comments yet.
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1. Fair 'nuff, but I still want Maria to flee in grief somehow. Maybe on a cheap commercial liner or something?
3. What? There's nothing wrong with knowledge, just because you don't find the subject interesting.

4. Well, MacArthur's a favortie topic of mine (aside from WC and the Civil War, of course). Yeah, Truman probably was right, knowing how much a warhorse old Doug was. As for nukes, I think the UN or Truman feared they would come into play somehow, but I don't think MacArthur wanted to use them on Red China.
14. Lucas is a naval base in my story, if you haven't figured that out already, so nix on that, eh? And don't worry, there's a reason they're in Dyson (note the conversation between Ruth and Brand in Ch. 9).
15. Yeah, it is kind of fun making up those post 20th Century titles.

Well, hurry and post comments!
After that, I can start on Chapter Ten!

If I'm locked on, there's no such thing as evasive action!
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1. Yes, that's possible. She'd have to blow all her savings on the trip, but then, she is grief-stricken, after all.
2. Oh, I find the subject reasonably interesting... just not ad nauseum
3. It wouldn't have mattered if MacArthur wanted to use them or not, really. Once he'd have gotten his war, he would have no choice. But I think I can detect a distinct topic drift here
14. Oh? Hmm, that's right. Your fault - if you hadn't waited so long, I'd have still rememebered it

All right, all right, I'm going
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Hey Dralthi5, I happened to (quite by accident, really) do some research on MacArthur today. From what I read, it would appear that he was anything but great - in fact, I'd qualify him as a bumbling jackass

Oh, I should add that the above refers to his WWII campaign (and a certain incident before it). His post-war administration of Japan is an entirely different story.

[This message has been edited by Quarto (edited November 13, 2000).]
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The price of travel...could it be covered by, say inheritance? Is the average income influenced by a war-weakened economy, or has Confed fully recoverd?
But the economy, it seems was much better during the war, was it not? My thinking is the income in post-war could be lower than it was during the war, inflation included.
Aye, it certainly was. Nonetheless, it was a wartime economy. Compare this to the situation in WWII America. The economy was great then; compared to the '30s recession, the economy was really booming. But most of the resources - including half the population - were being eaten up by the military. For the average civilian, the economy boom caused by the war in reality translated to fuel rationing et cetera. That was a six-year war. We're talking about the last few years of a 35-year war. What with resource and population depletion over the thirty years, things would be pretty bad. Indeed, I think Fleet Action mentions that Confed was almost broke before the Kilrathi offered the armistice.
That surely would be a humiliating way to lose the war... running dry of resources.

[Edited by klaus on 11-25-2000 at 14:48]
Even more humiliating was the prospect of getting beaten by Nazi counterfeiting of houndred dollar bills and British pounds. Fortunately, the press was shut down.