Friday, June 6, 2014

Liaison by David W Landrum

David W Landrum tells the story of Eyoline - soldier, judge, governess, lover - who returns to military service after surviving a brutal sexual attack by an enemy alien species.

Eyoline knew Jon was on Planet Glinn, but she wanted to find him off duty. Black Diamond monitored her constantly when she went on assignment, and she had had enough of people nosing into her private life of late. She met with the planet's Central Command group and gave the Mervogian Army Intelligence Agency's report on insurgent activity.

"We have intelligence that suggests the insurgents are planning a major assault," she told them.

"Where do you get your information?" Coll, the commanding general, demanded.

"That's classified, but I can say it's from reliable informers and from other means of observation."

"Our intelligence indicates only minor activity. The insurgents blow up a few mailboxes, but we don't see how they could mount an assault of any significance. They don't have the resources."

"Our data indicates the Housali are supplying them."

"We've seen no evidence of this."

Eyoline passed on Black Diamond's suggestion that the Mervogian military and Glinn loyalists go on alert. Coll thought to do so would alarm the populace and be interpreted as a power grab by the Colonial government, and refused to take action. The Glinn attacked the next day.

They had more support than Central Command had thought. The Glinn insurgents captured large areas of the planet. They focused the brunt of their attack on the ammunition and supply depot attached to the Mervogian base at Goburn Brook. Eyoline and Jon were in bed there when the rebels struck. As the insurgent advance stalled, they found themselves side by side in a trench awaiting another attack.

As they scanned no-man's land - a space of probably two-hundred yards, Eyoline wondered if they would see the sun of this system set but not live to see it rise.

When Jon came to Pellap, he said he had met Eyoline before, but she did not remember him. Events in her life had erased interest in men for several years. It was only after she recovered from happened on Berldin, a planet also populated by Glinn, that she had been able to open her life, and her body, to him.

On Berldin, she had been part of an elite Long Range Reconnaissance unit. LRRs specialized in infiltration and covert operations. Eyoline had also struggled through the training program that qualified her as a Black Diamond operative. In the latter days of the insurgency on Berldin, she had fallen victim to treachery.

It turned out, she remembered, lying in the dirt, blaster rifle at ready, leg throbbing from a minor wound, that one of the Mervogians on the governing council had been taking bribes from the insurgents. As the Mervogian forces tightened their ring on the rebels, he decided to take to make certain the bribes continued to flow. He arranged for the military to intercept a message revealing the location of the Glinn headquarters. It was the true location of the camp, but the Mervogians were too wary to fall for an obvious set-up. Their drones confirmed coordinates. Command sent Eyoline's LRR unit, along with the commander of the anti-insurgency force, and a General from Colonial Affairs, to penetrate the camp's defenses, destroy the base, capture their leaders, and end the insurgency once and for all. Her unit set out, not knowing they were walking into a trap.

Three miles from the camp, an ambush cut the unit to pieces. Eyoline and the two officers found themselves separated from the main force. When their blasters ran out of charge, they surrendered. The Glinn killed Pahl, the General, and Liss, who had been Eyoline's lover, shooting them in front of her eyes. They would have killed her, she reflected, and the Housali advisers who appeared on the scene urged them to do so, but the Glinn had other plans. They took Eyoline to a cave, where eight of them raped her.

She remembered lying on the sandy floor of the cave after they had finished with her and hearing one of the Glenn say (she had learned their language) that he would cut her throat now. As he approached, the cave filled with tracers of blaster fire, noise, and the thuds of concussion grenades. After a battle lasting less than a minute, Eyoline saw her old friend Aldine, with whom she had trained at LRR Academy. Some of her unit, she learned later, had escaped, managed to get back to Mervogian lines, and sent out a rapid response strike team.

They helped her stand to her feet. Eyoline remembered Aldine taking off her shirt and using it to cover her nakedness. Often in dreams she saw herself standing in the cave in an undershirt. She remembered the pain and the blood running down her legs (two of the Glinn had sodomized her). They got her out of cave and a medical unit treated her.

Eyoline was pregnant, but something in Glinn physiology caused children gotten by them on Mervogian women to die after three months in utero, so she agreed to an abortion. She had not contracted a deadly blood-borne sexual disease. At the end of three months in recovery, she thought she could return to duty.

She had not understood the depth of her trauma.

When she tried to put on her khaki fatigue uniform, she began to tremble violently and vomit. She could barely breathe. After a while, it became clear she could not return to military service. She received an honorable discharge and the Medal of Besrid (the highest decoration the military could bestow) and returned to civilian life.

Eyoline went to Shamm, her home planet, and cared for her mother, who was in declining health. Because she had begun her military training with the Judge Advocate General Corps and knew law, Aldine, whose sister had political connections, set her up with a job as a judge.

Eyoline spent the next three years on Shamm. She smiled to remember how monastic her life had been in that space of time, how simple and plain. She dealt with the demons of memory. Eventually, she was not in the cave every night in her dreams. The strength of her spirit returned.

Her mother died at the end of her second year at home. Eyoline performed admirably as a judge. Her judicial district included a poor section of Shamm where crime rates, especially among youth, ran high. Eyoline practiced a mixture of sternness and compassion that is essential to effective justice. Crime rates dropped. She organized programs to help young people stay out of gangs, finish school, and find work. Her efforts caught the attention of media outlets on Shamm, who profiled her in various venues, did video reports, and wrote text articles on her. She became a minor celebrity and appeared on talk shows as an expert on dealing with juvenile dereliction. Eyoline did not consider herself an expert but someone who simply did what seemed most sensible.

Other people noticed her as well. Once more at Aldine's sister's suggestion, the Colonial Office offered her an appointment as Governor General of Corita, a newly settled world at the edge of Mervogian space. Tired on living on Shamm and being a judge, and feeling perhaps she was ready for exploration and adventure again, she accepted the offer.

It was on Corita that she met Jon once more.

By that time he had left the Mervogian military and worked as a free agent. "I call myself that because it sounds better than saying I'm a mercenary," he quipped to her at their first meeting. Jon led a motley crew of Mervogians, Terrans, Barzalians, Omrites, even some Golorians and Geren (the last two long-time enemy races of Mervogia). When he talked with her he said, "I knew you on Berldin. We drank together a couple of times at the Blue Lynx."

"I honestly don't remember. When I went to the Blue Lynx I usually ended up so drunk I couldn't walk."

"You had a reputation for being a little wild - hope you don't mind me saying that."

She laughed. "I don't think a little wild is a very accurate way of putting it. Lieutenants in combat units on Berldin had a life expectancy of two minutes when a fire-fight broke out. Odds like that justify a certain level of abandon."

And abandon it was. She remembered going to the grove of trees outside the bar to have a quick roll in the grass with a man she had just met but liked while friends watched for the military police; of quickies in cars and behind the bar (the native bartender would wash glasses, whistle, and look up at the ceiling); discrete episodes in dark corners or under a tablecloth while the band played and people drank and talked. It had been a beautiful and a desperate time in her life.

She contracted with Jon because the planet, located in the littoral zone where Mervogian jurisdiction and open space overlapped, invited trouble. Slave traders, smugglers, and pirates used Corita as a base and haven. The Mervogian Space Fleet was stretched too thin to undertake a campaign against them. Eyoline hired him because he operated regularly in the area.

"He knows the territory," she said when the more pious members of the Planetary Council objected to her hiring mercenaries. They were even angrier when she enacted a levy over and above regular taxation to pay him.

The next year, she reflected, God or Fate or Luck had favored her. Jon eliminated the pirates, destroyed a fleet of slave ships, rooted out squatter settlements, ran off smugglers and crime cartel operatives. Eyoline exemplified fair and compassionate justice on Shamm, but on Corita, she showed no mercy to criminals. Pirates, slavers, and cartel members captured by Jon's force or by the Corita militia could be assured they would hang. In three months, she and Jon had cleared the planet of criminal elements. She received some criticism for spending tax money to identify the families of slaves she liberated, but the policy established links with several planets in the free space around them and with the powerful Omrite Empire that ruled huge sectors of space not far from the Corita system. Having the Omrites on good terms with them stabilized the planet's standing and opened links with the Omrites, a thing the Mervogian Federation had unsuccessfully attempted for years.

Once criminal elements had been eliminated and the planet come under her complete control, Eyoline allowed a group of 20,000 Renant to settle and establish a mining colony on the planet. The Pure Land faction got up in arms over this. The Renant inhabited worlds that were free but dependencies of Mervogia. Their people had red skin and dark green hair. Pure Landers considered them a "degenerate race." She chided her critics as bigots and reminded them the Mervogian government wanted to improve relations with the Renant. Their mining operation brought wealth to the planet and created jobs so that in the remaining months of her first year as governor, 1,000,000 new settlers came, private industry contracted to build roads and additional infrastructure, and the Mervogian military established a base on Corita and commissioned three defensive space stations to be built in the system over the next five years. The planet had a large enough population now, and enough significance and wealth to become a free planet in the Mervogian Federation.

As snow billowed, the planet celebrated. Settlers honored Eyoline and gave an award to Jon. In the capitol, festivities lasted all night. Jon asked Eyoline to dance.

"We danced once on Berldin," he said. "I remember it very well."

"I wish I could," she smiled. "But I can tell you from what I feel now that I really liked dancing with you back then."

They danced close through several numbers. People smiled benevolently. At the banquet, he put his hand on her knee under the table. She placed her hand over his and squeezed it. When the party broke, she asked if he would come to her place.

"Won't someone see us?"

"Of course they will. People in this city are nosey fundamentalists. I've learned that the best policy is to cross them."

They went to her house at 2 am. Inside the door, he kissed her. Eyoline felt her passion, so long buried, break loose. Her body tingled. In no time, she felt herself flow - so much it soaked through her underwear and ran down her legs. She was certain Jon could smell her. He unfastened the back of her dress, untied her bra and touched her breasts. She leaned against him.

"You know what happened?" she asked quietly.

"I know."

"I can't guarantee anything, Jon."

"We'll do only what you want to do."

"Let's go in my bedroom."

She lay down with him in the bed she had slept alone in for four years - the bed where she had awakened screaming and sweating with nightmares about that afternoon on Berldin. He took her in his arms. When he pushed into her, a spasm of pleasure immediately shook her. She stiffened and groaned as an orgasm ripped through her body.

"Do you want me to stop?" he asked when she was still.

She lightly struck him on the back. "Hell no. There are a lot more where that one came from."

As he moved, thrusting deep and hard, she lay there and gave herself to pleasure. Memories crowded her mind - not memories of the cave and ugliness of what had happened there, but of the sweet time she had known: at sixteen in the boarding school on Barzalia where she had lost her virginity - all the girls said it would hurt, but for her it had been sweet bliss; during LRR training with Morgan, who had been killed in a battle years later, with whom she had risked expulsion sneaking out of the female quarters to rendezvous with so they could fuck each other; with Rondie, her only live-in, who had been with her three years when he and she were stationed at the same base on Mervogia Prime. She felt herself blossom in an orgasm once more before Jon finished. Laying the warmth of her bed, she snuggled against him and felt safe. It was one of those moments when words were not appropriate - when only silence could express the joy she felt and he felt as well.

Eyoline at first thought she should conceal his presence but then thought better of it. It would be impossible to conceal his being there and it would be wrong. Why should she lie about something for which she felt no remorse? If people wanted to create a scandal over this, let them, she thought. Cameras were on hand to see them leave her house together and drive to the breakfast in her honor where representatives of various organizations on the planet and elsewhere would speak.

Jon left three days later. Eyoline settled back into the complex task of governing the planet. The Pure Land fundamentalists had noticed her sexual misconduct (the term they used), but her popularity, and the fact that new settlers on Corita, who now outnumbered the first wave of colonists, did not share their prudish viewpoint, nullified attempts to censure her. She continued to build up the planet. Jon came to visit her between his assignments. The planet, stable and prosperous, began almost to govern itself.

Four months into her second year as governor, Eyoline found out the Pure Land faction had not given up on trying to ruin her. One night when she opened her communications array, she received a Code One notice from Black Diamond.

"Eyoline, someone has hacked your mainframe," the holograph said. It was Tavin and, as usual, he was cut and dried. "We'll send you the location information. Five operatives are going through your files right now. You have authorization under Protocol H." He signed off.

Protocol H authorized her to kill them with no repercussions.

Eyoline settled back, pondered a moment and got up to go to the address the screen gave her. It was only a mile away. A pleasant, cool night, she walked, gazing up the strange star formations and the eddying currents of light that swirled through Corita's skies (they got a lot of solar wind here and the skies almost always sparkled with auroras). Coming to the small building, she used her key from Black Diamond that could open any door in the Mervogian Federation of Planets. She entered the darkened interior.

Walking into a hall, she saw a door with light escaping under it, opened it, and stepped inside.

Five men gave her a wide-eyed, startled looks. One put his hand on a blaster pistol. All of them had been gazing at a communications screen.

"Good evening, gentlemen," she said. "Haig, Gavril, Bann, Meiv, Preston." Silence, no response. She smiled to herself. She had not changed clothes and had on a short skirt and a tight sleeveless blouse. The Pure Land group had criticized her "immodest" dress, calling it sensuous and accusing her of setting a bad example for the young women on the planet. She cast a glance at Preston. "Put the blaster on the floor." When he did not respond, she repeated, with more of an edge on her voice, "Put the blaster on the floor."

He obeyed. She gazed at them a long moment, her anger rising.

"You idiots," she said. "Do you know what you've done? Do you know I could have you all killed for this? That I could kill you all right here and now and be legally clear? That this in fact was what I was ordered to do?"

They did not respond. She moved a step closer, which made them all shift position nervously.

"Have you enjoyed going through my files? Did you find the picture of me and my girlfriends from LRR training when we went skinny-dipping at the falls on Wendrin Creek? I'm sure you found out I'm a Black Diamond operative. The usual procedure when an agent's identity is compromised is to kill everyone involved in uncovering her identity. I don't plan to do that, but Black Diamond Command might decide it's the best course of action. I'll try to save your hides; I'll be contacting each of you and arranging meetings to find out how much you know. You don't need to be afraid - of me, at least. I don't plan to kill you. I only hope Black Diamond doesn't decide to. They're not particularly kind."

She took a control console out of the pocket on her skirt and clicked it. The screen on their computer array went black.

"Now get out of here. I'll be contacting each of you, as I said. Leave the blaster. Go."

She stepped out of the doorway. After a moment's stunned inaction, the men awkwardly got to their feet filed out, not speaking, alarmed at her silent, steely gaze. When the door closed, she smiled. The Pure Land cult had a lot of power on the Mervogia Prime system. Their large families - they were famous for having six to ten children - had ramped up their power at the polls so they had quite a bit of political influence. Their daughters enlisted in the army in large numbers - the female presence in MDF had gone from 12% to 43% in thirty years. The girls were brave, had complete disregard for their lives, and thus had become a mainstay of combat units. They guarded their virginity, carrying cyanide capsules so they could commit suicide rather than be raped when they were captured. Enemy armies feared them. Several recent battles had been won by their ferociousness and skill as soldiers.

And they weren't all bad, Eyoline reflected as she went home that night. She had been friends with several "puries" and thought their simplicity and piety attractive. Not everyone in the movement, however, behaved in a winsome manner. The ones here had not only censured her for her dress but for her Christian religion. Her mother had converted and her father agreed one girl out of their family of two boys and three girls could be raised in that faith. Christians represented less than 1% of the Mervogian population. The Pure Landers called her a "Golorian" (an enemy race that had been converted to that same faith two centuries ago) and said she intended to use her influence as governor to forcibly convert people to her religion - a charge so absurd she did not even know how to answer it. They had whispered her status as a single woman proved she was a lesbian and she had angered them by saying in a speech, "If I were, I would say so. There would be no reason to conceal it." Now they were at her mercy. She was so elated she contacted Jon, who did contract work for Black Diamond and with whom she could share news of the hacking without getting in trouble. He had laughed. "You and I ought to spend a week on Lotus" - a beautiful planet that was popular tourist destination - "and force those five men to pay our expenses."

Eyoline served out her second year as governor. Now that the colony planet had met the requirements to become a part of the Mervogian Federation, elections were scheduled. People urged her to run for President of the planet, but by now she had had her fill of politics. She was a soldier. She had gone into the military at age 17 and served until the disaster on Berldin. She felt she might return to the military. She felt she had regained her stability enough to hold down a post in Mervogian Defense Force.

Staying with Jon, she applied for Status B. Status B was a category of jobs the Defense Force created for troops wounded and unable to serve in combat units - clerks, cooks, administrative officers. Her superiors at Black Diamond encouraged her to go back in. They set her up as a consultant who went to various combat sites to review strategies and to inspect - and, of course, to spy.

She had come to Glinn just before the attack and had been inspecting security at Goburn Brook Arsenal/Supply Depot when the rebels struck. Their attack, sudden and well-coordinated, pushed the MDF out of the capitol city. Their aim was to isolate, surround, and destroy the main force of the Mervogian Colonial Government.

Several things went wrong. Like most insurgents, they believed in the rightness of their cause too much and assumed the Glinn military and the citizens of the Capitol would join them. The opposite happened. The Glinn military fought them. The populace resisted them with privately owned weapons and sabotaged their operations. The Mervogian colonists, whom the Glinn (again, typical of revolutionaries) thought soft, cowardly, and decadent, fought them ferociously. The militia, in fact, stopped their advance to the south of Goburn Brook. They had planned to capture the arsenal and distribute its weapons to their troops. The defeat by the militia spoiled their planned encirclement. Eyoline joined with members of several units of the MDF, organized them into a force, and opposed the main advance on the ammo and supply dump, the second movement that came from the north. The Glinn insurgents had committed large numbers to this phase of their plan to capture the depot, and the fighting proved costly and ferocious. In a last ditch effort to stop the rebels, the Mervogians dug trenches, put a force field above them to prevent aerial bombardment, and settled in to defend the weapons cache and supplies the rebels meant to seize.

Things did not look good, Eyoline thought the first day. They had no idea how many troops the rebels had, but what little intelligence they could gather indicated a large force. The Mervogians numbered less than 4000. The MDF troops were well-armed, but Eyoline had been in combat enough to know that whatever weapons you had at your disposal, you could not defend against a numerically superior force. She guessed the rebels would launch a frontal assault and try to take the depot by storm. The ceaseless activity across no-man's land suggested a troop build-up. The insurgents knew they had to act quickly. Word of their attack would have instantly reached military installations near Planet Glinn. Space stations and garrisons would mobilize and send relief forces that would arrive probably within one day. The rebels needed to move quickly and decisively, and they would. As the ranking officer, Eyoline needed to determine their defensive strategy.

She had been there only a few hours when she saw Jon.

She knew, through Black Diamond, that he and his crew were on the planet assassinating insurgent leaders. She gasped when she saw him and his force dragging across the green shores of Goburn Brook. She wanted to rush over and embrace him but remembered protocol - no public displays of affection while in uniform - especially not in a combat zone and especially not when you are the commander of the army.

They briefly clasped hands. Jon, dirty and disheveled, stood with his men. Two women were with him, both Gerens.

"You made it," he said simply.

"You did too - you and your troops. We need everyone we can get."

They ate the noon meals together. Eyoline wanted to kiss her lover but couldn't. They discussed their position and pondered what the enemy planned to do.

"Taking the depot is a must for them," Jon said. "They need the weapons and the food supplies. They're probably diverting everyone they can spare to try to overwhelm us. It was good the militia stopped them down in Mortonin, but all the Glinn troops who got away from that battle are heading up here."

"Why do you think that?"

"We know it for certain. We took out some of their top officers last week and found their strategy protocols. We reported them to Coll, but he obviously chose not to act on our intelligence. If the fight in Mortonin didn't come off - and it didn't - they had plans to retreat and resupply the main force here. The militia isn't mobile enough to get here and help us. The rebels are building up their numbers for an assault."

Eyoline held a council of war later that day, agreeing they should mine no-man's land. They had drone bombs, but the rebels had no doubt constructed a force field just as the Mervogians had. They agreed to send out the mines, which could fly and bury themselves, after dark, jamming the enemy detection devices. They piled up blasters, projectile weapons, grenades, and ammunition. Still, the rebels would attack in a human wave. Everything depended on capturing the ammo/supply depot and they were willing to die in large numbers to achieve their goal. It was their only hope for victory. Eyoline suggested destroying the supply dump but was told they did not have the tools do destroy it. Other than setting a few buildings on fire, they could not demolish or blow up many of the weapons stored here. The sun set. They expected the attack soon, but then a thick fog rolled up from the brook. Eyoline's force could not see the enemy, but they were quiet. They could not see her troops. And the Glinn usually did not attack at night. Eyoline took up a post at a forward salient of the trench. Jon and his mercenaries joined the MDF troops camped around Eyoline's post.

The night waned. Someone brought sleeping bags they could climb into against the autumn cold. Eyoline watched, appraising the opposing line for signs of activity. She could see nothing for the fog. In a few minutes, the Mervogians planned to launch the mines. She heard someone approach her. Jon. He came up and unzipped her sleeping bag.

"We probably won't live much longer," he said.

She squinted. "What did you say?"

He climbed in and zipped up the bulky bag. She involuntarily reacted, pushing him away.

"Don't. You can't."

"Why not?"

She opened her mouth to give him standard policy: displays of affection were not permitted in the military, in a combat zone, especially when an attack might break out on them at any moment; it would distract the troops; it constituted a breach of discipline; it hampered the military operation and would make the soldiers around them uncomfortable and distract them. But she did not speak. All of these things seemed trite and silly.

"No one is going to mind - not Shenoc and Pernuna, my new female soldiers who do what you did when we were on Ungravas. Your troops won't be put off. I think even the puries I saw would give you good graces on a night like this."

She knew she should refuse him, say no, but the reasons melted like sugar in a pan of water when you made candy. He sensed her permission. She felt his mouth on hers. His hands undid her fatigue trousers and pulled them down as she worked her boots off. They had no lotion, but she wanted him so badly her body quickly provided lubrication. She spread her legs as they rested against the sloping side of the trench. In warmth of the insulated sleeping bag, she felt him push into her.

Despite their risky situation, he did not hurry. He moved slowly and deliberately. They were within twenty feet of perhaps eight soldiers - Jon's troops, regular army, some militia members. For once, Eyoline didn't care about consequences. Chances were high she would not survive the battle. Even if she did and someone reported what she had done, she didn't care. Black Diamond would find something for her to do. Or she could leave the army. She felt him move, softened her tense body, wrapped her legs around Jon's ankles and began to move the way she knew he liked, in a slow counter movement to his. For ten blissful minutes, she felt the ecstasy of it. At first they tried to be quiet so the soldiers around her would not hear them. Then she realized the absurdity of her caution. Everyone in the salient could see them and knew what they were doing. She began to moan and squeal. She shouted when her joy came. Jon finished a minute later. They rested in each other's arms for a few dreamy moments. Eyoline finally tapped her hands on his shoulders.

"Okay, back on guard duty," she said. He laughed, pulled up his pants, and climbed out of the bag; as she put on her underwear and fatigue trousers and got on her boots, a thought struck her, so sudden, sharp, and revelatory that she screamed. Everyone around her noticed, looked startled, but then smiled, probably thinking she had screamed for an after-intercourse orgasm.

"Jon!"

He came back over to her.

"Listen." She paused, trying to organize the thoughts racing through her mind. "I didn't think I'd ever do this - let you fuck me in a dangerous situation where we could be attacked at any moment and with everybody watching, but we did. I didn't expect to do this. What are they not expecting?" She gestured toward the rebel lines. He shook his head. "An attack. That's the last thing they think will happen. They're getting ready to storm us, but they don't think for a moment we'll attack them."

"They've posted guards - any force knows to do that. I'm sure they'll have their sensors on."

"We can jam their sensors. We're going to do that when we drop the mines. And we've got the fog. We can do it, Jon. We can pull it off."

He wanted to react negatively but she could see the light in his eyes that told her he knew it might work.

"We'll send up the drones," she said, her voice quick with new energy, "but drop them in the rear, not in the front. We can jam their sensors but let them detect a few of the mines. They'll know why we're jamming the scans but won't think we're doing it because we mean to pull off an assault, they'll think it's only to shield the mine drop. The fog will let us get close enough to take out their guards. They'll think we've been reinforced and will run. We can do it, Jon. It's our only chance to live."

He pondered for what seemed to Eyoline an endless moment. He nodded.

"Let's do it."

Eyoline quickly rallied her troops. She picked seven-hundred who had served in Special Forces LRR units, and combat detachments. The remaining troops assembled and readied themselves for an attack after the initial strike by the force Eyoline had put together. The Mervogians jammed the rebels' sensors, but only after they had sent some mines that had the capacity to bury themselves into no-man's land. The rebels would feel smug, thinking they had detected their enemy's strategy. They sent the majority of the air-borne drop mines that would burrow into the earth to the rear of the Glinn camp.

This done, the infiltration force organized into squads of fifty and moved into the fog, crossing no-man's land to the enemy position.

Eyoline knew the plan could fail. Unknown factors could spoil any strategy. They crept to within 30 yards of the enemy line and, as the operational plan dictated, low-crawled the rest of the way.

The fog was so thick Eyoline did not see the guards until she and the two Geren women were three feet from them. The guards did not see them. She got ready to send the attack signal to the earphones of her force - one pulse. They were to take out the guards making as little noise as possible. She focused on the two men in front of her. They had an energy cannon between them. One was asleep. The other looked out blankly, eyes opened but far away, not focused on the battlefield. Maybe he was praying. Seeing a Glinn insurgent up close made her remember her ordeal in the cave. It crossed her mind like a flock of dark, ominous birds. But it faded. She had overcome the past. She would overcome the present now. She looked at the Geren women fighters on either side of her. They looked tough and formidable. One of them touched her lips with fingers - a Geren gesture of farewell. Eyoline nodded. She pressed a button on her sensor pack and sent out the signal.

They killed the guards without making a sound. Atop the parapet of earth the rebels had raised, the Mervogians could see the dim outline of the camp, more visible because the siege works partially shielded it from the fog rolling off the creek and the lowlands around it. Soldiers lay asleep, rolled up in blankets. Fires burned - fireguards watched them. A glance to the side told her the units near her had been successful. She and the Gerens turned the energy gun around. The other units did the same and looked toward her. Though it might have been ill-advised, she screamed the battle-cry her old LRR unit had used. It broke the silence and startled the few Glinn who were awake and moving about the camp.

All ten units, she found out later, had taken over guard posts armed with rapid-fire energy guns. At her war cry, they unleased a storm of fire on the Glinn insurgents.

The energy bolts shredded scores of sleeping soldiers. Hundreds more were cut to bits when they sprang up and dove for their weapons. By this time, the other troops of the unit had poured over the Geren redoubt. They fired blasters, lobbed grenades, and launched shoulder-fired missiles into the mass of confused, frightened men. When it was clear the Glinn could not form a perimeter and return fire, Eyoline signaled the main force to charge. She and her troops advanced into the camp. The soldiers on the top of the embankment kept up the deadly raking fire.

Eyoline knew the Glinn would regroup. They would organize a counterattack after the officers assessed the situation and formulated a response. She had spotted a mass of crates piled up in what she assumed was the center of the camp. Glinn soldiers had massed around it. She realized it was their cache of ammunition and explosives. Wishing she had a white phosphorus grenade to lob, she saw Jon pluck a brand from one of the campfires and throw it with incredible strength into the foggy space above them. As the Glinn guarding the ammunition opened fire and the Mervogian troops took cover, he rolled to her and said, "Tell everyone to take cover and switch to defensive mode. I give it one minute."

Eyoline sent the message out through her communicator. By now the Glinn had regrouped and were advancing, laying down a deadly covering fire and taking advantage of their superior numbers. True to Jon's prediction, one minute later the ammunition blew.

The ground shook as the Glinn stock of ammunition exploded. For ten minutes, earth, boards, and body parts landed on the Mervogians. When it stopped, silence fell. Eyoline wondered what would come next and then heard multiple explosions accompanied by screams. The noise came from probably a mile away. The mines. They had run into the mines. They were retreating.

While all of this was going on, the main force arrived. Per her instructions, two of her officers sent a large column into the Glinn flanks in an enveloping movement. The Glinn were in disarray. The initial attack had killed hundreds of them. The explosion of ammunition had killed possibly a thousand more. As Eyoline had predicted, they had expected an attack only if reinforcements arrived and thought they were being assaulted by a Mervogian relief unit. She knew from long experience fighting them, that insurgents could be brave and cunning, but when they tried to function as a traditional army and execute major attacks involving large numbers of troops, they failed from lack of discipline and lack of courage under heavy fire.

The Mervogians secured the camp. Hundreds of Glinn surrendered. Half the force, which was found later to number 12,000, had been killed. Their troops - conscripts, poorly trained men pumped up with slogans, ideology and lies about the decadence and inability of their opponents - dissolved in the face of an organized attack by well-trained, disciplined opponents.

Eyoline had seen the carnage of war, but what she beheld when the sun rose and melted the fog away turned her stomach. She vomited so hard the force of it loosened the diarrhea that often came from fear in battle. Men (Glinn women did not fight as insurgents) had been blown to bits. Limbs, heads, corpses torn in two, littered the quiet battlefield. Spiders, snakes, rats and carrion birds had swarmed in to feed on them. She washed and changed into clean uniform in time to meet General Coll, who would be disgraced when the military investigated. He told her the planet had been secured and asked if they had captured any of the insurgent leaders.

"We haven't identified any of the thousands of prisoners." She pointed to the corpses. "I think probably the leaders you're looking for are somewhere out there."

The Battle of Goburn Brook, as it became known, marked the end of the long insurgency on Glinn. The planet settled down to peace. Mervogian colonists and the native population lived in harmony after that. Eyoline was a hero. She received a commendation from the President of the Mervogian Federation and a promotion to Colonel. Black Diamond told her they were pleased. Not long after all of this, she announced she was taking leave. She was pregnant. She planned to return to active duty when her child was old enough for her to be away; she would work at a B-Status military post that would not require her to be gone for long periods of time.

Eyoline and Jon married and returned to Corita. She still did not want to get involved with the politics there. She did, however, agree to act as a liaison to the planet's military.

Liaisons, she told the Planetary Council who presented the request, were always a good thing.

2 comments:

  1. Such an amazing story with great description, interesting protagonist. She's a brave woman and accomplished a lot. Although there were many names I'm not familiar with in this story, the characters and planets, it didn't confuse me. I followed the story easily. Really admire the combination of drama, space, military and romance. This is indeed a masterpiece. Thanks for sharing!

    Ethan Regal

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  2. Strong choices, though a bit alienating. Couldn't get all the way into it. But Nice go.

    John Martune
    London

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