Total Extinction: Classic

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Mobius 1
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Total Extinction: Classic

Post by Mobius 1 » Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:09 am

I mentioned this a while back, the TE in the middle of the war storyline. This is what flowed out after a week at summer camp. The format, you'll guess, will be much like a War Interview in a serial form- that is, each chapter is from the perspective of a different character. This one's Seth Halcyon, the next one is Leo Bateau, with several more chapters until the series culminates with Easly and Trego.

***

"Will yourself to stand ready and courageous on the battlefield. In this way, all that is difficult or dangerous will be yours."

Total Extinction
Classic


Chapter One
I Remember the Face of My Father


Seth Halcyon/Null
October 2nd, 2586
Neo York, Mars


It wasn't until Easly mentioned the phrase 'shipping out' with him and me in the same sentence that I paid more attention to Easly than his wife. Easly got, at best, three weeks out of the year, to sit down on Mars and shift through the highlights of the accumulation of a mountain range of paperwork. The guy had only been in town three days.

Easly’s office is figuratively layered from dust from constant neglect. Sure, he’s got a couple of mementos, like a pilot’s helmet, on the overhead shelves, or a nice window view, but Easly lives and dies for the field. After several years as a dropship escort, going up or down- usually up, considering the way the war was going- he’d be promoted to Major as the senior field officer in the military’s special operations command. While most majors sat back and preformed administration work as XOs under big Colonels in the battalion level, Easly spent months attached to a rapid-response troop carrier fleet.

It was all well. The guy was moving up the ladder and shoving much more initiative in planning his actions, more independence. This was a good or a bad thing, depending on whether or not you asked Deckard or Adamson; which I did: last month, during an operation with the Minutemen to free a POW camp. The fact that Easly knew about the mission to reinforce the Avalonian Ring twisted my mouth; I glanced at Clarice, wondering if she had been slipping him answers. But I somehow doubted it. Easly is class-A oblivious hero, he never noticed the point when it stopped being real between Clarice and him and she started tapping something new.

Anyway, back to the subject. Easly. Getting information. Yeah. That.

Pursing my lips, I throw a lightning glance at Clarice, who is sitting beside Easly on the couch. She gives a miniscule shrug. Maybe she’ll tell me later.

Dammit, pay attention.

***

That night was an unexpected officer’s ball, at least to Easly and his squadron. Grand Admiral Uleas flew in from the front to have dinner with the entirety of special operations command. I had filed away the thoughts of Easly’s intel tap and had told him to clean up and suit up. Unfortunately, he hated useless ceremony, which is something quite different from yours truly, I feel right at home in the high society. Must be why I’m a daring special agent and he’s a fighter grunt.

I was sitting with Clarice at my side when Easly’s squadron sulked in ratty field cammies with dull brass. I guess their only consolation was that, while all the officers surrounding them had been ironing and shining, the Raptors had been out earning their combat pay.

The wardroom lights were dimmed. A long head table lined the wall where Clarice and I sat to the right of Deckard, a couple dozen tables were arrayed in front of us with names cards at each place. The tables were set with silver, china, and maroon tablecloths. I though they looked like human blood. I would have gone with white, as nothing pumps up a soldier more than the color of the enemy’s blood. Since alcohol was forbidden aboard the orbital base which the dinner was located (something I never got, the standard ‘netics package for any soldier included a toxins filter), we quietly sipped apple juice and talked while waiting for the Grand Admiral to arrive.

Conversation centered on the absence of commanders of Alpha Company, who were on the ground at Galahad, the capital of the Avalonian Sector.

“That place is a shit hole,” proclaimed Tama Hideoshi, having just returned from a month there. “Hot, dusty, smoky, no chow, no showers. Fucking spies everwhere. The security situation is a joke- we’re covering with a company what a fleet could barely handle. If someone wants to take the planet, the system, the sector- they can.” Easly, who sat himself on my right, leaned in to listen. After all, that ‘shipping out’ bit involved him heading out to reinforce the sector. With Uleas. And the entire fleet.

“Attention on deck!” Conversation ceased, and everyone sprang to their feet. Beside me, Deckard took his time. His views on the Grand Admiral weren’t exactly unknown.

“At ease, gentlemen. Please take you seats,” Grand Admiral Uleas said. The man, I bet, to Easly, seemed to be power personified. The guy commanded the entirety of humanity’s armed forces and had enough political clout to do whatever he damn well wanted. He was tall, and looked the quintessential old command, with wiry grey hair and a barrel chest. His chest gleamed with a small fortune of metal. Throughout the dinner, the attendees in the wardroom stole glanced at the GA over steak and shrimp. He was easily the tallest man in the room, even taller and Easly or I, having grown up on a microgravity colony. He wore the new digital field uniform, an all-purpose ditty that went from holographic- but hella realistic medallions- to stealthed plasma-resistant jumpsuit in seconds flat.

The Raptors had been away from home for a long time, emotionally as well as physically, and it was strange to be surrounded by newcomers, all unfamiliar. Originally just an escort group that evolved into rescuing high-value priorities behind enemy lines, they were now where they belonged, with the big boys. They’d been on Mars for only a few days and would be back in the field the next morning. They felt must feel like aliens, I mused, from another world.

Well, not just musing. It wasn’t the first time I had skimmed thoughts.

Yet they tried their best to fit in. At long last, Uleas stood up after the dinner, and silence reigned. Instead of a long and politically-timed monologue, he stood up and told a story about a combat deployment of his own, many years before.

“You’ll be spending the 486th birthday of the ISA out there. My favorite ISA birthday was also spent in the field- 22 Novemeber 2552 as a lieutenant with on a gunboat in theThird Orion Civil War. We mush together a bunch of field ration pound cakes to make a cake, drizzled chocolate on top, and sang ‘The Hymm of the Cadet’. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of a naval battle, and we couldn’t get the candles lit over the shaking, so we went back to our turrets and continued killing fascists.” The assembled heroes cheered.

Before sitting down, Grand Admiral Uleas, looked straight down the table at the Raptors. “Mark my words, gentlemen,” he said. “Your time is coming.”

***

I managed to work the system so that the Raptors were able to hitch a ride over to Galahad on a ONI yacht. I felt they deserved it. It took a week to work to the eastward edge of ISA territory, and days fell into a natural rhythm of training in the morning followed by a large lunch and an afternoon of naps and reading. During the early evening, I held trademark conditioning and CQC workout on the observation desk with the beautiful warp of a slipstream in the background. They were all there, Easly, Clarice, the Raptors, stretching, abs, breathing, stretching, and flying roundhouse flip kicks. Sometimes, I’d just lie there and stare up at the flickering backdrop.

Easly took a huge interest in sparring. Hell, even I’ll admit he showed promise. The hell with it, I thought. With no psionic powers, Easly was one of the more expensive flops of Deckard’s genetic weaponry department. I figured the clone should be a master of something beyond a stick and throttle.

While the class offered fisticuff CQC, I focused on swords and all sorts of melee weapons in the personal sessions I set up after dinner with Easly. It there, on the fifth day, I smacked away his guard and drove the rebar into his chin. He fell away from me, thought for a second of rolling away and continuing the duel, but apparently thought better of it. Smart kid.

I told him the old trick of simply letting the legs go from underneath one’s self as I caught his tossed rebar and tossed it over to corner bin.

He shrugged like a scrappy little youngster. “I’ll get you one day, you know that?”

Keep dreaming.

“You take me, you can take on the verse,” I said, giving him a modest approximation of my skill.

He began to tell me about a new idea for special ops forces, a supercommando group drawn from every branch. Last chancers and shit. I offered a not-to-subtle name, the Storm Commandos, before faking a call from Deckard about Agnar. At least I told the truth when I said I’m talk to Devonshire, the air force Rear Marshal that Easly’s group reports to.

I sipped at a water jug. “These guys could win the war for us, bro.”

Shaking his head, Easly said, “No, you’ll be the one to save us all, Seth. You’ll win it for us, I believe it.”

To this day, the quote eats the shit out of me. Do I give an egotistic ‘of course’ in my mind? Or do I really believe the ends justify the means?

I still don’t have a good answer to that.

***

Stepping out of the yacht on Galahad reminded me of every description I’d heard about another generation of soldiers arriving in the Orion Arm for the border wars. Only a week after Uleas’ speech, it was Charlie Company’s turn to secure Excalibur Air Base on Galahad, at the very center of the Avalonian Ring. Even in the planet’s early winter, the sun was so shot that I watched dark sweat stains spread across the tops of my tan boots. Sandbagged bunkers reinforced with quicksheet ringed the tarmac, and fuel trucks, Nantas, and starfighters were crammed onto every square inch of pavement. Adjacent to the runway stood a prefab hangar painted a splotchy brown camouflage motif. Jak and I walked towards it.

Inside, government-issue cots filled half the space. Men slept, their eyes shielded from the light by bandannas and T-shirts. Ponchos hanging from parachute cord provided minimal privacy. It looked like a refugee camp. The other half of the hangar looked like a half-century too-old command center, with separate briefing areas, maps, charts, and rows of metal chairs. Our footsteps echoed through the silent hangar and no one moved as we walked the length of the room to the doorway on the other side.

Human expansion went outward like rings, with us going one planet outward and then colonizing all the planets on the side, forming a new layer. It was through this system that each ring was classified as a collection of systems, or a sector. It was through this system we based our defense nets. And it was through this system that the Ark forces invaded us, going the reverse way: working through backwaters colonies with two split forces to converge on the capital of the sector. Nothing escaped.

We had gotten word Supreme Commander Agnar was setting his sights on the Avalonian Ring, a heavily populated, if extremely poor, mining sector on the eastern flank of ISA territory. Unfortunately, half the population had moved to more exciting areas in recent decades, and most of the minerals had been eaten up centuries earlier. Hideoshi was right.

Galahad was a shit hole. But an important shit hole. Because it was only a few steps away from New California, and from there Mars. Uleas placed faith in the automated defense network that augmented the sector, something I didn’t. It was a hundred years creaky.

I squinted in the bright sunlight. Behind the hangar were a dozen low, white stucco buildings. South of them, stone aircraft revetments were built at random. Neat rows would be more vulnerable to aerial attack. But was interested me was to the west, back across the runway from the hangar. The town of Excalibur, four million strong stretched from smoggy horizon to smoggy horizon. It sprawled in a vaguely menacing ghost town way, with boxy water towers and Net antennas sticking up from the alleys. The dusty brown construction blended with the smog. Easly and I walked the whole perimeter of the base, filling in Alpha’s old positions with out men and plotting SAM batteries in case we had to defend the field from landing ships.

Tucked behind one of the revetments was a black VT-6, propped forlornly on a pile of cinderblocks, missing a wing. It set the mood for our visit.

Galahad was a spook fest. A different team of scruffy-looking commandos lived in each revetment. “Jovia Arms and Tempest contractors”- masquerading Minutemen operators I had been briefed on- mingled with ISMC Marines, fighter pilots, snipers, and others. A maintenance crew patched plasma burns in a ship, while another played gravball on the taxiway next to them.

Easly loved the place. He intermingled with the populace at night, making friends, the Raptors and him running the bars. Clarice was long tired was playing Easly’s girlfriend, and the guy didn’t understand it was a one time thing. Life settled into an easy tempo at Galahad. The Ark never showed up, but Uleas stayed on station.

***

I awoke to the sounds of many tiny explosions and muted curses. I pulled myself out of my sleeping bag and flew out of the tent to see a teeny tiny fireball in the distance. A black haired Carnage Marine hunkered a couple hundred meters away at a buried electronic defense net interface.

“Having problems?” I said bemusedly, bounding over to his side.

“I’ll say,” he threw his hands up the air, falling back on the waist-high wall of a earthen berm. “This defense net is absolute shit. They gave Mike platoon the responsibility of testing the local surface-to-orbit autolasers, and I’m it, since the rest of the platoon is up in the fleet. I go in, follow the procedures, and the entire frakking cannon blows a cooling tower.”

In true combat jadedness, Marines around me in the dirt poked their heads out their sleeping bags but didn’t feel like leaving the cool conditioning of their sleeping bags to investigate. They knew what it was. Over the past week, reports had flooded in about the state of the automated defense net the traced the entire Avalonian Ring.

Hell, imagine the chaos caused when an entire line of orbital superautolasers go berserk.

***

Early one evening, Jak and I sat on the porch of the building we used as our headquarters. We lounged there on wooden chair in the dusk, looking out across a baked field to a distant line of trees. Except for the pistols strapped to our thighs, we could have been anywhere. A field ration heater gurgled at my feet, warming a ham omelet for dinner. I took a chocolate bar from the MRE pouch and tore it open, revealing a printed advertisement on the inside of the bag.

“I can enter to win tickets to the Galactic Olympics.”

Which ones?” Easly had opted to pass on dinner and was drinking from a bottle of soda instead.

“Zero-G games. New Wales. 2546. This fucking MRE is forty years old.”

“Enjoy that omelet, bro.”

***

I took a walk a couple weeks later along the outer lines, where the SAM teams sat. As approached the one near the far end of the runway, I frowned at the lack of a verbal challenge. Then I saw a figure silhouetted against the sky. I slid down into the fighting hole with rustle of cascading dirt. Grand Admiral Uleas leaned against a wall of quickplate and sandbags, talking with a sergeant and a lance corporal.

This was real leadership. No one would have questioned Uleas if he’d slept eight hours each night in a private room, to be woken each morning by an aide who ironed his uniforms and heated his MREs. But there he was, in the middle of a sweltering night, out on the lines with his soldiers.

Uleas asked the assault men if they had any complaints.

“Just one, sir. We haven’t been out to kill anything yet.”

Uleas patted him on the shoulder. I had heard he was old school, the he valued raw aggression more than any other quality in his troops.

“You will, young man. You will. The first time these bastards run into the Avalonian Ring, I want it to be the most traumatic experience of their miserable lives.”

***

“Tomorrow is Founding Day. Celebrate it on your own time.” Agnar’s war fleet had tripped a couple of sensor lines. Uleas dispatched a stealth yacht yesterday. But word was around the base it was all feints. Two Warmasters were prowling on the galactic west, over near the New Texas system. A couple billion fat cats sat in the New Texas system and the surrounding area. Fat cats with serious political power. Rear Admiral Gibson was already in the area with the Second Advance, but the cats were screaming bloody murder.

We sat around at an Excalibur bar one night, listening to one the stationed Marines telling a story. His nameplate read ‘Bateau’, and he was a mountain of a man, with the jovial demeanor of a high-school quarterback. All jock, class-A alpha male. It was hard to imagine this guy had once been enlisted before the Corps had discovered his skill with a mech suit.

“So we’re near the end of the funeral, right? The part where we go down to the family and hand away the flag and say ‘On behalf of the High Council and a grateful nation, we present…’- that? Yeah, well. We were running the funeral for the quintessential LT, the guy who had just been married before he left and had a wife and baby boy at home before the shrapnel entered his body at terminal velocity.”

I listened half-heartedly with Easly and Clarice, keeping an eye on the newscast TV above the bar, telling about the riots in New Texas. Assholes.

“Anyway, Sergeant Preston had the flag in his hands and goes over to the family, who are positively distraught. And he presents it to the wife.”

I winced, Easly grinned, Clarice snorted. The audience reacted much in the same way.

“The mom rears up, seizes the flag right before Preston can give it to the spouse, and dashes off to her car and locks herself in. We’re all, like, ‘oh, shit’. There was one of those golden moments of shocked silence. Then Lieutenant Hodge, who’s this bigass stickler for flag etiquette and commands roars ‘Doubletime men doubletime flagpole retrieve colors doubletime doubletime.’ Now, that’s obviously not a command, but we all knew what he meant.

“So we run-march over to the cemetery flagpole a short ways and start to lower the flag on that pole. And that’s right when the park security steps in and asks nicely what the hell we were doing with their flagpole and advised us nicely to stop it right there. Here comes Hodge, who whips out his MX and goes ‘Sirs! Please step back from my men!!’. And so they did. We folded that flag right up, best fold I ever did, and presented it to the wife, who was in something of a state of shock.”

Bateau chuckled and took a well-timed swig from his bottle of ale. “And ever since then, we’ve always brought two flags when we do military funerals.”

I snorted, and decided to join in on the mixed laughter and applause.

My chatter beaped, and I unclipped it. “Talk to me,” I said, holding it to my ear.

“It’s Karras.” Tim Karras, leader of the Minutemen on Galahad. His father was supposedly a big-time political operator; I bet that his dad is on the High Council. “Bad news. Uleas just gave the order to ship out.”

***

“It’s bullshit, that’s what,” said Easly four hours into the meeting. Things had steadily devolved from the three-hour mark when Uleas turned the floor over the officers to clear up ‘any issues’. Naturally, Jak took issue.

Jak cared too much, that was his problem. I could see that in his eyes, that he didn’t have a soldier’s detachment. But, deep down, I knew he was absolutely right. Leaving to beat back the Warmasters at New Texas was a downright foolish move. Gibson was more than competent, and the defense net over the sector was superb. The same couldn’t be said of the Avalonian net. Strategy shouldn’t be dictated by politics, but my newly formed respect for Uleas was slipping out as quickly as it had congealed.

It was heart-twisting, as I say how earnest he was in his eyes. He didn’t want to leave. He knew full well how poor the decision to ship out was. He knew the danger it placed the core planets in. But the High Council had overridden him. And now Easly, who had bonded with the civvies, was taking Uleas to task. I’d feel sorry for Uleas, except I knew the power of the man. He should have told the High Council to fuck themselves.

But he hadn’t.

“The facts of the situation are simple.” Easly practically shouted. “The Avalonian Ring is a piece of paper, and Agnar- the Supreme Goddamn Commander of the Ark forces- will tear through it unless he has someone to stand up to him. We are that force. It’s that bloody simple. Gibson, hell, should come out and join us. Texas has the money, and they practically bought that network. It’s golden. It’s pristine.”

Uleas was rapidly losing his patience. On any other day, I would have squeezed Easly’s shoulder or mentally told him to back down for his own good, but Easly was used to shitbird Colonels commanding planetary defenses, and routinely went against them. It was only the fact that those Colonels died from their own incompetence and that Easly saved millions of people that kept him from being court marshaled twenty times over. But now he had crossed the line, and several miles deep in the territory of ‘wrong’.

“Perhaps, Major,” Uleas growled, his voice an octave teeny bit above absolute freezing zero, “They never told you about ‘orders’ when you went through boot camp. Or perhaps your no-leash ONI background gave you different expectations. But in my military, officers follow their orders. They present options, not denials. So, you can either shut up or get the hell out of this room.”

No one stood up to defend Easly, even if the majority silently agreed with them, their eyes pursuing him out of the tent. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Leo Bateau, who was sitting next to Karras, silently slip out at the back of the tent to follow Easly. Good. I couldn’t handle the guy everyday.

***

As the senior ONI agent on site, I technically fell out of the command structure of even Uleas himself, and it was with that authority that I slipped away into the city and contacted Deckard over my chatter.

Deckard, it sounds silly, is something of a father figure to me. He’s principled. He’s the cleverest man I know. He will get the job done, and well. When I had joined ONI as a base-level psionic trainee during the black campaigns before the war with the Ark, Deckard had taken me under his wing. While it was obvious now he knew the full extent of my latent power, he had guided me through the twists and turns of the campaign. I saw the covert fight against the Seccarian advance fleet expedition- we jokingly called it ‘SAFE’ as an observer attached to the platoon of a corrupt Minuteman LT, Scott Adamson. Deckard had formed a tentative alliance with Agnar and had brought humanity back into the days of the galactic arena for the first time since the Scorpia War.

“Hey, hey! Deckard! Deckard!” “Yes?” “Adamson sucks!” “I know.” It went like that. Adamson was firmly corrupt, and still is, but he’s a sly sumbitch, and still floats around on the edge. Right now he’s rolling for Agnar.

Agnar is a total sociopath, we found out, right after we delivered a decisive beat-back blow to SAFE. Deckard, in the biggest mistake of his life, totally underestimated Agnar, and attacked the Ark. Trego and Adamson fucked that up in their own ways, and Agnar went on what had to be the bloodiest revenge spree in history.

“I’m on, Seth,” he said, sounding distracted.

“Easly just walked out on Uleas,” I pursed my lips.

Clarice slipped up behind me. “I’m on the line, too, Robert.”

“Gotcha,” he acknowledged. “I’ll hand it to him, he does have balls.” Referring to Jak.

“I just talked to him,” responded Clarice. “There’s no way in hell he’ll go along with this. He’s too just.”

“So he’ll mutiny,” Deckard predicted easily. “Steal a dropship, a load of ordinance, and decide to take on Agnar by himself.”

I chuckled. “Well, not alone. I can bet full well he’ll ask Clarice and I along for the ride. We’re ONI, and therefore out of Uleas’ rule.”

“Don’t forget Bateau,” Clarice added, sweeping a brown wisp of hair out her eye. “Ever since Artemis, they’ve been buds. The mech pilot doesn’t have much respect for New Texas himself. And he conducted the tests on the local defense net himself.”

“Uleas won’t miss a dropship, a single pilot, a just one Carnage Marine,” Deckard mused. “But he’ll come down on me for you going along with this. He values you like nothing else, Seth.”

Clarice smirked when she saw my grin in the dark. Easly gets that stupid beam from me. “He’ll get over it. He has Deckard’s entire group and Hideoshi’s Rex squadron to take over for us. Unless I’m worth more than an entire fleet.” I winced as Clarice elbowed me in the ribs. ‘Douchebag,’ she mouthed.
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Re: Total Extinction: Classic

Post by Ford Prefect » Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:40 am

I liked this. There was something so laid back and twisted about it, given what we know of the future. The forty year old omelette was funny too. :D
FEEL THESE GUNS ARCHWIND THESE ARE THE GUNS OF THE FLESHY MESSIAH THE TOOLS OF CREATION AND DESTRUCTION THAT WILL ENACT THE LAW OF MAN ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

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Re: Total Extinction: Classic

Post by Booted Vulture » Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:31 pm

It's an interesting story. Although firmly set pre-Apocalypse timeline wise, the writing is very much post Apocalypse in some respect; things that were treated as a large revelation and twist in apoc are now present as plain fact; eg Seth being a git.

It's hard to write things when people know exactly whats coming (like the star wars prequels) but this looks well up to the challenge.

How much overlap will there be between the chapters? I can imagine Leo's chapter also having that briefing in.
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Re: Total Extinction: Classic

Post by Siege » Fri Jul 11, 2008 8:27 pm

The more I read of TE, the more I get the impression that ISAF won despite itself, and that only a handful of totally awesome dudes and dudettes kept the whole polity from going FUGAZI...
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Re: Total Extinction: Classic

Post by Ford Prefect » Sat Jul 12, 2008 3:42 am

SiegeTank wrote:The more I read of TE, the more I get the impression that ISAF won despite itself, and that only a handful of totally awesome dudes and dudettes kept the whole polity from going FUGAZI...
On the up-side, Deckard was good enough to take all the traitors, bastards, all-around pricks and power-hungry sociopaths and side with the galaxy's biggest traitor, bastard, all-around prick and power-hungry sociopath. :D
FEEL THESE GUNS ARCHWIND THESE ARE THE GUNS OF THE FLESHY MESSIAH THE TOOLS OF CREATION AND DESTRUCTION THAT WILL ENACT THE LAW OF MAN ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

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