Authors: Chris Pourteau
of the Second War for Pennsylvanian Independence
writing in the world of
2014 by James C. Pourteau. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: September 2014
Thank you for purchasing this ebook. It is a work of
fiction. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and
not intended by the author.
Aspects of this story are inspired by the world of
copyright (c) 2014 by Michael Bunker. Used with permission.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written
permission of the publisher.
Cover design copyright (c) 2014 by Dave Monk Fraser Adams. All
rights reserved. Used by permission.
Illustrations copyright (c) 2014 by Ben Adams. All rights
reserved. Used by permission.
Editing by David Gatewood.
on to his little brother a passion for history
“You said it was undefended!”
Another triplet of lasers sliced the afternoon sky, landing
somewhere behind their makeshift trench.
Lieutenant Hatch shrugged. Difficult to do, head down in a
Before his sergeant, Stug, could snarl again, two more TRACE
soldiers belly-crawled along the shallow ditch behind them, taking up position
on their right.
“Hey guys,” said Bracer. The huge machine gun on his back
weighed him down, but he managed to huddle up under the embankment they were
pressed against. “Nice fireworks, huh?”
“Oh, delightful,” Stug groused in a fake high-society
accent. It sounded particularly ludicrous coming from a soldier his size. “I
seem to have forgotten the lounge chairs at home, wot? We’ll have to watch from
down here. Sorry, guv’nor.”
Laser fire pop-pop-popped the earth on their left.
“Probably just as well,” said Hatch. “I hate getting
“Another spectacular intelligence failure?” Hawkeye, the unit’s
spotter, said. “Why am I even surprised anymore?”
“The QB will
be happy,” said Bracer.
“When is she ever?” asked Hatch.
“We can’t just sit here,” Stug said. He turned his head,
looking up and down their long, narrow hidey-hole. It offered little cover, but
for now at least the berm protected them.
If they flank us
. . .
“If they have drones, we’re dead,” deadpanned Bracer.
“They don’t,” said Hatch. “Or we’d be dead already. So
there’s that.” He spit on his hand, stuck his fingers in the moist dirt, and
wiped it across his face. The process, punctuated by occasional triplets of
laser fire, took about thirty seconds. “How do I look?”
“Who said that?” Stug asked.
Hatch grinned and waited. Like clockwork, the next laser
blasts popped overhead. Before the air stopped humming, his head was up,
scanning the town’s perimeter.
“Three count, sir,” offered Hawkeye.
Hatch returned to cover, nodding his thanks to the spotter.
“Okay, here’s what I see. There’s a guard post with one man in it firing on our
position. No drones. Yet.”
“One man?” Stug again. He was a big, brave brute of a man
but tended to whine when more advanced weapons kept him from using his fists on
the enemy. His griping came not from cowardice but from a frustrated need to
beat Transport soldiers until they didn’t need beating anymore.
Bracer understood his lieutenant’s conclusion. “The three
blasts we’re hearing don’t come from a choreographed squad of ballerinas firing
with perfect timing, Sarge. One man, pew-pew-pew.”
Hatch nodded. “And he’s probably more scared than we are.”
“Good,” grinned Stug. “Looking forward to showing him what
he’s scared of.”
“What do we do, Lieutenant?” Hawkeye wanted a plan. A good
spotter is always more comfortable knowing a plan’s details.
“Access your BICE,” ordered Hatch. “Analyze the town and
surrounding ground. Use the guard post as a reference point, find our position,
and see what’s around us. Stug’s right. Eventually the Transporter with the
itchy trigger finger will be reinforced and we’ll be flanked. And if they have
drones . . .”
No need to drive that point home again. Their own drones,
hacked and reprogrammed for TRACE, were back with the QB. If Transport had drones
here, the most Alpha Squad could likely do before dying for the cause would be
to warn the rest of their company. And that assumed Transport didn’t have
active jamming in the area, a distinct possibility.
Hawkeye accessed his BICE device. The Beta Internet Chip
Enhancement was a brain implant required by the Transport Authority. Among
other things it allowed direct access to the Internet from inside a person’s
head. The spotter’s eyes darted back and forth, ranging over GIS maps displayed
on the backdrop of his brain. The terrain and town itself appeared in his mind
like a dream, three-dimensional and vibrant. The Transport guard post was, of
course, not a part of the public-domain data captured in the maps, but Hawkeye
approximated its position with help from Hatch. He searched for better ground
in his mind.
“Bracer, reposition twenty-five meters that way,” Hatch
said, pointing east, back in the direction the heavy-weapons man and his
spotter had just crawled from. “Use the three-count rule and start returning
fire. I want our Transport buddy firing in your direction when we move. We’ll
cover you once we get repositioned.”
“Try not to get sunburned,” suggested Stug helpfully.
“Love you too, Sarge,” said Bracer. “Break out Betsy?”
Hatch shook his head. “No, small weapons only. We need to
Bracer nodded, moving off. The hundred-pound weight of the 18-millimeter
heavy machine gun on his back made moving belly down in the mud awkward, but he
“Lieutenant, I think I found something,” said Hawkeye. “A
water well about fifty meters to the west. With Bracer in his new position—”
“Crossfire. Got it. Move out. BICE me when you’re in
position. Go to local area network comms only. Let’s take this bastard out,”
Stug blew out his displeasure as Hawkeye moved west.
“Doesn’t look like I’m going to get to hit anyone.”
“Day’s young,” said Hatch. “Feel free to charge him from the
The big man grimaced. “I’m a brute. Not stupid.”
Three more shots overhead. These hit closer, frying grass ten
feet behind them on the embankment. The Transport soldier was finally ranging
in on them.
“Must be nice to fire laser rifles without a care for power,”
said Stug while they waited for their squadmates to reposition.
Hatch grunted. “Having an unlimited supply of okcillium
cells to power your weapons will do that for you.”
“Guess that’s why we’re here,” said the burly sergeant.
“Only it was
to be unguarded.”
Hatch rolled his eyes. “Please stop saying that.” He loved
the big guy and would rather have Stug beside him in a bar fight than a whole squad
of TRACE marines. But holy Christ, the man could get under his skin when the
lasers started slicing. Nothing more grating on the nerves than a not-so-gentle
giant with a nasal whine.
“Well don’t. That’s an order.”
Stug smacked his lips, then shut them.
“Bracer, in position,” said a voice in their heads.
In battle, they turned off the option to see a projected image
of the person communicating via the BICE. A voice inside your head was distracting
enough; the speaker’s holo projection on the screen of your mind would be
“Almost there,” answered Hawkeye.
Three more pops. The grass on top of the embankment a foot
in front of them exploded, kicking up clods of dirt.
Stug groaned. “I just washed this uniform.”
Hatch stuck his head up, finding Hawkeye’s water well as the
spotter got into position. He quickly took in the tripartite lines of fire
aimed at the guard post, then felt Stug’s meaty hand on his belt. Before Hatch
could threaten a reprimand, he was face down in the ditch as the laser fire
kicked up more earth just inches above him.
“I said, I just washed this uniform,” said Stug. “The last
thing I need is your seared blood on it.”
The lieutenant ignored him. “My count. Bracer, then us.
Hawkeye, you’re the kill shot.”
“10-4,” came back in unison.
Hatch turned to his sergeant. “If you want, I can have them
fire simultaneously so you can charge him.”
Stug turned his head like a dog seeing something curious.
“If you want, I can count to three for you the next time you stick your head
up, Lieutenant Hatch, sir. One-Mississippi style.”
Hatch smiled. Mentally clicking his BICE channel to squad,
he monotoned, “Three, two, one.”
Automatic weapons fire from their right. One short burst
from Bracer, then the sound of bullets hitting the concrete of the guard post.
As soon as it ceased, the tip of a laser rifle poked through a slit in the guard
post and fired in Bracer’s direction again.
“Spotted,” said Hawkeye in their heads.
Stug bellowed a long, yipping war whoop from deep in his gut
as Hatch went up and over the lip of the embankment and dropped prone, firing a
long burst from his rifle. More ineffective ricochets off the concrete
protecting their enemy. But the Transport soldier moved to face the new threat
and, for a moment only, became visible from the left.
A single shot.
Hawkeye whispered through the BICE. “Got him.”
“Oh, good,” the sergeant said. “Can I hit him now?”
“Do you ever get tired of playing comic relief?” Hatch
asked. “Hawkeye, heatmap the area. We’re near the outskirts of town, so try to
distinguish any citizens as best you can and give me a threat assessment. Look
for okcy signatures.”
“Thank you, sir, I was awake that particular day of
training,” said Hawkeye, distracted. It was clear he’d started following the
lieutenant’s orders before they were given.
Bracer broke in. “Right flank is clear.”
Stug blew out another breath. “Looking more and more like
I’m not going to get to hit anyone today.”
Hatch glanced down into the ditch. “Thanks for definitively
answering my comic relief question. Now I no longer need wonder.”
“Okay, it’s a little hard to believe, but I’m not seeing any
credible threat,” sent Hawkeye. “A lot of heat signatures in homes, hunkered
down. So far, no porters though.”
Hatch pushed himself to his feet as Stug crawled up the
embankment to stand beside him.
“That makes no sense,” said the sergeant, all business now.
“One soldier in that guard post, sure. But they’ve had plenty of time to bring
up reinforcements since we engaged.”
“Maybe his BICE malfunctioned and he had no way to call them?”
“Maybe they’re on their way,” replied Hawkeye. “Should Bravo
Squad advance to our position?”
“No,” Hatch said, mentally flipping a switch to bring them
into the conference. “Bravo Squad, maintain position in the trees until further
notice. Hawkeye likewise, and keep your eyes on the heat map. Bracer, you stay
put too, and cover the approach to the town.” Turning to Stug, he added, “Come
on. You can punch the concrete or something.”
They made their way the forty meters across the meadow to
the guard post. A small bunker, really, meant to guard the old-style mud road
that entered the town from the southwest. The road was still used by the more
orthodox to ferry the goods grown in the nearby Amish Zone, an indulgence
Transport allowed the local Plain People. Almost everyone else transported
goods, and themselves, via Transport-regulated airbuses. Still, the positioning
of the post commanded a wide and well-protected view of the western approach to
While Stug inspected the dead porter, Hatch looked around
the small post. It was Spartan, devoid of anything inside its concrete walls
save for a chair and a half-eaten afternoon ration. Not that much else was
necessary. Anything the soldier needed—area maps, duty rosters, tactical
alerts—he would’ve accessed through his BICE.
“Laser rifle, three charge packs, two grenades,” itemized
Stug as he stripped the dead soldier of equipment. “BICE?”
Hatch nodded, so Stug took out his knife and moved to the
back of the porter’s skull. Some of the civilian leadership of TRACE found the
practice distasteful, and others thought it disrespectful of the dead. But it
was standard TRACE military policy to remove BICE implants from captured or
killed Transport personnel whenever possible. Hackers later analyzed them,
noting upgrades and operating system advances to improve the rebels’ own
hacking skills and equipment.
Stug went to work while Hatch surveyed the town through the
bunker’s rear port window. Gettysburg served as a hub in County Adams, New
Pennsylvania, and was modeled after its namesake, its architecture simple and
functional. Nearly the entire town’s population was employed by the massive
distribution center located there, so most of the buildings Hatch could see
were homes and small businesses that supported their daily lives. Food grown in
the nearby AZ was processed out to the rest of the planet, while refined goods
were brought in from Earth and shipped via cargo ship to other settlements. TRAC
E insurgency in nearby Columbia—called “the City” by most,
since it was the largest urban center of its kind in New Pennsylvania—had
increased dramatically in recent years, so the Transport Authority had begun
using smaller towns as strategic depots to support its war effort. In the case
of Gettysburg, refined okcillium produced on Earth was brought through to
supply the military’s insatiable need for power cells to fuel its laser
And that’s why TRACE was here. With no okcillium source of
their own, the rebels raided whatever sources they could find for the rare and
vital power source. Intelligence had reported that a new shipment of okcillium
ore had just arrived in Gettysburg and that a military escort was almost
nonexistent. The theory ran that policing the Wild Lands and rerouting troops
to meet the heavy insurgency by TRACE in the City had resulted in an unguarded
okcillium supply. Or maybe the Authority had decided a minimal military
presence at a vital supply hub would keep rebel attention away from the town.
But thanks to the ability of the SOMA—their supreme commander and administrator
of the Southern Oklahoma Militia—to crack each new upgrade of BICE code the
Authority threw at them, TRACE had learned of the okcillium shipment and sent
two squads to probe the town’s defenses.
“You done yet?”
“He must’ve been a vet,” Stug grunted, nodding at the gray on
the dead man’s temples. “Lots of scar tissue to cut through.” Another hiss of
effort and the sergeant held up bloody fingers with the dead man’s BICE chip
clamped between them. “There.”