Authors: David Guenther
Gray Panthers: Dixie
By David Guenther
Gray Panthers: Dixie
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by David E. Guenther
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, December 2015
I want to thank those who have made this book possible. My wife, who has shown patience and understanding. My father, who imparted in in me a work ethic I have never been able to shake. And my friends and comrades in the Air Force who made my twenty-one years an adventure to beat all. I also want to thank those still serving at the tip of the spear. You have made it possible for this book to be written in English.
Standard-issue sidearm used by GPs. Fires 10mm gyro jet ammunition.
High-powered auto cannon of Earth design. Fires intelligent ammunition.
Artificial Intelligence. Runs ships and facilities. Uses an interactive avatar of its persona to communicate with operators.
Main infantry weapon of the Gray Panthers. Larger versions are used on ships and for planetary defense batteries.(Laser)
Arizona Space Ship captured from the Libra. Used as a raider behind enemy lines.
Queen Mary V1 ocean liner converted to a spaceship.
Voice-activated communicator that Gray Panthers wear behind their ears and near their neck. Units look like small moles on the skin and are able to translate all known languages. Comm is also the term for using the device.
Captured Libra ship put into service as an Arizona Space Ship.
Libra single-seat space fighter. Modified for human use. Armed with one 40mm cannon and two beamers.
Robots controlled by AI. Used for ship maintenance and mining.
Tiny Flem-designed spy units used to collect intelligence. Also used as a weapon to protect ships from boarders by being flown into the boarder until the boarder is injured or killed.
Faster Than Light drive on ships.
AI from the Flem ship used as central computer for GPs.
Gray Panthers; used in referring to Gray Panther troops and equipment.
Lieutenant Commander, US Navy officer rank
Flem-designed devices used to rejuvenate and enhance humans. Can revert a senior’s body to that of a twenty-year-old and repair injuries, though facial features remain unchanged.
Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge; senior enlisted member responsible for a unit
First spaceship of the GP fleet. Converted from the Navy ship Enterprise.
Optical Deflection Combat Suit; field uniform of the Gray Panthers. Bends light to make the wearer almost invisible.
Officer In Charge
Opposition Force. Team used as adversaries during training and exercises.
Captured Libra ship put into service for the Gray Panthers.
Electromagnetic weapon that fires projectiles.
AI used by OPFOR, avatar based on the Rogers Rangers leader from the 18th century.
Glasses and scopes used to view infrared, heat, night vision, and assorted forms of light.
Subterranean, technologically advanced race that adheres to a strict code of pacifism. The entire race evacuated its home planet to avoid subjugation to the Libra Alliance. Previously, as members of the League of Planets, they were protected, until the Libra showed the League of Planets to be only a paper tiger.
Believe it is their destiny to oversee the universe, to ensure all are equals, without fear. The problem is that they are, in fact, out to rule the universe for the sake of power itself.
Patriarchal society consisting of ten clans. Their entire economy is based on the Jacka serving as mercenaries. Their culture demands strict honesty and honor; they respect courage.
Federation of planets guaranteed to protect its members in the event of war. Also ensures free trade among its numerous species.
Abdul “Abby” Bahadur:
Sixty. US Army, retired. Head of manufacturing for the Gray Panthers.
Butch “Butcher” Bad:
Seventy-two. US Navy, Commander, retired. Gray Panther space forces commander.
Caleb “Red” Erickson:
Seventy, US Navy, Commander, retired. Captain of the Bia.
Daniel “D2” Daniels:
Seventy. US Army, Sergeant Major, retired. Prospector, owner of the Gray Panthers.
David “Dusty” Rhodes:
Seventy, US Air Force, Colonel, retired. Commander of GP fighters and shuttles.
Thirty. US Marine Corps. GP captain.
Twenty. Dan Daniels’ assistant and girlfriend.
Twenty-Three. Dixie Scouts. Lieutenant
Samantha “Sam” Culpepper:
Twenty-Four. Dixie Command shuttle pilot. Captain
Sigmund “Siggy” Goldstein:
Ninety. President of the United States.
Sigmund Goldstein Jr.:
Sixty. Governor of Arizona, son of the president of the United States.
William “Black Jack” Black:
Ninety-eight. US Army, General, retired. Commander of GP ground forces.
Dart Flight crew:
Nineteen. High school graduate, Dart Flight commander.
Thomas “Tiny” Shaw:
Nineteen. High school football star, athlete, bar bouncer, Dart pilot.
Twenty-eight. Campground manager, Dart pilot.
Twenty-five. Twin sister of Matilda Engel, bartender, Dart pilot.
Twenty-five. Twin sister of Mary Engel, bartender, Dart pilot.
Eighteen. Recent high school graduate, one of three triplets, Dart pilot.
Eighteen. Recent high school graduate, one of three triplets, Dart pilot.
Eighteen. Recent high school graduate, one of three triplets, Dart pilot.
Seventy. Retired factory worker, Dart pilot, ambassador to Dixie.
Crew of the Beater:
Seventy-six. US Navy, retired. Captain of the Beater.
Eighty. US Navy, retired. Pilot of the Beater.
Twenty-two. Recent academy graduate, weapons and navigation officer of the Beater.
William “Guns” Wright:
Seventy-nine. US Navy, retired. Chief, crew chief/gunner of the Beater.
James “Jimmy” Brewster:
Ninety-two. US Army, retired. Crew chief/gunner of the Beater.
Seventeen. Jacka, previous mercenary for the Libra. Ensign, maintenance officer of the Beater.
For more than two long years, Earth has been besieged by the Libra Alliance. The Alliance sees the human race only as perfect cannon fodder in its war for galactic dominance. Meanwhile, the nanite-enhanced Gray Panthers have managed to protect Earth.
A Gray Panther raider on a mission in enemy space discovers Dixie, a remote planet of humans. This technologically advanced society has come to Earth’s rescue at a decisive moment. Now, it too is in peril.
The two distinct human societies are fighting for their very survival. Both civilizations have their own plans. Both fear the other will get in the way. Each is willing to do whatever is needed to be safe.
Culpepper Plantation, planet Dixie
24 October 2128
“Scotty Scholl, intrepid birdman and Dart fighter pilot, finds his true calling,” Samantha hollered as Scotty adjusted the length of the laser cutter from two feet to six feet to cut off a broken tree branch. Jumping out of the way of the falling branch, Scotty marveled again at the technology he knew would never be permitted on Earth. The strong smell of orange blossoms in the orchard helped take his mind off the frustration he felt about the Dixie government sending the majority of its space fleet to Earth, leaving its own planet vulnerable.
“Stop moping and get cutting, or I’ll find a replacement for you, old man!” Scotty continued to work as she walked toward him.
Scotty was Dixie’s first visitor from Earth since the original thousand humans had been abducted and deposited there in 1864. The planet had mild seasons and an atmosphere comparable to Earth’s, which made it possible to grow many plants indigenous to Earth, as well as native plants. The ideal conditions had helped to grow the population easily to 300,000 in the time that had elapsed.
Scotty had been a fighter pilot on the Arizona Space Ship Beater. When his ship was forced to depart Dixie and return to Earth, he stayed behind as the interim ambassador for Earth. There had been no contact since then.
Earth’s war with the Libra Alliance had been one-sided, due more to luck than anything else. But the success of an Earth raid had embarrassed the Libra leadership. The Alliance would have its retribution. Thirty Libra warships were en route to Earth to conquer its inhabitants. A second fleet, consisting of ten cargo ships protected by two huge battleships, wasn’t far behind the warships. It would be used to transport the human captives to the Libra war zones. Once there, the humans could either serve as cannon fodder or die.
The small human fleet had been on a raid when the Libra fleet struck. Against the strong wishes of the Earth ambassador, Dixie’s fleet was mobilized and sent to defend Earth against the Libra fleet. The Libra’ second fleet then attacked Dixie.
“Sam, what type of thunder is that?” Scotty asked nervously as he viewed the cloudless skies.
“That’s not thunder. That’s one of the planetary defense batteries firing. I know for a fact there are no exercises planned for this month!” Sam replied. She dialed the command post, only to get a recorded message: “Planet is under attack. All reservists report to your units for mobilization. All civilians report to your defense shelter.”
The line went dead as the defense battery took a major hit and disappeared. One by one, all of the batteries were knocked out and smoke from dozens of fires began to cover the city. The entrance to the main spaceport had taken a particularly large hit, and all of the ships were trapped in their underground berths.
“Come on! We need to get to the city!” Sam yelled as a Libra fighter swept low over the plantation, followed by a dozen troop shuttles.
“Screw that! Get to the house and grab any weapons you have, and food. We try to get to the city, we’ll just be target practice on the road for them,” Scotty replied as he turned off the laser cutter and stuck it in his pocket.
Once in the house, Sam led Scotty to her father’s study. On the walls were various animal trophies, and under them were glass cabinets of guns ranging in age from two hundred years old to modern military. As Sam tore through her father’s desk looking for the keys to the cabinets, Scotty picked up a poker from the fireplace and shattered the glass. “No time,” he told her. “They could be here any second. Where’s the ammo for these things?”
“Behind the first bookcase,” Sam replied as she pulled back the huge bookcase that acted as a hidden door, exposing a large room with shelves of ammunition and assorted field gear.
“Damn! Your dad happen to have a small army tucked away somewhere nearby?” Scotty asked as he picked up a belt with a brown leather pistol holster and ammo pouches.
“He sure did, with me and my sisters. I’m glad they’re safe with the fleet,” Sam said as she removed her shirt and shorts and donned a pair of camouflage pants and jacket. “We always left our field gear in here, since we could never really get rid of the smell of smoke and the outdoors. Dad’s clothes should fit you.”
Scotty picked up a pair of lightweight camouflage coveralls crisscrossed with dozens of pockets and slipped them on over the clothes he was already wearing. Though the clothes were clean, they had a light musty odor of the outdoors and wood smoke. Scotty strapped on the belt and searched the shelves for the pistol ammunition.
Sam reached by him and pulled a box off the shelf, muttering “Men” and shaking her head as she handed it to him.
Inside the box were two loaded magazines and a dozen cases of cartridges. Scotty stuffed a couple of the smaller ammo cases in his pockets and then inserted one of the magazines into the automatic before sliding it back into the holster. He then slipped the other magazine into a pocket sewn on the holster.
He went to the library and scanned the assortment of long guns. He finally chose a small carbine with a huge magazine over a hunting rifle with a scope.
I’m not going to be looking for trouble, but if it finds me I’m going to make it painful for them,
Slinging the carbine over his shoulder, Scotty returned to the room in search of the ammunition. Sam laughed as she found the correct box of ammunition again. Six empty magazines were inside, along with dozens of ammunition cases. Scotty tore open a case of cartridges and was surprised to see the cartridges were all loaded on stripper clips. He slipped a stripper clip over the magazine and pushed ten cartridges quickly down into the magazine from the clip. He then repeated the procedure until each of the magazines was loaded with twenty rounds. Next, he stuffed the magazines into the ammo pouches on the belt and threw the remaining cases of ammo into a satchel. As he tossed the satchel on his back, he realized he hadn’t checked the carbine’s magazine. Grabbing the carbine off his back, he detached the magazine and confirmed that it was empty. He angrily dropped the satchel and grabbed a pair of full stripper clips to load the magazine. After reinserting the magazine into the carbine, he cautiously slid back the bolt and fed a cartridge into the chamber before safing it.
Sam threw Scotty a huge empty rucksack and pointed to a corner with a pile of gear.
“It can get cold at night. Grab a blanket and fire starter. There’s also lots of military rations. Dad is a bit of a hoarder.” She slid an old wheel gun into her holster. Scotty resisted the urge to suggest another weapon as he picked up a short sword and slipped it on his belt, figuring it should make a good machete to break trail. Next was a good-sized hunting knife, which Scotty just threw into the satchel until he could fix his belt later. A camouflaged vest that looked similar to a float vest caught his eye, and Sam shouted for him to find one that would fit him loosely. Scotty took off his carbine and dropped the satchel as he tried on a vest and found it was loose. It was made of some type of lightweight rubber, and it had a tube in a pocket near the front of the left shoulder. Scotty realized that the vest was meant to hold water. A last look of the treasure before him revealed a small sighting scope and a mess kit. Scotty looked over at Sam, who was jumping up and down to see if her gear rattled.
“Sam, let’s dump the rest of the weapons we’re leaving behind in with the field gear. I have a feeling if you get visitors, they wouldn’t be happy if they found them. Behind the bookcase they might be overlooked if we have to come back for more later.” Sam nodded okay as she dropped her pack and went out to retrieve the weapons. Ten trips later, the weapons were all in the room. As Sam did one last look around the room, she grabbed two balls of netting, throwing one to Scotty.
“These hammocks are pretty comfortable after a day in the field. I think we got everything now,” she said. “Let’s fill our vests and we can be out of here.” In the bathroom, as Scotty waited his turn to fill his vest, he reached behind Sam and grabbed two rolls of toilet paper.
“Now, I’m ready to go into the bush,” he said, smiling. Sam brushed by him, softly saying, “Pansy.” Then she reached back and grabbed a roll from his hand.
Outside the front door, Scotty looked at the plantation one last time. “We should disconnect the power and water,” he suggested. “Let’s not make anything too easy or too comfortable if someone else wants to move in.” Sam gave him a strange look as she went to the side of the building and threw the switch for the electrical breaker, then reached down and screwed the handle for the water inlet to the full off position.
“Okay. We have no power or water. Do we use the transport or walk from here?” she asked as she again looked skyward.
“Let’s use the transport, since we haven’t seen any activity in the last hour. We can at least hide the transport in the bush, out of sight.”
Scotty let Sam drive, and he stood in the open top viewing the sky and skyline for activity. After three hours of driving down an old, unused dirt road, they came to a dilapidated shack in the shade of a dozen trees.
“Honey, we’re home,” Scotty said as Sam braked the transport.
“Careful. We don’t know who or what might be calling that heap home,” Sam said as she pulled the transport up closer to the shack. The grass was up to Scotty’s hip when he jumped out. Drawing his automatic and chambering a round, he looked behind him to see that Sam had her shotgun out and ready. Stepping up onto the porch, Scotty tried to look into a window. There was a loud creak just before he busted through the rotting wooden porch.
“That sure wasn’t very stealthy of me, was it?” he snorted as he tried to balance himself, breaking more floorboards in the process. Finally rolling into the grass, he said, “Well, this is a bit of a fixer-upper, though, ain’t it!” Dusting himself off as he stood, he watched as Sam carefully stepped up to the front door and opened it.
“That’s the way that’s done, honey––” The words had barely left her lips when she was knocked onto the grass by a family of hogs bolting through the doorway.
“Yes, ma’am. You certainly showed me,” Scotty teased as he held out his hand to her. Together they entered the shack. The dust-covered floor was scattered with animal prints and spoor. The back wall of the shack had collapsed, and weeds were snaking into the back area. After retracing their steps to explore outside, they found a barn that was entirely overgrown with weeds. As they advanced into the barn, it was apparent that they were the first in a long time to visit.
“Well, it’s dry, and we’re the only ones here,” Scotty said. “There’s room for us and the transport. Let’s pull it in now, before it’s discovered out there.” Together, they were able to muscle open the barn door and Sam drove the transport in. Scotty used a rake to un-flatten the weeds where the transport's wheels had crushed them.
“So what do you think this place was?” Scotty asked as he unloaded the transport.
“Most likely it belonged to one of the early settlers. The first few years there was a plague that killed many. We found out later that some folks were just allergic to something growing here. Usually, out of respect, we left their homes alone, especially if they lived on the fringe. I think if we look around more in the daylight tomorrow, we’ll find more buildings,” Sam said sadly.
“Let’s check the news, see if any of it is good,” Scotty said, turning on his wrist computer.
“We repeat, the invaders from the Libra Alliance have breached the capital, and all citizens have fallen back to the shelters. Military units have been able to contain the invaders at the entrance of the shelters. If you are outside the city, do not approach. Estimates of the enemy numbers range from ten thousand to fifty thousand, and we have been told they are using Jacka mercenaries. So far, New Richmond is the only city that has been attacked. Residents in smaller cities are advised to use their community shelters or evacuate to the countryside. The enemy has gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, and reported casualties have been few. Dixie Command has let us know they have some options on the table, but we can’t say anything more at this time. We will report again at the top of the hour. We return to our regular show.”
“Do you think there will be any type of counterattack to relieve the city? Do you have any way to get in touch with the military?” Scotty asked. “I don’t like the thought of being on the sidelines.”
“Sorry, sweetie, I’m a flyer, not a ground pounder. I’m not aware of any contingency plans for other districts. There are a dozen major cities with armories. They may try something, but none of them are easy to get to from here,” Sam replied as she climbed into her hammock.