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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
As they train for the Campaign to liberate Hera the soldiers of the Independent military continue to go about their daily lives.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 3008 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I’m just borrowing his shiny ‘verse for a while.
The 21st Lancers belong to the British Army so I’m borrowing them too. I hope they don’t mind.
* * *
“Several commentators on the war have asked how something as seemingly trivial as a new rifle could have such a supposed effect on the strategic level and it is often claimed to be nothing more than hyperbole at best. They really shouldn’t be so dismissive or surprised, it’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened.
In the War of 1866 the Austrians were defeated in only six weeks, their Army devastated in the field by their Prussian opponents. Much like the Campaigns of 2522 and 2523 it was a mere rifle that accomplished much of this victory. Whilst the Austrian Infantry went to war carrying muzzle-loading rifles their victorious Prussian foe was equipped with breechloaders which could be both easily fired from a prone position and with a far greater rate of fire. The rifle changed the way battles were fought tactically and the Austrians couldn’t adjust to the new situation fast enough to develop an effective response.
Where it was the Dreyse Zündnadelgewehr or “Needle-Gun” that was the technological innovation that defeated the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1866, so it was the Ryder Gauss-Rifle which humbled the Infantry of the Anglo-Sino Alliance in 2522. By the time the Federals developed an effective tactical response to counter the GR-21, based upon massed suppressive fire rather than finesse, the Independents ‘New Model Army’ was already perfecting its combined arms doctrine and another form of mass-driver based weaponry, the railgun armed Hovertanks of the Independent Heavy Armour Brigades, was making a serious impact on the battlefield both figuratively and of course quite literally.’
Ryder’s Rifles – The GR-21 and the Second War of Independence (Hera Free Press 2030)
Gallic Plains – Toulouse – 2522AD
The harsh cracks of Gauss-Rifle fire ceased and Zoe checked the results though her binoculars. ‘Private Nouvel’ she began dispassionately, ‘would you care to explain how you managed to miss a target of that size at five hundred metres with a weapon that could pretty accurately place a round at five or six times that range?’ she asked. ‘I don’t think you even hit the rutting backdrop’ she continued after a pause which caused a ripple of laughter amongst the other Browncoats on the firing range. The backdrops to the targets were stacks of sandbags that had to be ten feet high.
‘It’s these new gun-sights Sarge’ the new recruit complained, I’m not used to them.’
Zoe turned to look down at him laying prone on the ground alongside the rest of the recent intake to the unit. ‘It’s completely foolproof Private’ Zoe declared ‘What do you have it set on?’
Private Rebecca Nouvel leaned her GR-21 to one side and looked at the sight mounting. ‘Two’ she replied.
‘And the rifle is on….?’ Zoe asked.
Nouvel winced. ‘Three’ she admitted looking at the velocity dialler.
Sergeant Zoe Washburn considered taking a couple of steps over to her and giving Nouvel a mild kick to the ribs in the hope it might make an impression on her mentally, as well as physically, but common sense prevailed. An NCO could get into trouble for striking a lower-ranked soldier regardless of whether it was for their own good.
‘Ain’t nothing really made foolproof’ a familiar voice stated from behind, ‘like the Foreman told me on the Ranch back home “fools can be darn inventive”.’
Zoe had heard a vehicle pull up behind her but folks had been driving over all day to observe the training going on and nobody without clearance was being allowed onto the plains. After the third carload of reporters coming over to take pictures she’d started ignoring visitors hoping they’d just go away and not ask her to pose, apparently she was a ‘striking figure’ especially carrying a rifle and with her ever-present cut-down lever-action at her side. That voice was no journalist though, Zoe knew straightening up and turning around. ‘Nice to see you out here Sir’ she told her Commanding Officer and snapped him a salute which he returned, ‘I thought you were over at Headquarters all morning.’
Mal shook his head. ‘Meeting was rescheduled for tomorrow, Navy had to deal with something, nosy Alliance corvettes sniffing around our corner of the ‘Verse so I hear’ he said, ‘our boys and girls are educating them forcefully not to stick their noses where they ain’t wanted’ Mal continued. ‘So how are things with the new intake?’
‘Well a few of them are… inventive Captain’ Zoe replied, ‘some a lot more than others’ she continued looking directly at Private Nouvel who couldn’t return her gaze and was turning bright red under the scrutiny of both her platoon sergeant and now her company commander. Well she was only eighteen and seven weeks in the Army wasn’t quite enough to cure her of her civilian sensibilities.
The rest of the company had reported for duty three days before, the rookies more-or-less straight out of basic and the combat veterans from a three-week intensive ‘refresher course’ in the art of soldiering. As a supposedly intended “elite” formation Captain Mal Reynolds new troops did contain a higher proportion of the latter than most of the other newly-constituted units, but nearly half of the company were new recruits nonetheless. Supposedly they were the cream of the crop though, only those who had come out of basic training with the best scores were being sent to Hera in the first wave but the fact remained that after a mere month and a half of marching up and down, physical fitness training and being taught basic infantry skills they weren’t exactly ready for action in Mal’s book. On the other hand the recruits did have one thing the veterans didn’t, they’d never tasted defeat and their morale was outstanding if not their skills.
They were going off to war in four days time and there was a decent chance that a fair percentage of them were going to die. Maybe if they could be taught a few more things in that time a more might live through their first action so Mal was putting his new recruits through his own crash course in soldiering. Once this group finished the morning on the firing range they were being turned over to the tender mercies of Specialist Jayne Cobb for ‘advanced’ hand-to-hand combat techniques and then they got to spend the evening being taught the fine arts of stealth and night reconnaissance.
The veterans themselves were involved in a slightly different training regime. Ten years after the war they weren’t all exactly in the best of physical shape, so Mal had his ‘Valley Wolves’, who’d been with him since the start of the campaign and had already exercised off their own extra weight, running their asses off. They were also spending plenty of time on the firing ranges set up on the empty plains far to the east of the Capital City, the GR-21 was a whole new ‘Verse to them but judging from the feedback he was getting they sure as hell liked it. If you could get a decent rate of fire out of the thing it would have been the finest basic infantry weapon of all time by a clear margin, as it was it was still a ‘rutting masterpiece’ to quote one old soldier.
Mal threw his gaze across the line of recruits who were looking up at him from the ground cradling their rifles, they certainly looked the part in their new uniforms but he would have preferred them seasoned and mean more than pretty. ‘Listen to every word the Sergeant says and remember it’ he advised them. ‘I can’t guarantee it’ll save your life but it’ll sure as hell lengthen it’ he told them. ‘I’m going to head over to see the Doc’ he told Zoe and wandered back to the small 4x4 he’d arrived in after returning her salute. It was a civilian vehicle donated by its former owner to the cause and ‘militarised’ by painting it a nice shade of brown, A lot of Independent equipment was like that, the Mechanised Infantry formation running through battle drills a couple of miles away were riding hovercraft mules with some basic armour and heavy weapons added.
Zoe watched Mal leaving and turned back to the troops. ‘Okay Nouvel lets start from the beginning what is that thing stuck on top of your rifle?’
‘Telescopic sight Sarge’ the Private replied nervously.
Nouvel took a breath ‘SUGRAT’ she said. ‘Sight Unit Gauss Rifle Adjusting Trajectory’ she continued spelling out the acronym.
‘That’s right Nouvelle. “Adjusting Trajectory”’ Sergeant Washburn repeated then moved into what might best be described as Recruit-Dummy-Speak. ‘The GR-21 has four velocity settings which means that unlike a normal rifle the ballistics entirely change depending on which one it’s set at. That’s why the gun-sight has four settings so you can “adjust” it so that what you’re looking at through the site is where the damn bullet is going to go’ she explained. ‘All you have to do to make it work is make sure that the number on the dial on the gunsight… IS THE SAME AS THE NUMBER ON THE DIAL ON THE GORRAM RIFLE’ she said raising her voice on the important bit. ‘This is not too difficult a concept for you I hope? If it is then your military career is going to involve a lot of time digging latrines because you’re just not fit to handle anything more dangerous than a shovel.’
‘I learned to shoot with open iron-sights on my fathers farm’ the Nouvel replied sheepishly. ‘You just kinda point and shoot Sarge.’
Zoe ground her teeth. ‘Private have your eyes got some kind of zoom function that the rest of us don’t have? If they do and you can see a man-sized target clearly enough at over a mile to clearly identify and shoot him then feel free to take off the SUGRAT’ she said sarcastically. ‘If you’re a normal human-being on the other hand, and I’ll admit right now I’m wondering about that, you’ll need magnification to see what it is you’re shooting at.’
The sergeant put her arms behind her back leaving her binoculars dangling from the strap around her neck. ‘The biggest advantage we get from these rifles’ she declared, ‘is that if we stay far enough away from the enemy we can shoot them and they can’t shoot us. We won’t always manage that, combat just ain’t that predictable and we ain’t going to be lucky all the time, but we’ll sure as hell try’ she told them. ‘Now I want five rounds each on the targets at 500, 1000 and 2000 metres’ she ordered. ‘Adjust velocity as needed but I suggest you only use setting 3 for the most distant target or your shoulders will already be hurting like hell before Specialist Cobb starts beating up on you’ she continued, ‘And if any of you are thinking of trying setting 4 the recoil will cause you serious physical harm so don’t. It’s for rifle grenades with the stock grounded, or for when the rifles in a fixed mount.’
The recruits smiled. That had been drilled into them since the first time they’d picked up a Gauss-Rifle. Setting 3 kicked like a mule as it was, heck 2 was bad enough if you rapid fired and already propelled a round faster than a conventional assault rifle. A shouldered GR-21 dialled all the way up would break your collar bone with the first shot so they said and nobody wanted to test the theory.
‘Fire at will’ Zoe ordered and raised her binoculars again as the crack of Gauss-Rifles sending high-velocity metal into distant paper cut-outs of Alliance Federals began once more.
Overall they weren’t too bad. Maybe some bayonet practice tomorrow though Zoe thought, just in case things did turn up close and personal when they got to Hera.
Thirty miles away from the Gallic Plains amongst rolling hills that gradually rose to the Pyrenees mountain range the Assault Transport Serenity landed smoothly alongside her two sister ships, the variable geometry engines on her flanks rotated to face sternwards as she powered down. The two weapons pods that had replaced her shuttles changed the way she flew in atmo but only a good pilot would have felt the difference. She just responded a mite differently especially when banking but nothing he couldn’t get used to.
Still felt a bit strange flying a cargo ship with guns on it but Wash had actually enjoyed blowing craters in the ground as he practised using them. They weren’t warship class weaponry by any means, just 50mm railguns port and starboard plus the rocket and missile pods but they worked pretty well. The chaingun under the nose wasn’t his to use, the person in the co-pilots chair got to play with that, but the railguns were point and shoot which meant point the whole gorram ship.
Serenity was a big target but it wasn’t like she was going to be strafing anything. With the railguns mounted so high in the fuselage, almost as high as the cockpit itself you could actually hover the ship behind something and fire over it with most of the boat still in cover. The three ships had actually spent the morning trying out what the aerospace force boys called ‘shoot and scoot’ against the burned out hulks of Alliance APC’s set up for target practice. A Firefly, or rather a Lampyridae, could hover behind a hill out of the enemies line of sight, pop up, fire its guns and pop back down in seconds. There was even a periscope like camera mounting on top of the cockpit which could be raised above the top of the hill as the ship hid. It wasn’t a tactic you could always used but Wash and the pilots of the other two ships were now pretty sure it would work.
You could even lay down a barrage from behind cover using the unguided rockets mounted in pods on the extenders. Just make a guesstimate on range and trajectory tilt back the nose and fire a salvo of rockets in an arc over the hill. You’d never hit anything that way but it might shake somebody up a bit.
Wash wandered down from the cockpit. The only other person aboard was Kaylee who he met in the cargo bay making her own way up from the engine room. Everyone else was off playing soldier, except the Doc apparently, he was standing outside waiting for Kaylee when the ramp came down slightly to Wash’s surprise.
‘Thought you were training Medics?’ the pilot asked as Kaylee trotted down to kiss Simon hello.
‘I was but my class got called away for bomb-disposal training, or hole digging techniques, or something’ Simon replied clearly riled up about it. He had been assigned the task of teaching some basic surgery techniques that could be applied in the field to Army Medics but to his chagrin the military was not going to let him have full ownership of them for the several weeks worth of solid medical training he thought they needed. Hippocrates himself said that war was the best school for the surgeon and Simon had been surprised at just how much some of the veteran medics had known despite their lack of formal surgical qualifications, but when you came down to it there was still a vast amount a skilled and dedicated Trauma Surgeon could teach them and he just wasn’t getting the chance. It bothered him but he wasn’t very good at emoting so to those who didn’t know him very well it possibly came across as anger from a self-important man annoyed at his schedule being rearranged rather than the desire of a good Doctor to follow the other tenets laid down for the craft by the father of medicine himself and try to save as many lives as he could.
Kaylee knew the real Simon and loved him, a fact which the Doctor knew and understood rationally but when you got right down to it he couldn’t quite accept deep down. He thought he was a bit of an officious jerk at times too, well they do say it’s the first step to recovery after all he reasoned.
Wash had continued down the ramp and waved to the pilots of the other two ships who were also disembarking. Both of them were locals who before the war had run cargo from Toulouse to the less developed planets further out on the Rim. Now they were training to deliver a different kind of payload and so far they were enjoying it, shooting at things and practising simulated troop landings was a lot more interesting than their previous careers.
Neither was old enough to have fought in the last war, once they’d been shot at a bit more they might regard the whole enterprise as being less like an adventure Wash considered. They had both flown medium transports before so when they signed up they found themselves assigned to something called the 57th Airmobile Brigade where they would be piloting “Lampyridaes”, armed Firefly’s they were told, for a man named Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his Company of Rangers. They were also nominally under the command of Reynolds own pilot, one Hoban Washburn, which is why, despite being told not to repeatedly, both Pilot-Officers Joseph “Joe Joe” Johansson and the as yet un-nicknamed Kevin Wilcken saluted Wash as the three of them converged between the trio of ships.
Something tore across the sky straight across where they were grounded on the edge of the Gallic Plains moving fast immediately attracting the attention of the three pilots who like many of their kind regard aviation as much of a hobby as a profession, pilots love aerospace technology. The new arrival on-scene pitched up its nose into a ninety degree climb accelerating hard going straight up breaking the sound barrier and disappearing into the clouds for a few seconds before hurtling back down though them into sight doing a series of rapid rolls and tight turns before accelerating again heading west leaving a sonic boom behind it as it quickly shrank to a dot.
‘Okay that’s new’ Wash stated authoritatively to nods of agreement from the other two pilots.
‘No it’s not’ Simon replied breaking into the conversation. ‘I’ve seen those before years ago.’
The trio turned to look at him doubtfully. ‘No offence Doc’ Wash began, ‘but this is our trade and that thing is new.’
Simon looked amused. ‘Bet you twenty platinum I can tell you exactly what it is.’
Wash narrowed his eyes then smirked, this was a safe bet. ‘You’re on.’
Simon put on an air of smug superiority. ‘That was an Independent Archangel Aerospace Superiority Fighter’ he claimed.
The pilots chuckled ‘Never heard of it’ Wilcken stated. ‘And it certainly ain’t old.’
‘The original design is likely well over ten years old to be precise’ Simon stated authoritatively. ‘Never put into production because the war ended before it was off the drawing board.’
‘Okay and how exactly do you know this?’ Johansson wanted to know.
‘Because unlike you people living out in the wilderness I spent my teens downloading things off the Cortex’ Simon answered. ‘Things like computer games for example.’
‘Computer games?’ Wash asked bemusedly.
‘Yes. Computer games’ Simon replied. ‘In fact there was one I spent many hours playing it was a sort of alternate history flight-simulator where the last war continued on for another year after the Independents lost Hera. “Secret Weapons of the Independents” it was called. ‘All the ships were real designs, they did the research. The best fighter you could fly was the intended replacement to the IASF Angel which was unimaginatively called…’
‘The Archangel’ Wash said through gritted teeth. This had a distinct ring of truth about it.
‘Exactly’ Simon said in triumph. ‘I suppose someone still had the plans and decided to put her into production, rather than start from scratch with a new design that might take months, or just churn out the same fighters they had in the last war. Good choice I’d say if the game modelled her accurately, it ran rings around the opposition and I suppose it’s been upgraded with back-engineered technology from the AI-X warships now too.’
Wash flinched. ‘I’ll check if you’re right with the Aerospace Force guys I know’ he said but somehow he was pretty sure he was on to a losing bet. Twenty Platinum was a fairly decent sum especially what with Alliance Currency continuing to fall in value right across the colonised worlds. Independent privateers were crippling interplanetary trade so he’d heard, the Dewdrops making an impact far beyond what you would think such relatively cheap and primitive craft could achieve.
‘Don’t take too long or I’ll start charging interest' Simon replied grinning, his mood having just improved drastically. He turned to Kaylee who was chuckling to herself at the expression on Wash’s face. ‘I’m just about to come into some money would you like to see if we can get a table at a nice restaurant tonight?’ he asked.
‘You do know I’ve got a wife and child to support right?’ Wash asked dejectedly. ‘Taking food from my daughters mouth.
Kaylee snorted. ‘I heard you say you were saving to buy Zoe a slinky dress now she can fit in one again.’
Wash frowned and decided to change tack. ‘You do know I’ve got a wife that would look darn good in a slinky dress right?’ he said loudly to Simon and Kaylee who were walking back towards the ship arm in arm to get changed. The Maglev line nearby could have them drinking fine wine over an excellent meal in the Capital well before nightfall.
Camp Arthur – Toulouse – 2522AD
Dumbfounded wouldn’t even begin to describe the attitude of the pair of officers sat behind the desk, flabbergasted barely hit the mark. ‘Could you repeat that Sergeant because I must have misheard it’ Lieutenant-Colonel Sean Thomas said eventually.
Sergeant Collins sighed and turned to glare at the three Troopers stood next to him. ‘I beg to report that these three… troopers’ he said in a tone of voice that indicated he thought they barely deserved to be called the name ‘whilst on a training assignment in driving an Excalibur Armoured Fighting Vehicle in urban traffic conditions, did temporarily abscond with said vehicle and were therefore absent without leave whilst in possession of government equipment for a period of three hours.’
‘They stole one of our Excaliburs?’ the Lieutenant-Colonel said. ‘I’ve never heard of anything like it.’
‘We only borrowed it’ one of the troopers interjected. Before the sight of the bared teeth and the white knuckles of Sergeant Collins clenched teeth and fists silenced him again.
‘You “borrowed” it?’ Major Hicks asked shaking his head. ‘You “borrowed” an Excalibur?’
‘We bought it back so we borrowed it, we didn’t steal it’ the more vocal of the three troopers replied.
‘You will address the officers as “Sir”’ Collins barked out sharply.
The trooper snapped to attention. ‘We bought it back Sir.’
Sean Thomas shook his head. ‘But why did you take it in the first place?’
The Trooper winced. ‘Well Sir it’s like this see. We’ve been in the camp for a while without any leave and we heard that the locals are really friendly to a guy in uniform so we thought we’d see if it was true seeing as how we were in the Capital driving around anyhow.’
It promptly dawned on Steven Hicks where this was going but this was one of the few occasions where the scars on his face came in very handy because he successfully managed to maintain what looked like a stern expression and not the look of a man trying not to laugh.
Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas was still waiting for a proper explanation. ‘Continue Trooper’ he ordered.
‘Well we thought that since girls like a man in uniform, and seeing as how we were riding a shiny vehicle…’
The penny dropped as did the senior officer’s jaw. ‘Are you seriously telling me’ he began eventually ‘that you borrowed a thirty-five tonne, two-hundred mile an hour nuclear-powered flying battletank to cruise around the city… trying to pick up chicks?’
The vocal trooper blanched and the other two looked sheepish. ‘It sounds pretty bad when you put it like that Sir.’
‘You know more Regimental History than me’ the Lieutenant-Colonel asked the Major sat next to him. Is there a precedent for this?’
Still maintaining an air of professionalism Hicks looked thoughtful. ‘Well I’m sure back in the days when Lancers rode horses, and officers owned their own mounts, they would try and catch a fair maidens eye by trotting down the cobbled streets in uniform, but I doubt anyone has done it since we mechanised. Certainly not other ranks and certainly not without permission.’
‘We could have asked for permission Sir?’ one of the other troopers asked.
Major Hicks looked at him. ‘You can ask permission for anything’ he replied. ‘However you’re unlikely to get it for hypothetical requests like this one.’
Sean Thomas leaned back in his chair. ‘Take them away Sergeant, confine them to quarters while we try and figure out what to do with them.’
‘Yes Sir. Right away Sir’ Sergeant Collins replied and bought the Troopers to attention before marching them out quick-time to barracks closing the door behind him just before Major Hicks dropped his head into his hands and started to weep with laughter setting off his commanding officer too.
‘We should have asked them’ the Steven Hicks said eventually, ‘if it worked.
Sean Thomas continued chuckling. ‘Hey it’s not like you can pretend its out of gas, the reactor’s good for months. There’s no back seat you can get her into either so what’s the point.’
Hicks smirked. ‘Gunners chair works’ he said. ‘Just find a limber girl, disengage the manual loading lever and slide the assembly all the way to the left. There's just enough room to operate.’
‘Yes I forgot about your honeymoon and your own misuse of military equipment’ Thomas replied, ‘so much for no precedent.’
‘Ahh but you forget… I had permission to take Jennifer out for a spin that day’ Hicks retorted. ‘Anyhow what do you want done with them?’
‘How long does it take to clean an Excalibur with a toothbrush after it’s been driven through a swamp do you think?’ the Lieutenant-Colonel asked rhetorically.
‘So we’re definitely ruling out the death penalty?’ Hicks asked tongue in cheek.
Sean Thomas crossed his arms. ‘Not necessarily’ he said seriously. ‘Do you remember what our casualty rate was like in the last war?’
Grim humour indeed. ‘Good point Sir. A full court-martial would probably be a reprieve. Anyhow you know how the song goes "We are a band of buggers, we’re always chasing tail…"’
‘If we weren’t in the Army we’d most likely be in jail’ Sean continued.
‘And when our honours questioned’
‘We always give this answer’
‘Well what did you expect when you were dealing with a Lancer?’ they sang in unison.
The day after tomorrow the Browncoats were going back to Hera.
Sunday, June 4, 2006 11:12 AM
Sunday, June 4, 2006 12:16 PM
Sunday, June 4, 2006 1:45 PM
Sunday, June 4, 2006 11:02 PM
Sunday, June 4, 2006 11:36 PM
Monday, June 5, 2006 3:23 AM
Wednesday, April 4, 2007 8:08 AM
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