BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

HOTPOINT

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XX)
Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Independents lift for a return to the Valley


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3450    RATING: 9    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.

* * *

“As he faltered the deadly spear of Aeneas flashed. His eyes had picked the spot and he threw from long range with all his weight behind the throw. Stones hurled by siege artillery never roar like this. The crash of the bursting thunderbolt is not so loud. Like a dark whirlwind it flew carrying death and destruction with it."

The Aeneid – Virgil 19BC

“Whatever happens we have got, the railgun, and they’ve not.”

Major Steven Hicks – Speech to the 1st Battalion 21st Lancers 2522AD

* * *

Gallic Plains – Toulouse – 2522AD Ships were still arriving even as final preparations for the armada to sail were made, dozens, hundreds even, circling overhead waiting permission to land. Mal hadn’t seen the like since the war, the last war he reminded himself as he drove his borrowed four-wheel drive between rows of transports.

They’d come from all over the rim. So many volunteers they couldn’t hope to properly arm more than half of them and the high command wasn’t going to waste manpower sending boys with shotguns against heavily armed Federals, so they’d sorted out the combat veterans and told the other new recruits they’d have to wait their turn and train in the meantime.

Compared with the sixteen brigades that had shipped to Hera in the last war this new force was considerably smaller, but then again the Alliance couldn’t put a fraction of the same number of men into the field to oppose them either. The Federals had been caught badly off-guard with their industrial base hamstrung by the EMP attacks on several core worlds and a large percentage of their available troops enforcing martial law. Thus it was that relatively the Independents were putting a stronger force into battle this time than they had when they’d lost the planet a decade earlier.

Mal had gone to see Inara the night before for the last time before he left, one privilege of rank being that it was much easier to get leave at short notice. She had been remarkably stoic both at dinner and at the hotel afterwards barely showing any apparent concern, well nothing excessive anyway, for his wellbeing as he went off to get shot at once again. He reasoned that was for his benefit, putting a brave face on the situation. Even now he had difficulty reading her emotions worth a damn but Mal was pretty sure it was generally just a front for her true feelings. Gorram companion training, you needed to be a reader or something to really know what she was thinking most times.

Not being all that great at emoting himself it had actually been pretty awkward all around to be honest he thought.

On the other hand the farewell sex had been fantastic he recalled, the thought bringing a cheesy grin to his face. They’d booked a suite at one of the best hotels for the night, got a discount too thanks to the uniform he was wearing, and making love in a huge king-sized bed had been all kinds of fun, for that matter they’d enjoyed themselves considerably in the oversized bathtub that very morning too. Better make sure he wiped that off before he faced the troops though, nothing disturbs the men more than a grinning Company Commander. They’re usually the crazed ones that’ll get you rutting killed according to Mal’s own pre-commission experiences of the officer classes. Funny how now he socialised with them more they didn’t seem near as bad, he’d almost relaxed at the officers ball a few days back though having the radiant Inara on your arm certainly smoothed over any social awkwardness.

Their last conversation as he’d left had begun with Inara telling him “With your shield or on it” and because of his apparent confusion she’d started to explain when Mal grinned and let her know he understood the reference although he only had 150 troops while Leonidas had bought 300 with him to Thermopylae. She’d seemed slightly surprised he knew that, she couldn’t hide her thoughts behind a calm collected exterior completely. To be honest he wasn’t averse to playing games with her too, pretending to be more of an uneducated redneck than he really was then occasionally letting something slip to throw her off-balance. Mal wondered what her reaction would be if she found out he could quote quite a bit of poetry too.

Mal arrived at Serenity and returned the salute from the Lance-Corporal on duty by the ramp. They’d already finished loading Serenity and the bulk of the men were either loading the other two ships, or off collecting the very last load of supplies from the warehouses back at town. Mal had a sneaking suspicion that Jayne’s volunteering to help out with the supply runs had less to do with warehouses and more to do with dropping in on the whorehouse he’d worked at for a while before they’d hid out beyond the rim but as long as the stuff arrived Mal was willing to let that slide. For a start Jayne was much easier to deal with if recently sexed.

‘Good Morning Sir’ Mal’s second in command greeted him as he jumped out of the four-wheel drive. ‘Everything is going smoothly and as ordered we will be ready for departure well before our orders dictate.’

‘Good Morning Lieutenant’ Mal replied. ‘What about the missiles?’ he asked unloading his personal gear from the vehicle.

Lieutenant Manfredi gave Mal a thumbs up. ‘Two launchers and four crates of Shiltron Anti-Tank Missiles arrived an hour ago Captain’ he replied. ‘Got another crate of grenades for the Brimstone’s too, straight off the production line. It was a big surprise that they actually turned up like promised.’

Mal nodded in agreement, logistics were certainly a quantum leap better this time around than in the last war, a heap more attention paid to the fundamentals like that would pay off big in the long-run he hoped.

Lieutenant Manfredi had actually been an officer in the Hera Militia ten years back but had never seen much action getting badly wounded in the first few days fighting in the Valley and spending the rest of the war in a hospital bed. His lack of combat experience meant he found himself under the command of a man he’d technically outranked ten years back but he didn’t seem that bothered by it. As he had told Mal directly when he’d reported for duty he was more interested in winning his homeworld’s freedom back. In action he commanded Second Platoon with Mal running First Platoon himself and an experienced Sergeant named Clarke bossing Third Platoon because they didn’t have another Lieutenant for the job.

‘What about the ration packs?’ Mal asked continuing to unload his things and stuffing loose items into a small backpack.

Manfredi grimaced. ‘Good news or the bad news?’

‘Surprise me’ Mal replied throwing his gear over his shoulder and heading up the ramp flanked by the Lieutenant.

‘Good news is that they’re the best on offer. Concentrated protein, vitamins, carbs, the works. Carry a couple of weeks worth in your pack and still have plenty of room for spare ammo.’

Captain Reynolds raised his eyebrows. ‘So what’s the bad news?’ he asked suspiciously.

Manfredi smirked. ‘They were taken from a Federal supply store so they’re Alliance stamped. Turns your stomach just thinking about eating one’ he joked.

Mal chuckled. ‘We could get into a lot of trouble if they catch us with the things too’ he stated. ‘Stolen Alliance goods like that attract all kinds of legal attention. Right Sergeant?’ he asked Zoe who was inside the bay inspecting a batch of mortar rounds. Always worthwhile to check the munitions before you tried using them, they might not work at all, or even worse blow up in the tube. That kind of thing could ruin your whole day.

‘That it does Sir’ Zoe replied. ‘Can be difficult to unload on other folks without getting shot too as I recall.’

Manfredi put on a false look of concern. ‘So what do we do if the Alliance catches up?’

‘We’ve got SOP for that right Zoe, ways to deal with people sticking their nose into our business’ Mal asked.

‘Standard Operating Procedure on this boat is to shoot them LT’ Zoe told the Lieutenant. ‘Course that was before we armed the ship’ she continued.

Mal considered that and looked thoughtful for a while. ‘Better tell Wash’ he said eventually. ‘If the Alliance comes calling asking about stolen rations or such he’s supposed to blow them all to hell.’

‘Politely Sir?’ Zoe asked making a mental note to tell her husband of the new policy.

The Captain nodded in affirmation ‘No cause for a lack of civility’ he replied.

* * *

Steven Hicks kissed his wife and children goodbye at the door and turned to head for the medium sized Ground Effect Vehicle which was waiting for him out in the road. He paused once more and turned to wave them goodbye, the expression on his wife Jennifer’s face was almost soul destroying. She had far too much dignity and respect for him to even consider begging him not to go off to war again but her feelings on the matter were certainly clear. She loved him and she thought he was going to get himself killed, frankly it was a miracle he’d lived this long.

The only thing that prevented her trying to stop him was that she knew if his troopers went off to war without him he’d be dead inside anyway. He’d never be able to face himself in the mirror again, seeing the scars was one thing but that kind of shame would destroy the real Steven underneath.

As it was he was off to play soldier again like he’d done when the last war began, the academic off to back up his political beliefs and his personal philosophy with his actions. Frankly Jennifer would have preferred a bit more realism and a bit less idealism some of the time but then he wouldn’t be him any more.

Jennifer looked at her children. John was still too young to really understand, to him daddy was off on an adventure and the notion he might not ever come back wasn’t about to occur to him. Claire-Marie understood better but she still had faith he’d be back and wouldn’t entertain any other possibility. For Cally her father was just doing the right thing and if doing the right thing got you killed that was just fate, not that she believed in fate or destiny to any degree. The oldest of the Hicks children certainly wanted her father to come home, and it bothered her he might not, but if sacrifices for the cause were required any man or woman of character and worth should be willing to make them.

Steven threw his kitbag into the back seat of the GEV and pulled himself up. Some people out in the boonies called them Hover-Mules but to the abbreviation inclined military mind they were Ground Effect Vehicles. This one could carry four people and reach a top speed of 150 miles per hour and sustain that for several hours. Not as fast as a hovertank and a fraction of the range because it used fuel-cells instead of carrying its own reactor, but it was a better choice for support vehicles for an Excalibur Regiment because nothing with wheels had a hope of keeping up with the things even if they weren’t hauling ass.

Jennifer and the girls waved but John saluted which resulted in both Steven himself and his grinning driver crisply returning the young boys salute. The driver was one of the Regiments new intake and was interested in seeing how the officer classes lived in real life. Nice neighbourhood, cute kids and not a bad looking wife it seemed, the Major had done alright for himself.

Other residents in the street had also stepped outside to wave goodbye somewhat to the Hicks’s embarrassment. He gave his driver the nod and after a last wave to his family the GEV smoothly accelerated off. Allowing for traffic it shouldn’t take too long to get back to the Regiment and he’d certainly be back well before his battalion started to embark the new Transports.

There would be a lot to do en-route fitting the extra appliqué armour to the Excaliburs, a column of trucks had delivered the large laminate armour plates the day before with an apology they hadn’t been ready for fitting in the factory. They’d have to add them to the front of the Excaliburs en-route which would keep everyone nicely occupied and stop them thinking too much about what would happen when they arrived anyhow. For that matter Steven could do with keeping busy himself, he was terrified he might not be seeing his wife and children again.

Anyhow it was time to start thinking like a cavalry officer not a husband and father. The Regiment was his family too after all.

‘Looking forward to Hera Trooper?’ he asked his driver, practically yelling over the sound of air whipping past the open topped vehicle.

‘Hell yes Sir’ the trooper replied.

Major Hicks looked askance at him. ‘Then you’re one dumb son-of-a-bitch. Maybe we should transfer you to the Infantry’ he responded then grinned to let the trooper know he was yanking his chain.

‘I’m not so good at digging holes Sir’ the Trooper replied playing along. ‘But I could goof off all day drinking coffee with the best of them so if you could get me a transfer to the Logistics Corps I’d be grateful.’

Hicks smiled broadened. ‘Too much humping crates about in that job. I’m told the Aerospace Farce is the true calling of a lazy húndàn.’

‘Yeah but then you’d have to associate more with the Navy too, on Carriers and such, and what could be worth that?’ the Driver asked with an expression of distaste.

Major Hicks laughed. ‘You’ll go far in the Army son.’

* * * Alliance Military Headquarters – Londinium – 2522AD

‘All indications are that they are going to Hera’ the Intelligence Officer repeated. ‘All this talk of misdirection is idle theorising’ she insisted vociferously.

The Operative sighed. ‘General I know you have an assortment of intel assets at your disposal including personnel who have successfully infiltrated the Independent Military in the guise of willing recruits but the fact remains that we are getting conflicting reports leaking out that the enemy is merely trying to make us concentrate forces in one location and then hit another one.’

The Head of the Joint Chiefs nodded in agreement with the Parliamentary Operative. ‘I must agree that this putative Hera expedition plan reeks of false intelligence’ he said tapping the pile of reports heaped on the table before him. ‘Their entire military down to the lowliest Private soldier believes they are preparing to retake the world where they suffered their most strategically important defeat last time and I really don’t think they can be quite so amateurish as to allow such information to leak so widely. If they were really that unprofessional we wouldn’t have suffered the series of setbacks we have during the fighting so far.’

His face masked in his usual detached air of dispassionate reason the Operative looked around the table at the most Senior Military and Civilian Intelligence in the Alliance looking to try and determine where each ones thoughts on the matter lay. He was a keen and skilled observer of humanity who after years of practice could usually read people with an accuracy that some might think was uncanny. For a split second it slightly bothered him that such honed skills would likely be rendered obsolete in the near future by the genuinely uncanny, or perhaps supernatural, skills of the Academy Telepaths but he dismissed that thought in an instant, it was unproductive and in any case the superior abilities of the Telepaths would make a better world arrive all the sooner.

‘The analysts from Interpol Section 31 and our own experts concur with your Sir’ noted the representative from the Staff College, both a serving officer and a military historian in fact, earning a polite nod of acknowledgement from the Head of the Joint Chiefs. ‘In fact our belief is that the Independents are trying an old ruse from the Second World War on Earth-That-Was, specifically the successful efforts by the Allies to convince Nazi Germany that the invasion of France in 1944 was going to be at Calais instead of Normandy. Our thoughts are that the enemy is trying to get us to deploy our reserves to Hera while they invade Persephone instead.’

The Operative threw the Staff College representative a questioning look. ‘Why do you assume Persephone exactly?’ he inquired. ‘Why not a different world.’

‘It’s very simple really’ the officer replied. ‘In order to maintain the illusion that they are heading towards Hera they would have to strike out along a certain path from Toulouse where they are concentrating their forces’ he explained. ‘If they changed course too soon we could easily redeploy any Naval Assets we had at Hera to counter them so they have to wait until they are well on the way there before striking out in a different direction. The only world close enough to Hera for the plan to work which is actually worth invading is Persephone.’

‘By what criteria are you measuring worth? The Operative questioned.

‘A large population with pro-Independent sympathies, a reasonably sized industrial base and an agricultural surplus’ the officer cum historian replied. ‘They know they need to expand their logistical base or they’ll be crushed so they need Persephone.’

‘Or Hera’ the Military Intelligence officer who doubted the validity of the assumptions pointed out. ‘If we don’t reinforce our garrison there and they do invade we are not sure we can hold the world and that will give them not only the improved logistics they need but the mother of all morale boosts.’

The Operative placed his hands on the table fingers meshed and adopted a thoughtful expression. As ever his mannerisms were affected, he himself would sit there completely devoid of body language by default but he found that made others rather uncomfortable and that wasn’t his aim here. ‘Couldn’t we deploy the fleet so as to interdict the Independent forces once their destination is clear?’

Admiral Hughes, the most senior Naval Officer who had been absent-mindedly tapping a pen on the table chuckled. ‘I’m afraid that’s really not a valid option’ he said. ‘Whilst we could position forces between Persephone and Hera by the time we knew for sure where they were going and moved to intercept we would likely be arriving at approximately the same time that they do most likely afterwards because although our capital ships are faster than theirs they will have a considerable advantage in already running at speed before we make way.’

‘And that matters why?’ the Operative inquired.

The Head of the Joint Chiefs snorted at the ignorance. ‘If we’re not in place to contest orbital superiority then they will pound our major ground defence installations to pieces well before we arrive and there will be little our garrisons could do about it’ he explained. ‘Our silo-based Surface-to-Orbit and long-ranged Surface-to-Air Missile Batteries are simply not dug in deep enough to withstand Kinetic Energy Bombardments from something as heavy as a Malestrom Class Battlecruiser’ he continued then mimed a falling object with his fist bringing it hard down on the table top with an impressively loud thump. ‘Four tonnes of railgun projectile coming in from space at thousands of kilometres an hour leaves...’ he paused, ‘an impression.’

A General wearing the insignia of a combat infantryman nodded. ‘Also we need to deploy our reserves of ground troops and have them dug-in waiting before the combat operations begin’ she pointed out. ‘That requires at least a couple of days on the ground to do half-way decently and we certainly don’t want to be arriving in Hera orbit surrounded by warships with both ourselves and the enemy simultaneously trying to land troops. It would be a nightmare especially if they managed to destroy one of the Cruisers we’re using to transport Infantry’ she said. ‘We could lose ten-thousand Infantry at a stroke before they had the chance to board dropships.’

The Operative nodded. And certainly River Tam would be able to determine which ships to engage and destroy first he thought.

‘If we are going to operate on the assumption that the Independent move on Hera may just be a feint our best alternative would seem to be to divide our forces’ the Intelligence Officer who considered the Hera invasion to be a decoy mooted. ‘Deploy half the reserve ground forces to each world along with half the capital ships. Our faster sub-capital vessels, Destroyers and Frigates, could be positioned between Persephone and Hera and would have the speed to still get to either one in time as required.’

An Admiral shook his head in disagreement. ‘If we divide our forces our Capital Ships will suffer heavy losses which we can ill afford. They may only have two ConducterClad Battlecruisers’ he said adopting the known enemy term for the vessels, ‘but that’s two more than we have as yet and after the losses at the Battle of the Corsicans we cannot readily afford to lose many more conventional Cruisers’ he continued, ‘they take too long to replace and our remaining shipyards are already at capacity building escort vessels to keep the shipping lanes clear of those gorram DewDrops. If we lose many more we are going to be forced into the strategic defensive for the foreseeable future.’

‘Thinking out of the box why not withdraw our forces entirely and then launch an effective counter-offensive when our position is stronger’ the Operative opined. He had been asked by Parliament to attend these meetings in order to provide a different perspective from the “military drones” and he had yet to hear anyone make this rational suggestion at any of them. In the long term the vastly superior Alliance industrial and population base made victory inevitable so why not let the Independents have their worlds back for a few months and crush them later. River Tam could achieve great things but being in several places at once was not one of them, eventually the Core Worlds could field multiple Fleets of superior warships launching simultaneous strikes to different targets and simply smash them one world at a time.

Casting his gaze around to judge reactions the Operative noted that the military officers looked almost universally appalled at the suggestion, all except for the aide to the Admiral Hughes in fact. The Operative noted that the relatively junior officer, stood clear of the table behind his commander, nodded ever so slightly in agreement but as a mere Captain he was far clearly too low on the chain of command to say anything out loud given the seniority of the personnel in the room.

The Head of the Joint Chiefs glared at the Operative. ‘Our fighting men and women paid in blood for that ground’ he snarled, ‘bought it with their lives that the Alliance might have it and you say we should just give it up without a fight’ he went on, hands formed into tightly clenched fists on the table. ‘The very notion makes me sick to my stomach even if we ignored the military and morale implications.’

‘With respect Sir that says pride to me rather than reason’ the Operative replied evenly. ‘Whilst I’m sure that the enemy would certainly benefit in the short term, a dispassionate calculation surely indicates that a retrenchment on our part at this point in time would likely shorten rather than lengthen the war overall’ he suggested. ‘If I caught the Admirals meaning correctly earlier when he talked of being forced into the strategic defensive, if we lose many more ships than we already have we will give the enemy free reign for quite some time which will make the butchers bill higher in the end than it need be.’

The Head of the Joint Chiefs crossed his arms. ‘We are not going to pull our forces out of Hera’ he stated absolutely. ‘Given the obvious possibility that the enemy are trying a ruse and are going to Persephone I concur with the suggestion that we deploy our reserve ground forces and capital ships to both worlds and fight them wherever they go. They’ve been lucky so far but they no longer have the element of surprise and win or lose they are going to know they’ve had a fight this time, I vow that on my honour as an Alliance Officer’ he swore.

‘Anyhow’ he said smiling wryly, ‘if those lièzhì Browncoats can hold that damn Valley against us for weeks on end then there’s no way our boys and girls won’t be able to hold it for months.’

* * *

Gallic Plains – Toulouse – 2522AD

‘Put it on loudspeaker Wash’ Mal ordered, the pilot flicking a switch above him to obey. The voice that boomed through the ship, from loudspeakers on every ship that was grounded on the Plains for miles in every direction was the unmistakeable one of Admiral van der Heijden, his coarse Pretoria Colony accent and familiar tones reverberating from bulkheads and stacks of supplies.

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Independent Armed Forces’ he began. ‘Today we lift on a mission to retake the ground we lost on Hera, to once again raise the black star of our flag over Serenity Valley and to once again, and for all time, to drive the invader from our land.’

Mal nodded in agreement. Hera wasn’t his homeworld, and the Valley itself was desolate and unwelcoming, but in his guts, in his very soul it belonged to them, not to those prissy interfering coreworlders.

The Admiral continued. ‘Until now we have enjoyed unparalleled victories and our losses have been lighter than we could ever have hoped for, but this will be a bloody campaign from now on’ he said, ‘there will be no easy victories, many of us will not live to see our eventual triumph but that day will come I promise you. Our cause is just, our weapons are superior and more than that we ourselves are mighty. We have a strength within us that they will never understand, and which they can never hope to fathom, they merely think our worlds belong to them, we know they’re wrong.

Down in the cargo bay several Rangers were stamping their feet in approval and agreement. With the ramp still open you could hear other Browncoats on nearby ships howling in agreement. They were likely from Athens Moons, even the other Rimworlders thought those boys were Rednecks.

So as we draw the sword to fight again I call upon each and every one of you to do their duty to their unit, their homeworld and their kin. May the God or Gods you worship grant us victory and freedom.’

Jayne looked around at the expressions of the soldiers in the cargo bay, he was more than slightly cynical of folks who said things like that but you couldn’t help but get carried away with spirit of the thing. ‘Writes a good speech don’t he?’ he said. ‘You can see why his people followed him out beyond the Rim and then followed him back.’

‘Should have gone with him’ a veteran of the last war said ruefully, ‘would have if I’d known.’

The Admiral having finished his transmission the Captain’s voice came over the intercom loudspeaker instead. ‘Alright Rangers we’re lifting with the first wave, close the ramp and say your prayers like the Admiral told you to.’

Up in the cockpit Wash threw a bemused look at Mal. ‘Thought God wasn’t welcome on your boat?’ he commented.

‘Only obeying orders Wash’ Mal replied. Anyhow it couldn’t hurt none he thought, even if it just made those Rangers who had themselves a peck of faith feel better.

Wash bought the variable-geometry engines up to power, kicking up a storm of dust around the ship as she smoothly lifted from the surface, the other two ships of the company rising simultaneously and taking up station as a V formation. Serenity in the vanguard the trio of converted Firefly Assault Ships burned for orbit and a rendezvous with the Navy ships waiting there.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds gave Wash a pat on the back and headed down to the cargo bay which was now not only crammed with supplies but also bunks for the troops. Jayne had offered to share his quarters but none of the female Rangers who received the offer had agreed for some reason and instead he found himself sharing his bunk with several crates of ammunition and a huge box full of miscellaneous supplies none of which were worth stealing or Mal would have put them elsewhere.

Zoe was keeping busy, which meant keeping the other ranks busy, this was partially for military necessity but mainly because she was inwardly distraught at leaving her daughter behind. Her rational side told her that she was helping making a ‘Verse worth growing up in but it seemed that every fibre of her emotional being was telling her to go back and be with Erica. As ever she maintained a stoic, laconic exterior and sought a form of catharsis in action, the sooner she was shooting at Purple-Bellies the better it would be for her state of mind.

Returning numerous salutes from Rangers moving about the ship, wode tìan they were hard to get used to he thought returning another, Mal arrived on the gangway above the cargo bay. ‘Who’s supposed to be helping Hughes making dinner?’ he called out. ‘Not wise to piss off a woman with that many confirmed kills’ he pointed out amiably to one of the new recruits who had flinched and begun to move towards the kitchen.

They were a good bunch of men and women Mal considered watching them from above. Hopefully he wouldn’t have too many on his conscience before long.

Already many miles far below, still on the surface, Lieutenant-Colonel Sean Thomas watched transport after transport lift and burn for orbit. The smaller ships were taking off first which left the really large craft like the two huge recently converted and renamed Tank Transporters Sir Percival and Sir Bedivere and the somewhat smaller Granite Gorge waiting for clearance to take off.

There were so many ships taking off the occupants of the Lancer Transports were getting testy before their time came but at least they knew they got to take off with a bit more style and ceremony than the hoards of scruffy infantry savages leaving before them.

As soon as the order came Sean Thomas trotted back up the ramp onto the Sir Percival pressed the intercom just inside the cavernous bay giving the order ‘Saddle Up’ and gave a thumbs up to the Trooper stood next to the ramp on the nearby Granite Gorge. The smaller ship would lift last but would still reach orbit first being quicker than its two companion vessels.

Noting the signal from her commanding officer with a nod, the Trooper spat on the ground and took a deep breath before raising the metal to her lips.

To the strains of a bugle playing, albeit barely audible over the roar of engines, the Twenty-First lifted from the surface of Toulouse. It was time to teach the gorram Alliance once again that you don’t want to get on the wrong side of a Lancer and his Railgun.

COMMENTS

Monday, June 19, 2006 1:51 AM

ENDYMION


Great to see an update, the excitement is building. Can't wait to see the Browncoats hand the Alliance their asses. Can't wait to see the suprises River has in store for them.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 10:12 AM

SILENCE


Man I wish you had your own tv series

Saturday, July 8, 2006 4:16 PM

GRIMLOCK


Something I've been wondering, 2 somethings actually... Where are 50 people sleeping on a Firefly?

And do the Excaliburs have the same built in tea kettle as the Challengers?

Either way, that's two pieces of hardware I look foward to seeing you put back into action. You sir are an artist.

Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:05 AM

JUUL


It just keeps getting better and better!

Whats River been up to I wonder?

Friday, September 29, 2006 10:51 PM

NUTLUCK


Hmmm been awhile since your last update hope you still plan to continue this.

Monday, December 4, 2006 12:58 PM

GWG


One of the best series.
Any more for Christmass?

Thursday, July 5, 2007 8:42 AM

COBENDANE


Just read through this lot - excellent work. One of the best fanfics I've read, let alone Firefly fancfics. In fact, it's better than a lot of books I've read, and believe me, that's a lot. I especially liked the interplay between Steven and Book, though I think I'm probably on the other side of that argument to you ;)
I realise it's been over a year since last update, but there's been an 8 month gap before. When the inspiration to continue this story hits you again, we'll be back to read it, but this story deserves to be finished especially as close to the end as it is.

You're a great writer, and I'll echo the people here that say this is good enough to publish (with some editing for spelling/grammar ;p).

Sunday, November 18, 2007 1:30 PM

THISISMYMUD


Ok, so it's been well better than a year. . .but I still check every month or so! Is there any chance Hotpoint will come back here and finish this story? It's my favorite fanfic of any genre, and the reason I started reading fics in the first place. Please Hotpoint, provide me some closure!

Sunday, June 7, 2009 5:58 PM

VALDIMARIAN


Whhhat? Three years Hotpoint? I'd be willing to take a bit of a hit on X-SGCOM and Compelled to get some closure on a story. Got to say, you write some DAMN shiny epics!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 7:02 PM

CANTON


3 years to the day. . .and still waiting. I still hopelessly check every week or so. :(

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 7:04 PM

CANTON


Well 3 years to the day my time (Central Time -6)


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YOUR OPTIONS

OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XX)
The Independents lift for a return to the Valley

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIX)
As they train for the Campaign to liberate Hera the soldiers of the Independent military continue to go about their daily lives.

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVIII)
Mal faces a worse fate than he ever imagined, Serenity has an image change and Cally adjusts to life back on Toulouse

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVII)
After the initial Independent blitzkreig the Second War of Independence continues with the Alliance still reeling and the Browncoats starting to consolidate their position

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVI)
Scylla and Charybdis show the Alliance Navy what real warships are made of

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XV)
After the skirmishing the Battle of Toulouse begins

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIV)
Mal Reynolds takes his "Valley Wolves" into action as the fighting on Toulouse escalates

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIII)
The Independent Navy takes the fight to the Core while Mal Reynolds takes his new troops into action on Toulouse

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XII)
Unification Day 2522 goes not as expected

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XI)
Reunions and opening gambits


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