Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part II)
Thursday, May 26, 2005

History starts to turn as those that were stepped on change to those that do the stepping.


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.

* * *

“Once we’d got rid of the Reavers in our corner of space things were actually pretty calm, you could even so far as to say verging on tranquil and I was considering standing down the fleet, then one day we ran into a bunch of scruffy lunatics being chased by the Alliance Navy. To be honest things after that are really a bit of a blur right up until the moment I found myself sitting opposite a trio of sour faced enemy Generals who were agreeing the armistice terms…”

President-Elect Marc van der Heijden - Cortex Interview 2531AD

* * *

Firefly Class Transport Ship Serenity – Docked – 2520AD

Captain Malcolm Reynolds had a serious feeling of deja-vu as the airlock doors slid open to reveal the silhouette of a pair of soldiers in helmets and body-armour training rifles at him. As the doors slid fully open more soldiers moved though into Serenity’s cargo bay and eventually the best part of a platoon of infantry were either fanning further out into the ship guns at the ready or were surrounding the crew who were stood in a rough semi-circle behind their Captain.

They were good too. Very serious looking and professional like Mal considered, all with their game-face on and eyes searching for signs of trouble. The platoon leader was a sergeant who’d obviously sized up the crew pretty well because he was watching Zoe and Jayne like a hawk.

Mal locked eyes with the sergeant for a split second. You could see beyond the thousand yard stare of a man who’d seen plenty of action to something even more dangerous beyond, the mental warning of a good non-com that simply said ‘I love my boys, fuck with them and I’ll kill you’.

As soon as the situation looked secure another figure stepped through the airlock, hands behind the back, ramrod straight, look of mild disdain on their face as they looked around the cargo bay. You didn’t need to see the rank insignia, everything about the newcomer screamed “Officer” they might as well have had it tattooed on their forehead.

‘Who’s the master of this boat?’ the officer asked.

Mal leaned his head to one side. ‘That would be me’ he answered. ‘My ship bought and paid for’ he continued.

The officer looked around again. ‘You paid good money for this?’

Kaylee made a choking sound behind him but had the good sense to not comment further.

‘Wouldn’t say that exactly, I paid a chunk of it in Alliance Credits’ Mal replied.

The officer grinned. There was one slight difference between this particular inspection and all those Malcolm Reynolds had put up with before.

‘You’d be Ships Captain Reynolds then? Formally Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds of the Fifty-Seventh Overlanders Brigade, Independent Infantry Corps?’ the officer asked.

‘That would be me.’

The officer reached out her hand. ‘Pleased to meet you’ she said. ‘Major Helen Fushida. Gamma Battalion, Second Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Admiral says to welcome you aboard.’

Malcolm Reynolds seized the offered hand and pumped it up and down enthusiastically. The nasty feeling of deja-vu aside you just had to love the brown coats and the insignia they were wearing on them.

* * *

AI Warship Shadow – In Formation – 2520AD

I repeat AI Vessel. If we see any signs of weapons powering up or an attempt to flee you will be destroyed.

Shadow flew alongside the huge mass of armour, machinery and firepower than its human constructors had called Charybdis and metaphorically rolled its eyes before signalling back.

I’m less than five hundred metres from a gun turret that is several times larger than I am and makes up one third of your secondary armament’ Shadow responded. ‘If you tell me to jump I’ll ask “how high” and break the bolts holding my computer core to the deck trying

Just as long as you know AI Vessel. One false move and you’re metal slag

Shadow searched his databanks for a suitable reply and fervently wished that the phrase “Well duh” hadn’t fallen out of the human lexicon several centuries earlier.

* * *

Firefly Class Transport Ship Serenity – Docked – 2520AD

The Marines had swept through the ship and finding nothing particularly untoward or unexpected apart from a veritable plethora of firearms, they had left the vessel leaving only two of their number standing by the airlock. Orders were to keep the newcomers on the ship until the Admiral called for them.

Granite Gorge was following on behind some distance out being looked over by another squad of Marines while being flown by an aerospace force pilot who had flown over to her by shuttle. The Captain of the Charybdis had been initially rather concerned to discover that the larger of the two transports was carrying a home-made cannon onboard which unlike a few rifles was an actual threat to the more flimsy parts of his ship but he was still willing to let the vessel dock until he subsequently found out that Granite also had a multi-megaton yield thermonuclear device locked in one of its crew quarters.

After that the Trance Class Freighter was assigned a position somewhat more distant from the Battlecruiser. Charybdis was well armoured but it wasn’t exactly built to withstand a point-blank fusion detonation.

The battlecruiser was heading back to base but most of the other ships were picking over the wreckage of the shattered Alliance Cruiser. The knocked out AI ships had already been gathered up and were being picked over by several engineering teams who were likely awed by the technology and overjoyed that such miracles of military aerospace engineering had just fallen into their laps. River had told everyone that obtaining the advanced ships was likely to be for the Independents as much a turning point as it had been for the Roman Republic in the First Punic War with Carthage over two and a half millennia before. Back then she explained the Romans had been under threat of defeat because of enemy naval superiority but the tables turned when a Carthaginian warship was shipwrecked on the Roman coast. The Romans back-engineered the thing to its smallest pieces and copied it to produce equal vessels of its own which they then used to take control of the seas. Mal commented that letting someone else do all the expensive R&D then stealing it to use against them makes good sound financial sense as well as mighty fine irony he had declared appreciatively. River then pointed out that you could place her in exactly the same category as the AI ships for that matter, another example of highly expensive Alliance Research and Development coming back to bite them on the ass.

In the cargo bay the example herself was pacing back and forth, or rather clomping back and forth in the ungainly boots she still favoured despite the much improved wardrobe she’d gained over the years. She looked very frustrated at the lack of progress so far. They’d been docked with the Charybdis nearly two hours and she still hadn’t had the chance to ask if she could play with her new toys.

‘Patience is a virtue River.’ Book had commented placidly.

River looked at him, or perhaps through him. He may have been outwardly collected but there was a rising concern in his heart. She knew very well what it was but whether or not his fears might come to pass she didn’t know. He certainly hadn’t liked it when a Marine Corporal had methodically scanned the entire crew’s fingerprints and retinas onto a small handheld electronic device, although he hadn’t outwardly let on.

The children were very excited, even Cally who usually liked to project, or perhaps affect, a mature seriousness at all times. Jennifer had already had to retrieve and restrain young John who had been pestering one of the Marines for attention.

Jayne was also pestering the other Marine but that was to do with the fact that she was female and clad in what was to Jayne Cobb’s mind some very fetching combat gear. It wasn’t often he got the opportunity to turn his encyclopaedic knowledge of firearms into a chat-up routine. Mal considering rescuing her for a moment but those jarhead types were supposed to be resilient under pressure even the ones that wore their hair in a plait that could be seen running down from her helmet. Worse case scenario she could always bayonet him.

Simon stepped back into the cargo bay on his way from the infirmary ‘She’s still out like a light’ he announced. ‘I think I gave her far too much sedative’

‘Either that or it’s still the after-effects of Inara slugging her’ Zoe commented. ‘She’s got a hell of a bruise on her face.’

Inara held up her bandaged hand. ‘I’m afraid my knuckles didn’t come off much better’ she said. ‘I suppose I’ve now formally been included on Laura’s death list.’

‘N’ah’ Wash disagreed. ‘We were all already on her death list, you’ve just moved up a place to the torture then kill category.’

Inara looked thoughtful. ‘I have been accused of being a social climber before’ she said wistfully with a hint of a smile.

‘Not since you hooked up with Mal you haven’t trust me.’ Steve commented from the gantry above eliciting an annoyed “Hey” from Mal which he ignored. ‘I found them’ Steve continued calling to his wife.

‘Did you check where I told you?’ she asked as he made his way down to the lower deck.

‘Eventually I did’ he replied sheepishly.

Jennifer frowned ‘So that’s why you were gone so long.’

Steve muttered something non-committal and started playing with the collar of the dark grey jumpsuit he was wearing.

‘Found what?’ Wash asked.

Steve removed his hands from his collar and put them behind his back moving his stance into military stand-easy.

Zoe started laughing then turned it into a cough before snapping to attention and throwing Steve a salute which he snapped back. ‘You actually kept those?’ she asked.

Steve nodded. ‘Only thing I kept through the POW Camp. They ripped off my uniform insignia, stole my watch too’ he stated bitterly ‘but these I kept. I’ve got the beret too of course but that’s only because I’d sent one to Jennifer.’

‘How did you keep them in the camp if they took everything else?’ Wash asked.

Mal sighed. ‘Never ask a man how he kept hold of contraband goods in prison Wash.’

Steve chortled. ‘Hey at least they’re small.’

This was more information than Inara wanted to know and her expression made that abundantly clear.

‘So what do you think?’ Steve asked Mal.

Mal scratched his nose. ‘Just because you’ve got those brass Captains tags on your collar don’t mean I’m calling you Captain or Sir.’

‘I wouldn’t expect you to Sergeant’ Steve replied stressing the rank. ‘Like I said before there’s only one Captain on a ship… you can follow the old navy protocols and call me “Major” if you like’ he continued deadpan.

Mal snorted. ‘Major pain in the…’

‘No like I said. They’re small.’ Steve interrupted smirking. ‘I thought given the circumstances I might bring them out of retirement’ he continued seriously. ‘Van der Heijden seemed pretty strict on the military side of things when I met him before so I thought I could play on that and act the professional soldier.’

‘Act?’ Simon commented quizzically. ‘Is that what they mean by the theatre of war?’ he asked tongue in cheek.

Steve ignored the second comment ‘Haven’t been actually paid for soldiering since the war so technically of late I’ve been an amateur soldier’ he responded.

‘Very amateur’ Jayne commented from by the airlock interrupting his moves on the female Marine.

Steve looked serious for a moment. ‘You know there are moments that I really miss the war’ he said, ‘being able to order up a firing squad at whim did have its pluses. Kept the lower ranks in their rightful place’ he finished looking askance at the big mercenary.

‘Nobody’s putting Jayne in front of a firing squad’ Mal said seriously.

Jayne nodded ‘Damn straight’ he said.

‘Excepting maybe me’ Mal continued.

‘Well if you’re ever taking volunteers Sir…’ Zoe interrupted immediately eliciting a sea of raised hands around the bay.

Jayne scowled and turned back to the Marine only to find she was now holding her rifle in one hand and had the other pointed skywards while trying not to laugh. She had somewhat more success than the others.

The laughing was ended by the appearance of a small furry shape that wandered in through the airlock between the two Marines rapidly eliciting a squeal of joy from Claire-Marie who ran over to see the visitor closely followed by her little brother. Cally was more restrained and remained sitting on a crate next to Zoe. Cally admired her poise and of late had tried to imitate it.

‘Well I’ll be damned’ Steve had exclaimed ‘A moggy.’

‘It’s a “cat” Steve’ Wash pointed out.

‘Steven calls cats “Moggies”’ Jennifer explained. ‘It’s another example of the strange Wessex slang he lapses into on occasion.’

Steve snorted. ‘Whose people invented the language?’ he asked irately. ‘It’s the rest of you that speak it wrong’ he stated with certainty.

The cat seemed unusually interested in the two children who were on their knees in front of it. Given the utter lack of youngsters amongst the exiled Taskforce it was likely curious about the very small humans and investigated closely whilst allowing itself to be enthusiastically stroked by the beaming little girl in particular.

The male Marine knelt down next to the girl ‘His name’s Georgie’ he told her, smiling broadly at the sight of the little girl fussing over the cat which had begun to purr loudly. ‘A couple of the boats had a ships cat when we set out here now they almost all do. Georgie here lives on Charybdis his sister is the ships cat on Scylla.’

Kaylee joined in the cat adulation session and bent down to stroke the ball of now preening fur too ‘He’s pretty big’ she observed. ‘I had a cat back home that was a bit leaner.’

The Marine grinned. ‘Georgie here is spoiled rotten. He spends most of the day hanging around the dining halls being fed leftovers, the Admiral says if he doesn’t lose some weight soon he’ll put him on a treadmill.’

‘Does he go where he likes then?’ Kaylee asked.

The Marine nodded ‘Only three men aboard got the entire run of the boat, the Admiral, the Ships Captain and the cat.’

‘Goes straight past the airlock guards too I see’ Book observed.

The Marine stood up. ‘Like the Major said herself, we respect the furry critter’s built in bayonets’ he said.

* * *

INS Charybdis – Underway – 2520AD

Your conscious mind can override many human instincts but one thing that is hard to get rid of is brainwashing, be that the deliberate use of advanced psychological and physiological techniques designed to create a group of psychic assassins, or in a slightly more tried and tested manner in army basic training.

They had barely walked a dozen yards before Mal and Steve automatically fell into step with the quartet of Marines who were escorting them to go see the Admiral neither of them noticed at first until it became obvious from the sound of boots hitting steel decking that someone’s footsteps were out of sequence and it wasn’t either of them.

River walked at her own pace which sped up or down randomly, much to the annoyance of the Marine walking behind her.

It was a quite a long walk.

Maelstrom class Battlecruisers like the Charbydis were essentially flying cannon with a 300 metre diameter sphere stuck on the less dangerous end housing most of the machinery, power-plants and with the engines stuck on the aft. The main length of the ship which stuck out the front the sphere was triangular in cross section and about a thousand metres long. Running up the middle of the main shaft was the massive Particle Cannon that was the ships main armament with the three mass drivers running parallel in the corners of the triangle.

The triangular cross-section was about a hundred metres on the side, or about three times the length of Serenity as Wash had explained it to those on the crew that needed a visual frame of reference, as they’d come into dock next to one of the three main gun turrets (one each side) which were fitted half way along the main shaft. Each of the turrets was larger than the Granite Gorge and in themselves dwarfed the Firefly Class boat. Numerous smaller turrets and missile bays were dotted all over the ship and several of them were pointed in Serenity’s direction as a less than subtle warning.

Technologically the Charybdis was in reality at least a generation behind the Alliance Warships it had been built to face back in the war. Thanks to easy access to near limitless sources of asteroidal iron the Independents had the raw materials to build such ships (though the more highly industrialised and populous Alliance had far more shipyards) but they never had access to the same level of technology. The Browncoat’s could spend their defence budget on either ships or Research and Development but the Alliance could do both and still out produce the Independents.

On the other hand technology isn’t everything. In a slugging match she was still more than a match for the post-war cruisers the Core Worlds were producing by 2520, in much the same way as in a straight gunfight a Dreadnought Class battleship of the First World War on Earth-That-Was would have blown a more technologically advanced Radar equipped Cruiser of a couple of decades later to pieces. It might be nice to be able to see the enemy coming from further away but if your 8 inch shells bounce off his armour and a single salvo of his 14 inch shells will likely send you to the bottom you’re still screwed. With no enemy to fight the Alliance had mothballed its battle-fleet in favour of less heavily armed vessels designed for cheaper maintenance, long range patrolling and visual intimidation. This was a decision they would later come to regret when they ran into something that wasn’t prone to be intimidated by brightly lit ships with supposedly menacing aesthetics.

Everyone they passed in the corridors observed them with as much curiosity as the cat had. They certainly stood out amongst the sea of uniforms as even though Mal was wearing the same colours as the Marines his long Infantry Browncoat was rather different than the similarly shaded Marine jackets, which were only waist length for practicality of shipboard wear. Steve’s old Lancer uniform, a dark grey jumpsuit with no insignia on it except his Captains bars, made him look more like a mechanic than a soldier despite wearing it with a service belt and holster (sans pistol). As they walked along he did however put on his beret which helped him feel more soldierly although to Mals eyes it just made him look like a French mechanic (although he didn’t say so out loud).

River was wearing a dress which really looked out of place.

Eventually they arrived at their destination and one of the Marines knocked and opened a hatch which revealed a stern looking group of officers sat behind a table with three empty chairs in front of it.

‘If I didn’t know better I’d think we were about to be court-martialled’ Steve said quietly.

‘I’ve got a plan. We pin everything on Cobb’ Mal whispered back as he stepped through into the room.

Steve fought back a smile as he waved River on ahead.

* * *

Firefly Class Transport Ship Serenity – Docked – 2520AD

‘She did what?’ Simon asked nonplussed.

Mal raised his head from his hands. ‘She walked in and asked if they wanted to go back and win the war because she could make it happen they just had to let her do all the planning.’

‘Oh Dear God’ Simon said shaking his head.

River looked slightly annoyed. ‘I saved everyone involved a lot of unnecessary discussion’ she said haughtily. ‘and van der Heijden wasn’t being serious when he told Major Fushida to space us.’

‘Did you read his mind then?’ Zoe asked.

Steve groaned.

Mal took a breath. ‘Her next trick was to announce she was telepathic which she proved by announcing what everyone in the room was thinking’ Mal paused, ‘including that Admiral van der Heijden has been having an affair with the Captain of one of their Factory ships.’

‘Well it was playing on his mind and it’s not like they’d have believed me otherwise’ River countered, ‘and anyway they all already knew, the only person in the room who didn’t know it was widely known was the Admiral. He was actually slightly relieved to have it out in the open.’

‘You should have seen his expression’ Steve said trying not to laugh, ‘if his jaw had dropped any lower they’d have to reattach it surgically. I swear you couldn’t have made the same impression with 50,000 volts from a stun-gun.’

‘Oh I think we definitely made an impression’ Mal said. ‘I’m thinking the same kind as you’d get if you fired one of those big mass-drivers into wet cement’ he continued. ‘We had a plan River. I had a speech and everything, notes even’ he said pulling a sheaf of paper from his pocket and waving it at her. ‘I tell him the story then you prove it by doing that trick where you guess what number someone is thinking.’

River crossed her arms in a huff ‘Well I think I did the right thing and it’s too late to worry about it now’ she stated with finality.

‘So why did they come take sleeping beauty away?’ Wash asked.

Mal turned and looked at the pilot. ‘Well after River’s little variety act, and a couple of hours really heavy discussion they were more than a mite interested in the whole telepathy thing and wanted to get her big shiny brain under a big shiny scanner’ he replied. ‘I told them if they wanted to prod and probe someone we had another ‘Reader they could use as a guinea pig instead but they’d better watch out for her.’

‘They won’t hurt her will they?’ Inara asked nervously. ‘She is just a girl.’

‘Well I gave them the frequency for her shock remote so they might give her some voltage if she’s boisterous when she wakes up but if they’re smart they’ll want her healthy and as cooperative as she’s ever likely to get’ Mal replied.

‘So where do we go from here then?’ Zoe asked getting straight to the heart of the matter.

Mal looked at River.

‘I’ve got some things to organise first which will take quite some time but after that we go home’ River said brightly.

* * *

INS Charybdis – Underway – 2520AD

Laura opened her eyes then squeezed them shut again because it was incredibly bright. She was still groggy from what she thought must be drugs and her jaw ached like hell from where that companion whore had slugged her.

She opened her eyes a crack and looked around, her vision was very blurry.

She was in a medical bay but not the pokey little one on the Firefly or even the larger one on the Trance Class freighter she was in a big medical bay which seemed well equipped.

Laura tried to sort though her thoughts.

Something was nagging at her.

That was it. Just before she’d been knocked out she’d felt another telepath, another Academy graduate who must have been on an Alliance ship.

Laura smiled but instantly regretted it her face objected strongly to the change in expression.

A man in a white lab coat appeared over her. He was still blurry to look at and the drugs must be addling her mind because his thoughts were a jumbled mess in her mind.

Laura coughed. ‘I’m on a Navy Warship right?’ she croaked.

The stranger in the white lab-coat nodded.

‘I need to talk to the Academy people’ she said ‘bring them here.’

Even through the blurred vision Laura recognised the puzzled expression on his face. ‘The guys who wear the blue gloves’ she said. ‘Alliance Special Projects Team’ she explained.

‘Alliance?’ the figure said quizzically. ‘Sorry sweetheart but you’ve got the wrong Navy’ he continued.

Laura tried to sit bolt upright but found she was firmly strapped down onto a surgical bed. She willed her eyes to focus on the stranger and finally saw what was on the embroidered badge on the lab-coat he was wearing.

‘Tāmāde’ she swore at the top of her lungs. ‘You have got to be fucking kidding!’ she albeit screamed in exasperation at the universe.

After a couple of minutes swearing and fighting against the restraints she stopped and glared at the stranger.

You just had to hate that white coat and the insignia on it.

Part III


Thursday, May 26, 2005 10:54 AM


Excellent writing Hotpoint! It’s been a long time since I read some good futuristic military fiction.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 1:14 PM


Awesome! Well worth the wait. So is River still keeping tabs on Laura's mental state or has she decided that it's past the point where it matters?

Thursday, May 26, 2005 8:21 PM


The only criticism I have with it is that a modern Cruiser would OWN a WWI battleship even in a gunfight. Modern naval guns can have ranges out to 70 miles using some fancy (rocket powered and/or sabot) rounds while a WWI gun had max ranges of only a dozen miles or so. Modern guns can fire between 20 - 80 rounds a minute and hit within a dozen feet or so area using radar/internal guidance or within a few inches using laser guidance. Also modern warships have an over 10-knot speed advantage.

Basically a modern cruiser could find the WWI battleship 1st and pound it from outside its gun range then leave it in the dust when they got board.


Thursday, May 26, 2005 8:42 PM


Gunrunner. Please note I said "Radar equipped Cruiser of a couple of decades later". That means a Cruiser of WWII vintage not a modern one.

I'm very exacting in what I say! :-)

Thursday, May 26, 2005 9:34 PM


Oh sorry about that. You said that the Indi ship was a Generation behind the Alliance ships and WWI ships were still a creditable naval unit in WWII if properly reequipped and deployed. (Examples: HMS Hood, HIJMS Kongo, HMS Royal Sovereign). I personally draw the generation line at the invention of the Guided Missile.

However if you compare the best US WWI Dreadnought Battleship (Probably Colorado Class) with the best US WWII Cruiser (Alaska class) the armor is slightly less in several areas:

13 1/2" Belt, 18" Turrets, 3 1/2" + 1 1/2" Decks, 16" Conning Tower (Colorado)
9" Belt, 12 4/5" Turrets, 1 2/5" +4" +5/8" Decks, 10 3/5" Conning Tower (Alaska)

Althogh Alaska had better deck armor (lesson probaly learned from Hood), The Guns are in favor of the Colorado 8 16’’ vs. 9 12’’. However Radar technology is the determining factor of any WWII surface engagement, look at Battle of Surigao Strait, US Radar firecontrol could hit at distances the Japanese couldn’t. It still boils down to the faster ship with more accurate guns agaisnt the slower ship with less accurate guns.

Friday, May 27, 2005 7:28 AM


The Alaska was a battlecruiser rather than a cruiser (even the German Pocket Battleships only mounted 11 inch armament). Typical Cruiser armament for most WWII navies were 6 or 8 inch guns which meant they would have to get dangerously close to be a threat to the armour of a Dreadnought (by which time their better fire-control would be less of a factor).

Anyway this isn't really the ideal place for this discussion. I'll continue it on the Horse, Foot and Artillery Thread on the Blue Sun Room corner of the forums if GunRunner or anyone else wants to talk warships :-p

Tuesday, May 31, 2005 5:50 AM


Splendid. So much good character bits so neatly put in--Steve looking like a French mechanic, River walking out of step with the rest.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005 6:58 AM


Man, I've been waitin' a while for this. And of course, I wait until 2 weeks after its posted to read it. GO figure.

Great stuff, HP. I can't wait for more!

- Soul


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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