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Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part VI)
Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Independents begin to prepare for the next war


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 4547    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.

* * *

“We were in a race against an opponent who was already a lap ahead at the start, was faster and had more endurance. The solution was simple, hit the ground running and break their legs”

General Eric Brown – Head of Independent Military Intelligence 2531AD

* * *

Four Days Hard Burn out of Beaumonde – 2521AD

‘This is getting to be a mite repetitive Captain’ the crewman stated as he handed over the cargo manifest.

‘Gorram Alliance is getting more and more active out here’ the Captain agreed and spat on the deck. This was the second time an Alliance Patrol Boat had ordered them to stop for a random search in the last month. Time was you could go more than half a year without running into one of them but they were definitely trying to tighten their grip on the worlds outside the core now.

The Airlock cycled and the cargo bay doors began to open. The whole of the crew were lined up behind their Captain waiting to back his play if he decided to make one. It wasn’t that all their cargo wasn’t entirely legal it was more the way they felt about the Alliance and their loyalty to their Captain. Ties of spilled blood and honour made in the war, and more than a few fights, both fist and fire, since then.

Monty took a step forward to show he was the master of the boat.

A uniformed figure stepped through the airlock from the Alliance Vessel.

‘Sorry about the choice of transport but it’s easier to travel in these parts in disguise’ the figure said. ‘It was a steal’ he continued, ‘one careless owner, now deceased, and only EMP’ed and boarded once.’

Monty’s eyes widened and his jaw almost hit the deck.

‘You know our mutual Ex was right about one thing’ the figure said, ‘you did look better without the beard, why did you grow it back?’

‘Mal?’ Monty said regaining a bit of his composure.

‘In the flesh and back from… well lets just say it’s a long way away and leave it at that, I’ll tell you a story about Dragons over a beer one day.’ Mal Reynolds told his old war-buddy. ‘Sorry to drop in on you like this but I’m on a mission you see’ he said ‘just like the old days.’

‘A mission?’ Monty asked incredulously.

‘Yup’ Mal answered. ‘A secret mission’ he explained further. ‘A few thousand friends and I are going to restart the war and we’re looking for volunteers. I was wondering if you might know of anyone that might be interested in giving us a hand?’

Mal looked at the shocked expression on his friends face and frowned. ‘Would it help at all if I told you we’ve already got us a battle-fleet and a hellaciously good plan?’ he asked.

* * *

Corsican Asteroid Belt – Near Toulouse – 2521AD

Jack Foreman liked these occasional trips out to the belt and they happened far too infrequently these days. For the most part he spent his days stuck in his office back on Toulouse doing the boring managerial work that he just couldn’t avoid. There were some things that the boss cannot delegate and he had found the more successful he had become the less he could palm off on his staff.

This was the life though, out in a one-man survey ship scouting the belt, looking for that diamond in the rough, or rather an asteroid with a high metal content amongst all the silicon and carbon debris that made up most of the Corsicans.

It wasn’t a huge company by some standards but he’d inherited it from his father and built it up to being the second largest mining concern based out of Toulouse. Other than a couple of minor blips in the companies fortunes the first of which had been ten years ago when he’d answered his peoples call and joined the Independent Navy the family business had gone from strength to strength and he was proud of his accomplishments.

The second blip had been the couple of months he spent in a cell when under suspicion for aiding and abetting the escape of a ship load of wanted criminals who had been working for him. It was only because he had a good lawyer and enough money to buy off the right people that he had got out of it. The fact that he hadn’t known who they really were at the time had been of little help, actually to be fair he would have likely hired them anyway but he had the good sense not to tell the Alliance Federals that.

Upon his release Jack Foreman had got right back to business and his company was flourishing as Industry on Toulouse began to take off again as restrictions on heavy industry on the Rim were gradually relaxed. For a good while after the war the Government had sought to prevent the Rim from much in the way of economic advance but in the end the needs of the large Multi-Planetaries for investment opportunities in the developing markets had won out over mere military concerns.

Toulouse was rare for a Rim Planet. It had a reasonable Industrial base as well as efficient agriculture and more important than both it had a decent sized and educated workforce. For the first time since before the war the engineers, scientists and other professionals being churned out by the University were starting to stay at home rather than having to seek employment back in the core. During the war Toulouse had called itself the “arsenal of freedom” and much of the military hardware that had kept the Alliance in check for several years had been produced in the planets workshops. The post-war economy had collapsed when the munitions factories closed down but things were definitely on the mend now.

The scanner started to bleep, the pitch and frequency rising fast. Foreman grinned, it had been a long while since he’d found a decent rock himself, that would wipe the smile off his crews faces when they found out the boss had made the best find that week. He would log the find put in a formal claim with the government then dispatch a mining crew to retrieve and process the asteroid in a couple of weeks. If it was a really good rock with a high rare metals content he might even pay himself a bonus for once he thought as his smile widened.

The bleeping continued to climb in frequency. It was getting close fast.

Foreman switched on his Radar and swore, it wasn’t a rock it was a damn ship. He flicked on his radio. ‘This is Jack Foreman from the Foreman Mining Company, I already have first refusal on these rocks and a valid miners license’ he said. ‘Go find your own’ he told the incoming vessel.

We don’t want your orbiting debris Jack’ a voice replied on the speaker. ‘We’ve got a much richer belt ourselves anyway that hasn’t already been mined for a century or more’ the voice continued. ‘We’re out here looking for you, been waiting bloody ages for that matter, you don’t get out as much as you used to and I couldn’t exactly come to see you at the office.

That voice sounded extremely familiar even through the radio Foreman thought. ‘Well what the hell do you want with me out here then?’ he asked.

I’ve got some money to give you.’

‘Who put you up to this because this isn’t very funny?’ Foreman replied.

Well I think it’s all hysterically funny but I’m often accused of having a warped sense of humour’ the other ship transmitted back. ‘Put your viewscreen on.’

Foreman switched his navigation computers monitor over so it could display visual transmissions. As soon as he did a familiar scarred face looked back at him. ‘Sorry I didn’t keep in touch but I’ve been laying low for a while, and I can’t stay long either but we need your help.’

‘Tāmāde’ Foreman exclaimed. ‘Steve Hicks you miserable son-of-a-bitch what the hell are you doing back here. The Alliance has a price on your head.’

Well I hope it’s a good one’ Hicks replied, ‘but I’m not back here just to say hello.’

‘Do you need any money?’ Foreman asked. ‘How are the wife and kids?’

The image on the monitor smiled. ‘My families fine thanks but as for the money, like I said before I’m here to give you some.’

‘Say again?’

Again like I said we’ve got this nice asteroid belt a ways from here that a few friends have been mining for a while and the thing is whenever you process some asteroids for the iron you’re often find some metal impurities in there too. They’ve been keeping it because it’s handy for electrical contacts and chemical catalysts but they’ve built up quite the surplus over the years.’

Jack Foreman knew his business. ‘You’ve got some platinum then?’ he replied. ‘I suppose you can’t exactly spend it too easily being wanted by the law so you want me to sell it on for you. No problem Steve I can just put it though with my usual shipments and give you proper coin in return, or Alliance Credits if you want.’ The mining company owner smiled at his old friend. Steve Hicks was a good man and he wasn’t one not to help an acquaintance, especially one with scars like that to prove they’d done their duty to the old cause.

The expression on Hicks face changed to a sly grin. ‘Well actually I’ve got a lot of Platinum to give you plus a shopping list. We were hoping you’d start up a couple of businesses for us and import some things we’ll be needing before long.’

‘Start up a couple of businesses?’ Foreman asked incredulously.

Yes. We were thinking a shipping company, an aerospace manufacturing concern and maybe expand your asteroid mining business a bit.’

‘Come again.’

On the monitor Steve winked. ‘The problem is that none of us can do it for obvious reasons and for most people to suddenly come into a huge amount of extra capital in a hurry would be suspicious and would draw a lot of attention’ he said, ‘On the other hand however you’re always hearing on the Cortex about some asteroid miner somewhere finding the mother-load and suddenly becoming ludicrously wealthy. Everyone will just think you found a big shiny rock and instead of retiring on it you’ve just decided to use the money to expand your business empire. No mystery, no suspicion, no investigation.’

Foreman looked confused. ‘But why do you want me to?’

Just making sure we start this time with better logistics’ Hicks replied. ‘We’ve got a detailed business plan for you plus the required shopping lists for things we’ll need stockpiled. A lot of things on the list are machine tools for setting up production lines when we’ll need them. Just making sure we’ve got the right infrastructure in place for the task at hand.’

‘What Task?’

Oh right I haven’t told you yet. We’re going to kick the lāshî out of the Alliance’ Hicks announced calmly. ‘By the way an Admiral van der Heijden says he’s reactivating your Naval Commission. He also says you can take your pay out of the platinum we give you.’

Foreman opened his mouth to reply but closed it again. There really wasn’t a damn thing he could immediately think of to say in reply.

Now you may be thinking I’ve gone a bit nuts out in the deep black but if you want to dock we can start loading the platinum bars and I can tell you the whole story in person’ Hicks said. ‘Welcome back to the military Commander Foreman.’

Foreman finally got his thoughts composed and blinked a few times. ‘You’re saying you want me to set up factories to make military hardware so you can restart the rutting war?’

Right.’

‘You are insane’ Foreman stated with certainty.

Hicks shook his head. ‘No I’m just privy to information you don’t have yet.’

‘You can’t set up an entire armaments industry with a few bars of Platinum anyway’ Jack countered.

Maybe but we’re not just talking a few.’ Hicks replied. ‘I’ve only got a down payment with me today but do you think a tonne and a half of them will do as seed money just to get the ball rolling?

* * *

Fort Obsidian – Beyond the Outer Rim – 2521AD

‘I thought we had already determined that these weapons are simply not a good military design Lieutenant Ryder’ Colonel Taylor said picking up one of the Laser Pistols and then throwing it contemptuously onto the table. ‘They run out of charge too damn quick and if you used one in combat everyone within a couple of klicks is going to see where the beam is coming from and drop a gorram mortar bomb in your lap. If you could get your enemy to bunch up nice and neat in a group they’d be great for scything them down but I’ve never been in a firefight where the enemy were that helpful.’

The engineer nodded. ‘It is true that these laser weapons are better suited to crowd control through intimidation, or else very short engagements but it’s not actually the weapon itself that we’ve found a use for it’s the power-packs.’

Taylor looked at the engineer. ‘The powerpacks?’ he asked. ‘Do you mean to say you’ve asked me down here to look at a battery?’

‘No Sir of course not’ Ryder replied quickly. ‘It’s more a case of realising a way to combine several items that have fallen into our hands into something I think will give our troops another edge, this time on the ground not in space.’

‘Is this going to be a long story?’ The Marine asked.

‘I’ll give you the annotated version Sir’ the engineer responded. ‘Well firstly as you know we’ve been gradually collecting these Laser Pistols during our periodic raids into Alliance Space.’

‘Yes and we gained several dozen more from the wreckage of that Cruiser too, what are you getting at?’

The engineer narrowed his eyes. ‘Please let me tell the whole thing Sir’ he said in a slightly annoyed tone.

Taylor sighed and waved for the Navy electronics monkey to continue.

‘Right so we’ve got a few of these things but for the most part like you said they’re inferior to our conventional arms in a practical sense for most purposes’ the Engineer said. ‘But then we got hold of that AI ship and that had a very much improved capacitor design on many of it’s weapon systems, a design we could both copy and indeed scale up, or more importantly down.’

‘Scale down?’ Taylor asked. ‘I heard we were planning on using them scaled up on our ships?’

The engineer nodded. ‘We are but that’s not what I was interested in’ he said. ‘In any case the third thing came from that Cruiser. We salvaged several miles of a very flexible and tough electrical superconductor that they’ve just started using for power transmission. It’s not really much better for a warship than what we already use but it’s just ideal for what I wanted.’

‘Still waiting for the punchline.’

The engineer reached under the table and held up an ugly collection of wires and pipes with a battery pack from one of the laser pistols fixed to it with electrical tape. ‘It’s a crude prototype but it works. I took it outside and tried it out. Unlike a laser scything away as you put it, it doesn’t waste charge on anything but the intended target and it doesn’t tell everyone in sight where the firings coming from. It’s even less noisy than a normal firearm because you just get the sonic boom not the propellant bang too.’

Taylor looked none the wiser.

The engineer rolled his eyes. ‘Think about it Sir. We’ve got a battery pack design that will store enough power to fire a continuous beam powerful enough to slice through a man at several hundred metres, capacitors than will store a ludicrous charge and we can make fairly small and a superconducting wire we can easily wrap around a thin tube…’

‘It’s a hand-held railgun’ Taylor said looking at the ugly thing. ‘It’s been done before.’

The engineer shook his head. ‘Only with a weapon that massed three times as much plus a battery you had to wear on your back. This thing weighs only a bit more than a standard rifle but it will blow a hole in the best body armour at practically any battlefield range. At maximum charge you’d likely break your shoulder with the recoil but you could hit someone on the horizon on a planet the size of Persephone. Part of the design is actually modelled on the far larger mass driver weapon we retrieved from the wreckage from one of the other AI’s, those machines are ridiculously beyond state-of-the-art’ he said.

Colonel stared at the thing. ‘How many shots can it fire from a full battery?’ He asked.

‘Depends on what velocity you want’ the engineer replied. ‘If you only want a muzzle velocity twice as much as that of a normal rifle you should get several hundred shots out of it. There’s a velocity selector, and that also of course effects rate of fire too. The higher the muzzle velocity the lower the number of times you can fire it per minute because you have to wait for the capacitors to charge. The best you can get is the equivalent of about two-hundred and forty rounds per minute which is very slow by machine gun standards I suppose, but it’s not meant to be a fire-support weapon.’

Only twice as much you say?’ Taylor said continuing to look at it. ‘Heck that would shred a Federal’s armour at most battlefield ranges I’ve ever had to face.’

‘Yes Sir’ the engineer agreed. ‘You can actually get considerably better than three thousand metres per second if you really want to dial her up but that will use up the battery much faster, and you’ll also be looking at a very long recharge time. It won’t do the shoulder of the person firing it any good, but it would easily go through the side of an Armoured Drop Ship or an APC at fairly long range though.’ The engineer paused. ‘Also if you used it that high in atmo the air friction will actually make the round glow in flight’ he continued with a slight smirk.

‘And when the battery runs out?’

The engineer shrugged. ‘In a finished design I’d just have the battery held like a normal rifles magazine just in front of the hand grip. When it’s used up eject the spent power cell and put in another, easy as that. The other ammunition clip holding the metal slugs would be right back here behind the grip as a bullpup rifle design allows for the rounds to be loaded at the rear of the weapon so they get as long a time in the magnetic field as possible to accelerate but it doesn’t need to be much longer overall than a standard assault rifle.’

‘Firing what kind of ammunition?’

‘I’d just go for steel slugs like the ones I tried already except I was just hand loading them one at a time’ the engineer replied. ‘They’re nice and hard and easily produced so…’ the engineer paused. ‘Hey that’s an idea, the batteries can be recharged easily enough off any power supply and if you had something with you to melt and cast slugs as well then in ammunition terms you’re far less dependent on logistical support. Heck build a battery charger feeding off the fusion reactor and something to melt and cast iron into every dropship, and maybe a few ground vehicles besides, and your infantry can produce their own replacement ammo in the field from scrap metal.’

Taylor looked at the thing again. ‘So it’ll blow a hole in body armour from a couple of miles away, it doesn’t have hardly any moving parts to go wrong, and you can make your own damn ammunition for it from the usual crap you find on a battlefield anyway? Okay now I’m officially impressed Lieutenant.’

The engineer looked damn pleased with himself and with good reason. ‘I was going to call it an MPRG or Man-Portable-Rail-Gun’ he said ‘but I thought “Gauss-Rifle” sounded better in the end.’

‘When can you have a practical combat ready version ready’ Taylor asked.

‘Actually I started building one yesterday so pretty soon’ the engineer replied smugly.

‘Absolutely out-rutting-standing’ Taylor told the engineer. ‘Now I’ve just got two things to do. First thing is convince the old man to divert some production away from that heat-superconductor they’re turning out on the factory ships.’

‘What’s the other thing Colonel’ Ryder the engineer asked.

‘Change the unofficial motto’ Taylor replied. ‘From now on it’s going to be “Every Marine a Gauss-Rifleman”’

* * *

Foreman Mining Company Offices – Toulouse – 2521 AD

The sales rep knocked on the door and Foreman called her inside. She was dressed much more expensively than Foreman himself wearing the latest attractively cut, though austere, business fashions from the Core and was carrying a briefcase. The mining Company owner told her to take a seat so they could get down to business.

‘Well Sir how can I be of assistance to you?’ the sales representative asked.

Foreman put his hands on the desk fingers meshed in a business like stance. ‘Well Mademoiselle’ he began. ‘As you may know I’ve recently been diversifying my business interests, investing in new sectors, and to be honest I find myself at something of an impasse in relation to obtaining certain import licenses and various pieces of plant and machinery.’

‘Indeed?’ the Sales rep asked. ‘I was under the impression that most import bans concerning Toulouse had either been lifted entirely or else replaced with reasonable tariffs.’

Foreman nodded. ‘That’s true for most things but my goal is to rebuild the planets high-technology sector, aerospace and the like, and it’s unfortunate that the military still see us as the enemy I’m afraid.’

The sales rep smiled. The military were often very short sighted and closed minded. The war was ten years ago after all, and she herself had been barely a teenager when it ended. Frankly the notion that an up and coming business enterprise such as this could be prevented from expanding just because of such ancient history was absurd. ‘That does appear to be a problem I’ve encountered elsewhere on the Rim’ she conceded.

‘I’ll get right down to the point. It is well known that your company has good relations in government circles and I’m hoping that those ties will make it possible to purchase items from yourself that we couldn’t obtain elsewhere.’

The company sales rep looked thoughtful, although for the most part her thoughts were directed more towards her sales commission than the problem. ‘Obtaining licenses like that could be expensive’ she said. ‘It would have to be a large purchase of our products to warrant the effort on our part.’

Foreman smiled. ‘Fortunately my liquid capital at the moment is almost as large as my ambition’ he joked. ‘I will be looking to buy several million credits worth of machinery initially plus considerably more over the first year.’

To her credit the sales rep did not do a happy dance then and there but maintained a professional pose and expression. ‘Well I’m sure given that kind of capital investment on your part we can certainly see fit to arrange the necessary permits. I have noticed in the local media that you are also buying up a number of old freighters.’

‘Yes I am’ Foreman replied. ‘As a long term goal I’m really hoping that the metal from Foreman Mining is turned into the manufactured goods from Foreman Industrial which is then shipped to market by Foreman Transportation.’

‘Quite the business empire you’re aiming for, perhaps we should be worried about the competition’ the sales rep joked. ‘I hope you will look favourably upon us for your long-term business needs?’

Foreman nodded. ‘If you can get me the plant and machinery I’m after I can say for certain you’ll always be the people I come to for more’ he said. ‘I’ll wave you a list of everything I’m after once I’ve got it ready. I’m sorry to ask you to leave so soon, I would normally offer you a drink and a tour but I’m afraid I’ve got another Sales Rep due in a few minutes on another matter and my time is rather short these days.’

The Sales Rep stood up. ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking but who is the other representative from, not a competitor I hope?’

Foreman smiled. ‘Not really. I’ve got a man coming from Callahan Munitions to discuss the purchase of some light weapons.’

‘So you really are re-arming for the war then?’ the Rep said grinning widely.

Foreman laughed. ‘No I’m just setting up a small private security company to guard my expanded holdings. I don’t think a few dozen handguns and stun-rods is going to be much of a threat to the Alliance.’

‘You’re probably right there’ the sales rep agreed. ‘However as regards the purchase I think you’ll find our armaments division might be able to meet your needs also.’

‘Really?’ Foreman asked. ‘I thought it mainly dealt with military sales not the kind of small scale civilian purchases I’m talking about.’

‘Given the situation I’m sure we could make an exception’ she replied. ‘Callahan may have the sterling reputation but all of our products are first class and competitively priced I assure you.’

‘Well then I’ll tell you what’ Foreman said. ‘I’ll find out the deal I can get from Callahan and if you can match it for price and quality I’ll be buying from you.’

The sales Rep continued to smile happily thinking of all the money she was going to make on this deal and held out her hand which Foreman took in his own and shook warmly.

‘I’ll talk to head office on Shinon and return tomorrow with any news Sir’ the Sales Representative told him before turning to leave. ‘And I can say for certain that your future dealings with my firm will be mutually beneficial.’

After she left the Mining Company owner finally couldn’t help himself any longer and he started laughing uncontrollably. They would certainly be dealing with the Blue Sun Corporation in the future but it sure as hell wasn’t going to be mutually beneficial.

Part VII

COMMENTS

Sunday, June 19, 2005 10:37 AM

NUTLUCK


I figured it was Blue Sun was who the rep worked for. Very nice story as always look foward to the next part.

Sunday, June 19, 2005 12:55 PM

AMDOBELL


Loved Mal surprising Monty most, can't wait for his *hellaciously good plan*. Shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 8:41 AM

SOULOFSERENITY


Monty!! Yay!!

Great continuation here! I love this story!

- Soul


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