Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part VIII)
Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Regiment begins to take form again and River makes a Death-List


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.

* * *

‘All the computer files in the ‘Verse are no match for good first hand knowledge of the other sides personnel and that’s what we got from Wilkins. Just because an officer has a shiny file doesn’t mean they’ve got talent at soldiering it just means they’ve got talent at brownnosing.’

Lieutenant-Colonel Helen Fushida - Cortex Interview - 2530AD

* * *

Fort Obsidian – Beyond the Outer Rim – 2521AD

‘We’re asking you to save lives’ van der Heijden declared. ‘You were the highest ranking Honest-to-God battlefield commander in the Alliance ground forces and not just some damn politician in uniform’ he went on. ‘You know who the other real officers were and I need to know that too.’

Book looked him in the eyes. ‘You’re asking me to help you write a death list’ he said coldly.

The Admiral sat back down on the single chair in Book’s cell and crossed his arms. ‘You know as well as I do that troops without proper leadership are far more likely to collapse under pressure’ he said. ‘If I can break their morale I won’t need to break their bodies and a list of the more dangerous senior officers to remove from the game on day one will heavily increase the number of garrisons who will surrender or bolt. I’d rather do that than have it require more drastic efforts to get rid of them’ he continued. ‘If I know who the political appointees are and who the genuine combat soldiers are I can decapitate the units that most need it and leave the incompetents where they are to make the wrong choices.’

‘You want me to betray my principles’ Book stated.

‘I was under the impression your loyalty to the Alliance had waned over the last few years’ van der Heijden responded. ‘Or is it your religious faith, not an unwillingness to commit treason perhaps?’ he asked.

‘I know many of the people concerned and I am still loyal to the men who were under my command if not the men who commanded me’ Book replied. ‘It’s the treason against my men that’s the issue not treason against the Government.’

The Admiral rubbed his temples, this had been going on a while and he was starting to get a headache. ‘And how many of the junior ranks lives are worth one Colonel or one Brigadier?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘I’ve got a bio on every senior military commander across the rim but I can’t take them all out, maybe just a few dozen but if I take out the right ones then I might take some worlds with barely a fight and losses on the others will be lighter on both sides.’

‘If you choose to assassinate people it’s not my fault but if I tell you the best people to assassinate then I am being complicit in their demise’ Book replied. ‘That is simply not a line I am willing to cross.’

‘Well not voluntarily it seems’ van der Hiejden replied standing up and making to leave Book’s cell.

‘Torture and interrogation Admiral?’ Book asked with a surprisingly calm demeanour. ‘You’ll find me a tough nut to crack I assure you.’

‘Very easy actually’ a voice interrupted from the doorway. ‘I’m sorry Preacher-Man but the Admiral is right this will save lives’ River said.

Book scowled. ‘So you’re going to read my mind?’

‘Already have been’ River said holding up a pen and notebook. ‘Names kept popping into your head throughout the conversation’ she said. ‘They still are now you just can’t help yourself’ she said adding more names to the list.

‘I’ll never forgive you for this River’ Book told her angrily. ‘You always said you’d respect our privacy.’

River looked at him. ‘That minor betrayal rests easier on my conscience than the additional deaths caused if I hadn’t done it’ she replied sadly.

The Preacher stood up from where he had been sitting on his bunk and pointed accusingly. ‘You’ve used me just like they tried to use you’ Book told her forcefully.

River cast her eyes to the floor unable to meet his gaze. ‘We’re all both users and used to some extent’ she replied. ‘As for what I’m doing now it’s the lesser of two evils.’

‘That moral high-ground is built on shaky foundations’ Book told her. ‘Be careful you don’t undermine it any more because it’s an easy fall into the pit’ he said. ‘I know I’ve been there.’

Admiral van der Heijden put his hand on Rivers shoulder. ‘It’s the right thing’ he told her. ‘Forget about it and move on’

River looked from the former General to the Admiral. ‘I may have done this for you because you are right but there is still an ethical line I won’t cross and I won’t let you cross it either’ she told him.

Van der Heijden looked at her quizzically. ‘So where’s the line?’ he asked.

River looked into his eyes, and beyond to his soul. ‘When you’re near it I’ll warn you’ she told him. ‘And if you still go ahead and cross it I’ll kill you… Sir’ she added as an afterthought.

* * *

Commerce Raider – Three Days Hard Burn out of Persephone – 2521AD

‘What happened to your hand?’ Mal asked immediately noticing that the fingers on his friends hand were bound together.

Stepping through the airlock from his own ship onto the Commerce Raider, an Alliance Patrol Boat under new management, Monty threw Mal a look that demanded an apology. ‘You told me she was small’ he said. ‘You could have mentioned fiery and part Reaver into the bargain.’

Mal winced. ‘You’re kidding?’

‘All I did was walk up to her and put her hand on her shoulder’ Monty explained. ‘She grabbed my fingers twisted them and then spun and tried to turn me soprano’ he explained. ‘All I could do was grab her in a bear hug until she listened long enough to explain… she bit my rutting arm too, drew blood.’

‘You might have been better off just saying hello instead of grabbing hold of me’ a female voice declared from behind Monty. ‘I’ve been attacked before’ she explained.

Monty grimaced. ‘Apparently I got off lightly’ he said. ‘The last guy that jumped her got an eye gouged out.’

‘Nice to hear you still know the nastier aspects of hand-to-hand combat but taking bites out of Infantrymen is extremely unsanitary’ another person who Monty had never met before observed. ‘You could catch something nasty.’

‘Took me days to get the taste out of my mouth too’ the woman agreed. Stepping around Monty who looked at least three times her size and smiling at the newcomer before snapping to attention. ‘Lieutenant Claire Hart reporting for duty Sir’ she announced and fired off a salute.

Monty watched the stranger return the salute then grin as the woman grabbed him and gave him a huge hug. ‘Not in front of the PBI’s’ he chastised.

Both of the Poor Bloody Infantry sighed, just what he needed Mal thought another damn chûnrén from the Cavalry lowering the tone of the place. Worse another damn Officer too he thought sadly.

‘Monty meet Steve Hicks’ Mal announced. ‘Steve this is Monty.’

Steven broke free from Claire’s hugs and grabbed Monty’s remaining intact hand which he pumped up and down. ‘Thanks for fetching her’ he said.

‘Once I explained and she took her teeth back out of me it wasn’t hard to get her to come along’ Monty replied. ‘I still wish someone had told me to watch out for life and limb though.’

‘You should see her in action commanding a Tank platoon’ Steve told the huge Browncoat Infantryman. ‘They should ban women from combat they’re just too vicious for it’ he joked before turning back to her. ‘So you up for a little more Rollercide?’ he asked.

Claire nodded. ‘Just find me a railgun and we’ll be knee-deep in scrap metal before you can say “Or Glory”’ she replied. ‘How are Jennifer and the children?’

‘Doing fine’ Steve told her happily. ‘Far out of harms way and Claire-Marie sends you a kiss.’

‘Hearth and home not threatened then?’ she asked grinning.

‘Not so much but I am looking forward to getting my old ones on Toulouse back.’

Claire’s face changed to a serious one. ‘You should have called when you ran into trouble’ she told her former C/O. ‘One word and what’s left of the Squadron would have been there for you Sir.’

‘Didn’t want to get you involved, it was my problem’ Steve explained then paused. ‘Well technically it was his problem’ he continued nodding towards Mal ‘I just got caught up in it’ he said. ‘Thinking of which I’ve been very remiss’ he continued. ‘Claire Hart this is Malcolm Reynolds.’

The two shook hands. ‘I recognised your face from the wanted posters’ Claire told him.

‘I recognised you easily enough from the description I got from Steve’ Mal replied. ‘I’ve got to ask though did you really flash a bunch of Ally Infantry on New Yemen?’

Claire flinched. ‘Do you have to tell everyone that story?’ she asked Steve. ‘I was barely nineteen and stupid for Gods sake.’

‘It’s funny’ Steve replied defensively.

Claire snorted. ‘I bet you don’t tell people the story of the shrapnel in your leg’ she retorted. ‘Now that’s funny.’

‘Don’t you dare’ Steve told her.

Mal looked on intrigued ‘Dare away’ he told her.

The former cavalrywoman turned to Mal and Monty. ‘We were setting up camp during the last days of the fighting on New Yemen. He was just a lieutenant and trying to impress the Colonel at the time and when intermittent shelling started to fall instead of diving for cover like the rest of us he kept right on working’ she explained. ‘Not only that but he actually walked over to a bunch of new recruits hiding in a trench and told them the chances of being hit were next to nothing. He looked damn inspirational standing there ignoring the explosions’ she continued. ‘Well he did right up until a chunk of red-hot shrapnel smacked into his leg and he fell into the trench right on top of the rookies screaming.’

Steve buried his head in his hands. ‘Not my finest hour’ he said over peals of laughter from the Infantrymen.

‘He always was a bullet magnet’ Claire announced.

‘Still is’ Mal told her. ‘Check his left hand.’

Claire looked at it. ‘You know I’d swear you used to have another one of those’ she said indicating Steve’s fingers.

‘It got shot off in a fire-fight on Macau’ Steve told her. ‘I’ve got another hole in my arm and one in my gut since we met the last time too’ Steve told her.

Claire frowned. ‘You always needed looking after’ she said. ‘So what next?’

Steve crossed his arms. ‘I think it’s high time we pulled Sean out of retirement.’

‘Last I heard the Major was back on Hera’ Claire replied. ‘He’s got a girl there now.’

Steve smirked. ‘He had a girlfriend on every moon we visited, well his love-life will have to wait he’s got a Regiment to rebuild.’

* * *

Fort Obsidian – Beyond the Outer Rim – 2521AD

‘It looks like a coffee tin stuck on top of a short tube’ Admiral van der Heijden observed. ‘I hope I’m not out here freezing my balls off for nothing’ he said looking around the firing range just outside the Dome. He never liked going out here much preferring a full EVA suit in space to the nasty little mask pulled tight over his face.

‘I thought you might to watch this Sir’ Colonel Taylor explained. ‘It was actually a suggestion from Miss Frye as it happens.’

‘We had a lot of success with coffee tins on Serenity’ Kaylee told the Admiral. ‘And I thought of a new way to use them.’

‘If I may Sir’ Taylor asked holding his hand out to take back the metal cylinder. ‘You see what you do is slide the tube over the end of a Gaussrifle like this’ he said doing so ‘then you just point and shoot.’

Taylor aimed the rifle at a slight angle and pulled the trigger. ‘On the Way’ he hollered as the Gaussrifle fired and the steel slug slammed into a lump of dense clay at the base of the coffee tin sending it hurtling off into the distance. A good distance down-range it slammed into a large steel plate and exploded loudly blowing a large ragged hole in the metal.

‘You see Sir all you need is to fill the tin with plastique and you’ve got a light anti-armour weapon’ Taylor told him.

‘HESH’ Kaylee told him. ‘High Explosive Squash Head’ she explained. ‘The Plastic Explosive filled tin goes splat on target and blows a big hole in it’ she continued. ‘We used the same design on some of the projectiles for the Recoilless Cannon Steve Hicks made except we're using a much more pliable kinda gooey explosive mix here because the impact velocity isn't as high, we also weaken the tin with scratches so it comes apart easy. We’ve got more conventional rounds too though.'

‘I looked up the history and Rifle-Grenades similar to this were used centuries back but they went out of fashion because when armies gave up large calibre rounds’ Taylor told the Admiral. ‘Smaller bullets lacked the momentum to really push the grenade a useful distance and in any case the huge back pressure from the propellant gases when you fired was always bad for the rifle’ he explained. ‘But with the GR-21 there aren’t any propellant gases and you can dial the velocity up high enough to throw the projectile a long way.’

‘How far?’ the Admiral asked.

Taylor shrugged. ‘If you put the Gaussrifle on setting four, resting the butt on the gun on the ground, you can fire the thing like a gorram mortar and hurl a charge well over a kilometre’ he replied. ‘The range depends on the setting really. It’s not very accurate at more than a couple of hundred metres though.’

‘Still a lot further than you could throw a grenade’ the Admiral observed.

Taylor nodded. ‘Yes Sir and if every Gaussrifleman carries a couple of these in his pack he becomes a decent threat to light armour without having to carry another weapon like a rocket-launcher. We’re working on shape-charged warheads for better penetration but the HESH would be a serious threat to the type of APC the Alliance is currently deploying.’

Van der Heijden looked at another of the grenades. ‘Isn’t there a risk of premature detonation on firing? I can’t say I’m thrilled at our boys firing point blank into explosives.’

‘The plastic-explosive is stable with a lot more shock and acceleration than this and we’ve come up with a fusing device that seems safe enough’ Taylor replied. ‘We’ve certainly had no problems with it during testing. Like the rest of the grenade itself it’s a very simple design though and our engineers believe that even simple low-tech workshops will be able to mass-produce these very quickly.’

The Admiral turned to Kaylee. ‘I thought you were a confirmed civilian Miss Frye’ he said. ‘I’m surprised it would be you that would come up with this idea.’

‘Like I said before I’ve seen HESH in action before, we used them against Reavers and slavers, and the principle is just Newtonian mechanics’ Kaylee replied. ‘As for the military thing I don’t want to hurt anyone but I don’t want our people to get hurt either.’

‘Better them than us?’ the Admiral asked.

‘Better no-one’ Kaylee replied truthfully. ‘But given the limited choice I’ll take them.’

* * *

Boise Residence –Wilkes Moon – 2521AD

Jake Boise unlocked the door and yanked it open. Whoever was pounding on his front door at five in the morning had better have a damn good excuse or he was going to stick a wrench up their ass.

‘Good morning Jake’ a smiling face at the door greeted him. ‘Sorry to wake you up so early but my body-clock is still on Hera time I was just there.’

Boise blinked a few times to clear the sleep from his eyes. ‘Sean Thomas?’ he asked. ‘What the hell do you want? It’s the crack of rutting dawn.’

‘Yes well I already apologised about that but I thought it would be rude not to say good morning. We’ve already been working nearly an hour and dawn was a while ago.’

‘What the hell are you talking about?’

The visitor took a step aside to reveal a number of people scrambling over the decommissioned and grounded Excalibur Hover-Tank that was supplying the town’s electricity, not to say its main tourist attraction to visiting veterans. ‘We had a few of the original blueprints but the engineers said they really needed to get to see one in the flesh’.

Boise looked from the mob to the man standing in front of him. ‘What the gorram hell is going on?’ he demanded to know wishing he was holding a cup of coffee or even better wishing he was still in bed. The street was deserted as well it might be at this time of day although it wouldn’t be too long until people started waking up to see what on the moon was going on.

‘Just taking a look we won’t be doing anything to it honest. And by the way my name isn’t Thomas, he was my C/O in the war, sorry that I gave you a false name last time I was here but we were trying to stay under Alliance radar. My names really Steven’ he said. ‘Steven Hicks. Actually the real Sean Thomas is right over there’ he said indicating a man wearing a grey jumpsuit who was looking underneath the Excalibur.

Jake Boise woke up completely with a start. ‘Steve Hicks? You’re a wanted man’ he said. ‘Running with a load of outlaws I heard.’

Steve smiled. ‘Alliance propaganda and anyway our running days are coming to an end pretty soon, our chasing days are right around the corner.’ he said. ‘Fact is we ran into some people with a bit of a grudge against the Alliance and the resources to get some payback.’

Boise looked more than a bit confused. ‘Payback against the Alliance?’ he asked. ‘What kind?’

‘The serious kind’ Steve replied. ‘The kind that needs things like that’ he explained turning to point at the grounded Excalibur Hovertank.

Jake Boise wondered if he was dreaming for a second but the chill wind blowing through the open doorway still felt pretty real and his dreams usually didn’t feature folks holding tape-measures against bits of his tank. ‘Is there any chance you could just tell me flat out what you’re talking about?’ he asked eventually.

‘We’re restarting the war and this time we’re going to win it’ Steve told him his smile turning into a cheesy grin that looked very incongruous on his scarred face. ‘I told the people in charge that a few Hover-Tanks could give us a very nice edge and they agreed. All we needed was to get hold of an example for the grease-monkeys to look at and you’ve got the only one that’s readily available.’

Jake Boise fixed the obviously insane former Cavalryman with a stare. ‘You’re going to restart the war?’ he asked very slowly.

Hicks nodded. ‘Yes’ he answered succinctly.

‘This is a joke right?’ Boise asked.

‘Not at all’ Steve answered wiping the grin off his face. ‘I’m deadly serious.’

‘You’ll all be killed.’

Steve Hicks shook his head. ‘We’ve been putting a lot of work into this for quite a while’ he replied. ‘You’d be surprised.’

Jake Boise formally of the 6th Independent Dragoons looked into the other mans eyes for a sign of sincerity, insanity or deception. ‘Care to tell me about it over a cup of coffee because if you’re convincing I’ve got something for you’ he said eventually.

‘Got another two cups free because you might like to talk to a couple of my friends’ he said turning around. ‘Hey Sean, Claire, a Dragoons going to make us coffee.’

* * *

Foreman Industries Factory Complex – Toulouse – 2521 AD

Jack Foreman walked along the production line. Things were going nicely, the new plant and machinery was all up and running churning out parts not only for his newly acquired fleet of transport ships but also a large number of machine tools ready to set up other production lines when the time came. His new employees nodded and smiled as he walked past. His hiring policies had put a lot of unemployed veterans, widows and war orphans back into work and his standing in the community was very high. The Alliance Governor had invited him to the New Years Party in three weeks time and he was already the subject of intense local media scrutiny as regarding which society female he was going to escort as the up and coming rich industrialist on the planet.

The latest shipment of electrical superconductor from the Core had arrived yesterday and a large percentage was already being cut into strips for shipment off-world. Mass-Drivers were in common use in Asteroid mining so the fact he was buying so much of it wasn’t going to arouse suspicion, the difference was of course he wasn’t buying it to move mined ore cheaply from asteroids to orbital factories.

It was a good thing he didn’t have an accountant because the poor bastard would have been pulling his hair out when he calculated how much more Foreman Industries was spending each day than making in sales. There was a gradually increasing income from the Gravity Engine manufacturing plant next door and some more from his Transport business but they paled next to how much capital expenditure he was making.

The loan from Blue-Sun Venture-Capital Division had been handy though he thought smiling inwardly. They probably thought they were actually screwing him based on the terms of the loan and the interest it would entail long-term but the only thing they were every likely to get back from their investment was the ordinance it paid for to produce.

‘Excuse me Mr Foreman’ a voice from behind interrupted his train of thought.

‘What is it Jonas?’ Jack replied to his head of security.

‘I thought you might like to hear this straight away Sir’ Jonas said. ‘We’ve won the contract Sir I’ve already started to advertise for more staff for our Security Team.

Jack Foreman really did smile now. ‘That’s excellent news. Tell your people I’m very happy with the way they negotiated the bid and showed the customer how professional an operation Foreman Security is now we’re expanding beyond guarding our own facilities.’

The Chief of Security nodded and smiled before turning away to return to his own office elsewhere in the complex. He had been an Officer with the Toulouse Colonial Legion during the war and ran the Security Company like he’d once run an Infantry Company. That was exactly why Jack had hired him.

Jack Foreman considered the implications of winning the new contract. It was likely he had only done so because of his well-known recent links with Blue-Sun and his standing with the Governor. Well it was certainly a bonus and would likely lead to yet more contracts once word spread.

Damn handy that the people in charge of guarding the Spaceport were going to be his men too. That could make things a bit easier when the time came.

* * *

Keenan District –Wilkes Moon – 2521AD

‘Are you sure that those cables can take the strain?’ Sean Thomas asked. ‘Those things aren’t exactly lightweight you know.’

The closest engineer looked at the Cavalryman. ‘Sir that’s woven monomolecular fibre cable it really won’t be a problem.’

They were all standing watching the ship slowly rise higher into the air. The backwash from the thrusters causing waves to ripple across the surface.

‘And there I was thinking the last one was resting on blocks in the middle of the street with its guts ripped out’ Steve said with his arm around the man stood next to him. ‘You’re a sneaky little Dragoon bastard aren’t you?’

Boise nodded in agreement. ‘Wasn’t too hard’ he said. ‘Alliance knew we had a few here for training so we let them blow a few of them up except for the one I set up to power the town which they said we could keep.’

As the ship gained altitude a shape started to emerge from the water covered in weeds.

‘Will it still run?’ Claire asked.

‘We sealed it up tight with plastic’ Boise replied. ‘Heck the thing was airtight anyway to keep out NBC weapons and the laminate won’t get rusty. You might need to strip her down to check though it has been in there a while.’

‘There’s one thing that’s bugging me’ Sean declared.

‘Yes?’ Boise replied.

‘How in the ‘Verse could anyone looking for Excalibur after the final battle not think to check the bottom of the nearest fucking lake?’ the Cavalryman asked as the fully armed and operational hover-tank was lifted from the waters dangling underneath the rising spaceship.

Part IX


Monday, June 27, 2005 8:29 AM


This is gonna be one hell of a War! Come on you Browncoats! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 5:40 AM


love the story hotpoint, i actually added one of Mal's quotes to the quote file i've been compling for on 8 years now.

diologe, action, plot, awesome dude.

Charlie-Mike Hotpoint, continue mission!

Sunday, November 6, 2005 10:20 AM


To everyone following this story:

I managed to track down Hotpoint after a bit of googling and mailing back and forth and he promised that the story is not dead, only on hold. He says he should be continuing the story before the end of the year, maybe even in the next couple of weeks :-)

Sunday, January 15, 2006 6:08 AM


Lovely stuff, and I'm truly saddened that it hasn't been updated in so long. I just read the entire series, and my, you certainly have produced a lot of good material!


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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