A Point of Honor 19

A Point of Honor
Chapter 19 Draft (11-07-09)

After a mostly sleepless night Don Tomas de La Torrance could not refrain the next morning from going to Triocat Government House and try to see if he could find out anything that wasn’t on the airwaves. The trip would help his nerves as well as his wife’s. He expected any other reaction than what which he received.

The Sergeant guarding the door held his lowly rank only because he was a Reservist with no greater military ambition, he was not however politically ignorant. Had he not had the political savvy to recognize and know that the man approaching was near certain to be the first Planetary President; his name on the VIP list would have removed any doubts about de La Torrance’s importance. He simply opened the door and gave the man directions to the Command Center.

Following the directions down the elevator and the turns in the corridor he finally approached a heavily guarded door with a Triocat Major looking as if he expected him.

“Good to see you Don Tomas, I am afraid I cannot get you in touch with your Son. In the chaos last night he reverted to Ryman service and is commanding a Recon Platoon somewhere in the field.”

“From his tone when we last spoke Major, I assumed that it was a when not an if situation! Still he is been fighting for Triocat no matter the uniform he wears.”

Don Tomas was quickly signed-in and given a badge marked “No Escort Required” and ushered into the cavernous room. He stopped stunned, he knew for a fact that 14 hours earlier no such room had existed on Triocat. Three walls were covered with 3-D projection surfaces and the room was filled with rows of Command and Control Communications (C3) stations.

The screens showed the locations of every military unit on and around Triocat, Allied and Calp. They showed definite orbital actions as Ryman ships were in motion and red dots were disappearing on a regular basis, it was obvious they were removing the Calp ability to interfere in the ground battle from space. Moving forward he stopped as soon as he could understand the conversation going on between the four Ryman officers standing in front of the main screen.

“As you can see No-Neck, your people will have the orbitals cleaned out by 1300 and the artillery will be in place by 1200. Then it’s get everyone some rest until around 2200 when the main party starts.”

“You are sure of your plan to get those two hard points covering the Roncevaux Pass; their defenses are such that we can’t hit them from orbit. The Calps spent money fortifying the place like they did nowhere else on this planet.”

“They are still vulnerable like everywhere else to a flat trajectory artillery strike, their defenses are counter-battery—good—but our first shot is not going to miss. Recon is going to put two Multi-Wavelength Laser Designators on those sites. First shot on each will be 175 MM HEAT rounds, with two follow ups each. Then Alpha First goes for the pass with everything they have.”

“So the first shot is really two MLD’s. Who is pulling the trigger on those and how confident are you they can actually get there?”

“Bam-Bam and Pool Ball Sir, if they can’t make it we may as well head home right now!”

“Damn straight, I am going to boost back for orbit. You have it here Flinger!” With that the large bulky figure turned and left the room.

The elderly de La Torrance moved along to watch a young looking Ryman Major seated and operating one of the consoles on the end of a row in the room’s center, “If I may disturb you Sir. I understand your callsign system but, can not place the callsigns Pool Ball and Bam-Bam; could you put some names to those for me?”

“Certainly Don de La Torrance. Pool Ball is 2LT Francisco D’Larenta and Bam-Bam is 2LT Diego de La Torrance Sir, both are Triocat graduates of the Ryman Academy.” The Majors faced suddenly blanched as the last names finally registered.

He was relieved when the don Tomas smiled and asked, “Is there any possibility that you might know how my son got that callsign, I mean Bam-Bam?”

“Actually I was serving as an Instructor at the Academy when he got it. It was from a phrase he was constantly using ‘Don’t Force it Get a Bigger Hammer’. It seemed to carry over as he will never call for mortars when he can get 105’s and certainly not if he can get a MLRS stonk” He watched as the older Triocat did his best to suppress an out and out laugh.

“Oh my God Major, he picked up that phrase from me! What did I do to the poor boy?”

“Hell Sir, Bam-Bam ain’t such a bad callsign for a Recon Leader!”

“May I bug you with one more question? I have heard that term stonk several times, what exactly does that mean?”

“It’s an old Artillery term, means one shot from every tube, open sheaf, air burst! It is a kill everything in sight command!”

1955 1st PLT Bravo Company 1st Battalion Alpha First Ryman Strike, Roncevaux Pass, Triocat. — The Platoon had finally finished shedding the heat they had accumulated during the climb up to the left flank of Roncevaux, encased in thermal stealth suits there had been no place for it to go but into the internal holding tank until they had hit this obscured ledge. The larger men and those carrying the most weight had almost maxed out the heat sink. Now with the excess heat radiated, lighter by one power cell used to cool the sink back down again, and re-hydrated they were ready to go.

“Pool Ball Bam-Bam, status?”
“Bam-Bam Pool Ball, 4:49 go!”

2LT de La Torrance unslung the bulky MLD and watched the clock in his heads-up display till with ten seconds to go he nodded at his Platoon Sergeant and the support team went on ready. At five seconds de La Torrance surged up over the lip of the ridge and rapidly put the glowing pip showing in the center of his screen on the center of mass of the huge structure while his support team scanned the near area for any threat to their prime mission.

The huge 175 MM HEAT round was already in the air from 18 miles away, quite close as these things go, with its seeker head looking for the designator. As their heads-up clocks hit zero the entire group opened their mouths as one and began a low grade moan as the shock wave following momentarily from the shell hit rolled over them, it saved their ears.

Like a rock the LT held that MLD on the largest remaining portion of the structure as the second round rolled in, then the third made the rubble bounce.

As de La Torrance led the Platoon up onto the plateau he heard his Sergeant calling for the support train and he was on the horn. “Snake Bam-Bam, flat.” In his ears came “Snake Pool Ball, flat.” Alliance Forces held the Roncevaux for this first time since Diego had been 10 years old and had once hiked these mountains with his Father.

Overhead the streaks of MLRS rockets covered the skies as the Batteries of three Regiments hammered the area of the Pass and the plains beyond it. Drifting up from the Triocat side of the Pass came the whining sounds of the Armored vehicles of Alpha First surging over the Pass with the deeper sound of the Triocat 1st and 2nd behind them. At 2210, precisely twenty-four hours to the second after they had landed Alpha First was rolling up the front line.

1630 Day Two deep in the Andalusian Plain Alpha Company 2nd Battalion Alpha First Ryman Strike. — They had driven hard all night and into the day as the shuttles and aircraft roared overhead carrying Alpha Second to Tears-of-Mohamed. The terrain and the villages were starting to meld into one continuous mosaic, as well as the actions. Roll up to the edge of the town or village, shoot the hell out of the local military compound and chase the few stragglers. Set up and wait for the Medical and Military Police units from Triocat to roll in. Load up and run 10 miles or so and do it again.

Little did they know that they were leaving two legends behind them! The first they would have tried for, The Black Djins was something Ryman forces would love, the black suits that appeared from nowhere and brought sudden death. The second, The Angels in Black was simply an outgrowth of what they were. They could no more leave a starving child unfed or a wounded civilian behind than they could cease to breath. Between the cutting edge of the Ryman Strike and the calm voices of the Triocat forces who followed them and cared for the people, they were winning a world one person at a time!

2145 Day Two east of Tears-of-Mohamed HQ Detachment, HQ Company Alpha Second Ryman Strike. — The Regimental lift was finished and they were ready to start of Day Three with a bang, Alpha Second waited only for the voice of Thumper Thompson to kick the living shit out of the 1037 Calp Battalion. “All Hands Thumper, Charge!”

The M-3 Light Tanks and M-5 Infantry Fighting Vehicles revved up and stormed towards the top of the gentle ridge that separated them from Tears-of-Mohamed, as the sky above them was streaked with a triple stonk from the Regimental MLRS and Artillery of 175 and 105 tubes. As they topped the ridge and tipped into the river valley the barrage was landing, the troop areas got the MLRS and ‘Steel Rain’ once again became a curse phrase for the Calps as the arty slammed the hard points and ammo storage facilities. Down into the carnage charged the lead two Battalions of Alpha Second whose detail was to clear the outer walls. Three, Four and Five Battalions drove straight into the city hoping to overwhelm the troops there with shock and personal firepower.

As this went on the sky above them was filled again by shuttles and aircraft as the force sent forward Alpha Third towards Al-Jharamid, Second had to take this place with what they had.

Inside the town became a living hell, not fortified in the least it was still an urban setting and those became messy at best. Here again a legend was born the 10MM smile! Like every unit of Ryman Strike, Alpha Second carried a pistol based on the ancient 1911 Pattern but unlike the rest they had come to carry a 10MM vice the .45ACP the rest of the force carried. It had become the subtlest of elite force signatures, one they could use to separate themselves from the rest and almost a joke; here the joke became deadly serious.

The almost ritual response for a Calp “Mullah” when cornered was to grab a child as a human shield, the Seconds response was one 10MM Jacketed Hollow Point square between the eyes. The shot ripped through the skull, brain and medulla oblongata leaving not a single reflex to pull a trigger.

The child was most often comforted by the driver of the vehicle left to cover the area, almost always a young female. Rymans did not deny someone with the guts to fight the chance to do so; they just put them in jobs where their skills were best matched. Seeing this hang behind Calp troops tried to annihilate the drivers. That tactic only generated even more 10MM smiles; you don’t have to be a hulking Line Troop to know how to shoot. This only reinforced the legend of The Black Djins.

Slowly room by room, house by house the Second forced their way through Tears-of-Mohamed. It was not without loss as their Medical support was almost strained beyond belief and the number of dead pushed the outer limits of their projections. Follow-on Triocat forces were appalled at the fact that the Rymans would not wait for assistance, instead doggedly pushed forward the attack. Even they were taking casualties from stay behinds and wounded Calps as the fighting drug through the day into the following night!

Finally at 2245 Day Four came the message a world was waiting for. “No Neck Thumper, Objective Secure!” Flinger Davis turned to the ground staff at government House and calmly stated, “Now it’s up to Dumbass and he has the tough nut!”

Don Tomas as tired as anyone in the room turned to the Ryman Major he had been using to understand what was going on. They both had gotten very little sleep, there where areas set up with cots for anyone to use but, they were getting very little use. “How may I ask did a Major General, a Regimental Commander get a callsign like Dumbass?”

“Well, it goes back to his sophomore year at the Command Academy. He was a squad leader during the end of year exercise, which ain’t bad for a Softie. But he goofed up on a movement, not enough to get a black mark but, enough to get pulled over to a relaxed rules admin radio channel and a butt chewing. When said counseling session was over he turned back to his squad not knowing that his microphone was stuck open. First thing he said was ‘gotta be a Redneck Dumbass’; his problem was that Redneck was a callsign already in use!” This time Don Tomas really did fall into and almost out of his chair as the laughing fit consumed him.

HQ DET, HQ Company Alpha Third, Ryman Strike East of Al-Jharamid 2130 Day Four. — Geoff Dumbass Henderson sat in a draw watching the squirt messages come in from Government House. The Andalusian Plain had been secured and mixed groups of Ryman Alpha First, Alpha Second along with Triocat forces were mopping up the intra-mountain valleys. The G-4’s had limped back to their refueling convergence with the Lying Bastard, only one thing remained. Take Al-Jharamid and the last remaining Space capable transmitter station.

The problem was that it lay within the 7 x 7 city blocks of fortified urban structure that the locals called The Citadel. That had caused some serious last minute changes to the Allied battle plan. The Calp 2161 Battalion had been reinforced to such an extent that it more resembled a small Brigade. If major portions of that force holed up in their Citadel, it was going to take the entire Regiment to root them out.

So on the fly plans had changed, as soon as 1st and 2nd Battalions has finished clearing the outlying training areas and establishments they would be relieved by two Battalions of Triocats so that all six Battalions of Alpha Third could assault The Citadel. Geoff had just received the names of the Battalion Commanders coming in to relieve 1st and 2nd, Brevet Majors D’Larenta and de La Torrance; Triocat was growing its own hero’s it seemed.

There was no chance of Strategic surprise here, so Geoff was going to try for Tactical surprise. Every operation in this offensive had started right at 2200, so he was going to wait until 0100 hoping that the Calp 2161 had been up on alert the whole time. Right now at 2000 most of his own troops were either asleep or trying to sleep. The Third was unique in Strike Alpha, it was comprised of immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants who had fled worlds the Calps dominated. He commanded an arm of Alpha that would never back down.

Thus the Triocats landed at 0045 and were staging up. At precisely 0100 the MLRS Company opened up, this time it was not ‘Steel Rain‘. Ryman had taken another page from the old Earths forces, Thermobaric rounds. Perfectly good emplacements designed to protect from shrapnel were no good against the overpressure and Oxygen robbing effects of those rounds. 1st and 2nd Battalions swept through the outlying positions as 3rd through 6th cleared the areas of town outside The Citadel.

Not that any of that was easy, 2161 was a veteran outfit and they did not go down easy. It took until 1330 to clear the outer perimeter and the troops were panting. One thing they had done, they had added the .45 ACP Smile to the vocabulary. Their answer to the hostage situation had been pretty much the same as Alpha Second. As much as he hated it Dumbass called a pause as the Triocats took over from his outlying battalions and they could move to the perimeter of The Citadel.

At 1600 Geoff was crouched outside one of the entrances to The Citadel, he turned to his aide; “Get me a M-45 Breaching Set up here.”

“Right Sir, M-45 Breaching Team coming up.”
“Wrong Son, I want an M-45 only; not a team.”

Five minutes later Geoff was laying down an M-45 Breaching System. Based on the old Earth Metal Storm system it held 15 40MM charges in one tube which would expend in one trigger pull. He stared at it for several long moments; his entire career had come down to the next few moments. Placing his comm device on record he composed his orders, “Bam-Bam Dumbass! Hold this place and do not allow any of your Triocats to enter The Citadel, target recognition is going to be tough as it is. All Battalion Commanders, try for as few civilian casualties as possible but, troop safety comes first! Move out at my first action.”

Resetting the comm device it was then, “All Hands Dumbass, on the zip!” He then sat with his back against the wall for about ten minutes thinking what the Hell was a Major General doing leading this charge anyway. The attitude of the Ryman Force, no matter what it had been called at the time, went all the way back to a legendary statue back on Earth. It was a simple statue of your timeless grunt with a weapon in one hand and the other waving. The inscription at its base was a simple “Follow Me”. From the very first that had been the Ryman way and he believed it to his bones.

“All Hands Dumbass, Fix Bayonets!” With that he picked up the M-45 and aimed at the gate structure in front of him. One of the first to train on this system, he held the hell-storm right on target and the gate and supporting wall structure disappeared as the entire Regiment stormed forward through 25 entry points, the real fight for Al-Jharamid was on!

Unlike Tears-of-Allah, the center of this town had been built for defense and inside it got ugly fast. Firetraps were built in, every door was a potential booby trap, every room could be a strong point, every strong point could have hostages and every hostage could be a fake. The soldiers defending this maze were some of the best and most fanatical the Caliphate could produce with the best small arms their money could buy. Facing them was a force primarily composed of the descendants of people who had been displaced from their chosen worlds by the same type of troops; Alpha Third was in no mood to be stopped.

The Ryman troops pressed their advantage in firepower ruthlessly; they cared not about physical damage to the structures. Shoulder fired rockets were sent into every potential firetrap, major obstacles got an M-45 barrage and flash-bang grenades were replaced by fragmentation grenades. The common vernacular had carried down a street description for this type of encounter Knife Fight.

By 2300 after almost 10 hours of fighting the Triocat Battalions began to get Calp troops trying to leave the maze, there were no survivors. By this time they had seen the steady stream of casualties streaming back from the fight, to their amazement everyone who managed to be classified as walking wounded got patched up and sent straight back to the fight. Those seriously wounded were evacuated by a steady stream of aircraft and shuttle flights from the now functional Air/Space port that 1st Battalion Alpha Third had paid for in cash. What was most worrying to the Triocats was the ever increasing number of stretchers covered in field tarps, the KIA.

At 0030 a call came over the All Hands Channel, “No Neck Other Left, Assuming Command ATT.” In orbit Gunther Jenkins turned to his aide, “Get my shuttle fired up, I have to go down there.” The flight crew scrambled and launched in less than 15 minutes and were just cutting atmosphere when the next call came in, the one that changed the history of a world. “No Neck Other Left, Objective Secured. First Strike Complete!

In government House the excited voices turned to cheers, a spontaneous and almost unanimous demonstration with a solitary exception. Thomas Davis stood staring at a screen containing a growing list of the casualties from Al-Jharamid. He let out a low groan when he saw the name come up of his best friend and the Godfather to his first born Son – Geoff Henderson-KIA.

Gunther Jenkins bolted down the ramp of his shuttle just outside the main blown open entrance to a shattered area that had once been called a Citadel just in time to see a sight that tore at his heart. A small procession was moving slowly down the middle of the newly opened street. Two men walked in front wearily clearing the way, six men carried the stretcher with a flag draped body on board and one walked to the rear softly calling the cadence with kept them all in step. The man calling cadence was James “Other Left” Williams, who had started the operation as Deputy Commander of Alpha Third. They were carrying Geoff Henderson! All Gunther could think of was a hoary old military saying “Fuck them all, save for nine.”

Alpha Third made sure that Geoff had his nine! Stopping at the area set aside for the Graves Registration Unit they sat him down gently then faced to the center and saluted in a manner you would not expect in the middle of a battlefield, so precise it could have been a training tape. As they slowly dropped their salutes, one by one, Williams came to Jenkins with a portable memory device in his hand. “Here it is, this is what the Boss died to protect. It’s the memory module for the Calp Battalion Command and Control Center. He jerked the destruct charge off of it and fell on it to save the rest of the team. Some low life Intel puke better make it worth that man.” Saluting he moved off to start organizing the mob that was coming out of the combat zone.

Three hours later Jenkins was back in government House trying to juggle 500 balls at once but more interested in a small group of Intel poggies stuck over in a corner, while still trying to carry out his normal duties. “What I am saying Don Tomas is that we want to change to compliment of the Lying Bastard or as you know her the Wanderlust. We feel the need to add a short Company of Recon to join up with the Marine Battalion. In this short time almost everyone involved has pointed to one man to Command that Company, 1st LT Diego de La Torrance. In short we want to steal him for a few years and we are even willing to detail a Ryman Officer to fill his slot here. Tomas, your Son really is that good. He is going to save a bunch of lives some where!”

“I fear that you are correct Admiral, now I just have to explain that to his Mother!”

Before Jenkins could react there came a cheer from the corner work station where the Intel types were centered. “Got it Boss, and you will not believe this!” Jenkins and de La Torrance moved to the corner along with most of the decision makers in the room.

“Here it is! We have 68 days before their scheduled transport shows up and yes they were tasked to go to Cardoman. Their specific target was the Cardoman 7th and look at the Sniper Target list.” The screen above them lit up with a very short list of high value targets: Wesleyan Calvert, Constance Melbourne and Robert Davis.

Gunther started to laugh, “I think their Intelligence is just a bit behind the times! Let’s hope they stay that way, squirt that data up to Masada she’s got a speed run to make. And let’s hope too that back home they don’t waffle out on us, cause we done brought home the bacon! But Goddamn the Price!”