A Point of Honor 4

A Point of Honor
Chapter 4 Draft (03/29/09)

The knock on the wooden panel glued on the rock wall next to a piece of threadbare canvas used in place of a real door somehow fit in with the strange new decorum of this adapted cave dwelling. Decorum was really too fancy a word. The floor was level and smooth by virtue of a packed dirt base, the walls rough with wire and optical cables in bundles exposed and shielded only by foil wrapping.

What little light was from fixtures, widely spaced and dim. No hint of environmental controls and the less said about sanitary facilities the better. But one thing was certain, buried as it was there was next to no EM signal traceable and with the entrance tucked in under a ledge overhead imagery even ground radar would not detect it.

“You wanted to see me Sir?” The broad shouldered young man waited for a reply before moving the curtain aside and entering. It was better that way. He heard a gruff, “Proceed,” and proceeded inside.

“Unless Jenkins did his normal job of totally screwing up a message,” said the room’s only occupant, “what I said was, ‘Tell Terry that Uncle Robbie would like him to drop by and talk when he gets a chance.’ Now what you just said sounded more like he translated the thing as if I said for you to Report! — Iinstead of come in for a talk. See the difference?”

“Well,” Terry replied with emphasis and a little consternation, “When that same Uncle is Col. Robert T Davis, and pretty clearly Major Calvert’s chief enforcer and arm breaker, you don’t take time to wait around organizing the data and dealing in chit-chat; but I did bring it all with me and can start at once, unless of course this really is private crap. After which, I still need to talk to you officially”

“Right turkey, sit down and have a drink. We had a signal from one of our ships and then a smuggler got a packet in from off world and part of it was a data cube from your Mom. Here you go, find you some privacy and catch up.”

“How did she know I was alive? And how to reach me?”

“Maybe because someone who looks like your uncle might know Audie Madry, and just might have sent word out with her on that glory run she managed to pull off!”

“On a different note, I think your Dad may be glad you are out here. Things are getting pretty rough back on Ryman. The Oligarch bastards are getting happy feet and trying to cut a new deal with the Calps, one even more aggressively arrogant than the last go around, how they manage I do not pretend to know. The gist of the thing is they are playing at cutting back on industrial output and screw the planets industrial base, right when every non-Calp outfit in space is screaming to buy Ryman weapons systems or most any other high tech export. To make matters even worse; they are talking about stopping work on those 4 G-4’s under construction, or, and this is beyond comprehension, turning them over to the Calps.”

“Those fuck me first cowards; what the hell is going to happen?”

“I wish we knew for certain but this is my take, and P&I agrees with it. The Association is talking about doing now what everyone knows it was going to go ahead with someday. Ryman Recon is going to be tasked with taking them out. That means that the Recon Association would become the defacto Ryman government. This is not something anyone high up in the Association really wants to happen. But be that as it may, the subject goes to a vote of the Association next month.”

The young man sat silent for a few moments before saying in a level measured tone, “Pops, I got far enough into the Association to know who the Executive Council really is, so I have to ask. How are you going to get your vote back there and how are you going to vote?”

“Your Dad votes my proxy and he knows exactly how I feel, take the bastards down! So that’s two votes I am sure of!”

“Not to change the subject but as there isn’t much we can do to affect things back home; could you answer a question that all four of us kids have wondered about for years?”

“Try me and I’ll think about it!”

“Why did you not ask my Mom to marry you?”

The other occupants of the cave, the nearest a short distance away in the open area where the fissure leading to Robbie’s office started were startled at first by the sound until they figured out exactly what it was. It took the quickest half a minute because not a one had ever heard the Iron Colonel fall out of a chair in a breath robbing belly laugh. Such an action would have been thought impossible by most. It had the unanticipated effect on some of bringing on smiles and cheering them up, if Colonel Davis could laugh that hard maybe things weren’t as bad as they seemed.

Picking himself up from off the floor, Robbie righted his chair and wiped the tears from his eyes. “Who says I didn’t kid, and the fact that your Dad and I became the friends we are is one of the mysteries of the universe. He had every reason to hate me, and not many for anything else. There were a couple of weeks there that I surely hated him, then I calmed down, time took its course, and here we are. I took out that piece of trash to protect your Dad from political in-fighting and never told him why I did it. I gotta be crazy right?”

“Oh, I don’t know about that, Dad figured it out eventually. What he hasn’t figured out is what you were doing out here working so hard for a Merc outfit? Why you didn’t head back to Ryman when you know the kind of help he needs?”

“I pretty well spelled it out for him in the dispatch Madry carried out of here. As to the second point, your Dad, and the rest of the Council as well, knew the kind of problems my coming back to Ryman would cause. No one involved wanted that to be the flash point. Terry — you’ve met Major Calvert; who does he remind you of?”

“That’s something I have been asking myself and I can’t figure it out.”

“Because you are too young to remember; he is the spitting, scheming and conniving image of your Dad at the same age when you were kicking the slats outta your cradle with only one small difference. He just might be better than your Dad. Now finish your drink and go read your Mom’s letter!”

* * *
Art Redmond fretted quietly as he waited for the room to fill. This was going to be the most momentous meeting in Recon Association history. He thought back to how it had all come about.

Ryman was the fourth world settled in Earth’s initial expansion phase after the discovery of the G-1 drive. Navigation was to a large sense by guess and by gosh back in those days. One couldn’t use normal space distances and locations as more than a baseline and reference. Until a hyper transit was made, and made more than once, the hyper spatial components of a course needed guessing; that’s what made it an art given the navigational problems in those days.

The first ship to Ryman ended up in the wrong system. Or at least not the system they claimed to be aiming for. Instead of a disaster it turned out to be one of the most fortuitous mistakes ever made. Because later exploration showed that had they not missed their target and ended at the system they were slated for; they would have either had to turn back, out of the question with no way to refuel the reaction tanks, or would have died. On that first out transit they overshot their target by thirty light-years and got lucky, but later did nothing to discourage the myth that they knew all along what they were doing.

Instead, with one of the reactors burned out by an uncompensated jump surge, leaving them without the delta-V to turn around; in this system they found a world that did not need terraforming. Terran seeds once planted just took over. The native Ryman plants younger, the planetary ecosystem younger, these plants had not winnowed out by half a millennium of competition; their Darwinian chosen Terran cousins just kicked their butts!

The original population was sharply divided among several clearly delineated lines; the way it worked out casts would be a more descriptive term. On top were the Oligarchs who had financed the flight and intended to rule this world to their and there families eternal benefit. Just under them were the scientists and skilled labor they knew they would need on this world. Then came in cold sleep the peons who were to remain at the bottom and provide the excess for the rest to enjoy. Someplace in the middle, someplace not fully defined, was the group destined to be bodyguards and police, those needed to provide protection for the higher classes and keep the lower in-line.

The Oligarchs, having money to spare, and realizing their situation was inherently unstable, had hired the best. They believed in genetics, and looked on old Earth for a true warrior line, but one they could control. That was the sticky part. Controllable warriors born were a contradiction in terms. What was settled for then was the best of the Special Operations Forces of non-Caliphate Earth.

With many safeguards in place, their role kept expanding. As planetary industry grew and thrived, those early planners left some room for advancement from the bottom so incentive was not totally taken out of the game, it turned out that the thing Ryman did best, that which made for the most trade opportunities had to do with weapons and medicine. Caliphate expansion played into what they were good at, the disciplines that military societies drove the best.

By the third generation the major exports from Ryman were her people, the soldiers and the doctors needed to fix them when they broke. By plan, and in order to keep the Oligarchs entrenched, the military assumed the role of reconnaissance forces, scouts and spies. And the Oligarchs made sure most were off planet at any given time.

The military leaders had other ideas. In time the outsourced part of the military took on the name of Ryman Recon, though most units were much closer to infantry sized because it took a lot of bodies in harms way to generate the kind of return necessary to support the upper class in the manner in which they were accustomed. It wasn’t exactly planned but Recon became a legend on Ryman and much respected everywhere else.

By the present day they had been so successful that close to 40% of the population was either Recon, former Recon or related to Recon. And a large portion of the remainder worked in jobs that supported their off planet contingent.

In the last election the President received 20,000 more votes than the total planetary population allowed, even after counting, as always, the Senior Vested Votes in accordance with wealth and all of their dependents and retainers twice; and the Oligarchs still thought the people did not know! Destiny was fixing to call: Electronic elections with tame electrons and the Oligarch’s acting as superconductor; what could go wrong!

Arthur Redmond, sitting Commander of Ryman Recon was about to address the Recon Association, those members on planet selected and elected from the force at large. They were preparing to debate the most burning question since their founding. The planets factories were tooling down even as orders piled up from Federation and Indie worlds and everyone with a credit balance wanted Ryman weapons.

Then there was the fact, emotional not operational, that the closest thing the Association had to true brothers, and in quite a minor sense competitors, the Cardoman Seventh was fighting a desperate underground war against an invading Calp Fleet and Army.

Art himself worried for the man who was the closest thing he had to a brother and even more if that was possible for his own son who were both now on Cardoman and locked into that war. He heard the gavel drop and rose to speak. He was going to argue for ‘The Day.’ The Day that the Association was going to transform Ryman!

The next few hours were at times razor sharp at others a blur; he would sort it all out later. The biggest surprise was that almost no one in the room was against doing what needed to be done, calling for the Oligarchs overthrow. The only points with any contention were timing and the Rules of Engagement. Some wanted to jump right in and blow the upper class away while the majority simply wanted them out of power. In the end it came down to Art asking a question of “CSM Valkonin. How soon will the logistics situation allow us to move?”

“Sir, as my orders so clearly state: I am to plan for no more than a two week lead time. At present, and we have been here for a while we are at two days and holding. Once the plan goes beyond this point there will be no turning back without revealing just who and how much is involved.”

Arthur Redmond turned and faced the room, “The question then falls to the floor. Does the Recon Association invoke ‘The Day’ and replace the Government of Ryman?”

“Point of Order Mr. Chairman!” The voice was that of General Marcus Davidson (RET), the man Art replaced at the top when the older man’s hip was shattered in a freak accident while in the field and out of the reach of prompt high-level medical care. The corpsman had warned him to go in but the stubborn old General insisted the exercise finish first.

“I believe that an initial memorandum to the established marching orders be given to the new General Staff before we vote it into existence!”

“Point taken General,” Redmond said. “What would that those orders consist of?”

“That as the first order of business, after we succeed, we begin planning for direct aid and assistance to the Cardoman Seventh and a general war against the Caliphate. This must be a first priority and take place as soon as possible. Kick the Calps right square in the teeth Sir and right fucking Now!” Without a pause nearly the entire room raised voices shouting “Second” as if by one.

“Clerk, call the role. — This vote should be on the record.”

Five minutes later, tabulation finished and with the initial total announced and checked, giving time for a handful to change their minds for customary recount, at that time the 93 to 5 vote was recorded.

“Ladies and Gentlemen as a second order if business, the question now goes to the floor: Does the Ryman Recon seize control of our planet and overthrowing the existing government form a Representative Republic?”

The final vote was 98 in favor none opposed, and ‘The Day’ only two days away. God Help the Universe because in two days Recon Force, from this day forward to be known as the Free Ryman Strike Force, was going to come into existence with a bang! No longer would they hide their true face from the Oligarchy, the God rotting Caliphate, and their twice damned minions!

* * *
“Damn, he’s still right behind me,” thought Wes looking back after reaching the top of the steep rise, breathing heavily skin damp with the sun still two hours away from reaching its zenith. As a point of honor he was trying to walk Sugarbear under but failing miserably. Wes had the Bear by five years in age, was twenty kilo’s lighter without the Bear’s obvious paunch, and had just spent a month hiking down from the hills with a pack of furs nearly doubling his weight; and he still couldn’t take him down. The squad of Calps they were scouting for had fallen behind almost from the start and were now long out of sight.

“Better watch yourself there son,” the Bear said reaching the crest and standing beside him smiling, “You’re beginnin’ to look a mite peaked.”

Wes forced himself to breath normally and said, “Deep breathing exercises, something I learned from Recon. Getting charged up in case I need it.”

“Have to try that someday,” the Bear said, noncommittally scratching his side and shooing away the midges starting to gather round. “The Calps are done for the day. They will be under netting and waiting for us to return. What say we do this quick like and then I know a nice cool hollow less than an hour’s hike away where we can lay up till it’s time to return.”

“A deal,” Wes replied unpacking the detector part of the load which he was carrying while the Bear set up the base and electronics. When the device was assembled Wes said, “I’ll signal for the sensor net to shut down till we’re finished.”

He spoke into a small optical transmitter and soon heard the go ahead; where upon he flicked a switch and the scanner started a back and forth up and down motion that lasted close to five minutes, recording everything within the field of view twice and listening for any EM signals from even farther away, recording the results into it’s memory. As the seeker head did several 360’s the two of them circled behind staying in the blind spot so as not to block the optical section.

They were taken well to the northwest of Germfask on a Calp transport and set down to continue with the local Commander’s mapping program. It hadn’t been hard to get permission for the Bear to join in as a local expert. The Calps were trying to win some hearts and minds and if cash payments for services rendered would contribute to the goal then well and good. Wes told the Bear to hold out for a ten percent kickback in order to earn some respect and so it was.

When the first scan was complete they moved the unit to a spot twenty meters away and ran a second scan to obtain a complete stereo image. They loaded up again and Wes sent Mo Omari another message giving the go ahead to activate again. The ridge was just inside of the new perimeter of the cabin Connie had been staying at before coming down from the hills. Mo was taking care of it now. Mostly alone but with some help from Robbie Davis when ever he had someone he could spare for relief. There were fewer than a dozen people that even knew of the cabin’s existence.

Still, well before noon they were in a hollow with a small pond fed from water bubbling out of the hillside a few meters higher up. With the scanner turned off they could use their bug-fields to drive off the midges. With the unit operating they would have interfered with the sensor electronics and naturally regulations said they were totally out of bounds when on patrol, because they were so easily detectable.

“Another week and they’ll all die off. The season only lasts two weeks total; we just timed it right.” They were seated on a log with their feet in the water of the shallow pool with enough shade that they were quite comfortable. A small ground squirrel was drinking five meters away on the pool’s other side. Each had their rifle within easy reach but the Bear said nothing large would be moving until the heat faded and night came on.

“What was that!” the Bear said reaching for his rifle. “There it is again.”

Wes hadn’t heard it the first time, not consciously, a soft two-note whistle followed by another slightly higher in pitch. “Sounds like a needle wing doesn’t it? Pretty good imitation I think.”

The Bear looked puzzled and continued staring in the direction the sound came from, “Needle wings don’t come up this high. And what do you mean by imitation?”

“It’s Mo Omari; he’s warning us he is close so we don’t do anything rash. The Calps couldn’t possibly know about Cardoman birds and where they live at any given time of the year.” Wes whistled back the same three note pattern and Mo showed himself on their left then walked towards the pool, careful of his step on the steep mossy ground.

Wes did the introductions, “I thought it best you two meet on the off chance Mo comes out of the hills and you run across each other.”

Mo was seventeen but looked younger until one noticed his dark eyes that on their own part missed nothing. He had worked with his father Gaza and Abe Loomis as a runner on Altoona, that dry planet where Wes took the Seventh after Ophia. Afterwards Gaza enlisted into the Seventh and the family came back with the departing troops and settled in on Cardoman were his mother Irwana ran the Castle Calvert staff.
Mohammad worked at finishing his education; something sorely neglected on Altoona, and spent most of his free time at the Castle. Gaza kept working for Loomis and a year ago went with him to Earth where he became their agent in the force sent to attack Cardoman.

Just prior to the Calp landing Mo went with Connie Calvert and his mother to the cabin hideout and took care of things there until Connie had her baby. Now he took care of the sensor system centered on the cabin still maintained as a hideout in case of need; his mother remaining as well; she knew too much and if the Calps got hold of her they would have it all and Gaza’s life would come to a quick and painful end.

Mo laid down his small shoulder pack, took off his boots and sat on the log imitating the others where after a brief rest Wes said, “Let’s finish this thing up.” The Bear watched while Mo handed a case from his pack to Wes who after opening it and removing some tools started to disassemble the Calp sensor unit. “I have to get to the insides in order to bypass the encryption on the download port. Last time I was in Minton I got some instruction on how to do this.”

He ran some leads to various points inside the device and waited a few seconds for the download to complete then buttoned things up again after putting the data cube into the case and handing it back to Mo. “Someone will be along to retrieve this shortly. We will know everything the Calps know along with our own data. Let’s eat and then you can go on back Mo. The Bear and I will go with you part way so he sees the lay of the land and then it’s back to the mapping detail for us.”

It was Robbie Davis that came to the cabin to retrieve the cube. “We could have sent this stuff on our secure net Colonel,” Mo said.

“Sure thing Son, but I need to get out every once and a while and wanted to bring you this.” He took from his shirt pocket a flat paper envelope. Inside were collar tabs for a Recon Corporal. “You’ve earned them, coulda made a sergeant out of you, but I left you something to shoot for. Your time is backdated to Altoona and though you might never collect there’s an account set up in your name on the Seventh’s books.”

Mo heard a sob then turning saw his mother crying. “Don’t be sad Wana,” Robbie said, “You were always going to lose him someday and now, no mater what, he will always have a family now.”

Irwana wiped her eyes and went over to hug her son. When she was done, quiet but still not smiling, Davis pinned on Mo’s shirt one of the tabs, and moving back saluted. Not knowing exactly what to do Mo returned the salute, hesitantly and with far less flash.

“One of these days we’ll get you up to speed on how we do that in a right smart military fashion Cpl, but for now and forevermore you one of us. After I leave take the insignia off and hide it somewhere. Like your father before you you’re undercover for the duration.”

* * *
Connie, playing her part as Jannie Jackson, brought the only samovar in the joint perched on its dull and tarnished tray, with an alcohol flame burning underneath the pot; no electric elements here, over to the table where the man she alone of all inside the restaurant knew as Abe Loomis, was sitting with three others; clients or guests, or even fellow travelers; at this point she knew not except for the man setting directly opposite Loomis who she new well indeed. Gaza al-Omari, who like Loomis betrayed no hint of familiarity.

A swarthy Arabian looking man to Abe’s left swung out his hand as she leaned to set down the tray, a clumsy attempt to pinch her on the bottom. Connie was both quick and lithe enough to dodge that one. “Sir, what would your mother say?” This was more of a statement than a question.

And the reply came back at once, even as she refrained from saying, ‘Good try but you missed again you dolt!’ — My apologies dear lady should any be required, and are you busy tonight?”

Connie was used to that question by now and ignored it; she used makeup and dress to minimize her appearance but was not entirely successful. She asked, “Anything else from the bar Sirs, food? Perhaps a bottle?”

Abe/Ibrahim looked up for the first time and said, “Nothing, we will call if we need you. Stay away from the table unless I signal. Make sure the tables on either side of us remain empty.” He pulled a leather pouch from inside his robe and dismissively handed her a 5 credit coin then waved her away.

“It shall be as you wish Effendi!” she said averting her gaze and retiring to service her other customers after first moving the chairs away from the tables in question, but kept a close watch on Abe, Gaza, and their companions in case of need. The size of the tip and the possibility of more to come meant doing anything else would have been entirely out of character.

Like so many others remaining from the original Seventh’s earliest members Abe had his own improbable story to tell. A PFC he had been in on the action from Witherway to Altoona and most points in between. A little bit of slang Arabic from his youth and a quick study once he found his feet, he was drafted into the intelligence division of P&I well before it was large enough to go by that name. An official rank of Captain now he headed his section, always deep undercover very few knew who he was, what he did, and how he did it. His life depended on things staying that way.

Abe had gone by the name of Ibrahim Saudi and teamed with Gaza from the start. In this kind of work trust was hard to come by and most always in doubt. Not here and not now.

Pouring for each a small cup of the very strong coffee, and sweetening them excessively he then continued, “Most honored guests,” addressing all three equally as if Gaza was an equally recent acquaintance. “We have served Allah and done well for ourselves to this point,” then a pause. “But if it is written we may do ever so much more. . .”