By The Sword 16

By The Sword
Chapter 16 Draft (11/04/08)

The ship from Ryman did not stop at the orbital station; instead they were met by a military shuttle and Cardoman staff officer. Along with Major Redmond, dispatched from Ryman were two other officers, Sr. Lieutenant Riggins and Jr. Lieutenant Thompson that and forty-one enlisted, the most junior of whom was a medical corporal with eight years in service.

Maj. Terrence A. Redmond, Terry to most looked with approval on Minton’s spaceport as his troop marched from the landed transport to a bus and two trucks waiting on the tarmac. He had pictured it smaller and more out of date. The taller buildings in the Cardoman capital thrust up above the horizon five or more kilometers away.

The staff officer had their gear loaded onto the trucks and it was soon on its way to the Cardoman Training base. The troops got on the bus, which made short time of the trip into town. Taken to the Capital Building, they were next led into an auditorium capable of seating about twice their number.

Moments after being seated two male and one female officer walked in. One a Cardoman General, the other man, a young, fit looking Major, wearing the black uniform of the Seventh. The woman, wearing the normal dark Cardoman green, was striking, deep brown hair cut short, and strong Semitic features, the youngest of the three. The older man found a seat in the audience, the woman stood at the front, the Major took center stage.

Before he could start, Terry stood and approached the Major. “Sir, I am Major Terrence Redmond, commander of this Ryman detached unit. If I may say something before you start: My orders are very specific and come from my father General Redmond. I am to report to the contract Administrator COL. Davis before anything else may happen. No insult intended to you or your Chain of Command, but my orders are written in stone. General Redmond stated something about you might understand.”

“Major, I am afraid I just might.”

Calvert turned to the officer standing to the side of the stage and summoned her to his side. “Captain Radom, Would you check to see how soon transport back up to the Ryman’s ship can be arraigned and escort the Major back to the field?”

“Certainly Sir, At Once!” She turned away and started talking into her comm unit.

“Have your men eaten Major?”

“Why no the haven’t,” Redmond said somewhat confused.

Captain Radom turned back and said, “They can be ready in and hour Sir. What about the equipment we sent off on the trucks?”

“I suppose we will have to send that back as well. Make it happen Captain. Then I think we might be able to get these troops lunch before they depart. See what can be done once they are back to the port.” Wes turned himself as if to leave and Terry spoke interrupting his departure.

“Sir,” It didn’t seem right to call another Major Sir but this was not going the way he had expected it. “It appears you are sending us away, my orders are to report to Colonel Davis and then go into Cardoman’s service. You must be suffering under some kind of a misunderstanding as to the nature of the business here.”

Calvert halted, turned back, and said, “One of us, at least, misunderstands Major. I’m Wes Calvert. In direct command of the Cardoman Seventh, the group you have been assigned to. Davis works for me. In that capacity he is listed as your contract administrator. This,” Wes motioned at the stage and the seated troops, “is an orientation session pursuant to your final acceptance into that aforesaid unit.”

“If you will look at your copy of our intergovernmental agreement, you will see that I have signed as the request initiator as well as your new units commander. And that I did so using the authority granted me by the Government of Cardoman, notice our Foreign Minister’s signature, and the authorization of Commanding General of all Cardoman Forces, Sandoval Inglase. He is the man sitting in the back of the room who came in with Captain Radom and myself.”

“Now I intend to put you under the authority of Colonel Davis. He will accept that authority once you reach Camp Cardoman. Before that happens he is out of the loop. I intend this orientation as one last opportunity for you to decide whether Cardoman service is in your unit’s best interest. I had invited the Ryman Consular Office to send a representative here but they declined, not realizing there could be any bone of contentions. An official will be at the Camp when you report there.”

“But such routine arrangements never seem to work out do they Major? Life always becomes difficult, almost like war, where even the simple things are difficult.”

“Major Calver, as I said, I meant no disrespect.”

“I’m sure you didn’t. And now that you more fully understand the situation, might you care to undergo a small orientation session before you have an opportunity to speak with Colonel Davis? I can assure you, he will be waiting upon your arrival at our military outpost. Though in that case, lunch right now is out of the question.”

“I am sorry to have interrupted you Major, please proceed with the orientation.”

Terry took his seat back into the audience and Calver went to the podium. Radom was at the edge of the stage again whispering into her comm.

“Welcome to Cardoman. I’m Wesley Calvert, commander of the Seventh. We are extremely fortunate and grateful that you’ve decided to join us. Colonel Davis, your new boss, and someone who I am sure many of you know, is getting things ready for you at Camp Cardoman. We will all fly out there in a couple of hours.

Before we do that however, Captain Radom is going to show some video and walk you through what we are up against. Most of what you will see here has not been publicly aired. Not because of secrecy but because of its graphic nature. It’s not the kind of thing we put out for general consumption. Captain Radom—your show.”

She strode to the fore waited while Major Calvert took a seat next to the Cardoman General. The lights dimmed and a high definition but non-holographic image formed in the space between the stage and the audience. Leah was hidden from view but her voice was clear.

“Altoona. This data capture shows how the Caliphate went about retaking the planet. It was taken—well—created from the files taken out by the last ship leaving the planet. I’m sure you will know to pay attention to the equipment used and operational tactics shown.”

The film went on for close to an hour, Leah narrating and labeling the units involved and pointing out details that might otherwise be missed. She backed it up and replayed several sections. When it came to an end the lights regained their force and she asked for questions.

The brutality of what they had seen left even these hardened veterans speechless. The Calps had killed, maimed and slaughtered, on a scale not seen in any of the regional conflicts since the last war, one all those seated but the Cardoman General were too young to remember.

“I’m not surprised no one has anything to say right now. It affects everyone this way the first time. Then comes the anger and then the desire to do something about it. Make sure it happens nowhere else. And that is where you come in. We will be boarding the bus and going back to the port for the flight out of here in about fifteen minutes. Thank you again, on behalf of the dead and those sure to follow.” She saluted and walked off stage.

When Terry turned around Calvert was standing and introducing himself to those seated nearest. The General was walking forwards towards him.

“Hello Major Redmond, I’m Sandoval Inglase, head of this whole shooting match, but what ever you do don’t tell Calvert. It might slow him down. What did you think of our Captain Radom’s little show?”

“I hardly know what to think. That was so much different then the way the Calp Information Ministry told it, and the way we heard it on Ryman.”

“We’ve only had the film here for a week. It came back from Union where you can be sure it has been seen repeatedly. Captain Radom is from Sylvan; to her it is very personal.”

“That ship. . .”

“The Divine Spirit, she lost her father and finance. Davis was out there, I’m sure he will fill you in. Let’s go out to the bus. I am going to do a snap inspection of Camp Cardoman, good for morale. I never find much to complain about but I get a better feel for things than when sitting at a desk. First though, let me take you back to Calvert. You’ll be seeing a lot of him.”

The two talked on the way to Camp Cardoman, staying away from military matters and the recent disagreement. When they reached the base Davis was at their assigned barracks and took Major Redmond in tow, leading him to Davis’s own office. Calvert was sitting there already when they arrived.

“I dropped off a final copy of the contract Robbie.”

Major Redmond, make your report.” Calvert then flashed a grin, the first time Terry had seen him smile or thought him capable of it. “I will be most interested in hearing this conversation. I have come to know your Godfather rather well. Unfortunately I have to go on an inspection tour with General Inglase. I will see both of you later.”

* * *
Davis’s clerk opened the door as Wes left the office, “Col Davis, Major Redmond, with the 116th Training Company reports for duty as directed Sir.”

Davis had taken a seat and looked up from the paperwork Wes left on the desk and replied, “Major I specifically remember requesting enough trainers to train a Company, not Training Company!”

“In that case Colonel, I must assume the General got confused in the wording. And truthfully we are just under half a company strong.”

“Like Art ever got confused over anything.”

“Sir may I ask about the chain of command here. I am afraid I got off on the wrong foot with Major Calvert just after we landed.”

“Yeah the chain of command is funny here. You need to experience it for a while. Then it makes perfect sense. Go informal Major, sit down and tell me what your real orders are!”

Terry hooked a chair and sat down leaning over the back, “Well Pops, Dad told me to get my happy ass out here and do whatever the hell Robbie T. told me to do. My Rules of Engagement are whatever the hell you say they are. Mom says ‘get a life and find a girlfriend’, exact quote there. I once remember some CSM of Recon addressing a class of Officer wannabes and saying the job of Recon was ‘to Kill People and Break Things with panache and intelligence’, so what do we do here?”

“Kid, you follow Wes Calvert’s orders with gusto and never fear that he will second guess you. OH, and tell your Mom; ‘As soon as I can figure out how to get her out of my Chain of Command I will send some happy news.”

“Pop, it’s got to be a Blond. Gut question, how well do you trust this Calvert?”

“Terry, if I have a single first born Son; the decision on whether his name will be Arthur or Wesley is a coin toss. A Sergeant hopes for one true winner Officer in his lifetime, I was lucky enough to find two. Even if one of those assholes stuck me with a Commission and made me a damn Officer. Terry, trust Wes Calvert like you would your Dad or me.

“Now Major, I believe you have some men to attend.”

Terry stood and saluted, “That I do Colonel.”

Robert Davis stared at the closing door as the closet thing he had to a Son walked out. “Shoot them first Terry; Shoot them first lest your Mom never forgive me!”

Abe Loomis and Jack Trebeck, from Cardoman P&I were at the training base an hour later where Inglase, Calvert, Redmond, Riggins, Raquel Zavala and Davis were talking specifics about the duties of the Ryman training mission and Zavala’s unit as well. Trebeck in particular was surprised that Clay Grayson wasn’t there as well. He would probably find out why later. He listened to the point the Ryman Lieutenant was making.

“So we’re to train people how to handle the situation when the Cardoman Fleet loses,” Kurt Riggins said.

“As bad as that sounds Lieutenant—that pretty well sums it up,” Wes said somberly, with no attempt to look away from the obvious. “We aren’t planning to lose, quite the opposite, but considering the disparity in the forces, if the Caliphate is serious about winning, as they must be, then we can only hope for a miracle or plan for the worst. Or, as we intend, to do both.”

“Unconventional weapons and tactics,” Robbie Davis stated, “They will be the key for any kind of resistance should the Fleet lose and the planet occupied. The best able to do that kind of training in the Cardoman army are all with the fleet marine force. Our recon and units from the Major’s original Seventh. As the first line of defense the fleet had to have priority.”

General Inglase spoke up at this point. “It is not too late to bring the fleet marines back to Cardoman and use them as the nucleus of our surface force. I know how you feel about that Wes but I am getting rumblings from some of my staff who say that is exactly what we should be doing. That sentiment is even stronger amongst the political classes. Even those that support us worry about their constituents.”

“Robbie and I have worried about that too General, how to fight on if the fleet is destroyed, and we’ve gone over it every way we could. Fader Jameson and the rest of the marines real job isn’t to maintain shipboard discipline as some of our worst critics say. The man a portion of the ships weapons systems and are the only people highly trained to work in vacuum and outside of the ships. For damage control they are indispensable. So if we bring them here we make the odds against wining the battle in space even slimmer and virtually guarantee higher casualties.”

Jack Trebeck, head of Plans and Intents spoke. “While the rest of you went through the briefing at headquarters, Abe was telling me how Raquel Zavala and his men spent their time on the way to Cardoman. It might have some relevance here. Abe? You want to tell it?”

Abraham looked up as if from deep study. “In terms of zero G drill and ability to work suited, Major Zavala’s team is as far beyond our fleet marines as they are beyond someone just out of Cardoman basic school.”

“Just wait a minute Abe. I know the kind of training that takes place on Ryman, hell I wrote some of the books. Unless things have changed drastically in the last couple of years I can’t see it. Those guys in the fleet are pretty damn good.” “But if what you say is true Redmond’s force ought to be trained close to that level as well. Davis paused for a reply.

Abe continued, “On the way in from Llanfairn we spent almost five weeks, double shifts every day doing nothing but suit drill. Even spent a week outside the hull. There could be five, six guys in the fleet almost up to the average level of Major Zavala and his mercenaries, Jameson, Higgins, pick the best and you know who I’m talking about.”

“I think I see what’s coming,” Calvert said, “but go ahead and lay it out.”

“Zavala and his men go out to the fleet and we pull back some of our own. It has two advantages when compared to what you’ve been planning. One, they will better at the space mission then the troops they replace. And two, we lose little or nothing on Cardoman in terms of expertise but gain a lot when it comes to knowing the civilian population. And since Robbie brings it up, we could send the Ryman people out there as well. Then we could bring all of our people back, except for Jameson who I would leave in overall command of the marine force.”

“Major Redmond, what do you say?” Wes asked.

“Outwardly it makes sense, but what about the details? If his men are scattered about your fleet we lose the benefit of all the inter-unit training we could be doing. And how would the command structure work? Jameson is what?—A Captain?”

“Jameson will be whatever it takes,” Wes said.

Raquel spoke, “I would be going with my men, and though I know the military end, I know next to nothing about how your fleet operates; just the little I picked up on the Widow’s Walk. And she is not typical of a battle cruiser or any other type of fighting ship.”

“Let’s figure if we want to do this first. Then we can work on the details,” Wes said. “We already have Abe’s opinion and yours Major Zavala and Redmond’s. Let’s get around to everyone else. Jack?” he asked, looking at the head of P&I.

“I’m in favor, so long as I can keep Abe working for me. Gaza al-Omari is aboard one of the ships in the invasion fleet and Abe has to work with him. I want anything Gaza can tell us at the earliest. If and if the Calps do hit planet Abe has to run the visible part of any operations we plan.”

“Done deal. Abe stays with P&I and goes covert if he needs to. Lt. Riggins, what is your take on this?”

“I will defer to Major Redmond’s position on this matter.”

“I thoroughly understand your position Lieutenant,” Wes said. But in situations like this, I always want to here any questions or doubts. Without negative feedback, an army is like a ball rolling down hill. You can figure how the rest of that analogy goes. Major Redmond, would you give the lieutenant permission to speak freely?”

“Of course, and when I made my comment about command structure I meant no disrespect Sir. My orders now place me under Colonel Davis, and if he works for you then everyone in my chain of command does also or for whomever you designate, and will do exactly as you request Sir.”

“Yes,” General Inglase said smiling. The Cardoman Seventh is indeed inscrutable. I am not sure at any given time who I work for. But I am happy enough to have the job and share the load. Let’s cut away from all the formality now. First names, off the record, and we do what makes sense. Kurt, go ahead and tell us what you think.”

“Ok then General, but I can go only so far with this informality stuff; I can’t bring myself to call a general of an allied state by his first name. Maybe someday. But yeah, Abe’s proposal makes sense if we don’t split our men too fine. We could replace most of the marines on most ships in your fleet. Leave those experienced in the operating of the guns. That’s something none of us from Ryman have any experience with though perhaps it is different with Raquel’s men. That’s my first take.”

“Very sensible Kurt,” Wesley said. “You’re up now Robbie, then me next and Sandy can make the call. I’d do it, but I’m not so certain about the political considerations.”

“We’ll talk to the President Horvath about that. It will be window dressing. He will go along with whatever we decide.” Inglase finished and waited for Robbie Davis.

All, except perhaps Wes, were watching Davis with measured expectation tinged with respect. Wes seemed almost noncommittal and was fiddling with his comp.

“Say three years ago, I thought Abe would kill himself before he ever amounted to anything. So let’s just say I have been wrong before. And please—don’t let that leave the room. I think he has hit upon the best of some bad choices. We will work out details. But getting some people back on planet who are respected by the civilian’s rank and file, even before they show what they got, has to help. I will miss spending some time with Terry, we have some catching up to do, but Abe’s plan including Major Redmond’s force is they way I would go.”

Now everyone turned to Calvert. “I agree—Sandy, the ball is in your court.”

“I’ll let Dennis know and start the arrangements. Keep me advised.”

* * *
Luther White watched the screen showing a lone flier entering the Castle’s airspace. Normally he would have been off-shift. But he made exceptions whenever Wes or Connie Calvert were involved. This time it was Connie returning from Minton. Wes was back from Camp Cardoman an hour ago. He’d brought Captain Loomis, Colonel Davis and Colonel Grayson with him. The three were in the rear bar at the time the flier landed.

Connie exited the air car followed by another passenger. Luther didn’t need the biometric scans to recognize Jamie Madry, Captain of the CNS Saratoga. What could she be doing here now? Well that wasn’t Luther’s problem, but Connie should have sent advanced word. He would mention it to her at a better time. They both seemed engrossed in an ongoing conversation but broke long enough to say hello before going through the Castle’s main entrance.

“Welcome Jamie, it seems like months since you’ve been here.” Wana Omari said, meeting the visitor upon arrival.

“Every bit of that. In just the last two I’ve spent fifty-seven days on the Sara, two on other ships of the fleet and less than a day on Cardoman. I cross my fingers but I should be down her now for three days straight.”

“I will do everything in can to make sure you enjoy your stay here then. And how long might that be? The entire three days? I didn’t know to expect you. Not that I am complaining.”

“This was spur of the moment Wana.” Connie said. “I didn’t know myself Jamie was due down until she popped into the Capital.”

“And Pop I did,” Jamie laughed, “Made a beeline for the visiting officer’s quarters and went out to shop. You can’t imagine what it is to spend months at a time on a ship and have to do without.”

Jamie’s face reddened. “Oh, I’m sorry, of course you can. You haven’t seen Gaza in almost a year. Forgive me, please, I didn’t stop to think.”

“Do not let it trouble you Miss Jamie. Growing up and life on Altoona taught patience in the face of disappointment if nothing else.”

“I’m sure it did. Anyway I am glad to be here, and even more pleased that you seem to be doing well. How is your son?”

“Nice of you to ask, he will be out here tomorrow, Mo is doing well, he soaks up schooling. He has a future in the sciences somewhere if we last long enough. And that I think is largely up to everyone else in this household. So I will go with you to the back bar, that’s where they’re at, and see if I can be of any help before I go off duty.”

When the three women entered, Abe looked in their direction and said, “Connie, You’re pregnant! That’s great.”

Connie walked over and patted him on the head. “Now I see the sharpness of vision, the insight, the analytical power that got you into P&I!”

“They laughed at that and Connie and Madry sat down while Wana excused herself and Abe said hi to Jamie.

“I saw Dennis a while ago and he told me about the changes in using the Ryman people. He was quite happy about it.”

“Thought he would be,” Wes said. “It will make it easier do what we need to do on the planets surface.”

“What exactly are you planning for?” Abe asked.

“This doesn’t leave the room. Dennis knows, but it’s up to him if and when it goes public. Odds are that we won’t win the battle off planet when the Calps finally do decide to attack. If things turn out for the worst it will mean they land on Cardoman. If that happens we will fight. Just like General Inglase and my father did in their day. The memory of that is still too fresh for many here to accept it. There will be a call for surrender and accommodation.”

“I can understand that,” Abe replied. “We saw the same thing on Altoona. What kind of numbers do you think we face, and tell me more about the plan?”

“Fill him in Clay, I want to go to the Library and bring back a book.”

Wes left and Grayson continued.

“Guerrilla warfare, classic tactics. The difference from anything the Seventh or any other Cardoman troops have been in before is that we will have the vast majority of the population on our side and ready to provide aide. That could in itself be a problem if it provokes the Calps to retaliate against the innocent.”

“They will retaliate,” Robbie said. “We saw it on Mizar and when they went back to Altoona. The question is how much, and can we let that tie our hands?”

Jamie Madry spoke up. “The battle in space isn’t going to be as hopeless as it looks. We really do have a chance there.”

“How much of one?” Connie asked. “I see the same reports you do Jamie and it doesn’t look good to me.”

“Not saying it’s good, just that we have a chance. We have some new sensing and weapons improvements that are going to cause the Calps to look again at trying a quick march through the system. If enough support arrives from Union and the Feddies, they are going to have to think twice. Even the Ryman ships already here are going to support us. At least that’s the way I see it.”

Abe asked, “So what do I do until the Calp fleet gets here and I try to link up with Gaza?”

Wes returned at just that time and placed a book on the table. A slim volume, ‘The Last War’ was the title. It was written by Sandoval Inglase.

“I found this by accident,” Wes said. “It should be a standard text in every Military School in human occupied space. I have ordered it to every library in the fleet and every military database on Cardoman. I’ve also set up a print run. Copies will go to everyone here and as many others I think should have it or make a request. This book distills all of the lessons learned on Cardoman last time around. More than that, it leverages on a lot of history. It helped open my eyes to what is possible.”

“I sent a copy to my dad,” Clay said. “Don’t think he ever read it. If he had he would have mentioned it, and it would be part of course material back on Jorgen. It sums up an awful lot of what a guerrilla conflict is about and how to make it work. And by reflection it makes pretty evident what not to do. I hope no one in the Caliphate has a copy.”

“Aren’t they all different enough, those small was, different enough that rules can’t be cast? That’s what make them irregular and why we call them by that odd guerrilla name?” Abe asked.

Robbie said, “Enough different that finding the underlying similarities is a bitch. Sandy did a good job here. I learned a thing or two that I am going to move into the regular recon training.” Then he looked at Jamie. “Tell me about the fleet, especially morale factors. We never see them addressed in the normal form of reports.”

“I can’t honestly do a ship by ship rundown,” She said. “But I can make a few observations. I like what I see. On the Sara I have no qualms. Most of the other major combat commands are good too.”

“You say most,” Connie wondered aloud. “Are there doubts? Something you can pin down?”

“The only thing that gives me pause is some of the times I talk to Audie. She is very upbeat about what she is doing, can’t hardly stop raving about Yuri, but she shies away from talking about internal things on the SnapDragon. That’s not like her.”

“Ok,” Wes said, “I’ll mention it to Les Raymond and one of us will make a visitation.”

“Thanks Wes, probably nothing but I am a bit concerned.”