Tools of the Trade 11

Tools of the Trade Chapter Eleven

The entrance that were set up for the military wing of Government House bore a remarkable resemblance to the personnel offices back in Camp Hebert Connie thought, as they passed through the entry procedures and were escorted by an unarmed private to the anteroom outside the office of General Sandoval Inglase, the Commander of the Army, and most senior of Cardomans military officer corps.

The layout was efficient but not nearly as plush as the offices of the finance minister. Two knocks and the private opened the door, stepped inside and announced, “Major Calvert, Captain Melbourne, to see the General. “

“Thank You, Pvt., Dismissed,” the General said in a pleasant unhurried tone as he rose to greet them. They shook hands, saluting indoors not being considered proper in rooms with normal height ceilings. The office was a combination of desk space and small conference room, about eight by ten meters in size with an alcove to one side leading to a small kitchen and private restroom.

General Inglase had his desk in one corner at the near end. The other corner on that wall having a coffee table in front of a couch and surrounded by a couple of comfortable looking chairs. A conference table that could seat ten or twelve was at the other end of the room. The display screens that were obligatory were hidden behind draperies and there were wasn’t a single window giving view to the outsides. The lighting around the Generals desk was warm, but there were overhead illumination panels which could be adjusted to pretty much any intensity desired.

“I had the privilege of knowing your father Major, a finer man I never served with and look forwards to working with you.”
“Thank you Sir, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Permit me to introduce Captain Melbourne, Sir.”

“Welcome Lieutenant, your reputation also precedes you.”

“Thank you Sir,” Connie said.

General Paul Anderson was already there and had also stood up when they entered, though not speaking for the moment.

General Inglase motioned them to seats around the coffee table and went into the alcove returning with a tray containing a bottle and four glasses and set it down. This was something obviously prepared in advance. He poured each about a shots worth and taking their cue from Anderson Wes and Connie stood as General Inglase raised his glass and said, “In remembrance of comrades lost,” then downed it in one gulp and swallow.

He sat and they followed his lead. “Paul held this job before he retired into the world of diplomacy and as small as the Cardoman military was until the last twenty years as you can imagine we know each other very well. I am looking forwards to knowing you both as well, though the exact nature of our relationship has yet to be determined.”

As they both looked to him the General continued, “It has nothing to do with your military virtues, perish the thought, Paul has told me more than was mentioned in your after action reports from Witherway and Ophia and his praise was unstinting. The problem for me and any other officer above you in the chain of command is— how do we deal with an officer under our command who could, at the drop of a hat, buy and or sell a division yourself included? That naturally raises the point of whether the magnitude of the changes your new found wealth will invariably inflict upon your lives will change the way you feel about a military career and how you react to orders that you may not be in complete agreement with. And believe me when I say that I understand better than most that in military operations there are always points of contention and mistakes get made early and often.”

“General,” Connie spoke up for the first time since being introduced, “We both thought about that exact point, me perhaps more so than Major Calvert, before we left Ophia to come here. In my case being from Llanfairn I had the doubly difficult decision of whether or not I could change my political allegiance. We both came to the conclusion that we could continue to serve as expected by our superiors.

“I would be a fool if I didn’t realize that if at some later date, I find my condition disagreeable, the fact that I no longer will need to rely on a military pension in the future will make a decision to terminate my contract much, much, simpler. Still we both decided that with the inevitability of war with the Caliphate, continuing to serve and in the process look out for those we brought along with us is the proper and honorable course of action.”

“Well said Captain, and just what I expected you to say after talking to Paul here. But we, and by we I mean the military and political establishment of Cardoman, have decided in our infinite wisdom, that the agreement as originally structured requires some modification. Don’t get too alarmed over that because we both want very much to use your services but have decided it best for all concerned if we distance the relationship from that originally proposed.

“There will still be a Cardomans 7th but it will retain a more typical mercenary type organizational structure. By setting things up that way even when rank would normally dictate otherwise, you will maintain enough independence that your views must be given full weight. The government of Cardoman in its political role, of course with your consultation and input, will select your assignments. It will be my job to help insure your success. And one further note, should it meet with your approval, General Anderson will be your direct link to both the military and civilian sides of the government.”

“And I,” Anderson said with undisguised glee, “have a little surprise that the Cardoman Foreign Minister and I cooked up before we left Llanfairn. We have had another company in training for off planet duty for better than a year now and we think you are just the right team to take command of them and make sure they get whatever else it is they need.”

This sure is happening fast, thought Wes as he put together his reply, “I would like that very much Sir and will be pleased to operate as you have indicated.” Connie was nodding in agreement as well.

“In that case,” he said pouring another round of drinks, “And since you are out of the direct chain of command, I think we can dispense with a few of the formal military courtesies and get on a first name basis. Connie and Wes, would you be so kind as to share another drink?”

“Certainly,” Connie said, “but is it Sandoval or Sandy?”
“Sandy will do nicely.”

They spent another half hour getting to know each other better before General Inglase had to excuse himself for another appointment. He told them that in a day or two he would send someone to brief them on where they would likely be used first. A planet neither had heard much about, Altoona, and then bid them a pleasant trip back to Camp Hebert.

It was late by the time they returned and after setting up a morning session to talk to Sgt’s Madry and Davis about personnel issues they both went there separate ways.

* * *
“So what so you think Madry, how many of our troops that were eligible for prize awards and can opt out are we going to keep?” Wes asked the next morning.

“Only about half of them Sir, I wish it were more,” Madry said delivering the bad news.
“I gave everyone a week to make a final decision but that’s how it’s gonna turn out. I think also Major that any who joined on Ophia in time for the capture of the Surprise should be given the chance to leave as well. Either that or keep them here doing training till their time runs out.”
“We deal with things as they are and not as we wish them to be,” Captain Melbourne quoted. “Don’t twist any arms to keep in those on the borderline. The Major and I had a very interesting conversation with the Cardoman Chief of Staff and he was very pervasive when it came to such matters. We are going to have to come up with a way to keep natural jealousy between the new and old from destroying unit cohesiveness so I’d like both of you to write down your thoughts on that and get them to me in when the new enlistee selection list is ready.”

“And speaking towards that,” Wes said, “pressing the send icon, it seems we will be heading next to Altoona. We should get a more complete briefing in a couple of days but those are the background notes. We are authorized a unit strength of three companies, call it four hundred plus of minus and can recruit from the present Cardoman army as well as any Cardoman serving off planet and anyone else we feel we need. The final decisions will be made by us alone.”

“Back to the jealousy question, I also sent every member of the company a copy of the Cardoman financial proposals. I am going to set up a fund that any new enlistee can borrow against to get a stake in the new shipyard. It might not be much but I think it will be a start towards keeping the envy factor down.”

“Very good Sir,” Davis said, “I’m sure that will help. And I am going to make sure that any soldier that brings the subject of money in a way that tends to harm morale will regret and learn the error of his ways or get a quick ticket out.”

As Davis left Melbourne said, ‘Well you did not remind me but I think it’s time you heard the good part. I have and please don’t ask how. A copy of some private communications that the good Sgt. Davis has received as well as a copy of his Ryman service record. Surprisingly to get the latter all I had to do was mention your name over dinner.
You really should look at the private stuff so I can destroy it as soon as possible.”

Calvert shot up one eyebrow, “When did you become so protective of privacy?”

“Since I read that file,” Melbourne grinned, “I defiantly want that Sgt; excuse me CSM on my side. I also have a new respect for your instincts. You might also note the summary at the end of the Official file about how much they estimate he is worth financially. I finally figured out what set my instincts off about him. He is hiding something, his education. You have to admit he does pull off the uneducated NCO act very well!”

Calvert grinned back at her, “Not that well, and what is this young man to Sgt. Davis besides a son of a friend, and I already had that figured out.”

“Other than being named after him, Robert T. Davis stood as his Godfather at the christening. That seems to mean quite a lot on Ryman.” Melbourne said quizzically.

Calvert just shook his head, “To the Scots-Irish stock that settled Ryman, that means he is damn near an adopted Son. That fills in the last of the gaps on Davis,” Wes said as he scrolled to the last page summary, “Yep, he could buy his own outfit and he’s qualified to lead it. So why does he stay with us?”

Connie Melbourne for once stared at Wes Calvert with a lopsided sick grin. “Why did I stay, just don’t be surprised if in a firefight he calls you Art. He found him another one worth keeping and a friend like that never hurt anyone!”

It was Calvert’s turn to be shocked, “I have a high opinion of myself but, I am no Arthur Redmond.”

Connie just laughed, “according to arguably the most qualified NCO in known space, you at least have the potential. I do expect the two of you to make me rich beyond my dreams you know! However, I think you two are more worried about beating the Clap’s.”

Now it was Wesley’s turn to laugh, “And why do those two have to be mutually exclusive?”

Captain Ellen Nesberg delivered the documentation and gave the briefing on the condition of Altoona.

“Ever since we have been exporting heavy metal extraction equipment Altoona has been an important purchaser to the tune of 350 million credits a year. Altoona is one of only three natural planetary sources of element 126 still in the export business. It is the major radiation shielding element in all hypership designs and even more importantly in warship construction. Altoona and the H225, as it is most usually called, and I have no idea why, is more important to us on Cardoman because of our exports than it is to the rest of the industrial universe save those with major shipyards. The element can and is synthesized but the great expense in doing so puts a floor on the elements market price that keeps Altoona in business.”

“At the start of the last war the planet’s population was under 2 million, most were of Christian Arab extraction with a fairly large non Christian component that the planets climate and geography appealed to. However it lacked any military infrastructure and was an easy target for the Caliphate. Its lack of strategic importance made it a low priority for assistance. The Calps sent in troops and settlers devoutly Islamic and would seem to have been in complete control when something totally unexpected happened. As it became obvious the Caliphates plans had stalled a large group, not a majority of the Islamic occupiers sided with the indigenous population and threw off the existing Caliphate derived regime.”

“That must have been a bloody mess,” Davis said. “Why would they do that?”

“Indeed it was a mess and worse,” Nesberg replied, “We are sure the primary motivation was the discovery of the H225 heavy metal. There was a lot of money soon to be made. But we don’t look too closely at the details less it do harm to our present economic situation. Even those of us on Cardoman, who know what it’s like to be occupied, nowadays get a bit squeamish when it comes to outright slaughter.”

“Our best estimate shows a planetary population of almost five million before the revolt, afterwards fewer than three and a half. There were a few Calps that managed to escape the purges by getting off planet. They numbered in the low thousands and we are equally sure many more escaped the purges by declaring solidarity with the rebellious Calps or the original inhabitants, whoever happened to be in charge at the time. Our intelligence service analysts believe that today, of the still just over three and a half million Calps living on Altoona, a quarter or more still secretly worship their old Islamic faith and accept all that it implies.”

“With the Caliphate going expansionist again those surviving co-religionists make Altoona a prime asset on a militarily weak world.”

Seeing that everyone was following and interest not flagging Nesberg continued on rather than request questions or call for a break. “Next I will sum up the nature of the military threat.”

“Our economic situation with Altoona was stable and growing larger due to her expanding mining operations as both the ConFed and Llanfairn ramped up ship construction. Then four months ago we heard reports of unexpected production delays. Cargo caravans taking the refined metals to the planets single spaceport were being hijacked and the people doing the transportation executed in particularly horrific fashion.
“We received a summary report from our trade office that detailed how the situation had developed. Some of the corroborating evidence is sketchy but it ties together into a coherent whole. The Caliphate must have sent a supply ship and landed a small number of men, we think 200 or so, and supplies enough to sustain them. The heavy metals being refined were important enough that either the Feddies of Llanfairn would be bound to send a ship to watch for any further re-supply. Too many foreign troops on Altoona would be an overt act that the Calps couldn’t deny.”

“Llanfairn has recently dispatched a guard ship and Victor Shearing, sent a request made by Llanfairn as one of the clauses in the shipyard transfer, that we undertake the military security on Altoona needed to insure uninterrupted production of the shielding material.
“Why can’t they, I mean the Alties, do it themselves?” Wes asked, “Two hundred against three and a half million people doesn’t seem like such tough odds.”

“Politics, it all boils down to politics. The two factions, older settlers and newer arrivals don’t trust each other any further than they can spit. The are unwilling to cooperate in a military venture, and neither side wants the other to go it alone. We on the other hand have an economic stake both recognize and should appreciate. The report from our trade mission included a request for our intervention from the existing government. Now with Llanfairn providing aid, and considering our present and future economic interest, the decision was simple. Or as simple as any such decision can be.”

“Transport is a problem. We intend to send your Captain Raymond and the Carpathian back for another load of shipyard equipment as soon as she is finished unloading and readied. She should be back in five weeks and that is the time you have to make your own preparations. I have of course much more detailed information with me and even more on call but why not take a short break before we continue?”

“An excellent suggestion Captain Nesberg,” Wes agreed. “Let’s get a bite to eat and resume in an hour.

* * *
General Anderson stopped by every few days to see how things were progressing but he had let them know, and remained true to his word that the major decisions were theirs to make. And the decisions that needed making today or sooner involved personnel. Expanding from company to battalion size meant going from 100 to 400 enlisted and at least nine more officers. The company that General Anderson had mentioned already in training, Connie and Wes had both already inspected. They were impressed enough that it would be left intact. The benefit of the time they had already spent together would be diluted by changes now. Captain Ben Morgan, an eight year veteran with two of those spent serving off planet, was in charge of that unit which would be Charley Company of the Cardoman 7th
With Wes in headquarters Connie would take over Alpha Company made up half from troops they’d led or hired on Ophia and half new. Wes had wanted to keep Melbourne as Battalion Staff Officer but she wanted Alpha Company and her suitability for that position had been demonstrated.

Charley Company, that was the new group offered by General Inglase. It would be formed from Cardomans already in training plus a sprinkling of men already part of the Seventh along with some of the new hires. Captain Morgan of Cardoman seemed an effective leader and Wes saw no reason to change anything at this point.

Bravo Company would need to be manned from scratch along with Wes’s own headquarters staff and an artillery section. Right after his first meeting with General Inglase Wes had sent a protesting Russo Nevier back to Ophia with instructions to hire if possible Major Unger, Brimley’s exec and Jasper Newmish if at all possible and a few other officers who had shown ability beyond the norm.

Due to the time spent traveling even if Nevier was successful none that he hired could be back on Cardoman before the rest of the Seventh left for Altoona. They might make the planet during the second month. Until he saw whether or not he could get Unger Wes planned on using his squad artillery officer in the battalion staff position and a couple of temporary officers from Cardoman units. In a real sense he gave up on the headquarters section for now and everybody would just have to double duty.

That meant he had to man Bravo company immediately if they were to train together even for a month before departure. And that they managed to accomplish do to the diligence of the officer selected as that Company’s commander. Captain Phillip Kronnin was nothing if not eccentric. He had eight years experience six of it spent off planet and more importantly four of those spent as an infiltration expert into Caliphate supported organizations. He spoke the language understood the religion and knew their tactics as good as, or maybe better, than anyone else in Indie space. The Cardoman intention was to put him into intelligence and end his adventurous lifestyle forever. The problem on Altoona caused them to relent.

“Welcome aboard,” Major Calvert said to the Captain standing at attention before him in the immaculate Cardoman uniform. “Your reputation proceeds you, I expected someone in flowing robes with a rhino horned dagger stuck in a sash at his waist.”

“I save that for after hours Sir,” Captain Kronnin grinned.

“It’s Wes and Phil in here. Let’s talk.”

Kronnin came prepared with a list of suitable lieutenants for his company and with his and Captain Morgan’s input Connie selected the two lieutenants she would need. General Inglase suggested the son of one of his divisional officers, another lieutenant for the artillery squad, a position normally held by a captain but since their own artillery detachment would be smaller than that in the standard Cardoman battalion Lieutenant Lucas Jackson was in. That left the selection of noncoms, something Davis had been working on already, to finish up. By the end of the first week back on Cardoman the table of organization was set and training underway.

Two weeks before they were scheduled for departure, and before the Carpathian had returned, General Anderson ordered both Connie and Wes to take a week off. Wes objected, saying that he, in fact they, had so much left to do that it wasn’t practical.”
“Nonsense,” the General said, “I’ll be here to watch over everything. But I think showing your people you have confidence in their ability is just what’s needed.”
“Don’t you think Lt. Melbourne and I taking leave this soon before departure and at the same time might give the wrong impression General?”

“It might,” Anderson agreed, “But then that would be someone else’s problem wouldn’t it? In any event the order stands. You will both be off base within three hours and will not be back for a week. If I need you I know how to get in touch.”

* * *
Connie opted to rent a hotel room in Minton; Wes would never be forgiven if he didn’t stay at his families homestead. They agreed to meet up again two days later and get an appointment with the finance minister Aldoria Verser, not for official business but for some personal advice. Verser had made the offer and they were going to take her up on it.

They were eating lunch in the VIP room in Government House both were out of uniform so the lack of rank wasn’t what drew stares but their relative youth. The must have had twenty years on anyone else present. Verser insisted on first names and let go that she was known as Dory to friends.

“Real estate first,” she said, “You’ve both put the bulk of your money into the ship yard around 85% I see,” while looking at what they had done already. “But that leaves an awful lot remaining for other things. If I were truly as good at personal finance as the title would indicate I would be in private practice. So I made a few calls and lined you up with the firm I would have handling my own affairs if they ever get extensive and complicated enough to need them.”

“Thank you Dory,” Connie said, “That sounds like just the thing for me I would just as soon put all worries on that score out of mind. How soon before someone there can see us?”

“The firm is Stein and Summers and their offices are within walking distance of Government house. One more call and they can see you as soon as we finish eating.”
“That is very kind of you Dory,” Wes said between bites, “let’s do it just as you suggest.”

* * *
“Barry Summers is the name, and glad to meet you. Dory was quite insistent I see you but I would have welcomed the opportunity had she said nothing. We don’t often take in new clients but your situation is unique. Let’s see how we can serve you.”

After Connie and Wes sent him a dump showing their current credit situation and Summers did a quick scan he seemed for a moment to be at a loss for words. That didn’t last long and he said, “I knew from what Dory had mentioned that there were some rather large sums involved but I didn’t expect anything like this. We can get started but a complete package is going to take some time. Here is how I’d start…”

Summers was in complete agreement with Verser on the primacy of real-estate and said he would get the firm he usually dealt with to send over some residential listings that afternoon so they could be ready tomorrow to do some looking. As for anything beyond that in terms of real estate some research was in order and it would likely depend in some manner on the property they bought. On the scale they were able to afford, money making potential was always part of the buying process.

They left Summer’s office with a lot to think about but very impressed with the man and his ability. They waked towards Government House and sat down on the bench near the fountain they had used before their first meeting with General Inglase.

“Look Connie, you saw how fast this all came to be and how much of an accident. I need to make sure that you don’t think I am taking unfair advantage you. You were my superior officer at one time and now with the roles reversed I wouldn‘t resent it at all if you decided to look for another unit or even retire from the service.” The words Major Wesleyan Loyal Calvert used were almost plaintive in their troubled sincerity.

“Wes, I’m along for the ride and hitched my wagon to a star is the way I look at it. Six months ago I was an anonymous lieutenant from Llanfairn in a generic staff job on Ophia. Sure I was senior to you but not by much. Today I work for the famous, at least in our circles, Major Calvert of the 7th Cardoman. No complaints from where I sit. Don‘t even think it.”

“Yeah, and good to hear you say it but the reason I need to be sure you mean it is because I need you.”

“Don’t ever doubt it Wes, I’m here for the dance with they guy that brought me and what ever comes next,” she added with an evil grin.

A week later, upon their return to Camp Hebert in separate vehicles, that would give some pause for thought… They found all was well and that Voinovich and the others they had left behind in the hospital on Ophia had rejoined the unit.

As someone who had seen how fast munitions were expended in combat, Stan had been given the job of making sure everything requested was being furnished and accounted for once it reached the base. It might have been more efficient to store everything at the space port but Cardoman really wasn’t set up with the warehouse space to do it that way. The checking and rechecking and chasing down of late items was wearing him to a frazzle and so when Connie walked in on him his eyes lit up in welcome.

“Great to have you back. How’s the hip Stan?” Connie asked.

“Wonderful,” he said, “considering the alternative. Stiff and sore but it gets better every day and I should be near normal pretty damn soon.”

“Good. Take a break for a bit and we can go over to the mess for some coffee, it’ll give you a break from the office, and I’ll fill you in on the shipyard and what we intend for you to do once the rest of us leave for Altoona.”
“Are we gonna be ready?” Wes asked of Captains Morgan and Kronnin while visiting them in the section of the battalion offices they shared; Lieutenant Jackson was away conducting live fire exercises.

Morgan replied, “Our equipment and supplies will be ready, Lt. Voinovich has been performing miracles since he arrived. When it comes to training and unit readiness we could use more time. But if the Carpathian shows up we’ll be ready to move. The time we spend in transit to Altoona we can devote to schoolwork and pre-planet fall acclimatization, which I think Captain Kronnin can speak to as that it was his idea.”

“What I have in mind Sir is to change the environmental factor on the Carpathian from Earth standard for atmosphere, lighting, day night cycle and gravity to mimic what we are going to find on Altoona when we get there. I also want to continue with the language lessons we’ve started while on board. You have one soldier here, a Corporal Loomis, that I find speaks the dialect like a native. He said he once fell in with some bad company on his home planet and needed to learn how to talk to them. I did some checking and found out it was a minor period of somewhat illegal activity in his misspent youth. I want to have him devote all his time giving language lessons and I will do the same insofar as time permits.”

Wes pondered that and said, “Loomis instructing others. Now that’s gonna be a switch.”

The Carpathian arrived a day earlier than they thought possible. Llanfairn had gotten very serious now that her decisions had been made. Because this was the second time such a large amount of cargo had ever been unloaded by the Cardomans it went faster also The main improvement to the plans set in place by Voinovich for the Battalions gear Wes suggested, was to start sending everything they could up before the Carp even returned. It wasn’t going to disappear once at the orbital staging area. Voinovich had hit himself on the head when Wes made the suggestion. “Jeez, I shudda’’ thought of that,” he said, looking crestfallen.

“Us Battalion Commanders have to have a good idea every now and again to earn our pay or the Generals get rid of us.” Wes said, “Least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.”

Wes spent almost all of his last day on Cardoman at Government House. He was receiving multiple briefings followed by instruction from half a dozen different departments. Each one sure that what they had to convey was vital. In total not everything was contradictory or incapable of being acted on. But much of it seemed that way.

His last meeting was with Anderson and Inglase. Both seemed relaxed and just told him to do his best and let the devil take the hindmost. That was becoming an all too popular phrase. Even so it was with a sigh of relief that he took the last shuttle up, was greeted aboard, and watched the planet recede in the distance as they left orbit and got ready for the transit.