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Chapter 11

The Pentagon, VA, United States of America, Sol III
1523 EDT August 29
th, 2004 ad

Jack Horner currently demonstrated the trait that was his trademark; his face was fixed in a tight, nearly friendly smile that stopped dead at his eyes. The general that this mien was directed at was not fooled; he recognized the danger signs. But he also considered it his duty to continue the diatribe he had embarked upon.

"In conclusion, General, the CONARC staff is unanimously of the opinion that the projected distribution of forces is tactically untenable and logistically unsupportable. The stated intent—to place seventy percent of our combat power and nearly eighty percent of our real shock power—on the coastal plains is patently unacceptable."

"To whom?" asked General Horner, tightly.

"To your staff, sir, and to the nation we are sworn to defend," answered his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Bangs, rather pompously.

"Very well, General, I will accept your resignation, if you feel so intent upon protest."

"Pardon me, General?" gasped Bangs in surprise, face suddenly ashen.

"I think I spoke English, didn't I?" asked Horner rhetorically. He smiled like a tiger, lips drawn back in a rictus, and his bright blue eyes were cold as a glacier. "I will accept your resignation if you feel so strongly about it. Because I have my orders from the Commander in Chief, and he says we are going to hold the plains. To do that, we have to place the majority of the combat power there, because it is also where the Posleen are going to concentrate. I gave my staff, as you so succinctly put it, their marching orders, through you, two months ago. And you come back to me, a month and a half late and more than a dollar short, with the bald statement that you are not going to support the plan. Fine. I will accept your resignation within the hour, or I'll relieve you for cause. Your call." And only after more months of back-room political dickering to make it acceptable to the critical politicians. It was still amazing to him how many politicians simply accepted the "Mountain Plan" and now held it close to their hearts.

"You cannot relieve me for cause," snarled General Bangs, his florid face broken out in a sweat. "You don't have it."

"Actually, your simple statement could be construed as insubordination, not against me, but against a Direction of the President. I could care less: I can fire you at will, whether you think so or not. The President has a declared war on his hands. All your friends in Congress can do is hold on to his coattails. They're not going to expend any effort on a broken-down war-horse. Now, unlike some people, I have work to do. You are dismissed."

As the shaken Lieutenant General Bangs left, Jack shook his head. He had put up with Bangs for half a year and he was glad to have him off his back. Besides being well over the range into the "active/stupid" category of officer, Bangs was the most immoral senior officer Jack had ever met. Talking about women was, admittedly, a common sport of all soldiers—J.E.B. Stuart put it succinctly when he said "a soldier who won't fuck, won't fight"—but senior officers should not openly brag about their prowess outside the marital bed.

He went back to looking at the logistics distribution report. Bangs had been nearly accurate when he said that the distribution was logistically unsupportable, but he and the rest of the staff were thinking linearly. Jack was as certain as the staff that the plains would be lost, but how they were lost was important.

The initial concept of the war was to play a giant game of Go. Since they could not predict where the Posleen landers would come down, the forces would be widely distributed. It was accepted that the Posleen would overwhelm some of the forces. By the same token some forces should be able to defeat the Posleen in their areas. The standards for open field battle would require nearly four-to-one superiority on the part of human forces. But if the conditions were right they could recapture small areas.

The plan was that these survivors would then rally and reduce the areas that held active Posleen. As in Go, if a human unit was surrounded by Posleen, it was effectively gone. On the other hand, if the human units could surround the Posleen, the reverse was true. Take the white and black balls and cast them upon the Go board of Earth. Begin the game.

However, the Go field does not have terrain obstacles. The first and greatest obstacles were the oceans. The Posleen were almost intensively terrestrial. While they were masters of extracting every last bit of resource from land surfaces of terrestrial type worlds, they left oceans alone. Thus as the landers came in on scattered ballistic paths, they had to divert towards the continental landmasses.

The simple orbital mechanics of this maneuver meant that there was a concentration on the eastern and western coastlines and that there was a greater concentration on eastern than western.

Once the landers were down, the invaders had to deal with the terrains of these regions. The Posleen were structured much like horses, except for the arms jutting from a forward double shoulder, and they were fairly dense so they did not swim well. Also—with the notable exception of the God Kings—they did not use anti-grav vehicles for planetary transport and they were useless as combat engineers. This meant that they were stymied by terrain obstacles that had even the lightest defense. They could not climb mountains and they could not swim rivers, ever, in the face of any sort of defense, even a teenager with a .22-caliber rifle.

In addition, they did not land at random. Landers had never been observed landing in extremely built-up areas, such as the center of large urban areas. Instead they landed in clusters around the cities and moved in towards them.

Despite the reluctance of some of his staff, in the months since the meeting with Taylor, Jack had worked out the broad plan for coastal defense. His AID, along with selected lower level staffers, was fleshing it out even as he had the confrontation with his chief of staff.

The suburbs were indefensible; that was an absolute. Evacuate them when the first real incursion was scheduled, but not before. Plan for that, because nobody, realistically, would leave until the last minute. That was one of the things the Interstate system was designed for; use it. Have the people pull out every scrap of food before they left, bring out all the domesticated animals beforehand. Supermarkets, in general, used "Just-In-Time" inventory systems, so the Posleen were going to get, perhaps, two to three days rations from the available resources. All the other food was in production or stored by the various agricultural companies and grocery chains.

Part of the work being done by his staff was compiling a list of all the locations where food was stored in bulk and integrating it, where possible, into the coastal defense plan. Any stocks that could not be easily integrated were going to be either confiscated or destroyed before the landing. The Posleen would not find one iota of harvested food if he could help it.

The inner cities, on the other hand, were a different kettle of fish. The plan called for defense of the inner cities, but only as firetraps, hell holes to slaughter Posleen. The basic plan had worked well for General Houseman on Diess and Jack intended to use it in America. It also meant that the plains were going to be the battlegrounds that the American populace insisted on.

Again, evacuate the cities. Around them in the suburban areas, at locations that were being determined, would be established firebases. Around the inner city construct a wall. The bastions would be the warehouses and skyscrapers of the city itself. Those bastions would be able to interlock fire with the firebases surrounding the city. As the Posleen attacked the city, the firebases would take them under fire from behind. If they turned on the firebases, the city defenders would take them under fire. The city would become a giant octopus of destruction, engulfing the attacking Posleen in its arms.

Certain major boulevards, preferably ones that were in direct line of sight with the outer fortresses, would be left open, but with walls on either side and the ability to close them off if necessary. Such killing fields had worked well on Diess and they might work again. Let the Posleen file into the boulevards, thinking they were advancing, then open up with all the weaponry in the city.

The fortress plan also reduced the logistical argument. The city fortresses could be stocked for a five-year siege if the Army started constructing and filling warehouses and silos immediately. If the urban forces had to retreat they would destroy the remaining stocks of ammunition and food with preplaced charges. If the war took more than five years, they might as well slit their throats and be done with it.

He understood that eventually the coastal plain cities would fall unless the Fleet came in time. But the reduction of the Posleen forces would work in America's favor in phase two.

Phase two involved drawing back to the mountains. When a region or city became untenable the forces would have to be drawn back through secured routes to the mountains. In this more than anything he thought the Armored Combat Suit units would be effective.

The cities' outer fortresses would be designed whenever possible with their heaviest concentration along the side toward the nearest refuge areas. When a city's defense became untenable, large sections of the city would be dropped, then the remaining defenders would gather on the refuge side and perform a breakout. With the interlocking fires of the exurbs and the city bastions, the forces might be able to break through the surrounding Posleen and start on the long route to safety. As they performed their breakout, ACS units could descend on closing Posleen columns and break them up.

In some cases the Navy, the wet arm, might be able to slip in and perform the evacuation or provide fire-support. He expected this in the case of the Florida cities especially. The Navy was reactivating ships long dormant to support those endeavors.

In the long run most of the cities would fall. But the Posleen that were attacking them would break their teeth, reducing the pressure on the mountain defenders and reducing the overall Posleen population. Until the Fleet was completed it came down to a war of attrition.

The initial mountain plan, which called for a complete retreat to the mountains and the turning over of the cities to the Posleen, would have left vast numbers of Posleen virtually untouched and all the resources of those cities at their disposal. Once the Posleen attack on the mountain passes got into high gear those forces would have been available and fresh. Now they would generally be unavailable. And if the Posleen did attack the mountain defenses they would be battered from hammering on the brick wall of the city fortresses.

If the situation dictated, forces could even sally against the Posleen. But he intended to hold that card up his sleeve or three years from now some politician would give away their hard-won gains in a pointless gesture.

In the mountains and in the interior the situation would be slightly different. The Appalachian and Rockies routes had been worked on for the past two years and featured multilayered defenses all the way up to the Continental Divides. In the southeast, heavy defenses had been prepared along the Tennessee River, through the region of and heavily assisted by the Tennessee Valley Authority, guys who knew all about big projects. In addition, along the outer slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Rockies twenty-seven superfortresses were under construction. These fortresses, once completed, would afford interlocking antiship fire all along the coasts and overlooked strategic cities. In addition their locations provided an umbrella of defensive fire over the entire country. Posleen forces that attacked the mountain defenses from the coastal plains were again going to break their teeth. They would advance, but he doubted they would be able to break through.

In the interior, landings were anticipated to be light. The way that the Posleen assaulted planets, in large more-or-less random swarms, caused them to concentrate the majority of their forces on the seacoasts. As in the coastal areas, defenses were just starting construction around the inner cities and forts were being constructed in the suburbs. In the case of the Midwest, however, the parasite forts were larger and, conversely, less heavily armed. They were larger because these cities were not going to be evacuated and if the Posleen landed in and near them, the civilians were going to run for shelter. The entry systems were being built by amusement park companies and were designed to accept millions of people in a matter of hours.

The fortresses were less heavily armed because there were only so many heavy weapons to go around. The armaments allocated to cities such as Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and Des Moines were based on the lower likelihood of attack and the greater likelihood of external support. The fortresses also were designed similar to traditional "castles" and hosted numerous firing ports on every side.

After the gates shut the "civilians," many of whom had designated militia positions, would be expected to pick up arms from armories scattered throughout the walls and proceed to firing positions. From there, behind fixed defenses, the refugees could become effective fighters. They would have to be; the interior fortresses would have a third of the "conventional" forces allotted to the coastal fortresses. The interior would also be completely without ACS support. The ACS would have other overriding missions.

The Posleen, as a rule, did not care for extreme cold any more than humans. They also were less able to deal with it effectively. Therefore, they landed in temperate or tropical zones. Thus, Canada could be guarded by her own forces and be well off; the northern border was not considered a problem. That did leave Mexico as a failure source.

An argument had been advanced that America should just erect a great wall along the Mexican border, something that some people had wanted for years. Whether it was a valid argument or not was moot; there were insufficient resources to do the job before the Posleen landed. Any Posleen that landed in Mexico were going to have the field day expected in the Third World for the Posleen and most would probably remain there at first. But some of them were going to turn north; how many was anyone's guess.

Unfortunately, as the Border Patrol had often said, there are virtually no terrain obstacles in the southwestern United States. The only forces that could fight the Posleen effectively without either fixed defenses or terrain obstacles were the ACS, so the ACS were going to be committed primarily to the southwestern U.S.

Jack Horner had, effectively, two divisions of ACS. Fleet had left behind in America the Eleventh Mobile Infantry Division, formerly the Eleventh Airborne Division of World War II Pacific fame, and three regimental task forces: the 508th, the 509th and the 555th Mobile Infantry Regiments. How he distributed these forces might make or break the defense. Some were going to have to be distributed to the coasts, especially the East Coast, with its broader plain and less defensible passes, but most would have to go to the Southwest.

He had a little time to decide on the distribution and he knew only one person on Earth who was more expert in the abilities of the combat suit units than himself. He decided it was time to call in another opinion.

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