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Chapter 4

Ft. Indiantown Gap, PA, United States of America, Sol III
0900 EST January 22
nd, 2004 ad

"For those of you just arrived, welcome to Bravo Company First Battalion Five-Fifty-Fifth Fleet Infantry, my name is Captain Michael O'Neal. And the unit you have joined is called the 'Triple-Nickle.' "

Mike looked the final draft of soldiers over. Already they were scattered through the formation, but they were noticeable by their BDUs and Gortex as opposed to the rest of the company's gray silks. They were also noticeable by being either female, or older than the norm or both. None of them were actually rejuvs, although most had been recalled out of the inactive reserve. Unlike the colonel, Mike had an AID and although the local personnel officers might not be able to call up 201s, he could. He had quickly perused the draft and was generally satisfied. He had a couple of hard cases, including one private second class who had been a sergeant not once but twice, but mostly they were good troops on paper. When he got done with them they would be better. Now for The Lecture, so that they would be absolutely clear where their company commander stood.

"If you're wondering, yes, I'm that Captain O'Neal. That is all I am going to say on the subject. What I am going to talk about you will hear me say today, and on numerous occasions until you have the unpleasant opportunity to see what I mean.

"Those of you, most of you, who have never been in combat, you are not ready for the Posleen. Those few of you who have previous combat experience, you are not ready for the Posleen. The way you fight Posleen, the way we will fight Posleen, is brutally simple. You get a good position, hunker down, call for all the artillery and mortar fire available and kill as many of them as you can until you are almost overwhelmed, then move as fast as you can back to the next position. Since the situation is a binary solution set, win or lose, there is only one choice. We will win. Whether any individual present survives to see that victory is going to be a combination of training and luck." At the back of the formation he could see First Sergeant Pappas looking over the group. Mike suspected that the senior NCO was doing the same thing as Mike: scanning the group of mist-puffing soldiers and wondering where the losses would come from. Would it be the tall guy in Third platoon? The cut-up in First? The wiry, deadly Sergeant Stewart of fame and legend? Sergeant Ampele, his stolid antithesis? New guy? Old? Mike nodded internally and went on.

"Many of us are going to pay the ferryman. But, as George Patton said: 'Your job is not to die for your country. Your job is to make sure the other poor bastard dies for his country.' Do not concentrate on the ferryman, he will be there in the end for all of us, whether it is next week, on the plains of battle or at an advanced age at the hands of an outraged spouse.

"Until you meet the ferryman your only thought should be to kill Posleen. If you love your family, put them out of your mind. I have two daughters and a wife. Except in a small compartment deep within myself, I could care less. I live, breathe and eat killing the Posleen. Not because I particularly hate them, not because of Diess, but because anything less is not my all. We have to kill and kill and kill until there are no more Posleen. Until then no one is safe. Until then put away your emotions, unless hate helps you to drive on, and prepare for training harder than anything in your miserable lives." Mike inhaled through his nose and felt the cold burn his sinuses. He couldn't wait to get suits!

"Until the suits arrive we will train on Milspecs sixteen hours a day with one half-day off a week for personal business. Once the suits arrive we will take to the field for the same regimen. You can send e-mail during personal stand down. Your pay is direct deposit; there is no other option. If your family needs a larger allotment, see your squad leader; he can show you how to manage your pay through your AID.

"To those of you who are prior service: you are no longer Airborne or Marine, you are Fleet Strike. You may respond 'Airborne' or 'Semper Fi' as you wish, but remember, the persons you are training with, whether they come from your background or not, are the people you will be fighting beside. Don't make judgements on the basis of their prior service or you will find yourself sorry and sore. Fleet Strike is an entirely new organization, drawing, I hope, on the best of the Army elite and the Marines. Each of you volunteered for this unit, but I doubt you understand what a radical change you have made in your lives. If you are in the Line or Guard, you are first a citizen of the United States, then of Earth and only last of the Federation, operating under basically the strictures with which you are familiar. As a member of the Fleet, your first line of control is the Federation military.

"The Federation treats its military in a way very different from the United States military. You will shortly have a briefing in the high points of Federation military law. I say the high points, because the Federation military operates under a set of strictures more complicated than anything on Earth. You swore an oath to that law and are now bound to it. But there is no way you could possibly understand it.

"For example, as your commander, I can shoot any one of you dead, for no reason whatsoever, and suffer no adverse consequences. To the Federation the military is a separate caste, exempt from most laws while bound by a hedge of others. You may kill a civilian nonmilitary human without legal consequences, with one tiny caveat: as your commander, I absolutely forbid you to violate any American law outside of time of conflict.

"However, the American branch of Fleet Strike operates under a secondary set of regulations which is essentially the Uniform Code of Military Justice. There are massive loopholes; I can shoot you dead and get off scott free, but for your purposes following the UCMJ will do.

"One last word. I expect nothing less than one hundred percent of your mind, body and soul. Those of you who are prior service may have heard that one before, too. Do not fuck with me. If you play games, I will have you in a 'prison-unit' so fast the paperwork will take a year to catch up. You all volunteered to be here. If you want out, say so at any time and I guarantee it will be acted on.

"Officers fall into my office after you turn over your troops. First Sergeant, post."

* * *

Mike looked coldly over his officers, those already attached and those just arrived. There had been three officers with the new draft: a tall, blond female first lieutenant with the unlikely name of Teri Nightingale, slated to become his XO; a greyhound slender brunette female second lieutenant named Karen Slight headed for Third Platoon; and a dark stocky male second lieutenant, Mike Fallon, who was that rarest of birds, a ring knocker, slated for Second Platoon leader. In Mike's experience service academy officers came in two extreme brands, good and bad. Good West Pointers were very good indeed, but bad West Pointers were simply very good at kissing the boss's ass and covering their own. Only time would tell with this one.

Tim Arnold, previously the acting XO, was a first lieutenant and the weapons platoon leader. A tall, goofy-looking fellow, he was a Mustang like Mike, with prior service as an enlisted man in the Twenty-Fourth Mechanized Infantry Division, then the Eighty-Second Airborne Division as a lieutenant. The goofy personality hid a head full of simple wisdom about the military and people. Mike would miss him as an exec because on at least a couple of occasions it had been Arnold who had kept Mike from losing his famous temper in a very public way.

Dave Rogers, the First Platoon leader, was the odd duck. Rarely do you have a first lieutenant as a grunt platoon leader but with the overabundance of first lieutenants, and being junior, he was stuck. Tall and aristocratic, he seemed to be resigned but offended by the position and Mike suspected there was going to be bad blood between him and Nightingale. Unlike Arnold, he was lightning quick to correct deficiencies, real or imagined, and had nearly as short a temper as Mike's. For all that, he was experienced and sharp. Mike read him as hard but brittle; once Rogers had his first taste of fighting the Posleen, he would find a job as an aide or something similar in short order.

"As those of you who have been here have discovered, what I told the troops goes double for the officers. Despite the spectacularly fucked-up supply situation we should be getting our full equipment loadout next week in one abysmally confused shipment. If the new battalion commander hadn't arrived we would be truly up shit's creek getting it sorted out, but he's detailed me as acting Three, so I'll have some impact on the plan, especially since I get along with Wilson, the Four.

"Once the suits are uncrated we have to adjust them to the troops. As far as I know, I am the only qualified suiter in the battalion, so they'll have to send a tech or techs. I can find no mention of that in the mails, either general or GalTech, and none of my contacts have heard a word, so who knows when the techs will arrive. Whoever and whenever they are sent, it will take two, three, maybe even four weeks thereafter to get everyone suited. Command suits will be first, then platoon sergeants, but then it will be first through weapons. I have already discussed this with Top and he will pass it to the NCOs.

"In the meantime, we have four tactical exercises without troops next week. The first will be an open-field skirmish as a lone company, the second will be integrated with the other companies in a larger open-field encounter, the third a company defense with good to fair terrain and light opposition, and the last will be my personal favorite, the Spartan scenario. Since there's been a shakeup at battalion, that means I can take the aggressor. Nightingale, you'll run the company, you need to learn the ropes; Arnold, brief Nightingale on what that entails."

"Brief Nightingale on the playbook."

"Right." Mike looked at the newly arrived officers. "Combat against the Posleen requires swift fluidity and total concentration. So we're stealing a page from football and soccer and using 'plays' at the squad and platoon level. This serves two purposes.

"The first purpose is to reduce the time it takes to give orders. A series of simple two-part commands covers the vast majority of instructions given in combat.

"The second purpose is to overcome 'combat lock.' I want our troops so conditioned that when the time comes every single one of them opens fire without hesitation. Stopping a Posleen charge is like stopping an avalanche with fire hoses; you can do it, but it takes all the water in the world. We need every single son of a bitch firing."

"Most of that will be up to the NCOs. I want the officers to remain as hands-off as possible unless we are in active company or platoon-level training. If there is an issue with one of your platoons' readiness, bring it up with First Sergeant Pappas or myself."

"Get your shit squared away this afternoon, because as of tomorrow there aren't enough hours in the day. We have a Tactical Exercise Without Troops scheduled for tomorrow and sixteen hours per day of training from here on out until our Fleet Strike Readiness Evaluation Series. So you'd better get cracking.


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