Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
This page Copyright © 2013-2017, Karl Leffler
War Stories: Inheritance
The biographies tell us Robert Anson Heinlein never had children.
This is not true.
This excerpt is dedicated to his memory, from one of them.
Lexington, South Continent
Monticello, Jeffersonian Republic
Rennert had pinned on a third bar – a Captain. He'd been given the Company. Such as remained – he might as well have kept his two First Lieutenant's bars. They were cadre now, rebuilding.
A lot of new faces.
He'd been given the Navy Cross, too. Gods knew why. He'd have refused, if Stoddard wasn't getting what he deserved.
There was a formula for these things, there had been since generations before the Escape. A ritual. Building on the ancient American foundations, there was a special unit in the Navy and the Corps, chaplains, counselors. Rennert wouldn't blame any of his peers for letting them handle it – but he couldn't do that. Not him.
Not for him.
The doctors said his limp would go away in time, except perhaps on a rainy day, and his replacement eye would be ready in a few more weeks. His hand would be in the vat for some months longer. The prosthetic was working... well enough, meanwhile. Like wearing a very thick, very stiff glove. They said it would feel almost natural, in time, but it was only temporary.
The prosthetic was good enough to drive with, and the rental aircar smart enough to not need a driver anyway. He'd called ahead, of course.
The rental set down next to the Stoddard family van. It was old, shabby on the outside and what he could see of the upholstery through the windows, but Rennert could tell it was well-maintained where it counted. Stoddard had talked about it, replacing all four fans, installing and tuning a new gyro, paying extra for the best software.
The last time he'd been home.
The rear window wore several decals. The Flag; the Star, Snake and Rifles of the Corps; Stoddard's rank insignia, Gunnery Sergeant; his unit, First Regiment, Fifth Legion; the coveted shoulder flash of the Mobile Infantry. The school fencing and pistol team logos, each with the name, “Kelly”, for Stoddard's daughter.
The Blue Star decal had been overlaid with Gold.
It was a decent home, just outside Marine Corps Base Lexington. A healthy person could hike to the sea in half an hour. No mansion, not on military pay, and Rennert could tell mother and daughter had frantically cleaned before his arrival. But it was a home.
A home with a hole in it.
The official notification had been made months ago, the arrangements completed, the remains returned. Rennert had met Stoddard's family at the funeral yesterday, but he felt he owed them more.
Mabel was a handsome woman, though the loss had taken its toll – she seemed much older... emptier than the holo Stoddard had shown him. She tried to act normal, offering coffee, small sandwiches. She clasped his- other thing, only recoiling after the touch. Rennert had to admit, the cyberneticists were good at their work.
Kelly seemed expressionless, though her eyes strayed to the case Rennert had brought.
They sat in the living room, mother and daughter on the couch, Rennert in a matching chair across from a coffee table. The old-fashioned fireplace wasn't necessary, not at this latitude of South Continent, but its mantle made a good place to set... decorations. After examining them, he nodded once, slowly, in their direction, and set the case on the floor beside him.
Mabel put her arm around her daughter's shoulders and began the ritual. She asked, “How did my husband die?”
And Rennert began to tell them.
LSM215 JRS Margaret Cochran Corbin
2nd Fleet, Jeffersonian Republic Navy
2nd Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion
1st Mobile Infantry Regiment, Legio V
Jeffersonian Republic Marine Corps
Second Battle of New Israel
“Bridge! Rennert's Rascals, ready for drop!”
Avery Rennert had recently pinned on his second bar, First Lieutenant. He'd kept his platoon, thankfully.
The Mobile Infantry had turned out surprisingly similar to Prophecy. Plenty of computer power, though, something not even the Prophet had imagined, half a century before the Escape – no shaven-head female savants necessary for piloting. And some few women in the MI's ranks, though none in his own platoon at present; Amazons and Valkyries, meeting the exact same standards as the men.
Some men found that attractive. Rennert wasn't one of them. He saw them not as objects of desire, but as Sister Marines. They'd earned that.
Just as Heinlein predicted, Rennert's pod was shot out of the ship like a shell from a cannon. His was first; he was Platoon Leader.
Right behind him was his Platoon Sergeant, GySgt Marc Stoddard.
The Maggie Cee was one of the new Tommy Atkins multirole transports, entering production shortly before the War. She was less than a year old, and she'd been configured for the Mobile Infantry – launch tubes, recovery boats, more armament than any other subclass of her type. She carried all of Kilo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st, the first, MI Regiment, Legio V, “Aunt Mazie's Own.”
Carried them all the way from their home, Monticello's South Continent. Carried them, at last, to their first meeting with the enemy.
The ship was still decelerating from Transit, her fusion torches facing New Israel and boosting at 28 meters; she'd take orbit once the Troopers were away, her boats – and she herself, she could land, all 27 kilotons of her – ready to recover the survivors if something went horribly wrong.
The ship would land on New Israel, in a few days or weeks, in any case. Nothing remained above the planet to shoot her down, and the Navy and the Corps were here to stay.
It had started three years ago – Monticellan; roughly two Terran, about 1-1/3 local – when the Imperial Terran Navy made a Close Transit at a wrenching 2.4 light-seconds from Epsilon Indi IVb. They'd lost three ships when exiting hyperspace, their math off just enough to bring them too close to the gas giant of which New Israel was a moon. Gravitational shear did for them.
They'd brought two hundred and thirty-nine.
It was a surprise attack. Readiness had been heightened, but like Pearl Harbor, no one really expected it – no one who was listened to. Similar invasions of Monticello and Wilson's Colony were narrowly defeated by ultimate sacrifices. Still, the New Israelis had all the right reflexes.
A civilian freighter crew had rammed the enemy flagship, after launching improvised kinetic weapons to destroy a half-dozen other vessels. The Resistance were pretty sure they knew who to model the statues on.
A lone woman, a photographer in the mountains, tied up a whole battalion for a precious day – and sent a warning allowing the bulk of Third Legion to escape destruction. Unfortunately her name might never be known.
The Third, and the Seventeenth, had formed the core of the Haganah, the New Israeli Resistance. Widely dispersed to make bombardment ineffective, every able-bodied adult and adolescent with a squirrel-gun had been hunting everything in Imperial uniform. Every day. For three years.
Not counting the occasional suicide nuke in the orbitals, preventing the enemy from pressing New Israel's industrial capacity into Imperial service. I'm sure glad these guys are on our side, Rennert thought.
And now, with the Empire bottled up in Steeltown, not daring to leave their green zone in less than company strength, their flow of reinforcements and supplies had been violently cut. The Navy was here, and with the Navy... the Corps.
Four of every five candidates for the MI washed out. One in three hundred died in training. One in sixty required regen, for injuries which were still permanently crippling in the Empire - amputations, paralysis. Among other criteria, only candidates who survived the entire 2,300-hour course without meaningful injury were accepted - one hundred hours total sick call meant disqualification and return to the Regular Corps.
Rennert had already been a 2nd Lieutenant, very freshly minted, graduating OCS days before the War began; he had been selected for officer training some months after completing Basic, having enlisted for Citizenship after his 29th (18th Terran-calendar) birthday. Roughly half of all officers, in either Navy or Corps, were Mustangs, as he was, promoted from within. The Space Patrol Academy - now, and for the duration, the Naval Academy - was the only other source.
OCS was more brutal than regular Basic, stretching body and mind to the limit, then expanding the limit. OCS washouts made decent grunts in the MI, but Rennert had graduated as a Mobile Infantry officer. He could figure a recovery orbit, in his head, while under fire and directing a fighting withdrawal. There were no "90-day wonders" in the MI. Incompetent leaders died in training, because the robot and teleoperated OpFor used live munitions.
Rennert knew he was ready.
The sky was full of metal.
Some was chaff, deliberate decoys to improve the MI's chances of survival; this increased as their drop pods were shed in layers during entry, the first two had already gone as they slowed toward Mach. Some were kinetic weapons, and say what you will about the Navy, they could shoot. Jeffersonian Marines didn't worry about “friendly fire”.
Some of the metal plunging through the sky of New Israel used to be Imperial Navy warships. A lot of it. In his armor, in his pod, Rennert chose a plain-light view on his display. He was pretty sure that was... about one-third... of a London-class cruiser. He wondered if the New Israelis would name the new lake after it.
That lake. Right... there. A few rainfalls from now.
But some of the metal was coming up, toward Avery Rennert and his platoon. Beams, too, of particles and coherent light. Eventually some of it was going to connect.
Speaking of light, Gods, was that a nuke? Yes it was, his visor told him, fifty-kiloton flak at his level but about two hundred kilometers southeast, Are they insane? No, he realized, they just have nothing left to lose. The Imperials knew no one was coming to their rescue, with their own navy raining on them in scraps. But meanwhile-
I wonder if someone popped his 'chute too early. Maybe he'd find out later. “Rascals,” he commed, their suits automatically using laser and maser and frequency-skip and burst, “bypass 'chute release. Let's get out of this sky.” The visor counted down to the first parachute release, which was bypassed, and the platoon continued in freefall, acting like any other formerly-orbital debris; their 800kg powered armor had a higher terminal velocity in atmosphere than a normal Human skydiver. A sensor tech would have to look very hard to pick them out of the metal monsoon. Risk for this maneuver was minimal; they had three sets of 'chutes, and the landing rockets, and they had trained.
Buchanan's icon winked out. Damn! “Suit,” Rennert snapped, “mark the source of that beam.” Pupil-tracking told the suit AI which one he meant. Good, he thought. Fixed emplacement on our own objective. He wouldn't have to violate orders to pay them back – though probably it was just blind bad luck, the enemy spraying anything they could get a lock on. “Rascals, new course, one-five-one true. Continue freefall.” Like a school of fish, the platoon changed course together, using fins on their disposable entry pods. Risky, drawing attention, but they'd practiced this too; it took an instant, then they were back to an innocent-seeming ballistic course, and there was much else for the enemy to look upon.
A few moments more and the second parachute level was reached; he had them skip that too, this was a hot LZ and no question. He issued a slight course correction, only a few degrees. Their point of impact was now within the armor park's perimeter. Altitude three kilometers, two-point-five, velocity 200 meters per second steady. His visor started flashing warnings.
They'd cut it closer than this, training on Monticello, with thinner atmosphere and higher gravity. They were below the altitude where the enemy would be expected to use airburst nukes. “Number three 'chute – PULL!” The platoon jettisoned the last layer of their pods, and the first two parachutes, and the third jerked them back to 60mps. That was a high g load, but most of his platoon had been born on Monticello, and the rest had trained there. “Cut 'chute!” he ordered at 200 meters above ground, and beams set their canopies alight above where they had been.
Each man knew his task now. Each fired the landing pack when and how he felt proper. Rocket flames blossomed beneath each Trooper, scouring his own personal landing zone. They touched down, jettisoned the packs, and began killing everything their suit AIs identified as “enemy”.
Rennert found the crew that got Buchanan. He bounced right into their gun pit and did them with his armor alone, their pistol bullets whining uselessly off his suit.
Later, he went back and collected those pistols.
Later still, in lieu of tradition, he presented them to Buchanan's widow and sons.
Aoyama had lost his left arm to a Terran tank's main gun. The suit staunched both blood and pain, and he was right-handed anyway. He had bounced atop the turret, torn the hatch off, reached in, and pulled the tank commander out in pieces before dropping a grenade for the rest of the crew. Rennert had set him to guarding prisoners until he could be evacuated. Escape... was not foremost in the prisoners' thoughts. Not when they saw Aoyama's wound, and his suit-art.
Hideki had escaped during the First Battle of New Israel, crew on an ore freighter bound for Monticello, already outbound to the hyper limit when the Empire arrived. Even so, he had to be wrestled away from the boats. When the shuttle set down at Central Terminal, he'd walked straight to the nearest recruiting office.
MI armor had adaptive camouflage, a regenerative nanite swarm programmable to whatever scheme was appropriate, breeding replacements for itself to repair damage. Many Troopers programmed an alternate scheme, like nose-art on old American warplanes. Hideki Aoyama's bore the names and portraits of his family, his elderly parents, his young wife and infant son, who had died in the initial bombardment.
The Rascals had captured most of an armored brigade. Vehicles, equipment, supplies – not so many personnel. Records, intel, codes. The actual battle had taken about twenty minutes; ten if you left out the door-kicking mop-up. It was only a couple days before the whole installation was turned over to elements of the Seventeenth, the Samurai Legion, who'd just received their first real resupply in three years.
Captain Llewellyn, Kilo Company's commander, had passed on their new orders; they were to rejoin the Regiment, and the rest of Fifth, Fourth's panzers, and the suddenly-reconstituted Third and Seventeenth Legions for a massed assault on Steeltown. “It's going to be a bloody horror,” he said. “Civilians everywhere, women and children. They've been kept within the city as labor, and as hostages.” From their briefings they knew that essentially all the men, and at least half the adult able-bodied women, had been in the countryside with the Resistance since the invasion.
There were reports of sex slavery too. The Empire had even used the term, femmes de réconfort. The nikkei population of New Israel knew their own history, just as the Jews did. Some of the POWs would never stand trial – and everyone on Avery Rennert's side was okay with that.
There had already been brutal reprisals for Resistance attacks on Steeltown, which had been heavily mined with explosives and incendiaries. Whole neighborhoods had been obliterated with the flick of a switch. Aoyama's wasn't the only innocent infant murdered by the Occupation. “Our job,” Llewellyn said, “will be to drop right in to Occupation Central Command, and neutralize the controls for those mines, before the general assault begins. Then we hold until relieved.”
They couldn't just drop a rock on it; Resistance spies had learned there was a deadman switch. The controls had to be seized intact and kept active, or the whole city would burn.
If it worked, the residents of Steeltown would be defusing ordnance for decades. If it didn't, there wouldn't be any residents.
Kilo Company's drop had to be precise. Minimum course corrections, minimum warning, maximum surprise. The eggheads had crunched the orbital numbers, timing the drop to coincide with another debris-fall, threading a ballistic needle from four hundred kilometers.
No parachutes. At all. That was too much warning, even for a night assault. Their landing packs had been reconfigured with more rocket fuel instead. The Maggie Cee had landed, loaded and lifted in less than an hour, then spat them out again.
The math was good. The Troopers were in freefall, surrounded by scraps of what he'd been told was a Cavalier class Terran destroyer. 2nd Platoon was dropping slightly ahead of the Company; the rest of the Regiment was in the main assault force, waiting for their signal. The Rascals were on course to land within meters of the entrance to the underground command bunker.
Heavily armored and guarded, it would take minutes to fight through, by which time General Grison would have started flipping switches.
Commodore Mordechai Bramowitz personally fired the central mass driver of BB03 JRS Virginia. General Keyes, commanding the panzers of Wilson's Colony's Fourth Legion, wouldn't trust anyone else to make the shot.
Everyone knew why. Bramowitz was a record-breaking legend at the Naval Weapons School; his wife had commanded the cruiser Masada, the first Jeffersonian casualty of the Battle of Monticello and the reason the capitol hadn't been invaded; his sister-in-law and her unborn twins had died at Wilson's Colony; and like Aoyama, he had been born here.
The projectile's mass and velocity had been calculated to seven decimals, counting atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity. The tungsten had been refined from the system's own Beta Belt, carefully purified and machined.
It plunged through the falling Troopers, missing Rennert himself by fourteen meters, and obliterated the top four levels of Occupation Central Command, in the very heart of Steeltown.
Thirty-seven seconds later, 2nd Platoon landed in the crater, and started digging toward the ninth level.
The Resistance had lost twenty-seven lives smuggling out the plans, and another three hundred innocents in reprisal, to ensure the Empire didn't know they'd done it. Steeltown's captive population was over four hundred thousand. Churchill had allegedly made the same choice with Coventry. They had guarded the plans for over two Monticellan years, knowing they would be used.
The Rascals had been equipped with prefabricated frames of linear shaped charges, a pre-Escape technique used for breaching doors and walls for assaults, or cutting supports for building demolition. These used C14 explosive, the strongest yet made. The frames had to be of the same alloy as their own armor, to survive enough microseconds to channel the blast; only their own armor had the strength to lift the assemblies.
They used them on the concrete floors, dropping through to the next before the shards had stopped flying; their armor protected them. They ignored any Imperial personnel who survived; the next charge usually disposed of them, and if they got in the way their armor swatted them aside like broken bugs. There was no resistance; the debris-fall had been perfect cover, the Terrans didn't realize it was an attack, and the mass-driver's impact had stunned the survivors.
The plans were still correct, projected on each Trooper's visor, melded with radar, sonar, lidar imagery to guide them in total darkness and impenetrable smoke and dust. Dropping to the lowest level, Stoddard placed another explosive frame on the sliding armor hatch to the control center, stepped aside, and triggered it. With flames from the explosive gasses still raging and molten gobbets of the bunker's armor splattering his own, Rennert stepped through the breach and head-shot every living thing in the room.
Including, he later learned, General Nicolas Grison, Imperial Governor of New Israel.
After confirming the mine controls were intact and had not been triggered, he sent the code signal, and the general assault began.
The confusion resulting from the nature and timing of the attack worked as well as was hoped; precious minutes slipped by before Imperial command realized the attack on OCC (or CCO, Commandement Central de l'Occupation in Imperial French) wasn't a debris strike, and minutes more before they realized four Legions of Jeffersonian Marines were marching on them.
While 2nd Platoon was digging, the rest of Kilo Company made a perimeter around OCC. Stragglers rushing to what they thought was a disaster area instead met death – but some survived long enough to report.
It would be two hours, barring mishap, before Kilo Company was relieved.
The late General Grison had incorporated safeguards in his mine system; the locals were of some value as labor and more as hostages, he didn't want them expended without cause. Though he had used the terror-weapon several times during his rule, the procedures were similar to those required for the release of nuclear or similarly strategic weapons.
Grison's second in command and lieutenant-governor, Henri Corday, had the necessary codes, but was across town, outside the Company's perimeter. As the reports reached him, he quickly realized he had one slim hope to survive and perhaps escape: Regain control of the hostages and use the threat of their murder to halt the Republic's attack.
He ordered every Imperial soldier to drop whatever they were doing. Some would guard the hostages, setting up cordons and dead-lines to prevent escape from their mined homes; personal vehicles, even down to bicycles, had long since been confiscated – no Steeltowner moved without the Empire's permission.
The rest immediately massed to retake OCC.
Rennert and Stoddard had returned to the surface after securing the mine controls. Lance Corporals Brown and Chiang were working frantically to sever the connections without triggering the charges – it was conceivable the Rascals couldn't hold.
Meaning it was conceivable they'd all be killed in place. There would be no retreat.
“Tank, ten-o'-clock!” someone called.
Rennert dropped as the 130mm round streaked over him, slamming into the rubble that had been OCC's upper facade. Extending a sensor mast, his visor already marking the target, he loosed a missile from his armor's backpack.
The missile's launch canister proceeded ahead of the missile itself. The Terran tank's reactive armor triggered on it, leaving no defense for the penetrator which followed, slamming a self-forged bolt of metal through the thinner armor atop the turret. The blowout panels for the tank's ammunition storage worked as designed, but the penetrator had already incinerated the crew, some milliseconds before igniting the rounds.
A pair of Imperial fighters dove to strafe. Munoz had one of the suits which carried SAMs instead of tank-killers, and he launched one at each; with Republic electronics, designed here at Edo Station, they homed with radar and thermal and optical pattern-recognition – nothing an Imperial fighter carried could spoof them. One of the Falcons slammed into the parade ground adjacent to OCC; the other wobbled away, its pilot ejecting moments later. Rennert briefly wondered how many innocents would die under that wreckage.
201mm artillery rounds came next, and nothing the Rascals had brought with them could stop those. True, most of the enemy guns were knocked out by low-orbiting laser pulses from the Navy before they could get off their third rounds, but that left over a hundred 160kg shells inbound.
Rennert saw, on his own visor, as Captain Llewellyn vanished in a spout of flame.
Their suits were programmed to work together as well as independently. His visor told him 3rd Platoon's commander, 1LT Leight, was critically wounded, only his suit keeping what was left of him alive; 1st's leader, 2LT Enright, hadn't the rank. That left Rennert as Company CO.
And he'd trained for that too.
More enemy tanks appeared on Steeltown's wreckage-strewn streets.
Rennert had to shift mental gears – he wasn't a platoon leader anymore. Stoddard became 2nd's leader now, and Rennert ordered 2nd to hold OCC to the last. “First and Third, on me. We bounce out, hit the tanks, and bounce back.”
Each Trooper's standard suit mounted the Dardell M17D, 1,320 rounds of 8x30mm caseless rifle ammunition, a 30mm grenade launcher with forty-seven mixed and selectable rounds, four guided penetrator missiles, twenty conventional fragmentation grenades, and ten penetrator mines, oversize grenades meant for breaching fortifications or armored vehicles, essentially the missile's warhead without the missile. Power wouldn't be a problem; their suits were rated for five hours of continuous combat or two days normal movement, and could process water into hydrogen fuel in the field.
Rennert's jump jets howled, and the compressors screamed to refill the plenums with supercompressed air – that cut into endurance but they'd still all be relieved or dead before it mattered. Combined with the armor's leg muscles, the jets made for an impressive leap. They'd spent days, weeks, doing nothing but jumping around South Continent's desert, until their armor really did become their second skins.
Rennert slammed onto a Terran tank, too fast for its weapons to track but too slow to trigger its reactive armor, slapped a mine on the top of the turret, bounced to the next, an APC, repeated, bounced back toward OCC as the tank blew. In forty seconds the whole column was burning, their supporting infantry slaughtered.
And three more Troopers were dead.
Kilo Company was now below platoon strength, and nearly out of ammunition. The suits still had power, but the Terrans had been pounding them for two straight hours – and Rennert had just received word that the main assault had been delayed by heavy resistance. There was little the Navy could do; the mines and their deadman switch were still live, the control circuits might take days to unravel, Chiang and Brown had rejoined the fight because Rennert needed them to, and the people of Steeltown were still very much hostages.
Rennert counted icons – Not enough. “Kilo Company,” he ordered, “fall back to the crater.”
Kilo Company had dropped on OCC with a complement of 119, after Aoyama and Buchanan and a few others. Of these, twenty-five now responded.
It was a knife-fight now. Anti-materiel rifles, two-man 16mm brutes adapted from APC turrets – within 100 meters they could breach an MI suit, and they were often closer now. Shoulder-fired penetrator rockets, unguided but accurate enough. Flamethrowers. Grenades both launched and thrown.
Rennert's visor gave colored halos to his Troopers' icons, indicating damage, ammunition. There was far more yellow and red than green. They were Marines, and every Marine was a rifleman; they didn't waste rounds. But there had been so many targets, these last couple hours...
Norton bounced and slapped his last mine on another APC. The vehicle commander noticed and manually tripped the reactive armor – the sheet of explosive-driven balls wouldn't have pierced Norton's suit, if it hadn't already been damaged. On Rennert's visor, Norton's icon grayed out.
But the APC still blew.
Rennert launched his last three grenade rounds, shredding a squad of Imperial infantry. Two more approached in their place, hauling one of the big rifles. He started with them and worked his way back toward himself, one 8mm round at a time.
His visor flashed RELOAD.
He threw his last two hand grenades, then his last mine. Then he started picking up pieces of OCC and throwing those, as hard as his powered armor could. Men splattered.
His right hand jerked, then stopped working. It took him a moment to realize it wasn't there anymore.
Something smashed into his head. It didn't hurt, right away, but the sudden feeling of hot breeze on his face was terrifying. His visor went black, and he jettisoned what was left of his helmet.
He could only see from one eye. He hurled another piece of rubble to smash the enemy rifle crew, just as they fired another round which slammed his left leg, tumbling him.
Dragging himself upright, I still have power, I can still kill, he staggered across the rubble, the pieces of his own men and the enemy's- and his suit power arced and failed, trapping him.
Infantry, a plain unarmored leg infantryman aimed his fusil at Rennert's head.
Marc Stoddard landed on him.
He leapt, firing his last few rifle rounds on the bounce. Touching down he smashed unarmored men with his armored hands, whirling, crushing, slaying. A stream of pumped napalm caught him squarely and he ignored it, his movements whipping the flaming gel back at the enemy. He reached the rifle which had disabled Rennert and swung it like a scythe, batting Imperial troops through the air.
Yet another APC roared forward and this one was going to make it, there was no one left-
Stoddard bounced to the hull-
Two more of the big rifles fired, piercing his chest and back-
His suit dispensed the Company's last mine-
Rennert saw light-
-and then dark.
A squad of Troopers from Baker Company bounced in half a minute later.
Of Kilo Company's original 124 personnel, nineteen had survived the two drops on New Israel, none without debilitating wounds. Twenty-eight would receive the Navy Cross. No one dared disband the Company. They simply built a new one around the survivors.
Lexington, South Continent
Monticello, Jeffersonian Republic
Gunnery Sergeant Marcus Alan Stoddard was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Rennert concluded: “A warship of the Navy will bear his name.” They already knew this, three members of the Pentamvirate had attended the funeral. Councillor Schweitzer, preparing to return to the homeworld he'd been exiled from for five years, first by his election and then the Occupation, had presented the Medal himself.
Finally, Rennert picked up the large case he had brought. He had spent the Transit time repairing it, returning it to standard configuration from the -D version which attached to MI armor. He set the case on the table before them, the latches facing Kelly Stoddard, and set his hands- his hand and the other thing- atop it. Looking into Kelly's eyes, he recited what he couldn't for Buchanan's family:
“Since that day, no hands but mine have touched this.”
He withdrew his own touch. “From this moment, no hands but yours.”
Completing the ritual, Kelly opened the case, and slowly, solemnly, took out her father's rifle.
She held it to herself, as her mother held her, and, finally, wept.
25 Thirdmonth 331JR
4 July 2216CE
LSM280 JRS Marcus Alan Stoddard
1st Fleet, Jeffersonian Republic Navy
Headquarters Platoon, 1st Mobile Infantry Regiment, Legio V
Jeffersonian Republic Marine Corps
Third Battle of Terra
“Five minutes for the Padre.”
Rennert flexed his hand. Good as new. His eye- Same there. Maybe better. His leg- Nothing wrong with it today. And if there were, his suit would compensate.
The latest recon data had come in, and was displayed on his visor. The images were good, like the pilot had stopped, got out of his bird, and set up his cameras on tripods. Curious, he flicked his eyes and nudged a chin-switch to identify the source-
“1LT K. STODDARD VMFA12 CV01 JRS CONSTITUTION”
Good, Colonel Rennert thought, smiling beneath his armor. Got her second bar already. He dictated a short Mention for the quality of her work – he could see exactly where Kilo Company needed to touch down, all the defenses Baker would have to neutralize, the control center Fox was tasked to seize.
He could almost make out the faces of the antiaircraft gunners. She's a cool one.
The Regiment was dropping on the west coast of what used to be the United States of America. Fourth Legion's panzers were dropping behind them, as soon as the MI had secured an LZ for the Bullfrog landers – or more accurately, on the presumption they would; General Keyes was an impatient and often abrasive woman, but she trusted the MI.
And then they would bounce and roll to the Atlantic, taking their homeland back for good.
Sgt. Major Cates walked up beside him. One would expect an 800kg armored suit to clomp, but Cates had been in the Mobile Infantry since years before the War. He could move like a cat, and had taught hundreds the same – including Cadet Avery Rennert. Michelangelo Cates had called in every last marker to get a combat posting instead of instruction. He came from an ancient family of Marines, and his good-luck charm was an Eagle, Globe and Anchor worn by his ancestors decades before the Wright Brothers flew. It had been passed down in unbroken line for centuries. “Any change, sir?” he asked.
“Just what you see, Mick,” Rennert answered; the Regimental S'Maj would be getting the same intel. “A little fine-tuning.” And the Navy was taking care of that – already some of the enemy icons were blooming, then changing color, on Rennert's display. They could scrub the whole time zone if needed, but Terra was home; they were coming back to stay. That meant minimizing collateral damage, hence the scalpel of the MI instead of the broadsword of the Navy.
There weren't many MI, only five proper Regiments in the whole Corps, and they were all here for the Last Battle of Terra. The suits were unholy expensive even with dedicated fabberies, it was the fitting and tuning and training – the time – that cost so much. Most of the Marines landing on Terra today, or tomorrow, would be wearing passive armor which hadn't changed in concept, only in construction, for three hundred years.
Another icon on Rennert's visor indicated Padre Luca was done; he could see the corporal taking off his vestments – A surprising number of Catholics in the MI, Rennert thought, for a nation so agnostic otherwise – and clamping his M17D rifle to his vambrace, checking the ammo feed and targeting connection. Officially Luca was a priest of the Stellar Reformation, but he never turned away anyone who needed a moment, whether they prayed to his God or not.
There hadn't been a Pope in Rome for at least a hundred years; when Sol was Isolated after the Europa Incident, the Jeffersonian branch of the Church had chosen their own. The Church's prohibition against priests spilling blood... hadn't survived the change. Corporal Luca had made Pilgrimage to NovaRoma to receive Absolution, before shipping out. He'd make another, for Confession, when he got back.
In the Mobile Infantry, everyone dropped, and everyone fought.
Finally his visor flashed the inquiry he was waiting for, asking his status. He double-checked the icons for the Regiment's other eight LSMs and reported:
“Bridge! Rennert's Regiment, ready for drop!”