ES Store ES Gaming ES Stories About the Eylau Sequence Go to ES Home Page


the eylau sequence.war

Commander Ian Williams glanced cautiously at the horizon as he walked along the hard desert pavement. The dome of an enormous blue sky arched overhead, meeting the russet colored mountains to the south in sharp relief. It was absolutely quiet. He could not remember having visited a place that was so naturally still. A hundred meters distant a large black raven was flying away from them, he could clearly hear the gentle beat of its wings.

As his measured steps continued – crunching loudly in the process – the commander kept his breathing in a steady rhythm. He occasionally gave a firm twist with the tip of his foot to test the hardness of the dry ground… it was like concrete, not very good if they needed water.

The Commander’s grey eyes glanced up suddenly from their dry reverie to review the horizon for the hundredth time; still clear, still empty space and big sky. After a long silence he became aware that his subordinate was fidgeting slightly as he threaded his way amongst the brown clump grasses.

“Well Lieutenant Atri,” inquired Commander Williams in fluent Kitak, his subordinate’s native language, “who do you think will find us first: Our people, the Selangor or the Californians?”

At the first sound of William’s voice, Lieutenant Mæsa Atri rotated his head upward and listened intently to his commander. It seemed that everything the Batur did was executed with rapt attention; it was something that Williams particularly liked about them.

“I think,” said the lieutenant; “that the Californians will find us first. They will certainly have seen us come down so close to their border and already they probably track us.”

“And the Selangor, they could have followed us down.” Williams added quickly. “They were certainly waiting for us as we passed over Sumatra on our last orbit.”

“True.” replied the lieutenant. “But even if they are in the vicinity – which they apparently are not at the moment – they would probably detect the Californian forces nearby. Unless the Californians are staying clean at a distance, which would not make sense.”

“Unless,” Williams said. “They prefer not to get involved.”

“I doubt that, they have given the Selangor bloody noses before when they came too close, why would they choose differently now, especially when we – who are not unfriendly with the Californians – have just come to ground in an emergency reentry.”

Lieutenant Atri glanced up regularly at Williams whilst continuously scanning the horizon in much the same manner as the Commander. Each was scanning differently in order to improve coverage, but they were both aware that on their own like this, Selangor units could get alarmingly close without being detected.

“So…” Williams quipped without distracting his lieutenant too much. “What if the Californians choose to let the Selangor get us first, and then stop them? They could claim that they tried to save us, and at the same time examine our lifeless carcasses for any intelligence we might offer.” Williams smiled down at the lieutenant in a mildly evil way. “What do you think of that little scenario?”

Lieutenant Atri could not really see William’s evil expression – not through their uniforms – but he still got the point. Even as Williams finished, Lieutenant Atri spoke quickly; “Did your assistants prompt you on that, or is that your own idea?”

“A few minutes ago my team warned me not to rely entirely on the Californians. The rest of the scenario is my own.”

“Well.” commented Williams’ lieutenant, himself obviously in the middle of his own ruminating; “I think this is something to consider. Should we prepare to destroy ourselves?”

The Batur are nothing if not to-the-point, Williams smiled silently to himself.

“For now just make sure all your files are moved together, we certainly won't blow ourselves up just yet.” quipped the commander wryly.

They were talking about the sternum point, a common area on the body for storing information because of its position away from the extremities. For those forced to destroy themselves on short notice, the sternum point offered the best chance at denying data to intruders, prodders and the generally curious. Of course the idea was not to kill yourself until you knew with certainty that all your data was destroyed. Once that was done, a lethal injection from your uniform followed by a loud bang was wholly preferable to intrusion by enemy MGVs that would try to map out your person. That process was best compared to having the worst flu imaginable followed by the feeling of being turned inside out.

Death always resulted.

Although some countries avoided use of mapping weapons, many would do it when the returns promised to be lucrative. Two Australian orbital forces officers dumped unexpectedly onto the desert floor east of California would automatically be worth the risk. In any case, there were groups in the world who wouldn't care too much about their public image. Even worse, for some of them a few well postured acts of brutality would improve their image in the eyes of certain customers.

In reply to his commander’s question, Lieutenant Atri looked over and tapped his chest with the slender tip of his index finger. Williams smiled again; Atri had probably moved his data over before they landed.

Again the commander glanced along the horizon. To the north he could see the tall face of the glaciers, shining brightly in the sunlight. Even from a distance the creeping mountains of ice were a wondrous and sublime sight. The great shining walls slivered in a thousand places in a riot of white and translucent blue. If you meditated on them long enough, you might be fortunate to witness a gigantic slab as it slowly toed over into a white spray at the base of the sheer wall. Williams watched with some impatience – well short of meditation – and realized that he was not likely to be rewarded with any further sublime visions today. One had been enough for him anyway.


|||||   |||||


After some time, Williams and Atri reached the line of cliffs which had looked so small from their drop point. Now the huge boulders and uneven piles of jointed stone towered around them. Here and there were small rivulets of water that ran in narrow courses from the heights above. Dense, brightly green mosses grew in the cracks around the miniature rivers. The lieutenant stood looking directly at a rock face in the shade nearby, and slowly raised his arm to point at the uneven ledge. There on the rocks a line of squarish humanoid figures primitively drawn in subdued white and brown stared back at them, the large circular eyes seeing nothing on their ancient march to nowhere. Exchanging silent glances, the two officers resumed their march, hopping from boulder to boulder. After a while the commander turned to look back down the valley and out onto the desert.

“Well.” Williams said. “It has been over two hours since we were knocked out of orbit and nothing.” Looking over, he could see his lieutenant gazing back at him from a boulder-top, steadying himself in a silent reverie. “There must have been more fighting up there and both sides are so heavily engaged that there are insufficient resources, either to rescue us or attack us.”

Atri nodded in recognition of the Commander’s theory. Both of them knew the options; they could remain completely off the network, which assured maximum security. Or they could try to collect some passive observations at a slight risk of giving away their position. The latter option assumed there was still fighting in orbit, indeed it assumed that the fighting that had destroyed their ship was part of a general Selangor offensive which would not allow for the tracking of two de-orbiting controllers. If this was a big push, the enemy units would be satisfied with getting them and their orbital division out of the way.

If however, this was part of a local intelligence gathering attack, then Williams and his lieutenant were still in a state of high danger. Every minute that passed without some dreadful alarm from their ES assistants was a sign that the lightning fast battle they had just lived through was part of a bigger story for the day.

“Lieutenant,” said Williams; “go to that little cave over there and I'll climb up to the top of these rocks… see what sort of fellows are in the neighborhood.” Atri replied with a crisp “Yes sir.” and moved with his customary agility toward a small opening in the rocks further to the east of their position.

With a surge the commander thrust smoothly up the face of the rock face, working along a rock ledge that was his target hold. Moving on from there, he climbed further up, palms and soles gripping the rock unfailingly. A brief stop at a rest point and he was on the way up again. Gaining the line of the closest ridge he pulled himself onto a flat and instantly felt the blast of wind push against his uniform. He steadied himself and looked off to the west; marching into the distance between valleys of bright yellow sand were lines of dark volcanic mountains, mingled with other grey and tan ridgelines.

Setting aside his momentary appreciation of the broad desert vista, he quickly and silently began browsing through his passive search options. Once he was finished, he conducted a final check of his own systems to make sure nothing on board his uniform would try to access the orbital network once he opened-up. He gave the command and held his breath.

Instantly a flood of data began pouring in to his on-board network. A predictably sparse set of command intercepts from the Pitcairn station – his base – and some noise obviously coming from damaged ships in orbit confirmed that a large battle was still in process high overhead. He even instinctively looked up at the sky toward the point in space from which they had just fallen a short while before. As would be expected, precious little else about events in orbit could be gleaned from William’s vantage point.

More alarming were events close at hand. Whipping around to face east, Williams saw his subordinate Atri who had frozen near the mouth of the cave. Williams knew why, he stood helplessly watching his vulnerable lieutenant. A quick zoom confirmed his sensor sweep; there was some kind of combat unit hugging the wall of the cave. It was nearly invisible and only gave away its position because Lieutenant Atri had now gotten within two meters of it. Atri, who could see the combat unit on the wall of the cave with his plain daylight vision, had frozen with the palms of his hands held outward – the sign to all combat units of passive intent, surrender if necessary. The unidentified crawler remained attached to the wall, facing Atri with its sensor suites active.

As Williams watched, two more combat units appeared nearby. They didn't actually “appear” in the sense that most civilians might think, they announced their presence by sensor sweeping the area and spotting Williams, certainly pinpointing his location and forwarding his profile to other concealed units in the area.

‘But whose units?’ Being an orbital controller, Williams was no expert on tactical ground formations even though he had studied them. All he could see here were a few emission signatures and a very nice image coming in from Lieutenant Atri of a lethal looking reconnaissance crawler the exact same color as the rocks around it. Atri – whose position was now hopelessly compromised anyway – had opened his medium range uniform link to Williams in order to stream the image.

Looking cautiously around, Williams decided these crawlers must be Californian. Had they been Selangor the fighting would already be over, with jagged pieces of Williams, his subordinate and their uniforms decorating the boulders. Standing absolutely still in unthreatening postures, the two Australian officers listened carefully as a nearby unit crawled into view and opened a link with them;

“Please remain where you are.” It commanded in a pleasant and friendly voice inside William’s uniform. “A Cal-Army rescue team is en route to secure you and your crewmember. You will be debriefed shortly. Thank you and welcome to the high desert.”

With that the Californian army unit clung back onto the rocks and nearly disappeared, moving away to a new position as it regained cover.

A short text from Atri regained William’s attention, the lieutenant was now standing casually, watching the Californian reconnaissance crawler move back into the cave before disappearing completely. Atri motioned that he would come back into verbal range; he nimbly jumped onto the nearest boulder and climbed up jointed rock faces on the way to the ridgeline that led to William’s perch. He was rarely in need of the gripping powers offered by his uniform, and as he moved gracefully across the rocks it constantly shifted color, tone and heat signature as it sought to camouflage his outline.

Williams brought himself back to the more important issue of their vulnerability and pending meeting with the Californians. Before he was able to think further on the matter, a group of sleek air interceptors tore through the dry desert air, streaking up the valley below and climbing in a broad arc as they kept the ridge to their left. More tearing noises to the north meant that several more flights of Californian aircraft were sweeping the area to establish superiority – just in case. Behind them came several flights of larger heavy attack jets, also unmanned like their smaller air superiority brethren but slower and loaded with armor and ordnance. A Californian heavy attack jet was nearly impossible to shoot down, the best thing you could do was stay out of its way. Williams had only once seen one from a distance. Now, five of these monsters approached his perch on the ridgeline, leading escorts for the manned command jet sweeping up from the valley floor.

Lieutenant Atri reached William’s rock in time to watch the Californian command craft slow its ground hugging ascent of the ridgeline and peel into open view in a sweeping hover less than a meter from the opposite edge of the flat-topped boulder where the two Australians lay. Above the gentle roar of the command jet’s power plant, the metallic slipping sound of its door echoed as the cloistered interior opened to the crisp desert air.

Sitting immediately inside was the enclosed outline of a uniformed California Army officer motioning for the two Australians to move into the tandem seats forward and aft of his station. Without hesitation Commander Williams and his lieutenant galloped to the other side of the boulder and into the vitals of the waiting jet. No sooner had they climbed in than the door snapped shut and their stomachs climbed the wall as the jet tumbled to port and sped back toward the valley floor. Through the newly opened network connections they could hear the dull rumble of their heavy escort as the entire task force gained speed and bore back toward the coast. As the commander looked forward, he could see that the cockpit crewman for this jet was batur, tucked into a small flight couch that a human could not hope to fit.

“Could you please identify yourselves?”came a friendly but commanding tone from the figure who sat between Commander Williams and his subordinate.

Williams immediately responded; “Commander Ian Williams, Australian Orbital Forces.” moments later his subordinate followed suit; “Lieutenant Mæsa Atri, Australian Orbital Forces.”

“Mmmm.” muttered the Californian in confirmation, obviously distracted by other things. “I am Captain James Sweeney, Cal-Army. I've been tasked with making sure you and your crew make it back to California safe and sound Commander. Am I to understand that it is only the two of you?”

“That is correct Captain.” responded the Australian commander. “And a hearty thank you for picking us up. Our ship was disabled by Selangor orbital fire. But by now you probably know more about that than I do.”

“Not really.” lied the captain, “We were pulled off station and headed straight out here. I only assumed something was up based on your own sudden appearance.”

In reality, Sweeney knew all about events in orbit and even now he was following station reports arriving from Fort Banning and Earth orbit. It wasn't his decision as to what these two Australians did or didn't get told. His mission was to bring them in, preferably in one piece – or two pieces as the case turned out.

Acknowledging the lie with approval, the Australian commander continued, “In any case, thank you. We will cooperate in any way possible with the investigation into our arrival and its particulars.”

“Don't worry about that for the moment, current plans are for a quick visit to a medical unit and then a stop to pick up some hot chow – or cold chow if that suits you. After that you will have a quick debrief with some officers and a California State Department official. Your embassy has been informed and may send someone, although they appear to be rather distracted at the moment.”

This last item was a small gift from Captain Sweeney and both men knew it. “Thank you Captain.” Williams replied. “We couldn't ask for more.”

‘Certainly not.’ thought Williams. Had Sweeney landed in Australia, Williams would have given him half as much information just as a matter of course. Looking out at the passing mountains he wondered absentmindedly what the weather would be like on the coast.

Several miles to the north, an unmarked reconnaissance jet came to a hover near the self-destructed remnants of the two Australian’s jettisoned escape modules and gathered them up, incinerating the ground where they had landed and clearing the area of major traces of human contamination. Under the watchful patrol of the circling air supremacy flights, the small unmanned jet sped back to the southwest.

Next: 05. Banning

  Copyright © 2012 by WTJ. All rights reserved.