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the eylau sequence.war

Major Gibson and Nengghi pulled out of the small settlement town of Setan, which lay somewhat inland from the Java Sea on the East Coast of Kalimantan. The router Gibson had chosen was standard Australian Army issue that had been modified for intelligence use. It was in civilian colors, had no government markings and was distressed to appear heavily used. Australian civilians and other people were in and out of the area regularly, so it was unlikely his presence would attract attention. The router was moderately armed and had a good communications suite, the latter of which Gibson had no intention of using. Once he headed off into the bush, it would be easy to get out of sight and away from prying questions.

As they trundled along the local roads at high speed, Nengghi leaned back and dosed while Gibson thought more about his plans for this mission. It was more like an unofficial visit; he was going to meet one of his opposites in the Selangor Intelligence Service, and he was doing so without reporting it to his Australian superiors. At least he would not report until after he found out why Keng wanted to meet in person. He had decided to trust that the message Nengghi brought back from Singapore was genuine and not a trap. He was betting his life on it, and possibly Nengghi’s too, but he felt it was a wise risk. Gibson had a gut feeling that he knew who – or more accurately what – this Keng fellow was. If true, then he was more than just a member of Selangor intelligence. Either way they would soon find out.

Once they cleared the eastern hills, Kalimantan’s largest valley lay before them. The broad savannah was dotted by trees and small clumps of forest that went almost to the horizon. Far in the distance they could see a hazy dark line that marked the central mountains. The router followed a series of twisting roads crossed by the many shallow streams that meandered down from the highlands. Not much dust kicked up behind the vehicle, far less than would happen with regular civilian transport. Rarely, and surprisingly, they passed distant clusters of small buildings. Gibson knew the area was sparsely populated, but seeing it was different. These people really lived out in the middle of nowhere. As a precaution, Gibson reached up to punch the hard connect that would authorize the router’s on-board system to link with his ES assistant.

Before he had a chance to do anything, the router suddenly decelerated as it rounded a curve. Slowing to a halt, it stopped just short of a large herd of goats crossing the road. Out beyond the goats stood several tall men; one of them was wearing a large, gaudy necklace that tagged him as belonging to the Tara Cult – this was not their normal area. Noticing that the router was stopped in a possible ambush zone, Gibson punched the activation button and quickly rattled off his access code aloud. Now was not the time to worry about what Nengghi did or did not hear. She was wide awake now, looking with inquisitive concern at Gibson.

He manually unfastened his harness and popped the top hatch of the router.

"Good afternoon brother." the man called out. Gibson was immediately worried.

Gibson replied, gritting his teeth slightly, "How goes it?"

"Oh fine, sorry about this mess, we're getting these animals off to market and they seem to be in your way." the man said disturbingly. The ruse was pretty transparent, there was no market. Gibson’s ES assistant was already screaming proximity alarms at him as he dropped back down inside. Fortunately Nengghi was still strapped in, but as the router slammed into reverse, Gibson clipped his head at the edge of the hatch. He dropped into his seat and nearly blacked out. The router – whose on-board systems knew no front or back – roared straight back the way it had come. At the same moment several kinetic rounds blew through the vehicle’s side.

Within milliseconds Gibson’s ES assistant used the router’s onboard system to map out numerous combat vehicles and humans scattered behind the east side of the embankment. It instantly spat out volley after volley of defensive fire; the ordnance crashed home with near perfect accuracy – Gibson’s enemies were relatively primitive and had no countermeasures against the latest in Australian weaponry. Explosions and screaming erupted from the line of heavy brush as the router continued its retrograde dash.

Nengghi could only hang on. She couldn’t even tell what was shooting at them. The router spun out into a field and sped west away from the attackers. Several smart rounds screamed past. One of them circled, came back from straight ahead and crashed through the front fairing to explode by Gibson’s leg, peppering Nengghi’s calf with shrapnel. This snapped Gibson the rest of the way out of his daze with a scream as two more rounds crashed into the rear of the router. It developed a nasty slamming motion in the rear suspension and spun out to a halt. The loyal vehicle fired off the last of its defensive ordnance at the attackers. It had given a good accounting of itself; most of the human attackers at the ambush site were down, and all of their unmanned vehicles were knocked out to varying degrees, mostly chewed up from the inside out by MGVs. They knew they had run in to something formidable, which made the Australian technology all the more lucrative to the surviving cult members.

Gibson’s ES assistant showed three humans approaching, all carrying small arms. “Damn.” Gibson thought, “Their vehicles must all be down, otherwise they wouldn’t come up like this.” From where he sat, he had no line of sight to the approaching threat. He looked over at Nengghi who was watching him wide eyed. He reached behind her seat and pulled out the only sidearm they had – Australian army vehicles typically didn’t need guns for their passengers and were not liberally supplied with them.

The weapon had already been activated by Gibson’s ES assistant and was fully powered. He immediately transferred control of it to Nengghi and ordered open its small maintenance door. Out the rear of the stock popped a small panel from which Gibson peeled a control patch. He reached over to Nengghi and pressed it onto her skin just behind the ear; within seconds she had nearly all the same controls over the weapon as Gibson. Simultaneously he assigned targeting priorities to its system, which helped make sure she didn’t accidentally shoot him. “Not that it matters now.” he thought to himself as he winced in dull pain. He handed the gun to her and ordered her safety harness unstrapped.

“Now look Nengghi.” he said, “I need you to do exactly as I say, okay?” She nodded, unaware that she held the only personal weapon available.

“We’re both going to open the doors and jump out at the same time. I want you to fall out the side and roll over behind those rocks next to us. If anyone gets near you, shoot them. All you have to do is point it in the right direction and use your display to shoot, the gun will take care of the rest, okay?” She nodded her headed again. By now the patch had tied-in to her display, confirmed by the fact that she was looking around into the open space in front of her. “Good.” Gibson thought to himself, “She’ll know what to do.” He could feel blood pouring out of his thigh, and quite a bit of internal bleeding too. One of the kinetic rounds had passed through his seat, his guts felt like puree. “Damn, I’m a goner.” he thought. “I hope they think of something. Well, it’s out of my hands now.”

The defensive screen from the router was clearing and the attackers were only 200 meters away. He reached over, patted Nengghi on the cheek, rubbed his thumb over her chin and gave her a momentary sad look. He then nodded his head and yelled “Now!”

Out he rolled onto the ground on the left side of the router. To buy Nengghi a few precious moments he stumbled toward the obviously unattainable cover of an old log. Small arms fire snapped around him as he crashed to the ground. Rolling onto his side, he pulled himself up against the log as two of the men walked up to him. The third walked around to the vehicle.

“What about the other one?” the leader asked.

The third man walked cautiously around the front of the router. Behind the rocks next to the vehicle’s open passenger hatch was a girl, small and frail, propping herself up on one arm. The other was held up in a defensive posture, her hand was covered with blood and missing most of its fingers. Actually both her hands were bloody.

“Nothing.” he said, “It’s a girl. Her hands are blown off. She looks pretty bad.”

“Get back over here and cover this guy while I check the vehicle.” yelled the leader. The third man rejoined his fellow cult members, so he never saw Nengghi take up a firing position beneath the router.

“This guy’s done for.” one of them said.

“Maybe, but just watch him until I’ve had a chance to check this thing out.” said their leader as he turned admiringly toward the Australian vehicle.

He walked halfway to the router then stopped. Turning to his men he blurted out; “Wait, he’s probably still controlling this, you better shoot him first.”

At that, both of the other men started to level their weapons at the doomed Gibson when a deafening burst of small arms fire erupted around the three attackers. All of them went down in a hail of guided microshrapnel as their feet and ankles disappeared in clouds of bloody spray. Screaming, they all rolled to the ground. Another staccato burst from beneath the router and the two men nearest to Nengghi’s position jerked a few times as the rounds chopped through them like a meat cleaver. They fell still.

Nengghi jumped up and rushed around the back of the router. Stepping over the two lifeless attackers she cautiously approached the third man and dragged his weapon away, it was a long range mag-rifle, old but still deadly. He was too distracted in his footless agony to present a threat, so she rushed over to Gibson. He was motionless. Keeping an eye in the direction of the road and covering the surviving attacker, she checked Gibson for injuries. She was horrified by what she found. He had been shot several times by mag-rifle fire, and he had huge holes in his side and leg. She called his name “Stave, Stave,” reached down and nudged him as gently as possible. She took another look at the third attacker, he had stopped thrashing around. Sparing a few quick moments she checked Gibson’s pulse, it was very faint.

She rushed back over to the router and looked for anything that might have a medical symbol on it; military vehicles must have medical gear. Beneath one of the seats she found it; two small emergency med packs. One of them was blown in half, its complex inner workings scattered around the back of the vehicle. The other seemed okay. She rushed back to Gibson and quickly reviewed the pictorial guide on the med pack, most of it was familiar – memories from her own accident. She tore open the seal and pulled out the dense, slightly flexible foam strip. It felt unusually heavy and was marked on the side that should fasten to the patient. She gently held Gibson’s head and pressed the med kit onto his neck. Leaning back, she spared another brief glance at the surviving attacker; he was just lying there, breathing heavily.

She picked up Gibson’s hand and watched him. The area was quiet except for a slight wind in the trees. Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes, but she forced them back. She brought his wrist up to her cheek: no pulse; felt his neck: no pulse. Bringing up the med pack readout on her display, it showed no vital signs. In a dull shock she stood and looked down at Major Stave Gibson, one of the few people in the world who had ever cared what happened to her.

She turned and leered at the surviving black marketer, cult member, attacker, murderer. She stepped aside and nearly tripped over the attacking leader’s shredded remains. Catching herself she kicked at his lifeless corpse. Feeling the satisfaction of her foot digging in to the offender’s broken ribs she paused and then kicked it one last time.

The third man moved slightly and came to her attention again; her eyebrows furrowed and she stalked toward him. As she closed in, she could see that his eyes were glazed with shock but he was conscious. She kicked him. He winced and convulsed slightly on that side. She kicked him again and he tried to double over but couldn’t; the microshrapnel had really done a job on his lower spine.

Suddenly a thought came to her. She kicked him one more time, then picked up the large mag-rifle and leaned it against the router alongside her own gun. She then rummaged through the vehicle, opening every panel. Eventually she discovered what she wanted: a good length of towing cable. Yes, that would work fine – primitive but effective. Because of her hands it was difficult, but she managed to snatch up the cable in one arm and carry the Australian gun in the crook of her other arm. Walking back over to the third attacker, she checked to make sure he was still alive by kicking him again. He was still alive.

Setting her gun aside, she squatted down and tied together his legs at the knees. Then, placing the gun against his head, she grabbed one arm and pulled him onto his stomach. He watched her in terror before his face went into the dirt. She kicked him again. Then, standing on top of his legs with the gun pointed in between, she grabbed his arms and pulled them behind his back. It took her a long time to tie them, but she finally got it done. Pushing him back over, she then ran the line beneath each arm and wrapped it into a loop. It was messy, but it would work. She stood and looked around, still nobody.

She firmly grasped the looped cable and dragged the third man over to the nearest tree. Retrieving her gun, she pointed it at his head again as a reminder of the punishment for resistance. Cooperation was not going to save him, but he did not know that. Once she had him tied to the tree, she stood back to survey her handiwork. He looked back in weak terror at her and tried to speak, she returned his gaze with a blank, expressionless glance.

Off she walked, leaned her gun against the router and picked up the third man’s mag-rifle. It seemed easy to use. It had an old style trigger system that was pretty self-explanatory. Walking away from the disaster scene, she paced herself – ten, twenty, thirty, forty, and on until the third man was a good long distance away. Lying against a small log, she steadied the heavy weapon, aimed back down range toward the offender and popped off a round. “Crack!” went the weapon as a large blast of splinters exploded above the man’s head. He immediately began to struggle, a fresh stream of blood poured down his face. But Nengghi had managed to wind the cable too well for him to escape so quickly.

“Crack!” she fired again. This time it hit low, spraying him with dirt and dust. He yelled at her, but she wasn’t listening.

“Hmm.” she muttered aloud to herself, “This is not very easy.”

She squinted one eye and “Crack!” off went another round. This one hit the man’s left side at the elbow, shattering the arm and sending the lower half cartwheeling away.

‘Wow!’ she thought, half-fascinated and half-horrified – no matter, her rising anger was in charge now. The man was screaming and starting to pull loose. She quickly fired two more rounds “Crack, Crack!” The first one passed up the length of his right leg and the other exploded on the tree right next to his head. He shrieked and went limp.

Raising herself up, she paused and looked at him, motionless. Nothing, she watched and listened, still nothing. Standing up, she stalked toward him, anger growing that he may have died before she was finished. She leveled the gun again and fired, “Crack, Crack, Crack, Crack, Crack!” the whole area turned into a cloud of dust and dirt and blood. Standing to let the dust clear, she saw that the man, the third man, was dead beyond any doubt.

She threw the gun down.

Looking up in the air, her arms went limp and she screamed. She screamed like she had never done before in all her life. She punched her fists at the sky, picked up rocks and threw them at the trees, the dead bodies of the attackers, the heavens, the open fields, nothing was spared her fury. She finally tripped and fell. Stopping to compose herself, she sat and breathed deeply and slowly. After a while she stood back up and returned to Stave Gibson’s still form. Sitting cross legged with her back to the world, she faced him, gently removed the now worthless med pack and caressed his neck. Kissing his forehead, she nestled up against him and sat there, staring into nowhere.


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Mikhail Keng found them twenty minutes later. His own router had picked up the sound of weapons so he had not waited at the rendezvous location. He had lost valuable time approaching the ambush site and figuring out that the Australian router was down west of the road.

As the Selangor router came to a slow stop, the door slid open and Keng climbed out. He knew he did not have much time. There was a chance that the Australian router had contacted fire support units, Gibson may not have had time to lock out its relay settings.

“Damn, we’re cursed.” he muttered to himself as he looked around.

He ran over to Nengghi and looked sadly at Gibson. They had never met in person, but he felt in some ways that he knew him.

Calling to Nengghi, he shook her shoulder slightly “Nin.” he said softly. She looked up, dried tears marking her cheeks. ‘Vasiliy never had a chance.’ Keng thought perversely to himself, thinking back to Vasiliy’s musings on how he kind of liked ‘Nin’ as he knew her.

She finally spoke up; “My name is Nengghi.” she noted perfunctorily, “These men attacked us… Major Gibson is dead.” she said in despair. “I tried to save him…” she blankly surveyed the carnage. Keng was already looking around, making a few assumptions. He calculated for example, that the guy executed against the tree was probably not Gibson’s handiwork. He looked back down at Nengghi and made a private oath never to refer to her as ‘mousy’ again.

They had to move, and quickly. Australian air support might arrive any time if they had picked up this action. There was no telling what Gibson had arranged in advance. Keng’s mind was a blank, everything was falling to pieces. “Okay,” he said to himself. “I have to detach and think… Nin, I mean Nengghi, you need to take care of your leg, I can’t help you because they’ll know I was here, do you understand?” he asked. She nodded her head. “That med pack can be reused, put it on your left leg.” She did as he said while he walked away and looked up at the sky.

‘What are my choices?’ he thought to himself. ‘I can leave and let them rescue her, or at least make sure the Australian router calls for help. If I do that, I can’t stay in the area.’ He looked back toward the road at the knocked-out cult vehicles and wondered idly whether there were any more of them in the area. His own live intelligence was sparse, because of course neither side was supposed to be here. One thing was certain, Nengghi had to be protected. He looked again at the shattered remains of the third man and had passing doubts as to who needed protecting, but he also knew that she would not be able to repel another group the size of the one they had just run into.

Looking over at the damaged Australian router, he saw there was no way she could take it back to Setan. Allowing himself to be captured by the Australians was no way to fulfill any of his missions – it would leave things worse than they were already.

“So.” he nodded to himself. “It’s her then, it’s the only way.”

He walked back over, kneeled down next to Nengghi and began the speech he was forming in his head; “Nengghi.” he said. “I need you to do something very important, do you want to help with the plan that I think Major Gibson was working on?” he asked. She looked at him as if she was wondering whether to trust him, she remembered Gibson commenting about how you run in to people you can trust in the strangest places. She decided at this point, trusting Keng was the best course in an otherwise disastrous situation.

“Yes.” she said after some thought.

“Good. It’s very important that you not tell anyone about this except Major Gibson’s commander. Do you know who that is?” She nodded. She remembered seeing Colonel Rusman twice during the time they were preparing her for Singapore. “Good” said Keng, “Don’t tell me his name, but when you see him, tell him that the man Gibson was trying to meet arrived too late to help, but that I sent this message: We have a new enemy. Remember that.” he told her.

“Alright.” she replied, “We have a new enemy.”

“That’s right.” Keng said, “Nengghi…” he paused, placing his hand on her shoulder, “I’m terribly sorry about Major Gibson.” She nodded her head in appreciation and asked “What should I do now?”

“I can help you with that. Do you have any way to access the router’s systems?” He asked.

“The last thing he did was put this patch behind my ear, it gave me a viewer for shooting our gun.” she looked over at the Australian weapon still leaning against the router.

“Good.” Keng replied, you can probably access the router’s system through that. Keng’s natural sense of espionage rose to the surface. The opportunity to grab priceless Australian technology was right before him, but this was one time his professional expertise had to take a back seat to the best course of action.

“Alright Nengghi,” he replied, “I want you to bring up your display, and tell me what it looks like.” After some descriptions, Keng was able to talk Nengghi through to the part of the display that synched with the router. He then described how she could check to see if the router had sent any distress signals and if not, how to order it to do so. After a few short minutes, he was confident she knew what to do.

“I’ve got to leave Nengghi,” he said, “We are off to the west, and I will try to keep an eye on you until help arrives. You should hide over behind the router with your gun until the Australians arrive, okay?” She nodded her head again.

“Thank you for helping.” she finally said.

Keng helped her up. He had given up trying to keep the Australians from knowing about him, it was a stupid idea to begin with. Things were blown wide open and he just had to make the best of it.

“I’ll be around, tell the Major’s commander that you can still get in to Singapore if they want to continue what Major Gibson started. Goodbye Nengghi.” He nodded and climbed into the Selangor router. Once inside he sent a message to Vasiliy and his team 50 kilometers to the west, “Overwatch: scan for cult groups, show maximum caution. RESM. Talk to you in 10.” The letter code told Vasiliy that there had been a tactical action but that Keng was okay and that the Australians were not to blame.

With that, Keng ordered his router out of the area. Once it had backed out into the roadway, he made sure he saw Nengghi inside the disabled router. She was under instruction to wait 15 minutes before sending a distress call. That should give Keng time to put some distance between him and the most likely approach of Australian rescue units.

As he sat back for the ride, Keng felt depressed. Things were falling apart. The Australians would probably be able to figure out the message in time, but the question was whether they could survive the second half of the plan without anyone on the inside who could hold things together.

He silently scrawled down some notes, quietly entering the letters G-I-B-S-O-N and T-A-R-K-A. Scribbling out the names, he shook his head and wiped the display clean.


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