Monday, September 08, 2014

Step Back, part 9

In a walnut paneled boardroom on the penthouse level of a palatial hotel off of Central Park in New York a meeting was being held.  The white haired man at the head of the table spoke to the obviously subordinate middle aged man at the far end.

“So Mr. Black, what happened in Minneapolis?”

“Sir, the two local police officers had intercepted the subject before our people could obtain him.”

“And how was it that our people in Minneapolis could not obtain the subject in accordance to the plan?”

“Sir, his trip to the White Castle in North East Minneapolis was completely unexpected.  It was assumed by our people that he would take his lunch beak at restaurant.”

The man at the head of the table stared at Black for five seconds before responding.

“Of course,” he said, “and where is the subject now?”

Black looked at his notes before answering.

“He was taken back to their base in Nevada, we believe he is still there.”

“And how are preparations for another attempt to obtain the subject at another location?”

“Sir, as far as we know his schedule has been cancelled until further notice.”

The man at the head of the table paused again before responding.

“This is unacceptable.”  He said.

All Mr. Black could do was nod in agreement.

Above the Earth the starship Eagle had dropped to a slightly closer orbit to Earth.  The result was that it would slowly creep forward in position with respect to the Earth’s surface.  Earlier in the week it allowed the ship to fire on targets in Nigeria.  Now it was time to operate in Indochina.

On the way up to the command deck Evelyn Boatman had chatted with Robert Heinlein.

“So you are recovering from that gunshot?”  Said Heinlein.

“Only so, sir.”  Boatman replied.  “On the ground I would still be stuck in a wheelchair.  Alice believes that I would heal faster in free fall or under spin on board the Eagle.”

“I’m sorry,” said Heinlein, “Alice?”

“The ship’s surgeon, sir.  I adopted her two incarnations ago.”


Once everyone was strapped in on the command deck the order was given to proceed.

The secondary mission was to bombard targets on the ground in Indochina.  This included trucks, bridges, and other logistical facilities on the Ho Chi Mihn Trail in Laos and Cambodia, as well as tanks, artillery pieces, barracks, warehousers, aircraft and their bases, and anti-aircraft missile sites in North Vietnam proper.  And finally the port and railroad facilities at Haipong and Hanoi.  As there was an unlimited supply of coherent light available for the operation there was no effort made to distinguish decoys from real objects on the ground.

The primary mission was to rescue prisoners of war being held in North Vietnam.  For this mission four of the five Ranger platoons of the reinforced company embanked on the Eagle would be dropped on the POW camps.  Once the areas were secured larger landers would be brought in to evacuate the inmates.

The initial laser strikes would be on fighter bases and SAM sites followed by supporting strikes at the POW camps.

On the command deck one of the fire control techs spoke up.

“Sir, we have an American aircraft in the zone, it appears to be a SR-71 recon bird, I’ve marked it as a don’t shoot.”

The Allied Command in Vietnam was warned that a major operation would be carried out tonight and that aircraft should stay out of Northern airspace.

“Well done,” said Commander Boatman, “you may proceed.”

The American Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft was approaching Hanoi when the operation began.  Suddenly the night sky was lit up by the laser strikes.  Each laser beam appearing like a razor straight bolt of lightening that suddenly appeared and vanished.

“Holy shit!”  Said the pilot.  “Are you seeing this?”

The Navigator/Recon Systems officer in the back seat looked out the port side window.

“Wow.”  He replied.

“I’m aborting the mission.”

“Roger that.”

In the skies over North Vietnam the four platoon landers approached their targets.  Each lander was twice the size of a C-5A Galaxy tactical transport aircraft.  For the night’s mission each Ranger platoon would be split into one or two squad groups.  It was deemed essential that all prisoners be rescued on this night.

In the Uptimer view Communism was a predatory ideology.  And when attacked the adherents of the doctrine were expected to respond as predatory animals under attack.  They were expected to violently lash out at any target within their reach such as prisoners of war.  This was pointed out as an objection when the original concept of attacking the Ho Chi Mihn Trail by laser fire was proposed.

Nathan Benson would lead the Rangers from the front on this drop.  In his original incarnation he served as a Ranger officer and ultimately retired as a Colonel.  When the mission to explore the Solar System after the passage of a neutron star was initially proposed he would volunteer to be incarnated and lead the reinforced Ranger company with the rank of Major on the mission. 

To any civilian observer the second incarnation of Nathan Benson looked like an 18 year old boy straight out of high school.  This led to no end of confusion on the part of the groundhogs living at the present time.

The navy chief acting as jumpmaster spoke up on the command channel.

“We are approaching jump zone Alpha. Alpha Group stand up!”

Two squads of the first platoon and part of the command group, a total of 30 Rangers, stood up.  As each fully suited Ranger had a mass of about a ton each the movement could be felt by everyone aboard the lander. 

“Hook up!”

Each of the Rangers hooked up the static lines, which would open their main parachutes after they jumped out.

“Thirty seconds to drop!”

Ahead of the Rangers two hatches opened.  The internal hatch which sealed the pressurized compartment from the outside and the rear ramp of the lander. 

The jumpmaster now performed the countdown to the drop.

“...three, two, one, jump!”

Major Benson was the first to step into the night sky over Hanoi.

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