Marcus Brown sat at xyrs desk in the open office area. Xe sat, and xe worked. Today, work was staring at a blank word document on xyrs computer screen. Xe swiveled back and forth in xyrs black rolling chair with the ergonomic back support, and then xe rolled forward and back. Every once in a while xe would click the mouse to keep xyrs screen from going dark.
“Hello, Marcus,” said a sweet voice from behind Marcus.
Marcus turned to see the soft, white face and long, straightened brown hair of xyrs supervisor, Maureen.
“Hello, Maureen,” Marcus said.
I don’t want to talk to you right now, Marcus thought.
“How’s work coming along?” Maureen asked.
I don’t want to do any work, Marcus thought.
“You know,” Marcus began, “I just. . .things have been hard lately, and I feel stressed and unsure about life. I just haven’t had a lot of time for work.”
As if Marcus had choreographed everything beforehand, Maureen’s eyes widened and her mouth opened, her hand going to her mouth to add to the effect.
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Maureen said, and Marcus knew she actually meant it. “If you want you can go talk to the floor counselor. Xe can help you talk it out.”
Marcus gave xyrs best sheepish smile. “Thanks, Maureen. I think I just need to go home for now. I can come in tomorrow, refreshed.”
“Not a problem Marcus, take as much time as you need.”
Marcus thanked Maureen as xe stood, then walked down the lines of desks topped with large screened computer monitors. Many of the desks were empty. Other employees had required time off for their feelings, too. As Marcus strode through the office, xe passed two employees who were “taking a break” with table tennis. One employee in their early forties zipped by on a scooter – and Marcus immediately felt bad for having age-ist thoughts. Walking past the counselor’s office, Marcus heard the whimpers and sobs of Jessica, an employee who usually sat next to Marcus, unless xyrs energy didn’t want xem to.
“Xe said I wasn’t getting enough done,” Jessica said, sobbing into xyrs hands, tears running down xyrs face.
“Perhaps xe didn’t realize your perspective,” the counselor, Bob, said, attempting to console Jessica.
Marcus exited the office building and strode out into the warm summer day. Xe picked xyrs way across the broken, pitted road – still unrepaired since the peaceful protests a month ago – and squeezed between two burnt out cars. Across the street, at a coffee shop Marcus frequented, the owner swept up glass and broken equipment off the sidewalk from the previous night’s demonstrations. Marcus was surprised to see the city had already cited the coffee shop owner for littering.
Strolling through downtown Marcus passed a long line of people leading up to a building that had once housed a line of stores, the people all looking the same in their ragged clothes. Now, government officials handed out welfare checks – extra for the “repressed”, less for the “privileged”. Posters in the windows of the building espoused the benefit of universal incomes and how it was benefitting the country. Marcus had already cashed xyrs check this month – a lot less since xe was extra privileged with xyrs skin color and a job.
One individual in the welfare line stood out from the rest. Xyrs clothes were newer and cleaner. Just by looking at xem Marcus knew they would receive a larger check.
“I can’t to get my check and get another pair of new shoes,” the individual said.
Some of the people in line grumbled about just needing enough food to last the month, maybe new shoes for their growing children. Marcus shrugged. The check was that individual’s right, these other people shouldn’t shame them.
At last, Marcus reached xyrs apartment building. There had been a peaceful protest here a few weeks ago – Marcus had been part of it – and the door to the building was missing. It was fitting, Marcus thought, since no one should be kept out, right?
Marcus took the rickety elevator up to xyrs floor. Before Marcus reached xyrs apartment, two individuals walked into the hallway.
“Hey,” one of them said. “Where’s your check? You owe it to me.”
Marcus had never seen these individuals before, but xe immediately noticed they both had guns.
“Guns are illegal,” Marcus said, freezing.
“Sure they are,” the other individual said. “Now give us your check.”
Marcus darted down the hallway to his apartment before either individual could level their gun at him, and immediately xe heard the heavy footfalls of the two individuals behind xym.
Reaching xyrs apartment, Marcus unlocked it, zipped in, and then quickly closed the door and locked the three deadbolts.
“Damn man,” Marcus heard one of the individuals who pursued xym say.
“We’ll get the next one,” the other individual said from the other side of the door.
Marcus didn’t move until xe heard their footsteps fade down the hall.
Turning, Marcus looked at his small apartment. A ratty futon decorated the floor, topped with a few blankets and a pillow. The toilet sat in the far corner of the room, yet still too close to the bend. Opposite the toilet was the refrigerator, the pantry, and the stove. Mounted to the wall was a brand new government provided TV.
By programmed action, Marcus picked up the TV remote off the floor and turned on the TV.
“Another demonstration against capitalism and hate,” the news anchor said as the TV screen flicked on.
The image on the screen was of people burning cars and smashing windows while holding up “Love Trumps Hate”, “Hands off my pussy”, and “Black Lives Matter” signs.
“Legislators offered their support for these demonstrations,” the anchor continued.
The image on the screen switched to an elderly, balding individual with a warm smile on their face.
“We support these peaceful protests,” the legislator, whose name was Chelsea Lanning, said. “Their feelings on these subjects are valid and fighting hate is always a noble cause.”
Marcus nodded along with Lanning’s words.
“These people are supporting freedom and democracy,” Lanning continued.
“Yes,” Marcus said, pumping his fist in the air.
Lanning spread his hands, as if offering something to xyrs viewers. “And because of the efforts of the people, we are free.”
“We are free,” Marcus repeated with zealous rapture.
I don’t normally wax political on my blog. I attempt to keep my political views out of my love of all that is geeky. This has been made more difficult of late with the current U.S. election cycle.
That said, I do enjoy reading history, both long past and more current. I hop from ancient history circa 500 BCE, to the history of Prussia beginning in 1500 CE, up to present times, and everything in between at a whim. Ancient Roman, and Viking history interest me most.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Within I purchased a copy of George W. Bush’s book Decision Points, and began reading in ernest.
Erenest is a relative term when you have children. It took me the better part of 2-1/2 months to read.
George W. Bush is without a doubt one of the more controversial Presidents of our time. He has been criticized for everything from No Child Left Behind, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was far from perfect, as all human beings are. But, he is a man and leader I greatly respect, with all of his faults. I miss a president, like him, who not only preaches love of America, but lives it.
Decision Points itself is organized by topic, not chronology. Bush chose a series of major decisions in his life, and in his time as President, to discuss. From his decision to finally kick alcohol, to his decision to run for President of the United States of America. It is a deep insight into how he thought at the time, and why he acted as he did.
Once thing that stands out most in the book is his willingness to give credit where it’s due. He generally does not halt at party lines. Whether Democrat or Republican, Bush equally honors those that he worked with and helped him to make, what he sees, as a legislation and decisions that made for a better country, or that kept the country safer. At times he does talk about his work with the Republican Party and strategy meetings for elections. But more often than not he discusses striving to work with both sides of the aisle in congress to pass pass legislation, and to help Americans and others around the world.
He also does two things I see very few leaders these days do. First, he downplays the things he actually did himself. He gives short mention to his slipping past the media and visiting the troops in Iraq for Thanksgiving, or the fact that he cobbled together support from both parties for controversial legislation. Second, he openly admits his failures. I think this second one is more telling of the kind of person and leader George W. Bush is. Few of us, myself included, like to talk about and admit our glaring failures. I’m sure it was difficult for Bush to do the same. But he did in Decision Points. He admits them openly and without reserve. Where he failed spectacularly the reader gets the feeling that Bush is as hard on himself as the media and congress was.
Like I said, George W. Bush was far from perfect. There are things I disagreed with him on during his time in office. But he was also my Commander in Chief for the first part of my military career, and he loves the United States of America. He did good by the troops for the most part, and he backed his men and women 100%. He worked to make what he thought was a better, freer America. Though he was heavily criticized by all sides, he made the hard decisions and drove on to ensure America was more secure.
While reading I did poke holes in some of his reasoning. While he justifies the invasion of Iraq, he completely ignores the genocide of the South Sudanese at the same time. Though he defends bailing out banks and the auto industry, he says himself that companies should be able to fail as the free market and their own decisions see fit – instead Bush pushed to spend billions of dollars propping up failing companies instead of allowing true free market capitalism to reign and, while ripping that band aid off would have hurt, America would have been in a better position, in my opinion.
But he was POTUS at the time, and he was the one who had to make the decisions with the Congress he had to work with. I can arm-chair-politician all I want, President Bush was the “man in the arena.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Decision Points, and it will definitely be a book I reread in the future. I highly recommend this book to any who wish to have further understanding of the Bush presidency and that era of recent history.
Until next time!…
So I’m jumping from one nerdish topic – bodybuilding to be a Warhammer 40k Space Marine – to another one: space exploration. My ADD is kicking in. Let’s ride this train! WOO!
Okay so hear me out.
The US is having a hell of a time getting back on its feet. Manufacturing inside the US is down, unemployment is high, we’re lagging the rest of the developed world in education.
That said, according to CNBC today, jobless claims are down and durable goods orders are up: http://www.cnbc.com/id/49549215
It’s my opinion that this slight drop in jobless claims and increase in durable goods orders will be short lived, especially if we trip off the fiscal cliff, cueing $1.2 Trillion worth of spending cuts over the next decade, and an increase in payroll taxes (http://www.cnbc.com/id/49464221/).
This is bad, m’kay?
So how do we beat this fiscal cliff? How do we cushion ourselves from our ultra-bipartisan government’s (Reactionary Right AND Radical Left all included) inability to come up with a budget?
Legalize and tax marijuana!
Wait, no, that’s not what this post is about . . . though I think, while I do not smoke weed, this would be an intelligent decision, and then the government and businesses could treat it like alcohol (don’t drive or operate heavy machinery or weapons when you’re high, no showing up to work high, etc.). Plus think of the money the government would make on taxing it!
But I digress.
Let’s go to space! Seriously!
Seriously . . .
Why space, though, you may ask? Well here is my five points of why encouraging space travel, exploration, and colonization would save the US, perhaps even the world. (But the US first. ‘Merica!)
Want to create jobs? Going to space is the key! You need to design the space craft. You’ll need engineers and their staffs for that. Then you need to build the space ships. You’ll need laborers, welders, electricians, machinists, and other skilled and unskilled labor. Designing and assembling the engines for these things is a task in and of itself. You’ll need programmers and computer scientists to get the computers and systems in the ships working properly. You’ll need administrative staffs to manage all these people, their pay, and the contracts and purchases that support them. You’ll have to secure these manufacturing plants, so security personnel will need to be hired. You’re going to want to have a foothold in space, so you’ll need to build, launch, and assemble space stations – and you’ll need all the labor and support personnel for that, too.
Then you’ll need space ship and space station crews to man these ships and space stations you build. You’ll need pilots, technicians, mechanics, engineers, computer specialists, and scientists from several disciplines. They’ll need training, and you’ll need trainers to train them. They’ll need facilities to train at, and your daily operations will need facilities, which will require construction workers, facilities management personnel, IT personnel, and even janitors. If you want on-site catered meals you’ll have to hire those personnel, or contract those services out – either way, jobs are being made to fulfill this requirement.
Want to build moon habitats? Need personnel for that. Stuff to go to Mars? Even more people.
The list of positions and specialities is very broad and I’ve only barely touched on them. The point being: a lot of people are required to get all of this done. Jobs will be created.
And as people go to space, the amenities they love on Earth will be wanted in space, and so other companies will follow. I know I’d want my Starbucks in the morning before going to work on a space station or moon colony, and I’d want internet connectivity to stay up on my news (and LOLcats).
This leads me to my next point-
2. Increase in Wealth for the Middle Class
Here’s an economic plan we can truly believe in (I have zero trust in Obama and his administration; my political quip for this post).
The increase in specialized, high skill jobs will lead to greater wealth in the middle class. Going to be working around fuels and explosives? Or a nuclear power plant for the ship, station, or colony? There’s added pay for that. Just because people are in space doesn’t mean government regulations about work and pay go away.
This is where government SHOULD step in: ensure that workers are treated fairly and pay is equitable both on Earth and out in space.
And I’m sure the new space companies will pay hefty salaries and wages to those who train, certify, and qualify on all the areas these companies need to cover – certain welding certifications, training on certain equipment, experience in programming systems for air/space craft, etc.
Some companies may even pay applicants to learn a new skill and/or job. Of course, this may come with a five year contract with the company. But a five year contract, with benefits, and annual or semi-annual raises? Probably starting at or around $25 an hour? (That’s really good in Nebraska. If it’s not good where you’re from, think about an equivalent wage. $35/hour? $45/hour? More?) It sounds like a good deal to me.
I caveat this with: I don’t like unions, and the space industry should strive to keep them out of the industry, and to attract union members out of unions with better benefits, 401(K)’s, IRAs/Roth IRAs, and wages. Who needs a union or some government organization to tell us we need to take care of our people? Good sense, and maybe a single article from Harvard Business Review can do that a hundred times better.
3. Increase in STEM Education
All of these space companies are going to need well educated workers. We don’t need to go to India or China to get them. We can get them, right here, in the US. The drive to space will drive schools to make the shift to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines we need. Where the schools fail, the space companies could make up the short-fall with their own programs.
“Corporate funded schools are evil!” you say.
Not really, says I.
This is another place where the government could do a lot of good: tax credits to companies that run STEM-focused (though not exclusively STEM, gotta get history, government, and economics in there, and what about art?) schools that are low tuition or free, and if there is a tuition then give out scholarships to students in low income/impoverished parts of the United States. Amazing! Tapping into the untapped resources that reside in our low income neighborhoods/Section 8 housing. There ARE kids in those areas that want to excell! This would give them that chance! How can Democrats and Republicans NOT agree on this? (I’m sure there’s a way . . . unfortunately.)
Companies could also work together to set up classes and courses to give quality education and certification to high school and college level students to fulfill needs. It could be extended on the job training (OJT) with pay raises and bonuses based on milestones met, or number of job areas mastered both on paper and with experience.
Just ideas. Lots of ideas.
4. Taxes: Defeating That Fiscal Cliff
And now for an area the government can truly play its part: taxes.
We wouldn’t want to tax these companies too much. They’d just be starting out, just beginning to take man to space and help rebuild the economy. And I’m all for low taxes to stimulate the economy. But taxes must be levelled, none the less.
The increase in the number of people paying payroll tax would fill the US coffers, along with the corporate taxes the organizations themselves would have to pay.
There would also be licenses. The government would be right in validating the companies that are building these things. I’m sure there are already regulations in place that determine what Space X, Armadillo Aerospace, Planetary Resources, and Bigelow Aerospace can and cannot do. This is an excellent place for government to be to ensure the safety of the workers, the general public, and the State(s)/country.
This does NOT mean the government decides it needs an influx of government workers. We’re supposed to be fighting the deficit, and by extension the fiscal cliff, not making it worse. I admit, a few, A FEW, government employees will need to be hired. It’s the nature of the beast. But not on the level that the government probably would hire.
“We need a thousand GS 12 and 13 level employees to oversee space!” They would scream.
Really? I mean . . . really!? No, no you don’t. *Rolls up a newspaper and hits the government on the nose with it.* That’s a bad government!
So the government would have to get a clue and be frugal about its hires, and allow the taxes that flow from these space companies to pile up. They would actually have to save money. They would be on an actual budget . . .
Craziness, I know.
5. Because It’s Cool and the U. S. of A. Rocks
Yes, this is really one of my legitimate points.
Going into space is awesome. Did you see the Space Jump the other day? You did? That’s awesome. Wouldn’t you like to do that? I DO! Wouldn’t you want to go to the Moon and Mars and explore places humans have never seen with their own eyes. I DO! Wouldn’t you want to see the Moon and Mars explored, colonized, and perhaps even terraformed?
I DO! I DO! I DO!
We all should. How cool would that be!? What an experience!
And we as Americans can do it. We have the ideas and innovation, the drive, and the vision to do it. We have the sheer number of people and resources to create these companies and put people into space. It is possible. It can be done. Just look at some of the companies out there: Space X, Armadillo Aerospace, Bigelow Aerospace, Planetary Resources, Virgin Galactic. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch.
People like John Carmack, Elon Musk, and Richard Bronson took the risk to go into space and succeeded. Sure, they could have failed, but they never would have known if they could or not if they didn’t try! (Yes, Sir Richard Bronson is British, but Virgin Galactics Space Port is here in the U.S. . . . ‘Mercia!)
Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo aside (WHY!?), the USofA is still great. We still have potential and we can still do amazing things. But we as Americans must stand up (off the couch) and take action.
Writing this, I know I lack what I call for. I have no mechanical background. My STEM intelligence is low.
But I have the desire and drive to learn . . . and so far I’ve spent like $200 or more on rocketry books. Like one of my idols, John Carmack, I can teach myself. 🙂 And take some basic classes at the local community college.
My parting thought is that we are never too old to learn, and constant learning is part of constant self-improvement. And though I work hard to live by this principle purely for the sake of growing as an individual, in today’s world this is pretty much a requirement.
Until next time . . .
I promise I WILL have a Dragon*Con post up tonight. I don’t have access to my pictures at work (and I was totally slacking this weekend).
With PRIMO VICTORIA out, I have been jonesing to finish up the next book in what I’m (tentatively) calling the post-Earth series. This will consist of the following major novels: Der Sternvolker (soon to be retitled as The Star Folk), The Technocrat, The Elysian, and The Martin.
THE TECHNOCRAT has been in the works for some time now. Ultimately I write a few pages, even a few chapters, but hate the way it looks, sounds, and feels. It doesn’t convey the characters, story, or message I am filling the story with.
Recently I read Know No Fear by Dan Abnett, a Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy novel (and wrote a review on it HERE). My eyes were opened to a different way to write. Know No Fear is written present tense, as if everything is happening as the reader reads the book. Know No Fear was so well written, and conveyed the feelings and ideas of over half a dozen different characters so well that I thought I’d try writing it this way (given, part of that is Dan Abnett’s amazing writing ability).
So, to tantalize you (and distract you from the fact I haven’t posted anything on Dragon*Con), I give you a brief excerpt from the rough-rough draft of THE TECHNOCRAT.
The Democratic Republic of Haven Butte
31 January 2306
It’s “day time” in Haven Butte. Though Saturn’s moon, Titan, is on the dark side of its parent planet, every clock in the city reads daylight hours. Lights all around Haven Butte swat the darkness away in an attempt to regulate the population’s sleeping patterns and create the illusion of an Earth-like day.
Haven Butte is home to roughly twenty-thousand people. It’s large for a city-state on Titan—the fifth largest on Titan to be exact. For over a century the La Rochenoire family had ruled the twenty thousand citizens of Haven Butte. Though they were little more than thugs, the La Rochenoire family did help the former Central European Pact colony expand. Titan’s thick, ancient ice was cut back, and there was a reinvigorated movement to continue terraforming. New structures were built where there was solid ground. Massive plates were built to extend the city over Titan’s oceans where the ice was slowly receding.
Though the La Rochenoire family were bullies at the best of times, the people of Haven Butte tended to look the other way in favor of the slow advancement they were making. The standard of living had risen. The city wasn’t as cramped. With increased area to live came increased area to create businesses and, as long as no one messed with their power, the La Rochenoire family allowed those businesses to flourish. Everything seemed as if it was getting better.
Then the revolution happened. For a decade a growing resistance had smuggled weapons and equipment into Haven Butte. In December of 2305 they launched their coup, killing King Harold La Rochenoire and his family and many of the bureaucrats and soldiery loyal to him.
Now the Revolutionary Council rules the Democratic Republic of Haven Butte—every last one of them hardline communists. Curfews are in place. Private companies and interests are now nationalized.
This nationalization includes two mines owned by House d’Helion of the Olympus Mons Technocracy.
Judd Wooller, president of the d’Helion mining operations on Titan, sits in a jail cell with his small staff. There are eight of them in the cell. The rest of the labor force had been Haven Butte locals. Many of the locals had left to fight for the revolutionaries, only to return to imprison their former bosses and take over the mining operations. Now Judd tries to keep his people alive. He shivers and pulls a thread-bare blanket tighter around himself as if he can squeeze another ounce of warmth out of it. He tried to send a message to Olympus Mons before the rebel soldiers came for him. He still has no clue if it reached its destination.
One of Judd’s staff, a woman by the name of Ayana, stirs in her sleep. Her ebony skin is cut and bruised, and she whimpers as she slumbers. The revolutionaries are especially rough with her. There aren’t many people of color in Haven Butte, and none as dark as Ayana. Ayana is a novelty to male and female urges alike.
These bastards will pay, Judd promises himself.
Judd is a former soldier. He served eight years in the d’Helion House Guards. While Judd’s staff sleeps he is awake and on the lookout for the possibility of escape.
Suddenly there’s a screech of hinges as the door to the small jail opens. Two revolutionary soldiers trudge inside, each encumbered by ragged, mismatched extreme cold weather gear. They speak to one another in a strange dialect, a mixture of Western and Central European languages from dead Earth. One of the soldiers closes the door, and they both remove their hoods. It’s a man and a woman, both at least half Judd’s age. Children playing at war.
The two soldiers stride up to the jail cell and peer in. Judd stares back, a look of defiance on his face.
“Olympians,” the woman says, pointing at Judd. “Stupid.”
The man and woman laugh. The man steps forward and punches a code into the cell door. The woman hefts her assault rifle to cover her comrade. As the door opens Judd’s personnel awake, bleary eyed and confused. Some of them hope that the past few months were just one long nightmare. As their vision clears they realize this is very real.
The man points at Ayana. “You. Come.”
Ayana cringes back and shakes her head.
The woman soldier barks something in her harsh tongue. The man sneers and lunges at Ayana. Ayana screams and tries to scrabble further back into the cell.
There is a noise outside. The female soldier lowers her rifle just a hair and looks towards the door.
It’s the opening Judd has been waiting for.
Judd pounces on the male soldier and tackles him to the ground. Realizing what’s happening, the other members of Judd’s staff join in bludgeoning the soldier with their fists and feet.
The woman is screaming now. Two of Judd’s staff members dart through the cell door and lunge at the female soldier. She gets one shot off, winging the first man through the door: Karl, Judd’s chief financial officer. Karl drops with a yelp of pain. The second man, Bradley, Judd’s purchasing agent, slams into the female soldier and knocks her to the ground. Bradley pins her with his greater mass and stronger muscles, and wrests the rifle from her hands.
“You not escape,” the woman says. “More coming.”
It’s silent in the jail except for Karl’s moans of pain.
Now Judd can hear the sound the female soldier heard. A low moan cuts through the air. It starts silent and distant, then grows in volume.
Warning sirens. They are blaring all over Haven Butte. There are exclamations of surprise and fear, and yells of urgency. The heavy tromp of dozens of boots pass the jail.
“What is it?” Ayana asks.
Judd picks himself up off the male soldier and walks out of the cell and out the door of the prison. The arctic cold of Titan cuts past the layers of clothes he wears, through his skin, and down to his bones. His breath catches in his throat from the frozen air. All around Judd the city is in a state of panic. People dart down the street in an attempt to flee. Fear fills their eyes. Soldiers rush the other way, oblivious to Judd or the jail.
Some of the people in the street look up in horror and point at the sky. They babble in their bastardized language. Judd can’t understand. He turns and looks up.
“Dear God,” Judd says.
The sky is falling.
The first troops on the ground were thirty pathfinders in Ranger-pattern power armor. They had set beacons for the rest of the force, and scouted the edges of Haven Butte. Now, four hours later, the assault force arrives.
Hundreds of drop pods erupt inside Titan’s thin atmosphere to expel their deadly cargo. Infantry clad in two ton Titan-pattern power armor cut their chutes several meters above Titan’s icy surface and hit the ground running. The mechanical joints and artificial musculature of the power armor propels the troopers forward at over twenty-five kilometers per hour.
Defending infantry begin to open up at the oncoming armored soldiers. Bullets whiz through the air. Some strike home into metal alloy chests and limbs with no effect.
The attackers respond with man-pack lasers. The angry, ruby beams screech from the barrel arm guns of the Titan suits and punch into the defenders’ lines. A laser strikes a man and his upper torso ceases to exist. Another laser cuts into a light vehicle, touching off an ammunition magazine. The vehicle explodes, sending fire and shrapnel in all directions. Soldiers surrounding the vehicle are thrown like rag dolls. The Titan troopers fire volleys of missiles from the back-mounted missile racks. The warheads slam into checkpoints and barricades.
Titan and Ranger power armor troopers smash into the defenders. The revolutionaries of Haven Butte put up a brave fight. They die miserable deaths. Haven Butte soldiers are gutted, torn limb from limb, and are crushed. This isn’t a battle. This is slaughter. None of the defenders are left alive.
Finally the Haven Butte forces deploy a few medium tanks. These are relics of a bygone era, barely kept in running condition for over two centuries. Their armor is more welded on scrap metal and paint than anything else. But these tanks have working guns. One tank rakes the attackers with heavy machine gun fire as it rolls down the street and checks their advance. Another tank fires a round from its large bore cannon. It doesn’t hit—a testament to how often the crews have had actual practice—but it forces the attackers to pause for a brief moment.
Suddenly there’s a screech and a roar as if the world is about to end. Planet shattering explosions follow. New craters form just outside of the city as ice and rock is hurled into the air.
There are three of them. Each one is larger than most buildings in Haven Butte. Each one looks like a creature from hell.
They trudge forward through the haze.
They are Colossi, the epitome of land warfare technology in the solar system. Two are twins—Krakens, each weighing ninety tons and armed with a rail gun and a laser in each arm, dozens of missiles in either side of their barrel torsos, and an anti-missile system on top.
The two Krakens unleash a barrage of nickel ferrous rounds and lasers at the defenders and the surrounding buildings. Skin, meat, and bone disintegrate. Buildings explode and then collapse. One of Haven Butte’s precious tanks erupts in a cascading ball of flame. Another tank has a hole punched in it from a rail gun round and crawls to a halt, smoke billowing from its innards. The crew doesn’t get out.
Leading the Colossus advance is an Oracle. It’s lighter than the Krakens at seventy-five tons. Each arm ends in a heavy and medium laser, and an anti-missile system guards its top. The Oracle is more armor and communications equipment than weaponry. It’s a command unit. All of the attacking troopers wear the crest of Olympus Mons and their noble house, but the Oracle sports long, ceremonial banners of crimson from either side of its bullet-like torso. The House crest flutters in the wind; twin dragons flanking a cog.
Technocrat Lord Rickard d’Helion wades into the fray. He fires his lasers as fast as they can cycle. The Oracle is running hot due to the high rate of fire, but Rickard doesn’t care. Tank armor melts under the onslaught, and the crew inside is fried. An anti-armor team ceases to exist. Squads of infantry in extreme cold weather gear are reduced to burnt meat. Those that survive Rickard’s attacks only live a few more painful moments.
Reports begin to flood over the radio in Rickard’s helmet.
“Zeus, this is Alpha Six, we’ve secured entrance into the city. Squads are advancing on the left flank.” Rickard’s Alpha Company commander, Captain Renner.
“Zeus, this is Beta Six, engaging enemy infantry on the right flank.” Beta Company commander, Captain Watkins.
“Delta Six to Zeus, blocking position set up on the North side of the city. We have captured roughly twenty enemy fleeing the city. Your orders?”
Rickard doesn’t hesitate. “Zeus to Delta Six: no prisoners.”
“Zeus, Delta Six acknowledges.”
There’s the sound of laser discharge and men screaming before Rickard’ s Delta Company commander, Captain Grimes, cuts the transmission.