Late September 2013
Monday, July 21, 2014
When Johnny Comes Marching Home--Part Two
(Author's note: This is fan fiction based on the Domination of the Draka alternate history storyline created by S.M. Stirling. Simply put, he had American loyalists flee to southern Africa instead of Canada at the end of the American Revolution. A minor change you might think but the result was fiction that had him described as the H.P. Lovecraft of political science. Now, I had to change a few things from the original books that in essence has created a slightly different universe. You can read Part One here. Lastly, I'm on vacation at the moment and will not get to correcting my scores of typos and mistakes until much later.)
Late September 2013
Seven months after the start of the Final War
The skies over the State of East Tennessee were filled with scores of clashing jet fighters all caught up in a deadly aerial ballet. Missiles streaking towards targets and glowing cannon rounds flying through the bright daytime sky were all elements of the dance. Most failed to find their prey but dozens of explosions still littered the blue sky like fiery, evil roses that quickly evaporated to smoke.
For Aerospace Force Captain Richard Douglas none of the other fighters he shared the sky with mattered, his universe had narrowed to a set of computer generated symbols displayed on his helmet visor with different colors showing which was friend or foe. His goal was to out think the Draka pilot he pursued and put either a missile or cannon round through the snake's plane.
As Douglas and his opponent desperately tried to out maneuver each other time for both lost most of its meaning. Its only relevant factors had to do with fuel consumption and whether or not there would be enough for the other to return to base once the battle was over. Still though, part of Douglas' mind had time to appreciate his enemy, he or she was an excellent pilot and if numerous immutable factors could be different he'd love to buy the other a beer and discuss their mutual love of aerial combat.
Decisions, both practical and those clouded with passion, made centuries before prevented any sort amicable encounter between the two enemies. One of them believed they were superior to all other human beings and were entitled to control all aspects of their lives while the other was defending his homeland from a ruthless invader. Circumstances demanded that one of them had to die, it didn't matter whether it was a from small mistake or simple fate and on that occasion it was the Draka who died.
Despite generations of breeding and years of training for the briefest moment in time the enemy pilot slipped into the center of Douglas' target sight allowing complex software to react far swifter than any human. The cannon on his plane burped six explosive rounds that sped across the sky to pierce the Draka's starboard engine and fuel tank. Everything happened so fast that the Draka never realized that she ceased to exist.
“Wolf Six,” Douglas screamed over the radio, “dead snake falling, I have a clear path to the transports.” The Draka fighters were not the real objective, they were providing air cover for six heavy vertical landing and takeoff cargo planes that were attempting to unload a brigade-sized unit. Even as other American fighters continued to dance with the enemy Douglas armed the four sledgehammer missiles that his plane carried in recessed pods along the fuselage.
While the Draka considered themselves artists when it came to war they had not provided their VTOL transports with much in the way of defensive armaments. All they had were two light cannons positioned above and below the fuselage. This provided Douglas a relative clear path to come straight in at the hovering beasts. Two sledgehammer missiles sped away from Douglas' plane and impacted the closest two transports, both of the weapons reached their targets and impacted near one of the engines used for hovering leaving behind a small secondary munition that caused even more damage before exiting out the other side.
The genius of the sledgehammer missiles were their ability to engage multiple targets, because once they thoroughly destroyed the first two transports they went on to hit two other hovering giants. Luck was with the Americans that day because three of the four destroyed Draka transports crashed on top of the first two that had already landed and were in the process of unloading troops and equipment. In the space of twenty seconds an entire Chiliarchy of forty-five hundred troops was destroyed. The two other transports attempted to flee the growing disaster but other American jet fighters made quick work of them.
Douglas had little time to enjoy his heroics, just as he turned for home he heard and felt an explosion on the port side of his aircraft. Computer generated graphics on his helmet visor told him the engine on that side of his craft had suffered a massive structural failure. Again computer software came into play realizing that the plane had no chance of making it home, that made its number one priority the survival of the human pilot. With only a couple of seconds to prepare, Douglas was ejected from his aircraft. When his parachute deployed Douglas took some satisfaction that American skies in his area, were for the moment, free of enemy aircraft.
The problem he realized was that the initial Drakan biological sneak attack on Alliance and American leadership had greatly hamstrung their efforts. The resulting period of chaos the Alliance suffered through was the main reason the Draka had the strategic advantage. Alliance and American forces could still win battles but with the Draka leadership intact, they had a big edge in logistics and coordination of forces.
Douglas hit ground in a large meadow, knowing that while the brigade-sized Draka force was effectively destroyed there were certainly survivors skulking in the area he immediately removed his parachute harness and ran for the cover of the wood line. He knew that the Aerospace Force pararescue troopers from his base and any Army Rangers in the area would be looking for him but in the meantime he had to avoid enemy contact, he was neither equipped nor trained to handle them.
Whatever plans Douglas had of staying concealed until he was rescued were rendered moot just as he reached the trees. He heard the ghoul first, the sounds of its panting and bounding through the woods echoed like thunder. While the warning was nice, it was difficult to get an idea which direction the genetically engineered abomination was coming from, and Douglas knew that did not bode well for his survival.
Just as Douglas pulled out his pistol he caught sight of the creature. It had stopped twenty meters away and was starting to circle him, images and reports of the ghouls chomping down on humans danced inside Douglas' mind. Supposedly, the Draka had engineered the ghouls with a near human level of intelligence despite its appearance of an overly large baboon with a dog's head.
“Come on you piece of shit,” Douglas yelled at the thing. “You want to eat me, come and try.” The creature just growled but then jumped towards Douglas with its destructive intentions quite clear. All Douglas could do was raise his pistol and squeeze off several shots. At first, it seemed that none of the five rounds he fired hit the creature, and when it jumped for the final lunge Douglas figure he was dead. Douglas was able to jump to the side at the last second and saw the ghoul hit the ground and not get back up. He pumped several more rounds in the creature's head to make sure it wasn't faking.
“Well Yank,” Douglas heard someone say behind him in a bizarre slurring accent similar to Australian English, “you've had a bloody busy day.”
Douglas turned and saw his worst nightmare, a Draka soldier just a few meters away. Even worse, Douglas realized that given the soldier's size and physical stature he was probably looking at one of the post-human Drakensis creatures engineered for speed, endurance, strength, and just about every other characteristic that was useful for killing. The ghoul was bad enough, but Douglas now measured his remaining lifespan in single digit minutes.
“That beastie was my pet,” the Drakensis said, “I raised it from a pup. I was going to bring you to headquarters because the bounty on live pilots is big, but now I'm just going to cut you into little pieces.” Knowing the American pilot could offer no real resistance the Drakensis slowly disconnected the targeting cables running from the side of his head to the assault cannon he had just placed on the ground.
Armed with only his pistol and a knife Douglas knew he was a dead man walking. But he had no intention of going without a fight. “Well snake,” he said to the Drakan super soldier, “how many friends did you have on those transports?”
His statement actually appeared to catch the monster off guard. “Was that you Yank?” it asked. “Cause I had bunches, on those carriers.”
“Yeah, I figure there must be over four thousand dead super soldiers like you with clouds of flies buzzing around their crispy corpses. If I die today it will be with high degree of satisfaction.” Douglas said slowly readying his pistol for a one in a billion shot.
The best Alliance intelligence suggested that while physically the Drakensis were unbeatable and that intelligence was above average, their egos could be easily bruised. The enraged Drakensis pulled a ugly looking machete from a scabbard and ran towards Douglas.
Drakensis creatures still bleed and die like humans, it's just a lot damn harder to do. The simplest way is to pump a couple of heavy rounds into their chest or just one in the head, armed only with a pistol Douglas had to go for the latter. With barely a second to aim, Douglas raised his pistol and tried to hit the creature's eye in the hopes the slug would penetrate the brain. He fired off a single round but wasn't able to dodge the Drakensis like the ghoul before and the collision to Douglas felt like getting first hit by a semi then a locomotive.
When the stars that seemed to spend an eternity floating in front of his eyes cleared, Douglas found himself on the ground. At first his body refused to obey any commands. Douglas sympathized, it had been a truly shitty day with having his plane blow up, dealing with a ghoul, then having to try and survive an encounter with a Drakensis. Despite the totally attractive idea of just continuing to lay on the ground among the dead leaves, he forced himself to stand up. Unfortunately, standing up meant Douglas caught sight of the Drakensis calmly walking toward him. For Douglas there was a small consolation when he saw that he had indeed hit the super soldier in the right eye, but it wasn't a direct hit. The round had impacted at an angle blowing away the eye and a good chunk of his skull.
Douglas willed his hurt and exhausted body into action allowing him to land several blows on the Drakensis. Except for the glancing blow to the creature's injured head, nothing he did seemed to bother it. For the Drakan super soldier, Douglas was just a bloody rag doll for him to throw around. “That the best you can do big boy?” Douglas said trying to taunt the monster a little more before he died.
Right when Douglas' vision started to go black he thought he heard some commotion off in the distance. Sure enough, the super soldier heard something as well, it dropped Douglas and walked away. Struggling to stay conscious Douglas saw the Drakensis' chest explode first then its head. The last memory he had of that day involved a pararescue team arriving on the ground and the chopper in the air.
Consciousness came back in bits and pieces, one moment he saw his wife Aileen Garcia by his side. Her lovely face showing toxic combinations of worry, fear, and uncertainty. “You were right babe,” Douglas whispered during a brief moment of lucidity, “it was best we didn't have any kids. The world has certainly gone from simple shit to utter terror.”
Other times he woke up to find himself alone in his hospital room with the television left on showing one of the channels the Draka occupation forces now controlled. He knew the broadcast was from Charlotte, North Carolina because he recognized the young lady at the news desk who started giving news reports just days after the war started. He long blond hair was now gone and she now sported a numerical tattoo above her right ear. The Draka's way of keeping track of their slaves.
The entirety of her broadcast was now devoted to instructing Americans on how to act around Draka forces and the processes involved with becoming a slave. Video clips were periodically shown of long lines of Americans having their hair shaved off, issued a utilitarian jump suit, then put to work. Other video clips showed what would result if anyone resisted, namely impalement on a piece of wood or metal rod. Images were shown of impaled American soldiers and civilians along some highway, some still alive. Their pleas for a merciful end to their pain and suffering being laughed at by Drakan troops. Douglas had no idea how long he had been unconscious, but it was clear the war was going exceptionally bad.
One morning Douglas had an unexpected visitor, his base commander General Lee Peterson. “Captain,” he said standing beside an army general he didn't know, “I know it ridiculous to say this but the situation is beyond grave. You have two more days to rest and recover, after that you have an extremely unusual and dangerous mission to perform. One that could possibly win us the war before it even started.”
Richard Douglas heard every word but figured that after all the images of terror and disaster he watched on the television he must have been dreaming.
Current Timeline, July 2014
Fifty-six days after the appearance of Captain Richard Douglas
“We found her,” Colonel Ellen Marcus said as she abruptly threw open the door and entered General McDonald's office.
The general was sitting at his desk with his chair turned away from the door and just staring out the large picture window behind his desk. As scenes go, Ellen thought to herself, it was rather uninspiring since it was just one of the Pentagon's many parking lots. It was several hours before sunrise and McDonald seemed lost in thought contemplating all they had learned in the last two months. “Where was she,” he asked after finally turning his chair to acknowledge his long time friend and protege.
Colonel Marcus had spent years working with McDonald and knew this mood. She grabbed the seat next the door and sat down. “Believe it or not, she's an Air Force surgeon stationed in Germany. I've checked her personal and family history, it matches exactly with what we know of Captain Douglas' wife in the original timeline. The only problem is that she's married to another doctor and has two kids by the guy.”
“Crap, that sucks, I should have figured it was too much to hope she was single,” McDonald said as he opened one of the desk drawers and pulled out a bottle of tequila and two glasses. “I imagine you've already contacted her?” He said while casually pouring some of the clear liquid in both glasses.
“Yes,” Marcus said while taking one of the glasses. “She will be on a special transport in about an hour. I personally talked with her over a secure line and told her this situation was to be considered highly classified and that everything would be explained once she arrived in Virginia.”
The two sat in silence for several minutes occasionally refilling their glasses. For some, the quiet would have felt awkward but for McDonald and Marcus there was a comfort in being together. “What's really bothering you Scott?” Marcus asked figuring he would not get moving again unless she got him thinking out loud.
“The President and the Joint Chiefs are pressuring me for a final report. The problem, of course, is that I have more questions now than when Douglas first appeared and no answers. We have over thirty theoretical eggheads battling each other over the finer points of time travel, alternate timelines, and temporal paradoxes with no clear opinion was to whether the Draka still exist in some fashion. It's too bad Dr. Randal Bernard Lewis does not have a counterpart in our reality, he's probably the only one who could provide some real answers.”
Ellen leaned back in the spare office chair and quickly threw back and swallowed the clear liquid in her glass. Damn, she thought to herself, a four-star general and he continues to buy the cheapest crap. “Got to admit,” she said once the bad aftertaste had cleared, “after seeing the video of Dr. Lewis on Douglas' computer tablet I wondered if his counterpart was Hunter S. Thompson.”
McDonald laughed at that suggestion, “One of our scientists said the same thing, and that it would take such a brilliant, totally off the wall eccentric come up with a way to invent a time travel device. Lewis' eccentric nature was also a testament at how desperate the United States and the Alliance were in the original timeline. I've had time to review some of Lewis' personal journal entries, both the United States and the Alliance threw billions of dollars at every project that had even a hint of a chance at giving them an edge against the Draka.”
“In a way it served them well,” Marcus casually said, “the Alliance ended quite a bit ahead of us in many technologies. The memory core on Douglas' computer tablet is well over ten terabytes, and our space program is a totally embarrassed compared to theirs.” Neither Marcus nor McDonald wanted to think about the Alliance's “New America” project and the fact that after substantial prompting, astronomers had confirmed the existence of a Earth-sized planet orbiting in Alpha Centauri A's Goldilocks zone. Further confirmation that the planet the Alliance named Samothrace had a breathable oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere was at least several years away.
“Yeah,” McDonald began after throwing back another half-glass of cheap tequila, “we might still be stuck in Earth orbit but at least we don't have to worry about those damned post-human Homo drakensis creatures nor those genetically-engineered hybrid baboon-canine combinations the Domination used to disrupt Alliance forces.” While the Alliance had a significant lead in electronics and computer technology, the Domination of the Draka were masters of genetic engineering. Douglas' computer tablet had revealed that the Draka as early as the 1970's had sequenced the genomes of many living creatures and had moved directly to creating hybrid combination and even a post human version of themselves geared for combat. The most insidious element of the Homo drakensis monsters were their ability to subtly control the enslaved populations through the pheromones they produced, which had the effect of unconsciously pacifying normal Homo sapiens and the Homo servus creatures the Domination also created.
The two old friends fell into a silence that last several minutes. “What are we going to do Scott?” Ellen finally asked revealing a rare moment of worry and outright fear.
At first McDonald refused to even look at Ellen, and when he did he took a long time to refill his glass before answering.“Despite the fact Dr. Lewis believed his temporal calculations allowed a time traveler to loop back on him or herself and stay in the original timeline, our people aren't so sure. Most believe that when Douglas did his temporal jump he just crossed over to an alternate universe, that his went unchanged. The one thing our scientists do believe is that Lewis' device in essence rang our timeline like a bell, possibly drawing the attention of any sufficiently advanced Draka in a near infinite number of other universes. So what will we do Ellen, prepare for the worst possible scenario.”