Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | April 21, 2017

Corey Stewart: When Bold Is Best

Corey is the only bold, Conservative candidate for Governor

Since the Virginia Republicans increased taxes in 2004, I’ve looked for a Conservative champion for our Commonwealth. Ken Cuccinelli could have been him, but the android who ran using his name ended that quest. I’ll settle for bold. I support bold because weak never wins. Corey Stewart is bold. Fast Eddie Gillespie, despite the conservative positions he regurgitates today, is as weak as when he lost the last time. Ed was the only one to lose in a Conservative tsunami election year.

The attacks on Corey are very personal, penetrating and petty. It’s all about Corey’s flaws and failings. The attacks on Ed are about principles and policy. It’s all about his record as a money-man, professional pol and Establishment guy and his unwillingness to be brave on issues today. Those criticisms say much about the candidates.

When Ed dodges the Transgender folly or cultural-cleansing of all things Confederate – saying they are local issues, Corey speaks up.

Where Ed is running in Virginia because it’s his address outside of Washington, Corey has served in local government where he makes his home in Virginia. Neither were born here, nor was I – although I have ancestral Virginia roots – but Corey established networks of family, church and business connections in Prince William County, not on K Street.

Corey let bold become brash – and learned a life lesson getting fired from the Trump campaign. When did Ed ever stick his perfumed neck out? Ever? Name his bold stand. Was it for apple pie or the American flag?

Corey has had his picture taken with Confederate battle flags in the background. Ed would have the vapors if he got near anything Southern. The Dems, dimwits and Liberals who will use that against Corey in the general election are NEVER going to vote for Ed anyway.

The Republicans and Conservatives who accuse him of hijacking the issue – expose their own inability to understand the all of Virginia history belongs to all Virginians, new and old. If our history only fits different groups of Virginians selectively, then our folks are playing the identity politics of the Left. If Republicans reject historical correctness and pride in heritage to banish Confederate history, they are pathetic pawns of the Left preaching on the one way street of Tolerance and Inclusiveness – which excludes Southerners, Christians and, increasingly so all Whites.

Corey will be vilified in the general election. So, will Ed, again. My very conservative oldest daughter said she wouldn’t vote for Ed – last time – when she saw the attack ads on Ed’s record. What will be different this time?

Dear Conservative friends and colleagues of mine are on Ed’s team. I don’t begrudge them their doomed choice. But, I’m not buying Ed’s Conservative credibility. I was on RPV State Central when Ed was pushing HB 3202 – the worst piece of legislation since Massive Resistance and declared unconstitutional by unanimous State Supreme Court decision. Yes, he’ll be more conservative than the Dems. A rock would be too.

Corey stood up against illegal immigration. Corey will be bold.

The sainted Ronald Reagan made his signature speech about painting Conservativism with bold colors. Corey Stewart is a bold leader.

Please vote for a bold Conservative, Corey Stewart, in the Republican primary on June 13, 2017

James Atticus Bowden


Vote for courage.

Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | March 18, 2017

Timing Is Everything

Many times the Bible talks about His timing and its perfection.

Timing Is Everything

Timing is everything – when it really matters – in love, war, comedy, crops, music, sports, politics, and you name it. “Timing is Everything” is one of my pat phrases. Ask my kids. It’s included with “This/Such is Life”, “Life is Short”, “Ça ne fait rien”, and “People are People” in my top ten clichés and French phrases that meme significant truths. I stumbled on God’s truths when I prepared my 30 year old vision piece.

I found a promise from 1997 was fulfilled in 2014. I had totally forgotten about it. The promise was in my prayer journal. The Lord told me, “I’ll take care of the details.”

Since I was 6 years old I wanted to live in The Valley (a.k.a. Shenandoah Valley) or the eastern slope of Virginia’s Blue Ridge where the Piedmont tumbles out before your eyes in broad vistas. After we moved to Tidewater Virginia, when I was 39, I fell in love with The Bay (a.k.a. Chesapeake Bay). My many business trips to NoVA and Maryland allowed me to check out every waterfront on the Virginia peninsulas that jut into The Bay.

My prayer journal started in 1994. I write very little in it. A few words may pass for a year and be written over a year after the event. Yet, it matters to me. It captures key stepping stones on the path of my walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, in June 1997 I wrote, “Wanting and working for the house on the water.” Then, the response I got from the Lord was, “I’ll take care of the details.” It was a clear thought in my head. A year later I got to build the house my wife always wanted. Not on the water. I wrote, “No to house on water.”

In 2007 my wife refused to sign a contract for a house wrecked by Hurricane Isabelle on gorgeous water – and a setting in my novel, Rosetta 6.2 She wouldn’t say why. Who knew her “No” would serve His “wait for something better”?

In 2009 I went to a Christian men’s retreat. I gave up every desire of my heart. Really. I surrendered the expectation to see prayers answered in my lifetime to the most honest, best of my ability. Seriously – to the core of my being. Most of my prayers were for family member issues. I gave up seeing them resolved in my lifetime. I gave up seeing any of my aspirations and desires fulfilled. Living with great esthetics in the beauty of nature – on the water – was one of those desires. I asked the Lord God what He wanted me to do with my time here. “Please show me simply and clearly.”

In 2014 after my wife died, I found waterfront close to home had a huge drop in price. I bought it with the blessing of my adult children. It’s three doors down from the place we could have bought in 2007. It’s less than half the cost.

I named my home “Sanctuary” because it is.

Almost twenty years after I got the message, “I’ll take care of the details,” He did. Wow. His timing was to give it to me at the precise moment of overwhelming grief and sadness. Many hours on the dock, deck and looking out the windows have been a healing balm. Sanctuary is saturated in peace and joy.  It held my tears in confidence.  Sanctuary echoes the squeals of joy from my grandchildren. It makes visitors gasp. I live in a place of incredible, awesome, ever-changing, overwhelming beauty. Even the storms are beautiful in their power.

I say out loud every morning when I rise, “Thank You, Lord.” I confess how much I don’t deserve it and how sweet He is to a sinner like me to give me such a gift.

I’m still spinning from stumbling upon my prayer journal entry. I had forgotten. However faithful I’ve been about reading and writing for 30 years, the Lord Jesus Christ is more than faithful. Every promise in the Bible and every prayer is fulfilled. His word never returns empty.

Rainbows follow the storms.

Morning has broken -July 21, 2016. God makes all things new.

Amazing beauty

Let it rain. Rainbow follows.

Every day has its on constantly changing tapestry

Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | March 17, 2017

Obligatory St. Patrick’s Day Ode

What I wear on St Patrick’s day beneath my orange Univ of VA “Virginia” sweatshirt.

Happy St Patrick’s Day, 2017!

My great-grandmother Maley and others in our bloodline gave us our unique Irish heritage by stirring it well with others (Scottish, English, Welsh, and French Huguenot) as Southerners. We have no connections to the past that haven’t been strained through many generations of the American Experience.  We have no kin in the auld sod.

Still, fun stuff to know what happened in history and see how “Culture Commands”. The Scot-Irish sense of family, faith, freedom is alive today – and vibrant.

Fun fact: At the time of the Revolution the 13 colonies were 98-99% Protestant. The diversity of the day was the sects who warred so bitterly in the English Civil War united as Americans. And, American Catholics and Jews, as well, paid the blood tax. Scot-Irish were 15% of the population and 40% of the Army.

America is “My Country” to all Americans.  The intensity we many deplorables of Scot-Irish heritage apply to the words “My Country” has a history back to America’s foundation.  Ancestors not present at the creation doesn’t make anyone who believes in America less American.  Ancestors present at the creation doesn’t prevent way too many from betraying their American trust and heritage – as well as walking away from the one, only, true, living, triune God.  Just know how passionately loyal many of us Scot-Irish Americans remain about the ascending idea of “America.”

Born fighting for family, faith, freedom.

I’m more Scot by blood than Scot-Irish, but more Scot-Irish by culture (which commands!) than anything.  So, the “born fighting” moniker from James Webb should be – actually – family, family, family, faith, freedom!

Born Fighting for family, faith, freedom

Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | March 15, 2017

My 30 Year Old Vision

My vision was personal, yet Aslan’s breath brings life to all kinds of visions

My 30 Year Old Vision

I’ve had one mystical, religious vision in my life. It happened 30 years ago, March 15th, 1987 on Range 214 at Grafenwoehr, Germany. Frequently, I believe the Creator of the entire Universe gives me messages in how I feel after I read, think, hear, see, or sense different things. That’s not a vanity, but shared reality for believing Christians. Occasionally, I have very specific words, appear as thoughts which seem to come from outside my mind to me. I had two dreams unlike all other dreams after my Father died and before my Mother died. But, I’ve only had one vision.

I’ve written the narrative of my vision many times – even put it in the foreword to Rosetta 6.2 – and told a number of people.

The short version begins when I saw my Father in a dream unlike any dream the night he died. He told me, without speaking, “I’m okay, I’m all right,” and shared his compassion for me. After that I prayed daily for 7 years for a clear sign of how we actually go to one space and time – Heaven – in this vast cosmos.

Then, in the space of a few seconds or minutes, not sure which, as I walked behind the range to the Quonset huts at sunset, the sky lit up – all pink – and a warm air blew through my ribs and filled me like a balloon. It was the best feeling of joy and peace I’ve ever had in my life. Ever. The thought “There is a warmth and a light on the other side,” reassured me in many ways beyond the simple words that our identities with memories go to another place. Then, I was shocked with the thought, “You will not command in peace or war. You will read and write.”

Commanding in the Army was the focus of my life. A few months later my beloved Army career was crushed like a bug. (Color commentary is best added in person.)

It’s 30 years later.

I was in recovery – that’s what my wife and I called it – working hard in a different unit for 2 years. Then, spent another frenetic year as an Army speech writer. I started writing after work in 1990 – novel published in 2007. Started op eds in 2001. Blog in 2005. Did a lot of reading. Still, I beat myself up for not pushing harder to read and write more. I’m keenly aware my time is running out.

The Ides of March is a demarcation line in my life. My one vision changed my life.

I never thought about death the same. I got a context for my most humiliating personal defeat. “His will, not mine” has an expressed purpose in my life. Later, it was easy to see why His wisdom prevailed over my ardent will. And, I feel like I got the tiniest taste of what it’s like to be near the Lord in Heaven. The good feeling of the warm wind was beyond my description.

A lot of living and some dying filled the 30 years. My task to read and write remains. It was woven in the fabric of my day job, my passions and purposeful works. His assurance about Heaven has helped me face my wife and sister’s passing as well as my recent ER visits with accepting peace. I’ll obey the compelling urgency to read and write.

If you have a question, ask the Lord. I got an answer that changed my life – in 7 years. Since every person has gifts – with absolutely no one beneath or incapable of serving, do you know your mission? Ask.

Graf. Old soldiers know it well.

Range 214 was Bradley range on far left of map.

In the 80s weapons were fired 364 days a year.

Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | March 2, 2017

Elizabeth Anne Bowden Buehrer

My sisters and me.

My sisters and me.

My oldest sister, Babs, passed from life here to life eternal in Heaven today.  She was 72 years old.  She died suddenly after years of suffering a significant decline in health – after many, many mini-strokes.  My sister was a sweet, gentle, loving soul for all of her life.  She could be stubborn and fierce in defense of her family – and doing rightly.  She is a devout Christian who raised 3 magnificent, devoted daughters – all married to good men, raising 6 great kids – and living her legacy already in their day to day lives.  Every time I visited them in far off California, I choked up thinking about how proud and happy our parents would be for Babs, our “Bumpy”, and her brood.

I’ll write more later.  Still in a bit of shock.

Babs was a wonderful, sweet older sister.  Precious to her parents, her siblings and all her loved ones.

While my niece was still telling me what happened, my thoughts flashed to my parents greeting her in Heaven.  And, her beloved cousin Susan – like a sister – who preceded her in death last year.  And, my late wife, Nellie Katherine.  Their gain is great.  Our loss here – especially to her daughters – is great.

God is good.  All the time.  No matter what.  NO MATTER WHAT.

June 1965

June 1965

Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | December 25, 2016

Merry CHRISTmas Friends!

Merry CHRISTmas from my home, Sanctuary, and heart to you and yours.

Merry CHRISTmas from my home, Sanctuary, and heart to you and yours.

Merry CHRISTmas Friends,

Blessings on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in His flesh, Friends.  By Friends, I include the 4, 948 ‘friends’ on Facebook.  You are close family, Clan kin, West Point classmates – my band of brothers, old Soldier comrades, former colleagues, Church family, political buddies (otherwise known as unindicted co-conspirators), neighbors, friends and friends of my late Nellie who I’ve seen, shared words and time.  And, the huge majority of you are folks I’ve never seen or heard.

Yet, I count many of you as actual friends – some good acquaintances – because you’ve shared life and responded when I shared life on social media. We are friends because I sent a request to you as a Christian, Conservative, Constitutionalist or Southerner.  Or, you sent me a request because my grandkids are adorable.  Regardless, our connection makes Zuckerberg filthy rich, because he tapped into our humanity.  Our need to communicate.  Our need for community and companionship.  So many of our drives, as the social animals we humans are, are linked by social networking – all puns intended.

Because of our humanity, everything we touch will be soiled by our evil and bettered by our good – which comes from our relationship with the one, only, true, living God.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit of the Holy Bible gives us gifts to share.

First is life itself.  We can speak life to others.  We can share our support and stand up in cyberspace – to stand up in person as called, for life.  All life matters.  Even the lives of our sworn enemies – and their eternal spirits count.

Second is love.  We can share agape (undeserved selfless love – Grace), philos (friendship), storge (family) and eros (romantic – within the rules) love.  The first three out of four are well suited and perfect for social networking through cyber space to make a real difference in the lives of others.

Third is light.  We can promote encouragement, exhortation, and education.  For me, that’s the chief connection with you assorted Christians, Conservatives, Constitutionalists and Southerners.  We help one another by shining light against the darkness.   I was told, “You will read and write” on March 15, 1987.  So, I do.

Finally for this piece – because there is much more to be said about our networking, is laughing and crying.  We can share a good funny and give compassion as the opportunity arises and the need demands.  You are so good at this.

Thank you for all you said and did in 2016.

Life is about relationships.  Period.  True, we have to do our duties, but all that matters once they’re done, really, is relationships.  Foremost with the Lord Jesus Christ and then with all others.

God is good.  All the time.  No matter what  No matter what.

Merry CHRISTmas 2016 and Happy New Year 2017!

James Atticus Bowden

Sanctuary – Poquoson, Virginia

Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | November 17, 2016

Substance Without Stature

This is fun way to tell a personal tale in graphics.  Icons are colorful and cute.

This is fun way to tell a personal tale in graphics. Icons are colorful and cute.

Substance, Not Stature

On November 18th, 2016, I’m 66 years old. It’s been almost 3 years since my wife died. Nellie, the professional counselor, talked many times about grieving being a two year process to the “new normal”. I’m a year past the new normal. So, who am I now?

I’m as alive as I’ve ever been. My soul, that lifeforce, tells me I’m 25 – not kidding. My body and the mirror dispute it. But, I know who I am quite clearly. I’m man of considerable substance and little stature. That’s stature as the world measures people.

Now, why would I write something so self-serving? Because my tale might encourage. Also, because it’s the me that’s been told since my 30’s that I wear my heart on my sleeve and that I’m ‘fey’ in the good Scottish connotation.

Most of who I am comes from relationships with others – starting with the one, only, true, living God. Some of what matters in me comes from persevering through challenges in life. Much of my substance comes from the failures which actually gave me my lack of a stature.

Life is about relationships. It begins with the “I AM – I” of God to man or woman. All other relationships are shaped by that presence or absence. On Nellie’s 50th birthday she told everyone I had taught her ‘unconditional love.’ I’d just passed on what the Lord gave me. My relationships evolved since I started daily Bible reading at age 32 and teaching Sunday School since age 42. I learned the two greatest commandments are LOVE God with all your heart, mind, strength, soul and LOVE others as you LOVE yourself. Love is the only verb. Love times three.

When I was 16 my Daddy had a massive heart attack. I pondered life and decided that I didn’t need a life philosophy – of what to live for, but a death philosophy – what is worth dying for. That gave me to hierarchy of duties which I followed since I went to West Point at age 17. One of my few regrets about being 66, is I’d like to fight in the U.S. Culture War and the World War against Islamists for another 30 or 40 years.

My challenges in life were a big deal to me, but hardly the stuff to win “Queen for a Day” on the old TV show. Enduring, persevering, and overcoming taught life lessons. But, delving into them is too much ‘me’ stuff. Personally, nothing in my life compares to losing my wife of 38 years.  Nothing.  The key truth to share is our Bowden-Maley Clan saying: “God is good all the time. No matter what. No matter what.”

As my kin know: “Never, never, never quit. Never.”

My failures taught me tons. I was fired and had my career crushed like a bug, passed over, lost my job when we lost the contract, had insult added to injury when I was let go because I made too much money – seriously, been on unemployment, had awful ‘Jerry Springer’ moments in family affairs, lost my only run for public office, and came in ‘second’ (you know that’s the first…) on key competitions, made choices that limited opportunities (woulda, coulda, shoulda), and, moreover, sinned by thought, word and deed. Consequently, I’m not on President-Elect Trump’s short list for anything. Yet, I learned from each failure more than any victory.

If I went insane and ran for office again, say dog catcher, I think I’d tout my failures as why folks should vote for me. Defeat, failure and humiliation teaches lessons success can’t instruct.  Such disappointments can change how one sees, respects and serves others – for the better.

There’ve been wins. I like the wins. I’ve been embarrassed when people gave me such superlative comments that I could only wish were true. But, the truth is my wins don’t really matter. Nothing matters more than relationships – and doing my duties.

At age 66, I’m up for my duties and relationships as Papa, Daddy, kin, friend, colleague (co-conspirator), Sunday School teacher, neighbor and citizen – and old soldier.  I’m up for hard work and a good fight, if it’s worth having.

Months after Nellie died, my political buddy, Danny Goad, told me in his unmistakable Appalachian accent about being a very young widower with small children. His Christian grandfather told him that as a parent feels their heart grow with each new child, his broken heart would love again. Granddaddy said, God doesn’t do addition, God multiplies the love in the human heart. I see that truth as I’m courting a lady in a relationship of surprising joy, peace, contentment and happiness.

Good substance and small stature is all right for 66.

Told on March 15, 1987, “You will read and write.”  As of November 18, 2016,  I “ain’t” dead yet.

One life lived. Five futures begun - so far.  God is good.  All the time. No matter what.

One life lived. Five futures begun – so far. God is good. All the time. No matter what.

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Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | November 11, 2016


Trump became Trumpenstein and he's alive - and President-elect.

Trump became Trumpenstein and he’s alive – and President-elect.

The Establishment Republicans in Congress created this ‘yuge’ political creature – Trumpenstein. They opposed him during the election and are sucking up to him now in public. But, they created him by betraying the voters who gave them the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. These career politicians didn’t do their duty and use their Constitutional powers. They were too cowardly to use the power of the purse, impeachment, approval of appointments and administrative oversight – with very few exceptions. The Establishment Republicans created such an anger and frustration that 13 million voted for a newly manufactured man, this Trumpenstein, in the Republican primaries. About 7 million voted for the Congressional standout exception – Ted Cruz.

I supported Cruz against Donald Trump – the candidate.

I was a hair’s breadth away from becoming a Never Trumper.  But then, I concluded that Trumpenstein isn’t Trump. Trumpenstein is the completely new creation running with the name ‘Trump’.

I believe the former Donald Trump is unfit to be President of the United States, but he won and will be President. I judge he lacks the character to be promoted to corporal in the Army. That irony for the Commander in Chief may transition into a good tale of growing into the job – at age 70. Or, it may go badly. We’ll see.

I find the fellow unfit based on his character – as I’ve seen from far away, his lack of principles and thoughtfulness about governance, politics, and history – as I’ve seen from his own words, his narcissism and childishness – as I’ve gathered from public behavior, and his track record of supporting, advocating and financing liberal ideas and liberals – as I glean from public records. He got multiple draft deferments during the Vietnam War. He shows no fruit of the spirit as a transformed Christian. And, I voted for him. The danger of the Clinton crime family getting such power was too much of a corrupting cancer threatening the Rule the Law.

On election morning, I thought Trump would lose by 2 per cent. I was so wrong. (Which might mean my misgivings will be proven wrong too). I was thrilled when Trumpenstein won!

Trump isn’t Conservative, Constitutional, or Republican. Yet, Trumpenstein, the candidate for Conservatives, Constitutionalists, and Republicans, may well champion their causes.

I’m so glad and grateful that Trump as Trumpenstein won. Our Republic has a respite from the headlong, liberal lemming march over a cliff. Some things may actually be improved – like the economy. The majority of Americans can give a great sigh of relief. Even though the political fights will continue, the Great U.S. Culture War picks up the pace, the World War with Islamists wages on, and the epochal transformations of the Information Era accelerate.

Trump, the man, won a historically spectacular victory connecting with the anger, frustration and desire to improve surging through Americans abused by the Establishment Republicans, as well as attacked, scorned and hated by the Left. He beat the under-performing, wicked witch of the Democrat Establishment. Trump did great.

Trumpenstein was created from the entrepreneur and entertainer Donald Trump. President Trump owes the Establishment Republicans NOTHING. He may turn out wonderfully. I hope so. Our President Trump may accomplish much for America.

As a Conservative Christian, I’ll cheer him when I agree and hold him accountable when I quarrel. He and his family need a lot of prayer support in lovingkindness.

I’ve been thinking about this piece since early July. I’m thrilled it turned all turned out so well with Trumpenstein. I’m deeply grateful for his successful campaign. I’ve got profound relief and real hope. Trumpenstein isn’t a monster. I trust it goes much better with the villagers.

Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | October 20, 2016

Installment 3 of Novel: On the Far Frontier

This is not G rated.  I edited  it with dashes for FB to keep it PG – I think.  FYI.  Still rough, I’m sure I’ll tighten this up through many more edits.  Comments after you read, please. 

Installment 3

Spring came to the great Other continent after several false spurts. Cohort Commander Toll, true to his word, kept the Third Fight in the field. Cale saw plants he’d never seen in the wild. Or, in such abundance. The air grew thick with humidity. It seemed the pollen was so thick, such was the sexual fever in the plants, that Cale felt the whole season aroused him. Or, maybe I’m just a very healthy young man. Screw it, the air here is exciting. He always turned his gaze to the Great Escarpment. Every time he was outside he looked to the high ridge. They’re over there. The Aliens are over there. He was outside for Sevens after Sevens. Toll made them live in the field. He sent them to Training Area J.

            Training Area J was called a local training area because it didn’t take more than a day to get there. Units could fire every weapon including the main energy gun. Although firing the main weapon was retricted to two targets from the perspective of only one firing point. Units could maneuver. Dismounts could do anything they could imagine. Cale got to know Third Fight in Training Area J. Third Fight got to know their Warrior Leader Third Class.

At the end of each training event, he talked to the whole Fight. He remarked on every right and wrong action. He showed the Subs deference to make their remarks. He asked the whole Fight direct questions. He asked them to ask questions, which they did with frank, directness.

The soldiers sat in the shade of two machines eating and resting after a deliberate assault drill. Eight out of eighteen soldiers were Potways. Three others came from the Other, but weren’t Potway. Seven came from Back Old, like Cale. Only two of them came from the Colonial Capitol megapolis. The five others came from every odd corner of Original Continent. The Original and the Other continents were the only land masses on the planet.   Humans held the Original and the land from the port cities to the far frontier on the Other. It was assumed Aliens had the rest, but no one knew.

Cale had Senior Sub Mett, four machine commander subs, three dismount subs and one systems tech sub. Most of the subs were just acting subs on their first term. Half my Fight is leaders. Half is doers. Why didn’t they tell us they’re so understrength in the Basic course? Some GGO secret? What the screw?

“I gots a question for yas, Warrior Leader,” Dismount Sub Dunc smiled and looked around at his buds. He was beefy and strong. More pale than most Potways.

“Warrior Leader, Sir,” Cale said evenly.

“Right. I gots a question for yas, Warrior Leader, Sir.” Dunc paused. Cale took off his helmet with the slurp from his neck. He nodded.

“Was thats the first time yas hears Alien war machines with yas own ears?”

“Yes. Yes, it was.” The soldiers snickered.

Dunc laughed out loud, “I knows it.”

“When was the first time you heard the war machines, Sub Dunc?” Cale didn’t bat an eye as every soldier stared at him.

“Oh, I hears them all my life. Since I was a baby. I’m Potway. We plays the sound since we’s babies.” Dunc got up, hunched his back and put his hands out like claws. He made the sound of an Alien War Machine, “Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew! Blam!”   Dunc made it eerily perfect. He stomped in a small circle.

“C’mon, Stew, do it,” Dunc invited another Sub to join. They menaced each other with their hands and made the War Machine noise, over and over. They shouted the “Blam.” They counted out loud to twelve between each firing cycle. Each time was louder. Other soldiers joined the circle. Half the Fight did the dance and half watched smiling, clapping and nodding. Dunc made each chant louder, bringing them to a crescendo and yelled, “Alien enemy. Alien, Alien! And now you’re all dead done!”

“Alien, Alien! We’re all dead done!” The whole fight responded.

“They teach that nursery rhyme Back Old,” Cale smiled broadly. “Never seen it danced out.”

“We does it as babies, Sir. I don’t know when I heard the Aliens the first time. Seems like all my life.” Dunc was out of breath. “Sir.”


Cale had passed another trooper test. There were plenty of tests, until he passed them all. On this one, Cale told the truth about his lack of experience, his no time on the far frontier, and he hadn’t apologized or gone weakling about any of it. He looked the soldiers in the eyes every time. No matter what. Warrior Leader, Third Class Cale had no experience compared to his soldiers, but he had all the training and education to be their leader. His code was hard-tested. He didn’t quit. He wasn’t washed out as unfit to lead. Cale was in charge of the Third Fight. No doubt about it. Senior Sub Mett would never tell the other Subs, but he was glad to get back to his duties and let Cale B. make the decisions. Especially, the hard decisions about working long and late. Even the life and death combat decisions. Mett didn’t think this junior Third Grade would get them killed. He had a good gut about Cale B. He wouldn’t let him do it, anyway.

The troops found one thing about Cale very annoying. He made them carry their shields. Even when the exercises were over. Even when they took a bio break. All the troops disliked it. Shields were a large plate-sized round sensor worn on the forearm. They had to be worn loosely, so they constantly were slipping off. They banged into everything. They tied up one arm for the most part.  The Alien’s energy weapons sent out a broad beam which narrowed on a target when the target was identified. It all happened in three secs. A single element of energy, the first photon, made the shield ring loudly. A soldier had less than three secs to cast the shield from his arm and throw himself to the ground. If the Aliens’ directed energy concentrated and hit a few feet from the soldier, the soldier survived. Whatever was hit didn’t.

During a lull in training exercises, Cale asked his Tech Sub about them. “Why is shield sensor more sensitive than the sensors embedded on the War Machines?”

Tech Sub Izzo D. fit the job description. He looked more mouse than man. He spoke in a nasal monotone. Yet, he was the soldier with the most to deal with during action. Izzo had more distracting, discordant inputs in his displays than Cale had bombarding his strained cognition. And, this runt of a soldier was the coolest, most competent, manager of multiple sensors and reports in the whole cohort. Maybe among all the 1st Fighters or the whole 21st Battle Group. Izzo D. was from the Colonial Capitol and proud of it. He had a certificate, the only one in the Cohort, from the most selective tech institute Back Old.

“Couple of causes, Sir.”

“Like?” Cale had to invite a more detailed answer. Izzo didn’t like explaining tech to grunts.

“Cause the shield has been around for only three standards and these war machines are twenty-five standards old. Refit upgrades are on a five standard cycle. Sir.”


“Cause there’s something in the shield sensors that says something different from what is on the war machines. It’s highly classified, Sir. The ping back to the Aliens slows their target i.d. just enough. Just enough to live.”

“This was determined in the dust up over in the Upper Westerly Sector, right?”

“Yes, Sir.” Izzo brightened. Few junior Grade Three’s would know that. Fewer Alpha grads would even care to know it.

“They were taking hits at max range. Some of these sensors were in prototype testing on war machines. We were able to capture the data on the whole engagement. Who knew the Aliens would hit us on a test range?”


“Lucky and good tech protocols, Sir.”

“So, why don’t we hang a shield on our war machines and be done with it? Not have to wear them.”

Izzo took a long breath. “That, Sir, I’m not sure about. It’s counter-intuitive. The troops hang them on the War Machines now, but that don’t work the same. It’s probably something with the Alien algorithm. When they put out their wide beam, they seem to want to i.d. the war machine and us. Every human soldier. When they close the beam to shoot, the first kill is the war machine. But, then they come back and hit the troops. Every twelve secs. They must i.d. us differently from our war machines.”

“Unless the soldiers have a shield and throw it out of blast effect range.”

“It’s why we have to wear the shields. All the time. And drill, drill, drill.”

“Right, Sir,” Izzo looked dismayed to agree. He hated wearing the shields all the time too.

“Aliens want to kill every soldier they can. They want to kill every human.”

“They will, Sir. They will if they can.”

“Thanks, Sub Izzo. If you hear more about how the shields work, give me a class. Additional training.”

“Yes, Sir.” Izzo thrived on being the master of what others didn’t know.


Cale learned quickly that maintenance was training. That logistics were operations. Operations depended upon logistics, not the other way around. Cale didn’t know how to fix his War Machines, but he had to train and lead others to fix them and keep them fixed. He learned to train and lead others to do what he couldn’t do and he’d know when they had done it right.

“Sub Mett, why does Zero One keep breaking down? It looks bad being towed by Zero Two during every exercise,” Cale smiled slightly. He had to speak up over the racket. Every soldier, crew and dismounts, assigned to Zero One was in the bunker working or pretending to work. The metal banging echoed on the thick walls. The different ‘work’ music the troops played was even louder.

“Zero One has always been a bunker queen. Never worked right, Sir,” Mett had a rag in one hand and a tightening tool in the other. He leaned back into the open side engine compartment.

“Never?” Cale looked over Mett’s shoulder at the pool of dark fluids in the compartment. Many tiny leaks made quite a syrup of mixed engine liquids.

“Nevers, Sir. I’se here when we gots her. I’se on my first term. I’se gunner for Zero Three before I went Dismount.”

Why is he talking Potway when he isn’t Potway? A lot of troops talk like locals. Officers, too. They just slip in and out of it. Huh.

“That’s a story I want to hear. Why you went dismount. Later. What was wrong with Zero One from the get?”

“You know that grinding noise you hear before she quits? That’s bad built. That’s not us’s bad maintaining.”

“Why can’t we fix it?”

“Have to get a new War Machine, Sir. Can’t fix bad built. The tolerances on too many parts are off. They rub and break. We can replace broken parts.”

“So, we’re going to rebuild her from the inside out?”

“Been doing that for almost fifteen standards?” Mett stood up straight. He stratched his chin holding the filthy, oily rag.

“How much is left to go?”

“It’s the main drive assemblies, Sir,” Mett leaned back on the machine. His back needed rest from bending. All of his body needed rest from strain. “We can’ts get them replaced unless they is combat damage or catastrophic failure. Then theys get shipped all the way Back Old to refit at the factory. We won’t have a machine for a standard or two. When they just locks up and don’t run, we can’ts get new ones. A machine being towed can still shoot.”

They don’t teach that at Basic. Or, the Academy. Or, Alpha School. Now what?

“I gots a buddy in the Second Fighters who owes me. He says he can get a right and left engine assembly from the bone yard of our combat recovered junk. No way on the main engine assembly. Dunno about the rears one,” Mett’s eyes squinted when he was sly.

“Do you have the authority to do that level swap out? Doesn’t the Old Man have to approve it?” Cale punched up the Zero One War Machine maintenance display on his wrist band.

Mett laughed, “No, Sir. There’s no swaps out. My buddy owes me. The system is broke.”

“You don’t use the system,” Cale punctuated the conversation. His tone wasn’t as accusing as he felt. The system doesn’t work because you don’t use it.

“I uses the system when I cans. I’ll show you on Zero Two,” Mett pointed to the bunker door. He walked ahead with a slight limp.

Major repairs are done Back Old? That can’t be good when the Aliens attack in force. Maybe it’s because a factory facility can’t be protected on the frontier. But, not even at the ports of the Other? Cale spoke to his wrist pad, “Journal note. Major assembly repairs.” He started a journal the last day of his first field exercise. He titled it ‘My Army Unknowns’. His list of questions grew steadily. From leadership, to logistics, tactics to terrain, history to religion, everything that affected The Army on the far frontier as he lived it. Back at his billet, he’d take his notes and write them out as all the questions he couldn’t answer. Questions about everything it seemed, except women. He didn’t have questions about women, just thoughts about women – all the time.


Field time working went by fast. Down time in the field, waiting in between exercises, waiting for supplies or ammunition went by slowly. Excruciatingly slow. But, it was a good time to get to know the troops. Soon enough, Cale could recite 18 names, their ranks, duties, time in service, and rattle off personal details one after the other as the soldiers opened up about themselves in a bit of conversation here, a direct question there, an overhead comment from another, and reading their personal personnel files when he had the time to read. Cale respected his soldiers as individuals. He demanded they set aside everything personal to work together as teams and teams of teams. He liked them as men, but he wasn’t trying to be their friend. Ever. There were a several bad cases and one, maybe two, too odd fellows that didn’t fit in.

Trouble-makers either resented authority or hated work. Or both. Cale knew how small units worked together or didn’t. The grueling years at the academy made him a follower for the longest time. When he got to lead a few underclassmen he learned how to explain, check, explain again, double-check and keep checking during execution – of everything. When he got to lead a few peers he learned how to really lead by example. Do what you expect them to do. Do it better. Cale looked at this battle roster daily. He wondered how to make the Fight better for when it really had to fight. What will this soldier or that do if the Aliens close and engage? Will he do his duty or what? He makes the simplest stuff painful. He whines too much. He doesn’t carry his load. He skips out, for super long bio breaks or whatever, if not watched. What do the Subs say?

Tech Support Whel M. was such a challenge. He worked for the Tech Sub Izzo D. Whel’s duties were to keep all the sensors that Izzo employed employable. Keep them all charged, fueled, armed, cleaned, ready to launch, recovered and refitted. It was a never ending job. It wasn’t hard physically, although it could mean crawling all over War Machines as they moved and fired. It required attention to detail. Whel’s greatest attention was to himself.

“Warrior Leader Cale, Sub Izzo and Whel need to Stand Up again,” Senior Sub Mett grimaced. He had had it with those two.

“Right. Bring them up,” Cale sat up from resting against a tree. He put his helmet beside him and rested an elbow.

Sub Izzo and trooper Whel marched up to Cale and saluted. Cale returned their salute seated.

“Sub Izzo has a Stand Up, Sir,” Sub Mett announced and took a step back.

“Standing Rest, Men,” Cale ordered. He slowly looked at each soldier up and down.   “Make your report, Tech Sub Izzo.”

“Sir, Whel has disobeyed a direct order to keep all sensors green to go.” Whel small like Izzo but tending toward fat. He kept his round face as well fed as possible. He always needed a haircut. His uniform had flaps flapping and zips opened where all should be sealed shut.

“A direct order? Or, is that your standing operating procedure? Your standard is green. How did he violate a direct order?”

“He hasn’t maintained the aerial or ground drones. They’re not ready now.”

“Is Whel saying he’s not going to do it?”

“No Sir, he hasn’t done the maintenance.”

Cale raised one eyebrow and cocked his head to Sub Mett. Sub Mett shrugged his shoulders. Izzo and Whel couldn’t see him shrug and shake his head in disgust.

“Tell me again, Sub Izzo, what’s this Stand Up about?”

Izzo rocked back and forth on his heels. His hands were locked appropriately behind his back. He looked down. His voice dropped, “Sir, Tech Whel hasn’t kept the drones up to standard. I told him to, but he hasn’t done it.”


“Permission to speak, Sir,” Tech Whel blurted. His fat cheeks were red.

“Permission denied, Whel.” Cale took another long look in each man’s eyes. He looked behind them at Mett. “Whel, if you haven’t done what you’re ordered to do, then when I send you back, you get about doing everything you’re told to do,” Cale let his voice rise for effect. He took a deep breath.

“If you ever come here in front of me for a Stand Up, because you refused to do your duty, because you refused an order from Tech Sub Izzo, I’ll take your liberty and have you in front of our Cohort Commander to take as much from you as he can. Every word that comes out of Tech Sub Izzo’s mouth is an order to you. An order that you are going to obey completely. You got it?”

“Right, Sir.” Whel responded as much in surprise as meekness.

“I can’t hear you, Whel.”

“Right, Sir!”

“Dismissed Whel. Senior Sub Mett, get him away.” As Whel did a military about face, Mett pointed him to the other side of War Machine a few steps away.

“Tech Sub Izzo,” Cale glared. “Don’t ever bring a trooper to me again, because you can’t make him do his duty. That’s your duty as a Sub. If you can’t figure it out, talk to Senior Sub Mett or the other Subs or I’ll send you up to Cohort, Fighter, or Battle Group to talk to the Senior Subs.” Cale pointed his finger at Izzo. “But, you make sure you’re real clear on this. Don’t ever bring a soldier to me because you aren’t leading him. And, make even more screwing sure that if a soldier ever, ever, disobeys you, you bring him to Stand Up so fast his head spins off. Got it?”

“Right, Sir.” Izzo looked like he wanted to say something.

“Dismissed, Tech Sub Izzo.”

“Right, Sir.” Izzo did his about face and marched off as quickly as he could.

“Any questions, Senior Sub Mett?”

“No, Sir.”

“Any comments, Senior Sub Mett?”

“I’ll coach Izzo later, Sir.”

“Right.” Cale stood up, picked up his helmet and walked over to his most distant war machine. Afterwards, Cale found excuses during training or on breaks to talk to Whel and Izzo, separately, about their jobs and let them talk about themselves. Nothing was resolved, nobody changed, but any questions about following orders and the authority of Subs was settled in Third Fight. The word was out on how to get fried by the Warrior Leader.

By the end of their time in Area J, Cale got the Third Fight to do every battle drill for their mission list. Their performance was acceptable. Not great. The Cohort Commander visited frequently. He made few corrections. Mostly, Toll spotted maintenance oversights the Subs should have caught. Oversights Cale needed to inspect for – from then on out. Each time it embarrassed Cale. No one knew how much. Cale made the corrections like closing his boots. Normal, everyday, get it done stuff.

The Fighter Commander came out a couple of times. He was a distinguished looking middle aged officer. Cale heard that he served a lot of standards in GGO Army headquarters in the Colonial Capitol. He didn’t inspect anything. He just talked to the troops. He smiled a lot. He asked about their food and sleep cycles before he asked about their quals in training. According to Toll, the Battle Group Commander saw some of the training from his ops table and went out to observe from behind the firing point when they re-qualified their War Machines.

Third Fight did well on shooting. It was pretty simple stuff on the limited range they had. What bothered Cale was his dismounts. They’re too slow. They act like the shield drills are stupid. They probably need to be in better shape to operate longer on their own away from the War Machines. How can they operate away from the machines? The operating distance for dismounts was a huge debate across the Army. Doctrine for training was to keep them in close support to defend the War Machine. Voices called for changes to the tactical doctrine.

Each dismount carried a rocket launcher for rounds with the chemical explosive power of thirty joules of energy. It’d blow up almost any vehicle out to line of sight. It had to have a special warhead to penetrate bunkers or thick-walled buildings. Also, the dismounts carried thousands of tiny fleshette arrows. They could be fired from a wrist device opposite their comms wrist. Or, for more power, they could be fired through a charging device called a ‘gun’.

Arrows and gun training applied for what was called the close in fight. But, Aliens hadn’t gotten that close since the massacres, like the one at memorialized at the ’84 Easterly Settlement. Arrows and gun training was a joke in the Army. There’s a call in the professional pieces to use dismounts offensively at greater distances from the War Machines and even independently of them. I’ve got to figure out what can be done. There’s something there. I know it. First, I’ve got to get them to do the battle drills we already have to standard. Cale thought about options for employing dismounts – over and over. How to fight better nagged his other thoughts all the time. Dismounts became Cale’s personal special study.

Later, Cale referred to all of his first time with troops as his apprenticeship in the profession of arms. He was learning his trade as a soldier just as any good, highly specialized and complex craftsman did Back Old. He remembered every lesson he learned. For the rest of his life.

Many Sevens later when Cale got back to his billet, he couldn’t believe how good a hot shower felt. He leaned against the wall and made the water as hot as his flesh could bear. Screwing wonderful. Ah. This is better than sex. Cale laughed out loud. No, nothing is better than sex. Nothing. A big meal served with all the fixings might be third after sex. This screwing shower is definitely second. Sleeping on that bed will be fourth. He laughed out loud again. Maybe I should put in my journal the top ten. Or hundred things next to making love to a woman. Good sex. Gotta be number one. Always. Some good conscientiousness alterations – pills, beverages, snorts or eats. Whatever. Or does that count as part of number three’s big meal? Cale smiled and rubbed soap over his body like a woman would.

That night he had the big meal, a local beverage of mild conscientiousness alteration, another hot, hot shower and a good night’s sleep in a clean bed. The next day and night were Sevenths so he was off. He was lucky to not be stuck with duty officer as junior as he was. He was free to explore Fort Hope the town or do as he pleased.

Cale walked all day. The fullness of late Spring was paraded in bright flower boxes for almost every window. They love their flowers here. The colors are beautiful. Such reds. The smells were as exotic and overpowering as the first time he encountered them in the train station. That seems like a long time ago. But, it’s not. Work changes time. Like at the Academy too many days were too long. The little time we go off on Sevenths was nothing. Cale accessed the city tourist bureau data.   It read like a long list of violence. Little else happened here. Buildings were built. Babies were born. And, then the Aliens would come again to destroy the buildings and kill a lot of the people. He scrolled through the long list of attacks, bombardments, massacres, and a couple of Potway revolts.

His foot explorations always circled back to the center of town and the monument to the Massacre at ’84 Easterly Settlement. He sat in a small park and watched the Potway women march there with their flowers. They chanted and sung songs he couldn’t understand. They sounded like Potway dialect, but so much so he couldn’t comprehend. Is that Old Potway or Old Standard? I have to learn more about these people and their cult. They make good soldiers in my Fight. Actually, studying more about Potways would compete with his tactical studies trying to figure out doing dismounted fighting better and answering all of his journal questions. So, many of his journal questions were technical equipment issues that took time to figure out. And cross check.

At least I know this statue is accurate. The women at ’84 Easterling fought the Aliens with knives when the men were dead and the weapons empty. The sensors captured it. But, why did they think holding their own babies as shields would distract the Aliens? Or, was it to make sure the infants got killed first before they did? Or, would having the baby be killed first give them an instant to get closer with a knife? How could knives hurt Aliens? Cale waved his hand in front of his face.   Too much to think about. Hmm. How can you kill an Alien close in? What does it take besides a blast of directed energy?

Cale smelled the most pungent odor from a street vendor. Why not? He bought as greasy a sandwich as that taxi driver on his arrival ever hoped to snack. It was tasty. Messy, but spicy good.   He walked to the overlook for the pathetic excuse of river with a huge flood plain for when it seriously raged. Here we go. The River Hope carries water all the way from the Great Escarpment to the ocean. Cale drew a map in his head. The entire frontier is defined by the Northwest to far Southeast Great Escarpment and parallel lines of East running West rivers like fish bones dividing the frontier into sectors. In lower latitudes to the equator the vegetation and creatures were different, but this is pretty much it. He was so absorbed, He drew imaginary lines with his hands. Mountains make the Great Escarpment. Humans hold the plains below on our side. Rivers cut them into rectangles. Close enough. What’s on the other side besides Aliens? He sat and watched the sun set. He watched the people watching their home star set. As darkness dominated, the very, widely spaced lights of human civilization flickered across the plain back towards the Ocean. Towards Back Old. In the other direction to the East just beyond the lights of the Army’s Fort Hope there was absolute, complete black darkness.  

He’d go back to the Fort through town. Cale’s intestines churned. That sandwich. He looked for a public place. He barely made it to club right outside the park. When he felt cleaned out, he checked it out. It was loud, garish and very busy. He thought he saw one of his soldiers at the bar. Cale left to finish the walk back to Fort Hope, if his stomach would let him.

A taxi pulled up ahead of him. Two Warrior Leaders he recognized from the Officers’ Mess hopped out and scurried right into another club. Cale followed. It was loud, garish and busy. Cale saw the Warrior Leaders across the room and joined them. They offered him a local conscientiousness alteration beverage.

“This isn’t a mild,” Said the tall guy from 1st Fighters.

“Cale B.,” He offered his hand to both. “New guy.”

“We know. Paul A.,” The tall guy’s name clicked when Cale heard it.

“Kevi S.,” said the powerfully built guy. He was a bit shorter than Cale, but twice as wide. His arms looked like legs.

“Seriously, if you have two of these, you’ll have to take a cab back to the billets,” said Paul.

“And, you won’t be able to get it up for any of them,” Kevi made an expansive circle with his beverage. There were women all around them. More men than women, but plenty of women. “Who are you with?”

“Alpha, 2nd of the 21st,” said Cali. The first sip of this brew was a warning. He went past relaxed to almost sleepy in one swallow. Then, he saw a woman who looked familiar. She shook her short blonde hair. Oh. The ground flight engineer. Good bust. Big bust. Rust? Must? Sust? Cale took a sip of his drink. Tust! Ground flight engineer, Tust. He turned his back to her so she couldn’t see him. He couldn’t dump these guys after they just put an expensive conscientiousness alteration in his hand. Cale made small talk.

He pumped them for information unobtrusively. He asked them about their training, maintenance and leadership by getting them to tell stories on themselves. Some were really funny. Better, they were true. People like to talk. Let them talk. I’ll listen. Despite their dire warning about local brew potency, he bought them one each and excused himself as they addled their brains.

When Cale walked up to Tust, she was leaning back on the bar. Three men hovered near laughing at her every word. Her dress was cut low enough to show her magnificent young breasts, but not low enough to be sleazy. Her dress showed every curve enough to say they’re there. She snorted on her drink when she saw Cale.

They both said, “I know you.” They laughed. The other men didn’t.

“Where’ve you been Warrior Leader?” Tust asked.

“Cale. Cale B. Ground Flight Engineer Tust,” Cale offered his hand. She took it like she did the first time and looked hard into his eyes.

“Very good, Cale. You remembered my name.”

“How could I forget?” The other fellows faces fell from laughing to grim to slight sneers. They wandered away in the secs to follow.

“So, where’ve you been, Cale?”

“The field. I’ve been living outside like an animal for the whole time since I got here.”

“Hmm. What kind of an animal?”

“You tell me. If you can’t still smell me from there.” Cale stepped closer. As the word foreplay bantered, she kept touching his arm. She’d brush back her short hair over her ear. Several times she tugged at an imaginary sweater to cover her breasts. He put his arm behind her on the bar. She leaned on his arm.

They finished their drinks. They danced. Cale pulled her close. Her ear was just below his mouth. She hugged him tightly in the slow dance. “Let’s go. Do you have a place?” Cale asked.

Tust nodded yes and pulled him in tighter. Cale dropped his arm from her and took her hand in his. It was sweaty and fit well. They walked out into the warm night.

“Not far. We can walk,” Tust said. They stayed silent and kept holding hands.

It wasn’t far at all. She opened the blast doors and led him up the back stairs. Clearly, she shared the apartment. He could hear people in two rooms. She locked the door behind him in hers. It was much more open and airy than the dark apartment suggested. The sky light was bright with stars.

“Another brew?” Tust asked.

“No,” Cale said. “Lights min.” The room turned dark. He took both her hands in his and pulled her to him. He kissed her softly on the lips. He leaned back and saw her smile. Her teeth were strong and white. He kissed her gently. The kisses became more demanding. They opened their mouths to share their tongues. Her breathing quickened.

Cale undressed her while kissing her in the mouth and kissing whatever he was unclothing when he couldn’t have her wet mouth. She was all woman and he thrilled to kiss her, touch her all over, and feel her respond. He mounted her and made love. It was as wonderful as ever. Tust was an out of breath, well-pleased woman. Cale cuddled her face to face. He ran his hand from the curve of her breasts down her side and —-. Over and over, gently but firmly.

“How often are you here, Tust-I-must,” he said softly.

“Cute. Oh, here and then,” Tust looked up at the sky light. The roof’s sliding blast doors hung below like huge shields above them.

Why is she being evasive?

“I’d like to get together again, Tusty.”

“Oh we will. Darling, we will,” Tust wasn’t coy about that.

“How do I contact you?” Cale asked.

“Oh, I’ll contact you,” Tust reached ——. They made love many times that night. In the middle of the night after they finally had fallen asleep for sixty mikes or so, Cale got up for a bio break. As he came back he saw her lying on one side in the starlight and brightness of the three moons this season. He was aroused again. He gently rolled her over to her back. She woke groggily as he took her knees and pulled her legs apart.

“You are a sexual athlete. Aren’t you? A real sexual athlete,” Tust’s voice was husky and tired. But a bit awed and very pleased, she would take as much as he could give.

Before dawn, they had ——-. “I’ve got morning call,” Cale said.

“I understand,” said Tust. She got up and took him to the street in her sheer robe. He was more aroused than ever to see her body through the shimmering gown and know how it felt. She gave him a long, lingering kiss. Tust pushed herself tightly against his crotch. “I’ll let you know when I’m back.”

“You have my contact data?”

“I know how to reach you. More later.”

“Yeah, Tusty. A lot more.” He kissed her again. He headed off towards the Fort in a trot. A few taxis zoomed around at this hour. Most were off call. In a few blocks, Cale waved one down. What a night! That was definitely number one in life. Number screwing one. Tust is wild and… Cale paused in his interior dialogue… wonderful. The best yet.

As Cale went about his duties, he rejoiced in the spring in his step. Nothing is better. Nothing. What a night. Busty Tusty. Hot, willing, wet, wild. Screw me. He laughed at that last thought.   I can think about her all day. It’s OPET all day at Fighter Headquarters.

Cale had a quick head to head with Senior Sub Mett. He didn’t know if he would be back in time today to check on the assigned actions, but he knew he would the next duty day. Mett knew it, too. Cale hurried over to Toll’s office to go to OPET with the Cohort Officers. The other Warrior Leaders and the Tech… to be continued.

OPET. Officer Professional Education Training was mandatory in every organization of the GGO Colonial Army, The Army, from Cohort level up to the High Commander’s staff.   The education and training varied as differently as each commander was one to another. OPET was designed to enhance officer professional development throughout a lifetime of service. There was no end to improving. That intent was theory. In practice, OPET, went from outstanding to awful. Consequently, OPET was a constant subject of officer conversations and discussed in the professional pieces.


Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | October 17, 2016

Second Installment of Novel. On the Far Frontier.

Second installment follows reprint of first.


On the Far Frontier

Book One: First Post

James Atticus Bowden

Copyright 2000-2016


Chapter One

            “The Speed of Light is an absolute limit throughout the Universe!” Cale daydreamed about his favorite rant from the Academy. The oddest professor there made the most profound effect. “No one can go faster than light. Ever,”

Cale’s seat belt tugged tightly. The braking from Mach 2 on the land rail started a very long way from the Fort Hope terminus. Fort Hope was the furthest point out on the far frontier of the Other continent. Alien Country! And I’m posted here to fight’em. His heart pounded. Cale saw the uneven line of the Great Escarpment stretch across the whole horizon for the first time. The Escarpment is so huge! Nothing beats seeing it for real. Praise the Parent Pilots! Awesome.

            Cale looked across the open, flat, nothingness for wrecks of the great space ships, the Arks of the ancestor Pilots who brought all life and people to this planet. Cale smiled recalling Professor Josi B.’s theatrics, “The limits imposed by the speed of light shape everything on this frontier planet except one thing and one thing alone!” My first duty post. A bachelor living on this piece of frontier with the Potways. Weirdo cult.

“And what would that one thing be?” Professor Josi B. craned his neck like a vulture looking for a victim. “Mister Smit C., yes, you Mister Smit C., what would be the one thing that the speed of light does not dictate on this furthest forward planet of the Great Galactic Order?”

Before the cadet could answer Professor Josi B. banged the lectern with his fist and screamed shrilly, “Destiny, Mister! Destiny! The speed of light doesn’t determine


Potways. Religious cult of clans found mostly on the Other Continent. Constitute a majority of the population on the frontier. Tolerated, but not encouraged by GGO Colonial Government.


the destiny of this world! Humankind determines the destiny of our frontier world! Praise be the Pilots!” He lowered his voice to growl, “Humankind, that even means you, Mr. Smit C., defends the border of our Great Galactic Order against the Alien invader. Even though all communications from the Center of the G.G.O. ceased, humankind makes this planet a place of civilization, peace and prosperity. Are you equal to this mission? Frankly speaking, the miserable graduates of this military academy are the best hope for shaping any destiny into one which includes our survival. Sad, such, is our state of affairs. You are The Army. Upon the shoulders of The Army we survive. Or not.”

The brakes hissed louder. Minutes passed like an excruciatingly long sigh. The chair on the bubble roof was worth every chit. Cale listened in and out as the guidevoice droned on softly, “At this latitude only low growth forest survives.” It sure doesn’t look like the tall trees and warm, rolling hills of home. ‘Back Old’ as they supposedly say out here. There’s another saying. Throughout his last two standards at the Academy, Cale studied everything about his first post he could get his hands on. These frontiersmen say Spring comes as ‘fast as a train pulsed from the port fusion engine.’ It should be Spring by now. All I see is snow.

The guidevoice thanked him for purchasing their Land Rail services and signed off. This newly commissioned combat leader was happy to pay. Cale would know as much as he could about the unit, the mission, the enemy, the troops, the terrain, the locals, the history, culture – you name it – before his first duty day.

The Great Escarpment barely changed across the horizon as the buildings of Ft. Hope’s outskirt buildings quickly grew higher in perspective. It seemed to rise just a little bit higher. The Escarpment must be a long, long way away. And really, really big.

Cale recalled his last image of the awkward, painfully, intellectual Professor Josi B. “Yet, praise be to the Pilots, our people of this far frontier know only of the heroism and brilliance in combat of your forebears from this most military Academy. They don’t know how weak you are. You must leave my tutelage and go grab life to achieve a destiny for us all. Go beyond your weakness. Do it well, Cadets. Do it well!” Everybody snickered. Me, too. But, he’s the ‘P’ I remember the most.

The car came to the hard stop. The brakes protested. Cale grabbed his kit and headed for the exit. I’m going to try my code for real. I’ll be tested. Bring it on.

The ground flight engineer waited at the door to wish passengers well. She saw his gray ‘business dress’ uniform some distance away. She took off her skull cap and shook her short blonde hair out. Cale saw her from a distance too. Her shapeless flight suit couldn’t hide her female curves.

Cale smiled a crooked grin, “Thanks for the great ride. Is this your regular route?”

“Yes, Sir, it is,” she offered her hand. She gave him a quick once over as thoroughly as any inspecting officer. There were no service slashes or combat icons on his frock coat. The highly polished gold rank insignias on his shoulders and at the center of his chest proclaimed most junior officer. His face said it first. The bright, light blue shoulder service piping spoke direct combat branch. The pink collar piping said Academy graduate. The black and gold wreathed knife on his forearm shouted ‘Alpha’ school grad. Cale saw her eyes flicker at his Alpha patch as they shook hands. He held her hand long enough to be just right. He looked into her eyes just that little too much too. He said, “I’ll look around for you.”

Try/test my code. Old expression for experimenting with software code for functionality. Later changed to mean testing an individual’s DNA code for errors. Archaic expression, usually associated with men in a test of manhood.

She kept her eyes in his. “You can find me. Alphas can find anything. Right?” she smiled.

“Alphas Always. Ground Flight Engineer Tust,” Cale read the name tag held up and out by her ample breasts. He raised his eyebrows and smiled. He turned from the crush of people behind him to go. Cale looked back as he stepped out. She was taking a second glance too. Good. Very good. Remember Tust. Tust like bust. Blonde, built, Ground Flight Engineer, Tust.

The train terminus in the military colony town of Fort Hope was built low and thick like the bunker it was meant to be. There was a cold dust in the air. The food kiosks poured out new and striking smells. Overpowering foreign scents. The people moved in a blur. Cale followed the flow.

No signs. No directions for incoming military. No one in uniform. Where’s my unit rep? They have to know I’m coming in today. His orders specified that very train for transit. Cale worked up a sweat, despite the cold, carrying his full kit with sling bag and boxy helmet case slung over one shoulder. He kept one hand free for military courtesies.

Cale stepped to the bright outside into another wall of smells and cold wind. No

one’s waiting here for me. He threw his stuff in the back of the lead taxi.

Alpha School. The toughest training allowed in the GGO Armed Forces was meted out in the school designed to separate the Alpha Males from all other officers and enlisted combat leaders. Graduates were trained to assume command in the most complex and dangerous, demanding combat scenarios.

The grizzled driver needed a shave and bath as much as he needed to finish his dripping sandwich. “Hey, I’m on break!” he motioned to his meter with both hands wrestling his smelly sandwich.

“You’re the first car in the pick up line. You have to go first,” Cale slid in behind his cargo. The driver frowned and took another bite. Cale looked hard at the quadrant screen. “What’s your license number? Name?”

“Close the door. Let’s go,” the driver shoved his sandwich in his mouth. He flipped the switch disengaging the charging unit from the heating post. The engine quickly whined up to the right RPM. They lurched forward.

“Fort Hope, please,” Cale used his officially polite tone.

The driver gulped hard and licked his oily fingers, “New recruit, huh?”

“New Officer,” Cale answered gruffly. One quadrant of the back seat screen pulsed with icons for the white ‘t’ and the blue ‘x’ alternating with the words ‘Lamb’s Cross’ and ‘Lion’s Cross’. Potway symbols. “New here.”

“I know where you go, Sir.”

The driver slowed to enter a round traffic circle full of vehicles. A huge statue on a high square base covered in flowers overpowered the bustle. A giant woman was lunging forward. Her lips curled on her teeth in a defiant, silent scream. Her eyes were ablaze in stone. She thrust a crying baby by the scruff of the neck forward like a shield. Her other hand coiled a long knife back by her hip ready to strike. Each side of the base proclaimed, ‘No Surrender.’

Cale twisted in his seat to take it all in. “That’s the monument to the Massacre at ’84 Easterly Settlement. Right?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Why fresh flowers? In the winter? Is this the day?

“No, no. The grandmothers take care of that monument everyday,” pride filled the driver’s voice. “They’ll tell you why. There’s some who seen their great-grandmothers and heard them speak of the Alien fighting. Course not actually at Longitude ’84. No one that far forward survived.” The driver eased his exit off the circle. “Yeah, yeah. Their kin in other settlements survived. Of course, they seen the sensor spots and know what happened.”

“It’s been a hundred fifty-two Standards,” said Cale.

“It was yesterday, Sir.” They passed a line of older women walking, bundled darkly against the cold, carrying bright fresh flowers.

“Must be expensive.”

“That’s Potway women for you.”

They were still in the city when Cale saw the arching gate and hard walls of Ft. Hope. I imagined it was way out from the town. I guess the town grew out to it. ‘G.G.O.’ was stamped in the concrete pillars. The arch bore one word, ‘Duty.’ The sensor suite at the outer gate was broken. The rusted box hung loosely by a single screw. A voice came on the taxi’s internal speaker, “Proceed to the next gate.”

At the next barrier the guard and driver smiled and nodded mutual recognition. The guard motioned for Cale to lower his window. Cale complied and held up his wrist. The guard’s eyes looked with bored indifference at the rank hologram slowly rotating over the wrist band data display. He slowly came to a half-hearted position of attention and saluted sloppily. Cale returned the salute sharply.

The cab’s navigator voice gave instructions in metallic monotone. I know why they have drivers here and operators on the frontier for everything that a good robot could do. People can’t be hacked remotely. Still, weird stuff. Inefficient. They went around a big open field and past long dirt-buried bunkers. Ammo bunkers. The first long, low building that looked fit for an office had a sign out front. “‘A’ Cohort, 1st Fighters, 21st Battle Group” and in larger letters ‘Duty.’ Cale tapped his chit card against the driver’s quadrant display.

The driver didn’t help him unload. Cale piled his things in the right order to lug them into the first combat unit of his military career.

Cale took a deep breath. His insides quivered. Now. He picked up his kit and went into the building. The door sensor announced his entry. “Officer present.” The words echoed down the hall as he strode past each embedded watchdog.

The orderly was standing at attention when Cale stepped into the Cohort office. The junior team leader was a short swarthy fellow suited in the combat utility uniform. His five o’clock shadow was shaping up his face well before noon. His eyes swallowed Cale with curiosity. His eyes lingered on the Academy pipette on Cale’s collar, then darted to his Alpha School patch. He saluted, “Alpha Cohort, First of the Twenty-First. Duty, Sir.”

“Warrior Leader, Officer Third Grade, Cale B. reporting for duty,” said Cale evenly. He masked his internal tremors totally. He handed the personnel disk from his identity case to the orderly. The young team leader, probably a year or two older than Cale, took it quickly into the next room. Cale read the walls carefully.

The unit’s history was handsomely documented in 3-D displays. It was a proud battle history. First to find, or more correctly – be found by – aliens and fight them. Holding frontier outposts against impossible odds, killing a lot of aliens in tough fights, suppressing two revolts, and supporting humanitarian assistance whenever nature caused disasters. Now, patrolling through the longest so-called truce ever. Except for the quick fire fights that happen when least expected. And, the long patrols that never come back. Here’s a memorial for guys they lost last year. Which is why I’m here. I’m going to fight. I know no one on the frontier calls it ‘peace’. Only folks Back Old take the safe luxury to speak of a lasting peace. The Top Sub was at Cale’s elbow before Cale knew he was in the room.

They exchanged salutes nose to nose. The Top Sub locked his eyes on Cale’s eyes. “Glad to have you here, Sir. The Old Man’s been expecting you. This way, Sir,” said Top Sub Dant. He was as dark-skinned as the orderly and a powerfully built man twice the orderly’s size. He had a thick brush mustache and shaved bald head. Suddenly, he turned and pointed at the orderly. “Hey, Jacs! Where’s the duty driver?”

“I don’t know First Sub. Last I seen he was getting the duty vehicle out to go pick up the new officer.”

“So, where the Dark Space is he?”

“I’ll call him. Maybe he didn’t get the duty vehicle past the inspectors.”

      Top Sub, First Sub. Top Sub is the military rank for senior subordinate soldier of a combat cohort – not an officer. First Sub is the form of address.

“Call him now,” Top Sub Dant raised an inquiring eyebrow to Cale.

“I never saw him. Came here by myself,” said Cale. The Top Sub clenched his jaw and snorted through his nose.

Cale’s first commanding officer was hunched over a tactical engagement table. The holographic images flashed as he fingered the surface for new data. Warrior Leader, Officer First Grade, Commander Toll wore his combat suit and personalized command helmet. He was covered in dust and grime from the field. He stunk badly.

“Okay, that’s it Swen. Break it off and come back to home station,” Toll’s orders were short verbal jabs. “We’ll work on your immediate action drills later. Remember, time, distance and speed. Time, distance, speed! Tell your men that they did proud today and last night. The second fight was second to none in this exercise. Good job. Duty, out.” Toll pulled off his helmet. His head plug came out with a slurping sound. He was average height, wiry and a dirty blonde.

“First Sub, get a hold of First Fight and the Third Herd and tell them to drag their sorry butts home. They fell off my comms again. I don’t even want to talk to them now. And I don’t want them to hear what I’ll say right now. Just get them in gear.”

“Will do, Sir. We got a new leader for the Third Fight,” Top Sub Dante nodded to Toll’s rear.

“Well, I’ll be alienized!” Toll smiled broadly. His eyes stabbed Cale’s with their intensity. Toll’s quick inspection once over from top of the head down to toes, back to top the head missed nothing. His eyes returned for another jab in Cale’s eyes. Toll gave a hard military grip to Cale’s hand and elbow. “Welcome to Alpha Cohort, Warrior Leader. Awful Alpha Always Able.”

Cale snapped to attention. He saluted sharply, “Sir, Warrior Leader Cale B., reports for duty.”

Toll returned the salute and pointed to a chair by the training table. He leaned back on the table and crossed his arms. “We wondered when you’re ever going to get off leave after Alpha School,” Toll’s blue eyes were warm. Their warmth seemed almost out of place with the menacing large scars on his forehead and cheek.

            “I took the authorized amount, Sir, no more,” Cale stuttered.

            “Yeah, sure, Warrior Leader,” Toll walked over to his console and sat down with a sudden heaviness. “How much weight did you lose in Alpha School?”

alienized. Literally, to be melted by high powered microwaves directed by the aliens. Or, in common speech to otherwise be rendered useless or finished

“Sixteen kilos, Sir.”

            “Humph,” Toll snorted. “They’re getting too soft. Put it back on, yet?” Toll reached into his low pant pocket and pulled out a snack bar. He offered it to Cale.

            “Got back ten, Sir. No, thank you, Sir,” Cale sat as stiffly as a New Cadet in indoctrination training.

            “I may never let you stay back in garrison long enough to get it back, Cale,” Toll used his name without rank unexpectedly. He bit the snack bar in half. “Cale, I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been short a warrior leader for entirely too long a scum-sucking alien-loving time,Toll’s eyes took another very slow measure of Cale. Cale kept eye contact with youthful fierceness.

            “You’re going to take the sorry rag bags of our third herd and make them into soldiers. That’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be overnight. But, you’re going to do it. I’m putting you in the field,” Toll looked at his console, “First thing next seven cycle you go to Training Area 12. I’m keeping you there until I run out of ammunition and credits for field training this standard. Questions?”

            “Where are they now, Sir? When can I link up?”

            Toll smiled genuinely at the right answer, “They’ll be in very late tonight. You get your gear and get settled here on post. Be back at first formation and you can meet the sorriest Fight serving the Galactic Order. If there is, in fact, still a Galactic Order.”

            Cale rose quickly, saluted and left the room. How much of that was gut check? How bad is the Third Herd? Who cares? The Third Fight’s mine. They’re going to be best soldiers in the whole Galactic Order anyway. Screw it, if the Galactic Order is gone. Conquered by aliens, or whatever, then they’ll be the best on this free planet. That’s my plan. Didn’t need the pep talk, Sir.

            Top Sub had the duty orderly take the new Warrior Leader to process in. Full combat/vehicle crew kit, personnel – officer’s records section, calibrate individual wrist weapon on the virtual range, and put in the unit codes on his helmet comms interface.

Cale eased into the chair in the cramped warehouse room called an office. When Cale lifted the flap of skin on the back of his head protecting the female receptor plugged through his skull into his brain, the Cohort Comms Sub couldn’t help himself, “Been a long time since I seen a skull flap with no tattoo.”

“Yeah?” Cale controlled his irritation. “I could’ve put on an Alpha School tattoo. But I’m thinking there’s other things to come.”

“Lots of young Leaders have an Academy tat. Or an Alpha School tat,” the Comms Sub changed his tone of voice markedly. He spoke more softly. “I likes my own tat, Sir.” He leaned forward to show off his skull flap. It read ‘Duty’ with POTWAY symbols and swirls covering all the skin.

“Been in the Twenty-First your entire term?”

“Been here, in Alpha, for all me terms, Sir. Got three done now.”

“Anyone got more than you here?” This Sub is behind on promotion because he stays planted here in one unit, or he has been busted. Cale looked for a sign on the slightly chubby, acne-scarred Sub. Where did he grow up that they didn’t have DNA snip and clip to fix simple acne?

Skull Flap. A 6 x 2.5 centimeter flap of living flesh that covers and protects the surgically implanted receptor in the skull to reach the upper medulla of the brain. All service members undergo the surgery at the completion of basic training when they are officially inducted into the service of the Great Galactic Order.

“Oh, there’s somes that got more. You’ll know ‘em, Sir. You’ll know ‘em when we go to the field. Mostly POTWAY men likes me. Borns here, serves here, dies here.”

“Got my download done, Sub?” said Cale.

“Yes, Sir. You’ll be in the net as soon as you put in your helmet plug. You know your receptor gots more holes than I seen before.”

“Maybe you’re way over due for upgrades, Sub. It’s been in for five standards. I’m not a new recruit, Sub. My academy time was as military as anything you’ve ever done. It’s been five long standards since I was a civ. “Thanks.” Cale stood up and followed the orderly. The final in-processing station was in Officer country. The orderly helped carry all his stuff to the waiting room and left. Cale signed into the Officer’s Mess, Billets, Athletic Union, Education Fund, Troop Entertainment and Welfare Fund, and anything else the pretty civ secretary put in front of him. Early forties. Nice figure but filling out fast. She wore a POTWAY wedding ring on both hands. She wore garish jewelry with more POTWAY symbols and too much perfume. She didn’t look in his eyes, but had a professional cheeriness about her. Fake enough to keep her easy office job. Bet she gets hit on every day.

As Cale left to find his billet, he heard a commotion down the passage. At the far end the sign read “Warrior Leader and Wife Fred and Frie L. Memorial Hall.” A reception of some sort was breaking up. A tall Sub held the door open for the Battle Group Commander in business dress, some local civ – a well-dressed older guy and a striking, dark-haired woman. Cale checked out the woman. She looked to be in his age target range. She was laughing. Maybe a little too much to be a subordinate in the group. Why is she there? Her dark hair fell over her back as she tilted her head to enjoy her own laugh. She was tall with a very womanly figure. Something about the cut of the clothes looked POTWAY. They went out a side door before Cale could drink in more details. Hmm.

Installment 2

            Cale took a billet room even though he planned to move off base, if he could, first chance he got. I want to experience this place and culture. I’ve been with the boys in barracks for long enough. The room had no charm. He was surprised when he opened one odd box with this Officer kit. It was a large utility knife with a death’s head on the hilt. ‘2/21’ was stamped on the skull. I didn’t see Toll wearing this. When do you carry this?

After he unpacked and set his room up almost like ‘as for inspection’ at the Academy, it was time to eat. Cale walked through dimly lit, shabby weather corridors connecting the buildings to the Officer Mess in the early evening, still in business uniform. I’ll probably be over dressed. Better that than go as sloppy civ. Two waiters hurried over to serve. Otherwise the dining room was utterly empty. Where is everybody? I’m missing something if I’m the only officer here. Cale felt the uncomfortable awkwardness keenly. He hurried through the comfort food he ordered. It was his own special celebration for his first day on the frontier. Finally, he asked a server, “I am too early or too late for the mess?”

“Oh, yours is just rights, Sir. The other officers been out on their community night,” the server spoke with such a Potway accent and Other cadence that it would be a parody Back Old.

“Ah, community night,” Cale replied in clipped, precise Galactic Standard tones.

The server could see Cale was clueless. “They goes to meet with the Fort Hope town officials. They eats dinner together. So we alls get along.”   He smiled hopefully.

Cale saw no one on the way back to his room. He took a long look out his window before slamming the blast shield down. The escarpment was a shadow in the night.   The twin moons lit enough sky to cast its high ridges in sharp definition. They’re out there. The aliens on the other side. How long until I run into them?

He lay in his bed waiting for sleep to hurry up. I still feel like a stupid cadet practicing to be an officer. Maybe when I meet the troops in my Fight. Maybe when we go to the field. Easy sleep is always carried in the kit of an exciting day. I’m at my first post. Then, his thoughts clicked off like a screen shot.

Much later it seemed, Cale found himself out in the open. He saw his Uncle calling him. How odd. What is Uncle Stan doing here on the frontier? Then Stan’s mouth opened, wide like a giant frog, and the loudest strange sound came out. The wailing grew unbelievably, unbearably stronger and louder. Cale opened his eyes. The dream stopped, but the noise was louder. The alert siren had to be right outside of his window. It’s an alert! He dressed with the speed they demanded at the academy. He ran back to his unit carrying his helmet like a ball.

Grey figures cut through the dark like flashing knives. The sirens continued. When Cale entered the building he got a stiff arm in the chest. A fully armed guard manned the first entrance. His voice was distorted, deeper, and booming through the chest amplifier, “Halt. Not so fast Warrior Fighter, Sir.”

“I’m assigned here.”

“I don’t know you.”

Cale jerked his wrist up to the guard’s face. The guard jerked back as if he was popped in the nose. A deep breath later he muttered, “Proceed, Sir.”   Cale ran down the corridor. When he got to the orderly’s post he demanded, “Where is Third Fight’s battle station?”

The orderly reached out and tapped the top green button on Cale’s wrist band. An arrow appeared on the screen pointing to the outside to the left. The same arrow appeared in his left virtual eyepiece. A voice said. “Go outside. Left. Three klicks.”

I had the data. How dumb junior warrior leader third grade. Who knew? Screw it. Three klicks is a long way. Cale went outside into a cold, hard wind. He started a military trot following the arrow. Despite wearing his helmet with head plug in, he could hear the howling sirens. The rumbling of the war machines and every other vehicle made the ground tremble.

He trotted down the line of vehicle bunkers with the heavy war machines rolling out like the behemoths they are, one by one, as crews got them running and moved them out into first battle station. The first battle station – Alpha – must be right outside the blast doors. As he looked to the Great Escarpment, he saw flashes of white light. They’re firing! They’re shooting at something! Screw! Screw me, is it happening? For real?

Cale spoke in his helmet, “Outside actual audio.” He heard all the noises all around him. He heard the wind. How far away is the firing, if I haven’t heard it yet? Or, can’t hear it at all. He’d always heard the firing on ranges. Many, many klicks from ranges. He saw familiar red lights streaking along with the white flashes. Then,he saw flashes of blue and green light. Lots of them. Oh, my Pilots! That’s Alien fire. No screw, screwing Alien fires. Aliens are there. Cale picked up his pace.

As he got the end of the battle line, no war machines were out of their bunkers. The doors were open on two bunkers and closed on two. His direction arrows pointed to the end of the line at a closed bunker.

His wrist opened the blast door. The bright light inside blinded him. He reached up for the hand hold and climbed up to the Commander’s cupola from the outside. The hatch was open. Cale hoped down to the seat with lithe athletic ease. He grabbed the plug from his chest piece and plugged it into the console. Everything in combat gear had a hard wire back up.   His head display came alive.

“Report,” Cale commanded.

He saw every face assigned to this war machine in his display look in his direction. He’d never forget the mix of surprise, curiosity, and irritation that floated across ten faces.

“Acting Fight Commander Mett, Sir.” Cale saw the first face on the left of his display speak. It was Senior Sub Mett, the guy who had been in charge of Third Fight for a long time until this instant. If Sub Mett was fifteen standards older than Cale, he looked thirty. He worked and played too hard, too long. He had served as a dismount through too many Other winters.

“Right. I’ve got command. Warrior Leader, Officer Third Grade Cale B. commanding Third Fight. Report.”

“This machine, alpha three zero one, is having engine problems. We should be moving in ten. Other machines, except alpha three zero four, will move on command. Zero four won’t budge,” Mett’s face spoke directly with a deep raspiness in the display.

“Third Flight, report!” Warrior Leader, Officer First Grade, Commander Toll’s face popped up, lead left and larger than others in Cale’s left eye. His voice was brusquely demanding.

“Three systems go. One no-go.”

“Get them out of their stinking bunkers, Warrior Leader. Now!”

“Right, Sir.”

“Third Fight, forward to Battle Station Alpha. Prompt.” I know the battle drill orders to give. Let’s go.

Cale saw in his right eye display the main view sensors of two systems lurch forward as the blast doors opened. Another one stayed stuck looking at the door locks in front of it. His machine made loud grinding noises. The doors stayed closed. Zero One didn’t move.

The mikes to follow were some of the longest in Cale’s life. He would play them over and over in his head for the rest of his life. In a critical moment he made key decisions to the best of his ability and as good as anyone could. He bore the blame for things totally beyond his control, that happened before and outside of his responsibility. It would happen more times in his life. He’d feel the same angry frustration at being trapped in someone else’s mistakes, smeared by others’ failures and having to suck it up, take the heat, and drive on. If he was going to be found failing, let it be for his errors alone. Life was never so just.

The newly former Acting Fight Commander Mett and the machine commanders yelled and cursed at each other. Back and forth. Commander Toll demanded action. Cale reported the inadequate answers he had in a calm, controlled voice. Toll’s questions got more detailed and demanding. It was demeaning to not be performing well. Inside he seethed. Finally, he took charge.

“Third Fight All. Silence!” His voice commanded as it should. As he knew it could from being taught, trained and exercised so many times as a Cadet. “Three Zero Four, leave the machine driver and alternate with the machine. Fix or destroy as needed. Sub Mett, you go with Team Alpha on Three Zero Two. Put Team Bravo on Three Zero Three. Move in 5 mikes to Battle Station Bravo. Acknowledge by battle roster.”

Mett and four machine commanders responded in the right sequence, “Right, Sir.”

In four minutes the great ground war machines were lumbering to the road that went through a broken fence to scrub trees and thick brush. Sharp wind gusts blew snow swirling across the ground. The metal, fuel and lubricant smell permeated Cale’s air filter. It was already a familiar and welcomed scent. In the past, it meant real time training – the best, most exciting times. Cale smiled at the smell in his helmet.

It was many mikes to the next battle station. Here the Cohort got in march order for the longer trek to their first fighting position. It was called General Defense Position 1, or GDP 1 for short, appropriately as the first place from which the Cohort expected to engage the enemy Aliens. They had never done so. Not since Fort Hope was built. But, this was the closest, first defensible place to get good shots across the huge expanse opening all the way to the Great Escarpment. There were defense positions actually up the first ridge of Escarpment, but they rarely went that far forward as a Cohort. The conflicting colored lights flashing far away were around that first ridge – out on the outpost line.

The road became a tracked trail.   More mikes of the lumbering line of war machines.   Then, as the light before the sunrise softened the sky, the trail just went away. Cale was beyond the frontier of human civilization for the first time. The lead machines broke brush and dodged the trees they didn’t crush. Every klick there was a ground marker, but nothing in between.

The thin, low forest gave way to wide spaces and undulating low ridges of what looked like nothing but heather and rocks. Masts from the Arks! Cale had seen them in museums and video, but never in person. The remains of great masts for the space sails of super-sized Arks right there on the ground. These were the masts that stretched for thousands of klicks out from a great Ark ship. They caught the cosmic winds of energy blowing across the galaxy. The blast from a super nova, the constant radiation from hot stars, the pull of black holes, and the other energy debris from a long ago, big bang propelled the Arks to as close to the speed of light that humans could get. It made a difference. Even when the big jumps across star rings of the galaxy were passages of tens of thousands of standards. Cale had read that you could follow the lines of some masts for almost a thousand klicks. They’d be broken and missing in places, but their trace remained. There they are. I’d like to see a great Ark at full sail in space. The sails were long gone. They were only a few microns thick anyway. I love studying the Arks. It’s so amazing how the Pilots figured out how to transit such vast distances. They traveled and kept on going through so many lifetimes for a single jump. And, screw me, how did the Pilots figure out how to bring life to planets? Every single planet that fit human needs and had the water to keep us alive was dead. Totally dead. The Pilots brought life to all. Praise be the Pilots. Cale looked out across the vast empty space and saw glints of light on remnants of masts in every direction. For as far as the eye could see.

After the feasting of his eyes on what he’d always wanted to see on the far frontier for a very good mind meal, Cale heard the firing. He snapped back to his duties. The deep, whump of energy striking matter and melting it, echoed from the front and right. The column of war machines continued towards the sounds of the firing. Eventually, he could hear the sound of the war machines winding up their directed energy in the drumbeats of an engine cycle. He felt the concussion of impacts.

Screw me. That’s a long way to feel that. Cale had felt the blasts move air on training ranges. He never expected the effect could go so far. Then he heard it.

Yes. Screw! That’s it. The sound was deep horn-like noise carried to the count of five while rising to high pitch followed by a loud ‘blam’.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

Alien war machine fires. He’d heard it so many times in the simulators that it felt like training. But, it wasn’t.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

Real Alien war machine fires. He recalled the maxim beaten into every recruit and cadet’s head from the first day of training. If you can hear it, you can be killed.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

Cale completed the training mantra from memory. You are in the death zone. Prepare to survive, fight, survive. Find the Aliens first. Fire fast.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

          “Third Fight. Left quad.” Toll placed his cohort into GDP 1. They were finally there.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

Cale put his Fight in a staggered line left formation. “Ammo warm. One-third rest.” Not ordering the ammo to be hot to fire immediately showed Cale wasn’t over-anxious that contact was coming soon, even though his heart was racing.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

Starting the sleep cycle early was the sign of an old hand. The troops began to wonder where Cale had served before.

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

The fight is a long, long way off.

Toll dropped down on Cale’s personal channel like he was reading his mind. “They’re far away now. This is our GDP, because the fight will come to us,” said Toll.

“Right, Sir.”

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew. Blam.

But, the flashing lights to their front suddenly stopped. Lights flickered far away to the right and left along the Great Escarpment. The War Machine sounds moved away like thunder passing at the end of a storm.

Scout-sized unmanned drones flew forward. They were low and very fast. Sub Mett opened his channel to Cale, “Medevac.”

“Right,” Cale acknowledged. He checked every sensor in the Fight for full function. Half didn’t work. He had the systems technical sub, riding in the rear of his machine, put out all the distant sensors to see as much of his battle space as possible. When nothing popped, Cale recalled most of them to save fuel. He peered forward for an Alien war machine silhouette. Nothing. The nearest fight was over, whatever it was, far, far to their front. Being in the death zone, or kill zone, didn’t mean being close actually. Just close enough to get killed by super high energy, very long range weapons.

Cale went through every check list he could remember. He went through the battle drill check lists he could access in his helmet. He spoke to each machine commander and dismount leader about their status. He was all business. No getting to know the troops now. Not, yet. Every machine had a compromising condition. Bad sensors, low ammo reservoir, engine issues, like the awful grinding his own mount made. It was mid-morning before he was done. Are the Aliens coming back? Is that it? What was that?   All firing stopped everywhere. The cold wind gave way to warm sun. Spring really was going to come there. Cale opened a ration pack and gobbled it up.

“March Order, Return. Normal Order. Third Fight Rear Guard,” commanded Toll.

Getting Rear Guard on my first time out? That’s a plus. Or, a test.

Cale gave his orders by the book. The three machines of the Third Fight covered the rear at the right distances and times with minimal chatter on the net. By the time they pulled back into their bunkers it was dark. The troops were exhausted. They’d been on the go too long since one day and night cycle of the Other Continent, and the whole planet for that matter, was more than a single diurnals for humans. The human sleep and eat cycle didn’t match the land’s. Cale ordered, “Recovery by standing procedures. I’ll be at Cohort. When I come back, report on ready to release standards. I’ll inspect.”

Cale’s walk back in this darkness had a spring in his step. That was screwing close to combat. I can’t believe I saw Alien fires! And heard their war machines! Screw me. He felt his first adrenaline high with this brush with war. It was different than the high in training. It was a much bigger rush. He felt alive in every cell in his body from the closeness of real danger. He wanted to punch someone in the face. He was aroused enough to take a woman. He was hungry and thirsty.

Commander Tolls’ after action review went over every step, for every part of the cohort, for every function through time mike by mike. It was exhaustive. And, illuminating. Cale felt even more high to be part of this. No kidding, no playing, no training stuff. The real deal from a hard seasoned, professional commander leader. At the review, Cale saw his fellow Warrior Leaders, the Second and support Subs, like the head weapons systems manager – who was actually a Technical Officer, not a Sub, for the first time. He focused on the boss, not them. There’d be time to join and team build later.

Technicals. Technicals are selected officers in highly specialized fields. They never command, but provide such expertise in their areas to be indispensable to the functioning of all Army organizations. They may be older and more experienced than other officers, but their actual authority of rank is below and between the three grades of Warrior Leaders and always below the Cohort Commander of any rank – no matter how long they serve.

“Third Fight, what are your tasks?” Toll looked evenly at him.

“Sir, maintenance is number one. My malfunctions need to get up to rate. Battle drill for alert to get out beyond the blast doors faster is next. I won’t know about field ops until we do shake down drills. I’ll do that in my first Fight Leader training period.”

“Right,” said Toll.

Nothing else? Just ‘Right’? Good job. Good going. The other officers looked at Cale without emotion. I’m performing to standard. Good. Praise be the Pilots.

            When Cale got back to his flight, Sub Mett reported they were ready for release. Cale did a by-the-book inspection of every system, every piece of equipment and every man in the Fight. They failed a third of the checks. The Fight stayed in place, working off the gigs until much later in the night. Everyone else had gone home. Cale told Sub Mett to have them fall in outside the bunkers before release. As if on parade at basic training or at the Academy, Cale marched to the front of the Fight.

“Report,” Cale ordered.

“Third Fight ready to fight, Sir,” Sub Mett responded like a drill instructor. He posted himself behind the Fight.

“Right. Rest,”   Cale looked at his eighteen men. He was supposed to have forty-four.   “I’m Warrior Leader, Officer Third Grade, Cale B. You know I’m the Fight Commander. You did your duty today. Good job. We got within the kill zone of the Aliens. We did our duty at the GDP. As you saw in the inspection we have a lot to do.” Some troops grumbled, but Cale couldn’t hear who said what. “We’ll do all we have to do together. Get rest and be ready to go at next formation. Duty.”

“Duty. Awful Alpha Always Able!” The soldiers slapped their legs and made themselves into hard statues.

“Sub Mett. Dismiss the troops.” Sub Mett marched back to Cale, rendered military courtesy and turned on his heel to the troops.

“Machine and Dismount commanders see me. Third Fight, dismissed,” Mett didn’t look happy.

Cale walked away confident about much of what would follow with the Subs. He could hear the soldiers grumbling.

Good. Let them sort it out. They’re too slack. Mett has let them get over. He knows that’s done. Tomorrow will rock. I’m ready.

            When Cale went to his room. As high as he had been, the down was utterly exhausting. He slept without dreams. The next morning at breakfast, the Officers’ Mess was full of new faces interested in the new guy in Alpha Cohort of old Duty.

            The apprenticeship in the art, science, industry, and major muscle work of war for Cale B. began. The personal calling to the priesthood of arms initiated. The love of all things soldiering, even the hardest of challenges, opened its heart. The professional shaping of officership, selfless service leadership, started. The taste of surviving danger whetted an appetite for personal risk taking. It was the first day after all the preparation ended and Cale became one with The Army, as he would be, for the rest of his life. Cale, the soldier, was born.



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