Fanfiction.net is being a pain, so I'll have to post my latest chapter of the Gordian Knot here until I can get in. Note the copyright is owned by Berkley Fiction, Tom Clancy, and Martin Greenburg.
Note: This chapter is dedicated to Steve Vincent.
“Man fears the darkness, and so he scrapes away at the edges of it with fire.”
-- Rei Ayanami (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
“It's a simple formula. The greater the tragedy, the greater the emotional effect.”
-- Legato Bluesummers (Trigun)
“Just as [in physics] the center of gravity is always found where the mass is most concentrated, and just as every blow directed against the body's center of gravity yields the greatest effect, and--moreover--the strongest blow is the one achieved by the center of gravity, the same is true in war. The armed forces of every combatant, whether an individual state or an alliance of states, have a certain unity and thus a certain interdependence or connectivity (Zusammenhang); and just where such interdependence exists, one can apply the center of gravity concept. Accordingly, there exist within these armed forces certain centers of gravity that, by their movement and direction, exert a decisive influence over all other points; and these centers of gravity exist where the forces are most concentrated. However, just as in the world of inanimate bodies where the effect on a center of gravity has its proportions and limits determined by the interdependence of the parts, the same is true in war."
-Carl Von Clausewitz, describing a center of gravity, as translated from German by Antulio J. Echevarria II
Gordian's office, Camp William Eaton.
“When you look at the globe where we live from space, you'll see a thousand points of light. These lights shine with all the bustling energy of the heavens. These lights are the most accurate boundaries of our civilization. Classically, these lights have been equated with safety, even if no obvious forms of security compliment the lighting. I'm in the business of expanding that light, removing the darkness from a region that's been dim for far too long.”
Roger Gordian rested his arms on his massive oak executive table, capturing the lone news camera in his eye.
“The hub from which I've expanded this light is here, at Camp William Eaton. The theories of Max Plank, the Theory of Quantum Physics, tells us that light isn't a ray, but chunks of energy. Indeed, we move chunks of energy, all the vitality of modern life, from this hub right here. This endeavor to connect the Iraqis to the vitality of our wondrous civilization has bulged this facility into the center of gravity of the entire nation. The community that exists here is the harmonious force that binds these people together, and as such, it unifies the light.”
Roger nodded toward his strategist and speech-writer, Vince Scull. Both men studiously studied the motions of the wacky ROMP, the Randomly Oscillating Magnetic Pendulum, swing on one side of the desk.
“Warfare is an open-ended system slaved to the vagaries of the butterfly effect. Daily we see minor perturbations fluidly motioning us into a completely different war. This evolving system has kept the Pentagon from coming to terms with what we're facing here, but by carefully designing the functions of this hub for fortifications, communications, and logistics, we've drawn together a gravitational node for this country's vigor to join together. What this facility is to Southern Iraq is simultaneously what the Alexandria Library was to classical knowledge, what Memphis is to Federal Express, and what Khe Sahn was to the Northern border of South Vietnam.
This is the middle of the table, and if they break it, the legs are immaterial.”
A deep bass flutter shook some lime dust from the ceiling, powdering Roger's nearly alabaster coif. Scully's basset hound bloodshot eyes faintly shifted. His meaty right hand signaled “OK.” A rotary ululate report from what could only be a Vulcan cannon emphasized the immediacy of Gordian's quixotic address.
“You can hear that our counterattack has begun. There has been a truthful maxim put forth in warfare that puts a premium on taking the initiative. The words come from Clausewitz, but I've heard it expressed commonly. From one of the superior cartoons I've watched with my grandkids (1), and even from the current President of the United States, the near universal belief that the best defense is a good offense. While the President has made the phrase his near trademark since endeavoring on this ambitious campaign, it is free for all who put a premium on protecting our culture to cherish and practice. I came here with my eyes on connecting a more broad and perfect center of gravity, a free and vital Iraq. One that can speak for itself, protect itself, and instill the values of a liberated society.
Remember the flickering hopes seen from above. They seem to sparkle on a vast sea of darkness. The enemy may at times seem large enough to stand over the points of light and smother them in a valley of shadow. I assure you the fields of light are aligning together, conquering the night. Sunrise is long overdue in this region, but the soldiers of light are marching the illuminating power of undiluted freedom even on the enemy's core, where shrouds are instituted to obscure our torch, and the unreasonable fear of apostasy muffles our cries for understanding. I came here with my eyes on a high sunny plane where we could all enhance our common values and collaborate on nursing the newborns toward furthering our initial steps.
Seeing all the progress around me, I know I came to Iraq with my eyes fully open.”
It looked every part the doomsday tank of art show horror, the invincible Israeli armored D9 Caterpillar bulldozer, spewing rotary fire from the massive front plow blade, where the marine had managed chaining the remaining Phalanx cannon. It sputtered led and flame. The gearbox whirled, teeth grinding down on grit, willing the drive train, heaving forward the treads. Scarved heads planted themselves under shallow trenches, sometimes not deep enough.
The bull dozer blitzed. Ricci, the ex-SEAL, fought against the sand grains given flight by a nascent gust, and chased the beast's wake storm. His waist turned to inspect his troops. Yes, hunched silhouettes were rolling out carts of cleaned sentry guns! Others hauled smaller ROBOrifles over one shoulder, and unburdened light SWORD infantry filed behind Ricci. Most ran with “variable velocity” versions of the M16A2.
Something swooped from above.
“Where'd they come from?”
His elevated eyes missed that crater.
“Sumtafitch!” mechanical and thermal energy burned his hands and knees, his chest pressed against the ground with a breath. A steel splinter pricked his wrist, and two slowing hands pressed on his back.
“Geese season's over, Reach.” The left arm of Pete Nimec, the ex-Ranger, hooked under Ricci's- “Reach's,” armpit, lifting him to both feet.
“That UCAV must be from Noriko's bunch out at Camp... duh, Chennault? Yeah, Claire Chennault. I-” A tank turret barked, scattered sub munitions at entrenched enemy.
“I said another must of picked off the enemy!”
“Yeah, I seem to notice!”
In the dozer
He loathed the setup, stringing wires in and out of the cabin, chaining the Phalanx to the Earth-moving blade, and driving toward a massed line of determined infantry, but brother, he'd read of the Battle for Jenin 2002, had managed contact with several IDF members.
They never lost a man in an armored bulldozer.
He opened the throttle and steered toward the nearest turret. It barely looked like a gray circle under his headlights, but it wasn't demolished. Someone's alive. Someone needs a marine real bad.
Behind the dozer
The left arm of the ex-ranger dragged the ex-SEAL from his scrapped knees, urged him ahead.
“C’mon, Evens needs protection!” Nimec watched a troop of red tracers swarm the dozer canopy on both flanks, originating from positions wide of the gat’s sweeping arc. The marine attempted pivoting the tracks, in order to brush them away. In dark silhouette, both men saw the highly Freudian shape of long shafts with bulbous heads shouldered by the desert-uniformed insurgents. RPG-7s.
They bucked off their shoulders, the explosive projectiles copied from the German Panzerfaust design, a design shape feared by Great Patriotic War tanker veterans after the nightmare of the Berlin siege. The design infamous for its deadly use in the Mogadishu ghettoes, and for its employment around Gaza and the Sunni-populated region around Baghdad.
The design exploded prematurely on the shielding grill extending inches outside of the plated armor. Successive hits seemed Xeroxed matches of the first one, except the pivoting progressed. Green tracers emanated from the plow, ephemerally illuminating the sky adjacent to the falling bodies.
Nimec stood tranquil, rapt by the iridescent jade.
“One in ten, son of a gun.”
“The tracers, one in ten. This is our game.” Unthinking, Nimec’s hand raced up his neck, and clutched his dog tags.
Gordian's office, Camp William Eaton.
“The enemy at the gates know what we’re about. One of my associates in this endeavor, a Mister Singe, aptly described them as skinheads. Think about what that label means, think about what the common definition of a skinhead is, and determine they truly are skinheads, a category of thugs our society condemns above all else.
“They attack integration; marital, social, commercial. British and American citizens have encountered the movement, and largely condemned it. The same movement took root in Russia, where the disdainful movement clashes with Turks, Tarters, Chechens, and others for little reason other than that they originate from somewhere other than Russia.
“The current movement we are fighting is ideologically identical. Granted, it is perceived to focus less on racial characteristics, but it still discriminates against those of a differing national origin.
“Let me tell you about the reality of their movement. The reality is that this movement will manhandle a man from his car, jab a gun at the back of his neck, and pull the trigger. This man never harmed anyone in his life, he was just born somewhere different. Maybe he was born in Groton, Connecticut, maybe his crime was reporting about Pakistani business, or maybe his crime was touring the Mediterranean with his wife, or maybe that he was born American, or Jewish. It doesn’t matter! They never victimized anyone, they just came here to do ordinary honest work, or to vacation here, or to retire.
“This is the glory of the jihad, the glory of bombing houses of worship, because they kneel on Saturday instead of Friday, the glory of hacking a scimitar on someone’s neck, because his alms to the poor were Christian, rather than Moslem. This is the same glory as that of a group shoving a teenage boy through a tractor combine, so his body would be mangled to death; all because he whistled at a girl of a different color! You know that incident, you raged against it, now why should your response be more tepid when a whole crowd faces an execution by scorching explosion for providing food from somebody different?”
Vince Scull signaled for a deep breath, for a transition to a more calm, collective, demeanor. The passionate red drained from Roger, replaced by a more placid pallor.
“Our organization’s infrastructure in this region works to lubricate connectivity for both domestic and foreign enterprise. Because we’re building to share with other interests, we’ll drive costs for everything downward, and because everyone in Iraq will be a consumer, we’ll increase everyone’s standard of living. It will be the same as giving everyone a raise.”
A mortar shell shook a breath of dust from the ceiling.
“They aren’t interested in giving anyone a raise, their interests are in creating discontent, so they can slave the hopeless to the gun. Helpless people without outlets for independence are the future slave-warriors of their glorious revolution. Ha! They want a new crop of miserable people in legion to begat another legion of miserable people until they have a miserable army in mass to export misery into lands that don’t appreciate this glory! Well, we surprised the terror-mongers, we’re knocking on their doors, and we’re planning on planting the best we have on their ground. This is their center, and it’s blooming in our favor. The cancer of their misery-exporting business is in remission, and vitality is pouring back in.
“I thank you the viewers for sparing your time to listen in. Stay safe.”
As the set director closed shooting, Roger accepted a warm coffee cup with the UpLink logo emblazed on the side facing the camera. Scull schlepped over with a large mug housed in both his meaty hands.
“Thank you,” said Gordian graciously, “ I tried.”
“You gave them the message about the best we can do,” Vince said, turning for his own coffee, “it made a difference.”
“I suppose,” Gordian replied wistfully, idly dipping a croissant over the brim, “I’ve brought a lot of people here in my folly, if it’s a folly.”
“Right, if it’s a folly. It isn’t, and it isn’t yours, we’ve all taken ownership of a future worth creating.”
The Village Guesthouse, south of William Eaton
One crusty old Arab sheik lounged smoking at the dinner table in a darkness illuminated by the arcing flares of a surrounding enemy. They might get him this time, insh Allah, but they haven’t gotten him in the past seventy years of his life, so he felt content. If they got him now, it still meant he’d outlived many past devils. Seventy years is a full life for a Marsh Arab. Considering his tobacco habit, seventy wouldn’t be bad for him had he lived with these gentlemen.
The one with the peg leg, he paced around a lot, supervising the defense, while the mountain man, Singe, politely corrected Marsh Arab mismanagement of the mortar on their converted tank. The chopper guys, they didn’t seem combat types. Molina set things right.
For the moment, he’d retreated back in for more chatter with the outside. Though in charge, the radioman he still was. He spoke in English, but in radio English. The sheik could follow that.
Private First Class Manning, the gunner from Madison, Wisconsin, had the FN M240D unbolted from the chopper, firing prone from the roof. The roof trembled when Manning burst, but not much. Blockhouses don’t shake much, and fortunately, can safely absorb a Draganov round.
What didn’t shake was Molina. Positive feedback came in from the base. Evens had shouldered a counter-offensive, and had disposed of a mole. Oh. Grimly, the sheik nodded. He’d known, but had never confronted it. Forgiveness awaits him, insh Allah. Hopefully, it awaits us all. Molina chattered on the wireless. Drones from Chennault pounded the assault, and a gunship from Cairo circled overhead. Though vulnerable, the DC-6 made an excellent gunning platform.
“Say again, Eaton?” Molina’s demeanor shifted.
Camp William Eaton
“I said be advised, a platoon or larger sized force of hostile technical are barring on you from the Southwest. Cat’s Eye is reporting an indeterminate amount of Fahd 300- er, Egyptian APCs, armored jeeps, and Somali-style technicals. That means big guns-”
“What the heck type of radio discipline is this?” Molina demanded. “To whom am I speaking?”
The Louisiana man shifted in his seat.
“Its Rollie. Look, you have beucoup armor humping the desert your way. The JSTARS orbiting doesn’t know how the Saudis let such a large armored force skirt by, but Cat’s Eye don’t got hope of anything slowing them more than their estimated quarter hour ETA. All the high tech needs go-go juice after lighting the fires after chasing some fast-movers from Mullah Land. Their reporting a FUBARed Green Zone from the mess, so the brass is off the loop. We’re managing what we can.”
Molina mulled over a reply.
“I hear you, Will Eaton, good luck on your counter-offensive. We can hold out in house-to-house fighting a few hours. Thanks for the heads-up.”
Rollie shifted uncomfortably.
“Acknowledged. We’re still facing a hostile logistics train dropping jeep-loads of infantry against us, but I’ll reserve some arty time for you. Just feed me the coordinates .”
Rollie attempted to imagine watching for muzzle flashes from a window, glancing down at a GPS, aiming a laser range-finder, and estimating a locations. In a minute, he had fed directions to the Cajun.
“I want anti-personnel rounds proximity-fused and coordinated for TOT, then fired for effect-”
“Most people wait for the results first.”
“Not me. I want your boys to creep it in, and keep loading until their barrels turn white. I want general propose rounds to fall danger close immediately following.”
Rollie fed it to his Blackberry PDA, repeated the highly-complex order, and heard it confirmed by Molina. He then switched channels to the artillery battery, and relayed the instructions in chunks he believed they could process.
“Anti-personnel rounds timed for TOT, yes sir. Battery loaded, elevated… fire!”
The guns, buried in a steel destroyer turret, survived the shellacking dealt out by the enemy, to retaliate in anger. They did. The ex-navy personnel in the turret easily adapted to the corporate culture of UpLink’s Sword service, despite Peter Nimec’s instilling the team with a more Army Ranger culture. Sometimes they still slip into calling the choppers “helos,” the walls “bulkheads,” the toilet a “head,” and said “aye” to the annoyance of the team leader, but they ran a ship-shape gunning platform, earning their pay grade while conducting the chores ordered by Robin Molina. Rollie need-not have worried about them misinterpreting orders. They followed spot on.
They ejected the spent casing from the breech, loaded again, shut the breech, pulled the lanyard, boom. Decrease the angle, ejected the casing, load the shell, shut the breech, lanyard pull, fire, repeat for effect.
They walked it further, then switched ammunition types. The general purpose ammo storage door momentarily protested from opening, but a good WHACK! From the palm of Rusty Singleton, a South Dakota native and retired Master Chief from an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, eased out the obstruction.
The drill finished in three minutes. A battery of four guns averaged roughly nine shells a minute for those solid three, circumscribing the northern border of their friendly town with 114 rounds, almost certainly breaking the lightly dug-in insurgent infantry.
“Cat’s Eye, the JSTARS thingy in the sky, is trying to give us a bomb damage assessment,” radioed, Rollie Thibodeau, “mon Deu, They use radar, you know, and could be more, uh, definitive, with a thermal scan, but they don’t see an image of a human body outside the parameter. Great work.”
Outside the Compound
Iranian/Russian high-tech evidently never thwarted American high-tech, making Commander Farouz was extremely nervous. His T-55 probably never broke 55 kilometers an hour in this desert sand, and those unmanned Yankee birds probably carried ten death-arrows apiece, meaning those two circling had twenty opportunities to kill his armor.
He’d thought those Gophers, the SA-13s their mysterious benefactor had bestowed upon them, would provide enough umbrella to spare him from onslaught, but the American Sheik’s high-tech came in a larger quantity then they’d thought, and the spare Gophers could only escort them so far before risking the fire of NAVAL artillery !
Worse, the radio told him the sappers and shock troops had failed to remove some of the T-72 tank turrets arming the base parameter. The news that the G-5 guns had failed to even dislodge the beached naval guns left him dumbstruck completely. What exactly did they shoot? For once breaking with his tradition of being the good soldier, Farouz, a proud veteran of the Revolutionary Guard, asked for an explanation.
The reply had been more than curt.
“The dipsticks in intelligence and the artillerists underestimated the enemy’s Shortstop trance on our proximity fuses. They had to saturate soft targets so long, they didn’t get to the hard ones.”
He’d been thankful for the candor, it had bolstered his faith in the leadership, but he felt apprehensive about his chances of surviving the mission. He’d fought the Iran-Iraq war, respected his counterparts in the Republican Guard, and had seen them decimated in two wars and countless air strike operations in between. After visiting Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999, he’d personally seen what this high tech stuff could do. Without the support with armor on the ground, the Americans and NATO scared the Shiite out of the conflict region. The big stealth bomber had shown up for that war, as did some larger numbered GBUs.
The JDAM and JSOW weapons made him tremble, because weather couldn’t disrupt them. American and British armor scared him more. How to hide from it? Melt into the city?
Western news agencies and clerics in their towers will say what they want, but Farouz saw little hope of living past this mission.
He swiveled his co-axle chain-gun toward a flash in the sky. He caught a glance of illuminated smoke corkscrewing, saw the flame jet out, and saw the dive-bombing outline of the man-less destroyer.
Dung it! The bucking of the recoil pulled his crosshairs off the shape! Breath, it is climbing slowly, heading away, banking sharply. The nose suddenly tilted directly at him. Farouz triggered a long stream, but the UCAV’s maneuver had been a feint. The tanker didn’t know aeronautics, but whatever he saw seemed impossible. Big mistake; it flew parallel to him, showing a fat, juicy profile. The dot in the middle of his crosshairs eclipsed the bird, he fired. Not good! The tracers trailed behind it!
I get it, I have to aim ahead. He did aim at the future location of the aircraft, but initially overestimated its airspeed. He then overcorrected. He mentally triangulated with his imagination.
Flight, weightlessness, his heart and stomach leapt into his throat, then rushed back to normal, as flight turned ballistic. Farouz felt gravel merge with his cheek. It pained, it burned, it embedded in his face. The effects of a skeletal concussion bled in, and he understood. The high-tech had punched a hole into his universe. He dared not get up. He dared not glimpse at his tank, at the remains of the three youngsters under his care. He dared only focus on the salt and acid spicing the granules in his mouth, and only on that until the darkness seeped into his world.
Peel’s observation post
Terrance Arthur Peel’s binocular-enhanced vision gave instant feedback to the reality of the situation. Some yahoo cowboy had led a armored column out by example, using his unhealthy machismo to spit on Peel’s attack plan. The rogue had a bulldozer, one of those D9s those Jewish chaps used, running to and fro with a gatling chained to the blade, running over fields of men like a big mechanical reaper. He’d brought friends.
A small armored Bobcat backhoe chased behind it. A man in a cowboy hat piloted it. He looked familiar. Yes, he was a South African TAP new from the 90s. He looked thrilled, taking on the old-time airs of a cavalry officer. A cavalier, that’s what he was! Well, he’d messed up everything. Following him were the big APCs.
Peel’s aide had to rouse the 106mm recoilless riflemen and Sagger missile men from their cowering. The light brown heel of his combat boots had to contact some rumps harshly, and still some wouldn’t rise.
“We’ll have to fire and maneuver,” shouted the British leader, grabbing his aide’s bicep, “I want these guys firing, while I lead some guys down this trench,” said he, pointing toward one that led to the base’s edge and to the flank of the armored column. A smoking wreck of an armored tiller, dismantled by a stationary T-72 turret, concluded the trench’s progression.
“This has been some bloody Hell and a fist of aspirin.”
The marine surveyed the biological litter his actions had created, looking around the prone six-patterned desert fatigues for stragglers or infiltrating sappers. He stretched his senses, feeling out for shapes and movements that didn’t belong. He’d lost a headlight in his rampage, but otherwise had a fully functional tracked mount. The immediate presence of the enemy faded, but rocket mortars arced overhead.
Evens bent forward, where he kept the computer controlling the gatling. He punched open the CD tray, fed in the original anti-mortar program, and watched the old operation gush to life, aided in the inundation by a reservoir built into the temporary space of the RAM and virtual RAM.
Steel beamed skyward, igniting rocket fuel. Many splashes of fuel came ablaze, brightening the night. Paul exploited the illumination, craning his neck so his eyes could find mischief.
They did. Stooped figures darted down a trench. Bundles of RPG-7 rounds burdened their backs. Evens had a gun port ready. He grabbed the M24 jutting from it, and let a rocket grenade bundle have it.
In the trench
A trillion nerves overloaded with heat and shock, screaming the announcement that the organism faced mortal end. The sensation drowned out all other news until Peel tasted the rouge gushing from the divide in his lower lip. Peel, numb, reluctantly, flopped from his stomach to his back, and visually established a record of what happened. They’d been hoisted on their own petard, and now Tap felt thoroughly moist. He knew just how much water sprouted from the de-compiled human at ground zero, some ninety percent of his makeup was water. Water, tinged garnet, matted the trench. Water and bone shivers.
The other bodies looked solid. Peel refrained from checking for pulses, opting instead to get that Yank.
The dirt he clawed. He clawed to a sitting position. He rested the bipod of his weapon, watched the bulldozer tracks turn, and squeezed the trigger. He inhaled smoke, foul acerbic smoke, before collapsing in his refuge.
In the bulldozer
He felt it. While the gatling’s software reverted back into operations against the infantry, Paul Evens felt the thud, and couldn’t see the damage.
“Nigel, care to take a peek under my skirt?”
The Afrikanner growled seductively.
“I’ve never turned down the offer before, ‘cept from one odd Scotsman,” he laughed. Evens stopped, waited for the backhoe to overtake him. Finally, he idled to the bulldozer’s port.
“Hmm, he nipped you a little bit. I believe he merely snipped apart your wire cage, chap.”
Good news pursued good news. The gatling once again trawled over the battlespace, rendering a clean surface free of hostiles. The marine quickly keyed in the mortar-intercept mode, and advised Pete Nimec that the guys in the APCs should dismount to clean the trenches.
1. The cartoon Roger Gordian watched with his grandkids was Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.
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