Saturday, July 5, 2014

A snippet from The Legion Way

   Dramatis Personnae:
   Colonel Carol Obermeyer, CO of the advisory detachment. A no-nonsense professional, she is absolutely ruthless in action.
   Major Mark Thanos, XO of the detachment. An ex-Sergeant Major, he knows the business.


Two years after Patriarch Fiutti announced the Unification Doctrine, Colmar’s president became enamored with the idea of elite divisions led by the finest citizens available to take the war to the Progressives. He promptly ordered each Cabinet member to recruit a division they would be honorary commander of. The fledgling army equipped and trained the divisions, then presented the division to the person who raised it for a final inspection. As time progressed, the ceremony transitioned from a formal inspection to a parade designed to inspire and reassure the civilians they protected all was well.
   With a rare break in the brutal weather, what better occasion could provide the perfect backdrop for the Vice President to formally announce his candidacy for President?

***

   Vice President Aubin looked at the rows of parked tanks with pride. “I hear the new Crusaders are reaching the field.”
   “Yes, sir,” General Goudeau said brightly. “The first seventeen are in V Company, our experimental combined arms company. We are outfitting two companies a day. By summer, the Crusaders will be our primary tank with the Defenders being converted to mobile artillery. We will have qualitative superiority when we go on the offense next season.”
   "Do we have time before my speech and the blessing to see them?"
   "Yes, sir," General Pasquier said grandly.
   “Let us see what they look like,” Aubin said brightly.
   "This way, sir," General Pasquier said and motioned towards the back of the motor pool.
   Cardinal-General Hedouin said a prayer at the sight of the tanks. Blessed Father, please don't let him look up.
   Goudeau's jaw dropped at the sight of the smaller, multi-colored Crusaders amongst the rows of large brown Defenders. He walked around the first tank with Aubin and took in the differences indicating Visigoth Company was more than parade ready.
   The original design lacked shields for the external machineguns. V Company’s machineguns were protected by thick shields. Spare road wheels and track sections were bolted to brackets under the turret handrails for extra protection. A thick slab of curved steel with drain holes in the base protected the turret ring, historically the weakest part of the tank.
   The traditional radio antenna pennants were replaced by a pair of crossed, blood-dripping battleaxes painted on the center rear of each turret. Unlike their pristine brown brethren, the paint jobs were scuffed, yet the vehicles looked well-maintained. Aubin walked to the front of the first tank to see several sections of spare track bolted to the sloping armor under the driver’s periscope. A smaller pair of painted battleaxes adorned each left front fender.
   Aubin looked up at the multicolored barrel, his eye drawn to the bore evacuator.
   “Usufruct?”
   “Oh. My. God,” Obermeyer mouthed softly enough for Thanos to hear as she looked at the names of the tanks painted on the other bore evacuators with dull black paint. Tight Spot, Ramrod, Multiple Ohhhs, Fear-starter, Psycho, Warmonger, Mother Fokker, Serenity, Virgin-breakers, 5 guys in a Tank, Browncoat, Death-dealer, Babe Magnet, Cunning Lingus, Mayhem, War Wizard, Loose Screw, Saber, Infidel, Slam-dunk, Dr. Feel-good, Screamer, World-shaker and Disgruntled.
   “Do you know what ‘Usufruct?’ sounds like?”
   “Yes, sir,” General Goudeau said as he fought to keep a straight face. “It is a Latin legal term.”
   Aubin harrumphed and looked at the names. ‘What does ‘Cunning Lingus’ mean?”
   “I don’t know, sir,” Goudeau said blandly.
   “Most of these names are unacceptable. We are the Army of God! Dalphon, write those names down."
   "Yes, sir,” Dalphon said and pulled out a small notebook.
   "Who is the heretic who authorized this--this--heresy?"
   "Major Walker, sir. One of the Alliance advisors," Goudeau said quickly. "I told him to make V Company combat ready any way he saw fit."
   "There is a difference between that and this! He's gone too far! I will set him straight after I finish my speech! Dalphon, make sure those names are spelled properly!"
   Thanos discretely stepped behind Usufruct and laughed into his hand at the sight of V Company’s armored personnel carriers. Penetrator, Excelsior, Vampire, Oracle, Party Animals, Vicious Mudder, Pontius Pilate and the Naildrivers, Freudian Slip, Harvester, Sane Maniac, Prog’s Nightmare, Revenge, Boom-boom, Ben Dover, God Rules!, Gratuitous Violence, Purfekt Spellerz, Bouncer, Ball-breaker and Heaven-bound announced the infantry’s choice of names. Aubin’s diatribe renewed itself as he discovered the radical naming scheme included the company's support vehicles parked alongside the Crusaders. He appeared most distraught over the recovery vehicle named ‘Happy Hooker.’
   Thanos laughed into his hand again and regained his composure. Do you really think the troops go into battle singing ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ and thinking of Mom, God and apple pie when they fight? Soldiers are soldiers and this is the first sign you have some fighting soldiers in your army! He turned and rejoined the group unnoticed, his face a mottled red.
   Aubin pointed to Usufruct's barrel. “Colonel Obermeyer, is this the way the Alliance Army does business?”
   “Sir, yes, sir,” Colonel Obermeyer said promptly. “Actually, these are tame. It depends on the unit commander.”
   “Tame? Can you imagine their radio chatter? ‘Five guys in a tank Ramrod, Tight Spot.’ ‘Disgruntled Psycho Warmonger stop when you see Virtuous Mayhem.’ ‘Babe Magnet, Usufruct’?” Aubin raged and threw up his hands, too distraught to notice the barely-hidden grins from his aides. The aides were uniformly grateful the press wasn’t there to record Aubin’s meltdown and show the citizens back home how far their sons, brothers and fathers strayed from God by painting such blasphemies on their vehicles!
   “Where are the crosses? How can we identify ourselves to the infidels as God’s Army?”
   “The crosses are on the turrets. They’re painted in different colors,” Goudeau said and pointed to Usufruct's dappled gray turret. "You have to look close to see them."
   “Ahhh,” Aubin said and studied the multicolored cross. “So it doesn’t give a common thing to look for?”
   “Yes, sir. Actually, it’s quite clever. Our traditional white crosses help the enemy locate our tanks outside of winter.”
   “Goudeau has a future in politics when the war is over,” Obermeyer said softly to Thanos.
   “What are those stripes for?” Aubin asked and pointed to Usufruct’s barrel.
   “Kill rings. One for each tank destroyed by the crew. Nine,” Goudeau said.
   “I can count,” Aubin said.
   “Your thoughts?” Obermeyer said softly to Thanos.
   “I think it’s time I have a serious talk with that boy.”

***

   Aubin surveyed the sea of dark brown uniforms as Avenger Company of the God’s Fist Battalion passed in review. He allowed himself a faint smile of recognition at the sight of Kevin Laroche, a distant nephew who recently became Avenger Company’s officer commanding. He looked at each company’s men as they marched past the reviewing stand.
   The smile dropped off his face.
   “Eyes, right!” Jon bellowed and executed a salute with his saber, facing Aubin squarely instead of deferentially bowing his head as the other company commanders had.
   The Legion bows only to God.
   As V Company marched past, Aubin noted not one estate patch was visible, and with the exception of its commander in his green uniform and funny black hat, the unit looked as smart as any. He remembered the unauthorized modifications to the tanks and the heretical names. If this offworlder wasn’t stopped, “his” Division would be infected with concepts going beyond the battlefield and threaten centuries of societal stability for Alcinor.

***

   After the Vice President’s Review, V Company stood in proud formation in front of their barracks.
   “You looked good out there,” Jon said proudly.
   “WOOOOOT!”
   “Master Sergeant, front and center!”
   Mikloth ran forward, stopped two paces in front of Jon and saluted.
   Jon returned the salute with a grin. “Let’s get the weapons turned in and feed these starving Visigoths. Issue off-post passes for all except the cold-start crews and the Charge of Quarters. I think we’ll skip morning PT for once and start work at zero eight thirty.”
   “Yes, sir!” Mikloth saluted and took charge of the company as the officers went inside. “On the command of ‘Fall out,’ get those weapons turned in and prepare for evening chow. Fall out!”
   “MAKING WAR IS FUN, WHOO!” the Visigoths shouted and broke ranks.

***

   Jon sat in his office and studied Cold War armored tactics on his Journcomp.
   “Company, ten-hut!” Thanos bellowed.
   Jon placed the journal/computer in a deep desk drawer before he stepped out the door in time to see Aubin, Goudeau, Pasquier, Obermeyer and Thanos walking down the hallway past the stunned soldiers locked at rigid attention.
   Jon walked up to them and saluted. “Good afternoon, Mister Vice President.”
   “Sir, this is Major Walker, the company commander,” Obermeyer said, her dark button eyes flashing a warning to her subordinate.
   “Major Walker,” Aubin said coldly, oblivious to the stares of the men. “Let us converse.”
   “May I suggest my office?” Jon said and turned to the nearest man. “Private Caleb, snag good chairs from the XO and Master Sergeant’s offices and bring them to my office pronto.”
   “Yes, sir!” Private Caleb said and fled down the hallway.
   Aubin looked at the odd black paint by the door and recessed lighting. “What is this for?”
   “This is the ‘wall crawl’, a physical-conditioning exercise. You lay flat on the floor with your hands and feet touching the black. You apply pressure and walk up the wall, down the hallway to the far end and down the wall. Everyone in the company does this once a day.
   “A friend of mine named Henri Valier did it over a seventy-meter wide tank of molten sulphur to rescue high-value hostages. The exercise builds confidence and lowers the fear of heights. We also use it as a trust-building exercise. Four men, picked at random, walk underneath. The man doing the wall crawl will let go without warning and trust the men to catch him. We’ve never had a dropped man, even when we put those who didn’t get along with the climber underneath,” Jon said proudly as Caleb and another soldier brought the chairs into Jon’s office at the far end of the hallway.
   Jon motioned for the seniors to enter the office first. “Would you like some coffee?” he asked as he closed the door.
   “No,” Aubin said curtly and took a seat in front of Jon’s desk and studied the short Major. “I just gave a speech telling my citizens our soldiers are eager for peace. The media heard your silly little ‘making war is fun’ chant on the parade field. You made me look like a liar. I want to know why you think making war is fun, son.”
   Jon flared at the ‘son’ reference. There was only one man who could call Jon that and Aubin wasn’t it. Obermeyer’s guarded look warned him not to pursue that.
   “Compared to what I put my men through, making war is fun. The training they’ve received is harder than war. That paid off when the company avenged itself at Tuscany,” Jon said firmly, yet respectfully. “We destroyed a bridge, screwed the crossroads up for at least a week, shelled Tuscany’s support facilities and took out three companies of tanks like a knife through hot butter. We didn’t lose a man doing it. That is what professional planning, tough training, solid discipline and a little ‘creative craziness’--our slang for thinking outside the box or doing the unexpected--will get you.”
   “You are taking your men--my citizens--down a path that will lead to their eternal damnation.”
   “Do you know how I came to command this company?”
   “Yes.”
   “I could let the company wallow in self-pity after Poleis’ execution and follow the same beaten path that would let it be destroyed again. Or I could make them the meanest sons of bitches on the battlefield, bar none. This was the only way I could do it quickly enough to be of use to Colmar this season.”
   “What does chanting, ‘Making war is fun, whoo!’ get you? Recognition that you and your men are a bunch of warmongering psychotics?”
   “A friend of mine used that line to call attention to himself in battle. The enemy focused on him rather than their mission. His self-sacrifice saved millions of lives that day. I told the troops about him, so the chant isn’t just a bunch of pseudo-hardass psychology. They seek to emulate his level of professionalism and dedication. The men adopted his words as their chant.”
   “I do not believe it,” Aubin scoffed.
   “Call the first soldier you see in here and ask him about Sergeant Rolf Andersen.”
   Goudeau looked at Aubin and opened the door. “Lance Corporal, come here!”
   Lance Corporal David stepped in and rendered a sharp salute. “Sir, Lance Corporal David, second season, reporting as ordered, sir!”
   Goudeau returned David’s salute. “How long have you been with the company?” Aubin asked from his chair.
   David turned his head to face Aubin. “Sir, since it was reformed under Major Walker, sir.”
   “Tell me about this Andersen fellow.”
   “Sergeant Rolf Andersen was killed in action August of 2562, at the Valley of the Lions on Umoja. He was awarded the Alliance’s Gold Medal of Valor--the equivalent of the Colmaran Medal of Heroism. His unit was facing a regiment and thousands of armed civilians. In time, the rebels broke the front line. While the Alliance forces tried to contain the breach, Sergeant Andersen placed his vehicle in a tactically advantageous, yet exposed position for the purpose of using his close-in weapons.”
   “Where did the line of, ‘Making war is fun, whoo!’ come from?” Aubin asked.
   “Sir, those were Andersen’s last known words. When the insurgents broke through, Andersen said those words on the vehicle’s public address system to call attention to himself and opened fire. The Umojans stopped trying to exploit the breach and focused on killing him because his fire was so effective. His action bought just enough time for his unit to contain the breach. The rebels were unable to break the line a second time. The rebels lost their will to fight that night and never fought effectively again. Less than two weeks later, the Umojan Revolt ended when the Legion Division destroyed the last major turncoat unit and captured the leaders,” David said.
   “I see. Thank you,” Aubin said.
   “Dismissed,” Goudeau said. David saluted and left the room.
   “Nice little story,” Aubin said disdainfully. “What other heresies have you been teaching them? Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out?”
   “I’ll show you,” Jon said and stepped into the hallway. “Company formation in the street right now! Don’t worry if you’ve already turned in your weapon. Move!”
   “Give them a few moments to get outside,” Goudeau said to Aubin.
   “Yes, I remember,” Aubin said with a smile. “Trampling is a hazard.”
   Jon turned and looked out the window as Mikloth chivvied the men into formation. “They’re ready to show you what I’ve taught them.”
   A moment later, Jon stood in front of the company. Behind him stood Aubin, Pasquier, Goudeau, Obermeyer and Thanos.
   “Visigoths! What is our Code of Honor?”
   The company responded in one loud voice commanding passersby to halt and learn from them.
   “We are soldiers serving Colmar with honor and fidelity!
   “All Colmaran soldiers are brothers in arms, regardless of class and worthy of our loyalty. We will strive to be worthy of their loyalty.
   “We respect our traditions and superiors. Discipline, competence and unswerving loyalty are our strengths. Love of God, courage and honesty are our virtues.
   “We are proud of being Colmaran soldiers! Our modest, correct behavior displays our pride and will always bring honor to the Army. We will always present a sharp appearance.
   “We consider our weapons, vehicles and personal equipment our most precious possessions. We will constantly maintain our physical, mental and moral fitness for combat and will help our brothers in arms do the same. We will strive to perfect our knowledge of the art and science of war.
   “We will fight the enemy in accordance with military law. When we receive a mission, we will prepare for it thoroughly and execute it professionally, regardless of the risk of our lives.
   “In combat, we will act without passion or hatred. We will respect vanquished enemies. We will safeguard all noncombatants. We choose to die before we surrender ourselves, our wounded, our dead, our colors or our equipment!”
   “Master Sergeant! Take charge, get the weapons turned in. Continue chow prep.”
   “Yes, sir!” Mikloth said and saluted.
   Jon lead the dignitaries into his office and closed the door.
   “MAKING WAR IS FUN, WHOO!” the company bellowed and broke formation.
   Goudeau offered a faint, hopeful smile to Jon as he took his seat. Obermeyer’s eyes barely hid her surprise in learning the Legion believed in more than glorious, redeeming death in battle.
   “That display was impressive, I will admit. But the ‘Code of Honor’ won’t hold up in combat. I know,” Aubin said, alluding to his lone season of service.
   “The Code of Honor is the ideal the Legion Division lives by. Some parts are easy to live up to. Some are not. But the Code of Honor has been used by the Legion for the past seven hundred years. To my personal knowledge there has never been an atrocity attributed to the Legion.”
   “Seven hundred years?”
   “Yes, sir. Seven hundred years ago France formed the Foreign Legion as a means to get unemployed foreigners out of France. When France joined the Alliance of Man, they ceded the Foreign Legion with the condition the unit traditions would never change. One of those traditions is the Code of Honor. On Camerone Day, the entire division recites it as one to show we proudly honor the traditions of our predecessors. I reworded the Code of Honor for the company because it perfectly defines what Colmar has the right to demand of its soldiers.”
   “I fear you are bringing great evil with your teachings. You are teaching our people how to kill in job lots and glorifying the slaughter.”
   “Do you really think all war is evil?”
   “There is no think, it is.”
   “I will agree it is evil to make war when the object is conquest and slaughter. To be willing to risk your life and health to make war when the object is truly restoring peace, freeing and protecting the innocent and righting a just wrong is one of the highest moral callings a man can take. I know because I’ve served on a planet where a pinprick in a suit often meant death or disfigurement. I volunteered for the duty because the toxic chemicals we defended could kill millions. I fought religious terrorists for three years on a desert world. I saw my last action two years ago on Umoja, restoring peace after a contested election. All that time, I comforted myself in the knowledge I was restoring peace, saving lives and protecting the innocent on both sides,” Jon said and stepped into the hallway. “Sergeant Tolbert, get Padre Gouliot here on the double, with his Bible.”
   “Sir!” Tolbert said and rushed off.
   “What is this?” Aubin said.
   Jon closed the door and returned to his chair. “Many commanders minister to the men in the field. The day I took command of V Company, I was cleaning out Poleis’ desk and learned of this spiritual duty. As an Alliance officer, I cannot minister to your men and requested the Army assign a chaplain to us. To establish my moral fitness to command, I called the company together and professed my faith in God. I explained my path is slightly different from theirs, but we are all heading to a better future. Would you believe they accepted my word and applauded my courage to witness in front of them?” Jon turned and plucked a thick black book with a fading gold asterisk on its spine from a shelf.
   “This is my Church’s version of the Bible, called The Book of Cleansing. It contains both Old and New Testaments, a newer Testament we call ‘The Book of Cleansing’ and an index so we can find comfort and solace quickly,” Jon said and opened it to the index.
   “What does The Book of Cleansing--the Testament--cover?” Aubin asked.
   “It is essentially a Testament addressing modern topics not covered in the original Testaments,” Jon said as the door rattled.
   “Enter!” Jon said.
   “You wanted to see me, sir?” Gouliot said.
   “Yes, Padre,” Jon said. “Do you recall the Biblical quotation you read to us when the company formed?”
   “Yes, sir.”
   “Would you please recite it for us?”
   Gouliot opened his Bible and found the line. He cleared his throat and looked at Aubin. “A partial quotation from Judges three, verse two. ‘Teach them war, at least such as before nothing knew thereof’.”
   Jon turned to a page in the gilt-edged book on his desk. “From the Book of Cleansing, Tabitha thirty, verse sixteen. ‘Gather those who are fit and set the hardest tasks and tests before them to prepare for battle. The Righteous who have prepared themselves will succeed in restoring God’s Peace,’” Jon said and closed the Book.
   “I was chosen for my experience and knowledge of mechanized warfare. This assignment dovetails with one of the keystones of my religion; to protect, enhance and restore justice and peace wherever I can. When Colonel Obermeyer recruited me, she said the Alliance needed me to teach war to a friendly country facing defeat. I accepted her challenge because that is my duty to God and the Alliance.”

***

   After Aubin, Obermeyer and Goudeau left the company area, Jon locked his door and sat behind his desk. “Are these people so sensitive words upset them?” he said aloud and took a bottle of Glenlivet out of his desk drawer and poured a shot into a metal canteen cup. “Your lessons will be taught, Miru-san,” he said and raised the cup in memory of his dead mentor, then downed the whisky.
   He put the bottle away, pulled the Journcomp out from the desk drawer and resumed his study of Cold War tank tactics.

***

   “General, I have a problem that needs your delicate touch,” Aubin told Pasquier.
   “Yes, sir?”
   “I cannot ask for Walker’s replacement because he enjoys the subtle protection of General Goudeau and President Simoneau. I fear he is giving the serfs dangerous ideas of equality and freedom. What was Goudeau thinking when he confirmed a foreigner and infidel as the commander?”
   “He saw the men responded to Walker’s plea for calm when they refused Poleis’ order to get into the tanks.”
   “Lucien Poleis and I grew up together,” Aubin said. “When his serfs return home after the season, they will talk of his son’s execution and create unrest on his estate. That unrest will guarantee I cannot select the most-qualified man I know to be my running mate.”
   “I know.”
   “Some of Walker’s ideas are too radical. Treat serfs and nobles the same as freemen?”
   “His ideas are radical, but his techniques are effective. When I learned V Company was to be the experimental combined-arms company, I directed Personnel to send as many serfs from the more liberal estates as possible to his company to prevent the spread of his social radicalism.”
   “That is not good enough because the freemen in his unit are contaminated by his ideas,” Aubin said and looked around. “Visigoth Company must die so our way of life can continue. If they think making war is fun, give them all the fun they can handle.”

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