An update and one last tease…
Currently working through final edits and cover design. Hopefully will be out the end of April (if everything comes together)…
And in answer to the emails/questions some people have asked, yes, McDougal will be back… 🙂
Nan Randall had shown up unannounced, dropped off by a GalPat shuttle the previous afternoon. She’d used the excuse of wanting some quiet time, and a chance to talk to Fargo.
They’d spent the afternoon and evening rehashing the entire assault, picking it apart and discussing how it could have been done better. That had segued into catching up with each other’s careers, until Nan finally said, “I need some sleep. This has been a long week.”
Fargo showed her to the spare bedroom, reminding her to lock the door to keep Cattus and Canis out. She joked, “And you too?”
He laughed, “Yeah, me too.” I’m involved with Nicole, and I’m not going to screw that up. As much as I’d like… Nope, not going there.
Nan rolled up on her elbow as Fargo knocked on the door, “Coffee?”
She groaned, “I’m barely awake. Let me run through the fresher, but coffee sounds good!”
An hour later, they sat at the table in the kitchen as Fargo fixed them both a real cup of coffee.
Nan was besieged by Canis and Cattus, one on each side demanding attention, and she laughed as she petted them, “I can’t believe these are really wild animals! They seem so cuddly and sweet.”
Fargo chuckled, and looked at Cattus, “Well, she can tear you limb from limb in about forty-five seconds. Smile for Nan, Cattus!” Pushing a thought to Cattus to open her mouth and put her paw, claws extended gently on Nan’s leg. Cattus did so, and Fargo felt Nan’s shock.
Turning to Canis, he told her to go to guard, and Canis rippled her lips, bringing a growl from the bottom of her chest and standing her ruff up. Nan, in an unconscious reaction, drew both hands in and put them on the table. “Dammit Ethan, I get your point. They aren’t pets, well, not so much. Stop it already.”
Fargo smiled as he gave both animals the command to relax, and they both licked Nan’s hands in a peace gesture.
Stirring her coffee she continued, “I’m going to have to continue the current patrol, but I’ve talked back to Sector and they agree that we need a stronger presence here, at least for a little while. Probably six or so months, which is about how long it will take for us to finish up this leg of the show the flag patrol.”
Fargo nodded, “So?”
“I’m going to drop a company here, well Rushing River. They’re going to be autonomous as far as planetary control, in other words, they will be subordinate to the colonel at White Beach, but they will be a quick reaction force for this sector of the Rimworlds. I’m also going to leave one assault shuttle with them, and I’d like to have Hyderabad available as a long range transport if required. I can’t talk the Admiral into leaving a destroyer here, but there will be one at Star Center.”
Taking a sip of coffee she sighed, “Oh, that is so good! Anyway, I’m leaving Major Jacky Culverhouse in command, but she’s an MP, so she’ll be the liaison with White Beach. The real command will be her hubby, Captain Culverhouse and Captain Garibaldi. They’re both mustangs, in their eighties, and have multiple combat tours, they’re a couple of problem children if they get bored. But, they’ll have a full deployment kit, a couple of Darkies…”
Fargo interrupted, “Darkies?”
Nan chuckled, “That’s what they call themselves. They’re a mated pair of scouts from Anadarko, out in Alpha Centauri. Moby and Dineah, they go by MobyDineah.”
Fargo looked at her, “Anadarko? Scouts? I thought that was one of the Wild West colonies.”
“It is, one point five G, sixty percent landmass, limited water, hellacious mountains. Pretty much ignored, until one of our GalPat ships stopped there about thirty years ago. There was some friendly competition with the locals, and our scouts and Special Forces got their asses handed to them. Darkies are short and wide, strong, and sneaky as hell.” Nan took another sip of coffee, “The settlers are all at least half Earth stock Amerind, lots of Comanche, Cherokee, Lakota Sioux and Apache. Apparently the original stock came from Oklahoma, near Fort Sill, so they’ve adopted a Cavalry way of life.”
“What rank are they?” Fargo asked.
“They are direct accessions into GalPat as Chief Sergeants, and they are also completely telepathic with each other. Part of their mating, apparently.”
Fargo filed that away as he whistled, “Oh, that could be convenient!”
Nan grinned, then dropped into a solemn expression, “And I’m leaving one maintenance tech to support the company. Senior Sergeant McDougal.”
Fargo picked up on her change of expression, “And?”
“Well, he’s a different bird.” Nan twirled her cup, “Ah, he’s got a Star of Valor, and they want him a long way from the flagpole.”
“A maintainer with a Star?”
Nan shrugged, “Yep, on his first Det as a lead. He got left behind inadvertently, or so it was claimed. Something about his locator and datacomp being blocked in a maintenance tunnel they were building. He killed thirty some odd Dragoons rather innovatively, while trying to get off the planet. And he apparently had charges on the T-gate’s power when the good guys came back through the gate. He got the charges off the gate and stuck on his armor, and he ran for it. Blew a leg off, but protected the gate.”
Fargo whistled, “Damn, so he’s basically a kid!”
Nan said, “Yep, maybe forty. But he’s damn good, and I need to keep him busy. This should do it.”
Fargo rolled his eyes, “So… Problem child commanders, problem child maintainer, any more good news?”
Nan blushed, “Well, the company I’m leaving are Herms.”
Fargo just shook his head, “Hermaphrodites? Why them?”
“Well, they keep trying to kill the KTs when they spar. They’ve kept the docs and Med-Comps busy on the ship,” Nan admitted.
“Lemme guess, the Templars think the Herms are an abomination, right?” Nan nodded. “And Herms being Herms, just love to tweak the KTs every chance they get, right?” Another nod. “So what brilliant individual put those two companies in the same ship?”
Nan sighed, “After the dust up on Rigel Three, where they fought side by side and kicked Goon ass, HQ thought it would promote harmony if we put them together. But Mack and Bob can handle them. I’m sure of it.”
Fargo rolled his eyes, “I’m glad I’m retired and I can stay back here in the Green, in this little cabin. I don’t want to be anywhere near Rushing River when that crowd gets bored!”
Nan sat up suddenly, “You’re serious aren’t you? I thought…”
“You thought what?”
“I thought… I thought you were in command of the mercs.”
Fargo chuckled, “Command? A bunch of retired CSMs and Warrants? Hell no! If anything, I was an advisor who was mostly ignored. Anyway, they actually are employees of Grey Lady Security.”
“That’s not what I heard or saw, Ethan, they followed you. You went in and fought… Wait a minute, Grey Lady? That damn company has their tentacles all the way out here?”
“It’s my world too. And I was able to use my talents to help out. Adrenalin rush and all that. As for Grey Lady, she does seem to get around for an immobile statue,” Fargo said with a laugh.
Nan smacked him on the arm, “That’s not… Argghhh! Men!”
An hour later, standing on the porch, Nan turned to Fargo, “Ethan, I can’t thank you enough…”
Fargo put his fingers to her lips, “Nan, there isn’t anything you can say. I’ve truly enjoyed you being here, and I can’t tell you how proud of you I am. You’re a credit to the Corps, and I’d love for you to stay, but I know you have responsibilities.” Scuffing his boot, he looked at Cattus and Canis watching them and continued, “You know you’re always welcome here.”
Turning, she hugged him wordlessly, then stepped back. He led her down the steps to the field in front of the house, where Hyderabad’s shuttle sat waiting. As they walked toward it, the Hunter version of a butterfly about a foot across flew in front of them. Nan jumped back, dodging it, as Fargo laughed. “Shut up dammit,” Nan said, “I don’t like fluttering stuff.” He helped her in, and threw her bag in the back under the netting and waved to Evie as he stepped off the back ramp.
As the shuttle lifted off he trudged back to the liteflyer. Ensuring his bead rifle was secure, he directed his thoughts to the girls, as he thought of them, to guard the house. A short run and he lifted the liteflyer off and drifted out over the canyon, enjoying the view as he headed for the spaceport.
Twenty minutes later he landed at the spaceport in his usual spot by the gate. Securing the liteflyer, he was surprised to see Sergeant Omar pull up in his patrol vehicle. Omar squeaked a greeting that his Galtrans projected to Fargo’s implant as, “Ho, lieutenant of the retired, ride to the ceremony you would like?”
Fargo nodded, “Ride to the ceremony would be appreciated.” He climbed aboard and Sergeant Omar rattled off across the spaceport. Five minutes later he pulled up to the side of the administration building and Fargo hopped off the vehicle with a wave.
Stepping to the corner of the building, he saw a GalPat podium and reviewing stand erected, and a company of troops in blacks at parade rest in front of the podium. As he watched, a group of dignitaries led by Colonel Randall stepped out of the administration building and started walking toward the podium.
He saw the planetary Governor, Klynton, her assistant, Gann, followed by what Fargo thought of as her GalPat lackey Colonel Cameron. Then a couple of other GalPat Colonels and Nan Randall. Mikhail, looking uncomfortable in a suit, brought up the rear. Fargo spun, sensing someone coming up behind him.
He saw a youngish troop, wearing a Star of Valor, who nodded to him as he stuck his head around the corner. “Aw shit. There is no way I’m gonna be able to sneak into formation.” Turning to look at Fargo he added, “Sorry sir. Didn’t mean to cuss. I was working on getting sh.. cra… stuff set up and I forgot to watch my wrist comp for time.”
Fargo realized he was looking at Senior Sergeant Ian McDougal and smiled, “Well, I guess we can watch the ceremony from here. You must be one of the maintainers.”
McDougal nodded, “Yeah, the only one for this bunch. And they only gave me three Mechs. I got them digging now, but I’m already behind. Normally we get six for something like this.”
“We gotta dig a basement and tunnels connecting the buildings. Also storage and maintenance spaces for security purposes. Maybe you’ll just forget I said anything, okay?”
Fargo nodded, “I know nothing. I heard nothing. By the way, I’m Captain Fargo, the local militia commander, so I’ll be working with y’all from time to time.”
McDougal grimaced, “Ah shit. Sorry, sir.”
Fargo grinned, “Don’t sweat it troop. I’d rather a working troop than a chair borne warrior. You catch any crap for not making muster, you tell the captain to come talk to me. I’ll cover for you.”