War World X Takeover(2)
Author:John F. Carr

    One-way trip it of course was. Again in theory one could be posted elsewhere. However the norm was that when you fell down a career sinkhole sufficient to be posted to the 26th you stayed there until retirement or death. So the growth of the unit to full company size was more a matter of local recruitment. The transports always had a surplus of men with no future and pasts they would as soon forget.

    The Marines had recruited such back to when some of these units had actually been part of the Foreign Legion. Pay was not really an issue. The garrison levied on the civilians for food and locally produced products paying in scrip. The officers and men were paid in the same make believe money less any amounts they were sending elsewhere to support dependants or pay fines from past transgressions. The scrip circulated in Castell City (later planet wide). It was money because the stores and bars would accept it as such. They accepted it because to refuse to do so was to incur the wrath of the only force capable of protecting their property. The Marines knew how to make do and the civilians adjusted to what amounted to a form of taxation by fiat currency creation. A Fleet that supported itself in good part by drug sales could not afford to be fussy.

    To Win the Peace

    Frank Gasperik & Leslie Fish

    Haven, 2055 A.E.

    A party was obviously called for and Leo Makhno had fueled it, literally. The short olive-skinned, ebony-haired captain had brought in five CoDo gallons of reserve fuel from the Black Bitch—his supercharged, twin Kawasaki-powered, Zodiac built ‘baft’—and was presiding over the proceedings, but not taking particular pleasure in them. He had too many problems to think over. Besides, continually being around three-hundred horsepower engines—powered by CH3-CH2-OH at a surface pressure equal to 1,500 meters above Earth sea level—gave one a certain immunity to alch-induced euphoria.

    From behind the bar, Makhno noticed that Jane, the winner of the vest-pocket war they had just fought, wasn’t drinking either; but Van Damm and Brodski, the two mercs that were responsible for winning it, were sucking it up heavily. Van Damm drank morosely, but Brodski imbibed with as much joy as an ex-Fleet Marine Gunnery Sergeant, of twenty-five years service, who had just acquired a bar and a connection to the best beer, booze, and sandwich makings on Haven—and two adoring charges, (blonde, green-eyed, aged fifteen and seventeen, named Dora and Flora respectively)—could have.

    Well, Brodski had earned it. If it hadn’t been for him and the shaven-headed Van Damm, Jomo and his Simbas would have consolidated the area around Castell City and with it been able to hold an iron fist over the rest of Haven.

    The stories Makhno had heard hadn’t boded well for old Harp’s daughters either; they were much better off with a man of honor like Brodski than a thug like Jomo.

    One of the locals had noticed the changed ownership and they had made a swap: three free drinks for repainting the sign from Simba to Harp’s Sergeant (with the insignia of a Fleet Gunny under it). More of Jomo’s bullyboys had showed up, after DeCastro left, and been quickly dealt with. The news had spread rapidly around Docktown, and Jomo’s goons were having a rough time of it. Several people had told Leo about the Simbas’ reckoning. The justice in the cribs was downright bloody, while the Simbas at the sweatshops were dealt with more slowly. Leo suspected that there wouldn’t be any alive by morning.

    DeCastro was a different matter however. It was hard to be a “criminal” on a planet where nothing was illegal. The only restraints were those of social mores and whatever personal code of behavior one had brought from Earth. DeCastro’s organization and code seemed to be something right out of the ancient writings of Damon Runyon.

    The party was becoming loud; an impromptu “Victory Band” of two guitars, a battery powered synthesizer, a fiddle, banjo, and improvised drums were announcing victory to all of Haven. There were even some Harmonies improvising words to the instrumental jam.

    I should feel better, thought Makhno. Why don’t I?

    Maybe it was the understanding that, with the Last Resort sunk, his Zodiac was one of the largest river boats on the planet. That did not bode well for trade in the Shangri-La Valley, where the only reliable roadway was the river.

    Maybe it was the thought of the Kennicott Mining ship still in orbit around Haven, a shadow of the CoDominium and the future….

    Yeah, we won this one, but how do we keep it?

    Maybe Owen Van Damm would have a suggestion or two; he’d been around in CoDo space, he’d seen a lot and seemed to know a lot about what was going on—like who was Who amongst the interstellar companies, and who was getting what slice of what pie. Maybe current BuReloc policies? Who better to ask than the far-traveler for news of far-off places? He was off the last ship, too. Not too many people from that ship: only three hundred or so “settlers” from the Bureau of ReLocation, some donations from Earth for the Harmonies and that load of CoDo stunners for Jomo.

    “Captain Makhno?” asked the wiry little man with the perpetually stained fingers.

    “Yeah, Sam? How’s your off-world gear holding up?”

    “Better than usual, Leo. I got some replacement parts in trade for some euph from a crewman on the Kennicott Harbinger upstairs, and uh, do you know somebody named Van Damm? I got a message and a two-way trip ticket for him. I didn’t know somebody up there was a friend of his.”

    “He’s the one sitting next to the big blonde, behind you. How’d you get this? With your ham gear? Or did a shuttle land while I was gone?”

    “Off the ham gear. Come on, Leo, who else has the town got as a Comm Tech? Just me, Sam Kilroy: ever since the budget got cut, just one man to keep an off-planet radio watch. I owe you one for the warning about Jomo, by the way.”

    “You can pay that one off right now if you want. What was in that message to Van Damn?”

    “You don’t want to know, Leo. I sure don’t even want to know; it’s in code.”

    Code? That, Makhno considered, opened up a large can of possibilities. Van Damm an agent? For who? The Lords of the CoDo? Reynolds Off-World? Kennicott, Dover or Anaconda? BuReloc? Fleet? It could be anybody. But then, why did he help us so much? “See you later, Sam, I need some air.” Makhno went outside.

    The view from the porch of the bar wasn’t particularly inspiring: just the lake and Splash Island, and off in the distance what was called Xanadu River.

    Makhno remembered the trip down the river, helping to ferry miners well over a thousand kilometers down river into what could become something next to slavery for Kennicott Metals and Mining, but they were willing to pay for it no matter how much he had talked against that trip. The Bitch had towed rafts that could only be considered marginally river-worthy, even during the wind-slack period of Haven’s cycle. Some of the miners had been taken by land-gators and cliff lions as they hunted along the river banks. A few had drifted their hands in the water, giving quick snacks to riverjacks, and a couple of the rafts had performed an act of dissolution due to poor engineering and even worse construction, providing the river carnivores with full meals. So had two of the “kit-design” steamboats shepherding the rafts.

    No, he wouldn’t make such a trip again. If he needed an excuse, it was that the Black Bitch wasn’t built for such loads, at such distance. Let Kennicott provide more boats, if they wanted to haul more slave labor down river.

Most Read
Top Books