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Lest we drown in the darkness (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 7

Lest we drown in the darkness...

by Cannonshop

November, 2769 - Ia Drang Underground City, Kowloon, Kowloon System

General DeChevalier didn't have long to wait, but he had long enough to take in the view from the service balcony overlooking the Golden Lake Valley.

It wasn't that far down, to see the ongoing siege of the last Rim Worlds Holdout-a two kilometer block of hardened apartment buildings behind a ferrocrete wall, patrolled by Quasit security 'mechs and a pair of Rampages.

The wreckage of two others lay half-submerged in streets outside the sally ports.

"General, Sir?"  The man he was here to meet was shockingly young for the weight of responsibility.  Tranh Truk Ngo was barely old enough to be out of Academy, and the simple Khaki uniform he wore was devoid of more than rank insignia and a nametag.

"I expected someone older, Colonel."  the General returned the salute.  "You...ah...I'm sure we'd have something on you if-"

"Sir, all due respect. I was bounced from the Academy."  Ngo said candidly.

"For?" DeChevalier asked

"Medical, Sir." Ngo said, "I kept them fooled for almost four years, but in '67 they instituted the GENOME project, and regardless of grades, I was out."

"Regardless of grades?" the General asked

"They didn't want a junkie in uniform, sir."  Ngo said firmly, "The medical officer was kind enough to run extrapolation sims, you Terries have some amazing gear.  I've got around twenty years left."

"That's oddly specific-"

"Cholmann's syndrome." Ngo told him, "Provisional President Mai Duk Ngo instructed me to be candid on this matter with you, as she seems to trust your discretion, sir.  Point is, this one hell of an opportunity, because I have dog-years...and I would dearly love to see the end of the Fat Man before I go."

Ngo took a silver cigarette case from his pocket.

"How far advanced are you?" DeChevalier asked.

"Still stage one.  Your proposal looked intriguing." the young man took a hand-rolled item out, and lit it down-wind.  "The President wanted this meet to hammer out details."

"You didn't say your lady mother-"

"I'll be dead before she is, means we're going to keep our own traditions, if you support us."  Tranh's face was unlined, his eyes were canny, untrusting, and yet...

"I mentioned that in my offer-support the removal of the usurper, and Kowloon's...sovereignty will be guaranteed by no less than the Star League Defense Force."

"We'll hold you to that." the astonishingly young Colonel answered.  "I understand you're marching on the Rimjobs as we speak, and if we hadn't thrown them off, you'd be here to remove them."

It wasn't entirely TRUE, but it was close enough.  "Did you learn the anti-'mech techniques at the Academy??"  Aaron asked.

"No, sir. We worked it out over three hundred years."  Ngo said grimly, "Learn the enemy, learn his weaknesses, and learn from his strengths.  The Rampage design is top-heavy and overweight, which makes it unstable. So you destabilize the ground under it. Then bury it, and making possible to knock it over.  They can't afford to lock the canopy or the service hatches in case they need them opened, and the cooling systems NEED radiators, those present holes, get in close, exploit the holes."

Crudely, it was exactly the same doctrine that SLDF trained elite infantry in. It was a little disturbing to hear a recent academy drop-out recite it.

"We want to attack them, sir." Ngo added.  "Three centuries of oppression, you understand.  We'll join your war on the Fat Man, but don't make the mistake my people care one damn bit for the nation that blew up Dinh Diep to keep the Amaris boot on our necks. If you decide to withdraw your offer, I'll get it, but you gotta understand..."

A wing-pair of SB-27 Sabre light Aerospace Fighters streaked below the balcony, thundering with supersonic compression waves over the besieged city below.

" can't really stop us from joining it." Ngo said after the thunder receded.  "Best you'll get, is directing the mayhem."

Aaron watched as incendiary strikes bloomed in the besieged area, and felt a cold hand grip his intestines at the raw hatred and callousness.

"I can live with that, Colonel.  When can you be ready?" Aaron asked the young man

"As soon as you've removed the Rimjob survivors." Ngo told him, "Take the last of them off my world, and tell me where we should meet you?"

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