A Pillar Of Fire By Night – Snippet 00

What has gone before

(5,000,000 BC through Anno Condita (AC) 476):

Long before the appearance of man, there came to Earth the aliens known to us only as the “Noahs.” About them, as a species, nothing is known, least of all what they called themselves. Their existence is surmised by the project they left behind. Somewhat like the biblical Noah, these aliens transported from Earth to another planet samples of virtually every species existing in the time period approximately five hundred thousand to five million years ago. They also appear to have modified the surface of the planet to create a weather pattern and general ecology suitable to the life-forms they had brought there.

Having transported these species, and having left behind various other, genengineered species, apparently to inhibit the development of intelligent life on the new world, the Noahs disappeared, leaving no other trace beyond a few incomprehensible and inert artifacts, and possibly the rift through which they moved from the Earth to the new world. No other such rift has ever been found, suggesting, though not proving, that the Noahs can create and eliminate them at need.

It was through that rift that, in the year 2037 AD, a robotic interstellar probe, the Cristobal Colon, disappeared en route to Alpha Centauri. Three years later it returned, under automated guidance, through the same rift. The Colon brought with it wonderful news of another Earthlike planet, orbiting another star. (Note, here, that not only is the other star not Alpha Centauri, it’s not so far been proved that it is even in the same galaxy, or universe for that matter, as ours.) Here, finally, was a relatively cheap means to colonize another planet.

The first colonization effort failed due to ethnic and religious strife. Thereafter, rather than risk further bloodshed by mixing colonies, the colonization effort would be run by regional supranationals such as NAFTA, the European Union, the Organization of African Unity, MERCOSUR, the Russian Empire and the Chinese Hegemony. Each of these groups were given colonization rights to specific areas on the new world, which was named–with a stunning lack of originality–“Terra Nova” or something in another tongue that meant the same thing. Most groups elected to establish national colonies within their respective mandates, some of them under United Nations’ “guidance.”

With the removal from Earth of substantial numbers of the most difficult and unprogressive people, the power and influence of supranational organizations such as the UN and EU increased dramatically. With the increase of supranational power, often enough expressed in corruption, more of Earth’s more ethnocentric and traditionalist population volunteered to leave. Still others were deported forcibly. Within not much more than a century and a quarter, and much less in many cases, nations had ceased to have much meaning or importance on Earth. On the other hand, and over about the same time scale, nations had become pre-eminent on Terra Nova. Moreover, because of the way the surface of the new world had been created by the Noah’s and divided by the supranationals, these nations tended to reflect–if only generally–the nations of Old Earth.

Warfare was endemic, beginning with the wars of liberation by many of the weaker colonies to throw off the yoke of Earth’s United Nations.

Into this environment Patrick Hennessey was born, grew to manhood, and was a soldier for many years. Some years after leaving service, Hennessey’s wife, Linda, a native of the Republic of Balboa, along with their three children were killed in a massive terrorist attack on Hennessey’s native land, the Federated States of Columbia, said attack having been aided by the United Earth Peace Fleet, or UEPF, in orbit over Terra Nova. The same attack likewise killed Hennessey’s uncle, the head of his extended and rather wealthy family. As his dying testament, Uncle Bob changed his will to leave Hennessey with control over the entire corpus of his estate.

Half mad with grief, Hennessey, living in Balboa, ruthlessly provoked and then mercilessly gunned down six local supporters of the terrorists. One who survived being gut shot Hennessey pistol-whipped to death in retaliation, and with astonishingly bad judgment, the terrorist organization, the Salafi Ikhwan, attacked Balboa, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, including many children.

With Balboa now enraged, and money from his uncle’s rather impressive estate, Hennessey built a small army within the Republic. For reasons of internal politics, Hennessey assumed his late wife’s maiden name, Carrera. It was as Carrera that he became well known to the world of Terra Nova.

Against some expectations, the Legion del Cid performed quite well as auxiliaries of the Federated States. Equally against expectations, its greatest battle in the campaign was against a Sumeri infantry brigade led by a first-rate officer, Adnan Sada, who not only fought well but stayed within the customs, rules, and laws of war.

Impressed with the Legion’s performance (even while loathing the openly brutal ways it had of enforcing the laws of war), and needing foreign troops badly, the War Department of the Federated States offered Carrera a long-term employment contract. Carrera likewise offered to not only hire, but substantially increase, Sada’s military force. Accepting the offer, and loyal to his salt, Sada revealed seven nuclear weapons to Carrera, three of which were functional and the rest restorable. These Carrera quietly had removed, telling no one except a very few, very close subordinates.

Insurgency blossomed across Sumer. In Carrera’s area of responsibility, this insurgency, while bloody, was contained through the help of Sada’s men and Carrera’s ruthlessness. In the rest of the country it grew to nearly unmanageable levels. Eventually, Carrera’s area of responsibility was changed and he was forced to undertake a difficult campaign against a city, Pumbadeta, held by the rebels. He surrounded and starved the city, letting none leave it until he was certain that every dog, cat and rat had been eaten. Only then did he let the women and children out.

After the departure of the noncombatants, Carrera’s Legion continued the blockade until the civilians within the town rebelled against the rebels. Having a rare change of heart, Carrera aided those rebels to liberate their town. Thereafter nearly every insurgent found within Pumbadeta was executed, along with several members of the press sympathetic to them. The few insurgents that he–temporarily–spared were sent to a surface ship for rigorous interrogation.

With the war in Sumer winding down, Carrera and his legions were–as it turned out, unwisely–let go. When the Federated states needed them again, Carrera exacted an exorbitant price before agreeing to commit to the war in Pashtia. That price being paid, however, and in gold, he didn’t stint but waged a major–and typically ruthless–campaign to restore the situation, which had deteriorated badly under Tauran Union interference and faint support.

Ultimately, Carrera’s intelligence service got wind of a major meeting taking place across the nearby border with Kashmir between the chief of the United Earth Peace Fleet and the emir of the terrorists, the Salafi Ikhwan. Carrera attacked, killing thousands, capturing hundreds, and seizing a dozen more nuclear weapons, intended gifts of the UEPF to their terrorist allies. One he used against the capital of the major terrorist-supporting state of Yithrab. When detonated, this weapon not only killed the entire clan of the chief of the Salafi Ikhwan, but also at least a million citizens of that city. In the process, he framed the Salafis for the detonation. This ended the anti-terrorist war . . . at least for the nonce.

Among the captures were High Admiral Robinson, of the United Earth Peace Fleet. His position was taken over by Marguerite Wallenstein, who had actually helped Carrera to remove her former chief from the playing board.

The price to Carrera was also heavy; he collapsed, physically, mentally, and emotionally, going into seclusion until persuaded back to active duty by Legate Jimenez and Sergeant Major McNamara. There followed a vicious no-holds-barred, and little-quarter given war with the quasi-sovereign drug cartels of Santander, along with an attempted coup d’état by the treacherous Legate Pigna. In the same coup, the rump of the old, oligarchic Balboan state was reabsorbed into the rest of the country, the oligarchs and their lackeys being driven from the country or killed. The Transitway, however, the canal linking the Shimmering Sea and Mar Furioso, remained in Tauran hands.

An easily winnable war against Balboa on the part of the Tauran Union was precisely what High Admiral Wallenstein wanted, on the not indefensible theory that such a war would serve as a catalyst to turn the Tauran Union into a real country and a great power, which would serve to stymie the other great powers of Terra Nova. That war came to pass, though not by the high admiral’s doing and not to the result she wanted. Instead of defeating Balboa and changing its regime, the Tauran forces went for high-value targets that turned out to be bait for a countrywide ambush. When the smoke had cleared, thousands were dead, and almost twenty thousand Tauran troops were prisoners of the Balboans.

All was not obviously well for Balboa, however. In the course of the battle one of its double handful of stealthy coastal defense submarines managed to sink an aircraft carrier of the Navy of Xing Zhong Guo, New Middle Kingdom. This would have been fine, had the carrier actually been involved in the attack on Balboa. Unfortunately, it was not; it was evacuating Zhong non-combatants from the fighting. No one knew how many thousands of innocents–men, women, and children–burned or drowned in the attack. Interestingly, Carrera didn’t appear to care about rising Zhong anger. One might almost have thought he wanted them to join a continued war.

Whatever he wanted, though, Carrera needed time. He’d been preparing Balboa for war for about a decade but, of necessity, many of those preparations were out of sight or not quite complete or both. He bought time for that completion by returning a trickle of TU prisoners.

There had to be a peace conference, of course, and so there was. Carrera and the President of Balboa, Raul Parilla, sent to the peace conference Carrera’s second wife, Lourdes, with a small contingent. It was an unusual peace conference insofar as almost no one present had any particular interest in peace. Still, a false peace prevailed while the conference wore on. In that false peace, all the more desperately clutched for its very fragility, Carrera and his legions completed their final preparations. From all over the world, contingents of troops from allies and well-wishers large and small poured in to help defend Balboa. Next door, with the introduction of Tauran troops to defend a neighbor from Carrera, an insurgency sprang up, which insurgency Carrera fed. In the Tauran Union, the very lists of dead and captured were perverted and twisted to undermine the governments. Best of all was the thing Carrera had never anticipated or planned for– he acquired a spy well placed in the highest enemy camp. It was a very nice complement to a lesser, localized spy.

Conversely, Carrera’s fleet, the classis, first engaged a Zhong submarine flotilla, then sailed under orders, to Santa Josefina, to the east, and voluntarily interned itself. This gave a much-needed shot in the arm to both the morale and the various propaganda ministries of Carrera’s and Balboa’s enemies. Interned, the classis was able to catch up on quite a bit of deferred maintenance.

With Carrera’s naval power thus disposed of, the Zhong made a forced landing against the island fortress dominating the northern terminus of the Balboa Transitway. It was a move as obvious as it was necessary; without the island, the Transitway could not be cleared; without the island, no landing near the capital, Ciudad Balboa, could be supported. Because it was so obvious, the defenses were immense. Between those and a few secrets, the Zhong were unable to do more than seize a part of the island, and that the most easily contained and least useful part. A substantial portion–some claimed a majority–of the Zhong fleet was sunk in the attempt. What remained, with the troops not committed to the island, bounced off but then effected a landing along the essentially undefended coast east of the capital.

Meanwhile, in the city of First Landing, in the Federated States of Columbia, before the World League, Carrera’s wife, Lourdes, had thrown down the gauntlet to the Tauran Union and the United Earth Peace fleet, her speech ending with the words:

“Come on, then, you fat and lazy tyrants. Come on, then, you tools

of terror and of a murderous alien whore. Come on you political harlots. Cowards. Filth. Swine. We, the free people of Balboa, are waiting for you, side by side with our faithful and gallant allies and under the just God who stands above us all, but who stands on our side, not yours!”

Dramatis Personae

in order of appearance:

Patricio Carrera. Dux Bellorum, or Duque. Born Patrick Hennessey. Former officer in the Federated States Army, retired, moved to his late wife’s–Linda Carrera de Hennessey’s–native country of Balboa, raised an army to avenge the death of her and their children at the hands of Salafi terrorists. Currently commander, or Dux Bellorum, Legion del Cid, a former private military corporation, now the armed forces of the Timocratic Republic of Balboa

Juan Sais. Sergeant, Fourteenth Cazador Tercio, (Top Secret, Special Compartmentalized Information) Maniple. In charge of a small team tasked with arming a Volcano FAE following an enemy landing.

Virgil Rojas. Sergeant, Deep Recon Maniple, Fourteenth Cazador Tercio. Leads a small team of stay behind scouts, in Cristobal Province, consisting of himself and Cazadores Domingo and Flores.

Xavier Jimenez. Senior legate commanding Fourth Corps, charged with the defense of Cristobal and the Shimmering Sea side, near it.

Sarita Asilos. Corporal, Headquarters, Fourth Corps. A rather beautiful junior non-com, a signaler, with a more than casual interest in Jimenez.

Jan Campbell. Major, intelligence officer from the Anglian Army, seconded to the Tauran Union Defense Agency. Female, highly decorative, and “more deadly than the male.” Prior to her capture, Campbell authored a report, the Campbell Report, which advised, correctly, that the legion was dangerously tough and large. Ignored then, her star had risen, along with her rank, upon sudden and shocking discovery that her report was, if anything, conservative. Released, after capture, for reasons not entirely understood.

Jamey Soult. Warrant officer, Carrera’s driver, confidante, and friend.

Bertrand Janier. Commander, Tauran Union Expeditionary Force, Balboa. Effective commander, Tauran Union Defense Agency. Former chief of staff, Tauran Union Combined Staff. Former commander, Tauran Union Security Force-Balboa. Janier was once rather overbearing and arrogant. Events have muted those defects, leaving a superior general officer in their wake. He has, though, in light of a couple of sharp and unpleasant lessons, become something like paranoid on all matters Balboan, Legionary, or Carrera-related.

Denis Malcoeur. Major. Aide de Camp to Janier.

Omar Fernandez. Legate in the Legion del Cid. Chief of Intelligence, which includes counterintelligence. Crippled and wheelchair bound by a would-be assassin’s bullet. A widower, Fernandez’s only child, a daughter, was killed in a terrorist attack. Utterly ruthless and utterly loyal to his country and its war chief.

Achmed al Mahamda. Warrant officer, Legion del Cid, Fernandez’s chief interrogator. A Sumeri immigrant to Balboa.

Alfonso Ramirez. Tribune. A battery commander of a light, eighty-five-millimeter, artillery battery.

Avilar. Centurion. One of the better centurions of Ramirez’s battery.

Werner Verboom. Sergeant. Thirteenth Company, Royal Haarlem Commandotroepen,

Van der Wege. reluctant private, Thirteenth Company, Royal Haarlem Commandotroepen,

Nadja Felton. Hauptmann (captain), Sachsen Luftstreitkräfte. Pilot and recalled reservist, would just as soon be back in Sachsen with her husband and family.

Marguerite Wallenstein. High admiral of the United Earth Peace Fleet, a fleet of observation in orbit above the Planet of Terra Nova. She acquired her position largely through the actions and intervention of Patricio Carrera. The high admiral is of the Reformed Druidic Faith, repentant for her previous (“and they were many, oh, many”) sins. Still, she has a duty to her home planet to keep the barbarians of Terra Nova from breaking into space and trashing her system of government, even though she detests that system. She has a plan for Terra Nova, too, though that has proven, to date, somewhat problematic of execution. Lover of Xingzhen, the Empress of Ming Zhong Guo

Xingzhen. Of indeterminate age but painfully beautiful. Empress of Xing Zhong Guo, or New Middle Kingdom. Real ruler of the Kingdom. Rather despises most men.

The Khans. referred to as Khan, the husband, and Khan, the wife. They are members of Wallenstein’s staff, highly valued, very capable. They have some rather odd views of marriage and sex, by Terra Novan lights, but are still quite within the mainstream culture of Old Earth,

Ricardo Cruz. Sergeant major, Second Cohort, Second Tercio. Highly decorated. Battle hardened. Rather young for his job, in years, anyway.

Francois d’Espérey. Major General, Gallic Army, Chief of Staff to Janier.

Wanyan Liang. Fleet admiral, Zhong Empire, commanding the Zhong invasion force. Defeated in his bid to grab the Isla Real from Balboa, Wanyan has done the best thing remaining; he has succeeded in effecting a landing on the coast east of Balboa’s capital.

Digna Miranda. Former restauranteur in Ciudad Balboa. Quite aged. Volunteered, along with two of her great-great granddaughters, to cook for Ramirez’s battery.

Blue-eyed Rodriguez. A gunner in Ramirez’s battery.

Khalid. Druze assassin and spy working for Fernandez, on assignment to the Tauran Union. Like Druze, generally, Khalid is loyal to his adopted homeland of Balboa. Pretends to be a Moslem, most of the time. Good friend of Ricardo Cruz and Rafael Montoya.

Anton Pavlov. Medically retired Volgan sergeant, formerly of the Twenty-second Tercio, now working for Fernandez in Volga.

Vera Dzhugashvili. Sergeant. Long Range Bombardment Group. Currently in Volga.

Esmeralda Miranda. Ensign, United Earth Peace Fleet. A former slave girl, slated for human sacrifice and cannibalism before being rescued from a slave pen by High Admiral Wallenstein. Now effectively Wallenstein’s aide de camp and quasi-daughter. Also, a very distant Old Earth relative of, and dead ringer for, Carrera’s late first wife, Linda.

Jesus Villalobos. Legate, commander, Tercio la Virgen, seconded to the Santa Josefinan Liberation Army.

Claudio Marciano. Tuscan general officer, retired but called back to duty as a compromise candidate to command the Tauran Union Security Force in Santa Josefina. Capable and cynical, he detests most things about demilitarized Santa Josefina and rather admires his official enemy, Balboa. Much loved by the soldiers of the multinational TUSF-SJ, his task is a forlorn one.

Ernesto Aguilar. Tribune, Escuela de Cazadores, seconded to Fernandez for a special project.

Martin Robinson. former high admiral of the United Earth Peace Fleet, now prisoner, along with the Marchioness of Amnesty, of the legions.

Stefano del Collea. Operations officer, Task Force Jesuit

Friedrich Rall. Executive officer, Task Force Jesuit

Estaban Sanchez. Corporal, Second Cohort, Tercio la Virgen, serving as a guerilla in the Task Force Jesuit rear area.

Richard, earl of Care. Captain of the UEPF Spirit of Peace. Foisted on Wallenstein as a sop to the ruling class of Old Earth. Fairly competent but advanced too young and knows it. In love with the ex-slave girl, Esmeralda. Much cared for by Wallenstein, because fundamentally decent despite the class that bore him and raised him.

Cass Aragon. Warrant officer, intelligence, assigned to Santa Josefina. Female, tall, slender, and light skinned, she blends in perfectly with the Santa Josefinan norm.

Rafael Montoya. Flight warrant officer, though former infantry. Marginal graduate of Cazador School, hence selected for flying rather than leadership. Fine, but very unlucky, pilot.

Alena Cano. AKA, “Alena the Witch.” First Pashtian of her tribe to recognize Hamilcar as Iskandr. Married into the Legion at a young age. Husband is Tribune David Cano. No one, least of all she, knows if she’s a witch or just supremely insightful. Dedicated to her Iskandr.

Johannes Litten. Left-wing lawyer prosecuting, along with his firm, the legal action to persuade the Global Court of Justice to grant an injunction against Tauran Forces damaging the rain forest in both Santa Josefina or Balboa, as well as to order to release of guerillas being held by Task Force Jesuit. Believed in some circles to have been hired by Carrera or his staff judge advocate.

Ignacio Macera. Tribune, commanding an almost tercio-sized cohort of the Tercio la Negrita, waging a mostly guerilla campaign in southwestern Santa Josefina.

William Ruiz-Jones. Centurion, 94th Engineer Tercio. Inventor of the Diana, a form of camouflage for anti-personnel land mines.

Roderigo Fosa. Legate and admiral, commanding the classis, or fleet, of the legion, currently interned in Santa Josefina.

Alfredo Ramirez. Sergeant Major, BdL Dos Lindas. Brother of the artilleryman.

Antonio de Lagazpi. Legate, commanding, initially, Fifth Mountain Tercio, and then the Santa Josefina Liberation Army.

Moya, no first name, no last name, just “Moya.” Indian corporal, doing piece work for the legions.

Pablo Carrasco. Legate, commanding Tenth Artillery Legion, “Terremoto.”

Paul Cheatham. Sergeant and squad leader, Fifth Mountain Tercio.

Richard Halpence. Squadron commander, Royal Anglian Air Force. Seconded to Task Force Jesuit and, later, moved to Cienfuegos.

Marqueli Mendoza. Wife of Warrant Officer Jorge Mendoza. Ph.D. Author and philosopher in her own right, and, with her husband, one of the two main intellectual architects of the Timocratic Republic. Seconded to the propaganda ministry for some educational work in support of the war effort. The essence of pure feminine charm in a very compact package.

Juan Ordoñez. Tribune. Mosaic-D Fighter Pilot with Legion Jan Sobieski.

Conrad Chu. Captain (Warrant Officer), Coast Defense Submarine (SSK) Megalodon.

Achmed Qabaash. Sumeri, brigadier, Army of Sumer. Legate, Pro Tem, Legion del Cid. Qabaash commands a brigade in the Presidential Guard of the Republic of Sumer, which brigade, sent to help Sumer’s ally, Balboa, was appointed Forty-third Tercio, Legion del Cid. Most Balboans who know him would agree, “Qabaash . . . mean motherfucker . . . glad he’s on our side.”

Aaron Brown, AKA “Sancho Panzer.” Legate. Formerly of the Federated States Army, Sancho commands the Legion’s heavy corps, First Corps.

Alexander Constantinescu. Dacian senior non-com. POW camp guard force.