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Old February 21 2007, 06:36 AM   #16
Gibraltar
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

A fantastic, action-packed installment… but alas, too short a one! Bombs, breaches, and bravado, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Loving the little bits on economic recovery and industrial revitalization following WWIII. They both help set the background of the story, as well as shedding light on how something as large and advanced as the Iron Horse has managed to come about.

Oh, and I must know more about this enigmatic young Vulcan ‘diplomat,’ whose diplomatic credentials seem to be accompanied by a large can of whupass. A Vulcan who wears denim and boots. Does he also sing Country & Western on Iron Horses’ karaoke night?

So very many questions…
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Old February 21 2007, 10:44 PM   #17
CeJay
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Good stuff but I agree that with Gibraltar that it felt a bit too light.

The attack run on the city was over and done with in just a few lines. Now while I understand that everything here is happening very quickly I still think a little more detail wouldn't have hurt.

You didn't spare any for the CATS. Those were real intersting machines and I liked how Skyes used them to scare away the guards.

Good stuff, keep it coming.
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Old April 26 2007, 03:03 AM   #18
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Yeah! Keep it coming! I love this - but it's been a couple of months. Let's have more! :thumbsup:
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Old August 1 2007, 05:55 PM   #19
Michael_Kroh
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Author's Note: This work is dedicated to Emily Rose Snyder, born 5-31-2007. Thanks to Ed Horsfall for contributing engineering advice and some light editing. Ken Correia, wish you were here. Love to Mom and Dad. To everyone, sorry for the long wait & thanks for reading. Lots more to come...


Act Two

Chapter Six


***


"Steel, you have company coming."

"I see them, Captain."

"Let them run. And give them a good scare, Steel."

"Of course, Captain."

Captain Marjorie Skyes rested her CAT on its rear haunches, sitting the mech's torso upright and lifting the forward arms high. With a quick, calculated thrust of the crawler's forearm, the door was broken.


***


Doctor Lily Sloane had flattened herself near the door of her spillway dungeon. She could hear the two sentries shouting outside, the very same two creeps that bushwacked her in Corpus Christi. She had pulled the boot from her left foot, hefting it's weight, ready to swing if they chose to come barging through the door. Come on in, fellas, Lily mentally taunted them. I'll smash that dude's nose all over again, like a tomato for sure...

The sentries argued and bellowed incessantly about what they should be doing. She tightened her grip on the clumsy weapon and forced herself to breathe easy, trying to keep cool. Inhale...heartbeat...exhale...heartbeat...

All at once, the shouting in the tunnel ceased, eclipsed by a great thumping ruckus of heavy metal.

...THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMPwwwrrrrrrrrrzzzz........

Along with that crash of noise came an ear-pounding guttural roar that rattled the wall against her back. Lily instinctivley darted into the far corner behind the nook of her stone bed, quickly shoving her foot back into her boot. Gunshots sounded off, close by. She kept her cool, alright. The surge of adrenaline felt like icewater coarsing through her system. Something very bad was out there.

...wwrrzzzzTHUMP-THUMP........nnnn...wwwrrrrrrrrrr......

In the blink of an eye, the heavy wooden door imploded with a great crash of debris. Splinters flew.

"Holy Shit!" Lily yelled at no one and ducked behind the slab.

A hydraulic armature with a motorized treadbelt reached in and brushed away the planks with a three-toed manipulator. Lily inched up to see the quadruped tracked vehicle more clearly, noticing the name Caterpillar embossed in black on each of its yellow armatures.

Her brain buzzed with confusion. Is that one of ours? The metal beast hummed with modern efficiency. A cranial instrument pod with a heavy set of sharp jaws poked through. Lily heard a PA crackle from inside.

"Doctor Lily Sloane," a bold Jamaican accent, a female, queried from inside. "Are you she?"

Lily choked out the only response. "...Yeah?"

The machine withdrew its head and settled down on its four tracks, lying as a housecat would. Lily heard an airlock hiss as the spine of the mech bisected and hinged open. The pilot was indeed a woman, a physically magnetic warrior of impressive stature and warm complexion. Armed with several blades and handguns, clad in form-fitting body armor and sporting heavy rings on her right hand. Ball bearings clacked in her braids as she knelt down and made contact.

"M' lady...I'y am Captain Marjorie Skyes, of the GTA Iron Horse. We'y are here to get you out, on behalf o' the UNT. Can you move, Doctor?"

A hundred questions stormed Lily's brain at once. She remained seated on the stone floor. "Yeah, sure...who are you, again?"

In response, the Captain pulled an auto-injector the size of a ballpoint pen from her shoulder pocket; biting down on the rubber stop, spitting out the plug while clicking the coil-spring. She slammed the injector into the Doctor's leg, delivering a quick dose of nutrient and painkiller.

Lily hated needles. "Ouch..."

"Come on." Skyes lightly scooped up the Doctor like a small child and moved her quickly toward the CAT. Lily felt no effort in the warrior's carry, and she estimated that the stunning Captain Skyes could have lifted both herself and another bloke with just one arm...

"Dy'ere 'a room for two, but she'ya tight fit." Skyes hoisted Lily up to the spine of the crawler, where she sqeezed into the efficient passenger nook. The Captain made fast work of getting on board and sealing the CAT. Skyes punched the sleep actuator and the drive systems surged back to life, the two women felt their ears pop with the cabin pressurization. Lily welcomed the jets of cool recirculated air. This thing smells like a new car, her long-term memory fondly recalled.

"Hang a' tight Doctor! She's a carnival to ride!" The pneumatics whined and hissed, servomotors hummed as the CAT stood full on its four feet and backed up a few steps from the stone wall. Lily doubled her grip on the pad rails as the mech rocked and lurched away from the Keep. The harmony of servo-pneumatic swing complemented thier rythmic stepping.

Skyes opened a channel. "Mr. Steel, report."

"Steel here, Captain. The two sentries are quite eager to lead the way out for us."

"Good. We'y are coming out now, mon. Will you scout the exit?"

"On my way now, Captain." Skyes switched off the comm and clicked on her LED running lights, illuminating the tunnel as the CAT made gallant strides over the riverbank stones and broken concrete, toward the distant exit.

In the space of a few seconds, everything changed for the worse, literally turning the escape plan on its' ear. Captain Skyes and Doctor Sloane did not get very far down the tunnel. The away team's best efforts could not deter the wishes of the Caretaker.


***


The events outside the perimeter had jolted him from a peacful slumber...

The sixty-five year-old Judicial Caretaker of Amistad City eased his legs over the side of his down feather bed and pulled an elegant black bedrobe around his shoulders, shaking off sleep while his calloused feet crept into thier easy shoes. Not yet awake, he stepped briskly across the flagstone of his master bungalow, overall more perturbed than frightened by the attack. With a quick pass of a crushed velvet drape, he departed his spacious adobe chambers, descending a narrow winding stairwell that led to the discreet Operations nook, a rough-hewn central nerve center of survillence and solitude deep within the Great Wall.

The dusty shelves whithin the stifling, windowless room were haphazardly stacked with all manner of artifact technologies scavenged from the Consumer Age. Several closed-curcuit televisions lined the walls, illuminated with low-res images of the City. A stash of ancient PC towers, DVR's, and creaking VCR's captured images for the archive. To one end alone, Caretaker could view all of Amistad's residents in thier homes or workplaces from this dimly-lit room; he could see beyond the City's perimeter to the East and over the great Reservior to the Southwest, into Mexico. He was quite the voyeur, fond of studying the private lives of the people that his old friend, Colonel Phillip Green, had appointed him to protect over five years ago...


***


Colonel Green's natural gift for strategy had kept him alive and alert into his later years, operating from his Capitol City of Louisville, Kentucky. Green had been advising the President to expand thier territory ever since the ECON cease-fire of 2054, so they might restore the shattered Forty-Eight States under the new Optimal Constitution. The first few years were a blitzkrieg, an iron fist of expansion into the tri-state area around Kentucky, while the Optimal government and its' army prospered with the fruits picked from newly assimilated communities that showed little resistance. Optimal Judiciaries from the Capitol were posted in each new territory, where they brutally and theatrically enforced the law in thier custom-built Courtrooms. Ten states were occupied in less than a decade.

...Then the occult of pointed-eared demons, the green-blooded creatures of darkness known as "Vulcan" had appeared in 2063, (from Hell, some said,) to enslave the weak-minded people of Earth. The thin guise of friendship they put on display didn't fool Colonel Phillip Green, no sir. His people were the remnants of the Old America, all that was left now, defiant in the face of the new UNT...he would not simply lie down and let the aliens' missionaries take over.

...The isolated fifteen Optimal States wallowed in the poverty and post-war ashes of the Consumer Age, while the twelve Restored United States in the West embraced a clean slate and were thriving within a globally symbiotic democracy...


Phillip Green began to push back hard after the First Contact phenomenon began. The Colonel saw the neutral zone of Texas as a tipping point, a strategically vital bit of real estate that would give the Optimal States the edge to outlast out the pacifist insurrection in the West. Texas was also a gateway to Mexico, where the Optimal influence was strong. Drugs, food, slaves and gold were lucrative trades, and the Great Wall of Texas provided an excellent hub for such activity. The Wall also kept Optimal Americans from fleeing to the south, sneaking over the border in a vain hope to find something better.

The Colonel's ambitious vision of a swift and orderly Optimal restoration of America were darkened with every passing year, and with every Western State he lost to the first contact of the GTA. As fast as he lost his territories and influence, Phillip Green's administration engaged more and more desperate measures to maintain his power base back home...

He quickly learned how to exploit the Vulcan's distaste for aggression, how to exploit the slow, rocky path of the UNT. He effectivley twisted the mission of the GTA into a terrifynig ribbon of propoganda, creating a state of fear and confusion to keep the people in his favor. He began to manipulate and sacrifice these citizens in the name of God and the greater Good of humanity. The weak and ill were processed, the mutated human strains were hunted en masse or captured for their Gifts.

Amistad City had once been an independant roughshod democracy, a healthy post-war community that owed its prosperity to the hydroelectric power station, the Mexican trade routes, and the still-viable waters of the Reservior and Rio Grande river. The City was deemed an essential cornerstone in the effort to capture Texas ahead of the encroaching UNT. So Phillip Green had sent a trusted friend to Texas with the resources to occupy Amistad City, and dictate Optimal law and justice to its' new citizens. The Caretaker had ruled absolutlely in the badlands for over five years now...


***


The fully-armoured Optimal officer, General Mann, leaned over the workstation of a buzz-cut technician with thick lenses, the two of them bickering and sweating profusley. Caretaker strode into the poorly ventilated room, rooting his stimulant dispenser out of the deep pockets of his bedrobe. He shot a quick dose into each nostril, inhaling deeply. The dispenser dropped back into his pocket. There...better.

His eyes opened, glassy and red. "Report."

Mann, the burly Optimal patriot stepped forward, his own face already swollen red with an overdose of stimulant. What the officer lacked in speed or wit he compensated with unchecked loyalty. The prescription dispenser on his breastplate supressed any moral bearings, and so Caretaker often handed him very ugly work to do.

"Amistad is recieving bombardment, we are under attack sir!" The officer blurted out.

Caretaker glanced around the room and sniffed sharply, swallowing the drugs. "No shit."

Mann tumbled on. "Caretaker, the central gates are badly hit and the forward guard towers are lost! The remaining tower details are confident the source is mobile and will ram the outer wall!" He puffed a quick a breath. "The minute-men are scrambling to engage on your order, sir! We don't know---"

Another series of explosions rocked the perimeter of the Amistad fortress, browning out the overhead lights and knocking chips and clouds of dust from the walls. Some of the televisions fell from the shelves, one CRT set shattered into sparks and shards. Several more monitors showed only rolling static from destroyed remote mounts. A few moments later, the walls shook once more as the unidentified aggressor breached the weakened perimeter of Amistad.

"LIGHTS!" Caretaker barked, shoving the technician's back to get him moving. "Get the border lights on, God pound you!" The tech moved fast, picking up a phone reciever and punching buttons.

Caretaker turned to his loyalist officer, his glare very dry. "You were saying, General?"

Mann grumbled his defeat. "There is no excuse I can offer, sir." He drew the wand from his dispenser, inhaling two good hits. This enraged Caretaker, who slapped the wand from his hand and face, quite hard.

"That's it, Mann!" Caretaker chided, bearing teeth. "Keep sucking on dope instead of doing something useful! You've grown too soft here, soldier!"

"Floodlights are now fully operational, Caretaker!" The technician dropped the reciever in the cradle. All three men turned to the video images of the brilliantly lit Courtyard, getting thier first precise look at the invading faction, watching the intruder slow her orbit near the spillway. Through the stone, they could faintly hear the shouts and cries of fleeing citizens in the City below.

The technician hopped up and stepped over taped-up lengths of RF and AV cabling, reaching for a VCR. He rewound the image then held it still. "It's a GTA armoured transport carrier, sir! Six cars and packing!"

Caretaker was rarely intimidated, but now he grated his teeth at the high-tech armoured nightmare in his Courtyard. The thing had the firepower and technical resources of a small colony, sporting giant wheels that would crush a full-size pickup truck. And there might be more of them coming...Damn...

"They have come for the Doctor," Caretaker muttered, crossing his arms. "Yes, it must be. The Vulcans wish to reclaim their pet."

General Mann snorted and spat on the stone floor. "Shit."

The turret platforms at the fore and aft of the APC began to light up. The guns unleashed a torrent of rounds upon the stadium lights, destroying most of them and plunging the Courtyard back into a dim semi-gloom. The low-light video images showed several mercanaries pouring out of the parked Carrier and taking positions all around the hull.

A pair of quad-treaded machines deployed from the aft car a moment later. The two units zipped away, approaching the spillway tunnel. Once at the mouth, one of the machines leaned its treads forward, standing up on four metal feet. Caretaker's eyebrow arched at the transformation, he studied the livley steps of the metal beast across the shallow water. It hopped up the opposing riverbank, sitting back down on its treads and scooting inside. The other mech followed.

He turned to Mann. "Get a detachment topside to the reservioir, have them stand by to open the spillway; mobilize our heavy trucks to capture those track machines after we wash them out of the tunnel. And get the troops rallied immediately."

The loyalist stepped forward and grunted. "Sir."

"Open a full public address and give me the mic."

Mann touched a few keys on an ancient comm panel, opening the hard-wired PA installed inside every home and shop in the City after the occupation. He quietly handed over the wired microphone.

Caretaker swelled his chest. "Optimal citizens of Amistad, this is Caretaker speaking, your attention please...You are witnessing the Vulcan invasion firsthand, ladies and gentlemen. The alien invaders have enslaved our American brothers in the West, and have now sent thier insurgents to conquer the great State of Texas. Effective immediately, every Optimal citizen will be required to volunteer an assembly of the Human Shield; all minute-men will ensure cooperation and provide escort to the Courtyard. Remember that Colonel Green and the President stand behind each and every one of you, they would remind you that this is not a time for timidity. Resistance must be absolute if the Human race is to survive the Vulcan assimilation of our good mother Earth."

Caretaker handed the mic to the technician, who was buffing his thick lenses on his shirt. "Loop that and play it everywhere in the City, english and espanol." He paused a moment. "And be quick to notify the Capitol. Activate the emergency beacon and try a direct-wire to Kentucky if you can manage it."

The busy technician abruptly nodded. "Yes, sir."

Caretaker moved for the exit, brushing past his officer. "Do your best to capture those machines, General. Mobilize every heavy vehicle we have to disable them. I don't intend to give up the Doctor and her team so easily."

"Yes, sir. What about the Carrier?"

Caretaker tempered himself and stopped, explaining to the simpler man.

"Assemble the Human Shield, General. Our good citizens will do the rest. The UNT missionaries will not kill local populations in cold blood, you see. Not when they are valued as potential coverts. The Shield will stifle the mobility of the Carrier and make it difficult for their mercanaries to return the fight. Understood?...Fine. Get moving and don't mess it up."

Caretaker turned to leave. Mann saluted him.

"It begins, Caretaker."


***


"Let them run. And give them a good scare, Steel."

"Of course, Captain."

The young Vulcan diplomat waited paitently in his sleeping crawler, its back against the stone convex arc of the spillway tunnel. Soon the panicked sentries came splashing and sloshing his way, close enough now to "entertain" them.

Steel woke the CAT from its' sleep mode, the mech roaring to life. He clicked on LED running lights, hundreds of tiny superbright lamps along the body lines of the beast that shone with fantastic blue-white intensity. The spillway tunnel filled with a white-blue shine, flatly blinding the two men. They fell over in a terrible panic, tripping over one another in the shallow water. Steel stood his crawler up on its four feet, hydraulics whining, playfully crunching forward on the riverbank with heavy, exaggerated steps.

...wwrrrTHUMP-THUMP...wwrrrTHUMP-THUMP...

Steel gained the waters' edge, then crouched low and pounced the CAT airborne off the rocky bank. He landed square in the water on all fours, the splash and spray was magnificent. A throttled growl escaped over the PA, Steel began his slow advance, punching fierce holes in the water with the CAT's metal paws. The submerged LED's on the paws shone brilliantly in the churning froth of riverwater. The two frightened sentries thrashed about and pleaded with the machine advancing down on them. The head of the beast lowered in close, its' scraped metal jaws dripping dirty water.

"NO! Please NO!" They threw their hands up to block the blinding LED lights. "Please don't kill us! They told us to bring her here! Right?! It's the Caretaker, hear me?! You want the Caretaker!"

Steel flashed on the mech's cutting laser, licking a quick bolt in the water between the two. That got them moving again, in a waterlogged sprint toward the mouth of the tunnel, with the young Vulcan diplomat keeping a playful stomping pace behind them.


***


...You are witnessing the Vulcan invasion firsthand, ladies and gentlemen...

Every residence, every place of business, every corner of Amistad carried the looping proclamations of the Caretaker. The nightmarish droning of propoganda carried loudly, repeating, echoing in english and spanish over the chaos of kicked open doors and the shrieks of helpless citizens pulled from thier homes by their Optimal protectors.

Urged by armed minute-men into tight groups, they stumbled out into the vastness of the Courtyard. Families found each other in the chaos and clutched together out of fear and cold. Lost children wailed in the crowd. Many folks were completley lost, or panicked, or both.

Their fear was doubled at the sight of the APC they were urged to stand in front of. Most tried to keep thier distance, despite the Optimal soldiers coersing them at gunpoint. Some groups dared to stand closer than others, and these were mostly young men shouting dares and taunting the invading Carrier. Some threw rocks, bouncing them off the forward car.

Throngs of civillians now stood between the Iron Horse and her away team's escape vector. The mercanaries on the ground were holding thier fire, giving up thier ground, hopping back aboard. The Carrier blasted its air trumpets, shattering the night and huddling the entire audience...


***


In the Caretaker's operations nook, General Mann carried out his duty, reporting to his administrator over a remote line.

"Operation Human Shield is affirmative, Caretaker. Minute-men reporting a forty-percent mobility into the Courtyard."

"That is acceptable, General." The tone of approval crackled over the artifact paper-cone speaker of the technician's comm panel.

"We have utility drivers and a tow detail standing by. And we are standing ready to open the spillway on your order sir."

"Excellent." Caretaker hissed over the line.

Faintly, Mann could hear the air trumpets of the Carrier report in the Courtyard. That moment fit the Caretaker as a good one to strike out.

"They've had enough time, I think...NOW! Open the spillway now!!"


***


The radio crackled in Steel's pointed ear.

"Mr. Steel, report."

The Vulcan continued to stomp playfully along as he opened the channel. "Steel here, Captain. The two sentries are quite eager to lead the way out for us."

"Good. We y'are coming out now, mon. Will you scout the exit?"

"On my way now, Captain."

Steel switched off the LED running lights and accelerated the mech to a full gallop. He pushed hard past the two fleeing sentries, who had scrambled up the stone riverbanks desperately to make way for the beast. The Vulcan left them several meters behind as he reached the mouth of the tunnel. In the distance, he heard the Iron Horse report with a blast from her air trumpets.

His eyebrow and ear twitched at what he saw and heard next. He processed the stimuli quickly...

Firstly, he noticed the Courtyard had filled in with dozens of the very citizens of Amistad City, and all along one riverbank of the spillway... The Optimal soldiers had stayed closer to the Great Wall, behind the exodus with weapons trained on them...

Curious, Steel noted. The Caretaker would desperately sacrifice his people to protect his only influence...

Secondly, his ears twitched at the torrential flood of a billion litres of water rushing behind him.

The spillway...

The Vulcan moved fast, but not quickly enough to avoid the spill. The CAT was swept up in the wall of water, picked up and pushed out like a small toy...


***


"CATS are away, Commander." Operations officer Lt. Kara Rochelle called over her shoulder, brushing her generous red ponytail off her shoulder and down the back of her black denim fatigues.

"Very well, Lieutenant." Commander Michael Kroh anchored a stiff arm against the transparent aluminum forward windscreen of the Bridge, leaning down low to peer through the gap between the blast shields. On Kroh's left at the Helm, Brian Gaines had taken a moment to cool himself down now that the APC had finally come to a full stop. He'd popped the top off his water bottle and given himself a good dousing, pouring some into his Survivor hat and smashing it back onto his shaved head.

The operation was off to a good start, at least. It could've been worse. More people could have died so far, and any death Kroh accounted for personally bestowed him a great weight. Like the ghost of Marley, Kroh had woven a ponderous chain of guilt over the decades, from the many dark situations and unforseen responsibilities thrust upon him during the War and ever since that time. His mother had raised him to respect God's living things, and the burden of guilt multiplied with every life extinguished on his action.

What the hell are we doing here, Kroh chewed internally as he studied the random movement in Courtyard through the transparency. We're just truck drivers, technicians with a few hired guns...Ambassador Soval is going to answer directly for this mess when we get home, I swear...Risking the lives of the crew, breaking several UNT humanitarian laws, all of this just for some old friend of his...Out here in Texas, no less...The neutral zone...

Rochelle trained her surviellence cameras on the scuttle of activity coming from the city. The hi-res color images showed something erratic...desperate. She smoothed her hands apart on her console's touch LCD, zooming the image. Kroh also saw the random flurries of movement in the darkness, and now could hear the distant echo of a public address. He couldn't make any sense of the words...

"What's that noise?" Kroh pushed away from the windscreen and stepped over to her workstation. "Tune it in, please."

"Aye, sir." Kara pulled on a surdy set of headphones and activated the microphone sweeps on the hull of all six cars of the Iron Horse, pulling in a wide range of sound from the outside. Kroh leaned against a pad rail near Operations, his ear cocked forward. Rochelle twisted an analog knob, fine-tuning the PA from the City. Caretaker's voice flooded the Bridge.

"...Great state of Texas. Effective immediately, every Optimal citizen will be required to assist with an assembly of the Human Shield; all minute-men will ensure cooperation and provide escort to the Courtyard. Remember that Colonel Green and the President stand behind each and every one of you, they would remind you..."

Kroh jerked a thumb across his throat. "Enough. Record it."

Rochelle clicked off the propaganda. "Recording, Commander. It's also in espanol."

Kroh scratched at the stubble on his chin, thinking. He tapped the PTT on his lapel, coiled to the radio on his belt.

"M-One!" Kroh gripped the pad rail a bit higher and pulled himself upright, waiting patiently for the senior mercanary to call back from the Foreward Battle Platform above them, where Kroh had sent him to watch the less experienced men.

His radio crackled. "Hedges here, Commander."

"Call the M-2's off the ground; redeploy them along the hull with the M-3's. Make it fast, we're going to have civillians on the field!"

"Copy that, M-2's off the ground, civillians on the field."

Kroh tapped off and pushed away from the rail, moving hand-over-hand out of habit to his command chair.

"Commander, we have a lot of movement outside!" Rochelle blurted out. Looking upward to her main viewer, she tapped away at her console, aiming cameras at the trouble and applying digital filters to compensate for the low light condition.

"Put it on the forward viewer, Rochelle." Kroh ordered calmly, as so not to excite the young officer. "Let's have a good look at what they've got for us."

Rochelle was gratified to have plenty to do, she worked quickly and cheerfully as she could manage under the battlefield stress. She had come far in her first year, growing from a shy sprite of a stammering girl into a capable young officer that beamed with potential.

"On forward viewer, Commander." The 42-inch forward LCD viewer refreshed its' display, obtusely mounted above the windscreen. From his command station, Kroh looked up slightly and studied the images as Rochelle shuffled them around...indeed, citizens were gathering in the Courtyard...at gunpoint...

"Right out of the Colonel's playbook." Kroh muttered.

Gaines was leaning forward with his head sideways, pressing his cheek against the transparent aluminum to see for himself. Rochelle swivelled her chair a few degrees. "Away team is four minutes out, Commander. Beg your pardon sir, the Colonel's playbook?"

Kroh's radio chirped. "One moment, Lieutenant." He tapped his PTT. "Kroh here."

"Hedges reporting, sir. All M-2's are on board, Commander."

"Affirmative, M-One. Non-lethal rounds, and employ defensive measures only."

"Ahh...Yeah, confirmed, sir...What about the turrets, they are negative on availability of non-lethals, over."

Kroh used his left thumb to crack his knuckles in succsession.

"Four M-2 units will keep the turrets hot for a threat condition. They are to fire on my direct order only."

"Affirmative, sir. Wetwork on the turrets only, on your order, over.

"Very good. Kroh out." He tapped off his PTT and gestured at the stale assortment of data on the forward viewer. "Miss Rochelle...refresh these images, please. Copy a full record for the archive."

Rochelle quickly centered her chair and updated her work. "Yes, sir...We have refugees approaching the Iron Horse, a group of what appears to be the residents of Amistad City. The Optimal soldiers are aggressivley coersing them...It looks like a genocidal defensive perimeter strategy." She glanced over at Kroh. "Is that what you meant by the Colonel's playbook, Commander?"

Kroh crowned his black Stetson and lowered the brim. "This is a proper example of that, yes. Green is certainly a man of poor taste, and has a bad habit of exterminating his own people to retain power, Miss Rochelle. The Caretaker is gambling that he can drive us out by turning our own humanitarian code of conduct against us."

Kroh looked back up to the viewer, watching the dozens of citizens stagger outdoors at gunpoint, some half-asleep in bedclothes and others absolutley terrified. "Is the number of civillian units increasing?"

Rochelle jabbed away at her console, crunching data. "Yes..."

"At what rate?"

"Ah...I'd say about fifty per minute average sir, the efficiency suggests they've drilled this exercise before. They'll have two or three hundred in the Courtyard within just a few minutes." She jabbed a new search window open, checking her census records. "Hmm...ahh...Amistad's last known population count was over two thousand permanant residents." She glanced at the chronometer. "And the away team is now six minutes out and overdue, Commander." Rochelle turned about in her chair, genuinely worried.

Indeed, there were over a hundred people now, pressing closer to the Iron Horse and up the riverbank of the spillway. Some were throwing rocks at the APC, Kroh could faintly hear them bounce off the hull. And the away team was late. Come on, let's go...

Kroh pulled himself up and over to the Helm. "Blast the trumpets, Mr. Gaines. Push these people back a bit"

Gaines blasted the horns of the Iron Horse, sending out a long trumpet wail that had all the citizens ducking down and backing off slightly, caught between the APC and the Optimal soldiers. That seemed to buy some time, as the crowd moved more cautiously against the machine.

Kroh burned with mounting frustration. His fist dropped on the comm. "Jeff, are we ready to move out?"

The speaker grill swelled with Engineer Cyrus Jeffries' strong and trusting basso voice. "All systems in the green, just say--"

He was interrupted, they were all interrupted, by the geyser of water jetting from the spillway. They all stood frozen in place, watching millions of litres spray from the mouth of the tunnel, and soon his team with it.

"The away team!" Gaines and Rochelle called out together.

Kroh saw it too, they all did. One of the CATS was thrown from the tunnel, tumbling out like a rag doll against the torrent. Two humans washed out close behind, and a moment later the second crawler came tumbling after...


***
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FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse
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Old August 1 2007, 09:01 PM   #20
Dulak
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Interesting treatment of a little delved into era in Federation pre-history. A very bloody one. I half kept expecting Q to show up, but the time is plenty bloody all on it's own.
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Old August 1 2007, 09:52 PM   #21
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Wow, and the rescue op was going along so well, too.

This pretty much fits the definition of from bad to worse… I hope Kroh & Company can come up with something on the fly, or the situation’s going to get a lot messier than anyone anticipated.

Your writing is just as crisp and sharp as I remember, and you’re creating indelible images with your prose. I find myself having to keep reminding myself that this is fanfic, and Trek fanfic to boot. The characters, the settings, and the well-paced action sequences are conspiring to make this one hell of an adventure.

Glad to have you back with us! :thumbsup:
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Old August 5 2007, 12:40 PM   #22
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Oh I've missed the Iron Horse, about time for it to make a comeback.

I loved the way you show us the events from different perspective. Not only was the action seamless it was fascinating to experience it from different angles.

I said this before but I'll say it again you have crafted a marvelous world here with a rich and intricate history. Green, the Caretaker and Optimal look like a formidable enemy for Kroh and his Iron Horse.

Now you left us with another nail-biting cliffhanger. Can't wait to see how those CATS get out of this one.
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Old January 12 2009, 02:42 AM   #23
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

I apologize for the thread bump, but I heard this through the grapevine. I have it on excellent authority...get ready for this, you're gonna like it...

IRON HORSE WILL RETURN

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Old January 12 2009, 06:28 AM   #24
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Yeah! Woohoo!
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Old January 12 2009, 07:13 PM   #25
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Looking forward to it.
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Old January 13 2009, 02:57 AM   #26
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

This would make a totally kick ass twelfth Trek film.

Starring Vaughn Armstrong as the Iron Horse's commander, of course.
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Old May 22 2009, 02:04 AM   #27
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

This was pretty awesome. Any updates?
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Old May 25 2009, 12:16 AM   #28
Michael_Kroh
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Hello, a quick note for everyone:

FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse...ep001 "Turn The Page" is in progress, rewritten as a full-length novella. The post-atomic world and the people who live in it have more layers than before, more applied sciences, sharper product placement and brand name integration, more WWIII & Recovery + New Economy, More Optimal characters and backstory, etc etc...I apologize for the long wait. But FC:TIH is coming, rest assured.

Thank you for reading!
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FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Last edited by Michael_Kroh; May 25 2009 at 12:18 AM. Reason: itallics error
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Old May 25 2009, 05:19 AM   #29
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Good news! It will be well worth the wait.
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Old May 25 2009, 08:03 AM   #30
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Re: FIRST CONTACT: The Iron Horse

Excellent. Looking forward to it.
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