One U.G.L.Y. Marine Book 1: Wake Him Up
Sometimes modern problems don’t call for modern solutions. Tensions are rising on planet Y-7254, and something has to be done. When it comes to old-school warfare they need someone who has seen it all
One UGLY Marine snippet-
The image of this newly explored planet was not too dissimilar to Vale, but in a moment of nostalgia, the blue with splashes of green made him recall Earth as it had been so many centuries before. What made the one in view stand out was not only how clear it was—almost completely devoid of any humanoid life and modern civilization—but also the intriguing patches of pink that dotted it.
Most of it seemed to be closer to the north, for which there was no doubt a logical explanation. When he’d looked at the file to find out what it was, however, he’d only been given hypotheses. The last record indicated that it seemed to fall much like snow but on the ground, it shifted and felt like soft sand and didn’t melt like snow did.
According to some of the lab boys and girls, it wasn’t natural to the planet. Most suggested it was created after parts of the world were “glassed” in a war long before. Johnson studied the image and almost smirked at the irony. It probably hadn’t seen a humanoid species in thousands of years but the first time a new group stepped foot on it, trouble followed.
The experience and instincts that had been the reason why he’d been pulled out of cryo and that had since pushed him into his current rank as Sergeant Major of the Military recognized the reality in very simple terms. The trouble the planet faced was war.
He sighed as he took a narrow cylindrical rod from his jacket pocket. The people on Vale had told him proudly—when he’d thawed fully and had been desperate for a smoke—that it was called a wisp, a new-fangled device they created after tobacco and vaping were outlawed. It allowed former smokers or vapers to get the “feel” of their vice and a hint of flavor without the harmful effects.
The hope, of course, was that eventually, it would help them to stop altogether. He had been given his first one six years earlier and was nowhere near quitting.
Then again, most people probably didn’t have as stressful a job as he did.
It was something of a challenge to effectively have oversight of Vale’s military, and the ingrained old-school rank structures persisted on some level, which in turn created a certain degree of conflict within.
Never in his wildest imaginings before going on ice could he have imagined that a sergeant-major would carry that kind of overall responsibility. Of course, he could understand the over-simplified logic behind it. He’d been thawed at that rank and the military at the time had only loosely resembled its Earth counterpart.
Rather than create new ranks, they had simply added, “of the Military.” This only worked because most ranks between his and the General of the Military to whom he reported simply didn’t exist. Anything above the old sergeant-major level was simply captain or commander but the three magic words leap-frogged him to the highest rank since that was what they needed from him. The fact that it bore no relation to the old Earth structure—and turned it on its head—was something only thawed soldiers experienced so wasn’t an issue in their minds.
Another window appeared on the screen he was looking at and he immediately recognized the telltale blonde bun and striped jacket of Secretary Yanda. The general’s aide was her usual cheerful self. “Good Morning, Sergeant.”
“Hey, Yanny.” He puffed the wisp and savored the hint of the Cuban tobacco flavor he so desperately desired, particularly in times like this. “Did you call to have a morning chat over coffee or is the general looking for me?”
She cocked her head and thinned her lips disapprovingly. “I’m here to remind you that the general wishes to speak to you. I marked it on your calendar.”
He nodded and took another puff. “Yeah, I know. I was merely trying to lighten the mood.” She might be a stickler for protocol, but at least she’d condescended to address him as Sergeant rather than insist on the formal version. Maybe he’d convince her to simply downgrade to Sarge one day. That was possibly the one slight advantage of the rank debacle—he could get away with using a form of address he was comfortable with but which would have broken all kinds of rules in the old Earth military.
“I see, Sergeant. My apologies for the misunderstanding. But you shouldn’t make jokes like that over official comms. You know coffee is banned.”
He winced and nodded. That was something he didn’t want to be reminded about right now. “Yeah, you’re right. Go ahead and put her through.” He walked to his chair as her screen disappeared and another took its place. His superior officer appeared as he turned toward the monitors.
“General Yardstrom.” He greeted her with a salute. “Good morning, ma’am.”
She saluted in response. Her white hair was cut short but framed her alluring features perfectly as she stared at him with hypnotic teal eyes. “At ease, Sergeant,” she replied, her voice melodic even when stern. He dropped his salute and sat. “Have you been briefed?”
It was a purely rhetorical question since he’d received the information first and had passed it on to her.
“Of course.” He leaned forward. “I received all the info last night and went through it with Corporal Baxton. He should have delivered my recommendations for the situation.”
“And what are your thoughts?” she asked.
You know damn well what they are but you don’t agree and that’s why I had to wake my groggy ass up after only two and a half hours of sleep to have this little chit chat.”
That was what he wanted to say but his jaw flinched and he sighed when what came out was, “I think we need to deal with the situation head-on. Although my guess is you would rather discuss this further and offer a second opinion?”
She nodded. A small orb appeared in his internal vision and informed him that several linguistic infractions had been blocked and altered, then encouraged him to remain calm and believe he could do it. The orb faded to a dull glow before it disappeared and he rolled his eyes.
When he looked up, Yardstrom stared quizzically at him. He straightened quickly and tapped his temple to let her know that he was dealing with some personal issues.
The general nodded again and assumed a serious expression. “It is my opinion, Sergeant, that this is simply a feint from the Komran forces on the edge of our system. They cannot possibly imagine that we would relinquish the planet to them. I believe they are simply trying to run us off to avoid a battle in which the tech could be irrevocably damaged.”
Johnson grunted in acknowledgment and took another long puff of his wisp. Back in his day, the generals he’d served under had certainly not been so optimistic. The best ones weren’t trigger happy either but he was very sure that all of them would agree that this was not merely a <REDACTED> feint.
The little blob returned and glowered at him. “Very strong language. Please refrain, Sergeant Major!”
He muttered a whitewashed version of a curse and took another long drag. The AI assumed this was acquiescence and vanished, much to his relief.
“Ma’am, they have landed a number of their troops on the planet’s surface and reports from there have told us the research team’s security droids and recon drones have all been disappearing—at least until yesterday when they found broken pieces. If this is intended as a fake assault, no one told the Komran. Either that or they are consummate actors.”
Yardstrom frowned and her poise slipped a little. This exchange was the usual dance between the two. The fact of the matter was that she had been shaped by Vale culture to be more of a politian than a general and honestly didn’t have a clue when it came to the down and dirty of war. He couldn’t knock her for wanting to hope for the best and most of the time, her actions led to more peaceful solutions with little death or damage.
But if everything worked out like that, they wouldn’t have a war on their hands and certainly wouldn’t have taken him out of cryo.
“So that is your opinion, then, Sergeant?” she asked after a long silence. “Do you believe this could turn quite violent? That our team is in danger?”
He nodded. “But maybe not immediate danger.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Why’s that?”
“I’ll clarify my earlier statement. If they merely wanted to kill them, they would have dropped their troops on top of the excavation site,” he reasoned. “I believe they’ve been trying to scare them. I still don’t think this is a feint but it seems that while they want our people gone, they would prefer to not launch an outright attack.”
She grimaced and stroked her chin in thought. “But why risk us sending a relief force? The Komran have been known to invade our space and kill our people in plain sight. We’ve been at war—albeit sporadically—on the fringes of our space for eleven years. So why, suddenly, are they behaving so oddly on a planet that aside from the Nativity tech, has no benefits?”
Johnson stood and approached the monitor, opened some files, and sent them to her. “Well, one of the problems is what we consider our space and what they believe is theirs.” He opened two maps of the galaxy, one with a red circle and a blue circle of relatively even boundaries, while the other showed a much larger red circle.
“The first map reflects actual occupied territory—ours is blue—and it appears to be relatively equally divided between us. To the Komran, however, we are in their space.” He indicated the second map. “The red on this one includes those planets and areas of space that we know the alien empress has claimed as part of their empire. And as for the planet itself, I don’t think I need to remind you why we are there in the first place.”
Yardstrom shook her head and her gaze hardened. “The Nativity technology,” she muttered. “And you’re right. Our research and knowledge make it very clear that the Komran hold this technology sacred and might even have a use for it.”
Yeah, but we don’t know dick about what that might be. The fact was that neither side in this ongoing skirmish had any real clue what the Nativity tech was. They had some idea based on those blueprints that had been easily deciphered and which had formed the basis of their space fleets and other day-to-day equipment.
The nitty-gritty of it—the information that remained locked behind complex levels of protection and encryption despite their best efforts to unravel the code—could simply be a giant cosmic database of galactic dessert recipes. While that was highly unlikely and merely brought a little humor into the situation, neither the Valers nor the Komran knew what they were fighting over. They suspected the potential for far-reaching change and advancement, and both sides pursued it with dogged determination.
Johnson took one last drag before he put the wisp away. “True, we know they’re obsessed with it, but we haven’t had much meaningful contact with the Komran. They aren’t the chatty type and usually shoot before anyone can even ask the question. We only know that they are willing fight to obtain the Nativity tech, which suggests they maybe have a purpose for it we haven’t thought about. It’s something our spies will need to push harder to find out.”
He closed another warning screen from his AI quickly. Its sudden appearance was infuriating, especially since the strong language he needed to vent had already been whitewashed. “I could be wrong about all this. But besides the tech, if it was a simple land dispute, I can’t see why they would not eradicate our team. My instinct is that the location of our group is too close to where the tech is positioned. Attacking them puts it at risk.”
“If it was about the planet and zoning, surely they would have contacted us,” Yardstrom pointed out with a frown “I know you aren’t very fond of the Komran but we have had civil discourse before.” She certainly sounded more like the hopeful politician than the general and he resigned himself to having to push through her conditioning to make his point. It honestly made everything hard work.
He folded his arms and nodded. “Yes, we have,” he responded ruthlessly. “All of…what? Three occasions? And those—correct me if I’m wrong—were before the war began, which strongly suggests that their overtures were merely an attempt to gauge Vale’s strengths and weaknesses.”
The general paled at his honesty but she didn’t make any effort to contradict him. “Since then, they have also ransacked our ships, our base camps, and settlements on other planets. Not only that, but they have warned us on several occasions I’m aware of that they have no problem engaging us in battle should we not accede to their demands.”
With a sigh, he looked her in her eyes. “I’m not saying peace is impossible. but it is certainly a one-sided desire right now. That makes us vulnerable to a more ruthless enemy. My opinion is that if we don’t act immediately, we’ll reclaim bodies and not people soon enough.”
So please, for the love of whatever you care about, let me do what you thawed me for.
Johnson could see the conflict in her face and knew she was trying to think of some other way to resolve the situation. He felt a mixture of sympathy and frustration. All-out war was no longer something this society was accustomed to and they valued peace highly, which was an admirable outlook. But if there was one thing he needed them all to understand, it was that to keep the peace, you sometimes had to be willing to fight for it.
They seemed to understand that on some level, which gave him hope. Vale had a standing army, had weapons capable of real damage, and had built droids to fight in harsh environments so they didn’t have to sacrifice soldiers if the need arose.
Most importantly, they had thawed him out—a sergeant-major from centuries before. That alone indicated their acceptance of the need for a different perspective.
Eventually, the general closed her eyes and nodded solemnly. “Very well. I have seen your reports. You suggested sending a strike team in to oversee and accomplish the extraction of the researchers.”
Johnson nodded. “If it helps, I’m not itching to make this a bigger situation than it needs to be. All I want is to put some good men and women down there who can get the team out as quickly as possible. They merely need to be skilled enough to deal with any threats they might encounter.”
“Do they need to be soldiers?” she asked. “Perhaps some droids could suffice. I’ve heard they’ve upgraded the OS so the latest models can take on much more complex tasks. Perhaps this could be a field test.”
He shook his head as he returned to his chair. “I’m not sure you want to rely on a test in a sensitive and volatile situation like this. Besides, we’re low on the bots right now after that situation on the minor moon.”
She pursed her lips, regret on her face. “Right. I must have put that out of mind.” She typed on her computer. “Then what do we have left? The EVO regiment is busy guarding council members on their diplomacy trip and our J1 division is dealing with the settlement on Tyr, correct?”
The thought of them made him smile. He had been promoted to head a regiment after only six months out of the freezer. At first, he had been worried that everyone in this new society was too soft to whip into meaningful shape but he had been pleasantly surprised by a good number of them once they got the fire in them.
His smile faltered, however, when he realized she was unfortunately right. He would need only a handful by his estimation, but all of them were helping establish a settlement on Tyr, a planet with valuable resources but ferocious wildlife and deadly fauna. “That is correct, General. I understand they are doing a damn good job but they are still six weeks out, at least, from returning.”
Yardstrom folded her hands tightly. “And all the other teams we might look to are similarly engaged elsewhere, which means we’ve exhausted the obvious choices. We can’t send a platoon or even a large ship since that might escalate the situation. As you’ve suggested, a small team would be best. Can you offer any possible solutions?”
He could but he also knew she wouldn’t like it. “I do have something. It occurred to me before I took a little power nap.”
“And that is?”
Jackson stood and hurried to the computer. “When was the last time you checked the freezer?”
“Cryo?” She frowned and accessed her logs. “I wasn’t there personally but we’ve only thawed three others since yourself.”
“Yeah, two scientists and the researcher—and the first mission for one of the former was this one, coincidentally. Talk about a bad first day.” He scrolled through the list. “Most of the people left in cryo are soldiers. Given what we’re dealing with, I think it’s time we microwave a few of them.”
“That could certainly work,” she muttered, “assuming you have the right people in mind. We need a small, experienced, and efficient team. The soldiers we bring out should be strong, dedicated, and stable.”
“I can promise you the first two in spades,” Johnson replied and glanced at the general, who now looked concerned.
“What are you suggesting?”
He sent her a link. “Ma’am, this situation could get real ugly real fast. Even if we defrost someone immediately, after tests and getting them up to speed, we still have to get them onto a ship and warp them to the planet. One advantage is that the cryo facility is part of HQ station so we’re all on-site and won’t waste additional time, but we still require a minimum of a couple of days. By that time, things on…” He glanced at the planet description and shook his head in annoyance at the unfriendly numeric titles when real names would have been far easier. “Things on Y-7254 will probably only get worse. We will need someone who is used to that.”
Yardstrom considered this as she looked at his suggestion—only one name, since he hadn’t bothered with the numerous others he knew weren’t his preferred choice. For this, he’d dug very deep to find the only soldier left from the first cryo batches, a Marine he believed was the only one who could do the job.
The sergeant-major watched her expression shift between emotions from surprise to curiosity to interest and back to surprise. “Sergeant, are you sure you sent me the right link?”
He checked to placate her but nodded. “I did indeed, ma’am. This is John Joseph Jenkins, one of the top soldiers of his day who always seemed at home, even in the worst situations.” He stood at attention and met her gaze unflinchingly. “He was a few years before my time, but he was already a legend back then. Everyone knew Joe Ugly.”
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks but in this case, that’s the point. Find out if Johnson and Yardstrom are making the right choice on April 15, 2022, when One U.G.L.Y. Marine Book 1: Wake Him Up is released. Until then head over to Amazon and pre-order today.