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Flashfire
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Flashfire

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Author: David Sherman
Dan Cragg
Publisher: Del Rey, 2006
Series: Starfist: Book 11
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Synopsis

Packed with hard-core action written by battle-savvy combat veterans, the explosive Starfist series has become hugely popular across America. Now the saga of the courageous Marines continues in Flashfire, as the 34th Fleet Initial Strike Team (FIST) ventures to the edge of Human Space to fight a number of enemies... some on their own side.

Tensions erupt between the Confederation and several frontier worlds when civilians are shot dead at an army base on the planet Ravenette. Enraged, the Ravenette government and nine neighboring planets form a coalition, and their first act of secession is to overrun Ravenette's Confederation garrison. With the armed forces of ten worlds seizing the brutal upper hand, the embattled troops need help–now–and they need it bad.

Enter the Marines of the 34th FIST. As the nearest ready-to-deploy unit, the team is sent to Ravenette with orders to hold the line until reinforcements arrive. The upcoming operation promises to be no picnic, for while sophisticates may ridicule the backward ways of the uncouth frontier folk, no one scoffs at their fighting ability.

Charlie Bass doesn't mince words for his men in Company L's third platoon. Two army divisions–perhaps thirty thousand soldiers–are being overwhelmed, and somebody expects a thousand Marines to save the day. As pompous Confederation generals wreak even more havoc than the enemy, there are those who call the mission suicide... but not the Marines.

Of course it sounds hopeless, but for Marines like Charlie Bass and the rest of the 34th FIST, accomplishing the impossible comes with the territory.


Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

It wasn’t late in the evening, but at high latitude on Thorsfinni’s World the sun was long down by the time the liberty bus clattered to a stop next to a vacant lot near the center of Bronnysund, the town outside the main gate of Marine Corps Base Camp Major Pete Ellis. The driver levered the door open and thirty Marines clattered off, whooping and hollering in unrestrained glee at their weekend’s freedom from the restrictions on behavior imposed by the Confederation Marine Corps during duty hours.

Well, most of the restrictions. They were required to maintain a certain level of decorum—at least, they were not to commit crimes, or get themselves injured badly enough to miss duty, or go anyplace from which they wouldn’t be able to return for morning roll call on the third morning hence. And it was only most of them who whooped and hollered; there was a loose knot of eight who were somewhat more restrained. The eight in question were the junior leaders of third platoon, Company L, 34th Fleet Initial Strike Team.

“So where are we going?” Corporal Bohb Taylor, second gun team and most junior of the corporals, asked when the other twenty-two Marines had scattered.

Corporal Tim Kerr, first fire team leader, second squad, and the most senior of the eight, simply snorted and turned to lead the way.

Corporal Bill Barber, first gun team leader and not much junior to Kerr, slapped the back of Taylor’s head hard enough to knock his soft cover awry, said, “Taylor, sometimes you’re so dumb I don’t know how you ever got your second stripe.” He turned to follow Kerr.

“Yeah, Taylor. What do you know about the Top that the rest of us don’t?” asked Corporal Rachman “Rock” Claypoole, third fire team leader, second squad, and not much senior to Taylor. He followed Barber.

“What do you mean, what do I know about the Top?” Taylor squawked.

“Blackmail!” Corporal Joe Dean, first squad’s third fire team leader and also not much senior to Taylor, hooted. “There’s no other way you could make corporal!” He laughed raucously.

“Which begs the question of how you made corporal,” Corporal Raoul Pasquin, first squad’s second fire team leader said with a loud laugh.

“Hey!” Dean yelped indignantly.

Corporal Dornhofer, first fire team leader, first squad, not much junior to Kerr, chuckled and shook his head. He and the other corporals fell in with Claypoole.

Taylor had to run a few paces to catch up.

A few blocks and a couple of turns later, Kerr shoved open the door of Big Barb’s, the combination bar, restaurant, ships’ chandlery, hotel, and bordello that was the unofficial headquarters of third platoon, Company L, 34th Fleet Initial Strike Team during liberty hours.

“Te-e-em!”

Twin shrieks barely preceded two young women, one blond and fair, the other brunette and swarthy, both beautiful by any standard, who flew across the large common room and flung themselves on the big corporal with enough force to stagger him back a couple of steps.

“Hey! Watch where you’re going, Kerr!” Corporal Pasquin shouted into the back of Kerr’s head. He raised his hands and pushed Kerr off his chest.

Corporal Dean helped keep Kerr upright and moving forward. The press of advancing bodies behind them forced Kerr and the others farther into the room.

Kerr barely noticed the hands and bodies holding him up and forcing him forward, he was too distracted by the four arms clinging to his neck, the four breasts pressed into his chest, the two mouths raining kisses on his face. He wrapped an arm around each waist and lifted, to ease the weight on his neck and shoulders.

“Way to go, Kerr!” Corporal Dean said, slapping Kerr on the back as he squeezed past and began looking for a table that would hold them all—and their girls.

“Some people,” Corporal Chan laughed, following Dean.

“Raoul!” shouted another girl, Erika, who sidled through the crowd to take Pasquin’s hand.

Another voice boomed out, “Vat’s all dis commoti’n oud ‘ere?” and Big Barb herself waddled out of the office to the rear of the large room and began plowing through the crowd like an icebreaker through pack ice. Freyda Banak wasn’t called “Big Barb” for nothing—she not only weighed more than 150 kilos, she carried her weight lightly when she wanted to move fast. She planted herself in front of Kerr and loudly demanded, “Who you tink you are, Timmy, hogging two a my best girls all t’ yersef?”

Their cheeks still pressed against his, Frieda and Gotta stopped kissing Kerr to look back at their employer. Kerr loosened his hold around their waists and they dropped down a couple of centimeters, but not all the way to the floor.

“B-but . . .” he began.

“Vot you mean, ‘B-but . . .’? Dere’s no ‘b-buts’ ’ere, Timmy. You led go a dem girls!”

“Big Barb,” Frieda said calmly, “you gave him to us.”

“And we intend to keep him,” Gotta finished just as calmly.

Big Barb glared from one to the other, then planted her hands on her hips and roared out a long, raucous laugh. “You right, girls,” she said, tears streaming down her face when her laughter eased enough for her to speak.

“Wha’s a madda you, Timmy, lettin’ dem two girls dangle like dat? Hol’ ’em up like a gennleman! Where you been? All we seen o’ Marines fer the pas’ few mont’s is dem base pogues. Dirty-fort FIS’ yust up ’n take off somewhere wid’out sayin’ noddin’ t’ us and we don’ know when we see you again, or if we ever see you again.” She quickly looked around and before Kerr could answer, asked, “Vhere’s Chollie Bass? I vant my Chollie!”

“He’s probably with Katie,” Gotta giggled.

“I don’ care no Katie!” Big Barb boomed. “Chollie don’ need no skinny voman like Katie, he needs a full-size voman!” She thunked a meaty thumb into the center of her own chest.

“I don’t think Charlie thinks Katie is skinny!” Frieda laughed.

“I don’ care vhat Chollie t’inks neider! Zomebody go tell him I’m ‘ere pinink avay to nodink, vaiting for him!” She turned her attention back to Kerr. “How many a you are dere ‘ere donight? I make sure you godda good table. Vell? Answer me!”

Kerr hesitated, unsure which of her many questions to answer first. Claypoole stepped into the breech.

“There are eight of us, Big Barb. The corporals.”

“Eight corporals?” She quickly scanned the room. “Vat’s de madda vit Corporal Doyle, vhy ain’t he ‘ere? He gid kilt vhereever it vas you vent?”

“No, no, Big Barb. Doyle’s fine. This is just the team leaders,” Claypoole quickly assured her.

“Chust da team leaders? ’Ow come Doyle ain’t no team leader? He’s a corporal. Corporals suppose t’ be fire team leaders, gun team leaders, so how come he ain’t?”

Claypoole opened his mouth, but couldn’t think of how to explain why a corporal was filling a lance corporal’s billet. He looked at Kerr. Yeah, Doyle was in Kerr’s fire team, let him try to explain it.

“Neber mine,” Big Barb said, looking around again. “You Marines make yer own rules, whedder dey makes sense or not. Come, I get you gut table. Give you back room. You,” she looked at Kerr, “come vit me. You,” she looked at Claypoole, “go gid de oders, bring dem along.” She did her ice breaker impersonation again, drawing Kerr and his happy burden in her wake.

Less than an hour later, the eight Marines and nine young women in the back room were seated around a large, round table digging into a medley of reindeer served “family style.” The table was filled with platters of reindeer—steaks, cutlets, a roast, chops, sausage, even a steaming bowl of stew. Other bowls held several varieties of potatoes, legumes, grains, squashes, and less easily identifiable foodstuffs, most of which were cooked with sauces or gravies. Spices and condiments were spread about, the full range near to hand for everybody.

For a while, all that was heard inside the room was the chewing, sighs, and belches of contented diners; they ignored the hubbub that came muted through the door. At length, most of the platters and bowls were cleared down to bits and crumbs—Marines fresh back from a combat deployment have prodigious appetites.

Dean belched loudly enough to make Carlala, a skinny, busty girl seated next to him hip to haunch, jump. “Ahhh,” he sighed, “that was great.”

“A lot better than the reindeer steaks we used to get here,” Dornhofer agreed.

“Very much so,” Kerr added. “What happened?”

“We have a new cook,” Klauda said as she moved from her chair to Dornhofer’s lap.

“She’s a fancy girl,” Erika said, casting a nasty look at Carlala.

“Oh?” Chan said meaningfully. “Then what’s she doing in the kitchen?”

“You’ll see,” Erika said haughtily. “And that’s not the kind of...

Copyright © 2006 by David Sherman

Copyright © 2006 by Dan Cragg


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