Read Marching Through Georgia Online
Authors: S.M. Stirling
Tags: #science fiction, #military
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Georgia by S.M.
finally in 1783. by the Peace of Paris. Great Britain made
peace with the American revolutionists and their European
allies. However, the revival of British naval strength in the last
years of the war made Spain and France ready to offer a
face-saving compromise, particularly when they could do so at
the expense of the weakest partner in their coalition, the
Netherlands. Franco-Spanish gains in the West Indies were to
be balanced by allowing Britain to annex the Dutch Cape
colony, which had been occupied in 1779 to prevent its use by
the French—almost as an afterthought, in an operation nearly
Poor and remote, the Cape was renamed after Francis Drake
and used as a dumping ground for Britain's other inheritance
from the American wan the Loyalists, tens of thousands of
whom had fought for the Crown and now faced exile as
penniless refugees. As early as 1781 shiploads were arriving;
after the Peace, whole regiments set sail with their families and
slaves as the southern ports of Savannah and Charleston were
evacuated. They were joined by large numbers of Hessian and
other German mercenaries formerly in British service. Within
a decade over 250.000 immigrants had arrived, swamping
and assimilating the thin scattering ofDutch-Afilkaander
200 Years: A Social History of the Domination,
by Alan E. Sorensson. Ph.D.
Archona Press, 1983
NORTH CAUCASUS FRONT, 20,000 ft. APRIL 14, 1942: 0400 HOURS
The shattering roar of six giant radial engines filled the hold of the Hippo-class transport aircraft, as tightly as the troopers of Century A, 1st Airborne Legion. They leaned stolidly against the bucking, vibrating walls of the riveted metal box, packed in their cocoons of parasail and body harness, strapped about with personal equipment and weapons like so many deadly slate-grey Christmas trees. The thin, cold air was full of a smell of oil and iron, brass and sweat and the black greasepaint that striped the soldiers' faces; the smell of tools, of a trade, of war. High at the front of the hold, above the ramp that led to the crew compartment, a dim red light began to flash.
Centurion Eric von Shrakenberg clicked off the pocket flashlight, folded the map back into his case and sighed.
, he thought.
Ten minutes to drop
. Eighty soldiers here in the transport; as many again in the one behind, and each pulled a
class glider loaded with heavy equipment and twenty more troopers.
He was a tall young man, a hundred and eighty centimeters even without the heavy-soled paratrooper's boots, hard smooth athlete's muscle rolling on the long bones. Yellow hair and mustache were cropped close in the Draka military style; new lines scored down his face on either side of the beak nose, making him look older than his twenty-four years. He sighed again, recognizing the futility of worry and the impossibility of calm.
Some of the old sweats seemed to have it, the ones who'd carried the banners of the Domination of the Draka from Suez to Constantinople and east to Samarkand and the borderlands of China in the last war. And then spent the next twenty years hammering Turks and Kurds and Arabs into serfs as meek as the folk of the old African provinces. Senior Decu-rion McWhirter there, for instance, with the Constantinople Medal and the Afghan ribbon pinned to his combat fatigues, bald head shining in the dim lights…
He looked at the watch again. 0405: time was creeping by.
Only two hours since liftoff, if you could believe it.
, he thought.
Staying calm would drive me crazy .
Christ, I could use a smoke
. It would take the edge off; skydiving was the greatest thing since sex was invented, but combat was something you never really got used to. You were nervous the first time; then you met the reality, and it was worse than you'd feared. And every time after that, the waiting was harder…
Eric had come to believe he would not survive this war many months ago; his mind believed it, at least. The body never believed in death, and always feared it. It was odd; he hated the war and its purposes, but during the fighting, that conflict could be put aside. Garrison duty was the worst —
In search of peace, he returned to The Dream. It had come to him often, these last few years. Sometimes he would be walking through orchards, on a cool and misty spring morning; cherry blossoms arched above his head, heavy with scent, over grass starred with droplets of fog. There was a dog with him, a setter.
Or it might be a study with a fire of applewood, lined with books with stamped leather spines, windows closed against slow rain…
He had always loved books; loved even the smell and texture of them, their weight. There was a woman, too: walking beside him or sitting with her red hair spilling over his knees. A dream built of memories, things that might have been, things that could never be.
Abruptly he shook himself free of it. War was full of times with nothing to do but dream, but this was not one of them.
Most of the others were waiting quietly, with less tension than he remembered from the first combat drop last summer—blank-faced, lost in their own thoughts. Occasional pairs of lovers gripped hands.
The old Spartans were right
, he thought.
It does make for better fighters…
although they'd probably not have approved of a heterosexual
A few felt his gaze, nodded or smiled back. They had been together a long time, he and they; he had been private, NCO and officer-candidate in this unit. If this had been a legion of the Regular Line, they would all have been from the same area, too; it was High Command policy to keep familiar personnel together, on the theory that while you might enlist for your country, you died for your friends. And to keep your pride in their eyes.
The biggest drop of the war
. Two full legions, 1st and 2nd Airborne, jumping at night into mountain country. Twice the size of the surprise assault in Sicily last summer, when the Domination had come into the war. Half again the size of the lightning strike that had given Fritz the Maikop oil fields intact last October, right after Moscow fell. Twenty-four thousand of the Domination's best, leaping into the night, "fangs out and hair on fire."
He grimaced. He'd been a tetrarch in Sicily, with only thirty-three troopers to command.
A soldier's battle
, they'd called it. Which meant bloody chaos, and relying on the troops and the regimental officers to pull it out of the can. Still, it had succeeded, and the parachute
had been built up to legion
, a tripling of numbers. Lots of promotions, if you made it at all. And a merciful transfer out once Italy was conquered and the "pacification" began; there would be nothing but butcher's work there now, best left to the Security Directorate and the Janissaries.
Sofie Nixon, his comtech, lit two cigarettes and handed him one at arm's length, as close as she could lean, padded out with the double burden of parasail and backpack radio.
"No wrinkles, Cap," she shouted cheerfully, in the clipped tones of Capetown and the Western Province. Listening to her made
feel nineteen again, sometimes. And sometimes older than the hills—slang changed
. That was a new one for "no problems.
"All this new equipment: to listen to the briefing papers, hell, it'll be like the old days. We can be heroes on the cheap, like our great-granddads were, shootin' down black spear-chuckers," she continued.
With no change of expression: "And I'm the Empress of Siam; would I lie?"
He smiled back at the cheerful, cynical face. There was little formality of rank in the Draka armies, less in the field, least of all among the volunteer elite of the airborne corps. Conformists did not enlist for a radical experiment; jumping out of airplanes into battle was still new enough to repel the conservatives.
Satisfied, Sofie dragged the harsh, comforting bite of the tobacco into her lungs. The Centurion was a good sort, but he tended to…
too much. That was part of being an officer, of course, and one of the reasons she was satisfied to stay at monitor, stick-commander. But he overdid it; you could wreck yourself up that way. And he was very much of the Old Domination, a scion of the planter aristocracy and their iron creed of duty; she was city-bred, her grandfather a Scottish mercenary immigrant, her father a dock-loading foreman.
Me, I'm going to relax while I can
, she thought. There was a lot of waiting in the Army, that was about the worst thing…
apart from the crowding and the monotonous food, and good Christ but being under fire was scary. Not nice-scary like being on a board when the surf was hot, or a practice jump; plain
You really felt good afterward, though, when your body realized it was alive…
She pushed the thought out of her head. The sitreps had said this was going to be much worse than Sicily, and that had been deep-shit enough. Still, there had been good parts. The Italians really had some pretty things, and the paratroops got the first pick. That jewelry from the bishop's palace in Palermo was absolutely divine! And the tapestry… she sighed and smiled, in reminiscence. There had been leave, too—empty space on transport airships heading south, if you knew the right people. It was good to be able to peacock a little—do some parrying, with a new campaign ribbon and the glamour of victory, and some pretties to show off.
Her smile grew smug. She had been
popular, with all the sexes and their permutations; a change from ugly-duckling adolescence.
Men are nice, definitely
, she thought.
Pity I had to
wait 'til I reported to boot camp to start in on 'em
That was the other thing about the Army; it was better than school. Draka schooling was sex-segregated, on the theory that youth should not be distracted from learning and their premilitary training. Either that or sheer conservatism. Eight months of the year spent isolated in the countryside: from five to eighteen it had been her life, and the last few years had been growing harder to take. She was glad to be out of it, the endless round of gymnastics and classes and petty feuds and crushes; the Army was tougher, paratroop school more so, but what you did off duty was your own business. It was good to be an adult, free.
Even the winter in Mosul had been all right. The town was a hole, of course—provincial, and all new since the Draka conquest in 1916. Nothing like the mellow beauty of Capetown, with its theaters and concerts and famous nightspots… Mosul—well, what could you expect of a place whose main claim to fame was petrochemical plants? They'd been up in the mountains most of the time, training hard. She flexed her shoulders and neck complacently. She'd thought herself fit before, but four months of climbing under full load and wrestling equipment over boulders had taken the last traces of puppy fat off and left her with what her people considered the ideal feminine figure—sleek, compactly curved, strong, and quick.
Sofie glanced sidelong at her commander; she thought he'd been noticing, since she qualified for comtech. Couldn't tell, though; he was one for keeping to himself. Just visited the officer's Rest Center every week or so. But a man like that wouldn't be satisfied with serf girls; he'd want someone he could
maybe it's my face
? she thought worriedly, absently stripping the clip out of the pistol-grip well of her machinepistol and inserting it again. It was still obstinately round and snub-nosed; freckles were all very well, enough men had described it as
, but it obstinately refused to mature into the cold, aquiline regularity that was most admired. She sighed, lit another cigarette, started running the latest costume drama over again in her head.
: Signy Anders and Derek Wallis as doomed Loyalist lovers fighting the American rebels, with Carey Plesance playing the satanic traitor George Washington…
God, it must have been uncomfortable wearing those
, she thought. No
wonder they couldn't do anything
but look pretty and faint; how could you fight while wearing a
bloody tent? Good thing Africa cured them of those
* * *
, Eric thought.
. The voice of the pilot spoke in his earphones, tinny and remote.
"Coming up on the drop zone, Centurion," she said. "Wind direction and strength as per briefing. Scattered cloud, bright moonlight." A pause. "Good luck."
He nodded, touching his tongue to his lip. The microphone was smooth and heavy in his hand. Beside him the American war correspondent, Bill Dreiser, looked up from his pad and then continued jotting in shorthand.