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HOME >> Product 0213 >> THE COLOSSUS CRISIS>>

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Josh Rivetz

In the year 2214 there is a cold war between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Europe.  A space cruise ship, The Colossus, is hijacked by a terrorist group known as The Islamic Dawn terrorists with the intention of crashing it into Washington to effectively destroy the United States so the Islamic Republic of Europe can conquer the world.  They decide to hijack the ship when all its passengers are in the observation lounge to watch Halley's Comet, which is in the inner solar system at this time.  However, two passengers, Josh Sessnoft and Kelly Ju aren't in the observation lounge at the time of the hijacking.  It's up to them to stop the terrorists' plot. 


Kelly uses her phone to call the Pentagon.  But, their contact is initially unconvinced of the veracity of the story.  They need to convince the United States government that this isn't a prank.  So, they decide to try to capture the bridge so they can send a message from there.  A message from the bridge would mean that they're telling the truth because there would be no way they could do it if they weren't.

Josh and Kelly manage to acquire guns from terrorists and get into firefights with the terrorist on more than one occasion.  Ultimately they capture the bridge and send a message from it. The terrorists try to kill them numerous times but fail.  However, they are eventually captured.

The president sends Delta Force, which rescues the passengers and crew except for Josh and Kelly.  They have been taken aboard an escape pod with the terrorist leader, three of his compatriots, one of whom is badly wounded and unconscious, the ship's doctor and the infirmary receptionist.  With the ship's doctor's help, Josh manages to knock out a terrorist and take his sonic blaster. He enters the cockpit.  But, he has a problem, a sonic blast would blow out the windshield in the cockpit and depressurize the escape pod.  The terrorist leader grabs his own sonic blaster and swings it toward Josh.  Josh kicks it out of his hand and it discharges, blowing out the windshield. The two terrorists in the cockpit get sucked out into space. Josh grabs hold of the doorway and manages to stay in the cockpit.  Kelly orders one of the robots to pull Josh back into the passenger cabin and close to door to the cockpit, thereby saving themselves...





55327 Words



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Cover Art:

T.L. Davison


Terrie Lynn Balmer


Josh Rivetz

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    THE EUROPEAN UNION BECAME the Republic of Europe on May 8, 2045, the 100th anniversary of VE-Day, with every country in it voting to unify except Britain.  So, the rest of the EU unified and Britain remained independent, though economically still tied to Europe.  Muslims had been immigrating to Western Europe since the 20th century and continued to do so after unification.  That, combined with the higher birth rate of Muslim immigrants than native Europeans, gave them a majority of the population by the late 22nd century.  In 2184, Hassan Bazeri of the Allahu Ackbar (God is great) party was elected President.  The Allahu Ackbar also seized control of the European Parliament.  The European Parliament amended the European Constitution and imposed the Sharia, Islamic law.  The Republic of Europe became the Islamic Republic of Europe.  Bazeri became the Supreme Religious Leader. 

      Despite the Muslimization of the population as a whole, the officer corps of the European military had remained largely secular.  In 2185, some military officers attempted to stage a coup.  The European military, like the United States military, was almost completely robotic.  The officers ordered the enlisted personnel to issue orders to the robots to enter Brussels, the capital of the IRE, take over the city and take Bazeri into custody.  The overwhelmingly Muslim enlisted personnel refused to follow those orders.  Some officers pulled their side-arms on their enlisted personnel to try to force them to issue orders to the robots.  But, the enlisted personnel still refused, some of them saying that if the officers shot them, they would go to heaven where they would serve at the right hand of Allah and have sex with 72 virgins.  None of the officers could bring themselves to shoot the enlisted personnel.  It wouldn't have done any good if they had.  They still wouldn't have been able to issue orders to the robots.  The officers attempting the coup had one card left to play: Special Forces.  The European special forces were overwhelmingly secular, even the enlisted personnel, and it was unrobotized.  A unit of Special Forces snuck into Brussels to try to assassinate Bazeri.   But, the Supreme Leader's palace was heavily guarded by remote control robots armed with 40mm rail guns and missile launchers with cluster munitions.  Bazeri had anticipated the possibility of a coup attempt and had taken precautions, including the creation of a remote control personal security force.  The outnumbered Special Forces were no match for the remote control robots' superior firepower.  The coup failed and over 1,000 officers in the European military were executed.

      After the failed coup attempt, Bazeri ordered most of the churches and synagogues in the IRE closed or converted to mosques. Fearing a repeat of the worst chapter in Europe's history, the majority of the Republic of Europe's Jews had fled to the United States.  Most of the Republic of Europe had been secular since the 20th century.  But, there were two provinces that had remained staunchly Christian: Poland and Romania.  Bazeri's order sparked the eastern religion riots.  Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, setting fire to buildings with Molotov cocktails and throwing rocks at riot police.  The worst rioting was in Bucharest.  From the news footage, it had looked as if half the city was ablaze.  The image of Bucharest burning had been an enduring one of the 22nd century.  The government responded brutally.  The Army opened fire on the demonstrators, killing hundreds in a scene reminiscent of the Tiananmen Square massacre.  The eastern religion riots marked the last large scale opposition to any government policies.

      The United States and the Islamic Republic of Europe soon found themselves in a cold war.  Whereas the first cold war had been between capitalism and communism, the second was between secularism and Islam.  Some of the United State's allies were the same, like Britain, Canada and Norway.  But, the majority of the countries that had been its NATO allies during the first cold war were now part of the Islamic Republic of Europe.  With the lone exception of Moldova, the European successor states to the Soviet Union, America's adversary in the first cold war, were split between allies of the United States and provinces of the IRE.  Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were all part of the IRE.  And with the IRE on their borders, Ukraine and Belarus had all scrambled to join NATO.  The IRE was openly hostile to Israel, prompting Israel to join NATO as well.  The Russians had been too proud to do that.  But, the birth of the IRE had brought the United States and Russia closer than they'd ever been.   The front line of the first cold war was Germany, where large numbers of NATO and Warsaw Pact forces faced each other from across the border between East and West Germany.  The front line of the second cold war ran through Eastern Europe along the borders between the IRE and Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.   Once again out of pride, the Russians had never invited any foreign forces to their soil.  So, it was their forces alone that faced the Europeans from across their border with the IRE, as opposed to Belarus and Ukraine, where all NATO countries had forces stationed.

      As it had with the first, an arms race accompanied the second cold war.  For nearly two centuries, no country had had both the ability and the will to challenge the United States militarily.  Consequently, the government had seen no need to militarize space beyond a small network of anti-missile satellites designed to repel a small scale missile attack.  That changed when the Republic of Europe became the Islamic Republic of Europe.  The United States quickly withdrew from the Outer Space Treaty, a 1967 treaty with the Soviet Union which barred the deployment of nuclear weapons into space (an action with which the Russians, the inheritors of the Soviet Union's treaties, were in full agreement) and both the United States and the IRE deployed nuclear armed robot space fleets.  The United States built over 16,000 H-bombs from 2184 to 2213.  Europe built over 13,000.   Both deployed nuclear weapons both offensively and defensively.  Offensive strategic nuclear weapons were deployed primarily on bomb and missile ships.  The United States had the BS-1 bomb ship, which carried fifty 100 megaton B-7 three stage thermonuclear bombs.  Those weapons could destroy not only whole cities, but whole metropolitan areas.  Europe had the MV-9 missile ship, which carried 30 DF-5 space launched ballistic missiles with thirty 500 kiloton warheads each and a range of 1,000,000,000 kilometres.  The MV-9 could launch DF-5's from beyond the orbit of Saturn and the warheads would have a 50% probability of striking within a meter of their aiming points.  Bomb and missile ships each had an advantage and a drawback.  Bomb ships were equipped with defences.  So, they could protect themselves and their bombs.  Missile ships were designed to launch their missiles from hundreds of millions of miles away.  This way they could stay hidden, which made them much more survivable than bomb ships.  But, they couldn't protect their missiles.  So, the missiles were less survivable than bomb ships' bombs.  Neither the Americans nor the Europeans wanted to put all their eggs in one basket.  So, they both had both. 

      Other countries got into the nuclear armed robot ship building business as well.  China built the X-5 bomb ship, which carried thirty 500 kiloton H-bombs.  The X-5 was a much smaller vessel than the BS-1 or MV-9, and obviously carried far less destructive potential.  China had the third largest economy in the world and great arms production potential.  But, the Chinese had decided to stay out of the arms race between the United States and Europe, having deemed it wasteful and detrimental to economic development. 

      And, of course, there were the proxy wars.  In the first cold war, the United States supported capitalist governments against communist rebels and capitalist rebels against communist governments and the Soviet Union did the opposite.  In the second cold war, the United States supported secular governments against Muslim rebels and secular rebels against Muslim governments and Europe did the opposite.  The only difference was that the proxy wars were limited to the Muslim world.  During the first cold war, there could be a capitalist government and communist insurgency and vice versa anywhere in the third world.  But, only countries with large Muslim populations could have either Muslim governments or Muslim rebels. 

      Another difference between the first and second cold wars was that in the second cold war there was no equivalent to McCarthyism.  There couldn't be, thanks to the first amendment to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination in employment, housing and access to public facilities on the basis of religion.  During the first cold war, Congress passed anti-communist laws and held hearings to determine who was a communist.   People in the movie industry were blacklisted for being suspected communists.  But, the Constitution and the law provided protection to Muslims that they didn't to people suspected of being communists in the 1950's.  Anti-Muslim laws would be unconstitutional and blacklisting people on the basis of their religion would be illegal.   There were those who wanted to change the law and amend the Constitution.  But, widespread support for such an extreme action couldn't be garnered.


Sylhet Division, Bangladesh, 2213 

   MOHAMMED AL HAZARA WATCHED the sunrise from a hilltop overlooking the Surma River.   The jungle steamed with evaporation from the rain of the night before.  To the left of the river was a road.  To the right of it was an oxbow lake, known to the Bangladeshis as a beel, a result of tectonic subsidence from the earthquake of 1762.   Trees stretched as far as the eye could see.  The trees had been the most striking feature of Bangladesh when he first arrived there.  He had never seen so many in all his life.  A member of the Islamic Revolutionary Army, a rebel group dedicated to the overthrow of the secular Bangladeshi government, Mohammed was a Saudi national who had come to Bangladesh to join the jihad.  Saudi Arabia, of course, was a desert country.  There were very few trees there.

Mohammed had been born in Riyadh to a family with roughly the median household income of Saudi Arabia, which meant it was very poor by western standards.  His parents were strict Wahabis. His mother and sisters would wear their burquas whenever they left the house.  He was the oldest of four children.  He attended a Madrassa outside Mecca and went on to get a master's degree in nano-engineering from the University of Dubai. 

Mohammed's chief influence in his life had been his father, who had taught him that strict observance of the Sharia is the only way to paradise.   In Saudi Arabia, he lived a life that was largely insulated from the outside world.   He had always been dimly aware that there were non-Muslims who didn't follow the teachings of the Koran.  But once he got to the University of Dubai in the relatively secular United Arab Emirates, this fact was thrown into his face.  Scantily clad female college students walked around the campus expecting to be treated like equals of the men.   The UAE was so different from the world he had grown up in.  In his classes he learned about the customs and traditions of other countries that were even more different.  It was shocking.  He decided he had to do something about it.  After getting his master's degree, he went to Bangladesh to join the Islamic Revolutionary Army, the insurgency fighting the secular Bangladeshi government. 

Mohammed and the rest of his unit put down their prayer rugs, facing west toward Mecca and did their morning prayers, praying for the success of the mission they were about to undertake. 

With Morning Prayer completed, Mohammed picked up his binoculars and looked for the Army patrol that was supposed to be approaching.  He couldn't see it.  That was good because his unit wasn't in position yet.  It was late April.  The operation his outfit intended to undertake today would be the last before the onset of monsoon season, during which military operations would be impossible.  There was nothing to do in Bangladesh during monsoon season but batten down the hatches and hope you didn't float away.  Some people did.  Sylhet division was the wettest part of a wet country that monsoons swamped from May to September every year.  An average of 3,334 mm of rain fell annually, 80% of it during monsoon season.  The rainfall had been another thing that had struck Mohammed.  It rarely rained in Saudi Arabia.   He had been born and raised in one of the driest countries in the world and he was fighting a jihad in one of the wettest.  Of course, this would be his first monsoon.  So, he knew he hadn't seen anything yet.

The plan was simple, wait for the patrol to come up the road and ambush it.  His unit was composed of 20 men.  19 were armed with the ubiquitous Heckler and Koch G-94 assault rifle.  The G-94 was a combination automatic rail gun/laser guided grenade launcher.   The user designated the target and the computer calculated a trajectory for the grenade which would have it explode in midair above the target(s), thus nullifying the protection that hard cover would otherwise provide.   A rail gun used a magnetic field to propel a projectile instead of a chemical explosive.  The velocity with which a rail gun could propel a projectile was much higher than with a chemical explosive.  Plus, the absence of a propellant and a casing for the propellant made the ammunition much smaller and lighter.  The G-94 had an adjustable muzzle velocity of 10,000 meters per second, which came in handy when attempting to hit a target behind hard cover or penetrate the armour of a battlebot, and carried a 100 round clip.  In the 20th century, the only difference between military and civilian models of assault weapons was that the military versions could fire fully automatic.  But, the ultra-high muzzle velocities of rail guns were too dangerous for civilian use.  So, 23rd century civilian assault rifles used chemical propellants like assault rifles from previous centuries.  The G-94 was very light at 2.3 kg, with an overall length of just 840 mm.  Its bull pup design (mechanism and magazine behind the trigger) made its shortness possible.  It was made mostly of carbon, but contained enough metal to make it possible to detectable it with metal detectors.  Heckler and Koch used nanotechnology to assemble the carbon atoms into a configuration designed to maximize strength.   The ammunition the G-94 used was the 250 year-old 5.56 mm round.  The 5.56 mm round was the sole holdover from Europe's NATO membership.  NATO countries' small arms used standardized ammunition so the ammunition from one type of gun would be interchangeable with the ammunition from another.  Europe withdrew from NATO after becoming an Islamic republic.  But, that was no reason to change the small arms used.  The 5.56 mm projectile tumbled after leaving the barrel of the gun that fired it.  The tumbling caused much more damage to the target.

The unit also had a single X-89 fusion gun, which a rebel named Salim carried.   A 22nd century invention, the fusion gun was a directed energy weapon that got its energy from a tiny fusion reactor.   The fusion reactor emitted a blast of photons which was concentrated into a beam.  The effective range of the weapon depended on the heat resistance of the target.   At close range, it was capable of superheating its target to 10,000 degrees Kelvin, hot enough to melt through even the most heat resistant armour in seconds.  At point blank range, it could superheat its target to 15,000 degrees Kelvin.  Obviously, Salim wasn't going to need to get that close.  All of their weapons had, of course, been provided courtesy of the Islamic Republic of Europe.  The IRA was one of the benefactors of that country, which saw an interest in fomenting rebellions in Muslim countries with secular governments worldwide. 

Mohammed looked at his watch.  It was 0637.  According to local villagers sympathetic to the rebels, the patrol would be coming up the road at 0700.  He wanted to be in position by the time they did.

"Let's get to our position."  Said Mohammed. 

His unit began heading down the hill.  It was slow going as they had to hack their way through the dense jungle with machetes.  It was only about 300 meters.  But, it took almost 15 minutes to get to their position.  Mohammed's arm was tired from all the hacking by the time he did.  They hid in the jungle on the side of the road.  The jungle was so dense they could only hide a couple of meters inside it without losing sight of the road. 

They waited a tense 8 minutes before they finally heard the sound of vehicles approaching.  Mohammed looked at his watch.  It was 0700 exactly.  The patrol was right on time.  It was stupid of the enemy to be so predictable. 

The first and last vehicles in the convoy were M-55 tanks.  The M-55 was an old American tank that entered service in the early 2160's.  It was armed with a 120 mm rail gun.  Its armour was a typical composite of iridium and carbon.  Iridium and carbon made for an ideal armour combination because of the strength and density of iridium and the heat resistance of carbon.  Iridium is the strongest metal, two and a half times stronger than steel.  And it's one of the two densest elements along with osmium, with a lattice density of 22,650 kilograms per cubic meter.  The iridium armour of the M-55 (as well as other tanks) was made using nanotechnology to maximize impact strength.  Iridium didn't become widely available enough for tank armour until the mining of the asteroid belt began in the 21st century.  A rare element on Earth, iridium is common in asteroids.  Carbon has no melting point at atmospheric pressure.  It sublimates (turns directly from solid to gas) at 4,300 to 4,700 degrees Kelvin, higher than the melting or sublimation point of any other element.  Carbon was ideal for providing protection against weapons that utilized heat as a means of armour penetration.  Even it couldn't stand up to a fusion gun at close range. 

The M-55 had served the US Army well for over 40 years.  The introduction of new weapons was slow in the 21st and 22nd centuries because of the absence of competition between major arms producers.  But, that had changed with the birth of the Islamic Republic of Europe.  The United States quickly developed and deployed a myriad of new weapons, as did Europe.  The M-9 had replaced the venerable M-55.  The M-9, among other new features, was capable of self repair.

The Bangladeshis had purchased their M-55's back in the 2160's.   After the Republic of Europe became the Islamic Republic of Europe, Islamic radicals (and some people pretending to be Islamic radicals) throughout the secularly governed Muslim world began starting up insurgencies with the hope of getting assistance from Europe.  One of these insurgencies was the Islamic Revolutionary Army in Bangladesh.  Predictably, Europe began supplying the IRA with arms.  Bangladesh had always been secularly governed ever since it became independent from Pakistan in 1971.  The IRA's goal was to change that.  They wanted to make Bangladesh into an Islamic Republic, with the leader of the IRA, Rinku Sammudan, the Supreme Religious Leader. 

After the start of the insurgency, the United States sold various different weapons systems to Bangladesh, like the OB-2, a robotic orbital bombardment platform capable of dropping a bomb down a pickle barrel from orbit.  It offered to sell them the M-9, but Bangladesh was a poor country and tanks were of limited utility in jungle warfare anyway.  So, the Bangladeshis decided to stick with the M-55.  So, that was what was coming down the road as Mohammed and his men lay in wait. 

Between the M-55's were 4 trucks.   Mohammed figured they were carrying 15 soldiers each.  This unit must be a platoon with a tank attached to it for support, not uncommon where tanks could be employed.  Salim was the only person in the unit armed with a fusion gun.  So, taking out the tanks would be his job.  The rest of the unit would go after the trucks and their occupants. 

Salim waited until the M-55 was right in front of him before he opened fire directly at the turret.   A beam invisible to the firer because the photons were traveling away from him shot out of the barrel and struck its target.  He was only 5 meters away.  The powerful burst of directed energy melted through the iridium and sublimated the carbon in the M-55's armour in seconds.   He saw the turret armour turn red, then white, then blue and then cave in from the heat of the fusion blast.  He heard the hiss and smelled the carbon gas as the blast penetrated the armour.  The blast melted the inside of the turret, penetrated the armour on the other side, crossed the street and set fire to the trees on the other side of the road from Mohammed's position.  Mohammed let go of the trigger.  The tank had been destroyed.  But, its power train was still intact.  So, it continued to move down the road.

The rest of the unit opened fire on the trucks.  They fired grenade launchers into the trucks' coverings.  But, the coverings were made out of carbon nanotubes, tubes of carbon one nanometre wide with a tensile strength 130 times greater than steel.  So, the grenades bounced off, exploding harmlessly on the ground next to the trucks.  The men switched to assault rifle fire.  But, the bullets bounced off the coverings too.  So, they increased muzzle velocity to maximum.  The bullets penetrated the truck coverings on maximum muzzle velocity.  But, unbeknownst to the rebels, the soldiers in the truck had been instructed to lie down on the floor in the event of an ambush until the tanks were able to give suppressing fire.  They were already lying on the floor when the rebels' bullets started penetrating the truck coverings.  Most of the bullets passed over the soldiers.  But two bullets passed through two people each before exiting the other side of the truck killing one of them. 

Meanwhile, the tank that had been bringing up the rear was headed toward the front of the convoy to fire on the rebels.  The M-55 could carry various different types of ammunition, such as sabot rounds, HEAT rounds and high explosive rounds.  But, the ammo of choice for this situation was the canister round.  The canister round contained 1,200 10mm iridium balls.  When a canister round was fired, the balls sprayed out of the gun barrel, effectively turning the rail gun into a giant shotgun.  Canister shot had been around for centuries and was ideal for short range combat against infantry.

The M-55 drove up from the rear of the convoy, simultaneously turning its turret toward the rebels to fire on them.  Salim turned his X-89 to fire at it.  But, the M-55 fired first.  The iridium balls sprayed into the rebels.  10 rebels were hit with a single shot, 5 fatally.  Salim died instantly when a dozen iridium balls hit him in the head, turning his brain to mulch. 

After the M-55 fired, soldiers began scrambling out of the trucks.  The rebels who hadn't become casualties were undaunted by the tank's deadly fire and opened fire on the rebels as they exited the trucks.  Mohammed had already targeted his grenade launcher on the area just behind the back of the truck.  When he saw a soldier get out, h He fired.  The grenade exploded right in front of him.  Shrapnel hit him in the chest, critically wounding him.  The first soldier to exit the truck bore the brunt of the blast.  But, a little shrapnel got by him and wounded the soldier behind him in the right forearm. 

A second rebel, Abhijeet, was near Salim when the tank fired and saw him die.  He was hit too, in the side.  But, he was still conscious.  He crawled over to Salim's fusion gun, picked it up and pointed it at the tank.  But, the tank fired a second shot before he could fire the fusion gun.  Iridium balls hit him in the chest, critically wounding him.  He slumped to the jungle floor unconscious.   

The second shot hit 8 of the rebels who the first shot hadn't, including Mohammed.  Mohammed felt a sharp pain when the balls hit him in the shoulder.  His wound, unlike several of the others, was superficial. 

"Retreat!"  Shouted Mohammed, realizing the battle was lost.  He and the 6 other men who were capable of falling back got up and ran into the jungle as fast as they could, hacking frantically at the jungle with their machetes.   What made the retreat even more scary was that, in dense jungle, as fast as they could wasn't very fast.  The best speed they could manage wasn't much faster than normal walking speed. 

The tank fired again.  Iridium balls hit two more men in the back.  They fell to the ground seriously wounded.  Almost simultaneously, the soldiers who were on the trucks opened fired.  Some of them fired their rifles.  Others fired their grenade launchers.   Bullets whizzed by them and grenades exploded against trees nearby.  But none of the remaining 5 rebels were hit.  The soldiers were armed with M-102's which also carried air burst laser guided grenade launchers.  What saved them was the fact that the soldiers couldn't see them.  So they couldn't target their grenades. The commanding officer of the unit called in space support.  An OB-2 dropped a fuel air explosive bomb.  Developed in the 20th century, fuel air explosives worked by creating a combustible vapour cloud and then igniting it.  They were ideal for use against infantry. 

The M-55 fired again.  This time, a simple mistake saved the rebels.  The gunner had intended to switch to high explosive rounds because the rebels had increased the distance between themselves and the tank.  But, he accidentally switched to anti-tank sabot rounds.  A sabot round was a round that consisted of a solid iridium dart called a sabot surrounded by a jacket.   The jacket fell off after the round left the barrel and the dart continued on to strike the target.  The small diameter of the sabot relative to the gun barrel meant that the round was relatively light despite the fact that it was made of iridium.   Force equals mass times acceleration.  Hence, acceleration equals force divided by mass.   Less mass equals more acceleration.  More acceleration equals more velocity.  A sabot round fired from an M-55's 120mm gun had a muzzle velocity of 20,000 meters per second.  The rail gun barrel was made of a special composite of carbon and copper to provide heat resistance and electrical conductivity.   Kinetic energy equals one half mass times velocity squared.  And kinetic energy was what you really wanted in an armour penetrating round.  In short, a sabot round fired from a rail gun is absolutely stupendous at armour penetration.  But, it sucks as an anti-personnel weapon because it doesn't explode.  It has to hit its target to do any damage to it, no matter if the target is a tank or a person.   The tank fired its gun.  But, the sabot round didn't hit any of the rebels.   Mohammed heard a whiz.  But, didn't see an explosion.  He thought that was curious.  The tank fired again.  He heard a louder whiz.  This shot had gotten closer.  He realized what had happened and hoped the tank gunner wouldn't realize his mistake. 

Mohammed felt and heard the sabot whiz by centimetres from his ear.  It continued through the jungle, blasting through trees and branches.  It was very fortuitous that the tank gunner had accidentally set the gun to fire sabot rounds.  But, if a sabot round actually hit any of the rebels, whoever it did hit would be cut in two if it hit his torso.  If it hit his head, his head would be blown to bits. 

Two teenagers, Bani and Balaichand, were walking through the jungle 10 kilometres away.  They had been friends for a year.  But, each had carried a torch for the other since day one.  They sat down under a banyan tree.  Suddenly, Bani took Balaichand's hand.  He looked over at her, surprised.  She was a beautiful girl with long dark hair and deep brown eyes.  He was in love with her.  Suddenly, she threw herself on him and kissed him hard on the mouth. He returned the kiss.  She stopped kissing him, reared up and began to take off her shirt.


"What the hell was that?!"  asked Balaichand.

"It sounded like something hit the tree."

They stood up and looked at the tree.  At first they didn't see anything.  But, then Bani spotted it.  The sabot that had whizzed by Mohammed's ear was embedded about halfway into the tree about 6 inches above the ground.

"What is that?" She asked.

"It's a sabot!"  Replied Balaichand.

"What's a sabot?"

"It's an anti-tank dart."


"Yeah, it's contained within a shell.  When the shell leaves the gun barrel, it falls off and the dart continues to its target.  It has stupendous penetrating power.  What I can't figure out is what whoever fired it was shooting at. The rebels don't have anything you'd want to fire a sabot round at."

Bani knelt down and reached toward it.

"Don't touch it!"  Exclaimed Balaichand.  "That thing's hot as fuck.  Sabot rounds travel like 20,000 meters a second.  I'm almost surprised it didn't set the tree on fire."

"Oh, well where were we?"  She asked, throwing her arms around him and smiling broadly.

"Where we need to be is away from here.  We shouldn't be anywhere near the line of site of the rail gun that fired that sabot."

"Let's just head a couple of hundred meters east or west.  We should be fine."


After the third shot, the tank gunner began wondering why he hadn't seen any explosions inside the jungle.  Then he noticed that the gun was set to fire sabot rounds.  He quickly switched to high explosives and fired again.   But, by that time, Mohammed and his remaining men had changed directions.  They were no longer in the line of fire.  And of course, the tank gunner couldn't see them.  So he had no way of knowing that.  The shell exploded harmlessly in the jungle, too far away to injure Mohammed and his men.  The tank fired two more shots before his commanding officer ordered him to cease fire.  Then, he ordered the troops in the unit to pursue the remaining rebels on foot. 

Mohammed noticed that the tank had stopped firing and correctly figured it had done so the troops in the unit could pursue on foot without getting hit by friendly fire.  The good news, from his perspective, was that they couldn't see him and his men.  The bad news was that there were enough soldiers to make it feasible to split up and head in different directions.  He hoped that none of the soldiers got behind him and his men. 

A fireball rose skyward as the bomb from the OB-2 exploded about 300 meters from Mohammed's position.   The OB-2 had been unable to determine the position of the rebels because of the jungle canopy and had had to rely on an estimate from the commanding officer of the unit. 

The commanding officer did indeed order the troops to split up.  The platoon was composed of 15 squads of 4 men each.  He knew that the rebel ambushes were typically composed of around 20 men.  He counted 13 rebel casualties.  He didn't see the two men who the blast from the canister round had hit while they were retreating.  So, he figured there were fewer than 10 rebels retreating.  There were 6 medics in the platoon.  Three would remain behind to care for the wounded.  The other three would go with the men.  He split the troops into three groups of 20, each with a medic, and sent them into the jungle to find the rebels. 

Meanwhile, Mohammed and his remaining men had managed to put a little distance between themselves and the soldiers.  They were heading back to their camp, which was about 6 kilometres away.  It would take over 3 hours to get there.  The thought that he might be leading the soldiers back to their camp crossed his mind.  But, he didn't think that would be possible.  Even if the soldiers managed to catch up to him and his men, they wouldn't be able to follow at a discrete distance in jungle this dense.

As it turned out, the soldiers never even got behind Mohammed Mohammed and his remaining men.   Each group of soldiers headed in the wrong direction.   Mohammed and his remaining men made it back to the rebel camp shortly after 10:00.  They were exhausted.  And three of them were wounded, including Mohammed.  They headed over to the medical tent for treatment.   The medical tent was the second largest tent in the camp, after the mess tent.  There was one doctor there, Partha.  Partha was fresh out of medical school.  He had gone to medical school specifically to become a doctor so he could treat wounded rebels.  There were chairs in the tent for wounded rebels to sit in while they awaited treatment.

Mohammed and the other two wounded men sat down in three of the chairs.  Partha came over to examine them.

"Take care of Patikrit and Vardhan first."  Said Mohammed.  He thought that it was the duty of a commanding officer to let his subordinates get treated first if his wounds were superficial, which they were. 

"I decide who I treat first."  Said Partha.  He looked at Patikrit's wounds, then Vardhan's, then Mohammed's.  "All of your wounds are superficial.   But, Mohammed, yours are the least superficial.  It looks like you have shrapnel or pellets in your shoulder.  Patikrit and Vardhan just have lacerations.  I'm going to treat you first.  The pellets don't appear to be deep.  So, I'm going to use a local anesthetic.  Partha went over to his supply cabinet, took out a syringe of hyperlidocaine and brought it back to where he had been.   The rebels' medical supplies, like their weapons, were European in origin. 

Partha took off the cap of the syringe and squirted out some of the contents the way doctors do when they're about to give a shot. Then he walked around to behind Mohammed and gave him the shot.  Mohammed felt the needle stick and then the area went numb. 

"I'm going to need you to take your shirt off." said Partha.

Mohammed took his shirt off.  It didn't hurt to do it.  He figured it would've hurt a lot if Partha hadn't given him the hyper-lidocain.

As Partha was taking the iridium balls out of Mohammed's shoulder, Mohammed had an epiphany.  This rebellion was a waste of time.  It was never going to succeed.  He had read about civil wars like Bangladesh's.  They typically just continued for decades until the rebels finally gave up in exchange for amnesty or the government crushed them.  Mohammed didn't want to fight a war that couldn't be won.  He wanted to make a difference.  He would quit the IRA and join an outfit that could.





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