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The Captain's Cauldron by Jason Lambright

Posted June 29, 2016 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Many of you enjoyed the first book in Jason's military sci-fi series. Now you can grab the second via this affiliate link: The Captain's Cauldron (The Valley Book 2)

Jason has kindly given me an extract so you can have a little taste. If you're in the US or UK it'd make some fine summer reading. And if you're shivering through a cold antipodeon winter, pour yourself a decent drink and curl up next to an open window with a good book. Cos our winters aren't that bad.

Dropping In for a Visit
Operation Cyclone begins

The F-71 combat shuttle Capt. Paul Thompson was riding in jumped and juked like a rodeo bull. His headquarters element was with him, along with Second Squad, First Platoon, Charlie Company. That made for twenty troopers of his command, the max capacity of the shuttle. They rode in rows of ten with each row facing inward, with armored knees and shoulders touching. In a dance as old as time, each trooper wrestled with his or her thoughts on the eve of battle. The shuttle plunged toward the surface of Brasilia on Operation Cyclone, the division-scaled assault to retake this lost outpost of humanity.

Actually, the division as such had been an anachronism for much of the time humanity had spread to the stars. During the colonial expansion, the Forces had used RCTs, regimental combat teams, because units larger than that were real overkill. Not anymore. The Third Division, “Rock of the Marne,” rode again. And Charlie Company, with an apparently calm “old man” at the helm, was part of that host.

Paul went over the plan in his mind repeatedly. Of course, all he had to do was prompt his halo, and the operations order would appear in his visual. He didn’t need it, though. He had memorized it.

His company would land in the vicinity of Hill 453. His regiment, the Fifteenth Infantry, would dominate that terrain feature and hold the northwest quadrant of the cordon that would be air assaulted around the Aerie. His orders said simply that “at all cost” the Fifteenth would hold the knob of dirt and destroy enemy forces as they marshaled to repel the invaders. He knew what that meant. This was a one-way ride for a lot of his people.

Contact—military lingo for when enemy forces would seek to engage and destroy you—was inevitable. As Paul mentally restated the plan, contact happened. The shuttle pitched wildly as a Harpy round just missed. Because Paul was the chalk commander, his halo feed was slaved to the pilot’s. He and the pilot alone knew how close that damn rail gun round had come. There was no point sharing the info with the troops; some of them were already tense to the point of vomiting.
Seven of his troopers had already been administered antinausea drugs. Paul’s halo pinged him every time with info he needed to know. Also, two of his troopers were so afraid, Paul thought they might have to be given combat stims. His halo asked for authorization, and he gave it.

“For God’s sake, we’re not even on the ground yet,” he thought. He couldn’t wait until his green company actually had to face the Harpies. It was going to be a mess.

The only reason they would be able to fight the enemy was because they were Armored Infantry. An unaided human wouldn’t stand a chance. That had been the lesson in twelve different campaigns on seven different worlds. With Operation Cyclone, Brasilia, the aliens’ first conquest, would be retaken, and humanity could finally begin to take the fight into the aliens’ space.

What lay in the path to the Harpies’ worlds was entirely unknown. Brasilia had been the farthest and latest world the Pan-American Federation had explored and settled before the war. Past Brasilia, the map might as well be blank, with the legend “here be monsters.” Humanity had spread far and wide, but they still had covered only a small fraction of the galaxy.
The ship jerked again violently. If Paul and his troopers weren’t in the two-meter- tall suits, the gravitational forces inherent in the maneuvers would have smashed them. Also, for every real F-71 headed toward the ground, Paul knew there were hundreds of decoys, both electronic and physical. The Forces had learned a lot over the past four years of war, and every lesson had been soaked in blood.

He hoped a lot of decoys got killed.

Paul’s visual flashed again, this time in red. Chalk Two, Second Platoon, Third and Fourth squads, had all just died. Paul watched the display with cold calculation. The names and faces of his dead troopers went into another mental box. His mil-grade halo came up with a suggested rearrangement of his TO&E (table of organization and equipment), and he glanced at it and authenticated with a thought. The new arrangement of his company was transmitted to all parties, and he moved on.

Charlie Company wasn’t even on the ground, and he had already taken 16 percent casualties. Damn.

Just then, the “all call” chimed on everyone’s halos. The disembodied voice of the ship spoke to all in Paul’s command. “Can do! Insertion in thirty seconds. Twenty- nine seconds. Twenty-eight...” Large numerals for the countdown appeared in the center of Charlie Company’s visuals. The shuttle flared and “slowed.” This would be a hard drop, as briefed.

At zero, all twenty troopers were shot out in a dispersed pattern from the bottom of the ship. In less than half a second, Paul’s troopers were blasted at the ground like pellets from a shotgun.
Paul had the momentary sensation of falling as his halo-assisted view tried to stabilize while he corkscrewed through the air. He slammed into the red soil of Brasilia in a cloud of dust. His halo activated his rally beacon, and the troopers followed the glowing arrow in their visuals that helped move them into their respective battle positions. Hill 453 loomed to the north; the Aerie was behind them to the south. His company had been inserted on a barren, desert plain and in full
view of the enemy. The orange-and-blue sky was filled with Harpies and burning bits of debris.

Back on the ship, the night before, Paul had experienced an episode of uncontrollable shakes. He hated that shit. The tremors had been his companion from the time he had fought on Juneau Three, and nothing really helped control them. Fortunately, he had been in his quarters, so no one had seen but his halo.

And his halo didn’t give a shit. When he had been recalled from retirement, the Forces had known he was damaged goods. They didn’t care. He was a qualified and combat-experienced Armored Infantryman of the line. Because the casualties rivaled those of the American Civil War or the eastern front of World War II, almost every soldier—no matter how old or crippled—was recalled to duty.

After all, the suit could take up most of the slack. All that was needed was the judgment of the soldier inside, and trained, experienced soldiers were badly needed to leaven the waves of conscripts who formed the wartime army.

But just as on Juneau, when the party started, Paul was steady. His hands didn’t shake at all. He felt as if he were born to do this one thing and do it well.

Charlie Company had come to call.

7 Responses to ‘The Captain's Cauldron by Jason Lambright’

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted June 29, 2016
I'm still struggling with the first one. Although the action might be set in the future, the emotion is squarely rooted in whatever shit Jason had to deal with in Afghanistan (or wherever, I forget exactly where). That's some mighty fine writing to get that across.

jl mutters...

Posted June 29, 2016
Thank you. Afghanistan was my last assignment.

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HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 29, 2016
I like it, wasn't sure I would to ne honest, but its got great feel, nice pace. Not that I know that shit mind you. I'm gunna get it though.

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted June 29, 2016
Glad to see he's got the follow-up out. Keeping us busy with the works of Steve Vincent, Keith McCardle and Jason Lambright.
Having just received my replacement Kindle Fire I've been on a Kindle shop buying spree of the writings of these guys.

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted June 29, 2016

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jl mutters...

Posted June 29, 2016
My primary goal as an author is to capture the experience of an ordinary soldier in combat. Most people, if they do pull the trigger (and not everyone can), feel the effects for many years.

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jl mumbles...

Posted July 4, 2016
Thanks again to the crew here at the burger, a fair bit of you have bought the latest installment. If you get a second, please allow me to ask y'all for some reviews at the Beast of Bezos. It's been a pleasure!

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