"Marines ain't supposed to sit. We're supposed to kill."After the resource-rich planet Diamunde is seized by the armed forces of industrialist Marston St. Cyr, the Confederation Marines face their most desperate battles yet against the mechanized forces of the bloody usurper. Promised a walkover by military planners, instead the Marines must run a gauntlet of steel, with weaponry three hundred years out of date.
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December 26, 1998
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Excerpt from Starfist: Steel Gauntlet by David Sherman
"Tell me, Gunnery Sergeant Bong, is it true what they say about Marines?"
"What's that, Madame Proconsul?"
"Call me !Tang'h, Gunnery Sergeant. Well, is it true?"
"That they're like their swords...?" She smiled seductively, then looked quickly at the ceremonial sword fastened by its peace knot to his sword belt.
"A good Marine is always ready to stand tall for action, ma'am."
"Gunny, I think you should take a look at this," a small voice said in his right ear.
"Not now, Winterthur," he whispered into the throat mike concealed in the high stork collar of his dress scarlets.
"Gunny, it's really important."
"Excuse me for a moment," Gunnery Sergeant Bong said with some frustration. The Honorable Mistress !Tang'h looked even more ravishing than usual, Bong thought as he turned away from the Second Assistant Proconsul from Kalari'h. She'd been flirting with him for several months, and he'd finally managed to convince himself that a personal liaison on an official liaison mission might help in the successful completion of that mission. He blocked out the sounds and sights of the diplomatic reception that swirled around him.
"Take a look at what? This better be good!" he said.
"Ah, Gunny." Lance Corporal Winterthur's voice sounded nervously bemused behind the buzz of the receiver in Gunny Bong's ear. "Somebody just drove up with a bunch of tanks."
"What kind of tanks?" Bong asked. "Chemical? Storage? Hydroponic?"
"Don't know their model, Gunny, but they've got turrets with what look like projectile cannons and plasma guns. Looks to be sixty of them."
Bong blinked. "Armored vehicles?"
"That's an affirmative, Gunny."
"You sure they aren't armored personnel carriers?" Bong was already walking briskly out of the reception hall, the Honorable Mistress !Tang'h forgotten. Major Katopscu, the Confederation military liaison, watched him leave.
"They're not APCs; they look like something out of a history vid," Winterthur replied over the receiver.
"I'm on my way." As soon as Bong reached the corridor, he broke into a sprint toward the main gate, two hundred meters away. His left hand undid the peace binding that secured the hilt of his ceremonial NCO sword to the sword belt so it couldn't be drawn and shoved the binding into his trouser pocket.
Tanks? Where could anybody come up with sixty tanks? Where could they be made? Then Bong stopped wondering about the wheres and started thinking about the whys of tanks at the gate.