Old Guard (Bolos Series #5)

Old Guard (Bolos Series #5)

4.5 2
by Keith Laumer, Bill Fawcett

The onslaught of the Melconians was not the last conflict that humanity's interstellar Concordiat would have to face. For now the Kezdai&3151;a newly encountered species with war at the center of their philosophy—have taken to arms against the Concordiat and its colony worlds. For war, the Terrans have only one answer:

Break out the Bolos!



The onslaught of the Melconians was not the last conflict that humanity's interstellar Concordiat would have to face. For now the Kezdai&3151;a newly encountered species with war at the center of their philosophy—have taken to arms against the Concordiat and its colony worlds. For war, the Terrans have only one answer:

Break out the Bolos!

Self-aware robotic tanks, the Bolos have fought bravely and well since the days when humans fought each other. Now they battle across the stars to defend us all...and though the times are perilous, we've never been in better hands than those of our old metal guardians: Keith Laumer's greatest creation, the Bolos.

Editorial Reviews

Tails of Wonder
Well worth your interest and money....Recommended.
If you're a Bolo fan, buy this...
Heliocentric Network
A good addition to the Bolo mythos...fun, entertaining...

Product Details

Publication date:
Bolos Series , #5
Product dimensions:
6.82(w) x 4.20(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

Old Guard

By Keith Laumer

Baen Boos

ISBN: 0-671-31957-4

Chapter One


Mark Thies

It started as just a flicker of X-rays, high above the orbital plane of the bright orange star Epsilon Sindri. The region of space was devoid of matter, or any potential for producing such a phenomenon, but nonetheless it was there. As the flicker grew to erratic bursts, these X-rays were quickly logged by several detectors within the system of five planets below.

The first detector to take note of these bursts was a security array high above the second planet of the star system. Few disturbances ever escaped the notice of this awkward mass of antennae, reflectors, and arrays that tumbled lazily in its wide orbit. The bright X-ray flashes were trapped and focused by a myriad of mirrors and lenses, and then sorted by a series of gold refraction gratings. The spectrometers compiled and analyzed the flood of data, recognizing the bursts for what they were. Unconcerned, the security array's attention drifted elsewhere.

The second detector to take note of the bursts was a navigation beacon also in orbit around the second planet. Unlike its much larger brother in high orbit above him, this oblong satellite sheathed in bright gold foil carefully recorded the exact position and energy signatures of the bursts. The starports on the planet surface were notified of the phenomena, but no concern was immediately made evident. This was a weekly occurrence above the planet Delas, in precisely the location that it was expected. Only high above the ecliptic in the solar system full of debris could a 500,000 ton merchantman exit trans-light speeds without risking a fatal collision.

Only one other detector in the star system noticed the turbulent arrival of the interstellar freighter Aragonne Isabelle. Shrouded in the cold shadow of the icy moon of Epsilon Sindri Three, another satellite realigned itself, focusing its three large collectors upon the source of the X-ray bursts. A fission reactor at its core came to brilliant life just as the gigantic transport finally exited the rift in a final explosion of radiant energies. Then the X-rays ceased.

The shrouded satellite, however, was still building up the power that it needed. It had been ordered to track these ships and monitor their arrivals and departures. But transmitting its reports back home needed far more energy than its uranium pile could provide. As the fusion core finally ignited, another rift formed for just a moment, sending out a pulse through subspace. The pulse was fast enough to travel light-years in a matter of weeks, and strong enough even to reach the fringes of the bright nebula that painted the Delassian night sky with its blue and orange hues. The acknowledgement to the pulse usually took more than a month to return.

It was also strong enough to catch the attention of Delas' security array. Once again, a report was logged and submitted. And on the planet, a corporal was startled by a beep, but then dismissed this second burst as a subspace echo that seemed to bounce around whenever any transport arrived or departed. His commander had been intending to ask some local astrophysicist about this phenomenon, but had yet to find the time.

Back in orbit around Epsilon Sindri Three, an acknowledgement was logged by the satellite only two hours later.

* * *

The passenger door to the cargo shuttle sprang open with an audible hiss of a pressurized seal. A sunrise of dull red shined into the small passenger compartment as the occupants stood up and gathered their belongings. Delassian air slowly rolled down the aisle as it exchanged with the cool processed air of the shuttle. First time arrivals were easily identified by their stunned gasps as the planet smothered them with its hot and stifling jungle atmosphere.

As the wave advanced down the aisle, it soon overcame a rather large woman in a white dress with bright orange flowers embroidered into its light fabric. An especially frightful string of expletives was loudly uttered as a result, causing many heads to turn towards her. Standing behind the woman, a man dressed in a uniform of Concordiat Army Desert Gray noticed a young girl staring at the woman in awed silence from across the aisle. The girl's mother remained unaware of the situation as she seemed to be frantically searching her luggage for something, so he decided to speak up.

"Madame, please, Starveil is on the edge of a rain forest. Certainly you were aware of where you were arriving."

Suitcase now in hand, the large woman turned on the man in surprising fury. After taking a moment to brush a swirl of black hair out of her eyes, she leaned forward as if to intimidate the older gentleman who spoke out, perhaps threatening to fall over onto him.

"That doesn't mean that I have to like it, does it?" she shouted.

The woman's imposing frame and fiery gaze contrasted sharply with the small size and cold dispassion of the Concordiat officer whom she faced. What she couldn't discern with her cursory assessment, however, was just how well muscled the man's small frame was. Underneath his prematurely gray hair, his Asian brown eyes stared back at her without flinching.

"No," said the man calmly, "but perhaps you could refrain from teaching our children to curse it so vividly."

A nod to the left drew the woman's attention to the girl, who smiled and huddled close to her mother. In a fraction of a second, the woman's fury turned to charming amusement.

"That was very bad of me," she told the little girl. Then she turned back to the man, and her smile was instantly gone. "But I am completely justified. I had little choice in coming here."

A glance down the passenger compartment showed the officer that it wouldn't be clearing any time soon. More than half of the sixty-four passengers were cargo handlers from the Aragonne Isabelle, and few were gracious enough to take the seats in the rear. Travelers such as he would have to wait as they disembarked first.

"That is unfair, then," the man commented, being courteous.

"My name is Dahlia." The woman introduced herself, extending her free hand. "Dahlia Burke."

"Toman Ishida," the man returned, clasping her hand for just a moment.

"Colonel?" Dahlia asked with a questioning glance at his collar.


Dahlia smiled proudly, then she turned to grab a small shoulder bag that had been resting on the seat next to her.

"My son is a lieutenant in the Concordiat Army," Dahlia explained. "He's with the 351st Planetary Siege Division, or something like that. Ever hear of it?"

"Sorry, no. It's been a while since I've been on the Melconian front."

"Oh, I always hope that he's not there," she said despondently, "but I guess it would be unlikely that he'd be anywhere else."

Ishida didn't answer. She might have been hoping for some reassurance from him about her son, but without doubt she was correct. All siege divisions were now assigned to the Melconian front. Only scattered second and third echelon armored and mechanized formations were assigned to other duties.

The uncomfortable silence was finally broken when the compartment finally began clearing, and the line of passengers started moving.

"At least I'll only have to be here for a year. I work for Vetrex Electronics, and they need me to do some sales work here."

"Let me carry that for you," Toman offered as Dahlia's large suitcase banged against the seats as she walked.

"Oh, thank you. I can't believe that they make us carry our own luggage."

Toman took the case, slinging his own duffel bag over his shoulder.

"The Aragonne Isabelle is not a passenger liner. It is a supply transport. Merchant captains always feel that they are doing us a favor by allowing us to come with them on their rounds, no matter how much we pay them. Making our trip comfortable is well beyond their reason."

"You are a father, aren't you?" Dahlia asked over her shoulder.

Colonel Ishida felt troubled that the woman had discerned this about him. Had he been condescending or patronizing, he wondered? He had thought that he was just explaining things well. Perhaps, though, she had just read it in his face.

At sixty-eight years, Colonel Toman Ishida looked much older than he was. His hair, although mostly undiminished and somewhat long, had turned prematurely white and gray many years before. His facial skin was rough and unnaturally wrinkled from the aftermath of two Melconian plasma shell burns, the second happening only a week he got out of the hospital from the first. He had hoped that his dominant Asian heritage would protect him from the ravages of age, but it couldn't help him against a massed artillery barrage.

Toman had always tried to convince his compatriots that these effects made him look wise and respected. They always responded that he just looked haggard.

"I have two children, Kaethan and Serina," Toman admitted. "Is it that obvious?"

"In some things. Your concern for that little girl was certainly an indication, but it was more your manners that was the giveaway."

"My manners," Toman repeated, wanting to understand. "My aversion to foul language, you mean?"

"No. No. It was the manner in which you scolded me in front of the little girl. Your tone of voice and method. I do, however, believe that the use of foul language, as you call it, is healthy and can make your rhetoric much more effective." Dahlia punctuated her sentence by poking the air with her finger.

"My old commander would certainly agree with you."

"Meaning that you don't?"

Colonel Ishida hesitated before continuing this conversation. The last thing that he wanted to do right now was to enter into a debate about the usefulness of swear words.

"It's been a long time ... since I thought a problem could be improved by cursing at it. I now wonder if ever there was."

Ishida was pleasantly surprised as Dahlia didn't bother replying to his disagreement, seeming more intent on navigating her wide girth down the aisle. Toman followed, carrying her heavy suitcase as carefully as possible. Even at his age, Ishida was still almost as strong as he ever was. Toman maintained a strict workout schedule to maintain his physique. Fifty push-ups and stomach crunches every night before he went to bed, along with a variety of other simple exercises. His only failing had been giving up his long distance running, for which he had many excuses in the injuries that his body had endured over the years.

As the colonel exited the door and walked onto the downward ramp, he took a moment to step aside and appreciate the tangerine sunrise that was climbing above the line of massive hangars to the east. The starport's huge expanse of steel and polymer reinforced concrete was wet with a recent rain shower, reflecting the sky in many puddles. Dark clouds to the south and west looked threatening.

"Just my luck it would be raining today," Dahlia lamented as she pondered down the steps.

"This time of year it rains everyday down here," Ishida told her.

Whatever weather that was threatening from the north could not be seen, however, since the awesome mass of the shuttle towered over them like an old- time zeppelin, squat and flat on its bottom and rear. It stretched almost three hundred meters from fore to aft, and rose over fifty meters above the pavement. The four fusion jets positioned at its corners wouldn't be able to budge the giant transport if it weren't for the powerful counter-grav reactors that reduced their load. Their passenger compartment was only a small attachment on its underside, near its front. It looked as if it was only added as an afterthought, conveniently placed next to one of the shuttle's huge landing shocks, whose side their ramp was built into.

A brightly colored bus was waiting at the base of the ramp. Painted on its side, in large letters, were the words WELCOME TO STARVEIL. Large men were taking people's luggage and helping the arrivals onboard.

"You've been to Delas before?" Dahlia guessed.

"My son and daughter live here."

"Your wife?"


"Oh, I'm sorry. How very sad. It doesn't seem right that a soldier would lose his wife and not the other way around."

Toman didn't quite know how to respond to that statement, so instead he remained quiet. He had the strange impression that he should apologize for some reason, but he couldn't figure out why.

As they reached the pavement, he looked down towards the rear end of the cargo shuttle where its massive cargo ramp was still descending slowly, preparing to offload. The 50,000 ton shuttle would be transferring cargo between Delas' three starports and her mothership well into the next day before the Argonne Isabelle departed back to Angelrath. Ten or eleven days later another freighter would be arriving. Delas was a quickly growing colony, and its needs were many.

"Are you visiting your children?" Dahlia asked him.

"That, and other things."

Dahlia's luggage was taken from him then and stashed into the bus's undercarriage.

"I'm sorry I have to leave you now, Dahlia." Toman bowed to her slightly. "It's been a pleasure."

"You're not coming on the bus?"

"No. I have traveling companions to attend to. A car will be coming for me later."

The cargo ramp finally hit the pavement with a resounding thunk, despite the slow speed it was descending.

"Traveling companions?"

"They were too big to fit in the passenger compartment."

The sudden thunderous clanging of metal on metal made all heads turn as a monstrous form emerged from the rear of the cargo shuttle. The dark shape rose thirty meters from the base of its enormous treads, to the top of its massive main turret, barely fitting inside the cargo hold. Plates of dull black armor gave it an ominous air that matched the thunderclouds that flashed lightning kilometers away behind it. Its main cannon extended out well past the forward glacis of the juggernaut, always remaining perfectly level with the ground as the machine descended the ramp. The landing shocks on the cargo shuttle groaned and shrieked, and the ground beneath them shook violently as the war machine finally rolled out onto the pavement. Even after it had cleared the shuttle and stopped, a noticeable vibration remained, as if the tarmac was straining with all its might to support the monster that had just set foot upon it.

Bristling with secondary turrets and weapon ports, the war machine looked to be a battleship on tracks, though no one could mistake it for being seaworthy. It was a dreadnought whose design had been condensed to its most lethal form. Losing its displacement and elegance, it gained terrible focus in all things that its enemies feared most: firepower, maneuverability, and speed. No christened name could be seen inscribed on its bow, but upon the rear portion of its side hull, the designation "DBC-0039DN" was emblazoned in tall, silver letters.

"A Bolo," Dahlia said in awe.


Excerpted from Old Guard by Keith Laumer Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Old Guard (Bolos Series #5) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best in the Bolo series. 4 related medium size stories about Bolos in action against the Kezdai. A must read for Bolo fans