|Publisher:||Grand Central Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.67(d)|
About the Author
David Drake, an American science fiction and fantasy writer, is one of the major authors of the military science fiction genre. His books include the genre-defining and bestselling Hammer’s Slammers series, as well as the nationally bestselling RCN series and his classic novel Redliners, which he calls "possibly the best thing I’ve written." He is a Vietnam War veteran and worked as a lawyer before turning to writing full-time.
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Dogs of War
By David Drake
Warner AspectCopyright © 2002 David Drake and Tekno Books
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCombatman Dom Priego, I shall kill you." Sergeant Toth shouted the words the length of the barracks compartment.
Dom, stretched out on his bunk and reading a book, raised startled eyes just as the Sergeant snapped his arm down, hurling a gleaming combat knife. Trained reflexes raised the book, and the knife thudded into it, penetrating the pages so that the point stopped a scant few inches from Dom's face.
"You stupid Hungarian ape!" he shouted. "Do you know what this book cost me? Do you know how old it is?"
"Do you know that you are still alive?" the Sergeant answered, a trace of a cold smile wrinkling the corners of his cat's eyes. He stalked down the gangway, like a predatory animal, and reached for the handle of the knife.
"No you don't," Dom said, snatching the book away. "You've done enough damage already." He put the book flat on the bunk and worked the knife carefully out of it-then threw it suddenly at the Sergeant's foot.
Sergeant Toth shifted his leg just enough so that the knife missed him and struck the plastic deck covering instead. "Temper, combatman," he said. "You should never lose your temper. That way you make mistakes, get killed." He bent and plucked out the shining blade and held it balanced in his fingertips. As he straightened up, there was a rustle as the other men in the barracks compartment shifted weight, ready to move, all eyes on him. He laughed.
"Now you're expecting it, so it's too easy for you." He slid the knife back into his boot sheath.
"You're a sadistic bowb," Dom said, smoothing down the cut in the book's cover. "Getting a great pleasure out of frightening other people."
"Maybe," Sergeant Toth said, undisturbed. He sat on the bunk across the aisle. "And maybe that's what they call the right man in the right job. And it doesn't matter anyway. I train you, keep you alert, on the jump. This keeps you alive. You should thank me for being such a good sadist."
"You can't sell me with that argument, Sergeant. You're the sort of individual this man wrote about, right here in this book that you did your best to destroy ..."
"Not me. You put it in front of the knife. Just like I keep telling you pinkies. Save yourself. That's what counts. Use any trick. You only got one life, make it a long one."
"Right in here ..." "Pictures of girls?"
"No, Sergeant, words. Great words by a man you never heard of, by the name of Wilde."
"Sure. Plugger. Wyld, fleet heavyweight champion."
"No, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde. No relation to your pug-I hope. He writes, 'As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.'"
Sergeant Toth's eyes narrowed in thought. "He makes it sound simple. But it's not that way at all. There are other reasons for war." "Such as what ...?"
The Sergeant opened his mouth to answer, but his voice was drowned in the wave of sound from the scramble alert. The high-pitched hooting blared in every compartment of the spacer and had its instant response. Men moved. Fast.
The ship's crew raced to their action stations. The men who had been asleep just an instant before were still blinking awake as they ran. They ran and stood, and before the alarm was through sounding the great spaceship was ready.
Not so the combatmen. Until ordered and dispatched, they were just cargo. They stood at the ready, a double row of silver-gray uniforms, down the center of the barracks compartment. Sergeant Toth was at the wall, his headset plugged into a phone extension there, listening attentively, nodding at an unheard voice. Every man's eyes were upon him as he spoke agreement, disconnected and turned slowly to face them. He savored the silent moment, then broke into the widest grin that any of them had ever seen on his normally expressionless face.
"This is it," the Sergeant said, and actually rubbed his hands together. "I can tell you now that the Edinburgers were expected and that our whole fleet is up in force. The scouts have detected them breaking out of jump space, and they should be here in about two hours. We're going out to meet them. This, you pinkie combat virgins, is it." A sound, like a low growl, rose from the assembled men, and the Sergeant's grin widened.
"That's the right spirit. Show some of it to the enemy." The grin vanished as quickly as it had come, and, cold-faced as always, he called the ranks to attention.
"Corporal Steres is in sick bay with the fever so we're one NCO short. When that alert sounded we went into combat condition. I may now make temporary field appointments. I do so. Combatman Priego, one pace forward." Dom snapped to attention and stepped out of rank.
"You're now in charge of the bomb squad. Do the right job and the CO will make it permanent. Corporal Priego, one step back and wait here. The rest of you to the ready room, double time-march."
Sergeant Toth stepped aside as the combatmen hurried from the compartment. When the last one had gone he pointed his finger sharply at Dom.
"Just one word. You're as good as any man here. Better than most. You're smart. But you think too much about things that don't matter. Stop thinking and start fighting, or you'll never get back to that university. Bowb up, and if the Edinburgers don't get you I will. You come back as a corporal or you don't come back at all. Understood?"
"Understood." Dom's face was as coldly expressionless as the Sergeant's.
"I'm just as good a combatman as you are, Sergeant. I'll do my job."
"Then do it-now jump."
Because of the delay, Dom was the last man to be suited up. The others were already doing their pressure checks with the armorers while he was still closing his seals. He did not let it disturb him or make him try to move faster. With slow deliberation, he counted off the check list as he sealed and locked.
Once all the pressure checks were in the green, Dom gave the armorers the thumbs-up okay and walked to the air lock. While the door closed behind him and the lock was pumped out, he checked all the telltales in his helmet. Oxygen, full. Power pack, full charge. Radio, one and one. Then the last of the air was gone, and the inner door opened soundlessly in the vacuum. He entered the armory.
The lights here were dimmer-and soon they would be turned off completely. Dom went to the rack with his equipment and began to buckle on the smaller items. Like all of the others on the bomb squad, his suit was lightly armored and he carried only the most essential weapons. The drillger went on his left thigh, just below his fingers, and the gropener in its holster on the outside of his right leg; this was his favorite weapon. The intelligence reports had stated that some of the Edinburgers still used fabric pressure suits, so lightning prods-usually considered obsolete-had been issued. He slung his well to the rear, since the chance that he might need it was very slim. All of these murderous devices had been stored in the evacuated and insulated compartment for months so that their temperature approached absolute zero. They were free of lubrication and had been designed to operate at this temperature.
A helmet clicked against Dom's, and Wing spoke, his voice carried by conducting transparent ceramic.
"I'm ready for my bomb, Dom-do you want to sling it? And congratulations. Do I have to call you Corporal now?"
"Wait until we get back and it's official. I take Toth's word for absolutely nothing."
He slipped the first atomic bomb from the shelf, checked the telltales to see that they were all in the green, then slid it into the rack that was an integral part of Wing's suit. "All set, now we can sling mine."
They had just finished when a large man in bulky combat armor came up. Dom would have known him by his size even if he had not read HELMUTZ stenciled on the front of his suit.
"What is it, Helm?" he asked when their helmets touched.
"The Sergeant. He said I should report to you, that I'm lifting a bomb on this mission." There was an angry tone behind his words.
"Right. We'll fix you up with a back sling." The big man did not look happy, and Dom thought he knew why.
"And don't worry about missing any of the fighting. There'll be enough for everyone."
"I'm a combatman ..."
"We're all combatmen. All working for one thing-to deliver the bombs. That's your job now."
Helmutz did not act convinced and stood with stolid immobility while they rigged the harness and bomb onto the back of his suit. Before they were finished, their headphones crackled and a stir went through the company of suited men as a message came over the command frequency.
"Are you suited and armed? Are you ready for illumination adjustment?"
"Combatmen suited and armed." That was Sergeant Toth's voice.
"Bomb squad not ready," Dom said, and they hurried to make the last fastenings, aware that the rest were waiting for them.
"Bomb squad suited and armed." "Lights."
Excerpted from Dogs of War by David Drake Copyright © 2002 by David Drake and Tekno Books . Excerpted by permission.
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