Dropped into Rabun Pass, with a couple of million Posleen behind them and fourteen million to the front, the only question is which will run out first: power, bullets or bodies.
But they have a hole card: far to the north the shattered SheVa Nine, nicknamed "Bun-Bun," is undergoing a facelift. Rising from its smoking ashes is a new weapon of war, armed with the most advanced weaponry Terra has ever produced, capable of facing both the Posleen hordes and their redoubtable space-cruisers. Capable of dealing out Hell as only SheVa Nine can.
But when push comes to vaporization, if Mike O'Neal and the other members of the 555th are going to survive, it will come down to how much Posleen butt Bun-Bun can kick.
Prepare to eat antimatter, Posleen-boy.
Read an Excerpt
By John Ringo
Baen BooksCopyright © 2004 John Ringo
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGo tell the Spartans, passerby That here the Three Hundred lie Obedient to their commands.
Near Asheville, NC, United States of America, Sol III 0215 EDT Monday September 28, 2009 AD
Major Michael O'Neal checked the holographic schematic he had thrown up and nodded as the Banshee banked to the right and dropped; now the fun started.
The shuttle he was riding in looked like a black scimitar scything across the cloudy Appalachian sky. The combination of human, Indowy and Himmit technology had created something that was neither the best nor the worst of the three worlds, a ship that was somewhat stealthy, somewhat armored, somewhat maneuverable and somewhat fast.
Of course, compared to anything from pure human technology, the Banshee III was a marvel beyond words.
The stealth shuttles had had an uneventful voyage until reaching the area of the southern Shenandoah. There the Posleen invaders, who held virtually all of the Atlantic and Pacific seaboard, had made an incursion in the area of Staunton. And that required the scimitar-shaped ships to drop to below the level of horizon and begin evasive maneuvers.
Over the past five years the Posleen had landed in waves throughout the world, overrunning virtually every defense. The few survivors of Western Europe were now huddled in the Alps, eking out a retched existence among those upland valleys. The Middle East, Africa, most of South America, were either in Posleen hands or in such a state of anarchy not even radio communications were coming out. The only survivors in Australia were in the far western territories and roaming the desert interior in a post-apocalyptic nightmare. China had been lost only after loosing nearly a thousand nuclear weapons in the long retreat up the Yangtze Valley. Others survived in the highlands of the world, holding passes against the enemy. But few of those scattered groups were a coherent defense. Everywhere, one by one, the civilizations of the world had fallen to the remorseless invaders. With one small exception.
In the United States a combination of geographic luck-the Posleen tended to land in coastal plains and the U.S. had defendable terrain features inward of all the coastal plains-and, frankly, logistic and political preparation had permitted the U.S. government to retain control, to retain a condition of "domestic harmony" in a few areas. Of these, the most vital were the Cumberland and Ohio basins due to their industrial might and breadth of agricultural resources. The vast plains of Central Canada were still safe, and would remain so as long as the Posleen were resisted at all, for the Posleen were almost incapable of fighting in snow. But those plains, and the various western areas in human control ranging from the Sierra Madre to the Canadian Rockies, could produce only a small number of crops, mostly grains. Furthermore there was little or no industrial infrastructure in comparison to the might found in the Cumberland and Ohio.
The Cumberland, the Ohio and the Great Lakes regions were the heart and soul of the defense of the United States. Losing the Cumberland, furthermore, would open all of that up to conquest.
And with one thrust the Posleen had placed all of that in jeopardy. For years the major blow had been expected at Chattanooga, where little would stand in the way of a break-out. This battalion, and others, had defended the cities that were scattered down the range of the Appalachians, each of them, at one time or another, assaulted in force by the enemy. Only a few weeks before the battalion had been in a hair-raising battle on the Ontario Plain. But this time the Posleen had surprised everyone, striking an unnoticed and lightly defended sector, and throwing the defense of the entire Eastern U.S. into flux.
O'Neal and his forces had passed over southern Pennsylvania and through West Virginia without incident. But now, approaching the jumbled mess of western Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, it was time to get down and busy.
From this point forward the Posleen were pressing hard or already over the Appalachian Wall. The battalion would actually be forced to fly between two Posleen thrusts; besides the attack through the Gap the Posleen were pressing in on two flanks of Asheville. If the Posleen were able to reach the embattled city from the rear, the end would be assured. On that flank, the mountains above Waynesville would be the key, but they were a problem for others; the only thing the First Battalion Five-Fifty-Fifth infantry had to worry about was surviving as a plug.
O'Neal nodded again as another turn was faintly sensed. The shuttles used just a touch of inertial compensation to reduce the impact of their course corrections. Too much and they stood out like light bulbs to the Posleen. Too little and they smashed their passengers into jelly. Mike switched to an external view and by the light of the waxing moon he could see the mountains flashing by overhead; the ships were down in a valley, following its wandering path and only the occasional shudder passed through to the humans.
Soon enough they began an ascent, traveling at over five hundred knots and not much more than a hundred feet off the ground. The shuttles rapidly shot to the top of the next ridgeline and then, in a maneuver that looked flatly impossible, dropped down the back side in exact parallel with the slope. At no time did their speed increase or slow; it stayed a constant fifty kilometers per hour under the ambient speed of sound.
Mike noted another checkpoint and looked off to the left. Somewhere out there was Asheville, awaiting the dawn of a new day, a city still inhabited by over a million civilians and six divisions of infantry. Behind it were two Sub-Urbs with a combined total of five million souls. And all of it was in the vise of a nutcracker.
He sighed and brought up a collection of tunes; a little music seemed appropriate at a time like this.
Might as well share the misery.
"What the hell is that?" Lieutenant Tommy Sunday asked as a strange keyboard melody started on the command override frequency.
"'Don't Pay the Ferryman,'" SPC Blatt said. The Reaper's armor had a purple and pink holographic teddy bear on the front of it and when the music started, the bear jumped to its feet and began to dance, shaking its fat little belly in time to the music. "The Old Man must be really depressed."
The Grim Reapers were the heavy weapons suits of the ACS. They were designed for long-range indirect fire or heavy-duty close-in support and generally carried four weapons (versus the standard one rifle of the Marauders). These might range from anti-ship heavy grav-cannons to long-range auto-mortars to flechette cannons capable of spewing millions of rounds per minute.
The Reapers' suits were bulkier and slower than the standard Marauder suits, looking a bit more fat bellied than the "muscle" look of the Marauders, but given that most of their weapons had much higher ammunition bulk than the Marauders, that was all to the good. The flip side was that their armor was lighter, so getting into direct fights with the Posleen was usually a losing proposition.
"Christ," PFC McEvoy cursed, rubbing at his nearly bald head. He'd detached the gauntlets of his suit and his hand made a rasping sound over the short, thick stubble. He leaned forward as far as he could and looked to the doors at the front of the compartment. "I hope it's not that whole 'we're all a gonna DIE!' playlist. If I hear 'Veteran of the Psychic Wars' one more time I'm gonna puke."
The shuttles were small, designed to carry thirty-six troopers and two "leaders" in no particular comfort. Each "suit segment" was rigid, with clamps to hold the suits in place against the worst possible maneuvering and designed to swivel and fire the troopers out into a hostile environment. This did not make for the most comfortable of seating.
"Nah," Blatt replied. "James Taylor next. Betcha five creds."
"Sucker bet," McEvoy replied. "I hear the Old Man's daughter was in the Gap."
"Ah fuck me," Blatt said, shaking his head. "That sucks."
"She's tough," McEvoy said, leaning forward to spit into his helmet. "So's his dad from what I hear. They might make it."
"That is questionable," Sunday said, looking up from his hologram. "According to seismographic and EM readings, there have been multiple nuclear detonations in the area of the Gap. And we're about to make the area extremely unpleasant ourselves."
"I didn't think we'd opened up nukes yet, sir," Blatt commented. He started to put his gauntlets back on as a timer in his suit tinged. "Twenty minutes."
"We have recently," Tommy answered, putting on his helmet. "But these appear to be secondary explosions."
"Oh, that's okay then," Blatt said. "As long as they're not targeted on us or anything ..."
"Yeah," McEvoy agreed. "The last time I worried about nukes was the first time I got hit by 'em."
"Any suggestions?" the lieutenant asked.
"Lay flat," Blatt said with a laugh.
"Yeah, getting tossed through the air is the worst part."
"I'd think having your arms and legs ripped off would be the worst part," Tommy commented.
"Well, the only one who's survived from that close is the Old Man, sir," Blatt pointed out. "You don't wanna be that close; getting an arm blown off smarts."
"Agreed," Tommy said. "Been there done that."
The lieutenant was new to the armored combat suits but not to battle; up until a few weeks before he had been an NCO in the Ten Thousand, the most elite unit short of the suits. The Ten Thousand was armed with captured Posleen weapons and other devices and shuttled from crisis to crisis, thus in his time in the unit Tom Sunday, Jr. had seen more than any trooper short of the ACS. And he had managed to survive and rise in rank to staff sergeant. All of which spoke for his versatility and ability to take cover when the shit hit the fan. But even the best soldier tended to run out the law of averages from time to time.
"Which one, L-T?" McEvoy asked. The officer was new to them and they hadn't had much time to get to know him.
"Right, just above the elbow," the lieutenant said. With his helmet on it was impossible to tell where he was looking but McEvoy was pretty sure it was directly at him.
"Ah," the Reaper said. "Just asking."
"You're right," the lieutenant said. "It smarts. So does taking a shotgun flechette in the chest. Or getting your right kidney taken out by a three millimeter that was, fortunately, going too fast to do much more damage. And getting caught in your own company's mortar fire sucks. So does getting shot in the back by a cherry radioman who panics. All in all, I imagine it's really unpleasant to get blown through the air by a nuclear explosion."
"I guess so, sir," the gunner said, swinging his heavy grav-gun from side to side to ensure it tracked smoothly. "All things considered I guess wearing armor is the way to go."
"Ah hell," Blatt said, changing the subject. "It looks like you were right. Here we go with 'Veteran of the Psychic Wars.' "
"He's something pissed at those Posleen," McEvoy said.
"I'm sure he's not the only one," Sunday said quietly.
Captain Anne Elgars looked at the motley group gathered around the small fire and sighed. The captain appeared to be about seventeen and had a heavily muscled body with long, strawberry-blond hair. She was, in fact, nearer to thirty than twenty and had until recently been in a coma. Her recovery from the coma, the musculature, odd skills and personality quirks that had arisen from the recovery, were mysteries that were only starting to be illuminated.
There were two other adult females, two soldiers and a group of eight children in the small, wooded dell tucked into the North Carolina mountains. The women and children had been in a Sub-Urb, an underground city, when the Posleen struck the Rabun Valley and swiftly pushed most of the defenders aside. Through a combination of luck and ruthlessness the three women had reached the deepest areas of the Urb, intending to escape through the service areas, when they happened upon a hidden installation tucked into the Urb. It was there that they had been "upgraded," their wounds repaired, and imparted with both increased strength and some basic weaponry skills. They had also found an escape route.
Trying to make their way to human-controlled areas they had first been cut off by the advancing Posleen and then encountered the two soldiers, Jake Mosovich and David Mueller. Now the question was where to go now that the easy route was closed.
"It's agreed?" Elgars asked, her breath ghosting white in the frigid air. "We'll head for the O'Neal farm and raid the cache?"
"Don't see any choice," Mueller replied. He was a bear of a man, not only tall but wider in proportion, with a thin shock of almost white blond hair. The master sergeant had been running around snooping on Posleen since before the first invasion and he had regularly found his ass in a crack, enough times that he'd frequently asked himself why in the hell he kept doing it. But none of the other times did he have to worry about getting three women and eight children out of the crack. And in this case, the crack included that the children, at least, were likely to die of exposure if something wasn't done.
"There wasn't anything to use at the Hydrological Station." The Posleen raided for loot, then destroyed every trace of previous habitation. While the station hadn't been leveled it had been emptied. As had every other building they had checked.
Shari Reilly grimaced. "It's still nearly fifteen miles," she said. "Even carrying the kids, I don't see how we can make it."
Shari had been thirty-two, a waitress and single-mother of three, when the Posleen dropped on her hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia. She was one of the very few survivors from that town and was resettled, along with her three children, in one of the first underground cities. It had been placed in an out-of-the-way valley in western North Carolina, despite a lack of roads to supply it, for two reasons: it was unlikely the Posleen would attack into such rugged country, and the local congressman was the chairman of the appropriation's committee.
As it turned out, after five years of battering their heads everywhere else the Posleen did attack up the Rabun Valley.
Excerpted from Hell's Faire by John Ringo Copyright © 2004 by John Ringo. 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.
An Interview with John Ringo
Paul Goat Allen: I've read a lot of military science fiction in the last few decades, and I've noticed a marked lack of female main characters, military or civilian. Your Legacy of the Aldenata novels have an abundance of prominent female characters: Cally O'Neal, Wendy Cummings, Major Glennis LeBlanc, Captain Karen Slight, Warrant Officer Sheila Indy, sniper Anne Elgars…. Was this a conscious decision on your part? And if so, why did you feel it was so important?
John Ringo: Female characters. Well, first of all, I adore women. So writing about them is fun. The second point is that my life has been filled with strong women. Most of the females in my books are reflections of women that I have known over the years -- many of them ex-girlfriends, which probably explains why they have such a terrible time in the books. I think that women, by and large, get underestimated in our culture. (Or any culture, for that matter.) Since they tend to look inward rather than outward, they get the aura of being "the weaker vessel." In fact, they are stronger than men in many ways. They deal with physical fear on a daily basis that is alien to men, and "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger." I'll give a few examples of where the characters come from. Cally is a mixture of my youngest daughter, Lindy; a niece named Casey; the daughter of a friend, Jenny Rebecca; and a "fen" I know from StellarCon named Sam. ("Don't try anything, or Sam will kill you.") Each of them has given some "spark of life" to the character. Cally has Lindy's vision and ability to "notice," Casey's "social" personality (and…ahem...mood swings), JR's looks (yes, the daughter of my best friend is most absolutely gorgeous), and Sam's dangerousness and occasional irascibility. Karen Slight is based, very loosely, on a lieutenant I knew when I was in the 82nd. Wendy is based on a Golden Knight I dated briefly during the same period. Ellsworth/Elgars is based on a former girlfriend who now is an M.P. sergeant in Korea. And Glennis Leblanc is (AHEM) a lady I know, a book trader in Florida. And, yeah, it's an accurate description. All of the latter women are strong ladies who prove again and again that they're just as "tough" as guys. They might not be able to pick up as much weight or hold their own in a long battle, but they are tough. And they don't take any crap from anyone. I can't imagine writing a weak female character. It's alien to my thought processes.
PGA: Today's science fiction is often tomorrow's science fact. Of all the highly evolved tech in your novels, what advancements -- scientific or military -- do you think are closest to becoming reality?
JR: "Clear sky." Developments in sensor technology and Directed Energy Weapons are soon going to make flying a very dangerous proposition indeed. I deliberately have stayed away from cybernetic issues in the books, because changes in that field are so socially chaotic it's impossible to guess where we are going with them. Another aspect is the tech behind some of the "magic" in the books. If zero-point particle theory pans out, gravity and momentum issues will become a thing of the past. But if we can manipulate zero-point fields, we'll be able to detect them as well. And that means anything accelerating (physics term which means accelerating, braking, or otherwise changing vector) will be detectable. What that means for "stealth" is pretty obvious.
PGA: There are science fiction fans and there are science fiction fanatics. I know members of a local reading group who can quote parts of your novels verbatim. One guy was contemplating getting a Bun-Bun tattoo. Why do you think your Legacy of the Aldenata novels affect people so strongly and have such a cult following?
JR: Cult following? Really? Cool. I think that it's because it's here and now, and that resonates with many people who are "closet warriors." It's as socially unacceptable these days to say "Wouldn't it be cool to have a war?" as it used to be to hold hands with another person of the same sex. Violence control has taken the place of sexual mores in our society. The Legacy of the Aldenata gives an outlet where people can experience a "socially acceptable" war on their doorstep. What I hear is people saying "I was driving through (insert area of the country here), and I found a great place to hold off the Posleen." Mussolini said, "There is no greater love than placing one's life between one's loved ones and war's desolation." We're bred to do that, to defend turf. It's a visceral yearning for many people. Read some of the raw embed coverage from Iraq and you'll get a taste for it. "It is good that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it." The Legacy of the Aldenata novels lets people do that, mentally, and feel that it's socially a good thing. And it's really cool to spot defensive positions as you're driving down the road. Try it some time.
PGA: In the afterword in Hell's Faire, you said that although you're burned out on the Posleen at the moment, readers can expect to see Cally, Mike, and Papa O'Neal in the future. Have you thought about where you're going to take the O'Neal/Posleen story line when you revisit it?
JR: I hope like heck this [interview] comes out after the book [is released], since there are a couple of massive spoilers in that question. But the answer is, Mike O'Neal has been planned for a series of books from the very beginning. This was originally planned as a trilogy (as noted in the same afterword). What has occurred with the books is that all these other characters have taken on a life of their own. As I've been going along I've been mulling over how to weave them into the story. I'm getting closer on a lot of them. The follow-on books won't have the same conditions and might not have the same appeal. They'll take place in the intermediate future (50-80 years or so) and there will be far less mass combat. They'll also be darker. It's a very dystopic future where the Darhel appear to have succeeded in "neutering" the human race. But as I've written the books and all these strong characters have come to the fore, I've been mentally writing them in. All of them won't be in the first book, and all of them won't survive to the last. But many of the characters from this book will turn up in others. And there may be a couple of spin-off books in the universe. I've got one that's mentally titled Cally's War. But, warning: Cally's all grown up in it. And I've finally figured out what to do with Michelle. It's gonna be cool.
PGA: In your afterword, you stated the good guys always win in the end. That may be the case in books but do you think that's true in real life?
JR: Sure. If for no other reason than that the winners define who the good guys are. The Carthaginians had some viable issues with the Romans. But it was Livy who wrote the history. However, if you want a universal definition of good, being willing to shoulder a burden -- no matter how onerous -- and to carry that burden to the end -- no matter if it's a moral or physical victory, or even a defeat, while taking as much care as possible that innocents aren't harmed -- is a pretty good choice. And people who take all those caveats and still won't quit are hard to stop. Or, in simpler terms: There ain't much that can stop a man who knows he's in the right and just keeps coming. So, yeah, the good guys win in the end. The important point is to make sure you're on the right side from the beginning.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
John Ringo has written his best so far. From the moment you are dropped into some very nasty swamps till Rabun Gap you are on the very edge of meltdown. Can Earth live to see the next invasion or is this all she wrote to coin an idiom? That question can only be answered in the final book, Hell's Faire. Just one small question to be considered while reading this great tale of conquest or loss. The posleen are not innovators, they are imitators and nothing makes this statement more clear as when you are presented with their diverse types of weapons. Granted, the industrial might of this country is shot, but it is still there and apparently operational. Historically, a nation (species) uses weapons that are capable of doing themselves great damage and injury. I keep expecting the inhabitants left on this planet to do what they have always done, pick up their dead killers gun, make fit, and then you and use on the killers. The Posleen obviously have an unlimited access to weapons and munitions while the Earth is rapidly running out. The needed outcome is obvious and much necessary. Why are we depedant on a third species that has no lost love for a confirmed competitor. Is there another story there? I would love to believe there is, after all, vengence is mine so why are they messing around. I rate this series far above anything I have read to date. A very good read.
This is the final novel in John Ringo¿s Earth-Posleen War series. Not that this is the end of his writing in this universe by any stretch of the imagination (he just released a new book centered on the life of a minor character in this series). But, this is the end of the road for Michael O¿Neil and Powered Suits. At least until the publisher and the fans demand more (and end up getting less then they bargained for, I would expect). He really does wrap the story up nicely here and while the intensity isn¿t quite as good as the first two books, it¿s a lot better than the end of the third. And some things do get wrapped up rather too neatly. I get the impression that the author wanted to finish up this series so he could focus on other stories in this (and other) universe. This was originally supposed to be a trilogy, but the end of the third got botched bad enough that we needed a fourth book to settle things up. Despite these flaws we still have a cast of lovable characters and we learn a few things about the Posleen¿s motivations and, perhaps more germane to future books, more about our not quite as benevolent as they seem allies.
Another captivating novel by Ringo.
And so ends part 2 of "book three" of the Posleen Invasion trilogy.The invasion forces have been broken and the stage has been set for the next steps in the interstellar conflict between humanity and their true enemies. More great work by John Ringo.
Even the author admits this book is the 2nd half of the previous book. It doesn't feel incomplete, but it does start right in the middle of a scene, so read the previous book before you read this one! Once again the O'Neals have to do their best to save the USA, and the world from the Posleen, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that the humans were setup. A continuation of his 'infantry vs everyone' series. Great military sci-fi, even if it is a tiny bit contrived.
An excellent end cap to the story of the Posleen invasion of Earth. It picks up right where the previous book left off. It was well paced with familiar characters and a 'happy ending'. I'm looking forward to reading more of Ringo's work. The eBook was formatted well, though there were a fair number of spelling errors. Thanks to Baen for the F r e e Library and the CDs.
The Posleen appear unbeatable as the millions of alien invaders are conquering the Earth. Humanity is rapidly becoming extinct under the endless horde, especially since the adaptable Posleen have stolen advanced technology from some other race and applied mankind¿s military strategy to insure total victory. The next major confrontation is at the Rabun Pass in North Carolina where millions of Posleen soldiers are pushing to break the last organized human resistance in North America. The 555th Mobile Infantry block the pass, but if the aliens break through, mankinds reign on planet earth will be through too. Supplies, including ammo, is low and the logistics system is broken so here is no hope for humanity from that quarter. Still Major Mike O¿Neal and his intrepid forces know what is at stake with their hope resting on the Bun-Bun supertank that can destroy millions in the blink of a Posleen eye. When it comes to action packed military science fiction few if any are better at hooking the audience than John Ringo is. His latest Posleen vs. the earth tale never slows down (except for some amusing observational asides). HELL¿S FAIRE is well written and contains significant timely moral dilemmas such as first strike (Iraq) and nuking a portion of one¿s homeland for the better good (Fail Safe). Mr. Ringo provides a dark story with the glimmer of light being the quips, including the great ventriloquist Sluggy Freelance comic strip, that are trademarks of why the author¿s works always soar above the competition. Throw in a CD (not sure what it does ¿ I barely read(joke) and the audience receives quite a novel. Harriet Klausner