Operation Desert Fox
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by Mercedes Lackey
Category: Science Fiction
Description: Just because Bachman's World was back-of-beyond of nowhere, and even the most conservative of military planners thought their insistence on having an on-planet defense force to be paranoid in the extreme, that did not negate their right to have it. The law was on their side. But a creative military bean-counter found a cheap solution. Instead of sending the requested Reserve battalion, he sent one man and an outmoded Bolo.
eBook Publisher: Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, 1993 Honor of the Regiment: Bolos, Book I
eBookwise Release Date: October 2008
90 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [43 KB]
Reading time: 23-33 min.
Siegfried O'Harrigan's name had sometimes caused confusion, although the Service tended to be color-blind. He was black, slight of build and descended from a woman whose African tribal name had been long since lost to her descendants.
He wore both Caucasian names--Siegfried and O'Harrigan--as badges of high honor, however, as had all of that lady's descendants. Many times, although it might have been politically correct to do so, Siegfried's ancestors had resisted changing their name to something more ethnic. Their name was a gift--and not a badge of servitude to anyone. One did not return a gift, especially not one steeped in the love of ancestors....
Siegfried had heard the story many times as a child, and had never tired of it. The tale was the modern equivalent of a fairy-tale, it had been so very unlikely. O'Harrigan had been the name of an Irish-born engineer, fresh off the boat himself, who had seen Siegfried's many-times-great grandmother and her infant son being herded down the gangplank and straight to the Richmond Virginia slave market. She had been, perhaps, thirteen years old when the Arab slave-traders had stolen her. That she had survived the journey at all was a miracle. And she was the very first thing that O'Harrigan set eyes on as he stepped onto the dock in this new land of freedom.
The irony had not been lost on him. Sick and frightened, the woman had locked eyes with Sean O'Harrigan for a single instant, but that instant had been enough.
They had shared neither language nor race, but perhaps Sean had seen in her eyes the antithesis of everything he had come to America to find. His people had suffered virtual slavery at the hands of the English landlords; he knew what slavery felt like. He was outraged, and felt that he had to do something. He could not save all the slaves offloaded this day--but he could help these two.
He had followed the traders to the market and bought the woman and her child "off the coffle," paying for them before they could be put up on the auction-block, before they could even be warehoused. He fed them, cared for them until they were strong, and then put them on another boat, this time as passengers, before the woman could learn much more than his name. The rest the O'Harrigans learned later, from Sean's letters, long after.
The boat was headed back to Africa, to the newly-founded nation of Liberia, a place of hope for freed slaves, whose very name meant "land of liberty." Life there would not be easy for them, but it would not be a life spent in chains, suffering at the whims of men who called themselves "Master."
Thereafter, the woman and her children wore the name of O'Harrigan proudly, in memory of the stranger's kindness--as many other citizens of the newly-formed nation would wear the names of those who had freed them.
No, the O'Harrigans would not change their name for any turn of politics. Respect earned was infinitely more powerful than any messages beaten into someone by whips or media.
And as for the name "Siegfried"--that was also in memory of a stranger's kindness; this time a member of Rommel's Afrika Korps. Another random act of kindness, this time from a first lieutenant who had seen to it that a captured black man with the name O'Harrigan was correctly identified as Liberian and not as American. He had then seen to it that John O'Harrigan was treated well and released.
John had named his first-born son for that German, because the young lieutenant had no children of his own. The tradition and the story that went with it had continued down the generations, joining that of Sean O'Harrigan. Siegfried's people remembered their debts of honor.
Siegfried O'Harrigan's name was at violent odds with his appearance. He was neither blond and tall, nor short and red-haired--and in fact, he was not Caucasian at all.
In this much, he matched the colonists of Bachman's World, most of whom were of East Indian and Pakistani descent. In every other way, he was totally unlike them.
He had been in the military for most of his life, and had planned to stay in. He was happy in uniform, and for many of the colonists here, that was a totally foreign concept.
Both of those stories of his ancestors were in his mind as he stood, travel-weary and yet excited, before a massive piece of the machinery of war, a glorious hulk of purpose-built design. It was larger than a good many of the buildings of this far-off colony at the edges of human space.
Bachman's World. A poor colony known only for its single export of a medicinal desert plant, it was not a place likely to attract a tourist trade. Those who came here left because life was even harder in the slums of Calcutta, or the perpetually typhoon-swept mud-flats of Bangladesh. They were farmers, who grew vast acreages of the "saje" for export, and irrigated just enough land to feed themselves. A hot, dry wind blew sand into the tight curls of his hair and stirred the short sleeves of his desert-khaki uniform. It occurred to him that he could not have chosen a more appropriate setting for what was likely to prove a life-long exile, considering his hobby--his obsession. And yet, it was an exile he had chosen willingly, even eagerly.
This behemoth, this juggernaut, this mountain of gleaming metal, was a Bolo. Now, it was his Bolo, his partner. A partner whose workings he knew intimately ... and whose thought processes suited his so uniquely that there might not be a similar match in all the Galaxy.
RML-1138. Outmoded now, and facing retirement--which, for a Bolo, meant deactivation.
Extinction, in other words. Bolos were more than "super-tanks," more than war machines, for they were inhabited by some of the finest AIs in human space. When a Bolo was "retired," so was the AI. Permanently.