Disembarkation – Part 2

The entire invasion obviously wasn’t this archaic. Romero’s job would have been easier had they just been able to fly in via one of the Valors and fast-roped down to whatever their mission site was supposed to be. That’s the scenario they’d rehearsed for the last six months. The problem was that 2/2 didn’t have the Valors anymore. Most of the V-280s were either loaned out, ferrying troops stateside to nearer bases in preparation for the next few days, or still on ship being prepared with men and supplies. These would link up with the troops still at sea in the amphibious vehicles. There wasn’t enough boats or planes to do one or the other, so the operation’s planners wanted to synchronize the assault, which would put nearly every boot in the task force together on the beach at the same time, secure it, and then move on to separate objectives.

A few of the transport helicopters and tilt-wing landing craft belonging to the task force were also lost to allied forces. They had been temporarily “acquired” to support Marine Special Forces Command, the Raiders. It should be known that in Marine Corps jargon, “acquired” is actually synonymous with “stolen.” They wouldn’t be seeing those birds any time soon. The Raiders were supposed to have their own dedicated aircraft, so why they needed more, low level grunts like Romero and the rest of the Warlords of 2/2, could only guess.

Of course, the Raiders acquiring them was only scuttlebutt from the Lance Corporal Underground. The Underground, it should be known, was the clandestine fraternity of non-rates and low-level troops within the United States Marine Corps. The Underground was famed with a degree of insider knowledge and operational situational awareness that belied their lowly station. It was an open secret within the Corps, and one despised by the officers and leadership. The Underground had a nasty habit of getting things wrong, spreading rumors often false or misleading, was often damaging to unit morale, while other times, unwittingly true to the point of violating operational security. Still other times, it had a way of surfacing enough useful knowledge that it greased the wheels of a bogged down government bureaucracy that was the Marine Corps. Most of all, the Underground had a remarkable way of getting things done.

The Underground, however, is often wrong when it counts. When 2/2 got the call, the Underground believed they would be part of the invasion to take Caracas. It also predicted that Fannon would be picking up Corporal last quarter. They were wrong on both accounts. Good for Caracas; bad for Fannon. Still, the Raiders using more than their fair share of the fast travel assets seemed logical enough. Whatever the case may have been, there were only so many planes, and only so many boats. For that reason many of the troops were forced to leave via the troop carriers in the water and the others would fly out much, much later. Romero’s company wasn’t one of the lucky ones. This is why he would have to make a land invasion after riding in this floating coffin for three hours. The Raider theory at least explained why the company was there well enough, and it’s always easier to deal with being screwed over when you at least have a theory that explains it.

It wasn’t like the task force was doomed to suffer casualties like the Marines who took the real Iwo Jima. The aerial strikes and naval bombardment were clearing the landing zones of whatever opposition may have existed. Judging from the echoes of calamitous destruction heard from outside the landing craft, the bombardment would also be taking anything foolish enough not to have fled days earlier when the propaganda machine bellowed out over the airwaves exactly what would be happening here today. It’s not usually been considered a sound strategy to deliver your battle plan to potential enemy forces with days to prepare. Given, however, the danger of someone leaking a video of some kid getting obliterated on international media was more concerning than ensuring the safety and survival of the invasion force, the troops were still a bit nervous. There’s a lot of preparation that can be done in only a few days of knowing where the enemy is going. The balance for all this personal risk to the Marines, was the overwhelming onslaught of the American military war machine and her technological prowess.

If this night proceeded according to doctrine, the beach would be extended southward a few hundred yards through a campaign of violent deforestation. This would happen in coordination with crucial defense assets across Venezuela being taken out in a surgical strike campaign courtesy of the United States Air Force. Through the Air Force, no other power on Earth can maintain such elaborate capabilities to end any regime in under six hours. Through the use of weapons systems like the “Hellfire III” missile, the “Avenger” gatling gun, and the MOAB, known through military circles as the “Mother Of All Bombs” and the largest non-nuclear bomb in history, they can raze the headquarters of any government or military office, level fortified installations, decimate enemy units, and affect political change faster than any diplomatic power that exists.

With weapons of such power, few enemy regimes survive the first hours of the fist night into a war.  In the first hours of a war government structures will rest in hollowed out husks. The good soldiers stand and fight to the last. They know this, of course. This is why they use their brave countrymen as distracting fodder to cover the escape of the ranking officers and key leadership, in their attempt to evacuate to safe houses at home across the world. This is war in the modern age. Though often called of a “conflict” or even “event”, it is a war. The semantics don’t really matter to the people who live through it. For example, what the leadership did could quite honestly be considered evacuation, an effort to carry on the good fight, but just as easily, one might also call that fleeing into exile, leaving behind their people to fend for themselves against the mercy of the invaders. It’s only semantics really.

Though, in all honesty, people have managed without government.  When one really examines life, it isn’t even true that anyone needs a government for , for a few days at least. The leaders could have vanished, either of their own clandestine means or those more violent, but the roads would still be roads, and the hospitals don’t just disappear because there has been a change of power. So, as long as people don’t descend into total anarchy and madness from the lack of a despotic ruler, a people without a government isn’t much different than one with a ruler in place. That’s why all you have to do is kill all the bad guys, but leave the lights on so the people can still stream vids on the holonet.

It’s for this reason that something very interesting happened in the history of man beginning in the mid-20th century. Warlords once judged in the ancient tradition by how much destruction they could command, were now measured judged by how much power they withheld, breaking the time honored ritual of bloodshed and atrocity to a mere memory of it’s former horrors.

And this is where war becomes a horrifying marriage of both science and art. “How best to end a threat while keeping a people happy?”

It should be known that the Americans have such weapons as low yield tactical nukes that wouldn’t even place the rest of the city in real danger. This isn’t to say they wouldn’t notice. On the contrary, a building being reduced to a pile of irradiated dust is a horrifying experience for those who witness such a thing. That assumes they can still see afterwards, as most who have seen a nuclear explosion first hand were blinded by the event, leaving nothing but the sight of their city burning the last vestige they would ever see. Relatively speaking, however, the tactical nukes are far and away better than suffering the loss of an entire city, also within the Air Force’s power, but in this era of civilized warfare, such an action would be wholly unspeakable. But why go to all the trouble, the fallout if one prefers, of such awesome demonstrations of force, when all that would be necessary to achieve campaign requirements would be a single puncture in the same building’s exterior wall, leaving the structure a hollow shell? It’s much less traumatic to a people than seeing a blinding flash of light, a small crater in the middle of the Presidential palaces district, and a cloud of radioactive ash.

Surgical precision meant that new weapons could obliterate just a single floor, or even a solitary room, along with all its occupants, all without those who fired them ever leaving their comfortable offices of Air Force Global Strike Command Barksdale, Louisiana… or even disturbing the sleeping baby three floors down.

Assuming the former leaders of a regime lived days and weeks following a diplomatic intervention, again, most of you call this a war, it wouldn’t matter much what they did, as the offices they once worked in would be little more than hollowed out piles of rubble. With no ability to command their forces, it really didn’t matter how many medals and stripes the Venezuelan Army commanders might have. If they couldn’t have access to their strategic communication lines, or for that matter, if all their armored assets and fortified bunkers were destroyed, they couldn’t mount much of a counter-offensive. That was the hope of the Marines, anyway. It’s an art form really, applying just the right amount of overwhelming force while leaving the rest of the population relatively undisturbed by the complete system-wide government change brought about by their brand of force diplomacy. Of course, the Air Force really loses their relevance after that first six hours, if you ask the Marines, so they had better make their time in the spotlight a good show, because it wouldn’t be them that paid for their failures.

That would be Romero and the US Marine Corps. Their way of warfare was less of an artform than other branches. Their art is much more akin to a drunken brawl in a bar where one tries to decipher the pretty pictures painted in the blood spatter across the barroom floor. Much could go wrong when one paints with blood, namely when it might be your own shades providing the pigment. In thinking about the Naval bombardment outside, and the history lessons of “Shock and Awe” tactics during the beginning of wars gone by, Romero fluctuated between anxiety at the sound of the bursting bombs, and a calming reassurance in the knowledge that the bombs meant there would be nothing waiting for him in that particular patch of forest. Perhaps, he dared to dream, this would make for an easy push into the jungles. That was the reason for the bombing, he thought. It should prepare the way for them… should.

Few believed, honestly, that there would be any major resistance. This was true, as much for the Marines with him to the highest echelons of Marine Corps command overseeing this operation from the Pentagon. There was something to be said of doubt, though. Doubt has saved many a young Marine from an untimely and often gruesome fate; doubt of their gear, causing them to recheck it; doubt of their own experience, causing them to train that much more; doubt of their bearings, causing them to check the map one last time. Doubt was a good thing, assuming there was anything you could do to control your fate. In the back of that ACV transport, there was nothing he had left to doubt, other than the long line of life choices, which had brought him there. Anxiety was never very distant from their minds. There were simply too many unknowns on the eve before battle for many to sit idly.

Unfortunately, sitting idly was the only thing Romero could do.

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So one bone I often have to pick is when we see a military story, you get the events from the point of view of the few people who are named characters. The truth that many stories fail to deliver is the massive scope of operations that goes into a conflict like the one of the Next Warrior.
Another bone is the idea that we could lose in an open fight. Here is the gut reality. The United States has such an overwhelming military presence that we can, more or less, guarantee any regime’s destruction within the course of a night. Granted, that is a far different sort of strength than is required to win the war six months later, but in that first six hours, our strength is a thing of terrifying beauty… well, depending on your vantage point.

If you would like to support the creation of The Next Warrior, as well as get access to special bonus features, such as essays about the technology being showcased, author’s notes and commentaries on the story behind the story, as well as bonus artwork, become a patron of Jon Davis by following this link. Support the Next Warrior.

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Disembarkation – Part 1

LCpl Nathaniel Romero entered Venezuelan waters on a clear night in the summer of 2026. He along with the rest of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion 2nd Marines, the “Warlords” of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were about to take part in the largest combat operation of a generation. They were part of Task Force Iwo Jima, then deeply underway in what was being called in the political realm, Operation Preserving Purity.

Nathaniel, along with the rest of his expeditionary squad, were aboard an Amphibious Combat Vehicle, ACV. Moonlight danced anxiously on the Caribbean waves outside the Marines’ ACV as it trudged through the sea the night of the late July invasion. They road within for the remainder of their ocean going voyage. The craft carelessly rocked in the gentle waters of the Caribbean en route to the beach. The Marines onboard were set to disembark again soon.

His ride in the bowels of this floating tin can was nearing its midpoint for the three-hour voyage to shore. As the ship rocked back and forth in the water, sprays of ocean splashed into the gunner’s turret and collected in tiny pools flowing across the floor. They charged forward and feigned back with the waves in a constant and ceaseless struggle. Boiling away by the heat of the cab, they filled the tiny vessel with the hot, humid scent of salty seawater.

In his gut, Nathaniel felt a sinking feeling. He never enjoyed the hauls from ship to shore. The rocking of the boat with the ocean, the cramped casings with gear stacked all around him rattling about. Then there was the steady roar of the engines and the metal creaking. The sounds of the seaborne landing craft had the effect of sending Romero into a state of nausea combined with a cold panic. It wasn’t seasickness, though. The open water didn’t bother him, especially not when he had a few pills with the very specific purpose of combatting the rhythmic gyrations of the open ocean. Get him above deck and he may as well have been on dry land. This was a form of anxiety he felt only when in the cramped confines of the floating steel coffins.

It was probably the sound of the metal creaking that almost did him in. They told him it was just hot metal contracting and expanding when exposed to the chill of the water. They said that the vessel was designed to do it, and that it was completely normal. That explanation did nothing to ease his fears that, at any moment, the hull would crack open and the cabin would suddenly flood with salty seawater, pulling them all down until they reached the ocean bottom to be eaten by crabs and other scavengers of the deep. The thought wavered in and out of his mind, that the whole lot of them would succumb to a watery grave without ever reaching the shoreline. Thoughts like that made him almost look forward to the battle outside waiting for him on the beach.

This time, though, was different. He wasn’t feeling the same anxiety he had during training in similar maneuvers hundreds of times before. He never liked the ACVs, but this guttural feeling wasn’t that phobic reaction he’d had before. It was less a fear of some mechanical failure, his Corporal’s reprimands, or the fury of his Gunny in the event of a failed exercise. He was contemplating the battle in which he was about to take part; the war which had just begun only hours earlier.

Distantly, Romero could hear the sounds of war. Outside the tiny vessel, missiles launched from the ships, by then very far behind them. Their naval counterparts fired the big guns, and from their bowels heavy shells bombarded against the shoreline, resonating out across the water. From time to time, the roar of jet engines passed and then awhile later they would return, perhaps preparing to launch a second time, or perhaps a third by then. Along with innumerable air strikes racking the seascape, the world outside their vessel was an orchestra of mayhem. The symphony rippled out across the waves, reverberating in the tiny hull of the transport carrier.

Beyond the echoing of the war front, were the beaches of the north coast. This is why they had come. The Marines were tasked with creating a beachhead along the central part of the north coast of Venezuela. Following this, they would be moving inland. None of them knew exactly where they would be heading. All they knew was that they would be moving fast, and following information that would be provided en route. Heavy vegetation prevented the use of the Marines’ ACV progressing to give them a quick, if not to mention armored, means of transportation. Aerial reconnaissance also revealed what few serviceable roads in the deep of the jungle remained had been sabotaged with roadside bombs and barbed wire. That would gum up the tracked vehicles and tires of the light armored reconnaissance fleet, to the point that combat engineer crews would be needed to clear them before any combat vehicles could be useful again. Relative to the invasions of the past, this would reduce the American advance to a crawl.

All this came together to mean one thing. Nathanial Romero and the Marines of Task Force Iwo Jima were about to do something no Marines had before them in half a century. They had already disembarked to invade an enemy controlled beach. They would take it before moving toward their main objective several miles away. What was different about this invasion, however, was that they would be making the initial assault through the jungle, under the cover of darkness – and on foot.

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I’m really happy to be putting out my next chapter: Disembarkation.

Here, we pick up with Romero again, but this time we will be focused on him and the rest of the team. War is all around them as they enter the field. The dark jungles of Venezuela await them as the next adventure awaits.

Thanks to everyone who has followed so far and I am super excited to see this next phase of the book take off.


If you would like to support the creation of The Next Warrior, as well as get access to special bonus features, such as essays about the technology being showcased, author’s notes and commentaries on the story behind the story, as well as bonus artwork, become a patron of Jon Davis by following this link. Support the Next Warrior.

Cover Art