14 Spring 1919, 0545 Hours
"All right, Steve, this better be good," Jack Sanlander said as he walked into his friend's office.
"You'll like this, I promise," Steve Brooks replied as he turned to his desk computer. "Have a seat."
Jack flopped down on a couch and yawned as Steve set up a point-to-point connection. The two men had been up late into the night, racking their brains trying to find a vehicle design that would suit the needs of their Hong Kong Crusaders. The Crusaders may have been the stars of the new Coronado Defense Forces, but they had had to make do with hand-me-downs from the Northern Guard for the last cycle. Badger armored personnel carriers would normally be fine for patrols and the occasional antirover action, but the ones the Crusaders had were old and run down, and with the county's budget meeting just two days away Jack and Steve were trying to find a replacement fast.
So when Steve left abruptly before midnight the previous evening, saying he wanted to "check up on something," Jack was only too happy to pack it in and get some sleep. He just wished that Steve could have found his inspiration after the crack of dawn.
"Here we are," Steve said finally as he found what he was looking for and switched from the desktop monitor to a large display on the wall.
Jack rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, looked at the wallscreen and wondered what the big deal was. The display showed what appeared to be old news footage, specifically of an eight-wheeled vehicle, a boxy, angular affair with a turret sporting some sort of cannon. The footage was taken in some desert or another, and the vehicle was festooned with the crew's gear. Jack tried to find something to say, but what he saw seemed totally unremarkable.
Finally, Steve said, "So, what do you think?"
Jack just shrugged. "Well, what is it?"
"It's called a Piranha. It was designed mainly as a recon vehicle and a light APC, but it was adapted to several roles," Steve said as he called up a schematic. "The chassis was very basic, so with slight modifications and different turrets, you could use them for fire support, air defense, command and control, recovery, all kinds of jobs."
Jack looked at the schematic with interest. Such an adaptable vehicle would be ideal for what they wanted for the Crusaders ... but what was that at the back of the vehicle? "Is that a propeller?"
"Yeah," replied Steve, "these were amphibious, too."
Jack snorted and said, "Who the hell would make an amphibious vehicle on Terra Nova?"
Steve hesitated before admitting, "Well, um, these weren't from Terra Nova."
Jack looked at him. "Come again?"
"This is an old Earth design."
"Hey," Steve chided, "keep your voice down, people are trying to sleep."
Jack looked at his friend incredulously. "You called me out of bed, after being up until after 3500 hours, to propose going before the County Council - most of whom have had bad experiences with anything with the word 'Earth' attached, I might add - and recommend that we somehow obtain armored vehicles from the very people we fought against just two cycles ago?"
"This isn't a CEF vehicle," Steve said. "This is an old Earth design."
With suspicion, Jack asked. "How old?"
Steve checked the date on the file. "According to this, this news footage was taken in 2002 in Earth's calendar, in some place called Afghanistan."
Jack added it up in his head. "This is six thousand cycles old?"
"More or less," Steve shrugged.
"Have you lost your mind?" Jack said incredulously. "What else were you thinking of, Roman war chariots?"
"Would you listen for a minute, please?" Steve said, then added "Sir?" when Jack shot him a look.
Jack started to say something, but changed his mind and motioned for Steve to continue.
"Look, I know this is off the wall, but listen to me for a second. First, yes, this thing is an artifact, but technologically there's not a lot of difference between this and what we use here today. Secondly, we've got someone to build them for us. The guys over at Banzaidyne are chomping at the bit for a chance to break into the Badlands arms market, so I know we can talk them into a good contract for these. But you know what I like the most about this?"
"These things will be ours," Steve continued. "Not Northern Guard war surplus, not the same Paxton Arms stuff that anybody can get if their credit's good - but our very own. We can get what we need, and not have to make do with somebody else's junk." Steve sat back in his chair and smiled. "Besides, we wouldn't have to wait three weeks for spare parts from the Guard Quartermaster Corps." Steve smiled. "C'mon, what have we got to lose?"
Jack thought for a moment, and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I'm all out of ideas myself ... and as nuts as this is, it would still be better than using those damn Badgers for another cycle. What was the readiness report of First Company yesterday, 25 percent?" He shook his head. "You're certain about this?"
"Absolutely," Steve replied. "This is goofy, but it will work."
Try as he might, Jack just couldn't think of anything better. "Okay. Can you get a proposal ready in time for the meeting?"
Steve said, "Sure. I'll also call the guys at Banzaidyne and see if they can put a preliminary bid together."
Jack nodded, and turned his attention back to the wallscreen. "Where did you find this, anyway?"
"I told you that I wrote my master's thesis on warfare in Earth's Information Age, didn't I?"
"Well, I found this while I was doing my research. The Piranha was used in some of the major wars of the period. This footage was shot during something called the 'War on Terror' in the early 21st century."
Jack looked at the point-to-point address on the wallscreen and asked, "Where's this at, Fort William?"
"Fort James," Steve said. "It's an historical archive at the Northern Guard War College."
"What else is on here?" Jack asked as he sat up.
"Quite a lot. I was surprised," Steve answered as he called up other files. Images of other armored vehicles from centuries ago and light years away appeared on the wallscreen, dating from Earth's Second World War to the Azanian Wars of the 2190's. Steve also searched though entries in the database where he had found the Piranha, and one of these caught Jack's attention. "Hold it, hold it, wait a second. What is that?"
Steve smiled as he suppressed the other files and expanded the one Jack was looking at to fill the wallscreen. "Ugly beast, isn't it? It's called an Abrams."
Jack looked longingly at the image of the large, brutish tank on the wallscreen. "Damn. You know what I would give for some real armor?"
"Yeah, it would be nice," Steve said, then chuckled. "Hey, maybe we can recommend building these things at the budget meeting too."
Jack chuckled. "Now, let's not get irrational...."