Authors: Jonathan P. Brazee
Ryck snuck another glance a Major Laurent standing across from him. The legionnaire barely fit inside the Stork, the top of his combat suit grazing the bird’s overhead. It was not without a twinge of envy that he took in the legionnaire in his
, the Legion’s version of the Marine PICS. Ryck was proud of being a Marine, but still, every comparison between the two combat suits seemed to favor the
Rigaudeau-3s as the better piece of gear.
have been a better piece of gear, but it did not marry well with a feet-in-the-wind Stork. Normally, when deploying in a PICS, Marines were lifted by an MV63-C, the Stork variant without a cargo bay. The PICS were slotted into cradle hoists which could quickly get two squads of PICS Marines onto the ground and into the fight. However, the Legion suit didn’t have the coupling, so in order to accommodate Major Laurent, they were in an MV63-D, the latest model of the “normal” Stork. The web seats on which a Marine would normally sit were neither big enough nor strong enough for combat suits, so the seats were folded up and the pax
were all standing. With only the exit ramp as an egress, it would be more difficult and time-consuming to get the one embarked squad of Marines offloaded
and the Delta on its way.
“What do you think of our friend, there
?” SSgt Hecs asked him over the direct comms.
“I don’t know.
He seems OK, but his rank is screwing with me. ‘Major Laurent,’ but he’s really an SNCO, a sergeant major?” Ryck answered back.
“Yeah, and they call their gunnies ‘
.’ I don’t mean that. I mean how are you with this guy following us, watching what we do?”
“I’m not copacetic with it, Staff Sergeant, to be honest. I still don’t know why all of these observers, all of a sudden. At least we don’t have the
capitaine, like Sams and the lieutenant have with them. You said you were going to keep him off my ass, anyway,” Ryck told his platoon sergeant.
As relations deteriorated between Greater France and the Federation, there had been a flurry of ini
tiatives between the Marines and the Legion, fully supported by the brass. Ryck wasn’t sure how the brass expected these initiatives to improve anything. The civilian politicians were going to do what they were going to do no matter what their military arms thought.
Not everyone was on board with the increased interaction, though. A plainclothes member of the Navy Office of Information, accompanied by the battalion S2 officer, had briefed the Marines prior to embarkation. The Legion observers were to be treated with respect, but care was to be taken with regards to technical information or other operations. It was pretty obvious that the Marines were supposed to keep their mouths shut while around the observers.
Still, despite the fact that he wished the legionnaire was not with them, that Legion R-3 was one sexy piece of gear. A good head taller than a PICS, it had highly advanced stealth capabilities which rendered it virtually invisible to most sensors, at least until is started firing its weapons. It supposedly used a different cooling system that didn’t have to be changed out like the Marine’s coldpacks. The armor, too, was supposedly better, especially against energy weapons. It was more effective and somehow more flexible at the same time. Ryck had spent a number of months in the battalion armory while a genhen, and he would have loved to get into the guts of a Legion suit and see what made it tick.
Enough of the Rfucking-3
, he thought.
Eye on the prize!
In this case, the “prize” was a command base for the Soldiers of God.
BHP Billiton, the huge resource conglomerate, owned B-19. There were three major mines in operation, although exactly what they were extracting was a trade secret. The planet had never been terraformed, but it had plant life and an atmosphere, albeit one that could not support human life for long. Trace gasses would have a person coughing out his lungs within an hour after exposure.
About three months ago, the planet managing director informed their lone Federation liaison that they’d had odd fluctuations in their survey readings. He was suspicious that there could be poachers mining the other side of
the planet. The Ministry of Resources looked into it before quickly turning it over to the Navy. Something was there, and it wasn’t illegal mining.
A Navy Information Analysis Team, the NIS super spooks made up of ex-SEALS and techno wizards, was sent it. Within weeks, they had located the shielded station and confirmed it was SOG.
The location made sense for the criminal gang. The planet was very lightly populated and all on the other side of the globe. There was no military presence. If the MD hadn’t decided to send out survey drones to see what could have been missed during the initial assessment, they could have remained undetected for years.
Ryck had a history with SOG, and
when his platoon had taken down the
, an SOG-held hostage ship, Ryck’s experience with them cost him over a year in regen. At least, the official report was that it was SOG. Most of the Marines involved thought it hadn’t really been SOG but a copycat. Too many things didn’t add up. But as the official version was that it was Soldiers of God, no one was going to go public and say anything different.
SOG was a criminal organization, nothing less. They acted under the
guise of religious righteousness, but they were simply in it for the money, seeding their path with unspeakable acts of terror. Every government known to man had proclaimed them pariah, not covered by treaties of human rights. The Federation, acting hand-in-hand with the Brotherhood,
had thought it had cut off the head of the organization, but instead, many new heads had sprung up, far more decentralized. Wherever one of those heads showed up, it was immediately stomped.
This time, it was Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, with the
, that would be doing the stomping.
Golf Company was the lead element, each platoon going in heavy. Echo was setting a perimeter,
Weapons was in support, and Fox, going light, but with breathing gear, was in reserve, waiting to exploit success or move in if the complex was too tight for PICS. The attached Frog Team, with their Ratcatcher missiles, was deploying to knock down any escaping craft. The
, in geosynchronous orbit above the target, with its array of weapons and Experion fighters, was more than capable of taking out a SOG ship, but if they were going to be in a fight in the first place, the Marines wanted credit, either with the Ratcatchers or their Wasp attack craft.
Ryck checked the readouts of each of his Marines
, checking biostats and power levels. The upgraded command information system gave him ammo counts as well and would calculate rates of fire and depletion. It was a good add, but it was just one more thing to monitor. As a sergeant, Ryck was beginning to think he was getting to be more of a resource manager than a fighting Marine.
At five minutes out, he toggled the countdown warning. He could have passed it on over the comms, but they didn’t need to continually hear his voice. A simple data message would suffice.
Like it or not, Ryck was feeling a bit nervous, and he couldn’t let his Marines know that. Whether that had been SOG or a copycat on the
, memories of the misery that was regen kept creeping back into his mind. He looked at his rising pulse rate and tried to will it down. If SSgt Hecs or the lieutenant looked at their readouts, they would see his stress levels rising.
Get a hold of yourself. This isn’t your first time to the party!
he told himself.
He knew he just had to focus on the mission. Second Squad, with the EOD
team and heavy weapons team, was in a Charlie Stork, so they would be first in the zone, getting out and deployed within 15 or 20 seconds. The two Deltas, carrying First and Third, would flare in right after. Marines in PICS could actually damage a Stork if they weren’t careful, so they couldn’t bumrush out the back. They had rehearsed deplaning back on Alexander, like the riffle of a pack of cards shuffle in reverse, Ryck imagined it, the port aft Marine followed by the starboard aft Marine, followed by the next port Marine, and so on. It would take at least a minute to deplane. That was when they would be the most vulnerable.
There were three eyes on the target as they approached. The
had her planetary sensors, battalion had a butterfly drone, and there was a recon team out there, all streaming in data. With the naked eye, their target looked like a rock face to a hill. Under different spectrums, seeds to which Ryck could switch, he could tell there was something off with it. There were odd lines visible on the display, and the rock’s ambient temperature was slightly different from the rest of the rocks. The SOG had made a pretty elaborate and extensive effort, and it might confuse a casual sensor, but not the Federation’s best equipment. It was SOG’s bad luck that the original BHP Billiton drone was designed for deep ground analysis and not surface observation. Good luck to the Federation, though.
-light turned amber, indicating one minute. A matching amber icon flashed in their helmet face shields. Ryck shifted to look out the back to where the ramp was already lowering. When in skins and bones, Marines could start out a Stork before the ramp was fully lowered: with them in PICS, this wouldn’t be possible. The Stork crew was going to be over the LZ much longer than normal as it was, so they were already lowering the ramp. There was no intel on anti-air, but with the ramp lowered, the Stork’s stealth capabilities would be far less effective, and if spotted, their shielding wouldn’t be as strong, either.
As if to emphasize that vulnerability
, a flash of light from the outside illuminated the cabin of the Stork. Ryck felt his heart drop as he tried to see out the back.
re was a surge of chatter on the comms. Ryck didn’t have ears on higher headquarters circuits, but he could hear the platoon circuit. A missile, probably part of an automated defense system, had been launched at the other Stork carrying the lieutenant and Sams’ squad just as they lowered their ramp. Luckily, it never hit the Stork. One of the
monitors, parked at the edge of space over the target, and taken the missile out with its ARG, the Atmospheric Rail Gun. A split second later, the jacketed round delivered its kilojoule pulse to the missile’s launch site.
Atmosphere dissipation was the bane of space-based energy weapons, requiring huge amounts of power to get that energy focuse
d on the target on the ground. The ARG got around that by using railgun technology to send shells at amazingly high speeds through the atmosphere, each shell, a self-contained pulse generator. The jacket of the round would slough off at the target, and the pulse would initiate, focused at the target, and taking it out. A kilojoule was not as effective against hardened targets, but it should have been enough to put the launcher out of action.
Ryck hoped, at least.
Lieutenant Nidishchii’ passed that one of the Wasps was coming in for a strike at the launch site, but Ryck knew the monitor’s crew back on the
would be watching the site closely, and at the first sign of electronic stirring from enemy weapons systems, would hit them with something a little more effective.
Worse than the scare
of the missile attack was the fact that if they ever did have the element of surprise, it was gone now. Whoever was in the hidden complex had to know that they’d been discovered.
The Storks had continued their approach while the incoming missile had been destroyed. The first Stork, carrying Second Squad and the Weapons team, had already reached the LZ and was
lifting back out of the LZ. Ryck’s Stork flew in fast, flaring at the last moment, its ramp slamming a little harder than normal.
Cpl Mendoza’s team started the deliberate shuffle to get out of the bird
. Ryck wanted to scream out to hurry, but that was just his nerves wanting to get out of the bird and to where he had more control of his situation. Peretti led, then Khouri, Mendoza, and Stillwell. Ryck was next, and he followed Stillwell out, ducking down as well as he could to make sure the helmet of his PICS didn’t hit the top of the Stork’s cabin at the lead edge of the ramp. He hoped his pet legionnaire wouldn’t have an issue with The R-3’s added height.
As soon as Ryck’s feet hit the ground,
he pushed forward, running a good 15 quick meters before turning to make sure everyone else debarked OK. Major Laurent was only a step or two behind him, and Ryck’s abrupt stop and turn obviously took him by surprise. He nimbly dodged to his left and scooted past Ryck.
“Scooted” seemed like an odd term to Ryck to describe someone in a combat suit, but that is what it seemed to him. The legionnaire was remarkably nimble in his R-3. While the armor on an R-3 was termed “flexible” by many, it wasn’t as if it was just a shirt and trou. However, there was som
e give to it, and the globe joints, which were small hardened spheres actually imbedded into the armor skin, offered a far more realistic range of motion than the PICS GT joints. If Ryck ignored the size and shape of the R-3, just from the movement, Ryck could almost imagine that the legionnaire was not in a combat suit at all as naturally as he was moving.