Authors: Jonathan P. Brazee
le stopped the drilling and deployed the laser. He had the DSD fire it where it had been drilling. Ryck remembered from his classes that the laser was not intended to penetrate but merely ablate off some of the surface so the robot’s spectrometer could get an analysis.
Kyle shut down his DSD
, and a moment later passed to Capt Davis on the command net “G6, these are some extremely hardened doors. They look to be a LTC variant and are around 3 meters thick. I don’t have anything in my bag of tricks to breach this. We can look to bypass the doors and go through the rock face itself, but there’s no telling yet how much rock we’ll have to blast through. Waiting further instructions, over.”
There was a moment of silence, assuredly as the company and maybe battalion leadership discussed what Frank had told them.
The nets crackled with Capt Davis’ voice, “Give me a degree of assuredness on that. What’s the chance that you can breach the doors.”
“Uh, I’d say about zero to no chance. These things are massive. If you want me to blow our way in, we need to find a better spot to do it,” the EOD sergeant replied.
“Roger that. I understand. Wait one, out,” the company commander passed.
Only Ryck was able to access the command circuit, and he knew his Marines would wonder what was going on, so he passed, “There seems to be a problem. The doors at the entrance might be too big for the
boomboom team. So we’re waiting for further word now.”
“Shit, stand by to stand by. Typical shit,” Lips said.
Lips had been a corporal selected to sergeant when he’d been busted back down to E3 for taking a swing at an MP while drunk. He might have been Ryck’s most capable Marine, but he did tend to exhibit a degree of cynicism. Ryck didn’t know if he blamed him for his cynicism, given his history. And this time, Ryck agreed with Lips’ sentiment.
SOG knew they were there. Delaying the assault just gave them more time to prepare whatever they had planned for the Marines. Sgt Kyle and his team couldn’t get in, but there were other resources available to them.
“Sergeant L,” PFC Stillwell asked on the P2P, “Is Yancy really going to be OK?”
Ryck realized that Stillwell had never seen a Marine
WIA’d. Most of his squad had never seen combat. Their operation on Soreau wasn’t combat, and it hadn’t prepared them for their first taste of fighting. They still hadn’t fired their weapons in anger, and to see one of their own taken down was a gut-check.
Stillwell and Sullivan were also buddies, he knew. They’d gone through boot together, been assigned to Fox together,
then transferred over to Golf together.
“He’s barely hurt. Two months in regen, and he’ll be back good as new, Jeb,” he told the PFC.
“Is it going to hurt? Regen, I mean. I mean, you’ve been there, and they say it hurts,” Stillwell went on.
“It fucking sucks, to be honest. The itch is the worse ‘
cause you can’t scratch it. And the Navy docs can’t give you anything for it. They say that can affect the healing. But Yancy’s a tough mother. He’ll handle it just fine.”
Ryck was about to
continue in that vein when the command circuit came alive.
hands, get your men turned around and move back to your platoon rally points. The Navy’s going to drop a GD-1905,” Capt Davis passed. “The ship’s monitor is getting into position for the correct drop aspect. We’ve got four minutes, I repeat four minutes, before the drop.”
Ryck looked at his display. The captain had lied. His display already read 3:47.
“I want to see heels and asses, now!” the skipper ordered.
Ryck didn’t wait for the lieutenant to pass it down.
“We’ve got a Tungsicle coming, in 3:42 and counting. Everybody, form up now! Squad V, and move it back to Rally Point Isaacs. The captain wants heels and asses!”
The Gravity Dropped-190
5, the “Tungsicle,” was a simple four-meter long column of crystallized ceramic-covered tungsten. One end was pointed, the other flat. At 80 centimeters wide, it was a hefty 155,000 kg of unstoppable penetration power. It was too big for the monitor’s main railgun, so a modified railgun with far less power was mounted on the exterior of the monitor to get the weapon moving. It left the monitor at “only” 2000 mps. Ryck didn’t know the correct calculations for how fast it would be moving when it hit
based on BHP Billiton B-19’s 1.2 G gravity well and 90% atmospheric density, but with a heavy sectional density and a low ballistic coefficient, it should still be at over 1,000 mps upon impact.
That impact would be huge, in the
giga-joule range. The crystallized ceramic coating not only kept the Tungsicle from burning up in the atmosphere as it fell, it also helped internalize the KE upon impact. The weapon was designed to penetrate into a target, not expend all that energy in a surface blast. However, that much energy could not be completely contained. There was going to be a pretty big bang when it hit, the equivalent to maybe 15 tons of TNT.
Navy gunners had the motto
, or “I, who am speed, eradicate.” The Tungsicle put fact to that motto.
The Marines were in full, if controlled flight. Ryck was proud to see that their formation was holding well, and that they were in line with the other squads. Rally Point
Isaac was the platoon rally point, some 1550 meters away from the target and back towards the LZ, just past a flat-topped rocky outcropping. The original rally point was to the side of the hill, but as he watched his display, it was shifted to the back of the hill.
The lieutenant’s on the ball
, Ryck thought approvingly.
The hill would give added protection to the Marines.
On open terrain and at a flat out run, a Marine in a PICS could cover that much ground in a little mover a minute and a half. Over unknown terrain, Ryck thought two and a half minutes was more reasonable. That would give them a minute to take whatever cover they could get.
“Khouri, keep up,” he sent on a P2P, almost automatically.
Part of his mind was focused on running, on picking the right path. Another part of his mind, the analytical part, watched the 11 blue icons that represented his men. Watching the display could tend to reduce them to pieces of a game. They were not electrons, though. They were his men, his Marines, and he was responsible for them.
His display read 1:03 when they reached the rally point. Ryck knew he had the far sector
of their position, but his display helpfully highlighted just where his squad was supposed to be. His Marines fanned out, achieving good dispersion.
“Everyone, down on the deck,” he told them.
Ryck activated the gyro shutdown, then had to wait the five seconds before he could actually kneel first, then fall forward onto his face. His display looked brighter with the dark dirt as a background.
he was almost prone, he caught sight of his pet legionnaire. Major Laurent was kneeling, not lying flat on his face. Ryck wondered if that was by choice or if his R-3 could not switch off the aspect control of his combat suit. That was food for thought.
Flat on the deck,
Ryck contemplated sending off one of his two dragonflies. He wanted to watch the target. He’d seen vids of the Tungsicle, even of the larger ship-based Doric, but he’d never witnessed the real thing. As if reading his mind, the lieutenant slaved the recon team’s eyes to the entire platoon.
“The second it hits, we are up and moving,” Lt.
Nidishchii’ passed on the platoon circuit. “Treat the impact the same as if EOD had blown the doors. Everything else remains the same as planned.”
There was a short pause,
then the lieutenant came back on the circuit with, “SSgt
Phantawisangtong has reminded me that there could be significant debris flying through the air. I will coordinate with the rest, but keep your heads down and don’t move until given the order.”
Ryck watched the display
count down: . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . .
There was a brilliant flash th
at temporarily burned out the recon team’s feed and lit the sky above the platoon. Ryck was face down, but the light made it to his face shield.
A moment later, the shock wave
travelling through the ground hit beneath him, lifting him up 10 or 15 centimeters. Still another few moments later, the atmospheric shock wave rolled over them.
“Keep down,” Ryck reminded his squad.
The feed from recon stabilized. It showed the rock camouflage over the doors in rubble, the heavy metal of the doors revealing their size. A huge hole had been torn into the left side, leaving it twisted and glowing orange. Surprisingly, the right side was still up, even if canted outwards. Dust and smoke poured up into the sky while heavy pieces of debris fell between the recon team’s eyes and the target.
whump sounded behind Ryck as something fell from above. There was a small patter of tiny bits of debris, but only that one piece that had made the whump was heavy enough to have posed any danger.
Ryck’s action icon on his display flashed green.
“Up and at ‘em,” he passed to his men as he got up, reactivating his gyro stabilization system.
The overall plan had been loaded into their AIs
. These worked well as an initial plan, but the AIs had only limited capability to make corrections with regards to the rest of the force as the assault progressed. This broke down the initial plan during the fog of war and the Marines had to rely on their training and ability to react to events.
Ryck didn’t need his display, though, to show him where to go. The dark column of smoke ahead of his was a beacon. This was the squad’s third time over the exact same ground, so they were able to cover it quickly.
It was important to reach and enter the complex as soon as possible. Intel thought the initial chamber would be a warehouse or receiving station. At least two cloaked shuttles had arrived while the target had been under direct observation, and some large pieces of equipment as well as pallets of supplies had been offloaded and muled through the doors and into the complex. Anyone directly inside the doors would probably have been killed when the Tungsicle hit, but there were tunnels and other areas that had been identified, and any SOG deeper inside the facility could have survived. If the enemy was making their way to the first chamber, it would be better for the Marines if they beat the SOG there.
Ryck monitored his squad’s progress as each Marine got their PICS up to speed. The squad was moving in good order, each one keeping the proper dispersion. He felt a surge of pride. These were good men.
Ryck’s squad was designated to enter the complex first. As they approached, Ryck activated one of his dragonflies, sending the small drone up and zooming it through the smoldering doors. He’d already programmed it to scout out the entire interior, and his AI took over control of the drone. Ryck could manually take control, but the AI was pretty good at this function, leaving Ryck with one less thing on his plate.
It took a lot of training to multitask
in a PICS. Ryck had to move forward in a tactical method, monitor his squad, and observe what his dragonfly revealed. Watching the dragonfly’s feed while reacting to what was in front of him as he moved was the most difficult part. It was as if his two eyes were looking in different directions at the same time.
Tungsicle had blown through the big doors before penetrating the ferrocrete floor of the warehouse, a four or five meter hole its signature. Despite the crystallized ceramic coating, this had released a huge amount of energy, and the entire deck of the warehouse had cracked and buckled. What looked to be a complete Viceroy-class fighter had been destroyed, as well as a number of ground vehicles. The warehouse had been full of supplies and equipment. Now it was full of junk.
Ryck wasn’t seeing a real visual. There was too much dust and smoke inside. But the AI was taking the visual, the infrared, and the radar image from the dragonfly
and compiling it into one view that made sense.
There was only one signature of a human body. At least it was half of a body. There could be more hidden in the rubble, but that was the only one evident from the scan.
The lieutenant was watching the same feed, so Ryck didn’t have to report it up. Ryck tended to rely on speech too much, and it sometimes was difficult for him to step back and let the displays do their job. In many cases, a quick glance at the display could tell someone what they needed to know when trying to explain it would take four or five times as long.
Still, he couldn’t resist the simple “Go” he passed to Cpl Rey to move into the complex.
Cpl Rey’s team skirted the glowing edges of the destroyed portion of the door and disappeared into the warehouse. The AI noted the movement and focused the dragonfly on the team as they entered. Now, Ryck’s face shield had Rey’s visuals, the dragonfly’s compiled display, and the actual visuals of what was in front of him. It took a lot of focus to keep things straight in his mind.
Rey signaled the all clear, and Ryck and the rest of the squad followed inside.
He closed Rey’s feed and reduced the dragonfly’s to a small screen on the upper right side of his face shield. This was better.