Authors: Jonathan P. Brazee
Intel had been right. This was a warehouse, a monster one. To Ryck, it looked like the preparation for a major offensive, not
just the typical ship pirating for which the gang was known. This looked similar in scale to when a Marine battalion was getting ready to deploy.
Third Squad pushed to the back of the warehouse, making room for the rest of the platoon as well as First Platoon to enter.
“I’ve got the main passage here,” Cpl Beady passed.
Ryck moved to meet him. He and Lips were standing in front of a large passage,
five meters wide and three high. Down the middle was the shiny surface of a magnostrip,
a sure sign that supplies were floated along it to other parts of the complex.
Ryck did a quick re-program, and the dragonfly zipped past the three Marines to enter the passage. Ryck followed the feeds as the drone flew in about 30 meters before encountering blast doors. The shock of the
Tungsicle had bucked the deck even this far back, but the doors appeared to be solid.
Ryck could see that the lieutenant was no longer on the feed, so he brought him up on a P2P.
“Sir, we’ve got a major passage out, but it’s got a blast door barring our way. I’ve got my dragonfly on it now.”
The small dark blue light that flashed on let Ryck
know the lieutenant had slaved onto his dragonfly’s feed.
“Hold your position. I’m sending Sgt Kyle in now,” he passed after a few moments.
Sgt Kyle and his team arrived. Ryck switched over control of his dragonfly to Frank and let him fly it across the face of the door. The EOD sergeant gave the drone back, then took the DSD off its harness on his back, and sent it forward.
“Just checking for little surprises,” The EOD sergeant told Ryck.
They hadn’t sensed the mine or whatever that had taken Sullivan out, so Ryck was not totally confident that the DSD could sniff out any other booby traps.
As soon as the DSD h
it the door, instead of having the robot analyze it, Kyle moved his team forward. Ryck motioned Cpl Beady to move his team forward for security as well.
SSgt Hecs came up alongside of Ryck and asked, “What have we got?”
Ryck shrugged the best he could while in a PICS and ran a 10 or 15 seconds of the dragonfly’s previous feed.
“Frank Kyle’s in there with his team. I sent
Beady’s team in, too. I think I’m going to tag along,” Ryck told his platoon sergeant.
“Lead on, then,” SSgt Hecs said.
Both Marines walked down the passage. The overhead was low for a PICS, so low that Ryck could have jumped up and hit the top of his PICS on it. But it was plenty wide enough for two PICS Marines to walk in side-by-side.
corner of the door, Frank Kyle and Cpl Zhou, one of his team members, were gesturing along its breadth, obviously in deep conversation. They quickly seem to come to a course of action. The three Marines, in their PICS-Es, brought out their jack-off hands. Like corpsmen, sometimes EOD Marines needed more dexterity and control than offered by the normal arms and hands of a PICS. When that happened, they could open their PICS’ arms, then slide their real arms out the bottom, protected by a much thinner PICS “skin.” The jack-off arms provided nothing other than atmospheric protection, but they Marines could use their real arms almost as if they were in a regular uniform. Ryck always thought that they looked like insects molting when they used the jack-off arms.
The three EOD Marines began placing their shape
d charge limpets in a pattern. It took less than a minute to get all six charges placed. A small red light on each limpet indicated that they were ready for detonation.
“Gentlemen, I suggest we move back out of here,” Kyle said matter-of-factly.
The Marines moved to the warehouse proper, stepping to the side of the passage as they reached it. Kyle reported back to the lieutenant that they were ready to blow the door.
“You holding up, Ryck?” SSgt Hecs asked him on the P2P.
“I’m fine. I might be a bit stiff tomorrow, but no problem now,” he answered.
Nidishchii’ and Capt Davis lumbered up to them. The captain took Kyle’s report, then had a P2P discussion with the lieutenant, after which, the platoon commander brought up the three squad leaders, Sgt Kyle, and SSgt Hecs on the command circuit.
“We think there’s another staging area on the other side of that door. We know there’s at least 20 SOG here, maybe more. We’ve seen only one body. That leaves no fewer than 19 others, and we know they don’t meekly surrender. We’ve got to anticipate that at some point, they are going to fight. Capt Davis thinks the staging area might give them cover to put up a defensive position, and I agree.
We’ve got to get in and hit them hard, but this passage is a choke point. They can Horatio at the Bridge it and make it tough for us. What we’re going to do is at the moment the door comes down . . . “ he paused. “You’ve got that covered, right Sergeant Kyle?”
abso-fucking-lutely guarantee it, Lieutenant,” Kyle responded.
“OK. Then, as I was saying, the second the door comes down, Weapons is going to pulse and HE down the passage. Third, you’re still the tip of the spear. I want you moving right on the ass of the HE rounds. Sgt Samu
elson, you’re on Sergeant Lysander’s ass, and Sergeant Paul, you’re next. I’m moving with Third Squad, SSgt
will be with First. I’m loading a movement plan on where to go once we hit the room, but as always, use your judgment.
“This will be a very confined area, so watch your displays. I want no friendly fire casualties. Got it?
The five Marines all acknowledged their orders,
then split to bring their Marines up to speed. As Ryck was briefing his squad, two teams from Weapons came up with their heavy guns. Ryck raised a hand in a half salute to Sergeant Xander Kubasaki, the heavy guns section leader, who was a friend of his.
team set up two weapons just inside the start of the passage. The M232 was a small, multipurpose artillery piece. It fired a 70 mm shell and could be adjusted for mortar, artillery or direct fire. The P-996B was a self-contained pulse weapon. The gun itself was smaller than the M232, but with the powerpack attached, the system was bigger. It fired a two-joule EMP charge.
With the players in place,
the lieutenant signaled Kyle to detonate he charge. Kyle took out his Marine Corps-issue Samsung PA. This being the Corps, the PA was rather obsolete, and Ryck always thought it was funny when EOD initiated huge amounts of destruction and mayhem with a 30-year-old telephone. They might as well bring back semaphore to send messages, or light smoke signals.
With a simple press of this thumb, Sgt Kyle set off the charges. There was a flash as the shape
d charges, programmed for cutting, detonated. The explosion that reached the waiting Marines was subdued. Kyle was not trying to destroy the door, merely get it open.
Ryck had recovered his dragonfly to his sleeve, where it was recharging in case it was needed again. But the weapon’s team had deployed another, and Ryck was slaved to it. For a moment, it looked as if Kyle had miscalculated. Then the door began to lean before falling back in a cloud of dust.
Immediately, the M232 opened up with two rounds. Those rounds impacted on the wall another 15 or 20 meters beyond the now flat door. A simple curve in the passage had defeated a modern piece of artillery. From his schoolwork, Ryck knew that even castle-makers in medieval times understood this defense and built ogees like this, as they were termed, to slow down attacks.
The P-996B had better luck. The pulse charge took off in a flash of blue, hit the far wall, and bounced past. Whether it reached the
far compartment or not, Ryck didn’t know. Whether it did or didn’t, though, the assault was on.
Ryck followed right on
Keiji’s ass, two steps back and up against the left-had wall. That made five Marines forming an interlocking front as they rushed down the passage. The weapons team’s dragonfly preceded them, and Ryck tried to glance at its feed, but the Marines were already in assault mode. They passed the door, stepping on it as they ran. Moments later, they rounded the curve in the passage—and were immediately taken under fire.
relied on its armor to protect the Marine inside, and that armor was pretty effective against kinetic weapons up to a certain size and velocity. For energy weapons, the armor helped deflect the waves, but the Marines relied on small, portable shields that both repelled and absorbed the energy thrown at them.
Ryck’s shield took on the blue glow
which indicated it was activated by incoming fire. With the dried blood still on his face shield, the light blue glow took on a darker more sinister tone.
’s display flashed with the warning, and the intake gauge began to rise. Whatever was being fired at them was pretty powerful, and he could see the numbers flash as he approached critical. If he redlined, he was done for. The suit, at best, would shut down. At worse, the situation would go critical with potentially fatal consequences. At the rate at which the gauge was climbing, that point could come as soon as ten seconds.
loose a string of his 8mm high-velocity darts. He wanted to send in this shoulder rockets as well, but with Keiji bobbing just in front of him, it was too risky. Keiji let loose with his rockets, though, four salvos of three each, one after the other. Then he let loose with his 20mm cannon. He had a full combat load of 104 shells, and he looked bound and determined to expend them all by the time they closed with the enemy.
The little dragonfly had been knocked out of action at the first pulse fired. Ryck’s AI tried to make sense of just where their targets were, but huge amount of energy flying around the confined area, the sensors were struggling to gather any meaningful data.
It didn’t matter. Ahead of him, behind a barricade of some sort, the faint green flashes of pulses being fired at the Marines pinpointed their adversary. The green flash was indicative of a Confederation
weapon system, something Ryck noted despite the urgency of their situation.
Ryck shifted his darts to the green flashes. At immense speeds, the darts could actually penetrate armor given lucky circumstances. They could also mess up the circuits of EMP weapons if they hit right.
Ryck was almost redlined. They had to get out of the kill zone, but the only way out was forward.
His exterior sensors failed, burnt out. Those gave him atmospheric readings, so they wouldn’t stop him from fighting, but the rest of his sensors couldn’t be far behind.
“You mother grubbing toad suckers!” he shouted as he pushed to the end of the passage and his system alarm went to a single, ominous tone. He was in the red, past the manufacturer’s tolerances.
To this right, another salvo of rockets went off while
Keiji kept pumping 20 mike mike grenades. Explosions filled the 30 x 30 meter room, and suddenly, the incoming blasts of energy stopped. What had taken the weapon out, Ryck didn’t know nor care at the moment. He was still redlined—how far into the red, he didn’t know. It was beyond the gauge’s ability to measure it.
He rushed with the
other four Marines to where the incoming had originated. Two shattered, armored bodies, hung down over the barricade they had been using while firing the pulse cannon, which was now canted upwards. Another man was still alive. He was getting to his feet and unlimbering, amazingly enough, a honest-to-goodness sword. Technically, a mono-molecular edged blade could do damage to even a Marine in a PICS, but with five PICS Marines bearing down on him, he had no chance. Whether he died as a result of the 8mm darts fired into his chest or when Lips simply ran him over, Ryck couldn’t tell. He was definitely, 100% dead, though, Ryck knew that.
The rest of the platoon was there in seconds. Ryck stood there, heart pounding. He didn’t need his readouts to know he was hyperventilating, which was good, as all his readouts had flickered,
then failed. He forced himself to calm down, to center himself.
The lieutenant barely looked at the three dead SOG before going on his
exterior speaker and asking for status checks. That puzzled Ryck for a moment before he realized that his comms were out, too. With First Platoon entering the room, it was getting crowded, but they took up positions while Third took stock of themselves. Without comms and displays, it was pretty confusing. It shouldn’t be, Ryck knew, but they were pretty much married to their electronics. Ryck would have to think on that later. War should not be so reliant on electrons.
It took about five minutes to tally the damage. Of the squad, only Peretti hadn’t redlined. Ryck and the lieutenant and three Marines from First Platoon were also
redlined. Once redlined, a PICS was combat ineffective until the armory gave it a full check and repair. Somehow, no combat suits had suffered catastrophic failures, and no Marines were WIA. All five of the first Marines in the assault had taken their suits well past their tolerances, which would interest the brass back in the head shed.