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The Assault of Orion I


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TheRealFedral #1 Posted 27 February 2016 - 04:34 AM

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    02-25-2016

This story was originally written and posted on the old Atari MOO3 forums, I hope that reposting it here is ok with the higher powers. Keep in mind, the 'play elements' are based on the MOO3 system, but the story stands on its own. Hope you enjoy it. (DWS Winter Springs, FL)

 

 

The Assault of Orion I

(Part One of the saga of 3rd Platoon A Troop 3rd Squadron. 2nd Regiment 17th Armored Division XV Armored Corps )

Platoon Sergeant Rhame spit onto the sand as he walked to his tanks. "Damn all officers anyway , you can take all they know about armored warfare and fit it in a fly's bellybutton and still have room for their brains".
His men were gathered expectantly around their machines as he walked up. They could tell by the look on his face the news wasn't good.

No one wanted to be the first to ask but Rhame knew what the question on their mind was. "We are saddling up boys and girls , High Command needs the Armored Cavalry to pull their chestnuts out of the fire again." . Rhame knew the troopers of 3rd Platoon wouldn't be too pleased , most had been happy here on Schiff IV Heck he thought , most of the Evon were kind of attractive in the right light , or after a few drinks. Many had gotten used to the laid back attitude of sun , sand and beach that had been the lot of XV Armored Corps since it landed and crushed the defenders in a textbook planetary assault. The very perfection of that assault was probably the reason XV Corps got tapped for this mission in the first place.

"O.K. troops , first I'm gonna tell you what High Command is telling us and then I'll tell you what I found out from a friend of mine in Communications ." "First : High Command wants us to pack up everything , I mean everything down to the rolls of toilet paper in the latrines because we won't be back anytime in the near future , if ever." "Second : We are to ready all vehicles for transport to the assembly area and make sure they are completely combat ready . That means unauthorized 'sound systems' and external speakers are to be removed before loading , do you understand me Jenkins ." he said staring at 2 tank's commander and crew. "Third : All personnel are to make sure all their personal information is up to date before we load the Transports." This last caused a stir among the troopers , as the only time that kind of order came down was when High Command thought a lot of next of kin were going to have to be informed.

"Alright , so much for High Command's load of flarg , now the straight story." Rhame looked around to make sure no officers were in earshot and motioned his men to gather tight. "We are not going to be attacking the Raas , so you can put that rumor to bed." Rhame let them go on a bit before dropping the big shoe. "Quiet down children , quiet down and listen up." Rhame waited until they all tapered off and let them in on the bad news. "We have been at war with the Antarans for two months now and things could be better." Rhame didn't want to let things get totally out of hand so shouted them down with 'The Voice' that could be heard over the roar of tank guns and engines. "PIPE DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION .. " The troops shut up so quick that he heard teeth click together. "I know we have had the threat of them hanging over our heads for generations but , according to my cousin who is in Research and Development , our weapons and ships have finally passed theirs in strength and High Command decided to take them out since our war with the Evon ended."

"According to my friend in Communications the swabbies had a rough time of it breaking into their system but have smashed all the fleets that the Orions had including their reserves so the system is as clear as they can make it." "The bad news is that Army Group Center has thrown every trooper they had into the assault on the planet but have been unable to establish a beachhead anywhere on the planet." Trooper LaPare raised his hand in the inevitable question "Sarge , why don't they just bomb it flat like we did to the Harvesters worlds ?" Rhame wondered the same thing himself but had to at least tell them High Commands reasoning behind it "The reason LP is that Command thinks that those Antaran scumbags might be hiding important information about the original Orions or about certain techs that could be important to our future so we have to take the planet intact"

The next question was from an unexpected direction . Normally if Corporal Lazenby said 3 words in a day , he seemed to think he was exceeding his quota "Sergeant , any word on the losses in the Navy ? My brother is aboard the Carrier Agincourt." Rhame knew how bad it had been among the Navy but didn't want his troopers too discouraged when there was work to be done. "I know that the losses were real high among the Short Range and Long Range ships , but lower among the other groups so he probably has a better than average chance Laz ... that's the best I can give you but I'll ask some people I know about his ship." Lazenby just nodded his thanks and went on listening. Once again LaPare had to ask another question "Sarge why aren't all the Battleoids that they kept going on and on about being used on this assault?" This was the one question Rhame was not looking forward to answering. "Army Group Center got all 10 Battleoid Armies that were combat ready and there are no more left that are trained up to standard for an assault this important." Before he could continue LaPare burst out "You mean Command lost all ten ARMIES and didn't get a toehold on the surface !?!?" Rhame just nodded and looked at the now very sober faces around him .

"Now lets get the machines checked out and ready for Transport , and no one forget to update your personal data before we load out"

 

.......................................................... Part Two ..................................................................

Trooper Cahill ran his hand down her smooth flank and gently laid his cheek against her side . He softly whispered to her . " Soon baby , soon I can untie you and then we can have some real fun." He reached down and checked the fasteners that held her firmly to the rings in the floor. I know you hate this baby but it's for your own good and it won't be for too long." He gently checked to make sure the clasps weren't chafing her too badly . A harsh voice behind him startled him . "Everything OK Cahill ?" A familiar voice asked .His face flushed crimson as he wondered how much his Sergeant heard . " Sure thing Sarge , just checking the tiedowns on the tank and making sure that those swabbies didn't mess anything up when they fastened her to the deck." Rhame just nodded at his driver and motioned a thumb over his shoulder. " The pre invasion briefing starts in 10 minutes so get a move on." Cahill all but ran out of the cargo bay and out from his Tank commanders glare. Rhame shook his head as the Trooper disappeared through the hatch. Cahill had an affinity with machines that even the Meklar mechanics in the Motor Pool had remarked on once , but whispering sweet nothings to the tank was a bit much. Rhame headed for the hatch as it wouldn't do for him to be late to the briefing . He paused a moment and slowly walked to his tank and placed his hand gently on the cool side for a moment . In a voice so low it could barely be heard over the humming of the air circulators " Just one more battle old girl , just keep us safe for one more. " He shook his head a moment and strode out the hatch without looking back.

The mess hall/briefing chamber was packed with more people than Rhame had ever seen at one time this whole voyage . "At least the Corps could be transported as a whole on these new class of troop transports" Rhame thought . He remembered the old days packed in like sardines in those old slow buckets that were more akin to spacegoing coffins that proper spacecraft. "You made 6 drops in those buckets 'old man' and you came through better than most of the guys that you went through Armor School with." he said to himself.

Rhame found the rest of 3rd platoon by just looking for Sgt. Kindred , easily the tallest man in the room . He wondered for the 100th time what kind of deal he had made with Personnel Department to get assigned to tanks even though he was clearly at least 6 inches too tall and 50 lbs over the maximum allowable for Armor assignment . Sgt. Kindred was arguing with his gunner Cpl. Burke again . Rhame wondered what it was THIS time . As he got close enough to hear he rolled his eyes when he got the gist of this conversation. "I'm not kidding , I got this from a friend of mine and I checked the code out Sergeant , this code upgrade will give us a 40% increase in target acquisition speed and cut through the ECM noise 60% better than what we have uploaded now." "It's the genuine code out of the Hack Labs but it just hasn't been approved for use yet but it's the real deal , I checked it line by line and it'll work perfectly" Rhame came up behind them and decided to end this before the whole platoon found themselves with unauthorized code in their hardware. "I am telling you once and once only Corporal , no unapproved code on any machine in this Platoon are we crystal clear ?" Cpl. Burke spun around and nodded quickly to his Platoon Leader . "Sure Sarge , I was just trying to get us ahead of the curve on this drop" They were interrupted by the Corps Command Sergeant Majors bellow " ATTENTION ON DECK ." All sound stopped as all the men in the room came to attention , the General had arrived.

General Parker stepped to the podium and glared at the assembled Troopers. The General was shorter than most of the soldiers looking up at her but her troops knew that small frame contained a commander that didn't accept anything except victory and expected nothing less than 100% from all her units during battle. Her voice carried by the halls audio system had an edge of anger that caused a slight apprehension in her troops. "Alright XV Corps we have a change in Battle Plans and you all need to pay close attention or the whole Corps is going to be hip deep in flarg." There was a murmur among the gathered Troopers ."A change of the Battle Plan ?" Rhame thought ." The day before the drop , they must be crazy" All of 3rd Platoon looked at Rhame as if to ask if he had known of this. The stricken look on his face told them the truth. General Parker let the mumbling go on for only a few seconds before growling out " Alright quit acting like a bunch of Infantrymen and get your heads in the game !" She looked around as the insult hit home and the troops shut right up. "Military Intelligence has informed us that the Antarans had a spy in High Command that passed our Battle Plans and drop zones back to Orion and I was given the options to abort the attack or land in the planned area if I thought it was possible ." "Well I didn't like either of those options so I told High Command that if they gave me discretion as to drop location , that XV Corps could carve a drop zone for the other units to land in" She looked at all her soldiers before telling them the rest. " The General in command of Army Group Center wanted to abort the whole invasion until the Field Marshal told him that if any unit could do it , XV Corps could." "So the Field Marshal thinks we can do it , I think we can do it , but it won't work unless YOU think we can do it." "So XV Corps can we do this or do I send the abort code to High Command " The massive "UUUUURAHHHHHHH" that echoed off the walls was all the answer she needed .

She turned on the holoprojector behind her and began to sketch out the new plan "Alright now here's what we are going to do"

 

.......................................................... Part Three...............................................................

Rhame tightened his harness as the ship gave a massive lurch . He checked the readouts on the vehicles tiedowns and made sure they were still all green. "A little more of this and things are going to start breaking loose in the cargo bay." He thought to himself . "ONE MINUTE TO LANDING " The computer synthesized voice was normally soothing , but during emergencies it got shrill enough to remind Rhame of his ex wife. A Troop's commanders voice cut through the noise of landing into everyone's headphones "All A Troop vehicles be ready , remember we have to get to that south ridge before they can mount a serious counterattack." Rhame's gunner Corporal Dunphy looked over his shoulder and rolled his eyes at Rhame. "Yeah" Thought Rhame , " Captain Lewis was an ok guy most of the time and kept his nose out of what went on in 3rd Platoon but he had a tendency to remind you of the same craphe reminded you of ten minutes ago"

The blast of the landing retros caught Rhame by surprise. The sleet of weapon impacts that he heard on the outside of the ships hull did not ."Well we are gonna know in like an hour whether the General is a genius or if she just sentenced the whole Corps to death" Rhame muttered "After 3 years in her command , smart money is on genius " Or so the unit was hoping. The impact of landing wasn't as bad as some landings he had experienced. "Well seeing as where we landed , I guess the Navy guys can't complain too much" Rhame shook his head when he thought of the uproar when General Parker first revealed her plan for the initial landing zone. "Well , with the Antarans having our original Battle Plan , I guess the best place to land was also the craziest."

The bang of the loading ramps hitting the ground was drowned out by the explosion of all the tiedowns cutting loose at once. Rhame looked down and saw all 4 tiedown indicators had red markers showing proper separation. The sound of all the vehicles in the Corps starting up simultaneously was felt even through all the layers of Xintium between him and the outside world . General Parker's voice cut in on the Command channel with just four words. "XV CORPS MOVE OUT". As Rhame expected , Trooper Cahill had them moving as soon as that word was given. As the tank hit the landing ramp Rhame looked around and just chuckled to himself . "Yup , she has got to be a genius to do something this stupid." The sound of his laughter was drowned out as the tracks of his tank hit the surface of the Main Starport of the Orion Capitol.

Rhame saw what appeared to be a weapon emplacement off to his left and targeted it . "Gunner . Target . Gauss Cannon" Cpl. Dunphy immediately replied "Identified" Rhame's command of "Fire" was nearly simultaneous with Dunphy firing the main gun. The Antaran weapon and the crew that was trying to bring it to bear on his tank were engulfed in raw plasma and incinerated. His driver just rolled over the charred area and headed for the ridge to the south. Captain Lewis cut in. " 1st Platoon keep moving , you are falling behind , I need you on the left side of that ridge 3rd Platoon as soon as you get in place on the right get those sensors out. And 2nd Platoon stick tight to me , we are gonna roll right over those troops dead ahead of us" Rhame saw over the command board that there seemed to be a small group of light infantry in front of 2nd Platoon . They shouldn't be much threat to the 4 tanks of 2nd platoon and the 2 tanks of the command section. But something in the most primitive part of Rhame's brain was screaming "But they are Antarans ! They are the Masters , it shouldn't be this easy to kill them." Rhame was just about to cut in on the Command channel to say something when multiple bolts erupted from the Antaran infantry and engulfed one of 2nd Platoons tanks and hammered it to a halt. The other 5 tanks flayed the defensive line with plasma and in a few seconds they were rolling through ash and glazed sand where a moment ago 100 infantry had been. "Well that's what happens when ground pounders mess with the Cavalry" Rhame thought. Before he could com the tank that had been hit Sergeant Simmons voice came over the com " We are O.K Captain , they just blew the track , we can get it put together in 10 mikes if we can get some protection" The Captain didn't take but a moment before sending the Executive officers tank back to cover Simmons while they repaired the track , all the while he continued to roll to the ridge with the rest of 2nd Platoon.

As 3rd Platoon rolled forward Rhame looked back at the transport ship and was amazed at all the damage that showed on the hull of the ship . "Man her Captain is gonna be pissed at the General for making him put down in the middle of a hornets nest like this." Rhame laughed as he pictured the swabbies in spacesuits scouring all the carbon marks off of their nice pretty ship. He also noticed that all the combat units seemed to be offloaded and the support units were beginning to roll off now. "Well the sooner we get Operations and Control running 100 % , the happier I will be." Rhame hated fighting half blind and only seeing part of the big picture.

A series of explosions and a roar behind him pulled Rhames attention to the center of the starport , but it was only the Troopship cutting loose the cargo pods and heading for orbit. "Well" thought Rhame "They put us all down in one piece and weren't too bad for a bunch of Navy types , I hope they make it off planet" "Well I guess the General is making a statement by telling our ride home to take off." "We rip a beachead out of the guts of the enemy or we die trying , just the way it should be "

His tanks beginning to climb up the ridge brought Rhames attention back to where it should have been. " You are getting old Jake , letting your mind wander like that." "Besides" he thought "it's bad luck to watch your ride fly away." The Troop had reached the top of the ridge and Rhame got a good look at the terrain on the other side . "Well you cant ask for a better field of fire than a desert with no vegetation." I guess that's why so few units were assigned to this area." "The 13 tanks of the Troop , 14 if Simmons can get his rustbucket fixed and on line , should be able to hold this sector against a lot of nasties for a long time" Other indicators on the command board showed that the outer perimeter was in place and the inner circle was clear of live units.

A series of hollow thumps reminded Rhame of something important and he coded in the ok to deploy his tanks remote sensors . A dozen small rockets arced out from his turret and deployed a set of independent sensor packages to give Operations and Control all the data they needed to coordinate the coming battle. From the data coming in from the other units remotes , it looked like all the Antarans major units were squatting on our planned drop zones and not in position for an immediate counterattack. A long series of fire and counterfire to the east showed that units from the city were beginning to try and make their presence known. A beep on his command board told Rhame that Ops and Control was online and transmitting data to all units. Rhame saw with a snort that the enemy units skirmishing to the east were marked as police units. Rhame laughed outloud and when questions came from his crew he just said "Cops , Antaran cops are trying to push us off this field " The crew joined in the laughter and as soon as he pulsed the feed to the rest of the platoon , the sound of laughter echoed through the platoon frequency. "Umm Sarge i got a question" Rhame rolled his eyes and replied "So what else is new LaPare , what's your question?" There was a moment of silence and then Trooper LaPare's confused voice came over again "If these Antarans are supposed to be perfect and all , you know so far above us , why do they need police in the first place . I mean since they have police , wouldn't that mean they have criminals and all ?" There was a long moment of silence over the com as what LP had said sunk in and Rhame was only saved from answering by General Parker's voice cutting into all channels.

"Heads up troops , we have detections of lots of mechanized forces incoming , probably battleoid class so lets show those overpriced 2 legged machines what happens when you mess with the Cavalry!"

 

.......................................................... Part Four.................................................................

Rhame felt the impact of several hits on the turret but readouts showed no armor breaches. He highlighted the units firing at him and fed them to the gunners station. He then checked the status of the rest of the Platoon. All indicators showed green on the other three tanks so Rhame went back to finding more targets for his gunner. Rhame felt his tanks Plasma Gun fire and grabbed the targeting feed to check Cpl. Dunphy's aim. He saw the bolt of plasma strike dead center of an Antaran battleoid and when the smoke of impact cleared all that was left was a glowing melted lump on top of a pair of chicken looking legs. Rhame smiled and thought "Dunphy may be a complete pain in the [edited]95% of the time but at least the kid knew how to shoot." "I guess that's why I haven't dropped a grenade in his sleeping bag no matter how many times he deserved it." The main gun rocked the tank again and Rhame saw a battleoid completely vaporize as its reactor went up. Rhame looked down at the gunners station and saw shocks of red hair sticking out of the bottom of Dunphy's helmet. Rhame smiled and thought "Keep making shots like that kid and I won't give you hell about getting a haircut"

Rhame saw the last battleoid to his front go down and watched his gunner start raking the wreckage with his secondary weapon . Multi blaster fire reached out across the battlefield seeking the surviving battleoid pilots and the infantry that were supporting them in this attack. Looking over the debris strewn desert he saw the Antarans starting to pull back out of range. "I guess the ground pounders don't want to take us on without their battleoids." "Well " he thought "even the infantry can learn if you smack them on the nose often enough." Checking the Troop status he saw that only a 1st Platoon tank was showing red across the board. Rhame closed his eyes and leaned his helmet against his command board when he saw which tank it was. He keyed his com " 1st Platoon this is Rhame , number one tank shows red across the board , any chance of survivors ?" There was a brief pause before a reply came " Negative Rhame , they took a gauss cannon round under the turret and their fusion bottle must have ruptured , at least it was quick" Rhame thought of PSgt. Cheng , 1st Platoons commander and realized that with Cheng gone he was now the only original member of the Troop left. "Time to mourn him later Jake" he said to himself . He keyed his mike and just replied "Yeah , may we all go just as quick when it's our time"

General Parker stared at the holo image of her commander and wished she could rip his throat out . Even through the holo projector General Matthews the commander of Army Group Center could feel her rage. "It was an unfortunate occurrence Parker , it could not be foreseen." "you cant blame the Navy for what happened so we have to mark it down as on of the 'fortunes of war' , we are doing what we can to correct the situation." There was a silent pause and Gen Matthews thought the color tint on his holo was going out of sync until he realized that her face was actually turning that color red. "FORTUNES OF WAR !!" "Sir , the change of battle plans at the last minute was a 'fortune of war'." "The ability of the Antarans to throw up a few orbital defenses was a 'fortune of war' " "The Antarans launching missiles off those platforms before the Navy destroyed them was a 'fortune of war' " "But General" she paused for a deep breath "THE NAVY FAILING TO ENGAGE THOSE MISSILES WITH POINT DEFENSE BEFORE THEY DESTROYED THE FOLLOW ON TRANSPORTS WAS INEXCUSABLE !" General Matthews barely nodded as though too much motion would draw another attack from her. General Parker realized that further screaming would not be productive and took a few deep breaths. " If I can ask General when can we expect follow on forces to help expand the beachhead we took and continue to hold as ordered ?" Gen Matthews pretended to look at some files on his desk and gathered himself to say the words he knew would set off another tirade. " The Navy says they can land a Marine Division in 24 hours by combining all the Marine detachments on their warships in system." The calmness of her reply was more disconcerting that another explosion would have been " Yes sir , the Marines will be very useful for digging graves for all my Troopers that have died so far." she continued on with words as cold as ice "And when can we expect support and follow on forces from the rest of the ARMY Sir ?" When she saw General Matthews grab a file and fail to meet he eyes she knew the news was bad . "The second troop waves were forced to retreat when the missiles fired on them and it will be a little while before they can turn around and return." "We have pulled all the reserve armor formations and have them headed your way along with the newest battleoid armies." The power of her next words hit him harder than bullets " The truth Sir , how soon ?" Meeting her eyes was the bravest thing he had ever done in his whole career but saying the next four words felt like he was pronouncing a death sentence on her and her troops "Three weeks , no sooner." There was a pause as his words sunk in. He couldn't read the look on her face as she replied "Three weeks sir , we will hold you to that . XV Corps will be here when you get back. Parker out." Gen Parker stared at the wall of her Command Post and thought for a moment. She strode into the Operations area of her CP and placed her hand on the nearest Communications specialist. "Son , patch me into all frequencies , I need to talk with everyone"

Rhame wanted to punch something but he knew that would just upset his crew. "Damn all officers to hell anyway. Here we take a beachhead , fight off a major attack , and now we can't exploit it because the Navy screwed up and we are left hanging here with no support until High Command can figure out how to find their asses with a roadmap an a flashlight." Dunphy looked over his shoulder and just smiled. "Don't sugar coat it Sarge, tell us how you really feel." The hum on the com told him Cahill was transmitting from his driving compartment. " Don't worry about it Sarge , Christine here will look after us until the rest get here." Rhame wondered again where Cahill had come up with the name he painted on the front slope of the tank. Rhame couldn't ever remember seeing Cahill with any girl named Christine , heck with any girl. Captain Lewis cut in on the Troop com. " All tanks stand too . We have movement in our sector. Lets whip them back to their kennels again."

"Right" thought Rhame "again ..... and again and again and again until we kill them all or they kill us" He saw motion in his fire zone and highlighted it "Gunner. Target battleoid." And so another day began.

 

.......................................................... Part Five.................................................................

Rhame knew he had to let his people know about the news he had just received before the rumors started flying. Keying the mike on the Platoon frequency he gave them the bad news "Third Platoon listen up. The General has decided to pull in the perimeter on the north and west sides so if you see movement that's what it is. The east edge is staying dug in along the city line and we are staying put along this ridge so don't get twitchy." Rhame silently counted to himself "5.....4.....3.....2...." "Ummm Sarge ."a voice popped in on the com. "At least there is one constant in the Universe" Rhame though. "Yeah LP what's your question?" There was a long pause before Trooper LaPare replied. "Is it true we are pulling in because we dont have enough troops to hold the outer line anymore?" Rhame's jaw clenched a moment as he wished that LP would someday ask an easy question. Rhame never lied to his people and this time would be no exception ."Yeah LP, the General wants a bigger reserve force inside the perimeter in case the Antarans try another breakthrough like last week. The only way that's gonna happen is if she shrinks the outer line enough to free up some more units for the reserve." Rhame hoped that would be enough to shut LP up but the speaker popped one more time. "Sarge, are we gonna get anymore help on this ridge if they pull in the other areas?" Rhame had asked the same question of Captain Lewis so he couldn't blame LP for asking. "The word we got from Command LP is that since we have done such a great job of defending this ridge, that the Antarans won't make a major push from this direction again." Rhame didn't blame the men for their silence as he knew it was a load of flarg when he heard it from the Captain 15 minutes ago.

Rhame saw a warning light on his command board as he scanned the horizon. "All tanks check hull integrity." He transmitted. "Looks like they are trying a new bio or chemical agent on us." Rhame shook his head as the A.I. sampled the agent and posted an evaluation. "A self replicating blood crystallization agent, very nasty." he thought. "Oh yes, these bastards need to be exterminated from the galaxy if they can think up stuff like this every few days." Capt Lewis came over the Troop frequency "Stand to A Troop,we are under biochemical attack and you know that means a ground attack follow up soon." Rhame heard Cpl Dunphy snort and mutter. "Tell us something we don't know Cap." Rhame keyed his mike. "Third Platoon status check." The replies came back quickly . Sgt Jenkins' drawl always made him sound like he was talking in slow motion "Two tank: status board straight green Sarge, when are you gonna send us some more targets." Sgt Golden's voice sang out "Three tank: status online but Laz thinks the turret traverse controls need to be checked out." Rhame frowned as he heard that. If things got bad enough for Laz to complain, they must be pretty awful. "After this attack wave, report to the maintenance point and see if they can do anything." The last reply came a moment later from Sgt Kindred "Four tank: status green, we are ready Rhame." The command board started to light up as enemy units started moving in on the Corps perimeter. "Where are they all coming from." Rhame thought for the 14th time in as many days.

General Parker checked the numbers for the fifth time and came up with the same answer. "Not enough left "She said to herself. "just too much perimeter and too few troops left." All she learned in 25 years of military service couldn't help her conjure troops out of thin air to fill the gaps that were starting to show up. "And if I pull the perimeter in much more, the enemy artillery will be able to hit the support troops that were holding the Corps together by a thread." She looked over the status reports and all the enemy attack evaluations. "If we demolish a few of the buildings on the east perimeter, the Marines there should be able to hold the rubble with only half the tanks they have now." She looked at the map again and her finger came down on a ridge along the south edge of the spaceport. "So the Antarans don't seem to like attacking through the desert anymore. I don't blame them after the way they have been chewed up by the tanks there,no cover all the way to the ridge." She called up the status of the units assigned there."A Troop, almost full strength. Good well we will leave 1st Platoon , no wait they are short a tank. Well then 3rd Platoon, looks like you get the easy job of guarding that ridge all by yourself while the rest of your Troop goes into my reserve to plug some holes." She punched in the orders on her command board and smiled as units began moving.

The crew of Rhame's tank were ready for the explosion and it didn't disappoint them when it came. "That slitch must have lost her freaking mind! She expects FOUR tanks to hold a section of perimeter we were barely holding with 13 and expects us to be grateful that she left us with the easy assignment! If this section falls the Antarans are going to gut the whole spaceport area before we can blink and then the whole Corps is gonna be wiped out." The crew let him wind down as he always did and expected him to begin planning how they were going to defend the ridge with just the four tanks of the Platoon. When nothing more came from Rhame, Cpl Dunphy looked over his shoulder and was shocked at what he saw. The Sarge seemed to have aged 10 years since he looked back a few minutes ago. "Sarge, you Ok?" Dunphy asked quietly. A set of empty eyes looked back at him and Dunphy barely heard the reply "I'm just tired kid. I am just too worn out and used up. You know how many assault drops I made?" Dunphy could hear Cahill listening in on the comm as he said gently. "No Sarge how many, we always were afraid to ask." The shrill laugh raised the hair on the back of Dunphy and Cahill's neck. "You were afraid to ask and I was afraid to remember." There was a pause and then Rhame started in a monotone "PhycoAuroraMintakaMirackSmonLeonidsJuzaEndorraXolasPavoIshiAchirdSchiff and now Orion" Dunphy whispered "Fourteen ... this is fourteen assaults for you Sarge?" The voice seemed to come from miles away "You know that A Troop was mustered in my hometown. There were almost fifty of us in the original Troop and we were all volunteers, no draft in those days. We were so proud marching down the street heading for the starport on our way off planet for training. I still remember the cheering and my schools band playing us aboard the transport. I never saw Suji again after that." Dunphy felt like he was going to throw up and he heard Cahill say "No one knew you were from Suji Sarge, how soon after you left..." Rhame cut in "Did the Harvesters invade? Two months later Cahill, I was still in training when they told us. The whole Troop tried to get assigned to try and take Suji back but the decision was made to sterilize all worlds that Harvesters controlled. The Troop fought over and over and one by one the last of us from Suji were killed and we got replacements and we kept fighting. And now that Cheng is gone I am the only one left who remembers that day." Dunphy had heard of troops that had red-lined before but the Sarge always seemed too strong for that and he wondered how the Platoon was going to survive if the Sarge went totally 'around the bend'. Dunphy chose his words carefully "Sarge we only have to hold on for 5 more days before the other troops get here then we will all have a nice long rest. Maybe we will get sent back to Schiff and we can all just hang out on the beach for the rest of the war." The gunner saw this wasn't having any effect on Rhame when Cahill's voice spoke up "Sarge, I know we aren't as good as the guys you had in the original Troop but we all try hard to be good enough for you and we really need you to help us make it through this fight. Sarge, we want to live so we can go home, can you help us do that?"

Dunphy saw something in Rhame's eyes flicker and he saw a long shudder go through his sergeants body and in a voice that still sounded far away "Home? Sure kids I'll make sure you get home then I can rest a while."

 

.......................................................... Part Six...................................................................

Sgt Kindred's voice on the com woke Rhame from his semi sleep state. "Sarge you seeing anything strange out to our front?" Rhame quickly ran through the sensor data and the camera views one by one and replied harshly. "Kindred , I am not seeing anything wierd from here, what's the problem ?" The rest of the Platoon had picked up over the past few days that all was not well with Rhame so Kindred chose his next words carefully "I don't know but , even though I am not picking up anything visually , the ground in the desert is looking real strange." Rhame learned a long time ago to trust his peoples instincts and ran through his vids again. There seemed to be a disturbance along some of the dunes like sand being kicked up but both his vids and the feeds from all the remote sensors showed nothing. Rhame wanted to pop the hatch and look around but after checking his command board his jaw clenched , the whole area was recently covered with a class IV Nerve Agent . Rhame thought a moment "Now why do you want us to keep buttoned up you bastards." Rhame smiled as he remembered the one piece of equipment that every generation of tankers had insisted remain on even the newest tanks. He reached down and unscrewed the armor cap on the end of his ancient optical sight. "You can fool the hardware but the Mark One Eyeball Detector is still the hardest thing to spoof." Rhame started hearing small arms fire break out from the eastern edge of the perimeter as he leaned down and peered through the archaic aiming device. He didn't realize his mike was still keyed when he saw what was truly out there. A chill went through the unit at the bleak voice they heard. "Oh my dear God."

General Parker cursed as she read the message from the Bio/Chem Decontamination Battalion. They had taken heavy losses in the last Antaran attack and doubted their ability to keep the Corps Command/Maintenance areas clear of contamination. She keyed back a message to their Colonel. "If you can't keep this area deconed then we might as well just roll over and die , so deal with it." She realized that her reply wasn't going to help him clean the equipment of contaminants. "You are authorized to grab anyone you can find out of the following sections: Personnel , Psy Ops and Food Service." She paused a moment and smiled as she removed the food service people from the list. "I may need them on the perimeter soon so the cooks are mine." She was interrupted by her Comm Officer . General we have something strange happening out here the Commander of the Marines says he needs to speak to you ASAP. Gen Parker sighed and as she entered the Ops area and grabbed a mike. "Yes Major what's the problem?" There was the sound of massive fire overlaying the next transmission. "General we are getting slaughtered out here and your tanks are not providing support fire on these battleoids! They tell me they have no targets in range but they are right on top of us , we need help from those machines of yours NOW!" The General walked to a console and went through the vid feeds. She saw nothing on most of the perimeter but did see some sort of explosions coming from the eastern edge where the Marines and a Regiment of her tanks were dug in. As she looked carefully she noticed some fire was coming from an unusual angle and the area just didn't look quite right. She blanched as she realized what was happening. "Hacked! They hacked our vids and sensor systems and are masking their units." The senior Hack Team Officer spoke up. "General its impossible , we would have seen some sign of them trying and its impossible to hide that many moving units at once. "The General grabbed the Captain by the scruff of his neck and dragged him to the vid."Then tell me what is killing my troops!" She keyed her mike and sent out an all unit push "All units , this is the General , our sensors and vids have been Hacked. Switch to MANUAL targeting control and report all enemy sightings in your area." The General walked over to her electronic map table and waited for her staff to manually update enemy unit locations. As markers showing Antaran battleoid and infantry units started flooding in the General closed her eyes a moment. "Very well played." She thought to her unknown counterpart. "Full assault with all your forces and we are blind and our tanks are only 10% effective without their targeting systems." She turned to her still white-faced Hack Team Captain and pointed her finger at him. "If your people can't write some counter code to this in the next 15 minutes , your whole unit may as well grab rifles and head for the line as you are no use to me here!" The General looked again at the board and shook her head "Very well played indeed."

One tanks plasma gun fired again. Rhame heard Dunphy curse as he missed again. Rhame looked down at his gunner "Dunphy if you don't start putting some plasma on target I am gonna shave your freakin head." Dunphy just grunted and muttered "Maybe they used to use this primitive targeting flarg when you started Sarge but I had ONE class on this during my training and we all thought it was a joke." Rhame just leaned down and whispered in Dunphy's ear. "If you can't kill enough of them the joke is gonna be on us and it's not gonna be a nice one." The gunner bent over his sight and fired again "HIT. That got him Sarge." Rhame nodded , just do that another 50 or 60 times and we will be ok. The sound of the gun firing and his gunners curse told him of another miss. He checked the status of his Platoon and cursed as he saw a few red indicators on his board. Four tank showed as a mobility disable and Three tank was showing all secondary armaments disabled and ECM systems offline. He figured that with their ECM systems down , Three tank would be the main focus of the enemies push "Provide cover fire for Three tank , they are unmasked and things might be getting hot for them. Four tank I show you as immobile, what's the problem?" In a moment Sgt Kindred replied "We took a pair of plasma missiles through the front slope Rhame , McKay is fried and the whole drivers compartment with him and I have burnout creepage eating up my movement controls so we are going nowhere." There was pause then Kindred spoke again "You know they are getting too close and we aren't killing them fast enough Sarge." Rhame checked his sight again "Yeah but I'm not gonna just roll over and die." Before they could say anything else there was a tremendous explosion from the ridge. Rhame saw Three tank's indicators go straight red. Rhame closed his eyes and added three more names to his List. "Golden, Lazenby, Clipp." He said softly. "See you soon Laz , Hell is gonna be crowded so save me a seat buddy." Kindred broke in on the comm and Rhame heard what sounded like an argument going on in Four tank "One sec Burke I am gonna check with the Sarge , NO don't do anything till I tell you. Sarge you read me ?" Rhame waited till the main gun fired again before replying. "What you need Kindred?" The sergeant of Four tank sounded uncertain. "Burke thinks he has a way to get us online Sarge, he still has that data cube with Hack Labs new fire control system and he thinks that if we upload it we will be at 100% or near enough. But Sarge, if the Corps Hack Team comes up with a program fix and we have the wrong fire control version uploaded when they transmit the bug fix ......." Rhame broke in "They could crash our whole tanks software package." A series of impacts and near misses on his tank made his decision for him." Tell Burke to upload it to all of us."

General Parker was watching her staff try to keep updates on the main map board as far too many of her units were marked as disabled or killed and far too few Antarans were winking out in return fire. A sudden change on the plot board drew her attention as the situation on the ridge south of the Spaceport became crystal clear. Marks showing every enemy unit in that area were appearing with a perfection they hadn't in weeks. And they were dying , fast. The three tanks shown there were engaging and destroying enemies faster than she thought possible. She looked over to the Hack Team furiously hammering away at their keyboards. "You did it ! But why did you only upload your code to those units ?" Their Captain looked at the board "It wasn't us General , we are still trying to find their wurm." The General looked at the board "Get me in contact with those units NOW!" A moment later Parker heard a tired voice on her com "Rhame here , what do you want?" The General's voice was deceptively calm "Well Sergeant , this is your General here and what we in Ops. would like you to know is why YOU are the only combat capable units in the whole damn Corps?" There was a pause "General , one of my people ....ummm.... 'acquired' a copy of the newest fire control program from the Hack Labs and we figured......." The General heard an exclamation behind her from the Hacker Captain "But that code is Top Secret and hasn't even been approved for limited testing!" The General looked at her mapboard again as units attacking the ridge melted away before the firestorm "Looks tested and I approve!" she keyed her mike "Sergeant , pulse Ops and Control a copy of this new software for upload to all units."

HiveMaster Mphhilian watched as the last of his Warriors died in the hellish fire from the human positions. He felt shame as he stood in the Circle of Judgment but did not know how his plan had failed. The other HiveMasters looked upon him with contempt. Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar pointed a finger in his direction "They drew you in like a Vranth is drawn to the slaughter pens. Your plans reliance on disabling their machines was foolish , costly and in the end fatal. You are FLAWED and your HELIX is to be purged! You and your seed will not contaminate our perfection." There was a bright glow as the Circle consumed Mphhilian and burned him to less than ash. Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar looked upon the others "Who will step forward to cleanse this infection that stains our world?" Without pause HiveMaster Nurrclian stepped forward. "I will eliminate the contamination upon our World and bring an end to this!" Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar nodded "You must do so quickly. We have detected more of their ships coming to bring greater infestation to our World." HiveMaster Nurrclian flared his ridges in assent. "I will use no more tricks to kill them , I will order all Warriors to assault as I lead the Special Attack Units in a strike on their HiveMistress , this Parrrkuur , I will kill her myself and take our revenge on her seed !" The other HiveMasters indicated their assent , the plan was good.

Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar held up a finger of warning "Make haste HiveMaster , if you can not eliminate them in twelve Time Units you know what we must do."

 

.......................................................... Part Seven...................................................................

General Parker was startled when an unexpected image appeared on her holo-projector "Field Marshal ! I was expecting General Matthews." Field Marshal Khan gave a wry smile " General Matthews has been ....reassigned. I took personal command to ensure that nothing goes wrong this time." Gen Parker felt a sense of relief as she knew the reinforcement units were in competent hands. "May I ask your E.T.A. sir ?" He didn't need to look at his chrono "Six hours , sooner if I can put the fear of Me into the Navy. After the job you have done so far , that shouldn't be too hard for your Corps." She nodded. "XV Corps will be here. But Sir......" The holo image shook as a series of nearby explosions rocked her Command Post. She looked into his eyes "Sooner would be better." The Field Marshal just nodded. "Sooner."

Rhame saw yet another battleoid crumple in on itself as the plasma bolt melted it. Jenkins voice had a note of amusement as Two tank fired again ."Is it me Sarge or do they not seem to be pushin this attack too hard ?" Rhame smiled a bit at that. "Nothing like running over hundreds of your buddies bodies to ruin your whole day." He frowned as he realized how many friends of his lay dead on the perimeter. "Ruins your whole day." He muttered.

Gen Parker's map board showed units assaulting along the whole perimeter but a huge mass of Antarans were hitting the weakest part of her defenses along the north. She looked what she had in reserve. One battered Squadron of Armor and a Platoon of Marines. "Well if they punch through in the north then we are gone." She checked the long range sensors again. "There are no other large enemy formations that can attack anywhere else on the perimeter before help gets here." Her finger slashed down on the northern edge. "Get all the reserves moving there now! We have to stop them there before they break through."

TechServant Luf turned to HiveMaster Nurrclian. "They have committed the last of their reserves to the main attack area GreatOne , the way to their HiveMistress is now clear." The HiveMaster turned to PilotServant Ompl "Travel to the coordinates and deploy all pods." He closed the faceplate on his Battlearmor and strode to his drop pod. "Kill all her Servants but the HiveMistress is mine." Fifty voices spoke as one "YES GREAT ONE!"

Cooks apprentice Second class Kerrigan tried to stay near his guard post as explosions rained down near the maintenance and repair bay. "I'm supposed to be using a spatula not a blast rifle" He said to himself for the 20th time today. He looked around "If that Marine Corporal catches me away from my post again though there's no telling what he's gonna do. I can't figure if all Marines are that bad or he's just nasty cause he's lost an arm." The sound of the air defense plasma guns firing caused him to look up. Just in time he saw some sort of aircraft pounded to slag then explode in mid air. Debris rained down around him along with several large spherical objects that hit nearby. "Oh my God BOMBS." was the first thought he had. But when they merely bounced off the ferrocrete surface he breathed a sigh of relief. He assumed they were duds until he saw a seam open in the nearest sphere. Curiosity overcame his fear as he moved to one and looked in the opening. An armored hand reached out and snapped Kerrigan's neck before he could move an inch.

HiveMaster Nurrclian unfolded himself from the drop pod and checked his display. He saw that 29 of his Special Attack Unit has survived the landing. "More than enough to cleanse them. " He renumbered them and assigned them to their tasks. "One through nine destroy their air defense weapons then keep all the humans away from this area. Ten through 19 kill every Servant you see and destroy any equipment you find. Twenty through 29 follow me to their HiveMistresses lair."

Lance Corporal Heller circled flaming debris as he stamped across the repair area. "If that damned Army puke is away from his post again I am gonna rip off his arm and see if the Doc can sew it on my shoulder. That's why the Army always needs us to save their ........" His tirade ceased as he saw Kerrigan's body and what looked like a re entry pod of some sort. He keyed his com. "This is LCpl Heller , we have Commandos in the Headquarters area." A Military Police Lieutenant answered. "You sure Corporal ? We have had no other reports of enemy troops inside the perimeter." Heller just shook his head. "Sir , I have some sort of landing pods all over the area and they look big enough for power suits so we better get some REAL help here soon or we ain't gonna have nothin left." He heard a snap and gurgle from a nearby tank repair shelter. Heller realized his blast pistol wouldn't scratch battle armor so looked for Kerrigan's weapon. He found it nearby bent into a U shape. "Gotta be power suits." He looked into the shelter and saw two dead Meklar mechanics and an Antaran in powered armor tearing a third Meklar to pieces. He dropped the carcass and turned towards Heller. The faceless armored form moved towards the one armed Marine. Heller just nodded and drew his knife.

General Parker was trying to coordinate the defense of her perimeter when reports of Antarans attacking from within started coming in. She turned to her com officer. "Son get on a command channel and contact the three nearest units and tell them to get what units they can spare rolling here to assist us before these damned Commandos rip up the whole Corps area." She furiously began typing a set of Operations orders and handed it to her com officer. "If I am not back in 1 hour , send that out to all units." The young Lieutenant's eyes widened as he looked at the message. She looked down at him and touched his shoulder. "It will be O.K. son , just send it in 1 hour." General Parker looked around her Headquarters and took a deep breath. "ALRIGHT EVERYONE LISTEN UP." All motion and noise in Ops. ceased and everyone looked at their General. "Anyone that isn't doing an absolutely essential job at the moment , grab your helmets and rifles and assemble outside the Command Building in 5 minutes. Anyone who stays behind that doesn't belong will get a bullet from me as soon as I get my weapons." There was silence and a frantic movement as headquarters personnel scurried to find their weapons. General Parker started to strip her clothes off as she headed for her office. She was nearly naked before she got the door closed. Her orderly helped her on with her interface jumpsuit. "You haven't been doing your exercises , that armor is going to hurt when it locks in around your [edited]." She smiled at her orderly of 20 years. "Why do I keep you around anyway Sanji?" He shook his head at her. "Near as I can tell General , I must have done some great wrong in a past life, and you are my punishment." She climbed into her Power Suit and suppressed a squeal as the armor locked down. She spoke through gritted teeth. "See a perfect fit." Sanji just nodded sadly. "You keep out of the line of fire , remember you are a General not a grunt. She nodded and walked out the door to defend her Headquarters. Master Sergeant Sanji waited till the General was out of sight. He checked the power source on his artificial leg and grabbed his helmet and rifle. The General would blow a gasket if she thought he was out there fighting . So like many things he did to take care of her ...... he just wouldn't tell her.

It had been so long since Rhame had gotten a secure text transmission from Ops that he almost didn't notice it. When he read it his gut went cold. Checking all his sensors he made a decision. "Four tank we got a big problem." Kindred sounded puzzled. "What's up Sarge , looks like we have them under control here. Unless they try a lot harder the three of us can hold em off forever." Rhame replied bleakly. "Ops. and the maintenance areas have Commandos tearing them up and there are nothing but M.P.s there to slow em down. We are the closest units , which means either we head over there and help out or the Corps support units are all dead men." Kindred took a while to reply. "And since we are immobile we got to defend this whole ridge alone while you two roll and save Ops." There was a long pause before Kindred spoke again. "What are you still doing on my ridge Rhame. Don't you need to rescue the settlers from Indians or something?" Kindred saw Rhame's and Jenkins' tanks back off the ridge and start rolling towards the Ops. area at top speed. He saw the Antarans south of the ridge gathering together. "They must have seen One and Two tank leave and want to have another go Burke." Kindred knew that Rhame must have seen the Antarans grouping up to attack the ridge again. He heard the com pop. "Kindred , Burke ........ I'll see you when I see you." Burke answered first. "Don't worry Sarge , we'll save you a seat near the fire."

Field Marshal Khan stood in the flag bridge of the Superdreadnaught Repulse with two Power Suited figures flanking him. "Admiral if you don't get this operation in gear NOW I am going to have these two soldiers stuff you out the airlock." The Admiral sputtered. " We have established procedures that we have to follow ..." Khan didn't let him finish , he just pointed his finger. "Admiral , because of the Navy's 'procedures' I have had a whole Corps on that world for three weeks holding off an entire PLANET. I don't care what 'shortcuts' you have to make in procedures. But if I don't start seeing some action from YOU then I will see if your replacement is more cooperative."

Rhame and Jenkins were rolling across the spaceport as fast as they dared push their engines. Rhame saw some of the distant buildings of the Headquarters and maintenance area billowing smoke and flames. Even with maximum magnification on his command sight he still couldn't see any Antarans yet. Jenkins was slowly falling behind for some reason "Cahill slow up a hair , I don't want to get separated from Two tank." Cahill sounded disappointed but slowed down just enough for Two tank to come alongside. Rhame saw a strange looking object on the side of Two tank's turret. "Jenkins is that what I think it is welded to your tank." There was a pause. "Well Sarge, you know how busy we were loading on Schiff so we didn't get a chance to take it off." Rhame heard Dunphy and Cahill laughing . "Does it still work ? Or did it take too much fire ?" Jenkins came back on "Russo thinks it is still good, one speaker is blown but the other 5 are intact. Why Sarge?" Rhame had grown up on tales of the Cavalry and the Troop had always kept the old traditions. "Let em know we are coming , full volume." Jenkins gunner , Corporal Russo looked up at him. "He want 'The Song'?" Jenkins rolled his eyes and smiled. "What else."

The song was old when the cavalry was mounted on horses. But Cavalry traditions die hard. So no one but the Antarans were surprised when 3rd Platoon charged into the Headquarters area to the strains of 'Gary Owen'

_________________________________________________________________________________

( For those of you who wonder , "Gary Owen" was the unofficial marching song of the Seventh Cavalry under George Armstrong Custer. Gen. Custer reportedly heard the song among his Irish troop and liked it. The tune was then played so often that it became associated with the 7th Cavalry. It has also become defacto the traditional song of all Armored Cavalry Units )
(For those who wish to hear it , try: https://youtu.be/gaPk9yYWQcM close your eyes and you can see the horses marching by)

 

.......................................................... Part Eight...................................................................

HiveMaster Nurrclian screeched in anger as his Warriors again took cover from the weapon fire pouring from the Command Lair of the human Hivemistress. "They are like Sn'aalth guarding their eggs. The humans are only animals though. They fight not from a sense of Duty , this must merely be instinct by the Servants of their Hivemistress. He saw that he only had 5 Special Attackers left with him. "Units 1 through 9 continue keeping the humans at bay. Units 10 through 19 , cease destruction of Servants and equipment and come to me to cleanse the human infection ." A perfect chorus answered. "YES GREAT ONE!"

General Parker fired her plasma rifle as she saw the body of her Hack Team Captain flung back as a gauss shell penetrated right through the command car he sheltered behind. Her Military Police units were dug in on the left. She saw a group of Data Entry Specialists behind a sandbagged checkpoint furiously reading the manual on the heavy plasma repeater they were attempting to assemble. She smiled briefly as she heard them. "NO NO NO Langston place the dual pronged power feeder cable (A) into the NEGATIVE receiver socket (B) and rotate COUNTERclockwise. How the hell do the combat guys figure this stuff out! NO , ground it with the BLUE cable !" She wished she could tell her staff at how proud she was of them , holding off troops as well armed and trained as the Commandos that were attacking them , but she knew anything she said would be a distraction. She saw an Antaran that was advancing against the blast rifles suddenly torn apart by a heavy plasma weapon. Gen Parker looked to her right and saw a very surprised group of Data people looking at what their weapon had done. She almost laughed out loud at the chorus from the three Specialists. "WOW ! COOL!" She frowned as her 'heads up display' showed a new group of Antaran Commandos heading towards her position. She did a quick count. "We can't hold against 10 more of these armored bastards." She was about to order a complete evacuation of the headquarters area when a nearby soldier turned towards her. "Do you hear something strange General ?" Parker upped the volume on her power suit's sound sensors. What she heard brought an evil grin to her face.

Rhame saw a power suited Antaran aiming a heavy gauss weapon at One tank. Before he could fire Two tank fired their secondary weapons. Multi blaster fire blew the Commandos leg off and before the Antaran could topple to the ground , Two tank swerved to the left and crushed the Warrior under their treads. Third Platoon rolled into the outer areas of the maintenance areas hunting targets. Rhame heard a series of impacts on the left side of his tank. Minor penetrations were being recorded as he slewed the turret to bear on another Commando. Dunphy didn't wait for an order before firing. The Antaran simply vanished along with the cargo boxes he was sheltered behind. Rhame was searching for a new target when the com popped. "SARGE get this guy off of us." He saw a pair of Antarans on top of Two tank. One was attempting to rip the top hatch off as the other was placing an object on the tanks back deck. Rhame knew as he tried to bring the turret to bear on them that he would be too late. The top hatch peeled way and the Antaran dropped a thermal charge inside and as he and his partner dived off the tank. A huge explosion rocked the engine area of Two tank and plasma fire leaped out of the top hatch. Rhame heard Dunphy cursing as he killed both Antarans with a single main gun blast. Rhame looked at Two tank as the rear hull started to glow from the heat of the thermal charge eating away the tank from the inside. Rhame closed his eyes and added to the List " Jenkins , Russo , LaPare" A voice cut in on his com. "SARGE my hatch is jammed and it's gettin real hot in here please get me out." Rhame turned white , how LaPare's driving compartment had survived he didn't know. Rhame looked at Two tanks hull glowing with enough heat to fry anyone that approached . La Pare's voice was near panic. "Sarge I am burning up in here, can you help me please?" Rhame's hand moved without conscious control as he brought his turret to bear on Two tank's front slope. His voice cracked as he spoke "Gunner. Target. Two tank" Dunphy's voice was a whisper "identified." Dunphy looked over his shoulder with tears in his eyes. " I can't Sarge." Rhame nodded to him. LaPare came on the com , his voice weak "Sarge are you gonna be able to help me?" Rhame grabbed his command override "From my position." With the sound of the main gun firing , Rhame gave LaPare the only answer he had. The men of One tank stared at the remains of Two tank a moment .Rhame keyed his com with a voice that was as cold as death itself "Cahill get us moving , Dunphy find your own targets and kill everything that doesn't belong here." One tank moved on leaving behind a burning wreck and another piece of their souls.

HiveMaster Nurrclian looked at all his remaining Special Attack Warriors. "All Units we will assault as one , I will lead to kill their HiveMistress. We will not stop until they are all dead. Fire all weapons as we charge and cleanse the infection. Twelve voices spoke as one. "YES GREAT ONE!"

Lieutenant Connors looked at his chrono for the 10th time as he listened to the sounds of battle outside intensify. One hour the General said. He sent out the orders to all perimeter units and then he keyed the button to transmit the General's message to the Field Marshal. As Connors was turning to grab his rifle to join the defense a flurry of gauss projectiles shredded the building and killed him before he could take cover.

General Parker took cover behind a wrecked truck as the Antaran fire flayed her troops. She felt gauss shells glancing off her armor and a small explosion as one wrecked her plasma gun. She saw the nearest troops flinging back as they were hit. The elation she had felt earlier when she heard the music was gone now. "They must have run into and ambush and were destroyed." She saw a movement to her right and she saw an Antaran looking her way. He seemed to be looking at her and then moved on to kill a nearby M.P. "What the hell , he had me 'dead to rights'. She saw another Commando nearby aiming a gauss rifle at her who seemed startled. He lowered his rifle and moved down the line killing some of her engineers. "What is going on here. Why aren't they shooting?" She moved over to some nearby bodies looking for a weapon. She pulled a body away and grabbed up a blast rifle. As she straightened up , she was face to face with an Antaran in an elaborate suit of battle armor. A mechanical voice came from the figure. " Your HELIX is weak and you will be cleansed."

Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar turned to TechServant Vex. "Carry your out your orders." The TechServant began keying in commands. HiveMaster Wittqliar stepped forward. "With respect SeniorHivemaster but it has not been 12 Time Units." Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar pointed at the ships shown on the system detection screen. "The humans are swifter than expected. We must prepare for their assaults now.We have no more time to give HiveMaster Nurrclian."

Rhame rolled up on the Ops building and swiftly targeted all the detected Antarans. "Dunphy start punching some tickets . Use secondary weapons only , there are still some friendlies around." Rhame heard the multi blasters firing as he tried to find if there was a defensive line left anywhere. He saw Antarans falling as Dunphy fired controlled bursts among the wreckage. Commandos fell one by one to the cool precision bursts of his fire. Rhame detected something to his left and saw an Antaran aiming his rifle to shoot human in a power suit. Rhame knew he couldn't fire without killing them both. A limping figure ran in from a nearby building towards the two suited figures. He covered the distance in a moment and he impacted the Antaran low and drove the surprised Commando back and they both fell in a tangle. Rhame saw the grey haired figure shouting. The tanks pickups made sense of his words "Shoot NOW save the General." HiveMaster Nurrclian was getting to his feet when a plasma bolt from One tank vaporized him and Master Sergeant Sanji.

Rhame detected no other Antarans in the area. He was surprised to see the power suited figure of the General raise her helmets visor and walk over to the glazed area and lay her hand gently on the still hot surface. As she walked towards One tank Rhame saw tears streaking her face. She climbed up the front slope of the tank and sat a moment on the turret. "Looks like this is twice your Platoon has saved the Corps Sergeant." Rhame saw the pain in her eyes and knew it matched his own. A roar from overhead approached from the west. The General looked up a moment. "If they are sending more Commandos you are going have to stop them Sergeant because as I see it, you are the Corps entire reserve. Rhame nodded. " Can do General we will hold them until help gets here." She looked at him as the roar came overhead and smiled. Rhame couldn't believe how bright her smile was. It was too bright to look on and he......

Kindred saw the Antarans streaming away from Four tank. " This makes no sense Burke , they were almost on top of us and now they are running awa....." A brilliant light from behind Four tank lit up the entire area. Kindred popped the hatch and looked to the north. Kindred slammed his hatch shut when he saw the huge mushroom cloud. Holding his head in his hands. "ahhhhh no." his tears fell as the tank rocked in the shockwave. He whispered "Rhame, Jenkins, Dunphy, Russo, Cahill, LaPare" as his List grew by six more names.

To Rhame the light filled everything. He saw figures ahead Cheng , LaPare , Jenkins , Russo , McKay , Golden , Lazenby , Clipp everyone from the List , everyone from Suji . He heard his schools band playing as they all reached out to welcome him Home.

An officer turned to the Admiral. "We have detected a large fusion explosion on the surface sir , impact point , the targeted drop zone." The Admiral turned to his communications officer "Abort the landing all transports regroup according to plan Alpha." The Admiral felt something cold behind his ear and he heard a voice colder than deep space. "Admiral if you order those transports back I will pull this trigger." The Admiral whispered. " We cant land in an area that...." Field Marshal Kahn didn't give him a moment. " The landing zones will be hot but the troops will have their protective suits and will survive. That is more than can be said of you if you try and recall those ships. "The Admiral choked out an order. "Execute landing plan Omega." The Admiral didn't hear the Field Marshal leave the bridge but he saw a crumpled printout that Khan had left on his chair. He smoothed it out and began to read it.
________________________________________________________________

To: Field Marshal Khan ( Supreme Commander Terran Ground Forces )
From: Gen Parker ( Commander XV Armored Corps )

Situation Report: Have repelled all enemy attacks on perimeter, commandos attacking headquarters, expect enemy to attempt to destroy Ops and Control with nuclear weapons to collapse perimeter before reinforcements arrive. Ordering full attack of all remaining XV Corps units to expand perimeter outside blast area. If Ops destroyed, XV Corps will need command and control from follow on units to expand beachhead. XV Corps will continue attack until relieved or ammunition runs out.

XV Corps will be here always.

Gen. C. Parker
________________________________________________________________

The Admiral's hand shook as he finished reading the printout and looked at the update of the troop landing operations. He picked up his com "Admiral Welch to all transport units. Any Captain who's ship hasn't landed in that drop zone in the next 15 minutes will be relieved and shot. If you don't have the guts to do it turn your ships over to an officer who does. Welch out." The Admiral gently folded the paper and placed it in his jacket.

 

...........................................................Epilogue....................................................................

"This is your shuttle pilot , welcome to the General Catherine Parker Spaceport. Please wait until the shuttle has stopped motion before unfastening your restraint straps." The sound of restraint clasps being unsnapped echoed through the shuttles passenger compartment. The door of the shuttle opened on a beautiful Orion One day.

He hesitated before stepping off the last stair onto the spaceports surface. An Antaran advanced towards him and bowed. "I have a vehicle waiting Great One." Your luggage will be brought to the hotel once it is unloaded." He looked towards the Antaran baggage handlers working hard to empty the shuttles belly.

"Send the luggage in the vehicle , I will walk to the hotel later." The Antaran bowed again. "Yes Great One." He glanced to the south to a barely seen ridge in the distance before walking towards a object outside the spaceports main building.

The Monument sat on a piece of untended grass. It was larger it looked in the pictures. The 3 foot tall letters capped the Monument , XV shone in the sun as their gold plating remained untarnished. He read the plaque at the top .

Dedicated to all the soldiers of the XV Armored Corps who held the line.
................................XV Corps will be here always...........................................

All the names were here. As his finger touched a name their holo image appeared in front of him. He touched the topmost name. General Parker was smaller than he remembered but the holo caught the determined look in her eye perfectly. "Wonder if she ever smiled." He started searching for the names. He circled the Monument until he found 17th Armored. "God , so many names." His height worked against him as he found the section he was looking for almost obscured by the overgrown grass. His large hands ripped the offending vegetation away and revealed the names.
A Troop
3rd Platoon
PSgt Jake Rhame
Sgt Bill Jenkins
Sgt.Jane Golden
Cpl Tim Dunphy
Cpl Rick Russo
Cpl David Lazenby
Tpr Jeff Cahill
Tpr Pierre LaPare
Tpr David Clipp
Tpr Paul McKay

He touched each name starting with McKay. When he got to Rhame's name he hesitated a moment before touching it. Thirty years melted away from his memories as he saw Rhame appear He knew the image would remain as long as he continued looking at it. "Hey Sarge , been a long time. I am sorry I never came to visit you before today but I swore I would never set foot on this damned planet again. Well they go and decide to have a session of the Terran Congress of Worlds here to celebrate the 30th anniversary of us beating the Antarans and attendance was mandatory. I guess the powers that be are still telling us what to do whether we care or not." He paused a moment before continuing." Burke is living on Schiff now and has his own software company , no surprise there. He has grandkids for cripes sake. After I got out I became part of the re-colonization of the outer arm worlds." He glanced at his chrono a moment." Gotta run Sarge , I have a committee meeting in 15 minutes. I don't think I will be back but I just needed to tell you we made it and .......it mattered." The image of Platoon Sergeant Rhame remained for a few more moments as if watching a distant figure walking away before vanishing.

Congressman Gregory Kindred ( PSgt. Terran Ground Forces retired and Representative for the planet Suji IV ) walked away leaving his Sergeant and the last of his demons behind.

___________________________________________________________________

This story is dedicated to the memory of my father a First Sergeant in A Troop 102nd Armored Cavalry Regiment 50th Armored Division who taught me to play wargames but never let me forget that the pieces represented real people.

DWS Orlando Florida


Edited by TheRealFedral, 27 February 2016 - 04:35 AM.





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