Sunday, July 30, 2017

Another world, another war

Another world, another war
- by William Hay
The two suns were high in the sky, a great yellow orb and another smaller  shimmering distant  light. One of three moons still hung in the sky near the horizon.  Darkness was never complete. Not like on earth.  Here there was always a surreal quality.  The greens not quite right with more purple colour in the vegetation. The water tinged red by the local algae.  Animals were peculiar too. And the people had scales like somehow snake DNA had failed to change to skin. They were that much more ruthless too.  Armed with the latest weapons but lacking the coordination of Earth Corp.
“We’d not be here if they hadn’t come to earth blasting and raiding.”  he said.  He was tall and red haired.  Big muscled. Huge grin.  “They thought they were Vikings I guess and didn’t count on meeting the real thing.” Sven was the resident giant.
“That’s about right. The whole Mediterranean collapsed with the first assault.  Europe went next.  Africa didn’t stand a chance.  Middle east was outright murder.  South American held out.  So did northern Asia. Mountains gave advantage."
“The Indians and Pakistanis patched up their differences and actually stood their ground.  Canada joined the US and even California got on board. That’s when the defence got righteous. Russia was always ahead of the game.  Their alliance with Britain and Norway made all the difference.'
“I just liked when we started taking the fight to them.'
‘That’s for sure.
‘Best defence is an offence."
“Thanks to that Israeli kid we learned where their homeworld was."
“The space agency had the ships but it was something to outfit them for war. Thanks to the forethought of Canadian miners who built the underground hangars with the Americans back in the cold war era.  Those places really served their purpose.  Power from the Candu reactors.  Lots of raw material and industrial 3d printers.  When we got the skies back we were ready to launch."
“I appreciate the rehash. On Mars we didn’t have that much news once the ships attacked earth.” The combat troops had linked up in space for this one of a kind mission.
“The grid stayed up on earth.”  Charlie was a swarthy black haired powerhouse sort of guy, squat like an underground miner. All muscle. He carried the rocket launcher as his favoured weapon, not heeding at all the string of missiles he wore around his neck like a string of garlics
There was a girl with them.  She was there because she was the best sniper. She also could carry her 50 mm  Barrett M82 with the special enhancements by herself despite the weight.  She never complained.  No man or woman offered to help her with her heavy rifle and ammunition pack more than once.
Henry had a portable force shield generator.  The force shield had been developed by Cal Tech years past but the problem was making one portable and making one that snapped on and off.  Nothing got through but nothing got out when the force sheld flashed in place.  All the initial ones took too long to come on and too long to power down. This was just right but given the still tricky motherboards and physics Henry came along to carry the weight and to work it’s magic. He didn’t have a rifle as a result but trusted his Glock 9 mm with a shit load of ammunition.
“You can never have enough ammunition,” he was fond of saying.
“That’s supposed to make the rest of us feel safe when our force shield generator guy keeps saying that.” Charlie joked.
“We’ve never let you down yet,” That was true. The patrol had never been overrun since Henry had joined them  Before that they’d been other insertion units that had just disappeared when the enemy swarmed. You had to give it to the tech scientists. Without them this would have long ago been a one sided conflict. No one made jokes about nerds these days.
Not even Rodger. He carried the heavy mortars.  A defensive tackle in college football he dwarfed everyone else.
Everyone was already dug in but they dug in deeper.  Enemy artillery hadn’t found their position yet but it wouldn’t be long before they had a lucky hit. Then they’d pour all hell on their location.  That’s how they did it.  Lobbing shells all over till something exploded or flew up then massive continuous strikes before they sent out troops and mech to see what they’d blown up.  It had proven an effective tactic for them to date. The force shield could stop it but once that was turned on as a last resort the whole guerrilla insertion to get close and lethal went out the window.  Then it was swarm and guns till ships came in to rescue or the force field generator’s power ran out.  It was a hell of a way to fight a war. Especially with a whole lot more of them and that sense they didn’t care about how many bodies they sacrificed.
Now the bombs were exploding a half mile to the east and behind them.  They’d been falling in front earlier.  Some sort of grid system.  The platoon kept moving and digging in, moving and digging in.  No one wanted to be out in the open when a bomb struck.  Something worse than napalm  Ate right through the armor and kept on eating. Alive. Organic.  The scientists hadn’t found an answer. "Get naked as quickly as possible and pray,” they’d said.
“They’re getting closer."
“They don’t know we’re here. it’s just their grid system exploration.  You know how it works. Now move out.”
Tony was their leader.  He was a straight shooter but bad ass.  Good to his friends and you only wanted to be his friend.  A lieutenant colonel.  You’d think his rank would get him out of the hands on up front war but he liked to lead from the front. This was his idea. This whole guerrilla insertion into the centre of their command right here on their world.  Intelligence had identified this fortress as their headquarters. From an earth point of view it didn’t make sense, isolated as it was but the underground systems connected all their cities and out posts.  None of the worlds Earth had encountered lived above ground.  They travelled there. Vacationed there, picnicked there but everything that counted for work occurred under ground.  Invulnerable to invasion.
“Just like the Irish and English moved away from the coast during the Viking era.  Made it all the more tough for my people to pillage them, “ Said Sven.  So the alien worlds appeared to have learned to put their vulnerable bits beneath their surface hundreds and thousands of years ago.  Earth was only now catching up.  A whole lot of people and equipment had simply been swept away before the world turned to the miners and listened.
They all had ear wigs and heads  up displays. The minaturization technology had become such that they could have put the visuals  on a contact lens. It had been tried. But the old fashioned half face mask used by riot police remained the standard soldier fair. The night vision technology had improved too so the face shield could adjust to any light manually or automatically all the while given a faint display of platoon position enemy positions, time, heat signatures, ammunition reserve. heart rate,  Just blinking changed the screens.  It had changed the response times and accuracy of individual soldiers immensely.
No one knew what her name was. The Aussie had called her Sheila that first day and it had stuck. She was good natured that way.  Now she’d turned it around and her real name was a mystery to all but the Colonel.  Sheila was a Captain and was already moving fast across the terrain.  She ran really low and fast and mean like a jaguar.   They were in range and she’d seen a place she wanted to provide oversight from.  She was there in minutes, risking enemy fire trusting to speed and terrain, staying in the galleys. .  Now she was climbing up the protected side of the hill. .
Mac was moving forward with a half dozen other guys.  They were carrying a variety of armaments but everyone was packing Colt rifles.  Same ammo.  A variety of platforms.  Some with grenade launchers. The M16A6 would not be recognized by anyone who knew the A2.  Lots of advances made in the Kitchener facility after the American’s had taken their losses.  The scientists had scurried north and the weapons war escalated exponentially. There were now laser and flechette functions.  The modern M rifle was like a swiss army knife version of a weapon but with incredible simplicity that worked like brail.  Practice with it made perfect and the troops had confidence in their individual stopping power. As long as the enemy didn’t develop anything like what they had with their bombs the kevlar ceramic plate vests had become so light weight and flexible that they stopped everything else they enemy so far threw at them.
The up close war was still bullets and flames.  Each soldier carried a 10 minute oxygen tank and wask for retreat purposes only.  The new grenade was a fraction of the size and weight of the old grenades with 10 times the kill radius.  The programmable self propelled features on some were even more ingenious.
The whole platoon was coming up now on the walls still undetected, moving fast along the gullies and behind the purple shrubs.  Above their drones were now converging and would soon leash hell fire missiles on the fortress opening it up to the invaders.
He was running full now now.  No different than medieval knights and peasants. Making that last surge hoping against hope the timing of the drones was exact. His heads up display showed the first coordinate and time fast approaches. Minutes. A shot came from the wall.  A lone scaled head with shark like mane going down almost immediately the projectile left the barrel, Sheila’s oversight on the mark. The man next to him staggering and strightening, his armour taking the shock.
“Alright, “
They kept running.
The drone strikes hit then. Six missiles from the first three drones had struck at different points in the defence.  The area a thousand yards in front of them was rubble as was the diversion wall further along.  The sprint was all out now as the second wing of drones came in taking out all heat signatures that began to swarm where a wall had been.  The lazers laced the sky, bright despite the surreal light of early day.
He was crawling over the last of the wall when he began acquiring targets.  Two legs and three arms.  Best hit low. Their vitals functions were there.  His rifle cracked over and again.  Tony had no problem killing. It was a job to him.  He knew from the bios that these soldiers were just like him in some ways, family, kids, games but their leadership had taken the offensive.  And if things went well he’d get up close and intimate with the real threat to peace.  The acquisitive bastards who were directly below him had launched the attack on earth. That’s what intelligence had said. Now they were here.  More bodies went down before his accurate three burst fire even as he saw Mac off to the side spreading out  with more troops in front of him.  Above a drone dropped the bomb beyond them where intelligence deemed the ‘stair case to hell’ existed.  A few thousand meters to go and fewer combatants than they’d anticipated or the drone strikes had done better.  Now he saw the opening.  Just like Intelligence had said.  A regular 11 lane highway heading deep into the surface.  Once the building had been blown away above they had access.  He didn’t think they’d expected their perimeter to be breached so successfully.  Again thanks to the nerd in Texas who’d figured out a way to jam the eyes and ears of the fortresses massive electronic defences. .
Even as his heads up adjusted for the declining light as he and a dozen men began their descent down, the other teams were removing air defence. Earth ships, those amazing transports that left the orbiting ships above  to blast through atmosphere and land on a dime next to the battle field were already enroute. They were bringing in the mounted calvary, tanks and troop transport.  With the surface to air defence knocked out they’d be safe to land.
Tony’s heads up display messaging box declared the first craft landing as he and his men continued mowing down the enemy as they descended into the dark, slower now, taking advantage of cover, along the wall and in the centre, strange equipment that served some purpose they didn’t need to know but which served them if only psychologically as cover from incoming shots that so far their body armour had stopped long enough for the soldiers to take out the source.  A couple of grenades flashed ahead of him. He pulled the hand drone out of his vest and set it off. The cavern was huge.  That’s when the artillery took out two of his team.  Great explosions that completely took out one guy while the other was now  standing stripping right there in the middle of a battlefield.
Jamie’s rocket launcher worked it’s wonders then.  Hearing the screams of the man who hadn’t got his equipment off fast enough, Jamie wasn’t satisfied with one rocket but sent a second into the artillery position that had been hidden in the wall taking out the already dead just as laser fire came down from ceiling defences that would have been hard to hit except that’s what the self propelled grenades did best.  Curve around corners. Better falling ceilings than incoming laser. The massive mounds served as cover as they kept moving forward maintaining the momentum even as the display said that mech was already entering the fortress and soon would be backing them up.
Through the huge cavern they encountered the shafts.
Sheila had some how caught up now and was just another trooper in for the close in combat her rifle on her back and latest version of H&K VP70 in her hand.  “Do you think it’s going too easy."
“No and don’t jinx it.”
“Well I like dropping bombs in shafts.” She said helping him drop all the ordnance they each had carried for just this purpose. Other troopers were doing the same further along.  “  We used to throw grenades in lakes back home and catch the fish that floated to the surface.”
“Let’s hope it’s like that.”  He said. “I hope where we’re standing doesn’t go down when the bomb explosion comes up.”
The earth rumbled then as the bombs went off, the troopers staggering. The shafts were deep. Air conduits, intelligence had said.  For some reason the enemy didn’t think to protect their air flow or recognize them as vulnerable to bombs. Each species seemed to have blind spots like that. Vulnerabilities that could be taken advantage of until the other developed the necessary protection. Like earth’s surface factories that had been taken out by the enemy ships strafing and bombing that first day.
Now the mech was in and heading down the deep highway  behind them.  Their job had been to breach the first defences and drop the bombs in the shafts. They held a few minutes more till mech was passing.
“Catch a ride.” Tony called to the  first tank commander head up above his great machines
“Hop on board.”
The patrol was happy to be  jumping on the tanks and joining the following troop  transports. They’d done their bit going ahead and now weren’t going to miss the finale. Better to ride to glory on a tank  than walk or run.  Breath catching time.
There was more artillery lower but the tanks took that out quickly.  They threw a partial force up shield ahead of them. The turret was free. The men were protected even riding on the sides.
Deeper and deeper they went till they got to the swarm.
Then it was just blood and bullets. Fire and slippery ooze.  It was clear that the bombs they’d dropped had taken a terrible toll. What they did here was mainly mopping up. This last cavern was already full of dead bodies when the mech arrived.
When it was over Tony and his patrol  were resting in this  last cavern with alien bodies 5 and 6 high around them, stacked like cord wood.  It was something out of the British and African wars a couple of centuries back.  Intelligence had come in after that and said they’d got some of the leaders. The leaders had a different colour to their scale manes.  They wore some kind of special jewelry  tech too.  The speed of assault had trapped them in this last cavern.  The shaft bombs had blocked their escape and let off a gas that had killed many.  The final mopping up wasn’t a cake walk by any means but with our mech and a numbers advantage the enemy had never faced before we had won rather quickly.. No combat is won easily.
Tony looked around at his men.  They all looked haggard. Lots of far away stares.
No one smoked.
A few took sips from their suit reserves.
Henry was lying flat out on his back.  His was a tough job for a nerd.
“Round up.” Tony said , standing.  “Good work.”
The patrol with three  men less loaded on the transport for the surface.
“I guess we have to get off this planet before they can organize a fitting response,”
“Suits me.”  said Sheila.  She always looked the most fatigued after an insertion.
“Can’t wait to get into your bath,” Mac laughed.
“You can say that.” Said Sheilagh.
Soon they were lifting off in the transports with drones covering the troops departure.
Once everyone was back in the mother ship they were out of there.  Earth command wasn’t  ready for an all out invasion but they’d done what they set out. Intelligence said it was a complete success.  The alien  leadership was some sort of communist religious dictatorship which  had never been compromised before. They were good at sending out soldiers but intelligence didn’t think they’d be too quick to carry on now they knew they themselves were vulnerable.  Confusion reigned on the alien  surface which was why the earth ships  were getting away so lightly.  That suited everyone.
Especially Tony.  He’d only lost three men but earth didn’t breed like they did and it took years to gain the training and experience of his team.   The fact was his men and Shiela were like family. Family was earth’s strength. The feelings that it gave to soldiers.  It had been good to be on the offensive too. Tony didn’t like playing defence even if he was good at it.

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