Gunnery Sergeant Gwen Cunningham
Location: FOB Oldport, Rogue Island, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Ugh! This place smells like…”
“Shit.” Gwen finished the Lieutenant’s sentence for him. “Well…” she waved her hand at the operations center of the formerly deserted forward operating base.
There were literal mounds of shit scattered throughout the room. One was at least a meter high and a few meters wide, so she assumed not all of it was human shit.
“They might have been using this place as a stable recently.” None of the shit in this room was fresh, but the shit outside had that runny consistency she associated with the beer shits.
Somebody had probably thrown a kegger here recently.
The newly reoccupied FOB Oldport was old. Gwen didn’t miss the irony. It had probably been built about a hundred and fifty to two hundred years ago when Rogue Island was originally settled.
As the latter half of the nearby city’s name suggested, Oldport was a port city on the coast of about a quarter-million people. Originally, the FOB was designed to protect the city. Two of its four sides, the back and right, looked out on nothing but green coniferous forest. The front showed the access road that ran for two kilometers before hitting the main road into the city. On the left, and this was the money shot, the main road to Oldport curved around and ran within seven hundred and fifty meters of the FOB. Due to the FOB’s slight elevation, it provided a decent overwatch position covering the road, and was most likely the reason the FOB had been put there in the first place. In an era of assault shuttles, having overwatch on a road into town wasn’t the most practical plan, but no one could go back and change it now.
The FOB itself had originally been a collection of concrete buildings, just plain old concrete, not even with duro-steel latticework or armorplast to reinforce it. She’d checked, and that made their defensive situation that much more precarious.
At some point in time, someone else noticed just how shitty the FOB’s defenses were. That mildly intelligent someone had built earth berms on all four sides of the FOB, with a small opening that acted as a controlled access point which the access road ended at. That did a few things for the FOB. First, it created a solid three meters of closely packed cover and concealment. At five meters high, the natural defensive structure would stop enemy fire from cutting unimpeded into the FOB. Second, it allowed for the optimal placement and usage of a shield generator. If it was placed in the middle of the FOB the resulting overlaying honeycomb of energy barriers should reach out past the berm. That meant that an enemy would have to fire slow moving grenades up and over the berm to target the garrison, which could be dealt with easily by swatters. It also meant that when the enemy finally decided to breech the shields they would have to charge through them and up the berm while the defenders sat behind cover and fired down on the invaders. It was textbook defensive preparation.
It would have worked perfectly if they had a shield generator.
But they didn’t. Echo Company of the 8552nd Infantry Battalion had one hundred personnel, four portable swatters, two hundred rounds of artillery ammunition for Gwen’s V2 LACS, and enough one millimeter M3 ammo for one, maybe two heavy engagements. Their supply lines were what the Spyders could haul out to them when they felt like it, and Oldport was a solid five hundred kilometers from the planetary capitol, Central Providence, where the main Commonwealth base was located.
<They promised us resupply once the battalion was on the ground, but I’m not holding my breath.> If she had her helmet off she would have been.
“Gunney, I’ve got the comms up.” The communication’s SGT straightened up from the two by two meter comms unit that acted as a TACCOM and STRATNET node for all Commonwealth forces on the planet to locate, send, and receive data on.
In the precarious position they were in, lines of communication were essential.
“Thank god.” The LT had his helmet off and his two fingers pinching his nose.
“Sir, I advise you put your helmet back on and contact higher. See what our resupply status is along with any intel we can get on the area.”
“Yes.” LT Maddox nodded and refastened his helmet.
The neck gator slithered up and completed the seal right before she heard him over the newly established battalion link.
“Chaos Six, this is Checkmate Six, comms check over.”
There was only a few seconds delay as the tight-beam comlink shot from the node they’d just established up to a stealth satellite in orbit, which the Coral Sea has dropped off during its pass through the atompshere, and down to the battalion node in Central Providence.
“Checkmate Six, this is Chaos Six, we copy you five by five. Send SITREP, over.”
“Not a lot to tell, Sir.” Gwen added her two cents privately. “We’re in position, no one was hurt in the drop, and we’re awaiting further orders.”
“Chaos Six: personnel green, class five green, location secure, but we’re red on class one, over.”
Class one and five identified specific areas of supplies that the company was equipped with. Class five was ammunition, and since they hadn’t fired a single shot on the way down they had a full combat load. Class one was food, and aside from an MRE issued at Gwen’s insistence, they didn’t have anything else to eat.
It was stupid that they’d dropped without food, but the reality was that there wasn’t any food on the ship beside the Fleet chow and a few boxes of MREs. They were always meant to get class one from the joint base once they were on the ground.
Gwen didn’t like how vulnerable that made her company. She said as much to the battalion commander, but that was the situation and they’d just have to adapt and overcome.
“Roger that, Checkmate Six. Beans and bullets heading your way at 1700 hours. Maintain communication and send additional SITREP at the top of every hour.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Checkmate Six, out.” The LT cut the link and smiled. “Food will be here in two hours, so let’s try and get the place cleaned up a bit.
As a precaution, they maintained twenty-five percent security on the berms around the FOB, but the majority of soldiers got to shovel shit for an hour and a half on their first day on Rogue Island. It was better than getting shot at, but not by much. First, they cleaned off the large open area between the cement buildings and the back berm. The LT designated this the Spyder LZ and wanted it clear before the food arrived. He thought the CO or XO might come along for the ride and he didn’t want their first impression of his FOB to be of stank ass shit.
Gwen went a step further and marked the area as a formal landing zone with reflective paneling and STRATNET strobes, so even if a shuttle came out in the middle of the night it would still be able to hone in on the location.
Next, they sent the soldiers to start cleaning out their quarters, while the command team went to work on the operations center. The center’s gear was either trashed or stolen, but judging by the mounts on the wall it had used old-fashioned flat screens to project the data. They didn’t need that with the comms gear they’d brought with them. The box that allowed them to talk to battalion HQ also projected a holographic, interactive STRATNET display of all the information being fed into the system. From this room they could watch all Commonwealth unit movements on the planet’s giant primary island. They were able to watch the Spyder take off and make its supply run to the FOB.
What the display didn’t have was real-time data on their surroundings. A satellite passed ever two hours updated their immediate AO, but an enemy force could get from Oldport to their FOB in twenty minutes, and that didn’t work for Gwen.
“Forth squad, meet me at the gate.”
The “gate” was a meter thick duro-steel plate that could be rolled and locked into place in the small opening between the berms. It was something she would have expected in a PHA not a FOB, but she had to work with what she had.
“Staff Sergeant,” she nodded to forth squad’s squad leader, who was the most experienced NCO in the company aside from herself. “I’ve got a mission for you.”
The five privates in the squad started to bounce back and forth on their toes like excited kids on Christmas morning.
“We’re blind past these walls aside from that section of the road on our left.” She patted the earth berm with her armored hand. “I want you to take your squad and haul ass two kilometers out along the access road to where it meets the main road. Place some sensors there, fan out on either side, and do the same at the one kilometer mark on the way back. I want to have at least a minute of advanced warning if we’re going to have company. When you get back you can get some chow.”
“Anything to get away from shoveling more shit.”
Gwen appreciated the SSG’s sense of humor since she’d just asked him and his squad to do a four kilometer run in full battle rattle into unknown, possibly hostile territory. But the guy was a good NCO and he hauled ass out that gate just like she ordered him to.
“LT, I’m getting us some eyes and ears along the road.”
<Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.>
But the officer didn’t care. He was busy fussing about the incoming supply run, and as it turned out he wasn’t totally wrong. A Spyder settled into their marked LZ thirty minutes later and a man with master sergeant insignia marched down the ramp as the crew started to unload multiple sealed polyplast crates of food, ammo, ironically cleaning supplies, and even a class five fabricator with a literal ton of raw material.
The fabricator was a surprise to Gwen almost as much as the MSG. She’d seen the stocky NCO before. He was the battalion operations NCOIC. He handled all operational details and fed his recommendations to the XO and Commander. Pre-Commonwealth armies had staffed battalions HQ’s with a bunch of officers to handle such tasks, but when the militaries were reorganized hundreds of years ago it was determined NCOs were better suited to the task while the officers focused on the burdens of command. Officers in staff positions didn’t happen until you hit brigade levels, and those officers, at a minimum LCDRs, had a senior NCO to share the load.
“Lieutenant, Gunney.” The MSG had his helmet off and his face immediately puckered.
“Master Sergeant, welcome to FOB Oldport, formerly the city’s public shitter.” Gwen didn’t pop her helmet, so the MSG couldn’t’ see her face, but the senior NCO still grinned.
“We’re finding this where most of the companies dropped, and that’s why I come bearing gifts.”
Echo Company’s soldiers were already helping unload and distribute the disinfectants and decontamination wands that would kill whatever diseases were lingering in the bowels of the FOB.
“But I’m really here to get a sense of the area and update your mission parameters.” The MSG donned his helmet and nodded toward the building. “We should step inside.”
The LT brought up the STRATNET map once the three of them were in the ops center. It showed the latest satellite overpass an hour ago, and the extended bubble of data two kilometer down the road and fanning off to each side for another two hundred meters. Blue icons showed fourth squad arriving at the FOB’s gate.
“We sent a squad to get eyes on the most likely avenue of approach,” the LT informed.
The MSG simply nodded, and tapped the holo-image to zoom out.
“Situation.” He pointed at Central Providence. “The council representative is currently off planet and on New Washington. The newly elected planetary governor ran on a separatist platform and won. Now, he’s trying to put those plans into action. As such, all Commonwealth forces have been exiled from the city and been asked to leave the planet. We, of course, told him to shove it.”
Gwen chuckled at the response. Rogue Island wasn’t going to separate from the Commonwealth unless it received a three-fourths vote from the Council of Representatives. That was what was stated in the Charter, and that was the law that everyone had to live by; even planetary governors who’d won an election and had a seventy percent approval rating.
“Intel reports the Oldport militia has thirty thousand planetary guard members on their rosters, but all are operating with antiquated equipment and vehicles. You’re nearest friendly force is Delta Company whose covering down on their own objective. Battalion HQ and the 4474th Infantry Battalion, the planet’s normal garrison, are stationed at JB Sullivan just outside Central Providence. We’ve got two squadrons of drones for intel gathering which we can load some missiles on if we need to. The base also has a squadron of Spyders to bring in QRF if shit goes sideways.”
A Spyder going supersonic could be over Oldport in five minutes, plus the time it took the troops to load up. Call it seven minutes. But a fight between a hundred soldiers and thirty thousand armed civilians would be over a lot faster than that.
“The mission of Echo Company is to maintain order and discipline in Oldport. Your primary mission is to limit their movements if they decide to send troops to join the governor’s grand new army. If they can link up with a few other cities’ militia we’re going to have a serious problem. Your secondary mission is to capture these high value targets.” Faces, GICs, and details of three individuals appeared on the holo. “They’re the primary agitators in your area.”
“Execution?” The LT had his notebook out and was scribbling furiously.
“You decide how your company executes this mission, Lieutenant.” The MSG nodded at the smaller officer. “But the rules of engagement are condition three. Do not fire unless fired upon, unless you must fire to accomplish your primary mission.” He pointed behind him where they had a solid overwatch position on the road the separatists would use to move their troops. “They might be separatists, but they’re still Commonwealth citizens. We don’t want any unnecessary casualties.” The MSG turned to Gwen. “We brought some extra ordinance for you to utilize, and we raided an old armory to get you two eighty millimeter mortar tubes.”
“Eighty mike mikes.” That was a blast from the past. “They’re not gonna cook off a round in the chamber are they?”
“No, Gunney, the battalion armorer cleared them for action, and we brought along a hundred rounds for them. You’ll have to make the rest with the fabricator.”
“That’s a lot of firepower, Master Sergeant.” No one could see the LT’s face, but his body language showed how tense he was.
“We’re asking a hundred soldiers to hold the line against a city of a quarter-million. There is no such thing as enough firepower.”
Gwen cut her comlink before the young officer heard her laughing at him.
“Service and support is happening right now. You’ve got enough class one for a week, enough class five to take on a few antiquated divisions, and enough supplies to clean up this latrine. We’re trying to get some transportation out to all the companies, but we’ve only got rhinos and they’re secondary to getting everyone food and ammo.
Rhinos were a troop transport vehicle that had gone out of style nearly a century ago. They were lightly-armored vehicles with an auto-cannon on top that could carry a squad of soldiers for five hundred kilometers before its battery ran out. You could drive it manually or it could drive itself, and could reach speeds of a hundred and fifty kilometers an hour. The problem with them was that they were big-assed targets, and once the Spyders came into deployment they became obsolete. Most of the Rhino inventory got shipped out to colonies, which meant the Rogue Island militia was bound to have some. That wasn’t good news.
“MEDEVAC call sign is Cardinal, and we’ll just need a standard nine-line. You grab any POWs, especially those HVTs, you call Chaos Six and we’ll get a pickup squad out here to take them off your hands.”
Gwen was glad for the bit of information. She didn’t want to have to supervise a bunch of separatist interrogations while being the company NCOIC and the company’s HI asset. That would just be too much.
“I’m updating your STRATNET and TACCOM encryption so the locals can’t have access, and downloading the latest code words. Call signs remain the same. You’re Checkmate six and seven. The Boss is still Chaos Six, and I’m Chaos three. The 4474th call sign is Rogue. Any questions?”
“We’re not going to be able to maintain order in the city until we get vehicles.” Gwen stated the obvious. She wasn’t going to have her guys hump it down there.
“Understood. The CO is more interested in preventing the locals from joining forces and attacking the JB in strength. If you keep that from happening, we’ll have your back and the next supply run will have a case of beer from the CO’s personal stash.”
Gwen laughed like she was supposed to, but the plan still had a lot more holes than she was comfortable with. Least of which was the supply issue.
The LT looked like he wanted to say something, but a loud beep over STRATNET grabbed everyone’s attention. What looked like a quartet of vehicles had just turned off the main road from Oldport and onto the FOB’s access road. From what the data the sensors were picking up they were all rhinos, and were tagged gray. Meaning their disposition was UNKNOWN/PRESUMED FRIENDLY.
“That’s my cue.” The MSG didn’t run but he walked with a purpose out of the building and to the waiting Spyder. The assault shuttle’s engines were already whining and ready for takeoff. “Accomplish your misson, Lieutenant.” The MSG gave the junior officer a salute, which the officer returned with gusto.
“Gunney,” the MSG opened a private comms channel. “Take care of your people. This could get ugly.”
“Roger that.” Gwen cut the link as the rear ramp closed behind the MSG and the Spyder jumped into the air.
“Give me heavy weapons on the front berm plus second and third squad. Fourth, fifth, and sixth take the other berms. Seven through ten you’re in reserve but be ready. Gunney,” the LT called out his orders and turned to her. “Get your tubes warmed up.”
<Make sure to keep my people alive and keep a trigger-happy LT from making me drop HE on a bunch of weekend warriors. This should be fun.>