Gunnery Sergeant Gwen Cunningham
Location: FOB Oldport, Rogue Island, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“It’s organized, targeted, and effective.” The communications node in FOB Oldport’s ops center identified the operations MSG as the one speaking. “The entire battalion was attacked across the continent within half an hour of each other. From my perspective this looks like a contingency plan or standard operating procedure going into effect for all the local militias.”
The MSG sounded pissed, and Gwen could understand why. Unlike Echo Company, 8552nd Infantry Battalion, a number of the other FOBs weren’t as well defended. All the construction seemed to be identical: four concrete buildings set up in a square-like formation with an overwatch position on an approach into the city they were charged with protecting. Of those, only Delta Company had similar berms.
<Which means that whoever was in command talked with their neighbor to share good ideas, or vice versa.> She didn’t really care who’d been the originator, and she doubted the LT and GYSGT in charge of Delta Company did either.
“Casualties?” The Battalion CO got straight to the point.
“Ma’am.” A new voice popped on the line identifying the NCO as Chaos-One, the S1, the battalion staff position assigned with the management of personnel. “As of ten minutes ago we have twelve WIA, half of those from Bravo Company, and the rest split evenly among Charlie, Hotel, and Juliet.
Gwen cringed at the Bravo Company numbers. The first ten minutes of their operations briefing had been the LCDR chewing out the LT for being an incompetent moron. Bravo Company had no HI trooper with them, but their FOB was only eighty kilometers from the joint base outside Central Providence, and within range of the artillery pieces assigned to the Planetary Defense Center. What the Bravo Company LT erroneously thought that meant was that he didn’t need to prepare defensive positions because he had backup. While the other companies across Rogue Island had been digging defensive trenches, placing sensors along the avenues of approach, and cleaning up literal mountains of shit Bravo had been jerking off.
It cost them half a squad as a result. They got hit hard by several thousand militiamen. Troops were caught in the open with no cover, and the Dragonscale Armor could only take so much punishment. It had taken indirect fire from the JB and the QRF to push back to attack. If they weren’t in hostile territory and under attack the LCDR would have relieved the company’s command team, but they didn’t have that luxury at the moment.
“We’ve got two KIA, Ma’am,” the S1 GYSGT continued. “Both from Bravo.”
“This is unacceptable.” The LCDR’s voice was cold enough to make Gwen shiver. “We’re in a backwater system with modern gear and tactics. We should and will hold our ground against the obsolete locals. Am I clear?”
“Good. Now update me on the supply situation. Something tells me we aren’t done for tonight, and I want everyone to have enough rounds to take the fight to them is the tactical situation demands it.”
An alert beeped on the inside of Gwen’s helmet. She’d had the sensor screen on in her peripherals to ensure that nothing happened outside the perimeter without her knowledge. The alert was coming from the road two kilometers out. There was a bunch of activity. A seemingly endless caravan of vehicles was arriving along the road and pulling to either side. A number of the vehicles were registering as rhinos, other seemed to be all terrain buses commonly used to take kids to and from school, but the majority just looked like regular cars.
<I’ve got four gravitics signatures, which means they’ve got air-cars.> Being a backwater planet meant that getting the expensive vehicles shipped here limited their numbers, but rich people still liked their toys no matter where they lived.
The sensors were also picking up people, thousands upon thousands of people streaming out of the rhinos, cars, and buses.
<Looks like they brought the whole fucking militia.> Gwen grimaced.
And then one of the sensors dropped offline. Thirty seconds later another did, and then another. In two minutes she’d lost visual on the road.
“Sir, we’ve got a problem.” She established a private link with the LT and explained the situation.
“Ma’am.” The LT stuck his neck out in the middle of the LCDR’s briefing. “It looks like the second wave of our attack has arrived.”
“Then get to it, LT. Don’t let me drone on through all the action.” She dismissed them both, and they scrambled out of the ops center.
“Stand to!” The LT yelled the command for the second time that night over the company net.
They’d gone to fifty percent security an hour after the initial fire fight. Everyone was still on the berms, but half the troops were allowed to slump down onto the decline and catch some shuteye for an hour before switching.
Soldiers woke at the command, rolled over, and poked their heads and rifle barrels over the berm’s edge.
“Squad leaders,” Gwen toggled into the appropriate net. “I want even spacing around the whole FOB.” “First squad I want you stationed in the ops center and tenth take the front berm with second and third.”
It only made sense to fortify the previous attack point with more troops. But instead of seventy grunts they now only had thirty on the front, twenty on the other three sides, and first squad, the HQ squad, was going to be busy helping to churn out and dispense ammunition and doing any other special detail that Gwen or the LT wanted them to do.
As Echo Company redeployed as ordered, the sensors started to pick up movement on the edges of the perimeter. Red hostile icons were marching around to one side. They were sticking to the forest, but that was all she was able to tell. She’d only gotten a few seconds of information before the sensors went offline.
“Specialist.” She radioed the armorer in the building they’d turned into a makeshift armory.
“We’re going to need more diggers.”
“Gunney,” the Specialist sounded exasperated, “I only have so much time and material. I can make another hundred diggers, but it’s going to take time that I don’t think we have, and it’s going to eat up a chunk of our remained stock. LT says we need a lot of one mike mike.”
Gwen didn’t like getting backtalk from a specialist, but she knew the situation they were in was a tough one. “Specialist, give me just ten diggers, and then get back to making rounds.”
There was only a slight pause. “Yes, Gunney.”
“Squad leaders, on me.” She sent out her locational data, and a minute leader the ten corporals and NCO’s hustled up to her.
“As you already know, the enemy is shutting off our eyes and ears.” Anyone who’d made it out of basic could read a STRATNET screen. “I want everyone to go weapons hot and full zoom. We’ll try and spot them coming through the trees, and update STRATNET that way. Do not engage anything more than five hundred meters out. We’re going to have a tough enough time shooting through all the smoke and foliage. This is a one shot one kill scenario. I don’t want us wasting ammo, and I will be watching.”
Her LACS neural network automatically registered the company’s kills, and she could replay the visuals saved in the Dragonscale’s databank.
“For every shot missed, your squad is going to do a hundred meter sprint in full kit, understood?”
“Yes, Gunney.” The junior NCOs and corporals laughed at the statement.
Sometimes threatening them with mild physical torture when the outcome of a battle was unclear was the best way to keep them calm and motivated. If they saw that Gwen wasn’t worried then they wouldn’t be worried, and then their squads wouldn’t be worried. It was a trickle down calming effect that was crucial when they had so many green troops in the company.
“Here you go, Gunney.” The Specialist walked up with ten digger grenades that she dispersed to the squad leaders.
“If you get a shit ton of contacts in an area, launch this in there and we’ll get a massive update.” Gwen instructed. “You’ll only get one, so don’t waste it.”
The squad leaders nodded, fastened the valuable sensor grenade to their scales and trotted back to their positions and relayed the new orders.
“Yes, Sir.” Gwen answered the LT who was standing with the three squads at the front, northern berm.
“I want you to blanket the convoy on the main road. Give me ten rounds with twenty-meter dispersion. Walk them down the road and blow the shit out of their shit.”
She could practically hear the LT’s nervous excitement in his tone.
“Sir.” Gwen started, but stopped to craft her own suggestion.
Taking out the enemy transportation wasn’t a bad idea, but there were a lot of unknowns. First off, they no longer had eyes on the targets, and the militia was already moving out. They might take out the vehicles, but not get the soldiers. That just meant that whatever happened, the enemy was going to be sticking around the FOB’s area. That could be a bad thing.
Second, they didn’t have information on the weapons systems the enemy had brought in.
She’d just gotten eyes on the air-cars before the sensors went dark. It was possible they had swatters or some other kind of anti-ordinance weapon. The theory and basic versions of the swatters had been around for hundreds of years, and she couldn’t think of a reason they wouldn’t have something in their militia’s arsenal.
<And since they didn’t have it with their arty it has to be somewhere.>
And that led to the most important problem with the LT’s plan. They only had so many 80mm rounds and shells for her LACS. She didn’t want to waste them, especially when she was blind and wouldn’t be able to do a post-strike assessment through STRATNET.
“I want to limit their movement, Gunney. That is our primary objective. Make it happen.”
Gwen knew it was a tough call. The plan had pros and cons, but he was the officer. He had the command authority, and he got paid the big bucks to make the decision. It was Gwen’s job to execute.
“All units, fire mission.” She laid out the details of what was coming in a terse fashion just so a green trooper didn’t shit their pants when she started lobbing shells around.
As she plotted the mission, using the last available intel, and spacing it according to the LT’s orders. While she did that more and more sensors started falling off the grid. Even the sensors in the rear of the FOB, back behind the berm next to the Spyder LZ were starting to go dark. The only place they still had complete coverage was the open space on their right, to the west, and that was because General Wood wasn’t a complete moron and sending his troops out into the open.
In fact, after everything she’d seen so far, Gwen thought the General was pretty competent for a backwater colony militia leader. Now the only question was if he lived past the next few seconds.
Ten, 80mm high explosive rounds thumped out of the mortar tubes stationed within the inner perimeter of the FOB. They were only going two kilometers, so the flight time, even with evasive maneuvers, was short.
A rapid staccato of gunfire told Gwen that she’d been right. The militia did have some type of anti-ordinance weaponry, but the rapid fire of rounds didn’t last long. Several BOOMS echoed across the forest as Gwen’s rounds landed on target. She was an experienced operator, so there wasn’t any doubt in her mind she put the rounds where she wanted them to go.
The hard part was trying to count them. <six…seven…eight…> She listened with her LACS enhanced hearing feature. <Only eight! An eighty percent hit rate. That sucks.> She was pissed with herself.
“Sir, confirm eight hits, damage unknown. See if we can get a drone overhead to take a look or we’ll just have to wait for the next satellite pass to get an assessment.”
“Negative on the drone, Gunney.” The LT replied a few seconds later. “JB is taking fire. We’re on our own for now.”
<So I’m guessing no quick reaction force.> This was what Gwen didn’t like about the deployment plan from the beginning.
The Spyders were vulnerable on the ground, and just when they were lifting off. A rookie with a MANPAD had a chance to score a hit if they were lucky. <So why the hell did they think they’d be able to get QRF out to us when they’re hip deep in their own shit.>
“Contact…north…five hundred meters.”
Gwen listened to the radio chatter and her experienced senses singled out a soldier’s update in third squad.
“Deep breaths… Relax… Let the computer do the work.” The SGT walked the green private through the targeting process like Gwen had done hundreds of times on the ranges back at Stewart-Benning.
She started moving in that direction while pulling up the PVT’s MILNET profile. It was basically blank. The kid was eighteen and the 8552nd was his first assignment out of Basic. Hell, he’d only graduated a few days before shipping out.
Gwen checked to see if he’d been at her own final Basic company’s graduation ceremony, but this PVT had gone to one of the other Basic training centers. Stewart-Benning handled the east coast, Sill Training Center handled the center, and Pendleton Training Center handled the west coast. There were three more throughout the Commonwealth’s Earth territories: one in Whales, another in Northern Alberta, and the last one on the Yucatan Peninsula south of Cancun. As far as preference went for training center, Stewart-Benning didn’t suck total ass.
“Ok, your target is marked, now smoothly pull the trigger. If you jerk it you’ll throw off your targeting solution.”
Gwen was halfway to the berm when she heard the cough of the M3 discharging, but she caught it all through the PVT’s suit’s sensors. So, she saw when the round went high and to the right. It clipped a tree and showered the target in centimeter long splinters.
The militiaman got lucky. It didn’t kill him despite wearing a ballistic chestplate that went out of style before mankind settled Luna, but he got a face full of wood moving at unhealthy speeds. From the FOB they could hear his strangled screams.
“That’s one hundred meters third squad.” Gwen chimed in, and made the ten soldiers jump. “I said one shot one kill, not one shot one poor, wounded bastard.”
“Yes, Gunney.” The squad leader replied, and Gwen could imagine he was glaring down at the PVT.
Hitting a stationary target at five hundred meters shouldn’t have been difficult.
“Contact east…Three hundred meters…twenty, thirty, fifty…I think this is it.” The sensors were still good for the last three hundred meters on that side of the FOB, and it was rapidly filling up with red icons.
“Here we go!” Gwen sprinted toward the east berm, firing off two HE rounds as she ran.
It took skill to fire on the run, but Gwen was a professional. She sent the rounds in a high arch, so it came down on the militiamen when they broke out of the smoldering forest just less than the fifty meters from the berm.
The locals’ war-cries were rudely interrupted by explosive force ripping the first line of their suicidal charge to pieces. There wasn’t much left of those people when the second wave stampeded right over their squishy remains.
“FIRE!” The command was largely irrelevant as the twenty soldiers manning this berm opened up on full automatic.
Gwen fired off a volley with the 80mm mortars targeting the tree line with the objective of disrupt the third charge while they dealt with the second. M3 rounds churned up the charging militiamen like meat going through a grinder. Most of their armor was completely useless against the modern weapons, and those who had slightly newer laminate armor didn’t get more than a few deflections before rounds started filling them with holes. Things were going pretty well until…
“INCOMING!” Gwen screamed over the company net a half-second before the swatters opened up on the massive barrage of indirect fire coming their way.
<Son of a bitch blew his whole load on one shot.> The computer diagnosed the incoming as eighty millimeter mortars identical to the couple Gwen had at her disposal.
Unfortunately, the militia had a shit ton more. Dozens of rounds came crashing back down to earth at once. The swatters did their job, but there was only so much four of them could do against such a big salvo. Gwen added her own protection to the effort, her shoulder mounted railgun rotating and shooting spurts into the sky. But even that wasn’t enough.
“IMPACT!” She said a heartbeat before three of the rounds made it through.
One hit nothing but open space, but it still threw shrapnel in every direction. The second was much more harmful. It landed inside the inner perimeter. The explosion missed the swatter that was sheltered from the blast by the concrete building, but the mortars weren’t as lucky. One was destroyed outright, but its sacrifice saved the second. Still, the armorer would need to look it over before Gwen could use it again.
The third round missed the top of one of the buildings by less than a meter and hit the bottom of the western berm.
Gwen watched as the two soldiers nearest to the explosion went from green to yellow on their medical status, meaning injured but still combat capable. She trusted the squad leader to take care of it, because there were more pressing issues to deal with. More waves of militia were crashing toward the eastern berm, with the second wave less than twenty meters away.
“Second squad, on me!” The LT yelled, charging down the northern berm with ten soldiers in tow. “Reinforce the eastern berm.”
Gwen was near the top of the berm now, and let loose a thermobaric round from her 125mm cannon to stop the tsunami of people rushing them. The round exited the tube and a second later she hit the ground in the prone position, brought her Buss to her shoulder, and started to unload on the charging locals who were now only ten meters away.
Unlike the 1mm of the M3, she was firing 3mm rounds, and the difference was noticeable. But not as noticeable as the thermobaric arty round going off about a hundred meters from the berm. The explosive force would have knocked the Commonwealth soldiers off the berm had they been standing, but instead it just washed over them and forced their armor to shut down all the external sensors except the STRATNET data.
Not that it mattered. Everything in front of the berm was either dead or running away. Gwen had no idea how many people she’d killed with that high-yield explosive, but it saved the eastern berm from getting overrun before the LT got there.
The swatters going active again cut off any chance for the briefest of celebrations. Gwen added her voice to the defense again, and fired off some counterfire rounds toward the enemy mortar’s possible position without any way of knowing if they hit anything.
The one round that got through hit the Spyder LZ with no casualties.
“North berm!” The LT had just reached the east berm when red icons started stampeding the last two hundred meters toward the location he’d just left.
Gwen followed the officer, sprinting ahead of him and the squad he was leading. She launched her own rounds to disrupt the charging masses, then added her Buss to the defense of the FOB.
After failing to breech the north berm, the locals tried attacking the south, and each time they got within ten meters of the defenders before they were turned back by a combination of M3s on five-round burst and artillery shells exploding all around them.
<Fuck!> Gwen thought as they finally beat back the southern charge.
The only statuses she was checking now were ammo counts. Everyone except for the force along the western berm was red on ammo, and they’d already been resupplied at least once.
<If we don’t get some sort of resupply soon, we’re fucked.> It didn’t matter that no one had breached the berms yet, another few charges and they wouldn’t have anything but rocks to throw at the enemy.
The General was sacrificing his people as cannon fodder, and as sick as that was, if he kept it up he’d win.