Location: Yangon-2, Yangon System, Eastern Block
“Listen up ladies and gents.” SGM Queen unstrapped himself from the charger in the back of the customized Spyder.
Unlike regular Spyders that were filled with enough seats to transport half a company, this particular bird had been retrofitted for SPECOPS use. A dozen charging racks lined the inside hull, and in each of those racks sat a man or woman in V3 LACS.
Eve was strapped in next to SGT Sullivan on the port side of the Spyder. She turned her head to the right to follow the man leading this mission.
Just as she’d expected, after securing Launcher Alpha, GYSGT Cunningham and the rest of Alpha Company 2511th Infantry Battalion got to stand down. In fact, the entire battalion got to take a breather. They’d done their job. They captured the Launcher, and lost a third of their force doing it. A big chunk of that had been from Alpha and Bravo Companies, but other units had lost people on the ride over and in combat to take the objective.
Eve didn’t feel cheated that the unit she fought with got to stand down. She thought they deserved every minute they got to pop off their armor and breathe calm air, but as a Ranger she didn’t get that luxury. She’d barely started munching on a protein bar before the call for all SPECOPS troopers to assemble went out over TACCOM. The thirty soldiers that were attached to the regular units were shuttled back aboard a destroyer and flown off toward the planets.
The Blockie defensive fleet was broken and scattered by the time Eve got close to Yangon-2. They’d put up a fight. Recovery operations were still underway for a handful of battlecruisers and a pair of battleships that had gone down during the action, but the Commonwealth’s losses were relatively light compared to the enemy.
Their destroyer didn’t stop to help. It headed straight for the planet where the second of Third Fleet’s task forces had gone into orbit and were taking shots at the PDCs with their energy cannons while they deployed their troops. The PDC’s were firing back, but their weaker guns weren’t having much effect. The destroyer pulled into orbit in the shadow of a battleship to avoid any of that fire. The bigger ships might not be in danger, but smaller ships could definitely get their paint scratched by the PDC’s guns.
The SPECOPS soldiers got shuttled onto the battleship and from there had received their marching orders and boarded a Spyder for the surface.
“Everyone apply a healthy layer of spray to your helmets.” The SGM demonstrated by taking a black tube and spraying the pressurized air all over his helmet.
Eve retrieved her own tube and liberally applied the spray. The spray itself was nothing special. It was aerosolized air with a healthy dosing of nanites. These nanites were specifically programmed to keep sensors clean and free of any debris. It cleaned everything from dust to water, and the weather report said that they were going to need it. Yangon-2 was a tropical world in the middle of its rainy season. It wasn’t a ‘lie on the beach and drink margaritas’ tropical either. It was an ‘It didn’t stop raining for half the planetary year and it made people miserable’ tropical. The planet’s terraformers were trying to fix the problem, but that was still going to take a decade or two.
None of that helped Eve or the other soldiers as the Spyder was buffeted by high winds as it made its approach. The SGM gripped a bar to stabilize himself as he walked down the center of the troop bay.
“As you know, our objective is PDC-7. Fourth Brigade has been pounding the shields and launching assaults the entire time we were sitting on our asses for the flight here. PDC-7 is holding out, and is one of three still standing. We need to take it out to free up aerial operations on the whole continent’s coast. Once it’s gone this entire continent will have fallen and we’ll be able to begin surgical strikes on infrastructure and personnel. Once we pave over this watery hell hole then we’ll be able to go home.”
There was no hooting from the SPECOPS operators. They were all seasoned professionals that needed a little more to get riled up than a pick-me-up speech. They silently went through their pre-battle rituals. Eve initiated a third diagnostic on her hypervelocity missile launcher. She hadn’t been given any ammo for it during the Launcher Alpha operation, and she wanted to triple check everything was green with it.
The brass hadn’t held back when assigning ordinance to the highly-trained soldiers. Eve had a full complement of weapons now: her 12 round missile launcher, railgun with 25000 rounds, 250mm spine-mounted tube with a full sixty-eight shell combat load – including 3 antimatter rounds in the five kiloton range – and last but not least her trusted Buss. Firing off antimatter shells required Brigade-level clearance, but she was stoked to have her boom boom back.
“We’re inserting here.” The SGM pointed at a spot behind a hill that was out of the PDC’s cannon’s line of sight. “We’ll hump it into the city and find a weak point. We’ll be tied into Fourth Brigade’s STRATNET, so we’ll have real-time intel on where they think the enemy is.”
Unlike the Commonwealth, which tended to put their PDCs on the edge of cities, the Blockies plopped their massive defensive structures right in the heart of their metropolises. In Eve’s case, they were about to assault a giant dome, with a two kilometer diameter, that sat right in the center of a city of ten million.
The Commonwealth thought the positioning of a PDC so close to civilian population centers was putting people in danger that was otherwise avoidable. After all, even if the PDC was surrounded by office buildings, ships in orbit still needed to concentrate defensive fire on the structures during troop deployment and offensive operations. Conversely, the Blockies probably thought having their shelters right in the middle of a population center allowed them to evacuate the maximum amount of people, whereas Commonwealth citizens usually had to trek tens of kilometers to safety.
The Commonwealth obviously hoped that the Blockies wouldn’t target population centers when they built their PDCs away from the cities. Judging by what Eve had seen on Rogue Island, the Blockie and Commonwealth’s thinking didn’t always line up.
“This operation is not a headstrong assault into enemy fire. This is a sneak-look-plant op. We’re going to sneak past the shields and enemy troops, look around for intel and vulnerable points, and lastly plant explosives to cripple the enemy’s defenses. We’ll be doing all of this while Fourth Brigade launches another assault against the trench lines and fortifications. We’re hoping to pull the majority of their defenders away so we only have to sneak by a handful of the soldiers they don’t want to put on the front lines. If you’ve got any questions ask them now.”
There weren’t many questions, but Eve paid close attention. The order of movement had her in the rear of the formation. A pair of sneaky Recon Marines were taking point. The Rangers and other Recon Marines would make up the core of the unit, and would have the secondary mission of protecting the handful of SEAL demo experts that were tagging along to blow shit up. All together, they were going in with just under twenty guys. The remaining soldiers on the Spyder would secure the LZ and establish a forward observer position to assist in calls for fire. There were going to be a lot of them flying over TACCOM as soon as the brigade pushed their assault.
Eve wasn’t a fan of moving at the rear of the formation, but she’d rather be in the assault team than being a glorified radio operator. She received a green light on her missile launcher as another gust of wind hit the Spyder and rocked her in her charger. She was at one hundred percent, but she wasn’t going to unstrap until she had to. In her mind, every second counted when you were about to head into enemy territory. By her count, it was going to be the twenty of them against ten thousand bad guys. She wanted to have the juice to defend her if she needed it.
The Spyder stopped shaking as they broke out of the clouds, but she got yanked against her charger as the pilot put the bird into the sharp spiral of a combat descent. Someone must have taken a pot shot at them because she heard a loud curse from the crew chief sitting at the back of the troop bay, but the skids hit the ground hard and the shocks absorbed the blow.
“Let’s move, people!” The SGM was the first out to door. They quickly established a perimeter. “Berg, get up on that hill and give me eyes!” The SGM ordered.
Eve abandoned her section of the perimeter, trusting SGT Sullivan to assign someone to cover down, and sprinted to the hill. It had a steep slope, which allowed the Spyder to land out of sight, but the top had more of a gentle rounding to it. Eve had to be careful and approach the edge at a crawl. If someone was looking they might see her and start to put a lot of holes in the hillside. That was unlikely. They were ten kilometers away from the fighting, and the Blockies had bigger things to worry about. A panoramic view of the battlefield showed her that.
The outskirts of the city had been bombed into oblivion. Charred remains were all that was left of the standard polyplast buildings. Shattered husks of duro-steel skyscrapers had their windows blown out and jagged holes ripped through portions. More than one had tumbled as their anti-grav generators failed, and they lay like fallen trees in parks and residential areas.
Even as she watched, a great beam of light lanced out of the sky toward the massive dome at the center of the broken city. It was still a long way off when it stopped. Energy sparked against energy and the rainy skyline was suddenly lit up as the shield flared and absorbed the blow. Several smaller pock marks hit the same area as the Brigade’s artillery tried to take advantage of the warship’s fire support. They saturated the area weakened by the ship’s attack. The shield flared again, but only a single, solitary explosion fell inside the energy barrier. It was weak and pitiful. Eve zoomed in and it looked like all that had been destroyed were a few abandoned cars the Blockie infantry was using as cover. A few soldiers were picking themselves up off the ground, wiping dirt from their armor, and giving a big middle finger up toward the warships in orbit. If she was standing among them listening, she bet they were laughing.
“What’s it look like, Berg.” The SGM was crawling up next to her.
“The enemy has a big ass shield, with thick, well-manned defensive positions.” Eve pointed out several pillboxes where high-powered energy weapons were likely placed. “I can see why Fourth Brigade is having issues. It’s a tough nut to crack, even with fire support, and we’re looking at force parity at a minimum. I bet the Blockies have more troops underground ready to pour out if their people on the surface get overrun.”
“They probably do.” The SGM didn’t sound concerned. “That’s why it’s our job to find those weaknesses that will eliminate as many of their up-top soldiers as possible.”
The SGM had a STRATNET overlay up on his HUD and was looking at avenues of approach. The team would have to slog down from the hill, through the no man’s land outside the shield, then though a good penetration point, and they’d have to do it all in the next few hours. Fourth Brigade’s assault began exactly at 1400 local time. From the storm clouds you couldn’t tell it was the middle of the day. Everything was dark, dreary, wet, and overall shitty.
Eve couldn’t imagine doing this in just Dragonscale armor.
<Embrace the suck.> She reminded herself as she pulled back from the hilltop with the SGM and went back to join the unit. They needed to get to work.