Location: Launcher A, Yangon System, Eastern Block
“Push! Push! Push!” Eve yelled over TACCOM as she moved down a hallway. Rounds flew from behind her toward a Blockie position, and rounds flew from the Blockie position toward her.
She was the front of the charge, the tip of the spear. Her V3 LACS acted as a duro-steel shield to keep her team safe while she walked her plasma-tipped rounds back and forth across the Blockie’s position.
There was a scream from one of the men following behind her as he went down, but her HUD only dropped him to yellow medical readiness, so she pushed on. Rounds started to ping off her armor with increased frequency as the Blockies saw the threat looming closer and closer. She waited until her gut told her she’d been out of cover for too long before diving into a hallway branching off of her quickest avenue of approach.
STRATNET pegged it as a dead end, but it wasn’t one at all.
“Shit,” Eve cursed as she scrambled up against the wall. Two members of her team followed her lead.
“Vixen-Two to Spartan-Seven, over.” Eve radioed GYSGT Cunningham.
“Go ahead, Vixen.” The GYSGT’s return call sounded stressed, but that was to be expected. They were trying to accomplish a herculean task.
“I’ve got another jammer somewhere near my coordinates.” She pinged STRATNET as she spoke to see if the GYSGT could pick up her location at all. “The hallway is not a dead end, I say again, not a dead end. It goes for fifty meters and then comes to a T. I’m going to need more men if you want us to scout any further.”
One of her teammates leaned around the corner and fired at the Blockie position to keep some pressure on them.
“Fuck!” The GYSGT exhaled.
They were still trying to clear their sector of the Launcher, and the plans they had were not accurate. These must be a new generation of Launchers because all of the data the invasion force had was obsolete. They looked the same from the outside, but the internal layout was totally different. The ones they were invading were designed better. Defensive positions had been built into the design, and there had to be one at every intersection. That meant Eve and her people had to fight tooth and nail for every meter of this metal tube. It was a force multiplier to the enemy, and the 2511th had already suffered four KIA and twice as many WIA just trying to find the way to their objective.
“I can’t give you anyone else, Vixen. Complete your current mission and hold. I’ll get back to you. Seven out.” The line went dead, and Eve was back to hearing nothing but gunfire.
<This blows.> Eve took a deep breath, a sip from her LACS’ water pouch, and thought over her situation. <Blowing.> Her own negativity gave her an idea.
They weren’t supposed to use grenades unless in a dire situation, but the whole clusterfuck of an operation was turning into a dire situation. She was losing men and time trying to take a position, while a previously unknown layout had just been revealed to her. As far as she knew, there was an entire Company marching up to engage her.
She rotated her Buss to the 40mm grenade launcher and selected anti-personnel from her weapons menu. “Cover me.” She let her teammates put enough fire downrange to keep the Blockie’s heads down. She stepped out into the hallway, sighted the launcher, and let it rip.
40mm grenades made a pretty big boom. They were supposed to. They needed to kill troops behind cover, hardened targets, or armored soldiers. Eve was ready for that as she moved back behind cover. What she wasn’t ready for was the explosion that threw her to her knees despite a solid duro-steel wall and thirty meters between her and the target.
“Berg! What the fuck was that?!”
Eve didn’t answer. She was too busy shaking her head and picking herself up off the ground. Her armor was fine, and her teammates were green. That was her first priority. The next was to assess the damage. She peeked around the corner and her jaw dropped. The end of the hallway was just gone.
The built-in defensive positon wasn’t even a pile or twisted metal and rubble. It had been clearly blasted away. There was a gaping hole in the wall behind it with sparking circuits and a growing fire.
“Advance!” Eve rushed forward.
Her teammates followed closely. One took up a position covering the rear and the new corridors they’d discovered. The other cleared the objective with her…or what was left of it. The three Blockie soldiers manning the position were dead, and only one had been shot. The others had taken a wave of what looked like superheated plasma to the back that burned them extra crispy.
“Clear.” The defensive position was at a dead end designed to cover the entire hallway they’d come down. Eve had made a new door, but she didn’t dare head in there. “Find something to suppress this fire. Double-time,” she ordered. STRATNET showed that the GYSGT and her team were heading in her direction.
“Seven, this is Vixen. We’ve seized the objective.” Eve relayed a SITREP to the NCOIC.
“No shit,” the GYSGT rounded the corner at the end of the corridor with a small team of soldiers. She approached the scene, and even though Eve couldn’t see the expression on her face, she knew the GYSGT was scrutinizing everything. “You used a grenade didn’t you?”
“Yes, Gunney.” There was no point in lying. Her LACS had recorded everything. With the discovery of the new corridor branching off of this one I needed to take this objective as soon as possible while securing my flank. I fired a 40mm frag grenade into the enemy position and completed the mission.
“Looks like you did more than that.” The GYSGT peered around Eve at the still-smoldering corpses.
“It had a greater-than-desired effect,” Eve stated.
“I’m not busting your balls, Berg.” The GYSGT reached out and clapped her on the shoulder. “You did well.”
Eve was a little surprised. She didn’t expect the GYSGT to chew her out in the middle of a fight, but she expected at least a reprimand. “Uh…thanks.”
The GYSGT shook her head. “Check STRATNET, Berg. Maintain your situational awareness.”
Eve expanded her view of the Launcher and smiled when she saw what the GYSGT was talking about. A solid two hundred by two hundred meter area of the Launcher that had been unexplored black was now visible.
“The drones started transmitting back data right after we felt the whole station shake from your unauthorized use of ordinance.” The GYSGT’s voice was stern, but Eve expected that was for the LACS’ recording devices. “However, your escalated use of force has given us critical information.”
Eve’s HUD received a detailed blueprint that she didn’t understand.
“We’ve had intel people examining the Launcher, and it is clear this is a new generation of them. Not only are the imbedded defensive positions strategically located throughout the structure, but they’d hardwired a lot of the defensive communications and EW countermeasures. That is why we’re having such problems with TACCOM and STRATNET. Our nodes are getting blocked by jammers they’ve built into the Launcher. When you took out this position, Corporal, you knocked out a jammer and some type of power source to this sector. That’s why it exploded, and that’s why we need to be careful using grenades in the future.”
“Yes, Gunney,” Eve played the properly chastised team leader to a T.
“I want your team with me, Berg. We’ll hold here until the drones give us the all clear and then we’ll move to make a major push south once we link up with Bravo Company.”
Eve hadn’t heard much about Alpha’s sister company fighting adjacent to them, but she knew they could use the bodies. They’d only been encountering fire-team to squad level resistance. Eventually, they’d have to come up against the main body of defenders.
“Any word on the other Launchers?” Eve asked as they passed the time waiting.
“Shit if I know or care. Or job is here, that’s what we need to focus on.”
“Yes, Gunney.” That was the end of the conversation as the drones gave them the all clear and they hustled to a new rendezvous point.
Sergeant Major Queen
Location: Launcher A, Yangon System, Eastern Block
SGM Queen stuck his head around the corner and surveyed the hallway. A pair of Blockie Nutcrackers stood guard in front of the door to the Launcher’s central command center. The pair of guards’ heads were on a swivel, but their sensors passed right over the SGM’s position and kept on scanning. Over the last twenty minutes the SGM and his strike team of Rangers were using their V3 LACS for all they were worth. The brigade of troops from Agincourt had one mission, and the SGM had another.
That was how the SGM’s career had been for the last decade. He’d done his time as the NCOIC of an entire Corps, which left his professional development in a bit of a predicament. Most soldiers who made it to such a lofty position took the pension and retired. They’d usually seen enough shit – both combat and bureaucratic – that they were ready to retire to Fort Couch and live a life of leisure.
Sitting around on his ass getting old and fat was not SGM Queen’s idea of a life of leisure. He always believed he was going to die in battle, and that hadn’t stopped after being the senior NCO of a million men. So, he went looking for a new challenge.
He’d always known the in’s and out’s of SOCOM, but had largely decided to stay out of them and focus on leading soldiers. Now that he’d mastered that leadership it was time to turn a new page. The more delicate and clandestine operations handled by SOCOM were not divvied out to random squads or companies when they came around. Even within the Ranger, Recon, SEALs, and SAS certain teams were legendary.
In the Rangers, the largest of the SOCOM branches, there were only a handful of companies that dealt with the real black ops missions. The SGM’s reputation had been enough to get him into Selection. The uniquely horrible training was designed for men a quarter his age, but he was just too stubborn to give up or die. After completing Selection, he’d been assigned to lead one of those prestigious company’s squads. A SGM leading a squad seemed like overkill, but he quickly learned it wasn’t. In the last decade he’d done everything from surveillance of Blockie Giga Proxies inside Blockie territory, to assassinations, and even exploration of uncharted space. He’d seen some real shit, and had to deal with none of the bureaucratic bullshit of his old positions.
The invasion of Yangon was his first mission back in action after some mandatory down time. Of course, that downtime was an iteration as a trainer at Ranger School coupled with a under-the-radar recruitment mission. He got to refresh some of his old leadership skills, and look for the next generation of space snake eaters. He’d found a few likely candidates, and it looked like one had just blown a sizable hole a few kilometers away.
He could tell because she’d knocked out something big, and the chatter from the command center was hectic.
<Now or never.> He took a deep breath and his mind focused on his objective.
“Move.” The word came out as a whisper, but the four men behind him sprang into action.
Their enhanced legs, coupled with the power of the V3 LACS, hurtled them down the corridors. They were halfway to the guards before the two men realized something was wrong. Their sensors might not be seeing anything coming at them, but they were definitely hearing the pounding of metal boots on metal floors.
“Take them.” The formation of the advancing Rangers changed.
Three of them, with the SGM in the lead formed a single-file line, while two popped out to the side and went to a knee. Once they were clear, they targeted the guards with their Busses and started to blow the shit out of them with plasma-tipped rounds.
Little explosions filled the hallway in front of the SGM, but he didn’t pay any attention to them. He needed to get to the door before the command center figured out what was happening and locked down. He trusted the rest of his team to deal with the threats.
Their attack caught the Blockies by surprise. They’d spent the last twenty minutes sneaking behind their lines, so the last thing their Nutcrackers were expecting was an assault team shooting the shit out of them. Still, they reacted quickly. There wasn’t anywhere to go in the hallway, which was supposed to work to their advantage, so they tried to compress their profile as much as possible and return fire. Their sensors still weren’t picking up the armor, but the flashes of the plasma-tipped rounds exiting the Busses gave them something to target.
<Shit!> One of those rounds fired at his men ended up hitting the SGM in the shoulder. His armor sparked, but held as he stumbled. The problem was his camouflage was damaged, and that gave the Nutcrackers a new target. As the closer of the three targets, he became their primary focus.
The two Rangers behind him adjusted to the new situation. They peeled around him and went blades hot. The two Rangers providing suppressive fire ceased when the Rangers with their blades out entered their field of fire. The sudden lack of fire surprised the Blockies just as much as the sudden suppression had, but they didn’t stop targeting the SGM who was continuing his charge toward them.
The SGM took one more round in the thigh before his Rangers reached the enemy. Proximity warnings designed to measure how close bullets were flying to you went off on the Nutcrackers’ HUD’s a moment before blades breached their suits and flesh.
<This armor really is something.> The SGM limped the rest of the way to the door and shoved his own blades in the way to keep the blast door for clamping down. The round to the thigh hadn’t penetrated but the force of the explosion had bruised or broken something.
“Stack up!” With the two Nutcrackers down the rest of the Rangers hurried to join him.
His leg protested like a motherfucker as the hydraulics of the door tried to overpower his enhancements and V3’s powerful exoskeleton. That pressure let off a bit when another Ranger got his shoulder under the door.
“Bumper!” the third man yelled as he placed an industrial-looking box on the command center’s door panel.
The unit went to work as a sickening wailing sound and smoke filled the area around them. The bumper units the SOCOM soldiers used didn’t mess around. They first tried to hack into the system, but if that failed they went manual. Their neural networks were filled with all sorts of data on enemy defensive blueprints, and used those to break in.
“Three…two…one…” the SGM counted down for the fourth and fifth man.
It was going to be a shitty breach, but there wasn’t much the SGM could do about it. The interior doors flung open and a hail of gunfire filled the small space. Rounds hit one Ranger, ricocheted into another, and then another before finally finding their way into the hallway. The five-man team endured it all.
The SGM continued to hold the door, despite feeling like he was going to break in half, while grenades were chucked into the room. These weren’t frags. Frag grenades were going to tear shit up and make it impossible to accomplish their mission. They were flash bangs.
The grenades emitted the flash and bang they were named after, but a helmet with dampeners could overcome that easily enough. What a helmet couldn’t do was stop the neural-seizing shockwave that spread out of the point of detonation. It was some high-tech shit, and it worked on the members of the crew that weren’t in some sort of armor, which was about ninety percent of them.
“Take’em!” The SGM and the Ranger holding the door tried to lift it as a high as possible so the three other members of the team could rush in and spread out.
The SGM’s LACS already had some warning signs popping up on his HUD. Several sections of scales had been damaged, but there were still no breaches. That didn’t stop him from feeling like hammered shit.
The team swept into the room and pushed forward. The little resistance that remained fought bravely, but had to retreat and ultimately barricaded themselves in a supply closet in the rear of the room. That didn’t end well. With the precious computer systems safe, the SGM had no qualms about using frags.
“Clear!” sounded four times from the corners of the room.
“Get to work. Shut it down, grab the data, and let’s get the hell out of here.” The SGM had stepped into the room and let the blast door slam shut behind him. They were trapped in the command center, but they were exactly where they wanted to be.
<We’ll make our own exit.> The SGM limped to the nearest consul where a short man – an officer judging by the rank insignia on his uniform – was slumped over the display with blood leaking out of his punctured and scorched armor.
The SGM tossed him to the ground and wiped the sticky liquid away from the port. He slid a cord out from his armor and jacked it in.
This command center was a literal treasure trove of intel. They’d have the Launcher blueprints, archived sensor readings of fleet movements in and out of the system, intel on the ground forces awaiting the rest of the invasion force, and most importantly, data about other Blockie Launchers’ quantum entanglement coordinate codes. That data could be used for surgical or general strikes deeper into the Eastern Block’s core systems. They’d caught the Blockies with their pants down in Yangon, much like the Blockies did to them at Rogue Island, but the SGM and his team were going to make sure they bent the Blockies over and butt fucked them hard for what they’d done to parts of Third Fleet.
He looked down at the bar on the side of his HUD. <Only two percent.> They were going to be here awhile, and he could already hear the Blockies losing their shit on the other side of the blast door.
“QE down, Sergeant Major,” one of the Rangers reported the Launcher was now officially offline. No one would be coming to help Yangon through the Launcher A.
<Still two percent.> He read the status bar again.
“Have this place ready to blow when they breach those doors. We don’t want them turning anything back on once we’re gone.”
“Roger that.” The Ranger who disabled the QE systems went to work popping mines out of his V3 and setting them up where they’d do the most damage to a relief force storming the command center.
The SGM just hoped they were gone before the Blockies were able to cut through the blast door, because they wouldn’t be taking any prisoners. Nobody was.