Location: Yangon-2, Yangon System, Eastern Block
“Get in formation…ten meters spacing…cammo on…let’s move people,” SGM Queen set their movement conditions and the twenty SPECOPS soldiers hurried to execute.
They were on a time table, but they moved out at a cautious pace. They had to travel down a steep slope right off the bat, and the movement left them horribly exposed. Eve held her breath as the hustled down the incline. The rain was coming down in sheets now, which didn’t help their camouflage. The ability to blend into their surroundings was still going to fool sensors, but all an enemy soldier had to do was look at them with the good old mark-one eyeball and they’d be able to see where the rain was slamming into something solid.
<I’ve got a bad feeling…> Eve immediately throttled that negative thinking. She needed to get her head in the game or she’d end up a whole lot of dead.
So far, a positive was that she was moving near the rear of the formation and on the right side of a wedge spread over a hundred meters. If they made contact, the Force Recon marines up front were going to take the weight of enemy fire before she could get on line. She expected that to happen any second as they made it to the bottom of the hill and pressed into the bombed-out city.
“Keep your eyes peeled, Berg.” The SGM singled her out on a private channel like he knew her mind was wandering.
Their formation quickly disintegrated into a column as they picked their way through overturned air-cars, crumbled buildings, and fires that even this downpour couldn’t extinguish. They hugged the buildings to avoid getting pounded by the rain and giving away their position.
Now that they were in the city, the SGM pushed them with mild recklessness. Eve grimaced every time they came to an intersection and they didn’t post proper security. She was more than willing to run to the front and cover one direction, while another Ranger covered another, and the rest of the element moved through, but they didn’t have time for that.
STRATNET wasn’t a big help either. They had intimate detail of Fourth Brigade’s staging area, and the area surrounding that half of the PDC, but jackshit on this side. They were operating off the small, local networks in their suits, which only extended to line-of-sight. When Eve zoomed out on her HUD it was an ominously small circle inside a vast sea of unknown.
<Well, at least the spray is working.> The nanite spray she’d used on her helmet was working as advertised and no water was distractively dripping into her view.
Because of the recklessness of their advance they made good time. They’d crossed half the distance to the PDC in thirty minutes, but as they got closer they had to slow down. They still had no idea if the Blockie air defense had tracked their Spyder on the way in. Just because they didn’t get shot at didn’t mean the enemy wasn’t watching. A Commonwealth bird landing in their rear was bound to draw some attention, and it only made sense they’d come to investigate.
“Enemy sighted.” The announcement came over the team channel without any warning. “Three hundred meters, dead ahead, and heading straight towards us.”
Eve was in the middle of an intersection when she heard the announcement. She hustled to take cover behind a wrecked air-car in the mouth of an alley. It was a perfect position. The still intact wall of the two buildings covered her from the north and south and the car gave her complete cover and concealment from the east. Her only vulnerability was the road to the west, but two Rangers had hunkered down in it, and had that direction covered.
“I’m counting at least twenty, but they’re moving slowly.” The marine finished the report and STRATNET updated.
Eve watched as the number of red icons kept growing. <They sent a full platoon to look for us.> She grimaced. The good time they’d made didn’t mean shit now.
“Everyone hold for a second.” The SGM sounded calm and collected from where he’d taken cover under the awning of a roofless building’s front doorway. The red and white stripes seemed a lot cheerier than the situation called for.
Eve took the moment to think through the situation. It seemed like the Blockies had seen the inbound Spyder. Why they didn’t take a shot she’d never know, but they’d countered their movement effectively. Despite behind abandoned and partly destroyed, the avenue they were advancing down was the quickest avenue of approach to the large PDC. Eve was willing to bet her paycheck that other platoons were working their way down the less likely avenues. She tried to remember the grid-shaped map, and thought there were at least half a dozen roads leading into this side of the PDC. If her thinking was right, that meant the Blockies were willing to risk an entire company going outside the wire to look for them.
<Why…> realization hit her like a cargo hauler, <…because they can’t see us.>
The Blockies knew something was up.
Eve was about to radio the SGM but his voice cracked over her helmet speakers. “They know we’re here. We’re not going to be able to penetrate as a group.” Despite the bad news, he didn’t sound upset. “Team up with a battle buddy and give me a fire line with fifty meter spacing. Every man and woman for themselves. Get into that PDC and rendezvous here.” A blip appeared on STRATNET inside the PDC. “Get to it people.” The SGM cut the line and people stared moving.
“Let’s go, Berg.” SGT Sullivan rushed past her down the alley with his Buss raised. She immediately fell in beside him and covered the other half of the alley.
She watched on STRATNET as their bubble of awareness expanded as the buddy teams spread out. Since she’d been at the ass end of the formation, they had to hump it to the end of the firing line that now spread a good five hundred meters.
They reached their avenue of approach and immediately continued moving forward. Eve’s heart was pounding, but it had nothing to do with the short run. She’d expended more energy taking a shit than that leisurely jog. It was the fact that she was strung out on the edge of a formation with at least twenty times her number bearing down toward her. When the mission was a stealth incursion the one thing you wanted – no needed – was the element of surprise…and the enemy knew they were coming.
“I’ve got two…four…six…at a hundred meters.” The Ranger SGT stopped counting the enemy as the heads of the Blockie’s armored soldiers turned a corner and started to head toward them.
“Here.” Eve moved toward a relatively untouched building. She tried the door, but it was locked, so she put a little oomph into it. The polyplast snapped and bent in enough to create a small opening. Eve stuck her fingers in and manually yanked open the door.
She’d stopped a battleship’s armored door from slamming into emergency lock down, so this flimsy piece of plastic was nothing. The SGT rushed in and she yanked the door back into position. The rest of the city looked like shit, so she doubted the Blockies would think one wrecked door was suspicious.
The building was three stories, like all the other ones around them, and she and the SGT had no trouble rushing up to the roof. “We leap frog the rooftops until we’re passed the platoon, and then we push forward on foot.” Eve relayed her plan as they jimmied opened the door to the roof.
“Sounds like a…” the SGT looked like he was going to agree, but they stopped as they took a look to their north.
They sat only half a kilometer from the PDC now. Their HUDs showed the shield that arched up at least a kilometer to form a dome that terminated about fifty meters off the ground. That meant it was a strong shield, much stronger than the one Eve had gone through back on Rogue Island. She guessed a level four based on what it had to stand up to.
A twenty-meter duro-steel wall rose between the ground and the edge of the shield. The wall had built in pillboxes with powerful defensive weaponry. From their vantage point, Eve could see swatters spaced every ten to twenty meters on the edge of the wall, and soldiers patrolling alertly. It was a better situation than the side facing Fourth Brigade’s attack, but it still looked like a pain in the ass to get through.
A chorus of BOOMS tore through the air like thunderclaps, and Eve’s attention instinctually shifted. She magnified her HUD and saw vapor trails of orbital strikes cutting through the atmosphere…a lot of them.
The first stage of Fourth Brigade’s battle plan had kicked off. Warship’s in orbit were targeting the PDC with their railguns. The tough duro-steel rounds were punched down through the atmosphere to blanket the shield. It served the purpose of blinding and confusing the shit out of the enemy so the Brigade could move troops into position.
“We need to hurry.” SGT Sullivan tore his attention away as the rounds began to impact the shield in a shower of sparks. Within five seconds it looked like the old Fourth of July on steroids in the sky above the PDC.
“Stay low on your jump in the off chance they can pick us up,” were the SGT’s parting words before he jumped.
He went low, with almost no arch, and did a combat roll for a landing. Both froze for a second to see if the scouting platoon noticed anything. They didn’t. Between the roar of the rain and the railgun rounds striking the shield nobody heard the slight scrape of armor against polyplast, so Eve jumped.
The two Rangers jumped four buildings deep before crawling to the edge of the roof and peeking over. They were fifty meters past the platoon who continued to push outward at a faster pace.
<They want to finish their search and get the fuck out of here.> Eve didn’t blame them. Outside the shield was the worst possible place for them to be right now.
Eve and the SGT hurried down the stairs and emerged on the street parallel to the one the enemy was moving on. A block away the buildings ended and fifty meters of clearing separated them from the PDC’s walls.
“Fuck me.” The SGT mumbled as they reached the edge of that clearing and looked up.
They made sure to stay in the shadow of the buildings, but it didn’t make their task look any less impossible. Within spitting distance, Eve spotted a dozen soldiers manning the wall, two spotters, and a battery of hypervelocity missiles not that dissimilar from the one on her LACS’ shoulder.
“Team, listen up.” The SGM’s voice crackled over TACCOM. “Talked with Fleet upstairs and they’re going to end their bombardment with one final time-on-target bang. It might overload the shield enough in a few places to let some rounds slip through and cause a little chaos. That’s when we’re going to hit the wall. Hit it hard, fast, get the hell over it, and make it to the rendezvous point. Don’t get spotted, out.” He cut the link and left Eve’s eyes to scan the wall.
“I don’t know how…” a loud groan of metal on metal cut her off as a section of the wall slid open about twenty-five meters to their left.
“Well that looks like a perfect…” the SGT’s comment was cut off as a hovering block of armor and destruction poked its nose out of the opening.
A turret as big as a gaping maw swung back and forth, scanning it’s surroundings, before the tank pushed completely out of the opening.
“You’ve got to be shitting me!” The SGT cursed while Eve’s mouth just hung open.
Tanks were largely a weapon of the past. With orbital warships, Spyders, and combat drones able to rain down fire support on anything, it didn’t make sense to put that much firepower into an easy target. It was much more economical to have HI troopers with not as much, but still considerable firepower.
<But they’re fucking perfect in a situation like this.>
The Commonwealth still kept some tanks in their inventory, and it looked like the Blockies did too, and they worked fantastic in a defensive situation like this where friendly fire support couldn’t get through the shields. Eve was willing to put a lot of money that Fourth Brigade was going to walk right into the teeth of a ton of those things during their attack.
Eve toggled the command channel and opened a link to the SGM. “You seeing what I’m seeing?” she didn’t catch the SGM’s grumbled cursing.
“Sending it to Fourth Brigade’s HQ. Good spot, Berg, now get over that wall.” The line went dead, and it still left Eve without a plan. She was still thinking when a flood of red icons started heading in her direction.
“Move!” The SGT pushed her through an already broken door as the enemy closed to within a few meters. If not for their cammo they would have been targeted and destroyed, but their V3s did their job and the enemy streamed past them.
There was only a slim piece of polyplast between the two Rangers and a rush of forty Blockie soldiers, but those soldiers didn’t bother to check the busted door, they had other things on their mind.
“They’re pulling back.” The SGT poked his head out of the door when the stampede of metal boots faded. “The tank is covering their retreat.”
Eve joined the SGT and looked at the backs of the Blockie soldiers. It looked like three platoons were falling back from three nearby streets toward the tank and the gate beyond it. The tanks turret swung in a smooth rhythm back and forth. Eve counted the length of two swivels as a plan took shape in her mind.
“How good is the cammo on these things?”
She couldn’t see the SGT’s face, but she saw him shaking his head. “No…no…no…”
Too late. The timing matched up. The platoon from their street was the first one to reach the gate, so their side was clear, and the turret was swinging in the other direction. Eve didn’t wait for the SGT to say anymore. She took off at a sprint to cover the fifty meters.
This was either going to be awesome or fatal.
She crossed the distance quickly with the power of her V3 LACS. She judged the approach as best she could and went into a slide like a baseball player going into home. The last of the troops from another street were streaming past the tank on the opposite side, and if they heard the scrape of her armor against the road they didn’t show it. Half a second later a second slide announced the SGT’s arrival. They both fit comfortably underneath the tank that was hovering a meter above the ground. They took care to avoid the anti-grav thrusters, found good places to grip, lifted themselves up, and secured themselves parallel to the bottom of the tank. With the rain being blocked by the tank’s bulk they were basically invisible.
“You forgot one thing,” the SGT was breathing heavy as adrenaline pumped through his system. “They’re probably going to check under this fucking beast when it comes back in…a visual inspection”
<Shit…> Eve was flying by the seat of her pants with this op, and she didn’t like it.
“Well then, I guess we’ll have to…”
She never got to finish. The biggest BOOM yet filled that air. The automated sensors in her helmet activated to block out the noise as the time-on-target wave of rounds smashed into the shield. She could only imagine what it looked like for Fourth Brigade, but she knew how it affected the tank. Whoever was driving this thing threw it into reverse and darted back underneath the protection of the shield.
The crew never even knew it had two stowaways. They were too worried about saving their own asses from the steel rain falling from above.