Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor
“This was too easy,” Eve looked over from where she was bent over the dead body of a Windsor guard. The man didn’t have a head thanks to Coop.
“Speak for yourself,” Coop shot back. Even in the palace’s dungeons he heard the belch of the Windsor mech tearing into the rebel soldiers providing a diversion for the SRRT team. A lot of people had died so they could perform this rescue.
“She’s right,” the SGM was standing guard next to the door. “We only encountered a squad when we entered the complex, and a handful of guards. This is supposed to be the Windsor’s stronghold. There is no way they would leave it unguarded in the middle of an invasion.”
A grin pulled at Eve’s lips when the NCOIC agreed with her. She straightened up and attached a piece of the dead man’s armor to her body. Coop had brought along some Dragonscale armor for Eve on because it didn’t matter if he rescued her if she got shot on the way out. Like before he got the GYSGT’s armor, the grunt armor wasn’t meant for someone Eve’s size, and even less for someone with her curves. This was the one time Coop considered her voluptuousness to be a bad thing.
She’d squeezed into what she could, but it wasn’t offering much protection. She was scavenging from the guard’s armor and strapping it on top of her shins and thighs for extra protection. She looked like Frankenstein jumped into the 25th century and decided to design armor.
“Here,” he tossed her a compact submachine gun. She unfolded it and accepted the ammunition that followed. It wasn’t as good as an M3, and way less useful than a Buss, but it would have to do.
“Thanks,” their eyes met for a second, and he knew she wanted to say more, but now was not the time or place. “What’s the plan, Sergeant Major?”
“We get the hell out of here and join up with the main body of the invasion force. We armor up, resupply, and come back to kick some ass.”
Coop nodded along with the SGM’s plan, but not everyone was onboard.
“Negative,” Eve stated. The SGM’s armored helm just stared blankly at her. “Sergeant Major,” she started again. “There is a reason you met limited resistance in getting in here. This is the Windsor’s seat of government. The prime minister, high ranking military leaders, and Queen of the fucking planet are here,” a hint of desperation leaked into her tone. “There have got to be HVTs all over this place. We need to strike now and strike hard. If we cut off the snake’s head then it won’t be able to bite us in the ass later on.”
The SGM listened to it all silently. Coop wished he could see any expression or any nonverbal body language from the man, but he got nothing. Not even a burp over the IOR.
“You’re right. Good thinking, Sergeant,” the SGM replied. “We’ll split into fire teams: Gunney, Berg, Sullivan, and Cooper; LT, me, Enders, and Hightower. We sweep this place the best we can. Capture HVTs if possible, kill them if you can’t. If you hit serious resistance, retreat and regroup with the main landing force. We’re not going to be able to slug it out long term if they want to put up a fight. Keep situational awareness about what is going on around us. We don’t want the ships in orbit to take a shot through the city’s shield and turn us to paste because we’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Eloquently put as always, Sergeant Major,” Coop sighed, as Eve finished running a diagnostic on her weapon. He just wished for once things were easy.
The green good-to-go button matched the glint in her eye. “Let’s go kill the fuckers that tortured us.” Despite being the least protected and feebly armed of the group, she led the way into the corridor.
<Fuck, I love that woman.> Coop was right behind her.
Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor
The first sounds of small arms fire snapped Mitch’s head in the direction of the village. “Keep your heads down and stay alert,” he sent to his team while he trotted over to the small CP the SGT had situated behind the tank.
The NCO held up a finger as he approached. He had his hand to the side of his head and was clearly trying to make out the chatter over TACCOM. “Echo made contact near the city center,” he relayed after a short pause. “They’re pushing them north toward the open space between the city and us. Once they get them in the open, they’ll call for fire and have the battalion HI take them out. So far, it just looks like some locals and not Windsor’s.”
Mitch didn’t let his squad leader see his sigh of relief. He’d rather take on some yokels than the people who’d crushed his battalion on New Lancashire. The mention of the HI brought back some unpleasant memories, but he was glad the walking artillery was going to be able to end this before it even got close to their position.
It was a relief for a lot of the marines in the brigade that the brass who set this whole thing up didn’t skimp on making sure they had what they needed. HI was always a precious commodity, and he couldn’t think of the last time he’d seen the entire battalion fully stocked with its compliment of ten HI troopers. The Alpha Company’s trooper was with the HQ element on the opposite side of the town from Mitch’s current position. In a valley that was thirty kilometers across and close to two hundred long, it was nice to know that there were thirty HI present to deal with bigger threats.
<Plus two tanks,> he thought to himself as he gave the metal behemoth a pat.
The clang of the impact faded and he heard another noise. “What’s that?” He turned and looked behind him. It didn’t have the zip of small arms fire, or the tell-tale whistle of incoming artillery. It was a soft rumble that growing louder and louder.
“Incom…” the SGT yelled over the squad line just as three figures rocketed over the mountains only a few kilometers from their position.
Mitch paled as he raced back to his foxhole and dove in. The only thing worse than enemy artillery was enemy air support. Even worse for the squad was their tank was a juicy target.
Three drones crested the mountain. The one in the lead was longer and more needle-shaped than the two rear drones. It had small, sleek wings on the side, but could turn on a dime based on the dive it executed as it came over the mountains. Mitch didn’t recognize the drone, but he did recognize the two in pursuit. Drone tech might have changed a hell of a lot in four hundred years, but the Commonwealth’s fleet of unmanned aerial fighters still had the shape pioneered by the old twentieth century United States’ stealth bombers. These were sleeker, far more maneuverable, and way better armed than its predecessors, but they were still struggling to catch the Windsor’s drone.
The Windsor drone dropped to the deck and rocketed over the open space barely ten meters off the ground. That was smart. It was below what a lot of the swatters were programmed to monitor. The Commonwealth drones followed but fell behind a bit. That didn’t stop them from firing their railguns at the enemy. Tracer rounds lit up the valley as the dog fight continued. Positioning thrusters flared around the Windsor’s drone as it spun to avoid the rounds.
The three fighters rocketed past Mitch’s position so fast he nearly missed them. By the time he turned around they were approaching the town.
<Echo!> He thought helplessly as a hundred members of his battalion were suddenly in danger. He was sure the SGT was already relaying the info, which the company commander probably already had with the JTAC coordinator monitoring the air space. The marines were probably scrambling for cover as he sat there thinking.
It looked like the Windsor drone was going to ram straight into one of the peripheral buildings, but at the last second it went into a steep climb. A split second later, one of the Commonwealth drones opened fire. It looked like its rounds missed the enemy’s tail by centimeters, and it paid for it. The less maneuverable Commonwealth fighter tried to pull up, but clipped the top of the building. It spiraled out of control and the pilot somewhere back on the Bush tried to avoid any collateral damage. He wasn’t completely successful. The drone almost made it out, but a damaged section of its wing snapped off from the strain and it nosedived into a group of buildings about a block from the edge of town. A second later, Mitch heard the boom of the drone’s death from his position.
The other Commonwealth drone ignored its dead wing mate and climbed with the Windsor drone. The Windsor drone looped around at the apex of its climb and went into a dive bomb of the marine’s expected position. Now that the Commonwealth pilot knew where the enemy was going he was able to act instead of react. He inverted and spewed out railgun rounds across the enemy’s attack path. Several rounds impacted the Windsor drone, killing it, but not its mission. The Commonwealth drone got the kill, but the dead drone still had gravity on its side. Even as the drone started to come apart from the damage, it still had plenty of mass to plow into the center of the small town.
The fire ball that sprang up from the explosion was bigger than the Commonwealth drone’s crash, and likely much more deadly. Mitch didn’t know how much since he was out of the TACCOM loop, but he magnified his HUD and was able to see the glint of a Spyder coming in for a landing with a big red cross stenciled on its sides and belly.
“Damn,” he muttered to himself. Marines were dying while he sat at the crossroads kicking rocks into the canal.
“We’re to hold position and continue with our mission,” the SGT announced over the squad channel. He’d obviously been thinking the same thing, asked to do something, and was denied.
Mitch had mixed emotions. He didn’t want to see other marines die and not be able to help, but he didn’t want to wind up facing down another Windsor mech. He didn’t want to sit on his ass all day, but he didn’t want to get shot in the ass either. They were polar opposites, but he wasn’t allowed to take the middle road.
He’d just have to sit there and wait.
Queen Josephina I
Location: Harper’s Center, Barrowsford, Star Kingdom of Windsor
“Shit,” COL Buckton stopped dead in his tracks. The Imperial marines raised their weapons at their commander’s curse, and Josephina’s own guards flipped their weapons off safe. “The Collies stopped fifty thousand kilometers out and sent fighters and assault shuttles our way. They want a buffer so we can’t catch them with their pants down with planetary weapons. That screws up our timeline. The shuttle isn’t going to be able to get you to the ships in orbit from this location without it being in range of their capitol ships.”
“So I’m staying after all,” Josephina was fine with this outcome. It’s what she wanted in the first place.
“No, Your Majesty. We’ve got a Plan B. We need to head back to the subterranean level.”
The Queen immediately knew his plan. The former governors of this planet knew they weren’t the most popular people around, and anti-aircraft missiles were a fairly easy item to procure on the black market. As a backup they’d built an underground maglev system to get them out of the city in case of an emergency. It popped back above ground about fifty kilometers outside the capitol, and from there it could join the normal tracks to any destination on the planet.
“You’re going to put me on a train and smuggle me to an alternate space port,” her statement was thick with disapproval.
“Yes, Ma’am,” the COL ignored her and spun on his heel. The marines and personnel armsmen formed back up around her and they hurried back the way they’d come.
She noticed there was more urgency in their steps, which meant danger was closer than they would have liked. They had no idea.
They rounded a corner at the same moment another group came around the bend about twenty meters away. “What the…” she began before the COL roughly grabbed her by the collar, and yanked her back while the marines and guards opened fire.