Two Worlds – Chapter 271 (Part 2)

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor


<This was the worst idea ever,> Coop thought the moment he let go of Eve. She wasn’t a football of baseball, and they didn’t exactly teach human chucking at Basic, so her flight across the hallway was less than graceful.

<What the fuck was I thinking!> Cold fear gripped his chest as Eve approached the shield. Either she was going to go splat on the shield where she would be an easy target from the HVT’s bodyguards, or she was going to make it through. In that case, she’d be face to face with the armed and armored guards, which wasn’t any better.

Revenge on someone who’d wronged you was all well and good, but this was suicide. <And I let her talk me into it.> He cursed himself and his dick for getting himself into this situation.

Before he knew what was happening his feet were moving forward and he was charging the shield. The moment he started moving was the moment Eve hit the shield…and went right through.

The guards, who’d been cornered by the additional fire from GYSGT Cunningham and Sullivan, swiveled their attention to her. <Shit…shit…shit!> Coop tried not to look as he charged into the shield right behind her…and bounced off like a pinball.

His LACS tried to keep him on his feet, but even those servos were overcome by the sudden stop. He bounced backwards and landed on his ass.

{They’ve stopped firing,} the GYSGT relayed as she continued to pour fire into the shield.

{They solidified the shield. Nothing in or out, but Eve is already in there!} Coop scrambled to his feet and punched at the barrier. He might as well be striking the side of an assault carrier.

Calm had settled outside the shield, but inside was a whole different story. Eve had some mismatched, stolen armor, two nano-bladed knives, and she was wrecking havoc on the Windsor’s. She struck like a snake: quick, strong, and deadly. Coop watched as she plunged one of her blades deep into a soldier’s chest, ripped it out as she spun away, and simultaneously used him as a human shield as she charged forward into another enemy. She pushed the mortally-wounded Windsor into their partner to throw him off balance, and then turned to face one of the bodyguards. The woman had moved around the battling soldiers to get a clear shot, and she would have had it if Eve didn’t sacrifice one of her weapons.

Where she learned to throw a knife didn’t matter, but the bodyguard ended up with it hilt deep in her sternum. She toppled over dead, as Eve turned to face the officer protecting the shield. He had a pistol, and no armor, but a clear shot at her.

{FUCK!} Coop screamed as she charged and he fired. He couldn’t watch. All he could think about was getting to her.

Without thinking he drew his sword and activated the chainsaw function. The nano-blade hummed with deadly intent as he smashed it into the shield. He focused on the blade struggling against the shield. He didn’t see Eve get hit one…two…three times before she reached the officer.

The man was big, but not as big as Eve, and he might have had some enhancements, but they were nothing compared to the Ranger work she’d had done. She connected with the man like a linebacker and they both went tumbling to the ground. The man’s fist connected with her face, snapping it to the side, and he was rearing back to kick her, when her blade slashed down. With nothing but his smart-cloth uniform she severed his kicking leg just below the knee.

Blood fountained all over her as the cleanly sliced femoral sprayed the man’s life essence everywhere. The officer’s face went from red, pissed, and in fight mode to a pale white when he started to bleed out. His uniform was smart enough to try and seal off the wound, but with a bleed like that his chance of survival was getting smaller and smaller the longer he went without medical attention. Eve followed through with a kick to the side of the head and put the man down.

She turned and caught a flash of gold heading for her. She brought up her blade to parry and…

{NO!} Coop screamed and put everything he had into pushing his sword through the shield.

The HVT had dashed forward when she saw the opportunity, a nano-blade in her own hand, and struck at Eve while she was finishing off the officer. Eve tried to block, but she was slow as her own blood trickled out onto the floor where the one of the officer’s shots had punctured her makeshift armor.

Now it was Eve’s turn to stumble and fall back as her arm holding her final weapon flopped to the floor. The HVT had caught her midway between the elbow and shoulder. The armor there did nothing against the golden blade. Eve landed hard on the ground next to the unconscious officer. Their blood mingled as Eve’s own CMU’s constricted to form a tourniquet, but Coop could tell the fight was flowing out of her faster than her blood.

The HVT stood triumphantly over her. Her mouth moved, but he couldn’t see what she was saying. He focused on the shield and threw his full weight and power into it. It held like it had every other time…until it suddenly didn’t. His blade disrupted the integrity of the shield, opening a hole which he promptly fell through.

The crash of his armor hitting the floor made the HVT turn. Eve lashed out and kicked the woman in the shim, throwing her off balance, as Eve lunged for the portable shield generator that was making this situation so fucking complicated.

The HVT stabbed down to presumably finish Eve off, before turning to deal with Coop, but she only succeeded in pinning her to the floor through her calf. Eve screamed out in pain, but that didn’t stop her from smashing a fist repeatedly into the generator.

Punching a block of duro-steel, even from an HI trooper, wasn’t going to do anything, but fucking up the control panel was bound to do something. In this case, the shield flickered and the bottom half disappeared.

<Weird.> Coop thought as he trained his Buss on the HVT who was already moving.

{Freeze bitch! You fucking move and I’ll paint this nice hallway red.} The woman had been going for a side door, but stopped upon his command.

She held up her hands dropped her sword and kicked it away toward him. <That’s more like it,> he breathed a sigh of relief. <Finally, something…>

The universe’s grand plan to fuck with him continued as the wall behind them exploded inward. Ironically, the top half of the shield still working stopped most of the incoming debris before failing the rest of the way. Pieces of stone and mortar still fell on Eve and the woman as Coop came face to face with the thing that had destroyed the wall.

The Windsor mech loomed over the HVT like a protective mama bear defending her cub. It was also swinging its other forearm to target Eve, the GYSGT, and Sullivan. One blast from that thing and Eve would be nothing more than a fond memory.

{Get out of there, Cooper!} The GYSGT ordered as she and Sullivan fell back to get better cover from the mech’s weapons.

<Not again,> Coop told himself. He’d let the Gunney go once, and he knew the guilt he felt for that would eat him up over time. He wasn’t going to let the woman he loved go down to this hulking piece of shit.

So he did the only thing he could think of…he upped the ante. He could do it quickly with his HUD, but the IOR’s connection made it effortless. Truth be told, none of this would have been possible if he wasn’t in the GYSGT’s armor. They didn’t let people like him get their hands of what he was about to use as a bargaining chip.

“How about everyone calms the fuck down, ok,” Coop announced over his loud speaker as his armor ejected an artillery shell into his hands and he held it up. The symbol on it was unmistakable. Anyone knew what a mushroom cloud on piece of ordinance meant: antimatter.

The five-kiloton yield of the round the armor packed was really meant to be used as a city shield buster in coordination with other assets. What it would do to everyone in the hallway, palace, and inside the cities shield was going to make all the limb dismemberment clean and tidy in comparison.

Coop could see he’d gotten through to the HVT when her eyes went wide. He couldn’t read the mech, but he wasn’t moving, which meant he was waiting for orders.

“Who do I have the pleasure of speaking to,” the HVT relaxed her posture and put her hands in front of her where he could see them.

“You can just call me Boss Man,” Coop replied. He knew better than to give out his name and rank.

“That’s rather impolite,” the woman replied. “If we’re going to negotiate a way for everyone to get out of here safe and sound then I really should know who I’m speaking with.”

Coop’s mind whirled for an answer. “I’m Sergeant Clint Eastwood, United Commonwealth of Colonies Infantry.”

Coop stole the name for an old-timey actor his father loved to watch on the holo back in the PHA. Coop never got the interest when the footage was low quality and there were no special effects, but if he said that to Walter the man would slap him on the head and say, “do you feel lucky, punk,” before laughing at something Coop never understood.

“I’m Sergeant Madeline Albright, Royal Marines,” the woman replied.

“Whose got two thumbs, is full of shit, and a hypocrite…you do,” Coop shot back, which got a weak laugh from the too-pale Eve.

“Very well, I am Baroness Isabella Montegro, High Nobility of the Star Empire of Windsor.”

Coop thought she was probably still full of shit, after all, he’d still lied, but he let it slide.

“Ok, Izzy, how about you get your mech to step outside or I drop this and we all go boom,” he purposefully jostled the artillery round.

“That is unacceptable. If the Color Sergeant left you’d simply kill me and retreat. How about you let my soldier take me, and you can take you compatriot. We all leave her to fight another day,” she countered.

It was what Coop wanted to do, but it was the execution that was tricky. “Have your mech step back to where he busted in the wall. You and I will do a step at a time. I’ll get to her at the same time you get to your mech. Then you’re free to go. You try anything when you’re out of sight, I’ve still got the goods that go boom, so don’t be an idiot,” he ordered.

She nodded in agreement and they set the plan in motion. The whole thing was tense. Each step everyone expected everyone else to break the truce, but thankfully no one did. He got to Eve right as the HVT reached the mech. The mech scooped her up, with his shielded and armored back to Coop and ran off.

“What the fuck were you thinking,” Eve’s words were a little slurred. There was still blood leaking from her severed arm, and the bullet hole in her wasn’t helping.

“Shut up,” he snapped as he got out his first air kit to administer nanites, sterilizing agents, and Insta-Flesh. “I just saved your life.”

“Yeah,” she chuckled weakly. “Nice bluff. You and I both know that you need a code to arm the antimatter shells, and the Sergeant Major sure as shit didn’t give on to you.”

“They don’t know that,” Coop blushed behind his helmet. What she’d said was true. He’d bluffed his way through the whole thing. A trip to New Vegas might be in order once he got off this shit world.

“Pretty smart,” her lids were growing heavy. “Good think I fucked you right and good after Basic, or else you might not have done that for me.”

Coop didn’t know if he should be pleased or insulted, so he decided not to think about it. The GYSGT and Sullivan were approaching and setting up security. Pretty sure the SGM was on his way. They might of missed out getting Baroness What’s Her Face, but he saved Eve, which mattered a hell of a lot more in his book.

Hopefully, they’d get to go home now, but the infantry seldom let anyone do what they wanted to do.

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Two Worlds – Chapter 271

CPL Nickelbaucher

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor


“Bobby!” One of the other PVT’s yelled out as he saw his battle buddy lying on the ground.

“Take cover!” Mitch yelled, hoping to override the PVT’s instinct to go to his fallen friend.

It was a common tactic for a sniper to wound a person and then wait for others to come to their aid. Since Commonwealth soldiers didn’t leave their fallen comrades, this would give the enemy ample targets. Mitch looked over and saw PVT Robert “Bobby” Martinez twitching on the ground. The PVT’s hand was at his neck. Mitch brought up the PVT’s vitals on his HUD and saw the man’s blood pressure and oxygen were dropping. He had to do something.

The Dragonscale armor was above and beyond what most infantry forces in the galaxy had, but even then it had weaknesses. Unlike HI, scales had to move so the infantryman could run, jump, and fight the enemy. That’s where the ballistic gel inserts came in, and while they provided great protection against the lesser-equipped armies of humanity, they were still a far second to the main duro-steel vest of the armor. Most snipers who knew they were going up against the Commonwealth would do their research, and one who did it well enough knew that the best way to kill an infantryman was to shoot them in the neck.

The armor came complete with a neck gator where a thin layer of scales overlapped the CMU’s that spread up to join the helmet and seal the soldier off from any chemical or biological attacks. The problem was that while the rest of the armor had the 1 cm ballistic gel plates, or 3cm armor, the neck gator was half a centimeter and the scales could only work to deflect the incoming rounds in limited directions. It wouldn’t work for the scales to deflect an incoming round from the neck up into the head, and a soldier needed the maneuverability in the neck to keep his head on a swivel. Even with the armor’s HUD offering 360 degree coverage, a soldier still needs to turn and look at things to bring his rifle to bear.

All of that made the neck the vulnerable part of the armor, and the enemy sniper had nailed Bobby right where it hurt. Mitch kept low to the ground and started to crawl toward the PVT. He took a few deep breaths and reached out to try and grab the man by the foot. He felt the impact of his arm right before the snap of the sniper’s rifle filled the air.

“Shit!” He instinctually retracted his hand and shook it out. The ballistic gel had hardened and stopped the round from penetrating, but whatever the sniper was using as heavy and fast. His armor told him he had a hair-line fracture in his Ulna, but the adrenaline flooding his system made him barely feel it.

“Everyone kiss the dirt!” The SGT yelled as the telltale whistle of incoming arty announced itself.

Bobby’s armor might have failed him in one aspect, but not in another. The silicon brain in the scales’ operating system had shot a back azimuth on the round that had struck and wounded its occupant. It shot that data to STRATNET, which the officers and NCO could then use to locate the sniper. The sniper’s second shot at Mitch had sealed its fate. A second back azimuth from that round fed into the system and gave a ninety-nine percent chance the sniper was hiding under a camo net within a one hundred square foot area just over two kilometers away. Additional analysis of the round pointed to the rifle being an older model, which meant the person picking off Commonwealth soldiers was likely a Windsor loyalist from Harper’s Junction, and also one hell of a shot.

It didn’t matter if the person was good enough to be on the Prime Minister’s Own shooting team of the best sniper’s in the Commonwealth when a spread of HE shells smashed into his position and turned him into hamburger meat.

Once the reverberating sounds of explosions passed over Mitch, he dove for Bobby. “Stay with me,” he yelled as he opened his medical compartment and started pulling things out.

He applied pressure to the wound while getting off his helmet and sliding off his neck gator. Another PVT helped with the arduous task. The gator was meant to protect the soldier, not be taken off because it had been penetrated. Blood spurted a few times when he lost his grip, and he quickly had to reapply pressure.

Next up came a shot of general medical nanites. They were programmed to protect against the number one killer of soldiers: bleeding out. They went to work clamping and stopping the bleeding while he pulled out an aerosol bottle of Insta-Flesh. The first puff was sterilizing agents, which made the nearly comatose soldier’s eyes bulge with pain. The second sprayed the flesh into the wound to seal everything up and hold it together in conjuncture with the nanites until the PVT could get to a surgical suite.

“We’re set,” Mitch stuffed everything back into his armor, “What’s the ETA on that bird, Sergeant?” While the Spyder was coming to take the enemy mech, it could also take a critically wounded marine.


Mitch ignored the other PVT as he was patched through to the Spyder by the SGT.


“What?!” he snapped at the PVT before looking down at Bobby.

The young man’s eyes were open, lifeless, and staring into the planet’s pale blue sky. A planet that had no strategic or economic importance to the greater Commonwealth, but nevertheless was the planet Bobby Martinez had been sent to fight and die on.

“Fuck!” Mitch screamed and lashed out to kick to side of the mech. A wicked idea seized his mind and he acted on it. He scrambled up the side of the war machine and found the hole where the Windsor pilot was trapped. He pressed his rifle into the opening until it made contact with the side of the pilot’s head.

“Corporal, FREEZE!” the SGT yelled.

His Basic instincts kicked in and Mitch froze.

“Remove your weapon from that armor and step down.” The SGT’s voice was calm and collected. The roar of the Spyder coming in for a landing kicked up the dirt around Mitch, and painted an idyllic picture of the Commonwealth soldiers in battle that lacked any of the pain the soldiers’ were feeling at the moment.  “Go back to Martinez, that’s an order.”

Mitch’s finger hovered over the trigger and he pressed the barrel of his weapon farther into the hole so the pilot’s face was mashed up against the side. With a long exhale, Mitch withdrew the weapon and went back to his fallen subordinate.

The Spyder set down about fifty meters away and a team of techs and a medical team rushed out.

“Hey, we’ve got a KIA here!” he called out to the medics. One peeled off and came over to check.

“How long has he been down?” the medic looked at the armor’s vitals to ensure Bobby was actually dead before looking over Mitch’s first aid work.

“A few minutes,” the other PVT replied.

“Bring a bag!” the medic yelled out and another two medics emerged from the Spyder carrying some sort of contraption.

Mitch didn’t recognize it from any of the FMs he’d been reading in preparation for the mission. The medics plopped the heavy bag next to Bobby, unsealed it, and slid the soldier in. Whatever the material was it was see-through, but blurry. The medics fingers ran across a PAD attacked to the side and there was a hiss as the air was sucked out of the bag. Mitch had seen the same thing down to zip lock food when he’d worked as a food-fabrication plant before joining the infantry. What he hadn’t seen was a blue-green mist being released as the air was sucked from the bag, and the telltale crystal formulation as something was frozen.

“What the hell is this thing?” he asked as the medics picked up the contraption, which was now stiff and moved like an old-fashioned stretcher.

“Something our new alien buddies gave us. We should have your friend up and about by the time you all get back to the Bush.

“Up and about?” Mitch looked at the medics like they were crazy. “He’s dead.”

“No, he’s barely dead. We’ve put him into a type of stasis. We’ll repair that damage onboard. Flood his system with the good stuff and he’ll wake back up. He’ll have one hell of a hangover, but he’ll live.” The medic looked at Mitch expectantly. “That’ll only happen if you get out of my way, Corporal.”

“Oh…yeah,” he stepped aside, and they took Bobby to the Spyder.

<We can bring people back from the dead now?> he looked at the smoking remains of the tank and knew that whatever remains of the crew were in there, there was no way they were getting resurrected. <It doesn’t work for everyone,> he told himself so he didn’t go do something stupid knowing he’d live again.

“Aliens, man…” the PVT came back to stand next to Mitch as they watched a  thick cable attacked the enemy mech and a winch start to turn and drag the hulk of death and destruction into the bay of the assault shuttle.

“Quit gawking around like a bunch of school girls,” the SGT snapped them all back to the present. “Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot have cleared the town. Echo got hit the hardest, so they’re going to remain here as a garrison and recover while the rest of the landing force comes down. We’re joining the rest of Alpha and the 9422nd to push over the mountains and gain an overwatch position overlooking the approach to the capitol. Keep your heads on a swivel though. The word is the mountain passes are filed with pissed off locals.”

“Great,” Mitch mumbled to himself. “More people that want to kill me.” He couldn’t get resurrected if he got buried in some ambush rock slide.

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Two Worlds – Chapter 270

CPL Nickelbaucher

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor

“Form a firing line on me!” the SGT yelled as he rushed forward to a prepared fighting position. Without complaint, the rest of the squad left their foxholes covering the back portion of the perimeter and ran to join the SGT. That was what the chain of command dictated. That was what training had ingrained in them, and Mitch knew that was what was going to get them all killed.

“Sergeant, we need to leave this to the tank. We might as well fart in its general direction for all the good it will do,” he relayed, as he jumped into an occupied foxhole. The PVT there was from the other fire team, but he didn’t care. Having someone at your back when five meters of armored death came rushing at you meant everything.

“Quit yappin’, Nickelbaucher. I’m trying to get us some air or HI.”

Mitch couldn’t fault the SGT. The man was a competent NCO, and had been leading infantrymen for a decade. He’d fought pirates and Blockies, and knew the battlefield he was fighting on. The problem was that the Windsor’s weren’t the Blockies. Forming a firing line of a squad of marines wasn’t going to slow down this enemy’s advance. Their only chance was…

The tank bucked as it fired another shot from its 125mm cannon. A powerful hum followed as the tank rose higher off the ground and started to move away from the squad. Because of the hum, he missed the whistle of incoming fire. A five-round burst of HE shells arched in, and the mech’s swatters went to work. All five were knocked out of the air, just as the tank fired again.

Their first rounds had missed, but this one clipped the shield and sent the mech spinning. They didn’t even get to start their cheer before the mech twirled like a dancer, easily recovered from the glancing blow, and extended its own cannon.

“Incoming!” Mitch yelled as the graviton cannon from the mech shook the earth around them.

The tank swerved and propelled itself upward onto its side so it made a ninety degree angle with the ground. He could hear the anti-gravs on the fifty-ton machine whining in protest, but it did the trick. The mech’s cannon blast smashed into the ground where it had been. The tank was fine, but the marines were batted around their foxholes like pinballs. Mitch had to disentangle himself from the PVT to get his eyes on the fight.

The tank was putting distance between it and the marines as the mech was getting closer. From the brief engagement it was obvious the mech was more maneuverable. It was tough to say whose cannon was stronger. Both would ruin a marine’s day.

“We’ve got danger close incoming. It might not hit the bastard, but it might distract him,” the SGT relayed.

“Stick your head between your knees and kiss your ass…”

“Lock it up,” Mitch snapped to stop the gallow’s humor. “Stay alert and maybe we’ll…” a missile launched from the mech’s armor and angled straight at them.

The tank’s swatter joined the squad’s swatter to protect the marines. The missiles was knocked down just as the mech engaged the incoming arty, and the tank fired again. The mech rolled out of the way to avoid the cannon blast, which threw off its targeting. Two of the dozen incoming shells got through and smashed into the ground.

“Jesus fucking…” the SGT screamed as the thermobaric rounds ignited the air around them and turning the world into a raging inferno.

Mitch sunk as far into the foxhole as possible and got to know the PVT really well. He barely heard the SGT yelling at the HI trooper who’d nearly killed them. His HUD told him the ambient temperature had risen nearly eighty degrees, but was rapidly cooling. His armor’s cooling system engaged to keep him from boiling.

“Everyone run a diagnostic and make sure you didn’t roast anything,” he relayed to his team.

Within ten second he had all greens coming back to him, so he ventured to sneak a peek. The tank and mech were still there shaking off the effects of the thermobaric rounds. Both had blue shield shimmering, and then the tank roared. The rounds caught the unprepared mech in the chest area and threw it backwards.

“Fuck yeah!” The SGT yelled as the tank rushed toward the down mech to seize the opportunity. “Hit it again!”

Adrenaline rushed through Mitch’s veins and he couldn’t help but grin as the tank closed in for the killing blow…and then the mech moved. It was quicker than anything the tank commander could compensate for, especially since he was focused on lining up a kill shot.

The mech rolled and fired. The powerful cannon blast hit the tank dead center. Its shield took the hit, but fizzled and died as the capacitors were overwhelmed.

“Fire! Fire!” Mitch screamed at the tank.

It was drifting a little to the left, either by design or because some of the kinetic energy had leaked through and rattled the driver. Either way, the mech was moving to get away from the cannon. It was turning into a battle of the batteries. Both war machines had recently taken shots. The mech shot first, but with its shield down, the tank undoubtedly was damaged in some way, which meant rerouted power might give them the edge in timing. Both were circling each other now for a kill shot. It was only a question who got the power to do it first. Mitch was sure the mech was hurting too. Glancing blows from the tank’s cannon and the thermobaric arty must have done something.

He barely breathed as the moment came. It was like in the holos when two prizefighters were about to land a haymaker, knockout blow at the same moment. Both the tank and mech fired for the win. The mech’s shield shattered as the tank’s blast ripped through it and right into its gut. The mech flew back, sparks flying as something big had been broken.

It wasn’t all roses and daisies for the tank. With its shield gone, the only protection was its armor, but the armor wasn’t designed to deal with a graviton cannon. It was made for artillery and normal weapons. The alien tech that allowed a shot as powerful as a graviton blast was just beyond any defensive capabilities aside from the shield, which was why the mech’s blast smashed a hole right in the front of the tank. It continued its forward momentum for a few seconds before the anti-grav’s died and it plowed headfirst into the ground.

“Let’s go,” the SGT yelled immediately as he jumped out of his hole and sprinted into the open. “Nickelbaucher check the mech, while I handle the tank.”

Mitch growled under his breath at having to deal with the behemoth enemy while the SGT got to deal with the friendly tank, but he knew the squad needed a SGT more than a team leader, so he sucked it up and gathered his team. They moved out quickly. The Windsor’s formation was still making a break for it in the distance, but they were running away from the squad’s position. The mech was clearly buying them time to escape, and probably thought it would regroup with them later. As Mitch got closer, he saw the thing was down for good.

“Shit,” he humbled as he finally got close enough.

He knew the mechs were at least five meters tall, but seeing it up close really gave him perspective. The thing was bristling with weapons and armor. Something must have shorted out when it went down because most compartments were open.

“Don’t touch anything,” he ordered. “Give me a perimeter.” His team spread out while he took a deep breath and hopped up onto the thing’s armored chest.

He was making himself an easy target for a sniper, but he had to see. A gaping hole in the thing’s gut was the death blow, but movement to his left caught his attention. Sparks were flying from an open section near the mech’s sternum. He kicked some debris away as he got closer and carefully peeked inside. Half a face glared back.

“Holy shit,” Mitch jumped back and brought his rifle to bear.

He leaned back over into the hole where a pair of eyes just stared at him with pure hatred.

“Got anything, Corporal?” One of the PFC’s asked. The man was getting a little jumpy standing in the open next to unknown enemy tech.

“Bobcat Six, this is Pillbox One-Two,” Mitch broke protocol and radioed directly to the HQ. He wasn’t a glory hound by any means, but sometimes you just had to send stuff up yourself.

“This is Bobcat Three,” the operations officer, a senior LT answered instead. “What do you want, corporal?” The man sounded more than a little pissed. After all, the battalion was still fighting to take control of the town.

“Sir,” Mitch chose his words carefully. “We need a Spyder, engineer team, and some Corpies at my location. We’ve got mission critical enemy tech down along with a POW. This is stuff we want, sir.” He tried not to relay too much info directly over TACCOM in case the enemy had cracked their encryption, but he had to let the LT know that this was a big find.

“Copy that, Pillbox One-Two. Wait one,” the LT cut the line and Mitch looked down at the Windsor’s mech pilot glaring up at him.

He felt bad for the guy, but at the same time he didn’t. He felt bad because being a POW had to suck. It was every soldier’s worst nightmare. Still, he knew what the Windsor had done to the Corpies in the tank. He didn’t want to poke his head in there, but he was sure the crew was finely dispersed matter that covered the interior like an impressionist painting. There was no exit point for the focused cannon blast, so all the kinetic energy just bounced around in there and turned the fifty-ton war machine into a multi-million dollar blender. The SGT was probably sending up his report about the casualties right now.

“Pillbox One-Two, secure the area and stand by for evac. Birds are on their way. Bobcat Three out,” the LT informed and went back to fighting the battle.

<If their mech is down, the fight’s already over.> Mitch watched the dirt clouds of the fleeing Windsor’s nearly a dozen kilometers away, and knew it was only a matter of time before arty or air took them out. Those poor bastards weren’t making it out of the valley.

“Sit tight,” he told the Windsor pilot, who looked like he tried to spit at him in response.

Mitch slid down the side of the mech and took cover against its bulk. Feeling better at not being completely exposed, he reached into a compartment and pulled out some pogey bait. He popped his helmet and took a bite. It was against regulations, but they’d just taken down a mech. One of the same ones who’d gone through the Commonwealth troops at New Lancashire like a saw through toilet paper.

He took a few bites and stowed the food back in his armor. “Ok let’s…” a crack filled the air, but one of his team on the perimeter was already on the ground.


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Two Worlds – Chapter 269

Admiral Michael Ward

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor

“Hull breach on decks three, seven, and twelve,” information flew across the bridge. Ward brought up a 3D image of Aggie and rotated it on an axis to get a better view of the enemy insertion points.

Whoever was planning things from the Windsor’s knew what they were doing. The two ships that had stabbed into the assault carrier on deck three weren’t that far from the flight deck. If they could get troops there, they could trash Spyders and drone fighters with impunity, which would make getting the marine brigade on the ground next to impossible.

Only one ship hit on deck seven, which was uncomfortably close to his command bridge, while the other two hit further aft near engineering and grunt country. Ward wasn’t an infantry tactician, but even he knew what the Windsor’s were trying to pull off. Eliminate the threat to their planet, cut off the head of the snake, or make it so the ship couldn’t fly. A success in any of them would greatly reduce Aggie’s effectiveness to complete their mission.

“Commander…” he opened a channel to his infantry counterpart.

“A bit busy here!” the woman snapped back with the sound of gunfire in the background.

Ward toggled to the ship’s security feeds and watched. His marines weren’t caught completely unaware, but they were far from ready. During shipboard actions, marines mainly acted as damage control parties and search and rescue. There were security teams deployed to critical areas for just this type of thing, but that was more protocol than necessary. Having to repel boards was extremely rare, and Ward hadn’t even considered it during this engagement, but the enemy rarely does what you want them to do.

Windsor marines in rust-colored armor were pouring into his ship. The cameras started to go fuzzy and die as their EW systems kicked in and disrupted the local network. Or the enemy marines just shot the cameras. Either way, he was starting to lose eyes on his enemy. He watched as two squad-sized elements of Commonwealth marines caught up to a dozen Windsor’s in a narrow corridor.

It was a miracle the camera wasn’t hit as rounds started to fly. The Commonwealth rounds met resistance. The Windsor’s did not.

“Commander, the enemy has portable shield generators with them,” he caught sight of a Windsor near the rear of their formation carrying a small pack.

“No shit!” the marine leader snapped. “Fall back, fall back and secure the bridge!” Ward wasn’t sure if he was meant to hear the last part, but it was the last thing any Admiral wanted to deal with.

His mind shifted through tactical possibilities. There was a list of things a ship’s commander could do to help rebel boarders, but that responsibility was primarily on his marines. Unfortunately under the current circumstances, the enemy had better tech.

“I’ve got people heading for our armory to get the new alien gadgets,” the marine commander sent to him, but he knew it would be little use at the moment. The armory was a long way from the bridge, and the marines would have to get through a fifty Windsor’s that were going to try and stop them.

Ward’s eyes scanned the bridge of frightened spacers. If something was going to end them, it was more likely a bomb-pumped laser that would kill them all before they knew it. Having to surrender the ship to a bunch of invading marines hadn’t even crossed their minds. As he scanned, his eyes caught a station blinking red at the damaged section of the ship and their environmental status.

A light bulb went off in his head. He checked it over with the marine commander, and while she didn’t think it would work completely, she thought it was worth a try. She relayed the message to her marines, and he relayed it to his crew. He sent it to PADs, stations, and anything else his people would have access to without alerting the enemy.

<Prepare for gravitational flux and emergency vent.> He chuckled to himself as his fingers slid over his command chair’s systems. He had to authorize overrides and bypass certain system to get this done. His message might sound technical, but all it meant was he was going to turn off the gravity and open sections of the ship to space. Hopefully, it bought his troops some time to regroup and counterattack, because right now they weren’t doing so well.

“Ready when you are, sir,” the lowly lieutenant in charge of environmental controls was now the lynchpin in completing this plan.

Helmets were snapped on around the bridge, and people were strapping into their chairs. Marines all over the ship were magnetizing their boots to the deck so they didn’t go flying off when the venting occurred. The key was getting it done quickly. The Windsor’s undoubtedly had their own magnetized boots, so the gravity and explosive decompression needed to happen nearly simultaneously for this to have any shot of working.

“Execute in three…two…one…” He felt the slight pull of weightlessness against him a heartbeat before the ship groaned like a prizefighter had just punched it in the gut.

Just like the marine commander thought, it sort of worked. Cameras showed Windsor marines yanked off their feet and hurtled through the ship. Many smashed into bulkheads as the void tried to yank them out of Aggie. In total, there were less than a hundred and fifty enemy marines on the assault carrier. Maybe twenty were actually yanked from the carrier and tossed into the void. The main damage was done to those tossed around like pinballs. The violent impacts broke bones, snapped spines, and damaged equipment. In fact, several shield generators were destroyed in the purge, and that made all the difference. That and the sweat and blood of the Aggie’s marines.




CPL Nickelbaucher

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor


The Spyder weaved back and forth as it dodged fire from the city. All Mitch could do was sit back and watch as the bird fought against the planet’s gravity.

<Who tries to shoot down a medivac shuttle?> His opinion of the Windsor’s and their loyalists went down a few notches. <They’re no better than the Blockies.>

“We’ve got a rabbit!” The SGT’s yell broke Mitch out of his headspace and snapped his focus back to his sector of fire. He put his rifle to his shoulder and used his scope to zoom in.

A small convoy of vehicles being led by a large truck were making a break between two of the cordon positions. They were still a few kilometers out, but he could make out the Windsor unit markings.

“Clear a path,” the voice of the tank commander came over TACCOM.

Mitch understood. It was a perfect opportunity to test the tank’s big 125mm cannon, which the tankers had affectionately called the bitchslapper. It was a shot across open, flat terrain at a moving target. This was the type of shot the tank was made for, but Mitch still hesitated to move. His gut was telling him something was off.

He kept his eye pressed to his scope and watched the convoy. His HUD was able to calculate their speed, but even from a distance, he could tell they weren’t moving much more than sixty kilometers an hour. If he was running for his life, he’d be hauling ass, not rumbling along at what passed for a city speed limit.

“That big hauler is slowing them down,” he said to no one in particular. “Intel didn’t have that many Windsor’s in town. You could fit a whole company in that thing. If it’s packed, along with all the other vehicles, we’re looking at a full two companies of hostiles.” He shook his head, but never took his eyes off the scope.

<That doesn’t make…> his thought was cut short as a concussive force smashed out the front of the hauler. It mangled the driver’s cabin, but he didn’t see any bodies fly out.

The force continued forward, ripped through open terrain and smashed into a rock outcropping over a kilometer away. The hard stone, that could deflect bullets and provide cover from artillery, was pulverized and turned into shrapnel by the blast. TACCOM started to light up as unit commanders demanded sitreps about what the hell just happened. Mitch didn’t have access to STRATNET’s biodata, but he knew soldiers had been taking cover in that rock formation. There was no way they could have survived that hit, but more importantly, there was now a gaping hole in their perimeter.

The tank’s gun swung toward the hauler as calls for fire rang out from other units in the area. Through all the chaos, Mitch kept his eye on the hauler. The back blast had slammed the truck to a halt, and whatever damage had been done clearly broke something important. It didn’t look like it was going to move again.

<That’s good. Last thing we want is some type of weapon…> his thought was yet again interrupted by a five meter, rush red war machine ripping its way out of the truck’s cargo bed.

Mitch felt his asshole immediately clench at the sight of the Windsor mech. Horrible memories of explosions, fire, and death flash through his mind before he could get a grip.

“Wait,” he sent to the tank commander.

“What the hell are you…” now it was Mitch’s turn to interrupt.

“We’re going to have indirect fire raining down on that whole convoy in a few seconds. Wait for the mech to get distracted before taking the shot. Believe me, you do not want that thing getting up and coming over here. We’re all fucked if it does.”

“I’ll turn that big statue into scrap metal,” the tanker replied confidently, “but its good strategy to hit the enemy when they least expect it, and where it hurts the most.”

Mitch knew that was all the reassurance he was going to get. “Team, make sure grenades are ready, because our little 1mm rounds aren’t even going to tickle that thing,” he sent to his fire team as he started pulling grenades from his armor and placing them on the ground within reach.

“Incoming,” the SGT sent just as Mitch was placing his last frag in the side of his foxhole.

He barely heard the whistle of incoming arty, but the mech’s sensors clearly did. The big machine swung around and its swatter armament went to work picking off the incoming shells.

<Now…now…now…!> Mitch screamed until he heard the retort from the tank’s main gun. He was close enough it felt like someone had stuck his head next to a gong and pounded away. His helmet’s audio filters didn’t do shit.

“Hit,” the tank commander stated proudly as the graviton round smashed into the enemy formation.

It must have been a hit because several of the follow-up arty rounds smashed into the Windsor convoy, engulfing it in fire and death. Despite the hit, Mitch couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief while dust and debris obscured the area. He kept his eye to his scope and watched for concrete confirmation the threat had been eliminated.

“Next time, Corporal, make sure you…” the tank commander’s words cut off as the sun hit the glint of metal among the dust.

The mech had pulled itself to its feet and was angled toward their position. If faceless machines had emotions, this one radiated anger.

“Aw shit,” Mitch managed to get out before the mech charged.




Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor


“We’ve got to almost be…” Eve led the way around a corner, just as another group appeared about twenty meters away.

“Wait up, we need to…” Coop rushed after her, and thank god he took a few extra steps. That put him in the positon of being slightly ahead of her. By the time he realized what the other group was, they’d already leveled their weapons at them.

Instinctually, he threw himself in front of Eve as they opened fire. Rounds cut through the air all around them, but most smacked into his shield.

“For fuck’s sake, Eve. Next time wait!” he yelled as his shield started to dip from the pounding. Whoever these guys were, they were holding down the trigger.

“Contact!” Coop finally sent out over TACCOM, like Sullivan and the GYSGT didn’t know that already. “Moving back to cover!” he inched backward slowly to ensure he kept his bulk and shield between the rounds and Eve.

<Not exactly how I imagined us pressing our bodies together,> he thought to himself. He knew better to voice it out loud when the bullets were flying.

Sullivan had stepped out into the hallway and was taking the group under fire, while the GYSGT took pot shots with the wall as cover.

“They’ve got shields!” Both yelled as their rounds were stopped dead by sizzling, blue energy.

Coop thought quick and ejected a smoke shell from his back. He tossed it half the distance between the two groups before its program kicked in and it detonated with a bang. The explosion was small compared to any of the other shells the V4 carried, but in an enclosed space it sounded like he’d set off a nuke.

{What the fuck, Cooper!} The GYSGT screamed at him over the IOR. He’d probably blown out her eardrums, but that didn’t stop her. {Berg, you and numb nuts fix them in position. Sullivan and I will move around their flank and we’ll hit them from both sides and capture whatever HVT they’re protecting.} She didn’t wait for an acknowledgement before sprinting across the opening.

With Eve safely behind cover, Coop brought his Buss to bear and sprayed 3mm plasma-tipped rounds at the enemy. They cut through the smoke to give a little bit of visibility before it refilled the void.

{I can’t see what the fuck I’m shooting at,} she complained after a minute of shooting blindly into the fog.

{Sure. Saving your life is a mere inconvenience compared to seeing what you’re shooting at.} Coop snapped back.

She ignored him as they kept up their fire to fix the enemy in position. Finally, they heard more firing coming for a different direction. Cunningham and Sullivan had finally gotten into position and were forcing the enemy into a literal corner. So, of course that was when the palace air scrubbers kicked in and sucked up all the smoke between them and the people shooting at them.

There were only a handful. All had thrown themselves between the incoming fire and a woman crouched behind them.

{That’s her,} Eve’s words lost all emotion as she saw the scene before her. {She’s the one.}

{One what?} Coop concentrated his fire and tried to drill a hole through their shields. It didn’t work. {The one we’re trying to kill, because that’s pretty fucking obvious.}

{No!} She reached up and smacked him on the metal shoulder, which made her wince. {That’s the bitch in charge of all this. She’s the one who tortured us!}

{In my experience, the big dogs don’t get their hands dirty.} Coop kept up his firing, but it was going nowhere.

{I’m telling you. She was dressed as a sergeant when she was interrogating me. Whenever she came into the room with the guy who was actually fileting me, he deferred to her. He tried to act like he didn’t, but he did. I’ve been around my mother enough to know when someone is trying to pretend.}

He wasn’t sure what she meant, but he knew her mom was some super spook, so that would have to do.

{I get it, she’s an HVT, but that doesn’t change our circumstances. They’ve still got a shield between them and us. What’s your plan smarty pants?}

Eve only paused for a second. {Throw me.}

{Did they drill into your fucking head or something?} Coop switched barrels on his Buss and tried firing an energy blast into the shield. It didn’t do much more than his bullets had.

{No, you asshole. You shoot your load of grenades at that thing, cover their line of sight in explosions, and then chuck my ass through the shield. No one in there had full armor so they need the shield to be porous to breathe for more than a few minutes.} She reached across Coop’s armor and removed a pair of knives he liked to keep on him. They wouldn’t do shit fighting against a mech, but the nano-blades would make short work of ordinary soldiers.

{Toss me in there and I’ll cut her fucking tits off.} Something glinted in her eyes that made Coop more scared than he usually was of her.

{No way,} Coop shook his head.

{Coop!} She screamed in his head so loud it made him wince. {Do not take this from me!} He looked back at her as saw tears in her eyes. {I will marry you, have your children, and have a three-way with the Gunney if you stop being a stubborn ass and throw me into that shield so I can kill that bitch!}

He knew she wasn’t serious, but that fact that she’d even suggested it showed how serious she was. They’d only rescued her and the other SRRT members ten minutes ago, and since then, she’d been a trooper, so he didn’t stop to think about the real damage her capture had caused.

The Windsor’s had messed her up. They’d tortured her, and god only knew what else. Eve Berg was a warrior who’d been violated. Maybe not sexually, but she’d been physically and emotionally tormented by her captors. She needed this for her sanity even if it meant she didn’t make it out. More importantly, he knew she’d never forgive him if he didn’t do this for her. It would always be a betrayal in her eyes.

Oddly, Coop had an inkling of where she was coming from. If someone did that to him, he’d stop at nothing until he had that person’s balls in his gauntlets. He sure as shit would enlist Eve’s help to do it, and he’d expect her to have his back.

<She’d do it for me.> The realization showed him just how tight their relationship was. They were at the point where they trusted to help with each other’s personal vengeance. That was a sign of a hardcore relationship, but failure to help would lead to unquestionable resentment.

{Fine,} he quickly relayed the plan to the GYSGT and Sullivan before blocking out their comms so he didn’t have to hear their orders for him to stop. {Just…don’t die.} It was all he could think to say to Eve, and it would have to do.

He switched to his grenade barrel and set it to rapid fire. His weapon thumped repeatedly as the rounds flew toward the enemy. They smashed into the shield and detonated with a flash of fire that engulfed the dome of energy. When his last grenade left the barrel he slung the weapon onto his back, maglocked it with a thought from his IOR, and grabbed Eve. She grunted in discomfort, because to make the twenty meter throw without snapping a wrist or ankle, he had to grab her by the crotch and armpit.

<Again…not what I had in mind for our reunion,> he could only laugh about the situation to keep his mind off the fact that he was about to throw the woman he loved to her near-certain death.

He did a rotation like a discus thrower and tossed her with all his significant might.

{Please don’t fucking die.} He uttered a short prayer as he bent to pick up his weapon and see what happened.

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