Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor
The mountain rumbled around them, and it had nothing to do with the firefight raging in the rock-lined corridors.
“Shit, the cannon just fired!” The HI trooper stuck his Buss around the corner and unloaded a long burst at the enemy position. A round pinged off the trooper’s armor as his scales rippled and sent it way too close to Mitch’s team for comfort.
Mitch leaned around the corner to add his own weight of fire. The corridor was about twenty-five meters long with a thick duro-steel door at the end. Between them and the door were a handful of enemy soldiers. Normally, the HI trooper would be able to plow right over them, but every round Mitch sent downrange smacked directly into a shield. On top of that, the few plasma-tipped rounds the HI got through the energy barrier were meant with purpose-designed defensive positions. Thick blocks of duro-steel protected the enemy defenders guarding the door to the cannon’s control room.
Mitch got one round off before return fire slammed into the wall right next to him. Chips of rock became shrapnel and pummeled his head. The cushion in his helmet stopped the worst of the whiplash, but it felt like someone had punched him in the throat, and some of his sensors went out.
“Shit, lost eyes,” he cursed and had to use the other sensors on his armor to make up for the difference. The battlefield snapped back to life on his HUD, but the definition wasn’t as good as it was. “Give me an ammo count,” the fire between both sides slacked as they took stock.
He dug around in the compartments of his armor and was surprised to find most of them empty. He had a hundred and eleven rounds left in the weapon and another three hundred after that. He’d gone through nearly his whole supply in the firefight. The rest of his team was similarly situated.
“We aren’t getting resupply down here anytime soon, and we need to stop them before they fire again.” Everyone knew every time the big gun fired hundreds of marines died.
“Can you use your arty?” one of the PVT’s asked. The suggestion was stupid enough that only a PVT would ask it.
“Negative,” was all the trooper said.
“If he uses that it’ll bring down the tunnel for sure. It might kill those assholes over there, but it won’t get us any closer to seizing control of this gun. We’ll have to dig our way through before cutting through the door. The battle might be over before we can do that.” Mitch filled in the rest.
“More grenades?” A PFC suggested.
They’d tried that earlier in the battle, and got one through that took out one of the enemy soldiers, but they’d wised up since then. Someone over there had their finger on the frequency adjuster and would dial it up to impenetrable whenever they saw a grenade inbound. However, that might work to their advantage.
“What if we use the grenades as cover to move forward? We put some frag downrange so they tighten up, followed by smoke and we move up. If they stay buttoned up then we could use the breech cord to eat away at their shields until they overload and we can get through. If they loosen up to return fire then we can charge in and take them,” Mitch suggested.
“That’s some violence of action right there,” the HI trooped paused. “I love it.” The trooper’s big Buss’ drums started to rotate. “We go on three. One…two…” he leaned around the corner and rapid fired three frag grenades. Followed by two smoke. The shield tightened up as expected and the frags detonated against it without any penetration. The smoke grenades bounced off it, and started spewing the thick, cloudy substance that would fool sensors and the Mark-One eyeball. “Three!”
They all rushed forward with the trooper in the lead. The enemy didn’t fire as they approached with their view blocked by the smoke. Mitch smacked his back into one of the duro-steel defensive positions that was half-uncovered by the shield. He reached up to test the energy barrier and his fingers met resistance.
“They’re still buttoned up, set up the breech kit.” A PVT and PFC got the same materials out that they were going to use on the door before, and started layering it across the shield. The sticky substance on its underside had no problem adhering to the energy.
“Move it,” the trooper urged. The team was mostly out in the open, and the Windsor’s could make up their mind at any time to shoot randomly into the smoke. If they did that, Mitch’s people would take casualties.
“Five seconds,” the PFC voice shook, and Mitch could practically imagine sweat pouring down his face. “Set.”
A hiss filled the air as superheated plasma designed to cut through ship’s armor and high-security doors ignited. The shield flared like it was the fourth of July.
<Shit…> Mitch didn’t have time to acknowledge the miscalculation before the Windsor’s opened up.
The PVT and PFC went down with a grunt. Thankfully, the Windsor’s were firing at the height an attacker would be, not at the ground, so they didn’t get hit anymore. All Mitch could do was watch their vitals spike and their armor’s limited medical options do what it could.
<Hang in there!>
More rounds pounded into the HI trooped, but he stood his ground, shrugging off the impacts. After what felt like the five longest seconds in the universe, the shield failed with a pop. Mitch didn’t wait, he vaulted over the duro-steel barrier…and collided with a Windsor soldier.
He was so surprised, that he instinctively pulled the trigger. Rounds stitched themselves across the wall before he could bring the weapon to bear on the target. He held down the trigger and ten to twenty rounds smashed into the Windsor’s chest. The soldier staggered back and finally fell as some got through. Mitch pivoted to find a new target and was tackled from the side.
Gunfire still raged around him, but he was forced to struggle with the enemy hand-to-hand when his weapon was kicked out if his grip. He lashed out with a gauntleted fist, and caught the Windsor on the side of the head. The blow rocked the enemy soldier, but he straightened up and came back swinging.
Mitch wasn’t a combative’s star, but he could hold his own. They traded blows and tried to get each other on the ground to rain down a killing stroke, but neither was giving ground until Mitch was able to slip in between the enemy’s arms and in close. He rammed a fist under the man’s armored chin, which might have hurt Mitch more than the Windsor, while his other hand went to his standard issue knife. While the Windsor was recovering from the uppercut and coming back for Mitch’s throat, Mitch took the knife and stabbed upward to a weak point in the enemy’s armor under the armpit. It met resistance as first, but he pivoted and put more power into the thrust until it finally punctured.
It was impossible to hear the enemy scream in the chaos of battle, but Mitch could feel him stiffen as the shock of the injury registered. Mitch took that opportunity to hook his leg around the Windsor and throw him over his hip. With the man now on the ground and stunned, Mitch jumped on him and drove his knife repeatedly into the enemy’s neck. After a few good stabs the Windsor wasn’t moving anymore.
“You good, corporal?” The HI trooper trotted over. He looked a little worse from wear, but the rest of the enemy soldiers were down.
“Yeah…Yes, Sergeant,” he shook off the adrenaline of the brawl to the death, and thought ahead to what they needed to do next.
“Get the breech kit and hope we have enough to cut through this door,” the trooper gave it an experimental tap.
The PVT and PFC were on their feet and moving, but they were combat ineffective. Mitch put in a call for a medic over TACCOM and a red cross appeared on their location in STRATNET, but he doubted anyone would find their way to them from the battle raging outside. A lot of people were dying and injured out there.
“Here,” the PFC knew why he was coming over and handed the last of the breech charges.
“We’ll pull through,” the PVT thought he was coming to check on them.
“Hold on,” was the only lame thing Mitch could think to say. “Cover our six.” He grabbed his wayward rifle and returned to the door to set the charges.
He ignited the charge and waited as the door started to smoke and burn.
Windsor Planetary Defensive Battery Seven
“They’re almost through.” It was the first time that Ned heard fear in the SGT’s voice, and it wasn’t helping anyone in the control room of the battery.
The remaining members of the security team were building hasty barricades around the room at the SGT’s direction, but they were flimsy. At best they were an overturned desk that Ned knew from experience were faux wood nearly a half-century old. They tended to wobble when you leaned on them too hard.
A pair of guards pushed one such desk past Ned’s station, tipped it up on it’s short end and rammed it against the door. He highly doubted the desk would do much to stop the multi-tin duro-steel door from turning it into splinters, but he understood people had to do something, anything to ward off the inevitable.
Ned’s grip on Martin’s hand was tight as he rubbed his thumb along his palm. He took deep breaths and tried not to think of all the things they would never have. Martin would never be able to take him to Windsor to meet his family. Ned’s family had disowned him after the occupation, so Martin was the only family he had, and they were both going to die in an underground control room while clearing an escape route for the queen herself.
<There are worse ways to die,> he took another deep breath as the edges fo the door started to glow as the demolition cord ate through the defenses.
“What’s the charge?” the SGT’s hands were flying across his controls.
“Eighty percent, sergeant.” Ned was surprised at how calm his voice sounded.
“The second that door comes down we open fire. Ned, I’m assigning secondary firing protocols to you if I can’t pull the trigger myself.”
Ned looked over his shoulder at the SGT in surprise. He was under the impression the Windsor NCO didn’t like him that much. It might be because he was the only person not currently freaking out of shaking at their impending doom, but nevertheless a surge of pride coursed through him.
“Yes, Sergeant.” He turned back to his monitor and saw the protocols downloading. He just wished they would go faster.
A loud hissing sounded coupled with bright sparks pulled his attention away from the status bar as the demolition cord finished burning through the door.
“Hold it!” the SGT ordered and the four nearest people rushed over to put their shoulder into it. The security personnel got behind their hasty barricades and trained their weapons on the still-smoking door.
For what felt like forever, nothing happened.
“Maybe…” Martin began as hope flashed in his eye before a loud crunch echoed through the space.
The door flew back like it had been hammered by a battering ram and collapsed on the four people trying to hold it back. All Ned heard was a sickening crunch before seeing blood seeping out beneath their final line of defense against the Collies. The security team opened fire, but was quickly met by several cylindrical objects being lobbed into the room.
“Grenades!” the SGT yelled as one seemed to twirl in the air and focus on him.
A security member ran forward to one that was falling just short of his barricade and reached out to grab it and throw it back. Ned didn’t see if he was successful as he ducked under his desk, and the whole world erupted and flashed.
Something sharp stabbed into his back and his body flared in pain as he went deaf. The pain lanced up toward his shoulders and down towards his feet and he toppled out from his hiding place. All he saw was fire and death as he flopped onto his side, tried to blink away the pain and the ringing in his ears. He looked to the side and saw Martin’s lifeless eyes staring back at him as a pool of blood steadily extended under his torso.
<Secondary protocols…secondary protocols…> his mind latched onto his training as he tore his eyes from his dead boyfriend. He had to climb up the side of his desk, ignore the stabbing pain in his hands, to reach his miraculously still-intact controls.
It was tough to see through the smoke, but it looked like the cannon was at its full charge. He reached for the controls to cut the charge from the cannon and isolate the power sources to prevent a feedback explosion when he heard a crunch behind him.
Everyone he knew was dead or dying, not up and walking around, so he lurched for the firing control.