Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Smokey Mountains, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Shift left!” Coop bellowed as his MOUNT surged forward under constant beamer fire. “No! Your other fucking left!” but it was already too late.
An LT had maneuvered the leading elements of his company into the enemy’s path. Half a squad went down to the concentrated energy beams, which punched through the soldiers’ scales like a fat guy chewing through a birthday cake. Coop unleashed one of his micro-missiles to cover the company’s retreat. The resulting explosion didn’t breach the enemy’s shields, but it obscured their vision enough for the company to disengage. By that time, his AI had finished sending the fire mission to the mountain’s big guns, and kinetic shells started raining down on the area. Enemy shields died in radiant explosions of light as they were swallowed by the explosions. There was a savage delight in seeing the enemy die violently, but that didn’t change their overall strategic picture.
The eastern front had several battalion’s worth of troops dug in and guarding the most likely avenues of approach. Their lines extended for a couple kilometers around the entrance, and calling them defensive liens was at times generous. Coop was running all over the place trying to plug the holes when the enemy broke through, while also playing the communications command and control center on top of calling for fire missions when he had the free time. All on top of actually fighting his MOUNT. It was the single most exhilarating and exhausting thing he had ever done in his entire life.
The artillery strike had the enemy back on their heels in this sector, so he left the grunts and the shaken LT to dig back into their positions. The MOUNT took giant strides, eating up meters of space as he studied the communications streaming over the net. He’d been fighting without them for so long, their sudden reemergence was startling. Before, it had just been the pounding of his own heart and his AI’s interruptions; now, everyone seemed to be screaming in his ear of the command channel reserved for the battalion commanders. Ten minutes into the fight and it was obvious each commander thought they were the most important and needed the help of the only MOUNT the second they called for it.
Coop had gotten to the point of ignoring them, and trusting the AI’s analytics to tell him where he really needed to be. The silicon brain was taking in all the comms traffic, filtering it, and giving Coop a better idea of what was truly going on.
“Roach spotted infiltrating sector three. Squad heavy weapons took it down, and are targeting berserking BAMF,” the AI relayed, even adopting the slang for the ETs everyone was using. “Stand by if assistance is needed.”
He heard the firefight, and the combined weight of all the BNs HI troopers assisting to take the three-meter fucker down. Without a MOUNT there, the only thing that worked was pure weight of fire. “Target down,” the AI chimed, and gave Coop a second to breath.
He didn’t have a second. An alert chimed in his head, and cold dread shot up his spine. “Incoming!” he broadcasted on all channels. Enemy plasma artillery was arching over the horizon toward them.
His AI mapped the incoming trajectories and found the safest location. It was in the open, but with his shields, he should survive any splash the impacts created. On the down side, it left him open to harassing fire from the BAMFs.
“And there is only one way to deal with that.” As plasma rained down around him, he loaded up a shell into his next-gen accelerator and fired it at an outcropping the enemy was using for cover to get closer to the Commonwealth’s lines.
He didn’t know for sure if that was their approach. There was so much EW jamming going on that he could only rely on what he and his AI could see with their naked eyes. What he did know was that he’d used that same outcropping as cover to harass the enemy, and judging by where the blasts were coming from, that was the only place he could think of that the enemy was hiding.
The shell ignited the air around it as it made a beeline for the outcropping and turned the bit of rocky cover into explosive shrapnel. Coop didn’t care if the enemy was shielded. There was no way they were getting back up from that. In response, a beamer took him in the opposite side, as a BAMF finally took advantage of his momentary distraction. He returned fire and sprayed rounds back along the reverse azimuth. The beamer kept coming, as Coop’s round smacked harmlessly into the creature’s shield; until he had to dive behind cover to avoid it piercing his shield. Like always, the enemy was targeting the mismatched portion of duro-steel welded over his womb. As it turned out, even an alien could find the weak spot.
He launched another micro-missile, which intersected the beam midway to the target. The resulting combination created a worthy explosion, that Coop used to retreat farther back and loop around to a different section of the battlefield. With the artillery barrage ended, the Commonwealth’s mountain guns were opening up on any BAMFs who thought it was a good time to advance, and made them pay for their hubris in blood.
Status reports were flying over the command net, but the AI didn’t tag anything worthy of his notice. For now, the line was holding . . . but for how long. A quick check of his ordinance showed him how much he’d been forced to expand already, and he wasn’t sure the line would be able to hold for the time it took him to go in for a refit.
“Hey, Eve, how are things on your side of the mountain?” he relayed, not expecting much of an answer.
Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Smokey Mountains, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“If anyone so much as farts I swear to God I’m going to stick my size hundred boot us your ass,” Eve relayed over the quiet comms.
She had a feed from a camera at the top of the mountain to the chaos on the eastern front. It seemed the enemy was attempting to draw the Commonwealth’s attention and forces in that direction as they snuck in the larger force from the west. Whoever the western commander was, it was obvious they hadn’t encountered legitimate resistance before. It was also the first time she’d ever seen the aliens marching in any type of formation. It was formidable.
There were only a few thousand of them in sight, but they were BAMFs who looked fresh and ready to eat the flesh of their conquests. On their shoulders rode the Roaches, almost lovingly attached to their larger mates, any probably saying whatever passed for goodbyes in their alien language and customs.
There were also vehicles. They were bulky and utilitarian, and made up the rear of the formation like a baggage train. They didn’t concern Eve much, but the big fucking thing bringing up the rear did. At first, she’d thought it was a hill, but then it moved. She zoomed in and grimaced, feeding all the intel to the tactical operations center (TOC) back in the bunker. The TOC didn’t know what to think of it either. The moving mountain was easily thirty meters tall, and bristled like a jagged Himalayan peak; except what made it jagged were weapons emplacements.
<It has to be some sort of mobile command center, artillery hybrid,> she determined as she watching it ponderously advance on its anti-gravs. It was a few kilometers behind the main body, but that was too far for it to help with what she had planned. Unfortunately, it also assured she’d lose part of the forces marginally under her command.
“We need to pull back,” the LCDR who was in command of the soldiers on the ground, hissed over the net.
“If you move, you die, sir,” she shut him down.
The battalion in defending this sector had enough warning and data on the enemy to set a trap.
The roughly thousand soldiers had dug in to create a massive L-shaped ambush. They’d buried mines, emplaced shield generators to create fortified positions, and were currently covered in cammo-nets and supposed to be radio silent. The problem was that now that the enemy’s heavy fire power could range on the entrenched battalion, it was going to be difficult to get them out alive.
She was working on it, she just needed the jumpy LCDR to shut the hell up. She was in an even more precarious position than the LCDR. He was on the short arm of the L, sitting just off to the side of the road the enemy was using, and had a straight line back to the bunker. It was a few kilometers to safety, so he’d never make it. Eve was at the pivot point in the L where she could exert the most command and control over the giant formation, and have eyes on target to call in the big guns. Unfortunately, that was about all she could do: have the mountain guns hammer the approaching behemoth while her own troops sprang the ambush and then retreated in good order. They’d lose people, but it depended on how effective the ambush was to determine how friendlies would die.
“Hey, Eve, how are things on your side of the mountain?” Coop’s message arrived at the worst possible time. The vanguard of the enemy formation was just crossing into the kill zone.
She held her breath, fearful that the enemy would detect the transmission before they could spring their trap. After a long ten-count, the enemy was still marching determinedly forward, and Eve exhaled. <Just a few more minutes.>
She didn’t dare cut the net connecting her with the ongoing battle on the east ride of the mountain, but she prayed Coop took the hint and didn’t continue to try and contact her.
Of course . . . “Do you read me?” he asked several minutes later.
<Shut the fuck up!> she mentally roared at him.
The enemy continued to march; hundreds, maybe even a thousand in the kill zone, until they suddenly stopped. “Ma’am, we’re getting weird readings on our sensors,” a communication specialist attached to her at the pivot in the L.
She didn’t wait. She instinctually knew she only had milliseconds to act. She overrode the battalion commander’s ability to detonate the mines imbedded in the ground and initiated the ambush herself. The LCDR might come back and ream her ass later, but at least he’d be alive to do the ass reaming.
She saw the ground literally balloon upward before the force the explosion smashed through the alien’s feet. They couldn’t know for sure the configuration of the alien’s shields, and she’d had to rely on guess work in an integral part of her plan. She never liked that, but didn’t have much of a choice. She chose right. She expected that the enemy would see the ground as safe and angle their shields outward to deflect incoming fire. Whether the enemy didn’t have mines in their arsenal, or if the commander was just overconfident; she didn’t care. All she cared about was seeing BAMFs and roaches tossed into the air like god had decided to bitch slap the earth because she was being a naughty bitch.
There was a two second delay as the battalion was caught by surprise before they opened up with everything they had on the stunned enemy. HI brought down artillery, targeting the areas in the formation where the shields were down. Thermobaric artillery rounds smashed into these openings and turned the road, and everything with a quarter kilometer into a living hell. The soldiers in the battalion fired into previously programmed target reference points. Everyone had their field of fire, and with a wall of dirt mixing with fuel-air explosives, the grunts in the trench line couldn’t see shit. They just unloaded where they were told to in a mad minute that put 1mm, 3mm rounds, grenades, and everything else that went boom boom in a grunt’s arsenal.
It was complete and total, uncontrollable madness, and Eve couldn’t help but smile. “I’m great, Coop. Now shut up and let me fight.”