Location: CWS Agincourt, Sol System, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Shit,” it was a statement as much as a word, and it reverberated across the bridge.
“Shit,” Sonya repeated as she got her first good look at Earth.
Sick Bay had become too crowded from the wounds Aggie took in the battle, so the least wounded, like her, got the boot. Most crew would just return to their quarters, if their quarters were still there. There was a lot of twisted metal wreckage from the alien’s powerful laser barrages that left much of the once-mighty battleship unrecognizable. She was sure they’d be hot bunking until they figured ship out. The plan was to dock at one of the many yards scattered around the Earth, Luna, or even Mars.
<That’s going to be hard,> she looked at the wreckage that surrounded humanity’s homeworld.
There was always a certain amount of space junk orbiting an industrialized world. Satellites became obsolete and just sat up there for a while until someone needed the space and took them down. It was worse for Earth than most places, with hundreds of years of crap sitting in various orbits, but the world’s governments had banned together to clear out the junk. It was one of the few things the Blockies and Commonwealth agreed on; if only to put better weapons and surveillance equipment into orbit.
Now, everyone would need to start over again . . . from scratch. There was not a single piece of intact infrastructure orbiting Earth. It was impossible for her to comprehend. There had been more than satellites in orbit. There were industrial hubs, fleet anchorages, and civilian habitants. Millions upon millions of people had called those places home. Now . . .
She swallowed the bile working its way up her throat as the ship’s sensors came into IOR range. The bio-devices distributed by the traitorous Gold Technologies ran off the power generated by the human body, but if a person was dead, they had enough power to run for a little longer in the hopes of being retrieved. As Aggie came into range, the sensors started to ping active IORs and triangulate their location. All of them were in orbit around the planet.
IOR IDs started to flow down the side of the bridge holo-tank and felt her face pale. The list just kept going and going and going. She had to look away after a moment, and the rough cough of the ship’s captain told her he was similarly affected. They were too late to help those people, but could help the ones still on the ground.
Aggie’s tactical department was hard at work assigning parking orbits, fields of fire, and areas of responsibility to what remained of the detached force that had helped win the battle by attacking the alien’s flanks. They were hours ahead of the main fleet, so it fell to them to start sweeping for threats and establishing communications with survivors.
The battle might be over, but the hardest part had just begun. She pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers and took a deep breath. She’s been knocked unconscious during the fighting when the flag bridge exploded, and that looked like the only sleep she’d be getting anytime soon.
“Energy discharge!” someone over in the tactical department yelled, just in time for Sonya to see a brilliant beam of light fire up from the planet’s surface and hit a battlecruiser that was settling into position.
It was clear the beam weapon was nowhere near as strong as what was mounted on the alien’s starships. If that was the case, it would have gone in one side and out the other of the battlecruiser. This laser just punched a good-sized hole in one side. She saw debris and people expelled from the ship before the ship’s systems locked down the damage compartments. A second later, the battlecruiser returned fire. Its own energy weapons, and solid projectiles from its railguns stabbed through Earth’s atmosphere to kill whatever had tried to kill it.
“Keep your heads on a swivel people,” Aggie’s CAPT relayed. As the senior CAPT, he was in charge of this gaggle until someone with more rank arrived.
Technically, Sonya might be in charge, but she was injured and didn’t have the tactical experience. She was more than happy to offload the responsibility. As the warships turned to the difficult responsibility of tracking and destroying the enemy troops on the surface, her thoughts turned to the people she knew were on Earth: Eve, her unborn grandchild, and even Mark Cooper among dozens of other friends and acquaintances. She did not have high hopes.
Taking advantage of her access, she took over an unmanned console and went digging. It took her over an hour to find the bunker complex in the Smokey Mountains where her grandchild’s identifier had been logged into an OBGYN storage unit.
Then she used the ship’s sensors to take a peek at the GPS coordinates. What she saw made her knee’s shake, so she used her ADM’s code to send orders to gunnery and the infantry troopers getting cocked, locked, and ready to rock. There were a lot of places that needed reinforcement, and even more defensive installations that the Commonwealth would need to retake from a dug in enemy.
<I already lost one friend today,> she quickly shook her head to clear the mental image of Michael Ward’s lifeless eyes. <I’m not going to lose any more if I can help it.>
Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Smokey Mountains, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Sweat poured of Coop’s face as he kept on fighting. A small mountain of Roaches littered the hallway along with a pair of BAMFs. The big fuckers didn’t go down easy. Just about all of the normal grunts were wounded or dead. A bunch had been trapped in the various retreats when then had to blow the passageways, and they’d have to wait to confirm them KIA until they dug their way out. Three quarters of the HI troopers were also down.
He tried not to look at the still smoking hole in the chest of the SSG who’d been fighting by his side only a few minutes before. If the poor bastard had dipped instead of dodged, they’d be alive; but the dodge put him right in the path of a beamer . . . and that was all she wrote.
Coop wasn’t looking too hot either. His hip actuator and a servo in his knee were shot from the last fight, so he was dragging one leg like a cripple. It was as good as a death sentence come the next fight. He couldn’t maneuver with the speed he needed to fight against a BAMF. He’d be a decoy to draw attention so Eve could take them down.
His girlfriend’s armor was scarred and blistering in spots. Enough bleed-through was getting though the shields to nearly cook them alive in their LACS; thus sweating like a whore in church. They’d live . . . for now, as the LACS AC did its best to cool everything down.
Coop stared at the solid wall of rock that was already starting to turn red from the heat of the alien’s weapons blasting through. “Give me an ACE report,” he coughed. His throat was so dry.
“We’ve got enough ammo for one more fight. Just about everyone is dead, and everything we have it just about shot to shit. That good enough for you?” Eve shot back.
He bit back a reply. Everyone was stressed. Impending doom would do that to you, and he didn’t want his last few conversations with Eve to be in anger.
“Love you too,” he replied on a private net.
He heard her long exhale as she took a calming breath and let it out. “Yeah. Today could have gone better.”
That got a laugh out of him. It was the understatement of the century. The wall was glowing a vibrant orange now, so everyone shut up and got ready. They had one piece of mobile artillery left, but only a couple rounds remaining. Instead of wasting the precious rounds, Coop was going to hit the first fucker through the hole with his 250mm spine-mounted cannon. It wouldn’t punch through a BAMF’s shield, but it would knock it on its ass, and give the artillery piece a stationary target to hammer into oblivion. Eve would take follow-up shots with her smaller 125mm cannon, but the plan usually went to shit within the first ten seconds. Roaches were fast, and they could take down the remaining troopers by getting around the flanks and diverting attention from the BAMFs. Enough hits from a Roach, and even Coop would go down, and that was if they didn’t chuck some anti-armor grenades at him. Those hadn’t been a threat to the MOUNTs, but the weaker LACS were susceptible. He’d already seen how that turned out at Harper’s Junction, and he didn’t want to relive that experience.
“Get ready,” he didn’t need to tell anyone. Shields were powering up, and anyone vulnerable enough to be hurt by the back blast in the short corridor was getting the hell out of there.
<This is it,> he sighed, content that he’d done everything he could.
After this last fortified position was the command section of the bunker. There was half a company’s worth of officers and clerks, but they’d last about two seconds against a BAMF. On the floor below them was everyone else. The bunkers they’d stuffed them in like sardines were nuclear antimatter hardened, but that didn’t mean shit. The BAMFs and Roaches would pry the doors open and slaughter everyone. This really was it.
Coop didn’t wait for the ugly-ass BAMF to stick its head through a hole to open fire. When the first chunk of molten rock sloshed off the wall, he opened up. The high explosive round smashed into the magma, and its shape charge blasted it right into the ET’s faces. He heard the roar of something as molten rock sprayed it, and grinned.
<One last fuck you,> his LACS reloaded the cannon on his spine.
Firing early also allowed him to get off a second shot, and that was exactly what he did. It made the hole the enemy could get through bigger, but it was a worthwhile trade to bring some pain down on them.
The smoke and debris weren’t even close to clear as Eve opened up her 125mm cannon, and they both got the hell out of the way. There was way too much shit in the air for the sensors to pick up anything, but nothing was better than something. The roar of the artillery piece opening up might have busted some eardrums if the command staff didn’t have their helmets on.
It took longer for the big gun to reload, so Coop sprung the trap. He couldn’t move fast enough to really fight, so he gave the enemy an easy target. Eve stood by ready to blast whatever attacked him, but he was positive his life was going to end in the next thirty seconds.
That time came and went. The big artillery gun fired twice more into the breech, and then everything went silent. After a few minutes, Coop limped forward to the hole, which was nearly as wide as the normal hallway was. He had his blade out, and ready to cut someone if they jumped him.
There were a few roaches down in the hallway beyond, and BAMF looked like it had taken one of the artillery rounds to the dome with a weakened shield, and its brains were splattered all over the walls. Other than that, there was nothing.
“It looks clear,” he radioed back hesitantly.
“Stay frosty,” Eve’s voice was hard as ice. Getting killed because you weren’t paying attention was one of the most embarrassing ways to die.
They stood guard on the hole for another half-hour before someone from the command staff bothered to tell them it was over. The enemy was in full retreat. They were trying to consolidate and hold strategic areas against the coming human reinforcements, and that meant the Smokey Mountains bunkers wasn’t worth a damn to them anymore.
<Is that it?> Coop wondered as the LCDR set up a watch rotation that allowed him to get some sleep.
He’d believe it when the last of the invading aliens’ bodies were right in front of him, burning on a funeral pyre, as a big fuck you to the assholes who’d invaded humanity’s home.