Two Worlds – Chapter 362

Eve Berg

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

“I want extra ammo on everyone,” Eve ordered as the six MOUNTS stood in a line in the shuttle bay.

Machinery whirled all around them as their crews stuffed the war machines full of every implement of death they could carry. Eve knew it wouldn’t be enough. There were undoubtedly enemy MOUNTs on the world. The enemy wouldn’t come to the dance without them. The Gold’s tech was batter than the Commonwealth’s, she wasn’t going to bullshit herself by thinking she had the best toys; so, she needed to have more bullets. Plain and simple.

“If the magazines are stuffed, mag-lock them to the armor, she snapped at a confused crew chief. “We’re all trained to load if we need to.” She rotated her armored helm to look at the tiny man, and he hurried to do what she said.

She took the time to run more diagnostics and review the results of the last round of simulations. Simply put, despite having the capabilities to do an orbital insertion, it wasn’t a good idea. On their best run, only half the reinforced team made it to the surface of the planet. That was unacceptable. There just weren’t enough MOUNT pilots around to justify losing three over nothing.

She was still willing to try it, but she got shot down. As a mere WO2, her opinion was the least important, especially since the staff officers saw her judgement as compromised. On little slip that her fiancé, and father of her child, if on fighting the Confeds, and all of a sudden, she can’t be trusted to make sound decisions.

“If you drop that shell, I’m going to toss your body on top of it so I don’t scratch my paint,” she snarled at a crew member who bobbled an artillery round.

<Okay, maybe I’m a little off my game,> she took a few controlled breaths.

Her AI pinged her that her heartrate was elevated, but she didn’t think anything of it. She was about to drop into battle, but couldn’t do anything to protect herself. Who liked that feeling?

In the end, the brass had opted for a traditional assault. They were going to force the Confed navy to move their asses, and then Spyder with infantry and MOUNTs would use the cover the task force provided to make a dash for the surface. It wasn’t as quick as trying to sneak past the ships while they were still in an orbital blocking maneuver, but it was the best they could come up with.

All of that meant, when she was locked and loaded, she’d be stuck in the back of a Spyder until it was skids down on the ball of rock. Up until then, she was just a passenger who couldn’t affect the outcome of the battle. That sucked.

“Chief,” the infantry LCDR walked over to her in full battle rattle. “Get ready to load up. Battleships are about to get enter outer engagement envelops. The admiral wants us off his boat.”

“I’m more than happy to oblige,” she banged her metal fists together.

She was tired of feeling helpless. It was time to get in the shit.

***

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

He was in really deep shit. No MOUNT. No big guns. His hands were jacked up. He’d taken a bullet in the keister. He was wearing a borrowed set of dragonscale armor that didn’t fit, and been pulled off a dead dude. The rifle felt like a toothpick in his hands, and it took an entire magazine of ammunition for it to do anything. He was pissed.

“Sir. What now?” the NCOIC asked as he slip into the depression Coop was using as a command center.

“I . . .”

Boom. He ducked as an explosion went off nearby. A big one. Chunks of dirt as big as his hand rained down around him. He quickly checked the readings of what was left of the Commonwealth troops. By sheer luck, no one had died.

“We can’t keep this up,” during the entire battle, the NCOIC had never had an ounce of defeat in him.

Coop got it. Shit was bleak, but could he just throw in the towel? Was that even possible? Coop and company had killed a lot of Confeds. Like, a lot. Way more than a force their size they normally could. They were entrenched, and up until recently could have kept up the fight. Now, ammo was drying up. People were dying. All the MOUNTS were down, and all it would take was one of the Confeds MOUNTS to walk in here and kill them all. Game over. Do not pass go. Do not get to see his baby girl again.

<Shit.>

“Reinforcements are on the way,” he had to throw it out there. He was in command with the LT down, and that first command looked like it was going to end in a defeat-surrender combo.

Normally, he wasn’t one for his career, but that was going to sting. <Fuck it. You can’t have a career if you’re dead.>

“How do we work this?” he sighed. “I can’t just stand up and wave a white flag. A sniper will shoot me in the face.”

“There’s a universal code we can broadcast,” the NCO waved over the commo specialist. He technically wasn’t the real specialist, he’d died a few hours back, but the new guy knew how to rudimentarily work the gear.

“Great. Spin it up, but don’t send it just yet,” Coop ordered.

He listened to the sounds of battle. They had died down a little. His troopers were trying to conserve ammo, and the Confeds were probably shifting or massing. Either way, what came next wouldn’t be good.

“Come on. Now would be a good time to save the day,” he looked at the sky. He had no comms to space. The Confeds were doing their best to jam anything that left the besieged settlement. The only way he’d know of the cavalry arrived was to see the contrails of burning atmosphere around the Spyders.

He’d been on that ride. It wasn’t fun, but it was better than where he sat. Despite the plea to the heavens. No one was burning to save his sorry ass.

“Okay,” he tried to hold his head high, but it was hard. He’d never surrendered before.

“Sending,” the NCOIC sent out the signal burst, while simultaneously telling all the remaining grunts to stand down.

Coop dropped his rifle to the ground and took a seat with his back against the wall of dirt. He leaned to the side to relieve the pain in his aching ass. They’d have to wait for instructions from their new lords and masters. They’d likely wait a while, cautiously moving up to make sure this was some ruse. So, he had a minute. Until then, he laid his head back and closed his eyes to enjoy the quiet that had suddenly fallen over the settlement.

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