Windsor Planetary Defensive Battery Seven
“Hold…hold…hold until you see the flares of their engines,” the sergeant in charge of the control room cautioned everyone.
Ned held his finger on the trigger waiting for the order. For too long he’d been scraping a living on his family’s farm for the oligarchs of the Commonwealth. It was what his father had done, and his father before that, and all the way back to the founding of the planet. When Harper’s Junction was first slotted for colonization the Commonwealth sold people a dream that never became reality. After a dozen generations, everyone wanted something new.
<Well…not everyone,> Ned reminded himself. There were still many cities that refused Windsor rule. He knew the Royal Marines would get to them eventually, but holding the capital and all the cities critical to maintaining productivity and infrastructure of the planet’s main exportable resources was good enough for the time being. Plus, it wasn’t like the local militia or rebel fighters could do much to hurt the Imperial forces on the planet.
Ned had been looking forward to the introduction of new technology to his home. They’d been living at least a century behind the curve when it came to anything that didn’t involve producing the materials that lined the oligarch’s pockets. Now, he wasn’t sure he’d ever have the chance.
<At least I’ll go down fighting for what I believe in.> The fear of death was real and present in the small bunker control room.
Planetary defensive batteries were always high on the target list for invading forces, but battery seven had survived the Windsor’s invasion, so there was more hope than usual. The combination of natural terrain features, exquisite camouflage, and a new shield generator gave Ned even more hope. For the last several weeks he’d been training with the team, half Windsor and half Junctionite, for this moment.
“The worst part is the waiting,” Martin said from the next station over. Martin was a Private in the Royal Marines and had taught Ned’s section the ins and outs of the controls they were now manning.
“Yeah, they hurried us in here hours ago just to sit around and wait to push a button,” Ned joked, even though his nerves had his hands shaking.
Martin put his hand over Ned’s and smiled. “It’s going to be ok. We’re all going to be just fine.”
Ned smiled back, but the SGT interrupted the moment. “Prepare to fire.”
“Power sequence initiated.”
“Terrain readjustment commencing.”
“Target lock achieved.” Different stations confirmed their portions of the firing sequence.
Several dozen meters of crust above them, a cavern in the mountains near the capitol shifted ever so slightly. The nose of the five meter cannon already had great concealment in the cavern and the cover of the mountain would likely protect it against counter battery fire. What is gained in cover and concealment it lacked in maneuverability. The cannon only had a small span of air and space it could cover. Thankfully, that air and space was the most likely avenue of approach to the capitol city for anyone trying to invade, which was the whole purpose in installing it in the first place.
“Air scrubbers engaged.” Giant suction fans started cycling in the cavern itself. When the cannon fired, it would kick up a lot of debris, and it was the fans job to make sure none leaked out to identify their position.
“Enemy formation has entered their parking orbit. Distance fifty thousand kilometers at thirty-two degrees. ” The Junctionite at the sensor station confirmed.
“Compensate for atmospheric interference, and sequence the shot with other batteries,” the SGT ordered. A countdown clock appeared on the holo in the center of the room.
“We’re going to knock their socks off,” Maria, another member of the battery’s team, was practically giddy as she communicated with other batteries so they hit the Collies as hard as they could with their opening salvo.
That was true. The dozen batteries assigned to protect the capitol were all going to hit the Commonwealth’s biggest ship at the same time. They were surely going to do some damage.
“Sergeant, I’ve got movement on my sensors.” Another Junctionite announced.
The SGT pulled the data to his screen and gazed intently at it. Suddenly, his eyes lit up like it was Christmas. “FIRE!” he ignored the clock as he screamed his order.
Someone could only ignore the clock for a good reason, and that reason was that the Commonwealth assault carrier was disgorging fighter/bomber drones and Spyder assault shuttles full of marines for their first wave of the invasion. Since it was firing off the drones as considerable speed so they could beat the Spyders into the atmosphere, that meant their shield were lowered or the frequencies had been fiddled with to allow the passage. The formation of enemy ships was sitting over fifty thousand kilometers from the planet for a reason. They didn’t want to get caught with their pants down.
Ned ignored all of that as he concentrated on his job. The SGT jabbed the ignition trigger, and there was a split second as everything was sent into motion. As with all older technology, there just wasn’t enough power in a simple old battery or reactor to fire an energy beam through atmosphere and into space that would damage capitol ships. While newer model might have dedicated gluon power plants able to do just that, Battery Seven had to rely on power coming in over buried, shielded lines from multiple sources. One of those sources was the capitol itself, which had military power stations designed for this specific purpose.
Everyone knew where those stations were, but far fewer knew where the conduits leading to the cannons were. Some of those individuals with that knowledge base didn’t take kindly to the Windsor’s presence, and some of those individuals told some Commonwealth soldiers how to disrupt the power supply.
In that split second when the SGT hit the trigger, and power was relayed to Battery Seven for the shot into the assault carriers vulnerable hangar bay, the bomb planted by SGT Mark Cooper triggered and turned that power conduit into twisted, broken nothingness. Battery Seven still fired as it pulled power from other sources as well, but the conduit leading to it from the capitol was its main draw.
Ned saw this reflected on his screen as the bar that had been green and peaked at the top of the chart suddenly flashed red and dropped to forty percent.
The bolt of power from Battery Seven traveled at the speed of light through the atmosphere, but the dispersion caused by the atmosphere robbed it of its strength. When it hit the shield around the Bush it was under ten percent power and the big ship’s shields were able to handle it with ease.
“What the hell?” The SGT was on his feet and running to Ned’s station. “What did you do?”
“Nothing, Sergeant.” The power levels dropped right as you hit the trigger. I’m running a diagnostic now.
“We’re being scanned!” Maria yelled from next to him. “Prepare for counter battery fire!”
“Close the blast doors,” the SGT ordered.
One meter-thick duro-steel panel slid across the opening to the cavern, and a second, twice as thick, door slid in front of the cannon. In addition, the cannon dropped down ten meters to avoid being in the same place it fired. The elevator, powered by anti-grav, was capable of firing from several different positions throughout the mountainside. That was why Battery Seven had survived the Windsor’s invasion. It was like trying to hit a whack-a-mole.
Bush locked onto the approximate position of the energy cannon and fired a five round burst from one of its railguns. The duro-steel rounds heated up the atmosphere as they plunged toward their target looking like shooting stars. Thinking the rounds were headed for them, the capitol air defenses sprang into action. It took out two of the shells as it passed over the city and continued toward the mountains. One shell nicked the shield itself and half-disintegrated, and half-ricocheted into the distance. Only two shells hit the mountainside, but Ned felt like the Almighty himself had just slapped the shit out of him.
The lights flickered, the wall cracked behind them, people were jostled onto their asses, but no one was hurt.
“Status!” The SGT didn’t even wait for everything to reboot.
“There is a break in the main power line. We can reroute from others, but it’ll take longer between shots and even then we’ll have trouble reaching a full charge.
A vein bulged in the SGT’s head as he stomped back toward his station. “I’ll inform command. They’ll probably switch us to air defense, so prepare to target the shuttles.”
Ned breathed a sigh of relief and chanced a side-long glance at Martin. He was grinning back, and that filled the young Junctionite with courage.
Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor
“Sweet Jesus!” the PVT strapped into the seat next to Mitch yelped as the Spyder dived, inverted, and went into a series of barrel rolls.
There wasn’t even a warning from the pilot before the evasive maneuver. Every marine but the youngest FNG right out of boot knew not to eat before a drop. Still, the maneuver left a couple of the ten-man squad dry heaving. The crew of the tank, strapped into the war machine was a different story. The marines laughed when the heard the wet gags as the Gold Technologies employees lost their lunch.
“What the fuck was that?”
As a team leader, Mitch had coms open with the squad leader, who had it with the tank commander and pilot.
“Energy cannon fire from the planet hit the Bush right as we were taking off. It didn’t break the shield but we needed to move out of the way or we’d get turned to ash.” The pilot almost sounded bored as the Spyder reoriented itself and got back into formation for the first wave of the planetary invasion.
Unlike most of the battalion’s Spyders, Mitch’s squad had the bird all to themselves…minus the tank. There simply wasn’t enough room to fit half a company inside with the fifty-ton war machine, and since their squad was to provide close support for the new weapon’s concept, they got to tag along. At first, the squad was psyched. They thought it meant more leg room and less micromanagement by the LT and battalion staff. In reality, it meant they were stuffed wherever there was room. Spyders weren’t designed to carry tanks, and even after modification it was a tight fit.
“Prepare for atmosphere,” the pilot gave them the courtesy of a heads up a few seconds before the rumble of air buffeted the assault shuttle.
“If you ain’t buttoned up tighter than a tick’s ass by now you better be,” the SGT hollered over their squad channel. Mitch had already checked his men. They were good to go.
Even though their descent was now a walk in the park compared to the first few seconds, the PVT next to him was a little green.
“How long have you been in?” Mitch asked the younger man to try to get his mind off whatever he was stressing about.
“Umm…nine months, Corporal,” his stuttered his reply as the Spyder gave a big shake.
“Nine months and already getting your first drop. I’m jealous,” Mitch gave the marine a pat on the shoulder. “Four more of these and you’ll have a silver drop badge. That’s not too shabby for a fresh PVT.”
Having one of the coveted drop badges on his chest was good motivation for the PVT, and it seemed to do the trick to stop him from thinking about the coming fight. Too bad it didn’t last long.
“Incom…” the pilot didn’t even finish the word before every marine was pulled tight against the seat’s harness.
The Spyder started to pull some serious G’s as it dipped, dived, ducked, and dodged around whatever the hell was trying to kill it. As a CPL, Mitch didn’t have authority to access the external cameras, which was probably a good thing. To keep his mind off his summersaulting stomach, he thought about the operations order.
The 9421st, 9422nd and 9423rd Marine Battalions were dropping into an LZ in a valley adjacent to Harper’s Landing. They were coming in from the opposite direction in order to avoid battery fire from the guns protecting the capitol. The valley held a single small town, which the marines would quickly capture and secure the rest of the LZ so follow-up forces and supplies could be dropped in for the push to the city. Intel had enemy forces at company level with friendly rebel forces reportedly conducting hit and run operations in the area. While it was good to have friendly natives to help them out, intel also said not to trust the Junctionites farther than you could throw them. Their love for the Commonwealth was only just above their love for the Windsor’s, which begged the question; what the hell were they doing there in the first place.
<Above my paygrade,> he thought as he pinched his eyes closed and tried not to think about the enemy weapons reaching out to swat his Spyder out of the sky.
Alpha Company of the 9422nd, along with Bravo, Charlie, and the two tanks attached to the battalion were ordered to cordon the city while Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot Companies conducted a search for any Windsor’s or loyalists that were trying to play possum and wait for opportunities to sabotage. The remaining four companies in the battalion were going to push towards the mountain passes to secure them and prep for the other two battalions to push toward the city. As part of the cordon units, Alpha was in some of the first shuttles out of the Bush, which meant they were going to receive the full force of the enemy’s welcome wagon.
Everyone’s life was in the hands of the pilots as the Spyder corkscrewed in a combat descent down toward the planet’s surface. Mitch measured time by the beating of his heart, and after nearly two hundred beats the flips and flops of dodging incoming ordinance faded away to a standard non-predictable descent.
“Drones are making attack runs to clear out the batteries we can get to,” the pilot relayed like he was reading Mitch’s mind. “Touch down in thirty seconds.”
“Three-zero seconds. Equipment check!” the SGT bellowed.
Mitch ran a final diagnostic on his armor, weapons, and when it all came back green slapped a magazine into his M3. He kept it on safe and monitored the rest of his team. “Bravo Team good to go,” he sent to the SGT with ten seconds to spare.”
Right on time the Spyder’s landing gear hit the ground with a small bump. The rear ramp started to lower without hesitation. “Everyone behind the tank. Let’s go greet the locals.”
The light of the fading day flowed through the cargo bay and the ramp lowered as the marines hustled to put armored bulk between them and potential enemies. Everyone had been thoroughly briefed on the tank and its area force field capabilities. The only problem was that it couldn’t activate when in the belly of the Spyder, so debarking the assault shuttle was when the new vehicles were at their most vulnerable. The Spyder was providing security in the meantime, but the birds weren’t built to sit on the ground and protect vehicles.
A soft hum filled the air as the tanks anti-gravs powered up and it slowly maneuvered out of the Spyder. “Keep your eyes peeled and get to cover,” he relayed to his team as they followed behind the armor’s bulk.
The squad emerged at the crossroads they’d been studying over holo-images and training for in VR. It wasn’t much more than a pair of paved roads that crossed in the middle of nowhere. Farms dotted the landscape a few kilometers north, but the area around the crossroads was open space aside from the drainage canal that ran parallel to the road leading toward the small town. The town was eight kilometers away, so they could barely make out the tops of the three-story buildings as they fused with the haze of the horizon.
That was why the tank was being dropped here instead of other locations around the area. The road was only one into the town, but it was out in the open. Being in the open was a death wish for infantry, but with a tank in support they could make it work.
Mitch’s team spread out to cover twelve to six o’clock on the canal side of the roadway. The tank stayed parked in the intersection to deter any vehicles as the marines spread out. He heard the whine of the Spyder’s engines as it took off but didn’t pry his eyes from his sector of fire.
“Spyder clear. Engaging area shield.” The tank commander announced.
Mitch felt a buzz go through him as the energy expanded from the generator on the tanks rear, and his HUD lit up with a transparent barrier to identify where the protection ended.
“Everyone pick a spot and get comfortable,” he commanded his team.
He watched as entrancing tools came out and started to dig into the terrain to create better fighting positions. The two buddy teams kept fifty percent security while they worked, one watching one digging. He took a knee near the edge of the canal. He was still exposed to enemy fire, but felt more comfortable to have a shield between him and any incoming rounds.
“Nickelbaucher, come here and help me un-ass this thing,” the SGT’s voice was strained.
“Moving, Sergeant,” Mitch sprinted over to the tank where he helped the NCO get several containers off the tank’s side.
<It beats humping all this crap everywhere,> he thought as they opened the boxes and started assembling a swatter.
The tank had some anti-missiles capabilities, but a dedicated swatter freed up targeting power for what really mattered. The swatter’s muzzle extended just beyond the dome of the shield, which allowed it to fire and not have the rounds stopped by their own defense.
“Bobcat Six, this is Pillbox One, Route Irish is secure. I say again, Route Irish is secure.” The SGT sent up the SITREP once the swatter was up.
Mitch returned to his team and started digging his own hole. With the enemy’s only chance of retreat cut off they’d have to start fighting the Commonwealth companies coming in to dig them out. Any infantry grunt knew a cornered man fought harder, and if the Windsor’s wanted to breakout, the path of least resistance led right through Pillbox One’s position.
He just hoped eight marines and a tank was enough to hold them back.