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Author Topic: Sweet Billy  (Read 1651 times)

Description: Hint: He's not THAT sweet.

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Offline Lord Palatine

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Sweet Billy
« on: October 20, 2012, 03:45:08 PM »
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There was nothing Master Sergeant William Falcon detested more than complicated plans, and this was a boner-fied fuckup in the making as far as he was concerned,  Too much relied on timing and stealth…and neither of those ever seemed to escape the Murphy factor.  A light assault ship would drop down to normal space long enough to send in an Interdictor Class drop shuttle on a ballistic course, they'd slide past a few planets of the system and let gravity drag down their velocity and pull them in to the atmosphere.

If they wanted a recon team in place they should have put in a squad and not a whole platoon, that was the plan, they’d come in using ManPods1 and do a reentry drop.  Piece of cake and next to impossible to detect and he could secure an initial landing zone with a squad, then bring down the platoon to secure a company LZ2, with full air- and armor-suppression.  The timing wasn’t Murphy-proof, but it didn’t give that failure-loving bastard a whole platoon on his buffet. The initial squad on the ground was the eyes and ears for the rest coming in and they could secure the optimum location, rather than relying on old sensor maps and giving up their own stealth capabilities for a larger scale action.
 
He took extra time in his shower and too care to powder up, being clam-shelled into a BattleMaster was comfortable in the short term; but, it got to suck after a few days.  He made a point of double- and triple-checking his backup power, life support and waste systems.  He was going eat, drink, sleep, shit and piss in this thing until they were relieved, and that made for sweat and chafing.  He endured the unpleasantness of pulling up the plumbing girdle and connecting the waste fittings to the tenderer areas of his anatomy, then unwrapped and donned a new skin suit his name, service and rank were already stenciled on it.  Then he doubled-up on his socks and stepped into the lower half of his armor and connected the girdle to the suit.  He ducked under the upper half and raised his arms and it settled into place and the seals set, and with a few locks engaged he was squared away, first. He was the platoon sergeant, so he was always the first ready. 

Falcon dropped his armored gauntlets into his helmet bag and grabbed it and his gear bags and walked out to the ready room, happy that the combat exoskeleton made his load negligible.  He carefully arranged his expression to a neutral face, professional and calm, and he needed both to deal with First Lieutenant Quenton Wells.  If anyone was ever impressed with the might, majesty and mystery of the lieutenantcy, it was Wells.  He prided himself on being an officer in the old earth standard, which he subscribed to something he'd read in Kipling that implied that the enlisted caste, or 'rankers' as he called them, were murderous apes. He was a last minute addition to this mission, and not Falcon’s choice.
 
"Sarge," Wells greeted him, still in soft uniform.
 
"Master Sergeant," Falcon corrected him, "or if you can't stretch your college education that far, sergeant."  There was a reason they called him Sweet Billy.  It didn't really fit him at all; but, irony was the core of a good military nickname. "Sir," he said at last.
 
Wells' jaw tightened and he looked for something to pick over and he finally fastened his gaze on Falcon's armor.  "What the hells are you decked out in, sergeant?"
 
"Armor," Falcon explained patiently, ignoring the expressions of the flight crew and the few junior enlisted that were required for the pre-insertion briefings, all behind the lieutenant’s back.
 
"That isn't regulation!"
 
"That's not what General Ng said when he wrote the order for me to test it," Falcon replied.  "Or did you fall behind on your message queue?"
 
The implication that an officer about to lead troops into a hostile environment without being completely up to the second was too much to ignore.  "I saw it," Wells griped as he rose to the bait.  "But it looks too different from the rest of us.  Cause confusion."
 
"For the officers at least, I suppose," he dropped his gear and punched up his mission brief on his left arm pad.  "There, it’s in the company queue, everybody is now aware that I'll be wearing the BattleMaster VI (SC). For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s the space combat model of the new  six series.  Heavier composite armor, better exoskeleton, and upgraded power and comfort suites, and I carry a helluva lot more armor.  Comm and comp rigs are better as well."
 
"Sweet," Corporal Hagger nodded her approval.
 
"So, when everyone is dressed and ready, we can start the final briefs," Falcon replied.
 
"You're too quick to suit up," Wells quirked a brow at him, "we won't hit entry for twenty minutes," he scoffed.  "Your brother wouldn't have rattled the troops by suiting too early."
 
"My brother," Falcon replied.  "Didn't win The Medal by being half-assed, and you would do well to remember that I know him far better than you ever will.  Get dressed, Lieutenant, you're already ten minutes late for suit and we go gloves and lids in five more."
 
"As you were," Wells waved his hand at the rest and rolled his eyes before he swaggered to his berth to suit up.  The rest were smart enough to stay quiet and finish their load-out and quietly make sure that their troops in the drop pods were doing the same. 

The Falcon Brothers were legendary in the Special Operations Groups, Captain Conrad Falcon retired early with the Medal of Honor and a long list of hard fights and ballsy action.  Sweet Billy had the Medal of Valor, a step below, and an even longer string of nasty fights; but, Conny had elected to take the retirement that came with The Medal rather than push his luck. Since then, Billy had ten more years in armor to add to his own legend.  He was five years from optional retirement; but, he'd made his sixth stripe early and would likely see his seventh any time now, and everyone had him boresighted for Chief in a few more years and probably command chief of Special Ops not long after.
 
He locked on his gloves and settled his helmet in place and helped a few others into their deployment gear before turning and letting one of the others attach his chute and ruck to his back, he felt the hard tugs and saw his telltales3 flick to green.  "Green and ready," he announced and heard the rest confirm the same, then reached into his weapon ruck and checked his sidearm first, and holstered it, then attached his belly bag with his grenades, magazines and a backup sidearm that he never mentioned. His assault carbine was clipped to his chest and he made sure the butt stock was fully collapsed and locked. Another round of hard tugs and everyone knew they were secure.
 
Except Wells, who wandered out and tossed his gear on a table and flipped out his dance cards, a laminated hardcopy checklist that was demanded by regs, and started briefing without referring to them. "Lieutenant," Falcon growled.  "Saddle the fuck up...sir."
 
"We have plenty of time to..." and the world fell apart around them.  A stealth missile punched though the side of the starboard troop pod and detonated and twenty-five soldiers were lost in an instant, many killed outright, the rest spaced, most to die in compromised suits.  The shrapnel tore through the fuselage and Wells spent the last few seconds of his life sucking vacuum, as the visors of the rest slammed shut automatically.
 
"Get me a sitrep4," Falcon pointed to two corporals, then hit a chin switch for his comms.  "Pilot, Romeo Two, say status!"
 
"We're dead stick," the pilot reported with deceptive calm.  "No thrust, we're going down and its going to be ugly!"
 
"Understood," Falcon replied.  "Do we go now or roll the dice?"
 
Then everything spun and flipped and he really knew the ship was dead. He glanced at his arm and nearly all of the platoon’s status indicators were red already or yellow and flicking to red.  "They hit the other pod," Falcon cursed.  "Pilot, Romeo Two."
 
"Eject, eject, eject," The pilot ordered calmly over the guard frequency and anyone that could left the stricken ship as quickly as they could, into the thin upper edge of the atmosphere.  Falcon flicked on his rally light and deployed his streamer, Recon trained for this contingency because atmospheric entry was the most dangerous part of the drop.  He and his troopers rallied and then flight crew joined on them into a wide ring that fell slowly toward the planet through thickening air, the streamers would pull the first pilot chutes when they were down in denser air, only to keep them slow and their temperatures down.
 
Then an explosion and twenty-two became sixteen and five more lights cycled from green to fellow and then to red.  They were in a gray area as combatants.  A paratrooper is a valid target, ejecting crew were not. Legally, since their craft had been destroyed, they were not strictly speaking parachute troops. They had ejected not deployed; but, since they were fully armed and configured drop troops they were still drawing fire.  Even the lightly armored flight crew, who were definitely not legitimate targets, by the book. The book rarely survived contact with the real world once you were dealing with brush wars. “Eleven," he counted, himself and eight more troops and two flight crew.
 
"Romeo Two, Able One One," the drop’s copilot called.
 
"Go for Two."
 
"That came in from the right, when we can maneuver we need to go to," there was a moment of consultation, "zero-eight-five magnetic."
 
"Copy zero eight five mag," Falcon replied.  This would be minutes away and they all knew it.  "Go dark, track by beacon and separate," he ordered, and they all pushed away from each other and locked onto Falcon's beacon and began the long minutes of free fall.  When the drogues deployed they slowed and continued to fall, now 'flying' as they guided themselves away from ground fire, a bit late as two more lights went red on his arm.
 
Finally they rode out the hard jerk and drag of the breaking chute that cutaway and deployed their glide chutes.  They could hear the explosions of ground-fired missiles in the thicker air.  He braced himself at last but the exoskeleton took up the shock of landing and he jettisoned his chute pack and pulled his carbine and scanned his surroundings as the rest came down around him. The rest dealt with the chutes and when they had a perimeter he clipped his rifle back to his chest and inventoried himself. His carbine had obviously survived the ride, his sidearm did not, holster and all had ripped away in the turbulent ejection and hot drop.  He clipped his spare pistol from his belly bag to his thigh rigging and pulled his ruck up higher on his back.

Six found him and no more showed on his arm, he reset it to only show those with him and to alert if more sere detected.  He checked his arm readout quickly. "Good air," he reported and visors came up and left only the targeting rings before their eyes. "We're humped, boys and girls.  Time to put that SERE5 shit to good use until we can get clear and secure."  He led the way, their exoskeletons letting them move at high speed. He had five troopers and a comm specialist off the drop to his credit, and the debit side was unknown. All they knew was that the land mass they were on wasn't friendly with anyone.  They put as many klicks between the landing site and themselves as they could before dark and went to ground to take stock of their situation.
 
"I'm in some pretty shit, Boss," Corporal Hagger announced.  "My power is low, my drogue broke away early and I burned up a ton of volts high speed surfing."
 
"Your Exo still green?"
 
"Green but I'm at half a charge."
 
Specialist 4 Tang waved a finger.  "I have an IsoCharger for my comm pack," she reported.  "Comm is fucked but I still show green on charge," she fumbled out a cable and passed it to the corporal who gratefully jacked it in and saw her telltales gratefully absorbing charge.  An IsoCharger or IsoPak was essentially a nuclear battery, it converted the heat from a radioactive material into energy.  His own suit was powered by one, but the rest wore BattleMaster V's and they had standard power cells.
 
"Anyone else low?" Falcon offered a jack for them to pass around.  "Stow that, low or not, everyone top off while we can.  We all fixed for rats?"
 
"Green," they all replied.
 
He did a mental inventory.  Three Heavy assault rifles, he and the Spec had light carbines and they had one auto shotgun and a multi-barreled minigun to round out the firepower. Plus a small selection of rockets and grenades..

"Specialist, if you can't fix the comm pack, dump it and carry extra ammo pods for the mini.  He looked at his arm pad.  Falcon, W, MSgt; Morales, T, TSgt; Nighthorse, V, Sgt; Hagger, M, Cpl; Zink, Y, Cpl; Yamato, H, LCp; and Tang, L, Sp4.  "Helluva way to start a war boys and girls," he sighed.  "But we're in it.  Pair off, combat nap while we recharge, take a half hour each and then we roll."

=======================
"First Recon Platoon was shot down on reentry, sir."

Colonel Klein looked up from his reader and slammed a fist on his desk.  "Sitrep?"

"They commed a burst transmission, hit before the burn-in and those that survived ejected. The data dump shows three hits, two at once to the engine spaces and one of the drop pods, the third hit the last drop pod.  Nearly all in the pods were morte6, the team leader, Lieutenant Wills was lost on the first hit.  A dozen got out alive but the beacon reported more loses during their freefall.  We think that between five and ten made it down."

"Sergeant Falcon?"

"He was green when the beacon was hit, so I'm optimistic."

"Optimism," Klein grumbled, "has no place in this goat fuck, I have a busted team and a bitch of a butcher's bill to pay and nothing to show for it.  What orders from General Long?"

"Long is waiting for something from you, Sir."

"Of course," Klein replied.  "She was the one that kicked back Falcon's plan to put in a squad to secure an LZ first.  Get the staff together, we need to come up with something fast.  Get Fighter Ops in on this, we may need some fast movers and SEAD7 involved for retrieval."

Captain Willoughby nodded and made a hasty retreat.

=======================
They stood around a round table staring down at a hard copy map weighted at the corners with ration tins and coffee cups.  "They dropped between the Tagge Range and Howe Mountains," a dirty hand pointed at the map.

"So, only a million or so square  to search," General Hama growled, the “general” part needed to be spoken with air quotes as he's given himself the promotion. In actuality he was a major turned warlord when first of four coups turned a somewhat orderly planetary government into shambles.

"We don't need to capture them to use them, Sir," Colonel, formerly Captain Masters shrugged.  "They'll have to stage a rescue. That means we have them as bargaining chips, we can trade their survival for better gear."

"I don't need ambulatory bargaining chips," Hama stated flatly.  "I need them alive to make sure they don't just hammer us from orbit.  We took out a drop shuttle, not too fucking hard.  Then next time won't be one ship on EMCON8, and we still don't know what they have lying doggo9 up there that we haven't found.  We just know they had a recovery beacon."

"Which we killed," Masters shrugged. "If you want them caught I'll take the HK company and go find them, we can search by air and drop right on top of them."

The Hunter Killer Company wasn't a bad idea, Hama reflected.  They were trained to track down and end insurgent activities.  "These aren't bush fighters," Hama said carefully.  "That drop probably held a SOG10 heavy weapons platoon or a Recon Platoon."

"Better if its a SOG Platoon," Masters shrugged.  "Recon will go to ground and we’ll play hell finding them. The heavy teams have nastier gear and want a fight."

"Better if its SOG or Recon and not a SOG Recon team," Hama disagreed.  "Confed SOG Rescue and Recon are light troops, but they have a helluva lot more training and they only have veterans."

"Macht nicts11," Masters shrugged.  "HK is trained up and heavily armed, take more than a handful of operators, no matter their pedigree, to fuck with us."

"Mach nichts?" Hama rolled his eyes. "Shadenfreude if you don't take them seriously.  Very well, take your hunters and bring me live meat, corpses don't get us shit.  Bring them to me."

=======================
"We've made fifty klicks," Falcon said when they stopped in a brushy area that offered concealment.  "We still have two fifty to go to get us into the mountains.”  He reached into his ruck and passed out some of his contraband high energy rats.  They were loaded with vitamins, natural energy and slow release caffeine.  They tasted like an odd mix of fruit and coffee, basically they were supposed to simulate a cup of sweet milky coffee and a tangy fruit tart, and while they ate cords were out and power cells were recharging.  "All green?"

"Green," they replied as one.

“We top off every chance we get," he said quickly.  "I go down cannibalize my power cell.  Green?"

"Green," there was less enthusiasm at that.

"If we keep pushing we can hit the mountains in six hours, unless we get a sniff of hunters, they we'll have to go to ground.  He showed them the chart on his arm com. He marked a few way points and dumped them into their comms as well.  "Those are our rally points if we have to separate.  If we do, don't go to the next, go to the one beyond. Green?"

"Green."

"Wish I could tell you we'd sleep soon, but it'll take twenty minutes for that to hit your bloodstream, lie back and take twenty, I have the watch and we're out of here."

He rose and freed his carbine from his chest and slowly surveyed their surroundings as the rest lay back and closed their eyes for a few minutes.  Falcon was pretty much the same as most senior noncoms12, they tended to look at the troops they led as something akin to their own kids.  NCOs slept less, ate less and died more than the troops they led because they took care of their troops and ran greater risks than they allowed anyone else to take.  His chrono flashed in the corner of his vision and he roused them and they left again, their exoskeletons letting them travel at a pace that rivaled any form of ground transport on this terrain.

Specialist Tang called for a halt nearly an hour later. “I got comm back up, ran some contraband diagnostics from my suit comp into it. Anyway,” she showed Falcon the foldout screen, patterns flickered around the edges until she set the scale wider and they could see spikes all around them.  "Lots of hashed13 comms all around us.  Good gear too, I grabbed a couple of bursts and ran them through the filters and couldn't get anything out of it.  Get me one of their units and I think I could."

Falcon studied the patterns.  "I don't need to hear them," he said quietly as he brought up a topographical view on his pad.  "Hunter force, to the west." he pointed to the comm screen.  "To drive us to a killer force between us and the mountains to the east.  Two platoons at least hunting and another of killers.  So, twenty five to one odds, plus a transport, at least one command vehicle."

"This one," Specialist Tang pointed.  "And this one, fast movers.  Aviation.  Both on the hunter side."

Billy consulted his map again.  "Following ridge lines.  They use the terrain to mask themselves and buzz along with passive sensors.  There's only two more lines for them to search before they get to this one."  He thought a moment.  "Tech Sergeant, rig a single launcher, let’s make things unpleasant for anything looking for us from the air."

"Sweet," Nighthorse grinned and detached a launcher form his gear and set to work.

"We rattle out of here in five people.  Next stop, water, I don't know about any of you, but I need to flush some bladders and stock some clean water, and not in that order." He joked, the chuckles were small but a good sign.

=======================
"They are going toward the mountains, I’m sure of it," Masters said over the comm to his squad leaders as his finger traced the valley on the map. "Closer to the east than west, and more cover.  They won't want to mix with people and there are towns eventually to the north and south.  So, they are going toward the hunters until somebody can prove otherwise.  What is the status of satellites?"

"They may release one to us in the morning," the comm officer called back.  "Command is keeping an eye above in case they have reinforcements."

"They don't," Masters sighed.  "Or they'd be down by now."

"Command does not concur."

"I'm devastated."

=======================
"I want it simple," Colonel Klein said at last.  "SEOD14, Counter-Air, SEAD15, and the insertion drops.  "A brigade on the ground, three more in orbit in case we need to reinforce.  That's three companies.  One Aero/Armor and two of battlemaster infantry, make sure the headquarters company has plenty of counter air and counter armor."

Many took notes and all nodded agreement.  Lieutenant Colonel Alder smiled fiercely.  "We're green across the board, drops are prepped, all gear is in ready forward alert.  The boys and girls are fed and rested, all we need is a go order."

"If approved, we're looking at twelve hours before we drop to normal space, close to the boundary16," Colonel Higa added. " 16th Wing deploys as soon as we enter normal space.  The boundary is around two AU, or three hundred million klicks out.  The fighters can hit five hundred g's of acceleration, but it’s going to take a while at that distance anyway, they are limited to half c17 but they'll clear the road of mines and take out system defenses.  It'll he harder once they get close to the planet, SEOD and SEAD ops are never fun when they know you're coming but at least they don't have any appreciable system forces or we'd have to fight through them to drop troops."

"This is an awful lot to sell to get back what may be no more than a squad," Major Dumphries cautioned.

"Two things," Klein countered.  "This place has turned septic over the past few months, command and the politicians have been looking for reasons to clean it out before commerce raiders stop just visiting and move in for good.  Secondly, Master Sergeant Falcon was SAR18 in the last war, pulled a lot of pilots out of the ringer, more than that he knows how to operate in hostile country. Most read about it, he’s lived it and more than once. Hell, he even went in and rescued CINCSOCOM19 once upon a time. He knows that if he does his job and keeps his troops alive we’ll come for him, and we still have a mission to complete. It’s all gone to hell now but the orders are still in force. It’ll have to be a bigger footprint now; I imagine the rest of the Regiment will see action before too much longer, just to make sure things are nice and safe for the army to come in and build hot tubs and volleyball pitches."

There was a great deal of snickering at that.

"I'll be back in an hour or so from the command ship," he rose and the rest bolted to their feet.  "Plan on me having a go order."

=======================
"They're getting closer," Falcon murmured as they hunkered on the reverse slope of a ridge.  "Good ground for it, this valley is between two faultlines that pushed up the mountains to planetary east and west.  That made all of these lines running north-south as the ground was compressed and buckled between them." He stopped when he felt them all staring at him. "An eye for the ground, sort of important for a ground-pounder, right?"

"Right," a few answered.

"You do like mountains though," Nighthorse replied.

"Yup," Falcon replied as he flicked up the mag factor on his optics.  "Me and my brothers, we spent a lot of time at my granddad's place in the mountains.  He was a operator, then a drill sergeant and then a survival instructor.  He ran our asses ragged all up and down the Ripsaw Range.  Put me in the mountains, and it'll take more than they got to chase me out.  Tech Sergeant, you're about to notch a kill.  Fast mover, skimming the mountains, coming up on it."

=======================
"Hammer Base, Basher One."

"Go for base."

"Hammer Base, I have a tickle on the scanners, small power source," the pilot reported and sent a position burst fix.

"State type and intentions."

"Unknown type, intend to identify," then the pilots eyes flicked to a split second of spike on the instrument.  "Gunners, take up visual, I think we just got painted20."

"Right Gunner," the corporal leaned out on his safety strap out the open hatch. "I don't see any..." but his report was cut off by an explosion near the tail that skewed the skimmer hard and left the corporal dangling on his strap.

"Hammer Base," the pilot reported between gritted teeth. "Basher One is going d..."  The report was cut off as the skimmer augured into the hard pan.

=======================
"Now we have them," Masters grinned.  "Converge the hunters on that location. Alert the killers, have them extend into skirmish line and advance slow and careful.  Vector Basher Two for rescue and tell command we need three more fast movers and high altitude recon."

=======================
"Lots of comm chatter, Master Sergeant," Tang reported.  "Skimmer range was just short of twenty klicks, they were talking to someone thirty klicks farther out."

"Good, watch for anything to the east, maybe we can get a vector to the ones ahead of us."  Falcon ordered with a feral grin. "Rattle your hocks boys and girls, once we get a fix we're as good as in the foothills, and then we can really start having fun."

"Sergeant Falcon," Tang reported quickly.  "Reply from our southeast, five klicks.  That's got to be the kill squads."

"Good," Falcon showed them his wrist chart.  "Low ground to the north of us, we go northeast, low and fast and then we bend it true east, green?"

"Green!"

=======================
Colonel Hamish Klein, Colonel Elena Higa and Major Athena Melas stood patiently in the outer office of the Wing Commander, Major General Vera Long. The ranks were the same, but one thing common to all military forces, even the Confederation Forces, flyboys and ground pounders never quite spoke the same language.  They served tours in advisory positions back and forth but not all of them really took this cross-training to heart.  Especially officers with connections.  Vera Long was an officer with Such connections.  This promised to be...unpleasant.  She sat within the hallowed precincts of her domain, making them wait. Klein was already a little worried, there were some pretty fierce partisans in the fight over Bengal. One end of the spectrum wanted to pull out and let it go to hell, the other end wanted its held and fortified and the native population relocated. The thinking people were spread across the middle view.

Finally, they were admitted. "Seats, please," Long greeted them with a politician's smile.

"We have updated plans for Bengal, Ma’am,” Klein sat as they settled. “Not too far from the old plan, but since things are all stirred up down there we’ll be positioning a much larger reserve force, and we’ll have to strip the warlords’ orbital sensors and defenses, but we easily have the means for that.”

“I see,” Long nodded her head wisely. “Colonel, you gunslingers have shot your bolt and failed. Now it’s time to bring in the diplomats and try and fix what this plan has exacerbated.”

Klein’s neck corded for a moment. “Ma’am, with all due respect, we came here with a plan and were not allowed to use it. Now its time to put the real plan into effect, the one carefully devised, not the fly-by-night operation foisted on the operators we now have sitting and waiting for us on Bengal.”

“Watch yourself, Colonel,” Long warned him.

"General, why are we sitting on our asses way out here and not moving on Bengal?” Klein asked. “We have a team down and a mission to complete, our operational orders are still in force."

"Colonel Klein, we have lost a team and I am weighing options as to how we proceed next," Long informed him. “This shouldn’t have been a military operation in the first place and the bungled execution proves that.”

“No, the plan was sound until you meddled with it.” Klein laughed at that.  "Ma'am, to be blunt that's a load.  I am your ground force commander, Colonel Higa is your Aviation Ops Commander and neither one of us were consulted over the changes, we were told to follow the plans and make our objections later. Now we’ve come to you with a modified plan of action that will work and you are calling home and asking for help when you have the resources to carry through. Its sixteen more days until comm reaches Command and a month before you hear back.  Are you intending to wait a month?"

"How long I take is my concern, Colonel," Long replied coldly.

"Ma'am," Klein explained with exaggerated patience.  "Your orders were to proceed to Bengal, secure a landing zone and insert troops to secure key locations on the planet, places like embassies.  Embassies from places that are dying to point out how small the Confederation is, how weak its forces are and how stupid its officers are.  You're doing your damndest to convince them of the last, but I am already on record against any delay.  We have a rescue operation, we have troops on the planet, they made it down.  We must not abandon them.  I realize that Bengal is unpopular in the Senate right now; but, we don't take orders from the Senate."

"That is rank insubordination," Long snapped.  "I am the on-scene commander and I will determine how and when and if we proceed."

"For now," Klein replied. "I have a feeling that General Bradley may decide to change things."

"General Bradley is neither here, nor relevant to this situation," Long replied.

"General Long, meet Major Athena Melas, 4th Special Operations Team, 1st Special Operations Battalion, 1st SOG.  She reports to Colonel Minchen, who reports to Brigadier General Battenberg, who reports to General Bradley.  The insertion team was Major Melas' 5th Platoon, those are Special Operations Recon troops.  Ultimately, they are General Bradley's troops, and he loaned them to you, and you just declared them lost in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary.  Major Melas has already made her report by special courier.  It will reach Colonel Minchen in three days.  SOCOM has a very broad set of operating parameters, and General Bradley will back any decision his commanders make to the hilt.  Especially, a decision to retrieve Sweet Billy."

"What the hell is a Sweet Billy?" She grated.

"You might recall that years back when General Bradley was a Major his drop was shot down, he was fighting gangrene and on the run when a Sergeant Sweet Billy Falcon, brother of Medal of Honor Recipient Captain Conrad Falcon, dropped in and brought him out.  Bradley got him the Medal of Valor for it.  Now, Master Sergeant Sweet Billy Falcon was last known alive and leading a drop of the rest of the survivors on Bengal.  Even if it wasn’t Falcon down there, you’re attempting to abandon SOC troopers, General Bradley’s troopers. So, I think he’ll forgive any impertinence offered to the officer throwing them to the wolves. You cannot write them off when you haven't seen the bodies."

"SOCOM leaves no one behind,” Major Melas  emphasized coldly.   

So," Klein smiled at her.  "I have a plan, not as quiet and glamorous as the really good plan you shot down earlier and decided to send in a team to observe and report; but, it is the plan we must go with.”  He slapped a data chip on her desk.  "The summary lists the orders you need to give immediately to make this happen."

"Or you officially denounce me?" she growled.

"Oh no," he assured her. “Colonel Higa and I already have, and we denounced Plan Orchid, we sent it in with Major Melas' report.”

Long stared icily at Klein, but the cold was coming from deep within. Klein had just named the plan from the Senate faction that wanted to leave Bengal to its own devices, and associated her with it. How did he even know about it? No time to worry about that, she decided  and tapped her comm pad. Armed security burst in.  "Arrest them, charge them with mutiny."

"Oh goodie," Klein winked, clearly unsurprised.  "That calls for a general court, you'll love our defense."

Long watched them leave and glanced at the chip.  She was covered.  The Senators of the Defense Committee were begging to divest the government of responsibility over Bengal.  The planet surrounded by planetary defense satellites.  She was well within her command prerogatives not to risk hundreds of dead and loss of vital materiel in a search for bodies. But, how had anyone associated her with Plan Orchid? "Prep a high speed courier," he spoke into her comm at last.

=======================
"We made the planetary newsnet," Tang reported as they climbed higher into the foothills.  "Confed stormtroopers shot down in attempting a clandestine landing, they say we're an assassination and psychological warfare unit."

"I think that's a demotion," Falcon scoffed as he studied their surroundings.  "A thousand meters to the summit, we don't want to be quite that high though.  We'll stop short of that and range north.  Lots of water and trees to the north.  Everyone state status."

"Green, but eating power," Morales reported.

"Green, but I'm starting to get maintenance notes," Nighthorse replied.

"Yellow," Hagger reported.  Damn battery is dodgy.

"Green with notes," Zink agreed.  "And the climbing is eating power."

"Yellow," Yamato reported.  "Battery state is degraded and I have an actuator low."

"Yellow," Tang reported. "Comm battery is dodgy so I'm having to supplement with suit power."

“We'll hunker down at nightfall and take stock," Falcon decided. "We'll have cover and fresh water by then, and come morning we can stay still and use suncells.  We got food, we got water, we got ammo and we got feet, when all the gear fails we always have feet."

"Wish we had some heavier weapons," Nighthorse said with a sigh.

"Heavier weapons means a heavier load, and they're harder to maintain in the field. We got no maintenance techs left, so the last thing we want to do is worry about keeping the fancy stuff working in field conditions."

"Roger that," Morales agreed.

=======================
They slipped between us," Masters growled.  "That's the only answer.  We'll keep the fast movers in a search pattern but we need some high recon, what's status on that?"

"General says he needs all recon assets for skywatch," Comm reported.  "You don't want to know the rest of what he said.  He is kicking loose two mobile companies loose to us, they'll drop them in at first light."

"Brilliant," Masters growled. "They'll land and start looking for a place to set up their field kitchens.  Bullshit, they touch ground and they are on the clock.  One each to the south and the north, we form line and search east.  They are heading to the mountains."

"They have to have powered armor," Lieutenant Hue said from the door of the command track.

Masters studied the commander of his killer team. "Explain."

"For them to have brought down the skid and gotten clear that fast, that means they have some serious tech. What do we know about Confed tech?"

"Could be Battlemasters," Masters consulted his database. "But they have a range of about a hundred klicks at speed, then they drain their cells.  Unless they brought down a power skid with them, they just don't have the juice to have made it that far, and suncells would have shown up if they laid low during the day."

"They can be hidden," Hue shrugged. "a little camou netting and they'd probably blend in.  "Charge all day and move at night. We probably have them about out of juice if they had to move after taking down the skid."

"They weren't there," Masters said with a thoughtful grin.  "They left a trip-fire missile and were off hiding in the tall grass charging up.  You can bet that they're between us and the mountains, making a run for it now.  Get your squad moving, snag a heavy lifter and deploy in the foothills tonight.  Bet your life on it, they're moving now."  Masters grinned.  "You know who they put in powered armor don't you?"

"Their special operating forces?"

"Precisely," we have roughly a squad of their SOCOM troops on the ground, and it looks like they landed with an officer to hold them together like this.  Yes, bet on it, an officer with a small squad, moving at night."

=======================
"All watered up and the baffles flushed," Morales reported.  "Nasty, just nasty."

"Living on paste doesn't build a pretty turd," Falcon shrugged.  "But, it’s all buried and our water cells are refilled.  Beats drinking recycled sweat and piss."

"It do!" Morales took the charge cable from Hagger. "All topped off?"

"For now, I wish we had a spare cell though."

"So do I," Morales said as she checked his telltales and made sure he was recharging. "Only thing like a spare we have is the comm cell, and we sort of need that."

Hagger nodded and looked around, they were in a shallow depression surrounded by rocks and covered with camou netting. It was a dark and cold camp and what little work going on was being done by faint illumination.  Mainly cleaning out grit from joints and checking weapons.  Zink was checking Yamato's leg actuator.  They'd changed a seal and barely managed to scrounge enough oil to substitute as hydraulic fluid from the rotary cannon maintenance kit to keep him moving.

"Get everyone bedded down," Falcon said quietly.  "Two by two, I'll take the first watch with Yamato and last watch with Tang, that leaves you and Zink for second watch and Nighthorse and Hagger for third.  Two hour watches, we can use the sleep and that gives us all eight hours."

"Except you," Morales observed.

"I slept a lot as a kid," Falcon grinned and winked.” I'll take watch here till you're charged and then move on to someone else.  Get comfy, get some sleep, we're home for the night at least."

=======================
"You arrested Klein, Higa and Melas?" Brigadier General Tanler asked carefully, clearly he couldn't quite believe what he was hearing.  "For what?"

Long stared at her deputy commander with no real favor.  "Mutiny," she replied.

He sat heavily and sighed. "Now would be a good time for me to wake up and find out I'm dreaming," Tanler sighed.  "At the risk of sounding impertinent, are you out of your fucking mind?"

"That's more than the risk of impertinence!" She drew herself up, clearly offended.

"As I understand it, they presented a plan of action," Tanler said thoughtfully. "Exactly as they should. How then is that mutiny again?  Just so I can try and word it in my own report."

"They attempted to force me to take action that would hazard my command with no appreciable results."

"I see, may I see this plan?"

"I don't have it anymore, I tossed the ridiculous thing in the bin," Long scoffed. "An attack by main force directly into the teeth of consolidated planetary defenses, and threatened me if I didn't follow through with their plans."

"I see," Tanler said, though clearly he didn't. "So, our orders are to land troops and secure the embassies.  Do you intend to follow your orders?"

"My orders give me command latitude for how to complete my orders and they allow me the discretion to scrub entirely if they prove impracticable.  Out recon force proved we can't challenge their defenses, so we will not throw machinery and lives away where we cannot gain advantage.  I've sent for reinforcements. When we have more than a marginally reinforced wing, we'll start working on the planetary defenses.  If we do it with the strength we have now, we risk them taking the embassies for hostages, human shields will only complicate things to a far worse degree."

Tanler rose and shook his head.  "Ma'am, I have to go on record in opposition to your decision. If you'll pardon me, I'll go make that official now."

"It's your career," Long shrugged.

"Yes, it is," he shrugged. "And if decisions like this are going to keep cropping up, better to end it now while I like myself."

“Record it in your quarters, General,” she sighed, “you’ll remain there until the jim jam doctors decide if you’re fit to return to duty.” She waved him off and tried to ignore his shaking head. "Six days," Long said to herself.  "All I need is six days." Unfortunately, she had no idea when that idiot Melas sent her report.

=======================
"Two quiet days," Falcon pondered. "What are the odds they'd give us that?"

"Pretty good since you've stole a couple of marches on them," Nighthorse grinned.  They were now deep in the woods and high in the mountains.  He looked back down at his plate of fish and...edible weeds. “we’re probably eating better than they are too."

"Don't count on it lasting, they have to know we're in the mountains by now."

"Well, if they come, their funeral."

"That's the idea," Falcon replied.

=======================
"They're in the mountains, Sir, Captain Kirby of Charlie Company tapped the map. "They've had too long not to be."

There was no disagreement, but Masters wasn't happy.  "Fine, Able Company deploys a hundred klicks to the north, Delta the same to the south.  Set up artillery and be ready to deal with what we flush out.  Bravo and Charlie, deploy to the dead center and start driving north and south, and cover the skids, we know they have anti-air, so they'll have to work close with you.  So, we comb them out of the mountains.  Get the air together and make it happen, immediately."

=======================
"Sergeant Falcon, things are moving, I'm picking up signals to the north and south," Tang reported. "I'm guessing about eighty klicks to the north and one hundred to one twenty south."

"Then we'll see more soon, just south of us, they're bracketing us on the ends and will flush us from the middle. Everyone, watch the sky. Green?"

"Green," they replied.

"They aren't more than three klicks behind us, Boss," Nighthorse reported hours later.

Falcon nodded and looked down at the neatly arranged camp below them.  "Look at that," he murmured. "Everything is precise, the firing positions look like they used a laser line to lay them out.  Two armored artillery vehicles, a command vehicle, there’s the support vehicles for the skids and the lifters.  We're up against a fucking textbook."

Nighthorse studied it and looked down on the body of the sentry Falcon was kneeling on.  "How long before his replacement comes?"

"Got an hour, two more check-ins, Tang has them doped out," Falcon replied.  "He had coffee in his ruck, and a couple of cans of hash."

"Coffee is good," Nighthorse shrugged.  "But hash is ground ass."

"Wish he had some spam to go with it," Falcon sighed, then spit a long dark stream off to the side.

"Billy," Nighthorse said with unusual familiarity.  "If you're holding out chewing leaf on me, we're going to bump heads."

Falcon smiled and passed him the pouch.  "Enough for a good cheek-full."

"You're a scholar and a saint," Nighthorse smelled the contents of the pouch before packing half and passing the rest back. "We can split the rest later."

Falcon nodded and tucked it away.  They'd been in armor too long.  It was wearing on them, he'd supplemented their paste rations with fish and what passed for rabbit on this rock, and he and Nighthorse had managed to round up a good amount of edible vegetation, but they were burning off what little fat they had, and when that went muscle was next.  "All eyes up," Falcon murmured into his comm. "Time to pick targets boys and girls, we're operators again."

=======================
Major General Vera Long jerked to her feet at the klaxon and walked to the 3D display and saw the amber markers of 'unknown riders' making the transition into normal space, first there were the screening elements, and then three large craft followed, and then amber went to green as IFF21 identified them.  "Command Center," she punched her comm.  "Ident on inbounds?"

There was a quick pause.  "SOCOM, ma'am," came the reply.  "They are sending over a fighter with mail and updates."

"They squawk nothing but SOCOM?" she asked carefully.

"Nothing but, They are using callsign Ghostrider."

Marvelous she thought.  Ghostrider meant that they were on a classified mission and wouldn't even divulge their identities. "Send the crew up, I'll debrief them personally."  She clicked off and thought for a moment then looked quite surprised when the incoming ships transitioned right back out.  Then her display went black.  "Command center," she said before she realized that the telltale remained red.  Her comm was out too?

Then the door opened to admit a man in field fatigues, a stark black beret and sunglasses so dark she couldn't see his eyes.  She started to protest, but then her eyes took in the four gleaming stars over the SOCOM patch on his beret.  That meant he could only be one person, but he couldn't be here! He walked past her and seated himself at her own desk and she saw the red dragon patch on his left shoulder, only one man in the Confed forces could wear that.

"General Long," he looked up at her. "Bradley, callsign Pendragon."

"Sir, I..."

"General, I haven't authorized you to speak," his eyeless stare was unnerving, and his voice was cold.  "Report."

"Sir," she started.

"General," his voice was lower and even colder. "A raw recruit knows the proper way to report, you will remember yourself and properly report.  You will do it now."

She swallowed hard and stepped until she was centered upon the desk and a pace back and snapped to attention and saluted.  "Sir, General Long reports as ordered."

Bradley's posture was painfully correct as he returned her salute with parade ground precision.  "General Long," his voice was cold as he activated her terminal and with a few touches opened even her most secure folders.  "Why are you still sitting here in this wholly unremarkable patch of desolation, when your orders were to proceed in force and land defensive forces to defend the embassies on Bengal?"

"Sir, my reconnaissance force was destroyed by planetary defenses, they know we're coming and I sent for either new orders or reinforcements to move in force to reduce those defenses and continue with my mission."

"Madame, I reviewed the plans personally, and approved them.  It was to be recon drop, they'd have approached the planet in ManPods, made an orbital sweep and drop in, leaving a com buoy in orbit.  They'd have handed and secured an LZ, then fighters would have pounded the orbitals while the recon platoon dropped in at the head of the rest of the team.  Then we'd have had the proper foothold and an op zone to start from.  Painfully simple for the follow-on companies to land and make the move to secure the embassies while you decided what needed done next."  He sighed.  "Why was this countermanded?"

"A three stage insertion would have been too dangerous, I evaluated the situation and exercised my command prerogative and adjusted the plan accordingly."

"From here," he said, rather than asked. "You countermanded plans drawn up by experienced operators, operators skilled in these actions, and got men damned good operators killed.” He paused and shook his head. “To further compound your ineptitude, you didn’t tell anyone here that you were changing the plans and the operators involved didn’t know that their orders were changing until a few hours before they inserted.   Madam, what you call your reconnaissance force was my people, picked by me. Your changes left them to get hit on reentry. Fortunately, some ejected and dropped, alive, onto the planet.  I loaned you a SOCOM team, a damned good one led by one of the very best operators, and you countermanded all orders and inserted a platoon in with them directly, led by a raw lieutenant that I wouldn’t let near an operation like this. That means you killed my people, General.  These aren't casualties, General.  This is a failure of command, it was murder by incompetence or design."

"Sir, it was my decision, made with the best intelligence at hand."

"The purpose of the insertion team was to evaluate the situation and advise the follow-on attack.  They were the intelligence you needed to decide to change the plan."

Long made a slightly displeased face.  "The team would have been led by an enlisted man, I didn't think that he had the command experience needed for a report this critical."

“Master Sergeant Falcon has a decade and a half as an operator," Bradley growled. "He’s led missions like this before.  He's a Medal of Valor recipient; he's one of the best in the groups.  This is precisely what he is trained to do; but, you countermanded the orders because you don't know the difference between a private and a senior noncom and instead sent them in with a green officer that was not trained or competent to lead the mission?"

"Sir, I..."

"Screwed the pooch," Bradley said in his cold, formal voice.  "General Long, you are relieved of command, effective immediately.  I've already sent the first wave of the strike force, this wing will join them and we'll continue as best we can with the mess you've dumped in my lap."  There was a tone at the door.  "Come," he said coldly.

"Major Velas, reporting to CINCSOCOM as ordered, Sir," the major was every inch the soldier.

"Good to see you, Athena," he looked past her.  "Chief," he addressed his senior noncom behind her. "General Long is to be escorted to her quarters, she is under close arrest and confined.  She will speak to no one; she will make no stops or detours, if this isn't clear to her then kindly make sure she's aware of it."

"Sir," Chief Caster Sergeant Khang snapped to attention.  "General," he indicated the door politely.

Bradley tapped the com panel. "Command deck, Pendragon."

"Command Deck, Colonel Hansa, Sir."

"Colonel, execute orders from the chip I gave you, this Wing goes into hyper in six minutes, or I'll know the reason why."

"Six minutes, yes sir."

He sat back and slipped off his dark glasses and rubbed his eyes.  "Colonels Klein and Higa, reliable?"

Melas relaxed her posture.  "Very reliable, Sir," she nodded. “Klein is the one that found the links to Plan Orchid.”

"Well, round them up and let’s talk war," he said as he continued to scan through Long's folders.  Then he slipped in a chip and let his sifting programs go to work.  "We're going to so see if that silly bitch managed to kill Sweet Billy."  He sighed.  "If she did, we'll leave her a pistol with one round and see if she gets the message."

"Yes, Sir," Melas’ grin was positively feral as she sketched a more casual salute before leaving.

=======================
They had their plan, it would call for split second timing and suppression fire that would deplete their ammunition stores sorely but they needed fresh rats, and they needed to start reducing the pressure on them.  "Stand by," he murmured into his mic as his visor closed.

"Check, check," Tang called quickly as her hand flicked the image from her scan to Falcon's display.  "Incoming IFF, they're squawking with the command vehicle.  "We have a skimmer inbound."

"Visual sighting only," Falcon said at once.  "Don't give it any warning."

They studied the sky and saw it before the heard it, they saw it start a long, slowing arc as it made its approach.  "Counter-air," he murmured.  "Take it on final."

"On final, roger that," Morales murmured and armed a pair of small launchers.

"Stand by," Falcon murmured.  "Stand by with grenades."  He paused and smiled.  "Launch."

Twin missiles streaked away, one clipped the transparent cockpit and exploded, sending shards into the two man crew, the second drilled into an engine, sending it spinning.  The skimmer drove into the side of one of the artillery vehicles, they both exploded and flipped the command vehicle and several missiles cooked off and took out the second artillery vehicle.  Fire and exploding debris rained down on the rest of the position.

"If anybody asks," Falcon murmured, "that was on purpose."  He rose and started down the side of the hill.  "We follow the original plan, hit everything!"

=======================
General Hama stared down at the body of Colonel Masters, he was sprawled across the wreckage of his command vehicle, a halo of blood covered the steel plate behind his head.  "There was a foot in his chest, it collapsed his chest, his sternum was completely broken free and he was drowning in blood when the shot to the head ended it," the medic reported.  "He was otherwise unmarked, so he survived the attack unscathed and died after."

Hama nodded quietly and turned his to the whole prepared position.  It was laid out with textbook care, fighting positions properly dug and they appeared to be laid out with a straight string, extending from the rise of the hills on one side to the drop off on the other.  They'd taken out a skimmer on final, and the carnage the crash had wrought was appalling.  Burned bodies covered the ground, scorched parts of others strewn through the wreckage.  They still didn't know how many there were.  It had to more than they'd thought originally, five to ten couldn't have done all of this.  It called for a multi-faceted raid, with high coverage, counter-air and ground assault elements.  He might be convinced that a 12-operator Able Team had made the strike, but the remains of a broken platoon that mostly died in orbit, not possible.

"General," his com tech called across the smoldering position.  "High watch reports a large force has descended from hyper, they are building speed and spreading for action."

"Call my pilot," Hama nodded.  "I will return to my headquarters."

=======================
"Pendragon to Task Force," General Bradley's voice reached all units.  "Execute Rough Rider, repeat, execute Rough Rider. Execute, execute, execute."

He sat back at his console on his own command center and watched Colonel Elena Higa's 11th Star Fighter Group launch to clear the way in-system and reduce its orbital defenses.  He glanced at his intel chief, Major Wanda Hamilton, and back at her report.  It was much as he'd expected.  Major General Vera Long was given her command for good reason, she favored the isolationist cause, those that wanted to keep the Confederation isolated from the universe at large and mind its own affairs.  Bengal was their opening volley, the system commanded a hyperspace jump point, a weakening of the hard limit of hyperspace that led to a quantum gate, or a wormhole, that led back nearly the entire long way back to the Terran System.

His great grandfather had taken Bengal from the Terrans, as had his grandfather and father when the politicians had after the politicians had fumbled it back to the Terrans. Bengal was too tempting of a spot for the stay-behinds on old Earth, they'd used it too many times to raid into the Confederation, and now it was up to him to make sure that way was closed.  Once again Bengal was a mish-mash of conflicting loyalties, and corpses.  Too many had died in the past few weeks as the warlords, flush with foreign funds, had raised a rebellion and brutally eliminated, confederation forces in the system.  Now he'd see what exactly they were up against.  He had a dozen heavy units to seal the breach and restore order, two carriers and four heavy combatants, and six light to medium.

He smiled and drew up his OrBat22 and tapped the icon for Arkangel.  Colonel Henry Cobb, Hammerin' Hank's command.  Cobb had distinguished himself in the eyes of some by having his last command hammered into fragments and he barely salvaged half of his crew; but, that was the wrong half of the story to listen to.  Cobb was Ops Commander of the old Arkangel, second to a chair-polisher of a colonel who was killed inspecting his engineering section and leaving his second in command to fight a crippled hulk against three Haldoran vessels.  The old Arkangel was destroyed, but he'd gotten all that survived off and crippled or destroyed his attackers as well. The isolationists called for his head.  Bradley grabbed him for Special Operations Command and promoted his ass as fast as he could.  The man was a fighter.

Cobb's plain face came up on a side screen.  "You called, General?"

"Hammer," Bradley grinned at him.  "Take Gamelon and Brandenberg and take up screening position between Bengal and the Gate, nothing approaches Bengal unless I say so."

"How wide is command latitude?"

"What you have in mind?" Bradley was curious.

"Mines, fighter cover, and a generally unpleasant disposition," Cobb replied.

"Exactly the sort of diplomacy I was considering," Bradley agreed.  "Make best speed and stay in touch."

=======================
Half of their battle armor was degraded, constant wear and tear and battle damage had them in rough shape.  Fortunately they'd been able to supplement their rations, and a meal of solid food and real coffee had done their minds and bodies a world of good.  Perhaps not a large world, but a nice, small comfortable world.  They'd even had time to strip off armor in shifts and clean up in a cold stream.

"Master Sergeant," Tang reported.  "I have a signal on the Spec Ops guard23 channel.  Its cacked up24, I don't have the key code."

Falcon walked over to the comm specialist and punched in an access code.  "Its 1st SOG," Tang reported a moment later.  "They are asking for status, and advise that Pendragon is unleashed."

"Oh that's beautiful, ladies and gentlemen, hell has come to breakfast,” he quoted the ancient entertainment vid with a nasty little grin. “But, these bastards are going to be twice as desperate to get their hands on us now. That means they’re going to get stupid and really mean. That means we’ve got to be smarter and even meaner.”

“That means we’re gonna have to get all sorts of SOGgy on them,” Nighthorse rubbed his hands together.

“All sorts,” Falcon agreed.

=======================
"What is coming in?" General Hama demanded a report.

"Heavy metal," came the reply.  "At least a wing of star fighters, a pair of really big carriers what looks like four battle carriers, and screening vessels as well.  The Terrans would class them as eight destroyers and six cruisers and a command and control ship25."

"Orbital weapons free, launch our fighters and enable all system defense platforms, then scramble and disperse all ground forces, we don't want to give them big juicy targets.  And flood these mountains, I need that team as hostages! Put more pressure on the embassies as well, let them know that the Confeds are about to get them all killed. Nothing like a bunch of diplomats pissing their pants to slow down a soldier, and we only have to slow him down long enough for the Terrans to come open things up for us."

He stared at the plot and considered his options, and when nothing new suggested itself. “Get it all moving, everything, now, and see if you can get me a better read on all of that metal in system, I want a damned clear idea of what I’m up against, we’ll have to hold out against them for a few days, so I need to know what I’m fighting.”

=======================
"Rough Rider Forces, Pendragon," Bradley's voice came across the Wing Operations frequency.  "Hoist the jolly roger, repeat, hoist the jolly roger.  Engage, engage, engage."

Various chatter replied, everything from "Aaaarrrrrrrr!" to timbers being shivered and booty being plundered.  Bradley smiled and sat back, studying he 3-dimentional hologram before him carefully as elements quickly filled in from his recon elements. A wide spread of drones and manned recon platforms that launched from the lead elements.

Fighters blazed in at half of light speed of launch momentum, braking hard for planetary intercept and orbit.  The drones were already sweeping in and scanning the planet, its twin moons, and the orbits of all three for offensive and defensive platforms.  Some of the drones were armed and began the work of blinding Hama's forces as they hunted and engaged surveillance and armed satellites.

=======================
CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET/HAMMER ORANGE
MESSAGE BEGINS:

    As suspected MGEN Long had maneuvered herself out of position, she was in possession of encoded messages from Terran sources detailing the time window to be out of position at Bengal.
    I relieved MGen long and have her completely isolated on my authority.  Charges are prepared for treason, dereliction, conduct unbecoming, conspiring with foreign forces and several others.
    Forces under platoon strength surviving shoot down of their drop ship are abandoned.  All embassies are believed to be captured or at least besieged.  Bengal is completely in rebel hands.
    I have assumed command of task force.  Since operations have been OBE26 I am stepping up operations.  We will take back Bengal and hold the Bengal Portal.
    Bengal and Bengal Portal are target for both the Terran and Haldoran forces, as such I will hold a hard line against both, if necessary this will include bluffing, driving off, engaging, damaging or destroying any forces with hostile intent IAW27 my authority as CINCSOCOM, OSC28 and Task Force Commander.
    Direct deployment of the remainder of the SOTF-129 to rendezvous at Bengal, further dispositions to follow.  Bring full logistics train, prepare for long deployment.  Execute ASAP30.

PENDRAGON SENDS

MESSAGE ENDS
CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET/HAMMER ORANGE

=======================
"How the fuck did Bradley get involved in this?" the first asked.

"There is no stopping him, he's Pendragon31, they have near autonomy." the second replied.

"Its a fucking archaic tradition that has no place in the modern era," the first growled.

"The only way to stop that tradition is to eliminate the entire Bradley line, its written into the Confederation Constitution," the second shrugged.  "There's at least 30 in uniform that you'd have to kill for a start.  Good luck with that, they aren't easy to kill.  Last I checked 12 of them had names that were variations on Tom or Thomas."

"Quit trying to cheer me up," the first snapped.  "Odds that the Terrans can take control of Bengal?"

"Unknown," the second replied.  "We don't know their strength, but over half of Pendragon's task force are Nebula-built, with Special Operations crews on them.  It’s going to take a lot to break through that, and it sounds like they are in position to greet any arrivals."

"Fuck."

"Pretty Much it," the second agreed

=======================
"Pendragon, Sweet Billy," Falcon broadcast over the rescue frequency.

"Billy, Pendragon, report status."

Falcon smiled at the voice he even recognized over the encrypted channel.  "Hunkered down, seven souls, armed and resupplied.  We can hold out a while."

"Resupplied, have you been playing, Billy?  You're supposed to be evading, not raiding."

"SOG evasion is a little more robust than the regulars," Billy replied unapologetically.  "They had canned hash, chawing tobacco and real coffee."

"Oh," Pendragon replied as if that made perfect sense.  "Well, enjoy your booty, I'll have somebody down to join you once I sort out the orbital nonsense."

"Watch the ground batteries too, brutal and they have stealth missiles, we didn't see them till too late."

"Understood," Pendragon replied.  "Now, evade and leave the fighting to us."

"Do what I can, Sir," Billy promised.

=======================
"We have a fix on him?" Bradley asked.

"We do, Sir," the comm tech replied.

"That'll give us a general position to start looking anyway."

"General, I have a really good fix on them."

"Yes," Bradley grinned.  “And so might someone else.  They were moving as soon as they cut transmission.  SOP.32"

The young tech looked chagrined.  "Yes, sir, he would at that."

Bradley grinned and winked at him.  "Alrighty then, fighters will proceed with orbital sweep, I want a full paint of the planet, special emphasis on dirtside transmitters of any type."  He paused and thought a moment.  "My compliments to 1st SOG, order them to stand to.  Boots and Saddles."

There was a grin at that among the assembled staff.  The general was at his best when he sounded so flippant.  Besides, the ground pounders loved to hear the old fashioned jargon.  They were an odd lot.  Who would cheerfully leave a heavily shielded and armored craft to make a fiery drop into a hostile planet?

=======================
  • ManPod = A tube-shaped device that holds a single soldier and provides life support and atmospheric insertion capability. They are ballistically launched and can support the soldier being delivered for a week.
  • LZ = Landing Zone
  • Telltales are the red/yellow/green lights in his suit that gives system status.
  • Sitrep = Situation Report
  • SERE = Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape
  • Morte = Latin term meaning dead, military types tend to find ways to say something besides dead about their own losses and save even more creative terms for dead enemy combatants.
  • SEAD = Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses
  • EMCON = Emissions Control, all sensors, targeting and communication that can be detected are taken off line or placed in standby.
  • Doggo = in hiding, drifting silent and watching passively
  • SOCOM = Special Operations Command
  • macht nichs = makes no difference
  • noncom = Noncommissioned Officer or NCO, basically sergeants
  • Hashed = encrypted
  • SEOD = Suppression of Enemy Orbital Defenses
  • SEAD = Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses
  • Boundary = The gravity of a star affects ships entering normal space from the hyperbands, the boundary marks the spot where the gravitic forces becomes too heavy, reenter inside the boundary and you hit an immovable object in a very resistible force.
  • c = lightspeed
  • SAR= Search and Rescue
  • CINCSOCOM = Commander in Chief, Special Operations Command
  • Painted = Scanned by radar or some other sensor.
  • IFF = Identify Friend or Foe
  • OrBat = Order of Battle, a breakdown of the forces at his command
  • Guard = a frequency that everyone monitors for emergency transmissions
  • Cacked up = encoded
  • In the known Universe the force structure of the Carridian Confederation is the most unusual and stretches back to the wars that lead to the Diaspora from Earth. During this war, nearly twenty centuries earlier, even the allied military forces in the struggle fought among themselves.  General Thomas Leland Victor Bradley, commander of Starfighter Command brought a proposition to the admirals and generals of the other forces and held up the possibility of going elsewhere.  A quite specific elsewhere, discovered by his father’s mission of exploration. He proposed a site many light years from Earth, and starting over. None wanted to go. So, Bradley being who he was gathered the carriers of Star Fighter Command and he gathered all of their families and anyone they thought would be of use and they left.  Well, they didn't simply leave, they took several orbital shipyards and everyone there that wanted to leave with them. They loaded everyone into every hull they could find and they simply left.  Thus, the Confederation forces had only one rank structure.  The infantry had the same ranks as the pilots and maintainers and crews on the heavy vessels as well.  The only time you would find a ship's captain was on a civilian bucket. The Navy stayed behind, and not even their ranks were used this far out.
  • OBE = Overtaken by Events
  • IAW = In Accordance With
  • OSC = On Scene Commander
  • SOTF = Special Operations Task Force 1, comprised of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd SOCOM Wings
  • ASAP = As Soon As Possible
  • Enshrined in the Confederation Constitution is the position that is always known as Pendragon. Only members of the Bradley Family can fill this position. It is a position of great power and the title Pendragon can only be presented by the descendents of Thomas L. V. Bradley to one of their own, and if you were to compare pictures, Pendragon looks almost identical through the years.
  • SOP = Standard Operating Procedure
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 12:30:49 AM by Lord Palatine »

Offline Lord Palatine

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Re: Sweet Billy
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2012, 12:30:50 AM »
 “Have you noticed,” Falcon asked Nighthorse as they studied the patrol searching for them. “That they use Confederation weapons.”
 
“Rumor is they have taken some of the garrison forces,” Nighthorse thought out loud. “So they took them fast enough that they couldn’t destroy arms. Or, they turned them over.”
 
“Or,” Billy added. “Some of them changed sides. Doesn’t matter who they are or what they have or even how they got it, their ammo is compatible with our weapons, and they have rations and other gear. We’ll take this batch, including their comms.”
 
“They go missing, it’ll be noticed.”
 
“True,” Falcon agreed. “Intel, ammo, food, and they can bait a trap for us. Generous bastards.” He brought up the map on his arm screen and punched in instructions. He saw the confirmations and smiled and waited for the confirmation that all were in place. It took ten minutes and Falcon gave the execute order, before he unleashed a long burst into the only officer in the patrol. This deployed the rest to deal with the ambush, this brought them under the fire of the mini-gun on one side and the heavy assault shotgun from the other. The shotgun firing grenade rounds and armor piercing, the mini-gun shot only AP rounds.
“Good reflexes,” Nighthorse observed as they stripped the dead and wounded of all that they could use.  “But they aren’t very well trained. They responded exactly as we thought they would.”
 
Falcon nodded his agreement. “What did they have?”
 
“Comm keys, a few thousand rounds for the rifles and carbines, almost a full load out for the mini-gun, grenades, a half-dozen man-portable counter-air launchers and all of them carried anti-armor launchers. So, they know they’ll need it to get us. They had combat exoskeletons, not battlemaster quality but the parts are compatible with what we need for repair parts.”
 
“Good,” Falcon replied agreeably as the take was divided and shared out between them all. “Rations?”
 
“Plenty of concentrated ration packs, nothing fresh but they all carried wet rations too, so we’ll get a few decent meals out of it.” Nighthorse replied. “But, they had the mini-gun, older style, but the power cell is compatible, we’ll bring it for a spare. No generators, but even the spare battery will help.”
 
“Coffee?”
 
“And tea,” Nighthorse grinned. “Which way are we bugging out?”
 
“Plan stays the same,” Falcon replied. “We’ll keep going till we hit the second stop, let’s move.”
 
==========================
 
“It isn’t good, General,” Colonel Cane reported. “Three waves of fighters, a full wing. They’ll use their heavy fighters Penetrator Class, to clear the orbital defenses, screened by Nova light fighters, and how they plan to use the Black Knight Star Fighters, but they are the deadliest of the lot.”
 
“Are you telling me that our defenses aren’t enough?”
 
“Our defenses are designed to supplement a layered defense of frigates, cruisers and fighters,” Cane replied. “The heavies and fighters belonged to the Confeds, and the Terrans haven’t arrived yet to take their place. The orbiting defenses are static, they can’t maneuver much and so are nearly sitting targets. We have some fighters, and we have plenty of mines we can distribute in a pinch.”
 
“Well pinch the damned things and get them distributed,” Hama snapped. “What about those fucking SOG troops?”
 
“We’ve lost a few patrols, we’re flooding the area where they died, but they keep calling for more air support.”
 
“We can’t spare any air, do those idiots know what is coming?”
 
“We’ll keep telling them,” Cane replied. “We have more to worry about, The Confeds have moved a screening force to cover the gate, if the Terrans send too small of a force they won’t be able to fight through.”
 
“Spread the word to the rest, we need to get everything underground and dispersed,” Hama ordered. “Move our heavy gear into the embassies, hospitals and schools. We may just wind up an insurgency, and these are targets they’ll be nervous to hit. Make sure we have a lot of hostages to shield the sites. See to it at once.”
 
===============
 
“On the execute order the Penetrators and Black nights will target everything in orbit, they will screen the Novas and Infantry drops. We’re going to put infantry and armor on the ground. They seem to be expecting a siege sort of attack. Blockade and clear their orbital stuff.  I’m going to kick a hole and send through the First SOG and the Infantry originally sent to deal with this. With the first wave we send more recon troops to link up with Master Sergeant Falcon, they’ll secure the first landing site in the mountains.”  Bradley smiled at that. “They are already in the ManPods and on the way. The star fighters will launch them in, so they’ll be mixed in the furball and harder to pickout, especially with their satellites falling around their ears.”
 
“Good plan, Sir,” Colonel Klein nodded his approval.
 
“Want a taste of the action on the ground?” Bradley offered.
 
Klein’s eyes lit up. “I was hoping to, but this seems to be more of a SOG operation.”
 
“SOG will have its job to do, we’re sending the teams in, sure, but we still have two battalions for the original plan, that was your plan, Colonel. You don’t have long to tweak your plans to account for conditions on the ground, but it’s your job still.”
 
Klien looked even happier. “We can still drop in and take the civilian cosmodrome north of the capitol and spread out from there, but they’ll probably expect something like that now, I’m looking at the scrub land at the south end of the valley that Billy Falcon is playing in now. We can land there and spead out to accomplish the mission.”
 
“Very good,” Bradley nodded. “Good, I’m putting two Teams in the capitol to secure the embassies, they’ll be expecting help from you soon. Its going to be ticklish, Colonel, I won’t bullshit you, I’m looking at split ops, dirtside and at the gates. Until the rest of the Task Force Battleaxe gets here to reinforce us.”
 
“Its going to get bloody,” Klein admitted. “But I plan to move fast and use way too much force to get the job done.”
 
“We’ll have time for subtle later,” Bradley agreed. “Get the troops into the drops, one less thing for me to worry about topside when the Earthers show up.”
 
Klein nodded and braced to attention and saluted.
 
“Go kick some ass, Colonel,” Bradley returned the salute.
 
=====================
 
“Billy,” Nighthorse knelt beside his sleeping leader. “Just got the word, two squads dropping in by ManPods to reinforce us. Fresh gear and supplies, we’re doing to secure an LZ for a company, I expect they’ll expand that for a larger force.”
 
Falcon stretched inside his armor and groaned. “When?”
 
“We’re supposed to secure an LZ ASAP, we can expect them in six hours or less, Tang sent it all to your comp,” Nighthorse. “I’ll get you come coffee and breakfast.”
 
Billy sat up and stretched again, feeling his back creak and pop. He felt the suit plumbing do its job and looked forward to the day when he could pee normally again. He was reading through the messages on the screen on his left arm when Nighthorse set a cup of coffee and a few warmed meal packs beside him. Falcon read as he shoveled down a scrambled omelet followed by a warm spice cake. He was on his third cup of coffee when he finished the dispatches.
 
“Get some sleep, Vittorio,” he said to Nighthorse. “We stand to in three hours, it’ll probably be a long day after that.” Nighthorse nodded and turned in, leaving Falcon sitting in the dark to sip coffee and make his plans.
 
===============
 
There is a significant loss of velocity when one dumps from the hyper bands into normal space. This was fortunate as the warning strobes for a mine field lit off upon their emergence from the gate. Colonel Cobb grinned as he watched them brake to avoid passing the beacons and slewed every which way to avoid being rammed by their comrades following, finally one of them made it back through, presumably to warn the rest to hold. The crew of the CCDF Arkangel was suited already, but Cobb had held off, he didn’t want to tip off the visitors just what their preparations looked like.
 
They’re squawking, sir,” Comm Informed him.
 
“I’d be surprised if they weren’t,” Cobb grinned lopsidedly before sipping his coffee. “Make nice with them until their boss is ready to talk.”
 
Finally one of his screens flickered to a crest of the Arkangel, informing its commander that somebody wanted to speak with him. “This is Rear Admiral Kent Blandy, commanding task force Eleven,” a distinguished-looking man with immaculate hair peered at him from the screen. “Admiral?” Cobb replied after another sip of coffee. “You’re kind of lost sailor, you’re the better part of fifty million clicks from the nearest water.” He sipped his coffee again and returned his attention to the screen. “Colonel Hank Cobb, commanding officer of CCDF Arkangel and commanding the Strike Group of the same name. What brings you to Confederation Space…Admiral…” he smirked again and sipped his coffee.”
 
Rear Admiral Blandy seemed to take himself quite seriously and expected the rest of the populated universe to do the same. “Colonel,” he seemed put off by the rank, “I am responding to a call for assistance from the people of Bengal, we are a peacekeeping and humanitarian mission and under interstellar law we demand to pass to help the people of that war torn planet.”
 
Cobb set aside his coffee and leaned back in the chair. “What a coincidence, we’re already conducting peacekeeping and humanitarian mission on our sovereign territory of Bengal, looks like we left you with nothing more to do Admiral. Shame you had to make such a long trip for nothing. Why, you must have left to rescue these people before the trouble even started. Can’t fault your sense of precognition.”
 
Hank waited the few seconds it took for the message to cross the void between them and saw that Blandy did notice the dig, and its deeper implications. “Captain Cobb, we have embassy staff down there as well, and we demand access to our people.”
 
“Colonel,” Hank replied. “Its Colonel Cobb, if I were still a captain at my age I’d have disappointed my poor mother dreadfully. But,” he continued without changing his expression in the slightest. “On that side of the minefield you are a humanitarian mission without a mission, once you cross that line whatever is left will be a hostile force and treated accordingly.” He looked at his screen. “So, I see that according to the rank structure of the Terran League, rear admirals don’t command whole Task Forces, and Kiev Class Missile Cruisers aren’t flagships for Task Forces either. Not that the Rodney doesn’t appear to be a trim enough vehicle. Perhaps you need to confer with higher authority?”
 
Blandy took a moment to compose his thoughts. “You seem well informed, Cap…Colonel Cobb. We don’t have your ship class in our databases.”
 
“Just to save you from having to make up a name, Arkangel is an SIR-452 Interdictor, you’d classify us this vehicle as a heavy cruiser,” he said casually.
 
“You don’t seem to be alone,” Blandy observed.
 
“I’m not, so I had a few of the others put up their markers so you wouldn’t feel ignored,” he touched a blinking ox on a screen and the rest cut off their beacons, leaving a lot of empty-looking space.
 
“Colonel Cobb, you are aware that you’re blocking the free passage of vessels through this gate?”
 
“I am aware that I’m exercising the right of a sovereign government to control access by non-aligned worlds and anyone acting in a suspicious manner.” Cobb sipped his coffee again. “Like taskforces that leave before trouble starts. It does strike a betting man as far too lucky.”
 
“Colonel, perhaps you should consult with higher authorities, just to insure that your legal ground is as secure as you believe it is?”
 
“Already did,” Cobb grinned and held out his cup for a refill just outside the pickup view of the camera. “Talk to your Vice Admiral, I’ll be here when you two figure out what to try next.” He waved his hand over the screen and the crest returned.
 
==========================
 
 
“Sergeant Falcon,” Tang called out. “We have company on the way. Manpod drops, they want a beacon in eleven minutes from….mark.”
 
“Very well,” Falcon nodded. “You’re on the marker.”
 
“Billy!” Nighthorse let the rank drop, something he rarely did when they weren’t alone. We’ve got company coming from this way too.”
Falcon moved to where Nighthorse stood watch and studied the ground below them.  “Moving in twos, spread over about a fifty meter front. Looks like a reinforced squad, scouts for a platoon maybe.”
 
“Light weapons only, exos and standard body armor only, vests and helmets,” Nighthorse agreed.
 
“Tito,” he waved over the second surviving member of the flight crew, while he was by rank second to Falcon he didn’t have Nighthorse’s ground experience. “Hagger, you too. Misty you take the mini and anchor is on the left, about ten tards over, you have the end of the line, Tito, you’re her eyes and loader, and you have the last of our counter-air. You two are our heavy weapons, green?”
 
“Green!” they both replied confidently. Falcon nodded and waved them on.
 
“Yancy,” he called to Corporal Zink. “Auto shotgun on the right, cover the draw, that’s their way up to get at us. Green?”
 
“Green,” Zink replied on the move.
 
“Tang, stay put, you’re talking in our relief.”
 
“Green,” she waved.
“Vittorio, you and Yamato have center, I want you two to engage when they get to five hundred meters, single aimed shots. Snipe the hell out of them and call out when you see anything heavy roll up.”
 
“Green,” they replied together. “Master Sergeant,” Nighthorse spoke up after acknowledging. “You about to try some holo hero shit?”
 
“Goes with the handsome profile,” Billy shrugged. “I’m going to go plant some anti-personnel goodies and a few surprises.”
 
“Keep your ass down!”
 
“Green,” Falcon replied on the move. “Vittorio, you’re the man till I get back.”
 
=====================
 
“General Bradley,” Ops reported. “Four Terran destroyers and two cruisers are through the gate, indications are that they have dumped all velocity and are now holding station short of where Colonel Cobb planned to sow mines. No report from Arkangel, but the rest of his units are stealthed.”
 
“I’m not worried about The Hammer,” Pendragon replied. “And its sir or Boss, I don’t need to be reminded of my name or rank, Ops.”
 
“Yes, Sir, Boss,” Ops replied and was rewarded with a wink from the General.
 
“The Novas and Penetrators will support dirtside ops, when the orbital crap is cleared recover the Black Knights, combat turn them for counter-space and get their support vehicles and into place to support  Arkangel.”
 
“Twelve hours to recover, eighteen hours to rendezvous,” Tactical reported.
 
“Very well,” Pendragon acknowledged as he returned his attention to the displays before him. He missed the old days, being a captain or major, actually leading and not managing the action.
 
======================
 
“Can you get anything on them?” Admiral Blandy studied the readouts for himself.
 
“Nothing on thermal or gravatic sensors, nothing on radar or lidar, they aren’t transmitting anything that we can read except their beacon, which is the only reason we have anything tangible on them at all,” Tactical replied. “They don’t really match anything we have in the databases for Confed classes. We can suppose based on vessels of similar tonnage that we’ve seen, which isn’t encouraging. If they close to energy range they carry Battle Cruiser class or heavier turbo lasers, they carry fewer missiles than a BC but they are more capable.”
 
“Not encouraging, what of the ones that went dark?”
 
“Destroyers we believe. Dark isn’t the word for what they are, they’ve vanished completely,” Tac replied. “Even nothing would be something in this case. We have all of our data saved for the flagship, they have a better analysis section.”
 
“What does their transponder code tell us?”
 
“Confirms type and vessel name,” Tactical reported, “and…” there was a pause as she reviewed the rest of the long string of digits. “Arkangel is assigned to the CCDF’s Special Operations Command, and the hull was built by Nebula Industries.”
 
Blandy turned to look at her. “That would explain the stealth,” he said calmly. “And it explains the confidence of this Colonel Cobb. Does the transponder code tell us anything else about what part of their Special Operations Command this task group belongs to?”
 
“If I read it right, First Wing, Task Force 1,” Tactical replied. “Library files report that is codenamed CCDF Task Force Battleaxe, and a Confed Battlegroup has three wings assigned.”
 
“Any mention of command structure?” Blandy asked.
 
“Nothing sir,” Tactical replied. “As I said, our sensory suite and analysis section isn’t as powerful as those of the flagship.”
 
“Send it through to Admiral Kerensky with the courier,” Blandy growled at the reminder of his own ship’s lack of ability.
 
=====================================
 
“Courier just ducked back through the gate,” Arkangel’s Tac officer reported.
 
“They’re sweating,” Cobb grinned. “They think that in space, nobody can hear you sweat. Hot alert on all fighters, they are now on a plus ten alert window, safeties on until I say otherwise.”
 
“Alert plus ten seconds, full weapons safety until ordered,” Ops confirmed.
 
“Very good,” he thumbed a comm panel and smiled at the support group commander. “Dinner ready?”
 
“Ready when you are sir,” Major Torville reported.
 
“Very good,” he switched to all stations. “Hammer to all personnel, hot chow is on, section chiefs, relay your people a quarter at a time, fifteen minutes to choke it down. Eat heart and make sure your suits are fully stocked, if these idiots get froggy enough to jump, it might take us a few minutes to drop them into the cooling pot.”
 
“What go you think they have left on the other side of the gate, sir?” Ops asked.
 
“A task force, figure more screening stuff, their cruisers and destroyers, then a few heavy or battle cruisers, a light carrier and a battleship,” he grinned at Ops. “You might want to familiarize yourself with a Terran taskforce in the library, after you call your relief and eat.” Cobb ordered as he checked a countdown on a side screen.
 
=================================
 
“Romeo four-two, Pendragon,” Bradley studied the screen with irritation.
 
“Pendragon, Romeo four-two,” Falcon’s muted voice replied, finally. “Little busy down here, Boss.” Falcon finished placing the last of his surprises. “LZ is yellow, we’re looking to green it up.”
 
“Don’t do anything silly Billy,” Bradley warned.
 
“I only have a couple of minutes boss, too late for them to divert, we’re going to hold them east of the LZ, get word to the drop to land west of the beacon and deploy for hot LZ. Green?”
 
“Green,” Bradley replied. “Relaying to team sergeant now.”
 
===================================
 
Cautiously they approached, using terrain features and tall grass to help mask their movements, feeling secure until they reached the five hundred meter mark and two heads quite literally turned themselves inside out as light armor piercing rounds passed through them at nearly 4,000 meters per second, the small, dense round punching a hole through the backs of their helmets and leaving a long trail of gore behind them.
 
“Dead on,” Falcon called back tersely. Maitain heavier fire to the left, I have the welcome mat to the right, I’ll be leading them in.”
 
“Green,” Nighthorse replied and two more dropped slightly to the right a few seconds later.
 
Billy watched as more came forward, carefully, and then her heard the mini-gun mow through anything to the left, then Billy rose and emptied a magazine into the right, and took off at an exoskeleton-enhanced run, covering the uneven ground at over sixty kilometers per hour. The mini kept firing measured bursts that stopped short of the right, as did a few short barrages of shotgun grenades rained down, also to the left. They spread and cautiously followed the movement they could see, and to flank the positions thinning their numbers.
 
==================
 
“Watch for a trap,” Diem warned his troops. “Use long range fire, if we see them its because they want us to.” He unkeyed his mic a moment and thought. “Bring up the heavy weapons squads, call in air support. Scouts, probe out left, the terrain is masking their firs, we can flank them.”
 
“Captain, Skywatch reports we have droop troops inbound, we have two minutes or less.”
 
“Copy, they are trying to hold an LZ for the drop troops, move people, we can’t let them for…” He didn’t finish the last word as Nighthorse’s round punched through Diem’s throat and blew out his spine. Diem’s head fell to the side, still connected by a strip of skin as he toppled over slowly.
 
============================
 
Falcon felt the rounds striking his body armor and sent a mental thanks out to the techs that built it, after he realized he didn’t feel the sting of rounds penetrating. He dropped into a dry creek bed and released a short burst back in the direction he’d come from. He dialed up the magnification factor on his optical sight. “I’ll be damned,” he grinned. “Got one.” He started plinking at everything that moved from that point, forcing them to honor the threat he posed, intentionally drawing their fire as they believed him to be flank security that protected his squad’s apparently weak right.
 
They kept their heads down as they advanced on him and Falcon found himself hunkering down to avoid a lot of small arms fire, grenades and finally light mortar rounds. He shook his head at the incongruity of it, he flew around in space craft and still used weapons his great grandfather and older would have recognized. He checked the grenade launcher slung under his barrel and dropped three among the fighters approaching his position. This forced them into a shallow ditch fifty meters short of his position. Falcon kept up his fire then let their return fire make him duck down, which allowed more to creep forward into the ditch.
 
Falcon smiled wickedly and triggered the party favors he’d laid out and was rewarded with the sounds of explosions and screams. He broke cover and hauled ass up the creek bed at full speed, closing on 60 kph back toward his own position, giving every impression that his “right flank” was collapsing. Rounds whistled past him and tore up the ground around him, and he felt the ominous drumming on his armor of the impacts before he dropped into his next firing position and returned their attention.
 
“Romeo four-two, Knight One-Two.”
 
“Four-two,” Falco replied as he stitched an advancing figure from waist to throat.
 
“You are now designated Knight One-One. I have a platoon deploying, fall back and rejoin.”
 
“One-one copies,” Falcon replied and reloaded his grenade launcher and laid down smoke to cover his withdrawal. He fell back slowly, laying down fire and dropping grenades for the first twenty yards then turned and hauled ass, reloading on the run. He saw the light in the corner or his visor that said he’d been challenged by friendlies and his IFF flashed green. He passed three troopers and came to the top.
 
“Staff Sergeant Calderone,” he greeted a female NCO. “You’re one-Two?’
 
“Yup,” she grinned and looked over his heavily scuffed and dented battle armor. “Major Melas decided you didn’t need an officer to secure the ground. I’ve put the heavy weapons squad on the wall, I have the other three squads out north, south and west to secure the team LZ. The major will be down with the rest directly. We’ve got a couple of suit mechs with us, looks like you can use a tune-up and a baffle flush at least,” she grinned.
 
“I can, the rest of my squad getting checked over?”
 
“Yup,” she replied. “And eating hot chow.”
 
“Coffee?”
“Real beans,” Calderone confirmed.
 
“A real –two would have brought me a cup,” he grinned.
 
“Must be why I’m only a staff sergeant,” she rolled her eyes.
 
“Yell if anything changes, and tie me into the platoon net,” he said as he ambled off for coffee and repairs.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 12:31:35 AM by Lord Palatine »

Offline Lord Palatine

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Re: Sweet Billy
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2012, 11:21:16 PM »
Falcon ate standing as a tech poured over his suit. His ruck, though made of bullet resistant material was still fairly chewed up, as was his gear inside. “You don’t need to make it perfect,” Billy assured her. “We can worry about that when the rest of the team lands. Just worry about the bad spots.” 
“You have a lot of those, Master Sergeant,” she replied. “Some of the rounds penetrated the outer skin and are stuck in the inner layers. Looks like You had about three millimeters between a slug and your hide.”
 
“Damn!” Falcon grumbled as he finished the last of a breakfast burrito and washed it down with half a cup of coffee at a gulp. “Light stuff?”
 
“Nope, lucky thirteen,” she replied. “Heavy machinegun rounds, Thirteen millimeter armor-piercing rounds, and a few explosive rounds. Your armor needs a full workover in the shop. At least your actuators and electronics all seem up to speed.”
 
“Not an impressive test,” Falcon grumbled.
 
“A five probably would have failed,” she shrugged. “You have at least sixty hits. I suppose its bad manners for me to remind you to duck and serpentine now and then.”
 
“Probably, doesn’t mean you’re wrong.”
 
“Battlemaster has tech reps with the Team, making the landing, they can put you back together.”
 
“Good,” Falcon replied. “We’re a magnet here, and now that we’re not moving they’re going to come after us hard now.” He waved his empty cup for a refill and started dictating a report for burst transmission.
 
==================================
 
Report forwarded from planetside by Major Melas,” Comm reported. “They have a platoon in place and a company knocking at their front door and the rest of a battalion closing in on them. The rest is a few uncomplimentary notions directed at the BattleMaster Company.”
 
“He must be testing the six model,” Pendragon grinned. “And probably doesn’t have the newer beta armor.” He shook his head. “Very well, if Billy has the energy to bitch then he’s fine. Status on clearing orbital defenses?”
 
“Clearing stealth mines now,” TAC reported. “Fourth Team is dropping in now, with an escort of Black Knights and Penetrators.”
 
“And Colonel Klein and the main force?”
 
“Ready to go, Sir,” OPS reported. “We’re assembling the escort fighters now. We expect they’ll be needed in about an hour, depending on how fast planetary forces respond. There is a lot of movement dirtside, they are moving a lot of manpower and metal toward the LZ.”
 
Pendragon nodded and thought a moment. “Signal Colonel Klein, and Major Melas, inform them we are going with Option Delta.”
 
“Option Delta, yes, Sir.”
 
================================
 
 “Courier returning to our side of the gate,” TAC announced.
 
Cobb picked up his coffee and studied the screen. “Anything with it?”
 
“Nothing yet…wait…yes, out probe came through with it,” TAC amended. “Its tracking our beacon.”
 
“Very good, I want tactical and ops all over the take from that probe,” Cobb said thoughtfully.
 
“Fluctuation from the gate, something big coming through, the rest are making a big hole for it.”
 
“That will be either a carrier or battleship,” Cobb announced. “I’m betting carrier. Any takers?”
 
There were none.
 
A minute later a sensor tech raised her head from her screen. “Carrier class, it fired up its full sensory suite as soon as it was through, Sir.”
 
“Standard ECM screens in place?”
 
“They are, Sir, as per your orders.”
 
“Good, let’s see how long they chew on our puzzle,” Cobb murmured. “Ops, change missile loadouts on the fighters to half dogfighters and half shipkillers. If I remember my stats correctly that carrier can carry up to seventy two fighters, against our fourteen light fighters.”
 
“You remember correctly, Sir,” Ops replied.
 
“Very well, and while we’re at it, make sure our counter-missile systems are also set for counter-fighter ops. And, get me the take off of that probe.”
 
They scrambled to make his orders a reality, satisfied Cobb commed the officer’s mess. “Send me a half kilo beef steak with mushrooms and fried onions and potatoes and a pitcher of sweet tea.”
 
That really got their attention, this is what their commander ate when he thought action was imminent.
 
==============================================
 
“You have nothing?” Admiral Leona Chernoff was more than a little displeased.
 
“Nothing except the minefield markers and the beacon on the Arkangel,” her XO, Rear Admiral Teeter replied.
 
“How is that possible Reg?”
 
“They apparently don’t reflect light or radar, they have no emissions of any kind, including comm. or heat and apparently they aren’t visually obvious either, we went through the scan logs they sent over and as soon as the other four ships were registered and ranged, they vanished.”
 
“So are the mines there, or are they a bluff?” Chernoff asked.
 
“Clever bluff if it is, now do we call it?”
 
“Our orders are very clear,” Chernoff replied. “We secure Bengal. That’s why we have all of that metal stacked up on the other side of this gate. What do they have in orbit?”
 
“A dozen ranging in size from destroyer and ranging up to that they call a command and control vehicle that dwarfs a battleship or carrier, and we have nothing on file about all but a few of the classes we’ve been able to see through long range visual.”
 
“But we can see them?”
 
“We’ve been able to get a silhouette when they cross over Bengal in their orbits, that gives us shape and a rough size.”
 
“So, seventeen or so, plus fighters?”
 
“That’s what we make it,” Teeter replied.
 
“Fine, get the crews to supper, we’re going to blast a hole through the middle and push on to Bengal. Notify the rest of the taskforce. If the warlords have to fight alone they’ll lose, and then we’ll have the undivided attention of the Confeds. The Confed commander is using the old principle of divide and conquer.”
 
=========================================
 
“They’ve pulled back, Master Sergeant,” Calderone reported. “They’ve tried a few probes that we chewed up like free lunch.  They’re bringing up heavier weaponry and we’ve picked up fast movers orbiting around us, but they aren’t moving closer, probably recon.”
 
“They’re waiting for their heavy stuff on the ground to get in range, they’re worried about our counter-air,” Falcon replied. “We’re at the part of the chess game where everybody is getting their pieces in place, they’ll move when they thing they can clear off our pieces with the least losses. By then they’ll be screwed, we’ll see our own air support in a few minutes, and then the rest of the team. Be nice when everything is down dirtside and we can get things done.”
 
“Won’t be long,” Calderone shrugged.
 
“Let’s see,” Falcon said and walked to the comm station.
 
“They’re coming, Master Sergeant,” Tang reported as he approached. “Looks like drops and a fighter escort, looks light Novas and Penetrators, light fighters and bombers.”
 
“Outstanding,” he looked over the dispatch screen, then a priority message came through and overrode all others. One word. ‘DUCK!’
 
“Take cover!” he called over guard. “Incoming!”
 
The dropships were armed, but they held fire and left the dirty work to a dozen Penetrator heavy attack fighters, they launched a barrage of GSAM’s, Ground Saturation Assault Missiles than unleashed a thunderous rolling barrage a kilometer out from the positions of Falcon’s platoon. The ground shook and the dust was thick in the air, and the noise started to abate but then grew louder as the engines of the Roughrider and Sustainer dropships slowed for landing. Finally they were looking at a standup fight with real support. For the first time in a few weeks Billy Falcon breathed easy.
 
======================================================
 
“General, urgent dispatch from Arkangel, on your screen now,” Comm reported.
 
Bradley looked over at the screen and nodded his head slowly. “Ops, Tac, are you reading this?”
 
“Fuck me!” Tac said by way of supply.
 
“Two carriers, 2 battleships, four battlecruisers, eight cruisers, sixteen destroyers, thirty two frigates plus their fighter compliments,” Ops read off.  “All their deep strike models, so they are loaded with everything they need for prolonged deployments.”
 
“Big bastards,” Pendragon agreed. “All right then, pull the Black Knights now, check that I want all Black Knights aboard the Eagle, and top them off with Penetrators. Detach Imperator, Eagle, Dreadnought, Myrmidon, Avenger, Champion, Gladiator, Warrior, Bràigheach, Chaucer, Ganbaatar, Garyali, Inxausti, Kirkland, Tachibana and Uyaquk. That makes a force of the command ship, carrier and fifty fighters, two heavies, 4 medium and eight light combatants.”  He thought for a moment. “Alert Major General Brandt, she is to remain with Bard and assume command of Task Group Bengal, Bengal and all our forces on or above it are hers until we return. All of that metal is here to deliver troops, and if they lose the troops they can’t take and Bengal, orders to Colonel Cobb on Arkangel, Toopships have to take priority on his target list. Our job is to secure Bengal and hold off these bastards until the rest of Battleaxe joins us, I’ll take a space combatant force to screen the planet from the Terran forces, General Brandt will continue dirtside and near space operations.”
 
A few seconds later a dispatch showed up for his approval, he looked it over and pressed his thumb to seal and send the orders; seconds later those orders were going out in all directions.
 
==================================================
 
There was a three minute communication lag between Arkangel and Imperator, Cobb reviewed the decrypted message and whistled at its contents. “Pendragon is sending half of the wing to join us,” he announced to the bridge. Tactical, relay to Boone, Cleves, Hyanh and Paukeigope, let them know we’re going to be reinforced, and that the priority targets are the troop carriers. If they come through they stay dark and wait for their shot at the meat haulers. Arkangel will dance and rope-a-dope.” He chuckled at that thought. “And we don’t waste the mines on the fighters; we let them concentrate on the heavies. We have the equivalent in numbers to two wings stacked up and waiting to get at us, and each of their classes outweighs us. We should have the tech edge in this, but they can carry a lot of reloads in hulls that big. Good news is their fighters are dinky little things, they can’t carry the load ours do, and we have better engines and tougher frames. The only real wildcard is energy shielding, we don’t know how far along they are with them, but I think we edge them there too. And we definitely kick their ass in stealth.”  He thought another moment. “Ops, take us dark, Pilot, as soon as we’re off their screens shift our position. I want, X axis 270 degrees fifty k klicks and Z axis minus fifty k klicks.”
 
“Left fifty, down fifty, holding,” the pilot acknowledged as she programmed the maneuver and waited for the execute order.
 
===========================================
 
“Arkangel has dropped off the scope, Sir,” Tactical reported.
 
“Watch for a Doppler,” Chernoff ordered. “They’ll  be maneuvering to spoil any shot we have programmed for them.” She returned her attention to the dispatch from planetside. The Confeds were landing troops and had nearly cleared their orbital defenses and the few space-capable fighters they could muster. “The fighters will have to clear the mines, if there are any,” she said at last. “Notify Admiral Vargas, he’s to start bringing his ships through at 0830 standard hours. He’s to send screening vessels first then bring through the heavies. It is to be a fast insertion, no foreplay.” She smiled at that. “Get the order off at once. We have three hours, battle stations in two and a half and we move fifteen minutes later.  Call me in two hours, I’ll be catnapping in my day cabin.”
 
=========================
 
“So what you’re telling me,” Falcon said from inside the shower stall, letting the hot water wash the dried sweat before he started lathering. “Is that the Battallion will land south of us, using us as a diversion and then we’ll drop in on Bengali?”
 
“That’s only our part of it, and all of it if we’re lucky,” Major Melas said, she was leaning against the wall so her back was to Falcon. “The Terrans have sent a fleet, we have them bottled up in the gate right now, but that won’t last, and then Pendragon has to fight them and support us at the same time.”
 
“Sunuvabitch,” he murmured as he scrubbed his face and short bushy hair vigorously. “You aren’t done making my day though, what’s the rest?”
 
“We have located the rebel command post. I want you to select a picked platoon and take it. Kill or capture, makes no matter, but get them off the air so they can’t coordinate with their forces. Without command, control and communication they are screwed.”
 
“You want me to do all of that with a platoon?” He asked as he flicked open an ancient straight razor. “Damn, Ma’am, that ain’t asking too much now is it?”
 
“The team and our air cover will level everything above and leave breeching and raiding to you.”
Falcon thought as he scraped the whiskers from his face. “Well, sounds like I’m volunteering again,” he sighed and then the scraping sounds continued.
 
“This time you’ll have the team behind you, and no dipshit generals with fucked up agendas and delusions of adequacy.” Melas assured him.
 
”I’m going to need three squads of assault troops and a squad of engineers to replace the heavy weapons squad. They won’t do much good down there anyway. I’ll take Nighthorse as my platoon sergeant, the rest that came down with me need a rest. Vittorio will serve me my own balls if I go back out without him. He needs to be a staff sergeant, Ma’am, ASAP.”
 
“Done,” she replied. “I’ll let you tell him. Anything else?”
 
“Yup,” he replied as he turned off the water. “Run for it if you don’t want an eyeful.”
 
“I have some pretty big eyes,” she laughed as she walked to the door.
 
“They ain’t that big,” Falcon chuckled as he dried himself off. “And send me those Battlemaster pukes, pretty please, Ma’am.”
 
==========================
 
There were puzzled looks in Arkangel’s Command Center. Colonel cob has closed the transparent doors and sat drinking coffee and smoking a cigar, at the end of the cigar and an entire carafe of coffee he hunched over his terminal and started poking keys like a man possessed. His eyes skimmed over the screens before him, they were transparent and what those screens showed only sowed to him. He touched various screens and selected items and flicked them to his main screen, the flat of his desk surface. After around another ten minutes he lit a second cigar and he studied the screen while puffing away and waving the empty carafe for a refill. His aide scrambled to get the refill and then they all waited until he rose at last.
 
“Tac, Ops, the timeline and planning are on your terminals. Hammer One begins, he checked the chrono, in 3 minutes. You have that long to see what I’ve gotten you into.” He dropped back into his seat at the command station and looked at the helmet and gauntlets waiting for him. It would be a bit for them yet, he considered as he rolled his shoulders in the lightly armored suit and double-checked his telltales and cursed the coffee as he plugged into the servicing port and flushed his baffles. He pretended not to notice the expressions of the two young officers huddled over their terminals and the looks they kept shooting back at him.
 
“Ambitious,” Lt Colonel Macy commented as she looked up from her pad. “Almost crazy as well. I like it,” she grinned.”
 
“Coming from you, Madame, if you see it as only close to crazy, I feel reassured,” he glanced at the chrono. “Judging from the constant traffic between dirtside and our guests, they’ll move soon. We need to be ready to execute at a moment’s notice.”
 
===================================
 
Bradley studied the split screen before him, he observed the faces of the various commanders that had accompanied General Long. “I’m not going to beat around the bush,” he said after a moment. “Your task group is a tainted instrument. Every one of you will face thorough scrutiny upon our return, and my own Intel staff has already confiscated backups of your computer memories, it is my fervent hope that they find nothing, but I will not hesitate to arrest anyone I suspect of being involved with General Longs apparent conspiracy. That being said, if any of your commands behave oddly, you will be dealt with, even if that means use of deadly force, which is the understood recourse against mutiny. This is your chance to reinforce your individual defenses against the inquiries yet to come. I expect that this will be the only words I need to expend on this subject.” He sat back and shook his head. “It’s a goddamned shame that one corrupt officer has forced me to examine the conduct of others, but I trust you’ll look at this from my own position. Bradley Clear.”
 
“I should have just shot the silly bitch,” he sighed and turned to his comm officer.  “Make sure to release that leak I prepared, I want the rest of her former command to realize that we have a lot on her, and that she’s been bound over for treason.”
 
“Yes, Sir,” Comm replied.
 
He reviewed his message he’d prepared for the 1st Special Operations Wing and approved it with his thumb print. “And while you and your people are consulting with your comm. Counterparts get my battle brief out to them.”
 
“Sir,” Major General Leah Tomaru, his chief of staff reviewed the altered command structure carefully. “You have really shaken things up. The command structures of most squadrons are separated and we’re going to be looking at a real scratch team.”
 
“I know,” he nodded slowly as he thought a moment. “I’m leaving enough behind to cover dirtside ops, but I’m also leaving enough to cover the 15th Wing, I know I can count on my people, I just don’t know how far Long’s influence has spread. That means I have to account for some of them causing problems, and I’d rather have them far behind me if I need to repel an invasion force. I’ve left some fire-eaters behind that will handle things if they go pear-shaped on me. Especially Colonel Brandt, her father and two uncles were killed the last time the Earthers raised hell in this sector. She’ll stomp hard.”
 
“Then you think we’ll have a fight?”
 
“Look what they sent, it looks like Long sent them a warning and they boosted their forces from what our intel expected. More than doubled it. They only expected part of what we have coming, but what they don’t expect is how close I have 3rd and 4th wings, which may balance the reinforcements that I don’t know about. Arkangel will be in the fight before we can get to them, I’m sure of that. The Hammer knows how to conduct a running fight, he may just be the best we have at it, and this time he has a task group rather than a single outdated patrol vehicle on picket duty. Hank will bleed them, we’ll smash them.”
“How bad will we bleed?” Tomaru wondered aloud.
 
“Worse than if Long hadn’t have turned her coat,” Bradley concluded grimly. He pretended not to notice the looks going around, and knew what they’d overheard was already moving through the 1st Wing at the only thing faster than light speed in the universe, the speed of gossip.
 
==============================
 
“Christ they have some serious air defenses,” Falcon growled as the drop shuttle lurched hard.
 
The shuttle pilot nodded without trying to look back. “No shit, they’ve hidden it everywhere, that last one was from a school playground.”
 
“Bastards,” Falcon growled. “Probably have the area loaded with kids just waiting to be turned into innocent bodies to show to the press.”
 
“It’s the usual drill,” he agreed. “I dropped a marker, we’ll see if they send a fire team after it.”
 
“How long till we drop?”
 
“Two minutes, I was about to give you the heads-up.”
 
“Good luck, Lieutenant,” Falcon said as he left the flight deck.
 
“Keep your ass down,” the pilot dodged another cluster of anti-air rounds. “Is there anything we can shoot back at?”
 
“They’re buried like fleas,” his offensive systems operator replied. “That was from a building with a medical clinic beacon.”
 
“Fuck we need some ground-pounders down there!” He said as his shuttle suddenly skewed sideways.
 
“We’re hit,” the copilot announced uncase that little factoid was overlooked.
 
“No shit, right wing is heavy as hell, help me on this roll!”
 
“No joy, Skipper,” the copilot replied, there’s not much wing left.
 
“FUCK!” the pilot shouted as he punched the EJECT alarm.
 
“FUCK!” Falcon shouted from the rear. “GO-GO-GO!” And lead the way out, he and his platoon used their thrust packs, they were far too low for parachutes anyway and hadn’t bothered with them. They only had about a hundred meter drop. “That’s fucking twice!” he complained to himself and watched the shuttle as the flight crew ejected, the pilot last as he’d held it steady for the rest. He consulted the map screen on his arm and saw their beacons light up. “Fuck,” he growled over the platoon channel. “One rode it in. Alright people, we’re in the shit, lets go find our delivery crew and get on mission.”
 
“I’ve reported it down, and that we’re on the move,” Knight-Three, his Comm Specialist, Sergeant Candace Wong reported.
 
“Copy, Sparks,” Falcon acknowledged. “This is Knight-One, Knight-Five and Knight-Six, you have Point, Knight-Able give me one fire team with point, green?”
 
“Knight-One, Knight Able,” First squad leader reported. “Knight-Able-One has point with –Five and –Six.”
 
“Green,” Falcon agreed. “Knight-Charlie, You’re in the rear, detail one fire team for drag.”
 
“Knight-one, Knight Charlie, detailing Knight-Charlie-Three as drag.” Third Squad replied.
 
“Green,” Falcon agreed. “Knight-Bravo and Knight-Delta with Knight-One. Delta, keep your kids down, we’re going to need engineers to breach the target, wait till then to be heroes.”
 
“Knight-Delta, green,” the leader of the combat engineering team replied.
 
“Knight-Bravo, green.”
 
“Saddle up and rally, boys and girls,” Falcon ordered. “Knight-Five, grab Knight-Able-One and lead off. We got some fliers to round up on our way.”
 
“Knight-One, -six,” Sergeant Dina Calhoun replied. “Moving now, Able-One rally on me.”
 
There was something comforting about numbers, his leadership element numbered six by itself, them he had three squads of fourteen heavily-armed assault infantry and another squad of combat engineers. It was slow movement and he heard the shots directed at his point element. “Knight-Five, -One, what contact?”
 
“Knight-One, -Six,” the Forward Observer’s comm spect replied, indicating that –Five was busy. “Scattered shots, -Five is calling them a recon probe. We’ve recovered one of the flight crew, leaving her for pick-up.”
 
“-One copies, clear.” He replied tersely as they started to move again. Recovered meant a body, not a good sign. He paused when they reached the body. Sergeant Keane, the platoon medic, stopped with him. “Close range, looks like a heavy weapon pushed against her chest finished her.”
 
Falcon nodded and moved on and tapped Sergeant Wong’s elbow. “Got anything from the crew, Sparks?”
 
“Scrambled beacons,” she replied, “three more. Closest is fifty meters.”
“Knight-One, -Five, we have one of the flight crew ahead. Pinned down behind a couple of vehicles. I’ve called for air support, they are ten out, too long. We need to pull him out.”
 
“-One copies. Knight-Able One, move forward and engage. This is no time to be subtle, hammer the bastards.”
 
“-Able-One copies and is moving.”
 
“Knight-Bravo, -One, move up to support, stand by to launch grenades as they spot targets.”
 
“-Bravo copies.”
 
“-Charlie and –Delta, stay loose and keep your heads on a swivel, if it isn’t friendly, drop it.” He glanced at his map. “Lets step it out, we got places to be and things to do.”
 
=======================================
 
“To the operating forces of the First Special Operations Wing and Fifteenth Wing of the Carridian Confederation Defense Forces; ladies and gentlemen, stand by for an announcement from General Thomas E. Bradley, commander-in-Chief, Special Operations Command. Ladies and gentlemen, Pendragon.”
 
There was a pause than then a handsome man in the operational coverall uniform appeared at a podium. The view slowly zoomed in until his piercing pale eyes seemed to look at each of them. “At this moment we’re engaged in ground and planetary operations on and above Bengal and a blockade of the Bengal Gate. I’m not going to take too much of your time; but, the cause of this are mired in political conflicts, naked aggression and base treason. As you may know I have arrested Major General Long for her intentional mishandling of the Bengal relief mission but you probably don’t know that she was also in communication with the Federation of Terran States, and that is who is stacked up at the Bengal Gates to seize both Bengal and the Gate.
 
“Bengal is a member of the Carridian Confederation, currently suffering under the coup staged by Major Tan Hama, he’s promoted himself to General and has seized government officials and the embassies of several nations and has petitioned the Terrans for recognition and assistance. This is nothing more than naked aggression by a warlord financed and assisted by Earth as it seeks to gain control of nation states that have nothing more in common with Earth than our ancestors left their constant states of warfare and corruption, but now that they’ve finally picked a winner from among their warring factions and declared peace they demand that all of earth human ancestry now return to the control of what they consider to be the home world of humanity.
 
“Earth is not my home world, in fact an ancestor of mine and tens of thousands of others got together with tens of thousands of others and they told the so-called home world what it could do with itself and they came to the planets of the confederation, and now sixteen centuries or so later their ancestors are about to once again explain to them that we are a free and independent people who’s homeworlds have names like Quarry, Pacifica, Lorien, Proxima, New Texas, Nova Europa, Nova Britannia, Asgaard and Outreach. Earth or Terra or whaever they call themselves have nothing to do with who you or I are or what our ancestors have accomplished or what the future holds for us all.
 
“We don’t see a world or worlds reaching out to us with open arms, we see only the barrel of a gun aimed at us and our people. We now stand between them and our homelands and our people and we are the ‘NO’ that they haven’t heard in words and so they will now see and feel that rejection in action and they will relay that no home with word of the defeat and losses. It doesn’t matter if they can coax those weak in loyalty, the greedy and power hungry into betrayal, they’re about to be reminded that dedicated defenders can and will meet treachery with bravery and fierce determination and we will hand them yet another defeat and tell them to go home and leave our own homes in peace.
 
“You each have my faith and admiration and out enemy shall know fear when you send their broken fleet home, because everyone knows that no navy ever built can defeat us. This will be their first time they have committed their naval strength against the forces of Special Operations Command forces and I want the message they take back to earth to speak of their losses and our defiance. I won’t wish you good luck, luck is for sailors. So, happy hunting. Pendragon clear.”
 
Bradley studied the faces in the command center as the message played with a slight smile. “Send a copy of that to our visitors, in the clear.”
 
====================
 
“The carrier is maneuvering,” Tactical reported, “she’s crossing the line. Comm from her commander, Admiral Chernoff, data is on your screen.”
 
“Execute Hammer One!” Cobb ordered. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in battle.” He paused a second and brought up the comm screen. “Admiral Chernoff,” he greeted the same face from his intel screen. “Sixth Fleet is a long way from home.” His eyes appeared to be studying her, but he saw the launch indicators for the six star fighters from Arkangel.”
 
“Colonel Cobb, this is formal notice as required under interstellar law for you to stand aside.”
 
“And here’s my reply to an invading hostile force,” he cut the feed with one hand and authorized all weapons free with the other, and a dozen heavy missiles launched
 
=========================
 
“Launch fighters, notify all ships, weapons free.” Chernoff snapped. “Did you get a fix on his signal?”
 
“Yes, Ma’am,” comm replied. “Unfortunately it came from four different bearings.”
 
“Clever bastard, isn’t he?” she growled. “How long until Arkangel’s relief arrives?”
 
“Eight hours minimum,” Ops replied. “We’ve got a fix on numbers and classes, we outnumber and outweigh them, Ma’am.”
 
Have the fighters clear us a path, just in case there are mines.”
 
===========================
 
 
Cobb’s subordinates did as ordered, and stayed stealthy and quiet, Arkangel’s defensive fields energized and ruined her own stealth, allowing the commanders to monitor her status.  Cobb was moving and shooting, fighters were disappearing around him as the pair of Black Knights and quarter of Novas were suddenly unmasked as well. Arkangel had fearful defenses of her own and she shook off the lethargy of the long wait instantly and shredded anything that came after her. But, more came through the gate, and the odds were getting longer every second and Arkangel continued to fire and maneuver while slowly giving ground.
 
==============================
 
Major Melas watched silently as the bodies of the dead flight crew were brought aboard, one survivor and three dead. She scanned the report, the dead had died hard, but badly. Evidence of torture stoked the fire in her belly. “We’re bogging down,” she growled at Captain Hawkes.
 
“He couldn’t leave the crew without trying,” Hawkes shrugged.
 
“I know,” she nodded. “Tell the flyboys what happened and tell them we need concentrate on SEAD and close support. Call fleet and see if they can send us gunship support. The fast strike isn’t going to get us there, and I don’t look forward to seeing Sweet Billy after he’s been shot down twice on one planet.”
 
“I’ll make the call.” Hawkes turned to leave. “Goddamn we’re stretched thing above and below.”
 
==============================
 
“Knight-One, Queen-One,” Falcon heard Melas’ voice. “Sitrep.”
 
“Checkmate, Knight, we’re within five hundred meters of the command post. Resistance has been strong. Six dead, nine wounded. I’ve had to reconstitute forces, Knight-Charlie has been absorbed by –Able and -Bravo. We’ve cleared a company out on our way through, including heavy weapons. We’ve turned their own mortars and launchers back on the rest of a battalion, I’ve picked up indicators that we have at least two of our companies across the cosmodrome from us. Over.”
 
“Roger of the companies, Colonel Klein and his kids are attacking the ‘drome. I’m landing the rest of the team on your right, of you push through you’ll be coming across our front, contine to fire on the battalion to your front to provide distraction. I’m not gonna lie, Billy, these bastards have some good counter-air and they’re dug in dirty, over.”
 
“We saw the dirty,” Billy replied. “We’re hitting them Ma’am. Move fast, our asses are hanging out a full click here, over.”
 
“Air assault in one mike, boots on ground in five or less, Queen-One, clear.”
 
“Knight-One, clear.” Falcon switched channels. “Knight-Delta, Knight-One, do not hold back, drop it all on them, cavalry is coming in on the right.”
 
“-One, -Delta, copy, we’ll give it all back to them, clear.”
 
============================
“Admiral, we’ve lost Hannibal and Alexander, Moscow and Los Angeles; additionally, Bunkerhill and Stirling are out of action and trying to limp clear, Arkangel appears to be maneuvering well, not loss of power of atmosphere evident,” Ops reported.
 
“Two cruisers dead and two destroyers crippled with nothing to show for it?”
 
“Yes, Ma’am, our screen is down to two destroyers, Monmouth and Kaserene, they are staying between us and Arkangel and are taking a pounding. That means CruRon 61 is out of action and CruRon 62 is barely holding on. We’re almost done with the transit, I can call up BatGru 60 to attack and screen us.”
 
“Do it, expedite,” Chernoff ordered and studied the holo for herself. One cruiser squadron (CruRon) out of action and the other hammered, how could one cruiser kill two cruisers, two destroyers and cripple a pair of frigates and not appear to feel a thing? A battleship group (BatGru) would change the odds, instead of cruisers, destroyers and frigates it would bring a battleship, a pair of battle cruisers and four frigates onto play. That had to change the odds.
 
==========================
 
“The Novas have run off the two damaged destroyers, Sir,” Ops reported.
 
“Heavy metal coming forward, Sir,” Tactical interrupted. “Six minutes till they are in range, then we have a battleship, two battle cruisers and four frigates.”
 
“Understood,” Cobb replied. “Check me on this, but that’s the troops carriers coming through now, right?”
 
“Correct, Sir.”
 
“Signal for Hammer Two,” Cobb ordered. “Release the mines while you’re at it.”
 
=============================
 
“Destroyers!” the Terran Frigate Iwo Jima reported, “and fighters!”
 
“Where away?” Commander Jenner asked as his bridge exploded around him.
 
Boone, Cleves, Hyanh and Paukeigope launched their fighters and fired up everything, already lined up for their attack approach they pushed their engines to emergency power as their long distance targeting locked on to the troopships. Boone wasted no time and blasted Iwo Jima as her systems came fully online and as the smaller combatants gained speed they emptied their forward missile batteries at the troop carriers and then engaged the escorts on the flanks with energy weapons as the reapportioned their missile loads to refill their empty magazines.
 
The troopship MacArthur was the first hit, the missiles were contact nuclear warheads in the five hundred megaton range, they were expending their entire load of their heaviest ship-killers on the troopships. MacArthur was obliterated, closely followed by Montgomery. Coming from the other side of the formation Hyanh and Paukeigope found that the screen was more awake, and half of their missiles were intercepted, at the cost of to the Terran forces of their cruisers Grant and Sheridan. There was general amusement as the explosions ripped apart the troop carrier Bradley, and then the troops ship Patton drifted powerless. They continued forward, their fighters clearing many of the missiles of the the defensive screen.
 
Boone cleared the enemy fleet with minimal damage, Cleeves was trailing fire, Hyanh came through unscathed but  explosions bloomed all along Paukeigope, as most of the surviving crew ejected a few remained behind and aimed their powered wreckage into the Terran battleship Blitz, crippling her as the smaller combatant was destroyed.
 
========================
 
“Energy grid down 25%, Sir,” Ops reported. “Fuselage is still untouched.”
 
“Very good,” Cobb replied. “Execute flashblind.”
 
On his order every jammer on his ship went to full power, decoys were launched and strobe of massive power in all scanner ranges and frequencies, visual and otherwise. It was then that good fortune favored a single mine, it read the growing maw of the fighter launch bay as its blast door opened to release the last of War Eagle’s fighters. It fired its engine and streaked into the bay, exploding in a blinding flash as the fifty megaton warhead released its fury, the explosion vaporized, bent, buckled and snapped bulkheads, struts and the launch tube itself, just as a fighter was halfway down, it added to the destruction as damage icons flashed all across War Eagle’s bridge, and when Admiral Chernoff regained her feet she could feel the pull as her flag bridge’s atmosphere vented to feed the conflagration in the hangar deck.
 
Then Cobb’s Black Knights passed over the stricken carrier, holding fire at the last second when they saw the extent of the damage. They furned their sights on the next large combatant to appear before them and unleashed their fury on the battle crtuiser Nimitz, its missiles shredded the forward third of the million ton vessel as the fighters streaked past and finally rejoined on the retreating Confederation forces.
 
Cobb couldn’t resist the opportunity and ordered the massive forward laser cannon to take a shot straight up an engine on the flaming carrier as it veered out of control. Then Cobb ordered Arkangel to withdraw to the rendezvous point.
 
=============================
 
“Admiral,” Captain Hardeman of the War Eagle greeted her tersely as they levered the hatch to the flag bridge open. “You need to transfer your flag, Ma’am. War Eagle isn’t dead yet; but, she’s out of the fight. With your leave, I requested a shuttle from Thunder, if this is what they can do you need a battleship around you anyway.”
 
“How bad is it?” Chernoff asked.
 
“The fleet is still proceeding, but we’re dead in space. Comm and scanners are sketchy at best, I think the Confeds have pulled back, so this is your best chance to transfer, but you must go now.” She saw her flag captain breathe in deeply and let it out slowly. “Ma’am, I must insist you transfer immediately.”
 
“Very well, Captain,” she let her hand fall on his shoulder and squeezed hard. “Catch up when you can.”
 
It was all she could so to inspect the damage to her former flagship as the shuttle lifted clear, fighters joined up on them as they took her away but her eyes were riveted on the glowing gashes in the incredibly thick armor. Some fires still glowed but were being extinguished as the damage control crews cut off air and vented the areas they could. It was bad, but from the outside at lease, it appeared she’d see it again. Then she saw the drifting battle cruiser Nimitz.  “What the hell did they hit us with?” she finally asked aloud.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 12:32:27 AM by Lord Palatine »

 

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