CHAPTER 24.1

Approx. 2100 words

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2015   SJ

Chaos on Terra Aurigae:

Briefing

 

written by  SJ

 

 

    Lana met with her team in the rec room well after the evening meal, while at the same time, supply personnel loaded up her Special Ops shuttle with the equipment she requested. She was also informed she had a new team member by the name of SM4 Corporal Rodman Zane.
    She didn’t like being given a new team member just before a mission. But, the Major had highly recommended him, saying he had been working hard for months, training to get his Special Ops Certificate JUST so he could be on her team. Also, the name, Zane, sounded familiar. When she arrived to brief her team, she recognized him: the same Private Zane that was with her on Cornucopia when she had been assigned to HQ guard duty.
    Zane had been waiting in the rec room for almost a half an hour before any of the other members of her team showed up, the look of eagerness written on his face. He stood and saluted when she arrived. “Lieutenant LaFong.”
    She pointed at him, remembering, “didn’t you say you were interested in using a Scout heavy bolter? Did you ever do that?”
    “Yes.” He affirmed. “It was like you said. Once I was able to show I could carry the weapon and not slow down the squad, the Colonel had one officially transferred from the Omicron Rangers. I’m completely qualified with the weapon with an accuracy rating well above normal Space Marine standards.”
    There was a pause...
    “I’m also fully qualified with all the other Scout weapons, as well as the Scout missile launcher, one I converted from a normal missile launcher. I’m sorry to say I do not have training with the Scout Bike, yet.” He seemed to become a little worried. “The Major said you would have to officially confirm my assignment to your team.”
    Lana was surprised with his enthusiasm. She sighed, then told him to sit down. “The first thing is, ix-nay on the saluting. Next. Can you fly a shuttle?”
    “Yes. But, as for your Special Ops shuttle, I’ve only flown that in simulation.” He shrugged, explaining, “I don’t have access to it. As for space jumps, well, I’m still working on that.”
    She shook her head. “No, that’s not necessary. None of my other team members can do that.”
    “I’m still working on getting my Jump Certificate as well.” Ramcke mentioned.
    She shrugged. “It would be nice to have one or more team members that can make space jumps.” She made a face. “You know...in case, I’m incapacitated...like what happened on Cimarron, where I had to set up the jump with my arm in a sling.”
    “Am I a member of your team?” Zane wanted to know.
    “Yeah, sure. Load your heavy bolter and missile launcher on the shuttle.”
    “I also have a plasma gun marksmanship badge.” He smiled.
    She was pleasantly surprised. “That’s good. I should already have one of those on the shuttle. Go ahead and load your gear after this meeting.”
    “Um...” He struggled with the words he wanted to say next. “Earlier, the Major told me to go ahead and load my equipment. I have two box-clips of one hundred Mk-1 heavy bolter rounds each, ten krak missiles, and ten frags.”
    She smiled. “I guess the Major knows what I want.” She looked at Zane. “I’ll be happy to have a heavy weapons specialist on this mission...and on other missions where I can’t use Bull and Gannon.” She started to frown. “However, this will be the first time you’ve been in combat since that time on Cornucopia, right?”
    He nodded.
    “Do everything we tell you to do and don’t be a hero. If you get yourself killed I’m going to never let you hear the end of it.”
    ******    
    Lieutenant LaFong plotted her route to the Psi5 Aurigae solar system by first jumping to Omicron2 Eridani. Since both systems were Cartel Capitals, they both had Jump Gates, which would allow her to make an almost instant jump from Gate to Gate. Normally, the use of Jump Gates would have to be booked months in advance; but, because of the emergency on Terra Aurigae, the General got her priority status. The distance from Zeta Draconis to Omicron2 Eridani was 41.4 light years, to Psi5 Aurigae, it was 80.6. Using this route would allow her to arrive at Terra Aurigae in two days instead of four.
    ******
    Lana had Corporal Zane fly the shuttle from the Psi5 Aurigae Jump Gate up to the space station, which, once there, a tractor beam actually guided it into the shuttle bay. He and the other members of her team remained with the shuttle while Lana left to meet with the General, who had a staff member there to guide her to where he was waiting.
    The space station was one of the more older stations in orbit around Terra Aurigae, a rustic old style hangout for shuttle pilots that spent most their time out in space. The lounge she was led to was small and quaint with nice carpeting. There, at one of the tables, was the General and the Planetary Governor, plus a couple staff members for both of them. When they rose to meet her, she spotted Officer Melinda Dion and Jennifer Dakota. And last but not least, Major Taliaferro was there virtually via a small video monitor along with a couple other Planetary Counsel members online.
    They avoided the usual round of handshakes and settled for a round of quick introductions, even though it was obvious Melinda would’ve preferred giving Lana a hug.
    The General got right down to business, displaying a map on his pad computer. “Right here, a small, cargo shuttle came down and unloaded some supplies, but then never took off.”
    The Planetary Governor, a middle-aged, Terran/Tau, male, clarified the event. “When it never showed up to its next appointed round, it was reported missing. Eventually District authorities spotted it with a satellite, but, because of the past trouble with Chaos here, they asked that I send down a Planetary Security team.” He sighed. “We lost contact with them, also. Via satellite, we finally spotted both shuttles." He pointed at the pad computer screen."It was also where we spotted this.”
    Lana examined a video showing a large, fully-active, WARP gate along with approximately twenty Alpharius Cultists...and one Chaos Rhino, elaborately ordained in such a way as to depict leadership. Outside the Rhino were two Chaos Marines and four Chaos Sorcerers. However, one of the Sorcerers was obviously a high-ranking leader, the one described to her on Cimarron, the one wearing the long, flowing, dark-blue, robe with long horns on both his staff and helmet, the Chaos Sorcerer Lord of Tzeentch, known only as Ahriman.
    She could partially see a large, glowing, Crystal next to him, then watched with amazement as he looked up, as if to stare directly at the satellite just before the video blacked out. The General then brought up another video taken from another satellite. Lana spotted a menacing armored vehicle coming through a large WARP gate before satellite observation blacked out permanently.
    She looked up at the others, recognizing it. “That looks like a Land Raider.”
    “Yes.” The General frowned. “And if it’s armed the same as ours, then it’ll have two side-mounted, twin-linked lascannons and a hull-mounted twin-linked heavy bolter. All of our infantry squads have lascannon support teams attached. Both my Demolishers have been upgraded with hull-mounted lascannons and side-mounted heavy bolters. Yarrick is on the planet right now in charge of three Basilisk mobile artillery vehicles and three Leman Russ tanks, plus two armored fist squads. His tanks have been upgraded the same way as mine. So, unless something unforeseen occurs, I think we’ve got the situation contained.”
    “Have you been able to get anymore information from satellites?” Lana asked.
    The Planetary Governor answered. “No. The sky over the area is only partially cloudy, but for some reason satellites are of no use there; they simply black out.”
    “And we have no idea why?” The General concluded. “It looks like Chaos has a new trick up their sleeve...maybe something to do with that Crystal. I guess we should be glad they haven’t covered the area with Infinite Darkness.”
    “No, they’re not going to do that.” Major Taliaferro’s voice could suddenly be heard, adding in his opinion. “The last time it seemed the Crystal had to remain stationary. Chaos is on the move, this time. But, we still need an accounting of their forces, and hopefully--what they’re up to. It’ll be Lieutenant LaFong’s job to do that.”
    “What about the two shuttles?” LaFong wondered. “Are they still there?”
    “A couple days ago, they took off to join the Legion and the Pendulum of Doom, both of which advanced on us.” The General sounded a bit peeved as he spoke. “I have a second class destroyer here and the Tau have two Cruisers and four drone torpedo boats. Right now, the two Chaos warships are playing a little game of cat and mouse with us.” He sighed. “The Pendulum of Doom has not only been fully repaired, but has been upgraded. It now has no less than twelve, fully operational torpedo tubes; it’s already fired some of them at us and slightly damaged my destroyer.” He frowned deeper. “Needless to say, I wish I could crap that solid neutronium brick and shoot it at them.”
    “What about the cargo shuttle that had the WARP gate?” Lana wanted a little more information.
    Melinda was the one to answer. “I’ve been doing a little investigating about that, LuLu. I found out that shuttle was late delivering its cargo because it had stopped to trade with an exploration ship.” She held up her index finger for emphases. “An exploration ship--AGAIN.”
    “It’s not uncommon for exploration ships to trade with cargo shuttles.” The General spoke, explaining. “Many times they resupply themselves by pulling up next to a cargo shuttle and buying extra goods, simple stuff like food and water...so they don’t have to deal with the delays of a space station or with landing on the planet.”
    “I’ve checked the registration number on this exploration ship and it was reported lost over ten Galactic years ago.” Melinda looked at the General, then back a Lana. “Unfortunately, it’s NOT the same one that landed on the Terminus Est just before IT disappeared.”
    “Prime Minister Lebesque has already told the Cartels to inform cargo shuttles to deal with ONLY those exploration ships they know and trust,” the Governor mentioned. “Any other exploration ships are just going to have to resupply themselves the normal way.” He frowned, seriously, “whether they like it or not. Personally, I believe they’ll understand.”
    “How about the OSS?” Lana began to ask.
    The Governor spoke up immediately. “Our Orbital Security System, and, presumably those in other systems, are going to be modified to detect a WARP essence...only.” He frowned. “I’m in complete agreement with Prime Minister Lebesque on this. We will NOT go back to days of Old Earth where everyone and everything had to be checked and scanned before landing or taking off at a space station or spaceport.” His voice took on the tone of a political orator. “If we allow Chaos to force us to return to the days of that kind of paranoia, then Chaos has already won.”
    By the expressions of those at the table and on the video screens, they all appeared to agree with him and were happy to hear him say so.
    The Terran/Tau looked at LaFong, continuing with his oratory. “The General and the others seem to have faith that you’ll give us a complete scouting report along with the information we need to defeat this Chaos force quickly and with as few casualties as possible.” He smiled, joking, “from what I’ve heard, you might be able to defeat them single handed.”
    “Yes, in my option, Lieutenant LaFong is one of the best Special Ops Space Marines Major Taliaferro has trained,” the General boosted with a big, confident smile on his face.
    Officer Dakota had picked up her gear and was ready to follow Lana to her shuttle.
    “Any other questions.” The General offered.
    Lana was actually a little overwhelmed by everyone’s confidence, modest to say the least. She answered, “no” and “thank you” as she got up then started to leave. After only two steps, she abruptly stumbled, then fell, landing on her hands and knees.    
    Jennifer helped her up, then looked back at the surprised group, joking, “she’s still having a little trouble with carpeting.”

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