Approx. 4800 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
written by SJ
After five more days out in the field, Lana and her team were beginning to feel more than a little grungy. It was a dusty, old, planet, where most of the plant life was classified as weeds. Any of the large, native, animals had gone the way of the dodo long ago, leaving mostly small, burrowing, creatures which rarely showed their heads. Any rough terrain they encountered were rolling hills, rounded by time and weather. In the distance, even the mountains were nothing more than high rounded hills.
The location they had been given for one of the probes was about a day away, but only if they drove directly there. The job of all the far recon teams were to find enemy forces first, then find the probes. And several days ago, they had lost the support of Captain Anderson’s destroyers.
When they spotted another mining complex, they slowed down to investigate: This complex was made up primarily of large pipes, stretched out in different directions held up by metal triangle supports. Smaller pipes coming from the larger ones ended in storage tanks. A little further south was a small collection of sturdy buildings made out of cinder blocks. Their scanners quickly told them the place was abandoned. Sergeant Dakota’s special ability told them there was no trace of the WARP, nor had anything with a WARP aura been there at all. Lana ordered the Land Speeder parked next to a short water tower so everyone could get out, stretch their legs, and top off their water supplies.
The collection of cinder block buildings formed a kind of upside down backward ‘L’ with the water tower way off to the left side. Lana stepped over to one of the storage tanks and came to a conclusion. “Looks like they’re mining noble gases here. Probably Xenon.”
Ramcke had climbed the water tower and was looking around at the complex. Burns had guard duty, and as per standard procedure, he had taken over the driver’s seat of the Land Speeder, rising it up to ten meters where he kept watch visually and via the speeder’s scanner. He was also in position to stand and stretch his legs.
Land Speeder scanners had a number of detection systems that made up the whole of the scanner itself. After a couple minutes, Burns crouched down to study a blip on the long range motion detector: Three objects were moving together almost in unison, which was curious; after hooking up the Speeder’s telescope to his Scout optics, he stood up to see if he could spot the objects; but, they weren’t there.
Technically, Lana had an extra crewman as part of her team, Corporal Diego Delgado, who maned the twin-linked bolter. He didn’t have a Special Ops certificate, but if she needed an extra team member to explore someplace the Speeder couldn’t go, he was available. Taliaferro thought it prudent to arm him with a meltagun as well as his normal auto pistol. Melinda’s team was the same way; her Land Speeder had a Cheyenne Ranger Scout crew, with Corporal Gus Stahler maning the twin-linked bolter, and armed the same way as Delgado. Both of them had meltagun marksmanship badges.
Basically, the two far recon teams had traveled south. At first, Lana and Melinda’s team had stayed together, then they had split up to cover more area. However, if Chaos forces had been spotted, Melinda had orders to avoid combat and join Lana’s team as soon as possible.
Currently, Lana’s team was on the left, while Melinda’s team was a little further away, more or less in the center, with Shaw’s team on the far right. There was usually about five to eight kilometers between them; they kept track of each other periodically by com.
Shaw contacted Melinda’s team first, who then contacted Lana, just before the com line was opened so everyone in all the teams could hear it.
Shaw had a somewhat, mild, English accent as he spoke, announcing a kind of play by play of what they were now seeing: “It seems we have three darkly-colored, flying, creatures at a little over 2000 meters distance. They seem to be flying together, in some sort of linear formation--”
“Like three big birds flying together, in a line, right?” Burn spoke up, recalling.
“Yes.” Shaw confirmed.
“I picked up something like that on my motion scanner several minutes ago. But, I wasn’t able to confirm it visually.”
Shaw continued. “I’m hesitant to fire at the moment. I don’t believe there are any avian life forms that large on this planet.”
“Do you think they might be Tyranids?” Lana asked.
“One moment.” Shaw delayed a few seconds. “Hmmm, there we go. We’ve got a high powered telescope on them. I’m sending you the pictures now.”
Jennifer had already sensed something before Lana got the call, and had position herself on top the southern-most building. Then she was sure. “They’re demons.”
“They look like giant, flying, manta rays.” Burns had finally spotted them on his Speeder’s telescope.
“They do look like that, don’t they.” Shaw seemed to almost chuckle. “They have two long black tusks in front, probably some kind of WARP talons.”
All the members of each team had begun readying themselves for battle. Ramcke was looking through his sniper scope.
All the cinder-block buildings had ladders leading to the roofs. Lana had quickly climbed and had joined Jennifer, asking her directly, without the com, “can you tell how many of them there are?”
Jennifer slowly shook her head. “It’s way too far away for that.” She sighed. “I’m losing track of them...they’re gone.”
Lana spoke, using her com this time, strongly suggesting to the other teams, “let’s wait before firing on them. We don’t know--”
Then, over her com, she heard the sound of Shaw’s sniper rifle; then another one a little more distant...then the recognizable sound of a Tau rail rifle.
“There, they are. There’s three over near us now.” Melinda was finally able to confirm a spotting of her own--but then: “Wait, they’re moving away--”
Lana sighed, then spoke with frustration. “Let me guess. They’re moving toward Shaw’s position?” After another sigh, Lana spoke directly, “Shaw, there’s three more demons heading toward your left flank.”
There was a delay as she heard more shots...then an unconcerned answer. “Roger, that. Thank you.”
Melinda made her own suggestion. “LuLu, do you think we should go over and support Shaw’s position?”
Lana made one more sigh. “If we mount up and head over there, and those things attack us, we may not have time to dismount into any sort of defensive position. And...like I was trying to say--we still don’t know how many of those things there are.”
“Well, there’s three less than there were.” Shaw’s voice seemed to almost sound cheery. “Once they got within range of all our weapons, we took them down quickly enough. Now...you said three were coming from Dion’s location. We’ll be ready for them.”
“Shaw,” Lana began asking, “what kind of cover do you have over there?”
There was a delay as she began hearing more firing over her com. It went on for almost a minute before he answered. “Sorry for the delay. The three from Dion’s location seemed a little harder to kill.”
“Those are probably Tzeentch demons.” Lana began explaining. It’s very likely they have WARP shields.”
“Hmmm.” Shaw pondered, thinking.
“Just think of them as all having force shields. It’s very possible half of your bullets were deflected--”
“Yes, of course.” He seemed to understand.
“What kind of cover do you have over there?” Lana asked again.
“Open ground mostly.”
“Imagine being attacked by, let’s say, twelve of those things at once. Over here, where I am, is a small mining facility, pipes, cinder-block buildings--”
“Yes, that would be a good place to defend.” Shaw finally got the gist. “I’ll take it under strong advisement.”
Then she heard Melinda speak. “Shaw, do you need us to come over and support your position?”
There was a slight delay. “No, not at the moment. We’re getting ready to mount up and do some reconnoitering. See you in a bit. Shaw out.”
Melinda was just about to call Lana and tell her they were getting ready to do the same thing as Shaw when she heard Jennifer talking in the distance.
“They’re coming back.”
“They’re coming back.” Burns repeated almost at the same time, but spotted them visually.
“We’re on our way over there, LuLu.” That was Melinda.
“Come in from behind us if you do.” Lana added, before issuing orders to her team.
Burns was ordered to bring down the Speeder and park it on the ground behind the three buildings away from the demons. She ordered Ramcke down from the water tower, then told Delgado to man the twin-linked bolter, while the driver took cover in the building behind it. The others she ordered into the buildings, ready to fire.
At first, Lana could only spot one of the demons coming in fast; then she saw the others, spread out in a wide formation. Dakota was ready with her Staff, waiting until the demons were closer together. Burns stood just inside the doorway to the first building, ready to use his flamer if any demons slowed down to come around inside where the Speeder was parked. Ramcke began firing first, from a window, then Lana from an open doorway as the demons got closer. However, even though they hit numerous times, the bullets had no effect.
With a blast of wind, two of the demons flew over the top of the buildings, too fast to get off anymore shots. Lana stepped out of the doorway and spotted the third demon as it slowed down to turn. When she placed the demon in her sights, she spotted something underneath it...like it was taking a crap, unable to get the turd out of its underside. She fired at the same time Ramcke did, but again, with no effect as it took off to join the other demons behind the pipes, where they started to circle around to the back side of the row of buildings.
She quickly ordered her team to follow her to the larger building at the top end of the ‘L’, a slightly larger structure with more windows. The Speeder stayed where it was and rotated so the twin-linker bolter was lined up for a clear shot...and none to soon.
One demon came in quickly right for the Speeder as the twin-linked bolter rattled off automatic fire, destroying the demon before it got halfway there.
At the same time, the other two demons arced high, then dove, like a couple dive bombers, coming right for the building Lana’s team was in and next to. They both seemed to have those strange turds attached to them.
Then she guessed what they were!
Lana quickly ordered her team out and away from the building and back behind the Speeder. When the demons flew past them, she yelled, “take cover!”
The two blasts went off at the same time, making one big explosion as burning debris flew in all directions. Lana and Burns hadn’t quite reached the Speeder yet, the blast wave knocking her down, and sending Burns flying head-first over the Speeder. The building the they had been in was gone, the building behind that half gone with many of the remaining cinder blocks blackened, much of the stone itself melted as the wind blew the dust and smoke away from them.
Her team got up and started to recover. Burns stood up with a crooked helmet and cussed just before shouting, “what the hell was that?”
Once Lana saw Jennifer get up and run past the buildings on the southern side, she followed her out into the open. The two demons had come to a stop less than 40 meters away. When they turned and came for her, Jennifer confidently raised her Staff. When the demons were less than ten meters away, she fired her Staff. Lana watched as the two demons disintegrated right before her eyes.
Melinda showed up about fifteen seconds later, worried. She had seen the explosion, and once she arrived, thought the worst when she saw what was left of the smoldering buildings.
Lana, her team, and her Land Speeder were all sitting on top the remaining intact buildings. They wanted to spot anymore demons as far away as possible.
Melinda ordered her Land Speeder parked up next to one of the buildings as her team got out and joined Lana’s team on the roof. She had to ask. “What happened, LuLu?”
“Demons that fly around and crap melta bombs is what happened.” Burns replied succinctly in his own way.
Melinda looked at Lana curiously, waiting for an explanation.
“It’s what Burns said,” Lana agreed...then tried to explain. “Those demons can produce and drop some kind of bomb as they fly by.” She sighed. “My idea of using these buildings for cover just became obsolete.”
“So, what do we do?” Melinda needed to know.
“For right now we should stick together to maximize our firepower. If we’re attacked by anymore of those things, we should dismount and spread out into a skirmish line right out in the open like Shaw did.”
“What if we’re attacked by about thirty of them.” Melinda was hoping Lana had a plan, which she did.
“I would suggest we run like hell.” Lana was serious.
Melinda opened her com line. “I’d better inform Shaw.”
As Dion talked to Shaw, Lana sat down on the edge of her Land Speeder and got out her oPOD, where she started looking for something.
After updating Shaw about the demons, Melinda began having a more casual conversation with him, then discussing as to whether they should each now head toward one of the probe locations. He mentioned he was only an hour away from one right now.
There was a short delay, then Shaw began responding to a couple members of his team:
“Are you serious?” Shaw seemed surprised. Then he responded again, even more surprised. “Are you serious...ARE YOU BLOODY SERIOUS?”
“Shaw, what’s wrong?” Melinda wanted to know.
Shaw had no time to respond as he began giving orders to his team. “Okay, I want sleds two through four to fall back using a horse archer retreat...follow MY sled.” He then turned his attention back to Melinda. “Well, we only have a rough estimate at this time, but there seems to be about fifty of those flying, screamer, demons coming after us.”
The last part of Shaw’s comment alerted everyone. Lana looked up from her oPOD and stared at Melinda, who stared back.
Shaw continued. “We are on our way to your position now. ETA fifteen minutes. We’ll shoot as many of them as we can as we retreat. I just hope LaFong’s little fortification will hold.”
Lana went back to searching for something on her oPOD, using her index finger to page quickly.
Melinda waited a few seconds for Lana to come up with a plan before speaking to Shaw. “That’s WAY too many demons. Unless we can come up with a plan, I think all we can do is run for it.”
There was delay. “...I’m not sure about that. The Screamers seemed have sped up and are now starting to gain on us a bit.”
Melinda looked back at Lana, hoping she had a plan, which it seemed she did as she tapped her finger on her oPOD screen.
“There...I hope the hell it’s still there.” Lana began talking to herself. She then ordered, “mount up, everyone!”
As Lana took her seat and put on her seatbelt, she quickly gave each of the Land Speeder drivers coordinates to an undisclosed location--full speed! Once the they were off, she contacted Shaw. “I’m sending you coordinates to a location about 80 kilometers away; we should be there in about 15 minutes. Meet us there. Can you stay ahead of the demons until then.”
“Yes, no problem. We had to dump out a few of our, let’s say, luxury items.” He made a fake sniffle and joked. “A bad way for a good Cabernet Sauvignon to meet its end.”
He took a few seconds to discuss Lana’s location with his driver, then spoke. “ETA 20 minutes. See you there.”
“Why are you calling them, Screamers?” Melinda was curious.
“Didn’t they sound like they were screaming to you?”
A couple members of Lana’s team replied, no, or not really.
“Hmmm, must’ve been because we were on open terrain, anyway, see you in a bit.”
After about ten minutes, Lana and Melinda’s team began seeing a small object in the distance. As they got closer, it became larger--MUCH LARGER.
Burns spoke first. “Now THAT’S a fortification!”
“LuLu, how did you know that thing was there?” Melinda asked, smiling.
“I didn’t.” Lana gave a sigh of relief. “I just looked up Thanatos-4's mining logs and found the closest one. I’m glad the thing is still there.”
Mobile Mining Machines, otherwise known as Mobile Mines, were easily one of the largest treaded vehicles made. They stood a little more than three stories tall, their massive treads taking up the entire first story. The main structure on top, the third story, was easily as big as a small department store; inside were living quarters for at least twenty people, with offices, mess hall, kitchen, showers, bathrooms, and recreation area. The second story was the mining complex, located directly underneath the main structure.
The space between the treads and the underside of the mining complex was open, except for the mine boring room itself, which was attached underneath and took up about one-third the size of the mining complex in the center. Currently the mining walls around the boring room were down, flush with the ground, showing it was either set for mining, or in the process, that is, if there were any miners, which there weren’t.
As they arrived at the Mobile Mine, Lana directed the Speeders to the back side, where she told the drivers to go underneath almost to the top of the underside. The Mobile Mine had two large elevators, one in the front, forward, corner, and one in the back, rear, corner; but they were up. Lana, using her Special Ops enhanced oPOD, remotely connected with the elevator controls and let the back one down three meters, where all the members of each team carefully transferred themselves, and as much ammunition as they could carry, from their Speeder to the elevator, which held all of them. Finally, she ordered the drivers to remotely raise their Land Speeders up until they were flush against the underside, a place where it would be impossible for a Screamer to plant its bomb. She then raised the elevator up through the mining complex and into the main structure.
Lana wasted no time getting both teams prepared. She had already looked over the floor plan of a standard Mobile Mine on the trip here, and this one turned out to be similar. She led both teams down a hallway, turned right, past some stairs, and into a lobby adjoining a sizable mess hall/rec room area, which had large windows looking out at a flat, tundra-like, landscape, the direction Shaw’s team--and the Screamers, would come from.
The windows were made out of a thick, transparent, clear, plastic. They needed to make enough holes in the windows for all three teams to fire from, and the holes needed to be big enough to give them a good arc of fire, but without compromising the strength of the windows themselves. Petrovsky and de la Vega had novaguns, which would be perfect. By the time they were finished, they got a call from Shaw.
“Oh, yes--I approve indeed.” His team was obviously close enough to see the Mobile Mine clearly. “Drop the front elevator and we’ll enter from there...the Screamers are very close behind us.”
“I’m going to drop it three meters for you. Enter from there and park your sleds up underneath.”
Even though Lana didn’t state why she wasn’t dropping the elevator all the way to the ground, Shaw knew why. “Good idea. Those mining elevators are dreadfully slow and we have no time to waste. Very good. Be up in a bit.”
After Lana had sent her driver to wait for Shaw’s team at the elevator so he could quickly guide them to the rec room, she and Melinda’s team took their places along the firing ports, Lana’s team on the right, Melinda’s team in the center, and a place for Shaw’s team on the left. Ramcke, with his sniper rifle, spotted the Screamers first, coming in fast and low; when he got the word, “fire as soon as you have a target,” he began shooting.
Jennifer had collapsed her Staff down to one meter long and was wearing it across her back like a shotgun. She and her special power was literally the team’s ‘ace in the hole.’ She took her position in the firing line using her Scout bolter.
By the time Shaw’s team had arrived and were positioning themselves along the window, the other two teams were carefully snapping off long range shots with most their weapons.
“I see the party’s already started.” Shaw mentioned as he and his team took their positions.
Lana added in some additional instructions. “When they get within twenty meters, I’ll give the word and we’ll run over to the other side of the room, over to the lobby next to the offices. I don’t know how those things are going to act under these conditions, but if they plant bombs on or near the windows, that’s going take out the whole side of the rec room.”
There was a slight delay, then Shaw confirmed. “You heard what she said men...on her command.”
Ramcke had already used up the rest of his twenty round clip of ripper bullets at long range, scoring numerous hits, just none that did any damage. He let out a few frustrated words as he loaded a thirty round clip of ball-2 ammo. Once the Screamers were within medium range of the bolters, they began having the same problem: hits that didn’t hurt the demon. Petrovsky and Melinda ended up killing one each, her plasma gun blowing one apart.
Shaw and his team had a little better luck, taking down five demons as they flew up level with the windows. As the Screamers made their finally approach, Shaw’s team, one armed with a Scout heavy bolter, all together scored another nine kills, Lana and Melinda’s team got seven. That when she gave word: “Fall back!”
It was a clumsy retreat as the teams made their way past the tables of the mess hall, then over the small railing that divided the mess hall from the lobby. They were ready when two of the Screamers slammed into the windows, breaking them to pieces as they crashed through then destroyed a couple exercise machines, knocking over several mess hall tables before coming to a stop.
As the two demons flapped around like a couple fish out of water, the rest of the Screamers were assumed to have passed over the top of the Mobile Mine, which was confirmed by one of Shaw’s men, who had climbed the stairs next to the front elevator that led to the roof, acting as a lookout. As several of the team members began using small arms fire on the floundering Screamers, the man on the roof reported the presence of several objects that had been deposited on the roof.
“Take cover!” Was Lana’s last command just before several massive explosions blew apart the rec room and half the mess hall, killing the trapped demons as well.
Besides a few minor cuts and bruises, no one was hurt.
Melinda’s team stayed where they were and guarded the wide open hole in the side of the rec room. Three of Shaw’s team stayed also, the one with the Scout heavy bolter and two others.
Lana’s team and the rest of Shaw’s men quickly found some windows on the opposite side of the structure. Eventually, they began spotting Screamers, who began splitting up into smaller groups, spreading out.
Lana had not had time to send Petrovsky and de la Vega to all the windows to make holes. By the time she and Shaw’s team had shot out the windows on their respect sides, the Screamers were out of sight, somewhere above the roof.
Shaw sighed, frustrated, then spoke, tallying the score. “I think we killed about half of them.” He sighed again. “Of course, I think our defense is about to get little more complex.”
The side of the structure facing north, where the rec room was, had a door leading to the living quarters, and in the mess hall, a door to the facilities, showers, bathrooms, and storage, both which extended to all the way to the side facing east. The side facing south, along the lobby leading to the operations control room, had three small windows. The control room itself had one large window. And beyond that were two large offices, both which had large windows; all of them had already been shot out. Stairs leading to the roof were next to each elevator. Shaw already had a man on the stairs to the roof on his side, so Lana sent her driver to the other side, as a lookout.
By the time the driver got there, he and Shaw’s lookout saw the same thing: the remaining Screamers, almost thirty of them, circling over the top of the Mobile Mine like vultures. The lookouts kept themselves concealed as they reported two teams of three Screamers, each coming in from different sides, turd-bombs ready.
“Let us know where they plant them if you can.” Lana spoke quickly.
The lookouts tried to announce bomb locations, but it was happening too fast, so they reported only general areas just before taking cover inside. After the bombs went off, that left four large holes in the roof, one very large hole in the mess hall roof, and three slightly wounded team members. After they had recovered, Melinda’s team and the three members of Shaw’s team began shooting at Screamers as they passed over the large holes above them, the other team members doing the same.
The Screamers continued using their hit and run bombing attacks for another ten minutes, taking out most of the roof and badly damaging the inside of the structure. Almost all the personnel of each team were slightly wounded in some way, a few limping, or favoring an arm. Amidst the smoke and tangled wreckage, they guessed there were only about nine Screamers left. Of course, those few had a trick of their own.
The first thing the demons did were to fly up and out of sight to the north. There, they closed their ranks, three wide, and began a formation immelman, looping up and around where they came swooping straight in through the large opening in the rec room. It caught most everyone by surprise...except Jennifer, who was there waiting for them, her Staff ready. Lana saw it, and seemed know what was going to happen, where as the others either took cover or raised their weapons to fire. Then, they watched as nine demons disintegrated before their very eyes.
As Jennifer took a deep breath and sighed, she got a hearty applause by Shaw and most of his team, plus congratulations from the others. After they had all checked for more Screamers, finding none, it was now time to get out the bandages. When they went to get the medical supplies out of their vehicles, they found the elevators nonoperational. In fact, they found very little of the top floor of the Mobile Mine in working order at all. Several of the female members of the teams let out a whimper or a sigh as they discovered the broken showers, and badly damaged bathrooms.
They retrieved their medical supplies by having their drivers remotely fly their vehicles up next to or inside the broken structure. Shaw and Lana contacted their respective commanders and reported the event, telling them they were probably going to need more ammunition...and lastly, about the damage to the Mobile Mine. Captain Falconer sounded unconcerned about the Mobile Mine and responded by sending one of his smaller spaceships to their location, loaded with supplies and a couple medical personnel, which included Gallardo’s Apothecary Marine, Major Taliaferro, and High Commissar Yarrick.