Approx. 4500 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
The Chaos Begins:
written by SJ
Cheyenne Ranger headquarters had been set up adjoining the same building as communications, a building right next to the where Cornucopia's remaining civilian authorities were housed. After turning in the digital files of the pictures they had taken, Scout squads one and two reported to HQ for a briefing; it was almost midnight, Cornucopia time.
Reynolds reported the event-less details of his squad traveling to the horseshoe part of the hill, then, after receiving Dion’s call, moving his squad out toward the big ‘F’ shaped building. However, as soon as two members of Reynold’s squad had started their move to the building, they spotted the enemy bolter turrets popping up. Sufficient to say that the two men were safely back behind the horseshoe part of the hill, when the ‘F’ shaped building was fired on and blown to pieces.
Afterwards, Reynold’s carefully moved his squad to a smaller hill about a half a kilometer to the south, where he and his squad made their observations and took pictures from there under the concealment of the high grass, despite the minor menace of Cornucopia’s rather large, bright-red and black-striped, bees.
No matter how the course of events had taken place during her scouting mission, Corporal Melinda Dion was not happy at losing a member of her squad, even though no blame in any way whatsoever was given her. In fact, for Colonel Gallardo, it was just the opposite; he was very happy with the performance her squad.
Gallardo put it bluntly: Second squad had been attacked by a combat Land Speeder, armed with a Black Laser, a weapon they had little or no information about, supported by a Space Marine in a full battle-suit. Had their enemy been better trained, they ,very possibly, could've been completely wiped out. Instead they defeated their enemy, with only one casualty.
After each squad had told their story, Gallardo thought his Marines could use an explanation of what a Black Laser was, and the counter measures he was going to use against it.
Basically, a Black Laser was a focused, high yield, beam of short wave radiation, an X-Ray...as it were, the very type used for medical scans long ago, only thousands of times stronger and more intense. It was a fifteen year old weapon, now considered obsolete. Obviously, most any armor they had today was of no use as a defense, since the current design was for its ability to deflect projectiles. It would not be practical for a Marine to lug a lead battle suit around. However, the Black Laser, unlike the lascannons used at present, fired a beam of pure energy. Once force shields had been enhanced and made available to almost all vehicles and ground troops, the X-Ray Laser became obsolete.
The Colonel would now order all troops and vehicles to enhance their force shield protection as a precaution; there was still one more enemy Land Speeder out there, and it was a good bet it was armed the same way.
Vehicles could be equipped with an extra power pack that enhanced their force shield, but decreased their speed slightly.
Marine battle suits, inside their backpacks, had the ability to fit as many as twelve force shield nodes (each about the size of a baseball); this would give the Marine a force shield rating from 0 to 12. However, each node had more weight than a baseball, about one pound each. Gallardo was going have each Marine wear ten of them, which added another ten pounds to the rest of the weight they carried. But they were Marines...they would carry the extra weight–-and like it.
Even though the force shield was on all the time, it worked better when the Marine was in a prepared kneeling position, providing twice the protection. The original, primary purpose of the force shield was for gamma ray protection from a nuclear blast and from EMPs. However, even though force shields were of almost no use against lasguns and projectile weapons, they would do well against a Black Laser, providing the wearer with approximately ten seconds of protection, more than enough time to return fire. Armed with a Mk-2 heavy bolter, using AP ammunition, a Land Speeder, coming right at a Marine, would be in a world of hurt.
As for the Scouts, they had a similar set of equipment making up their force shield, only their backpacks could only carry, at most, six nodes. Gallardo was going to issue them only four each, leaving them with only four seconds of time to fire and destroy the Land Speeder, which they were not expected to do anyway. All they were expected to do is paint the target. A Marine armed with a Mk-2 heavy bolter would most likely make the kill. Gallardo had also ordered his Predator battle tank to be brought in. Once a target was painted by a Scout, the Predator's two side-mounted lascannons and turret mounted twin-linked, lascannon would have no trouble turning a Land Speeder into so much melted scrap.
The next several days on Cornucopia proceeded without event. Scout squads one and two spent the next couple days out in the field, about ten kilometers away from the bauxite quarry, watching for enemy encroachment, until squads three and four returned and took their place, relieving them. Apparently, the civilians they had been escorting had turned up nothing from their power plant searches. The two Scout squads had gotten the luxury of sleeping in nice, but abandoned, hotels during the night when not on duty from escorting their assigned personnel. Gallardo thought it prudent to send them out into the field and give squads one and two a break.
Melinda's squad had already been assigned a replacement for Reggie. Private SM1, Zachary Sparks. Gallardo had kept him back in reserve with the supply personnel; he had come one point short of his marksmanship badge. He would now get a chance to be in a front line unit. As for Melinda and Lana, Gallardo gave them each a field promotion, Melinda was now a SM4 Corporal, Lana went from a SM2 private to a SM3 Corporal, even though they didn't have the time or material to sew on new rank insignias. Hank was already a SM3 Corporal, assigned so once he had completed sniper school.
Once Gallardo's expected military transport had arrived, every Marine in the bauxite quarry quickly became busier than Cornucopia bees, unloading and preparing for the upcoming assault.
Gallardo and Taliaferro sat and studied the sections of map that led to the Marine Base, long and carefully. The enemy heavy bolter turrets had to be destroyed first, before any Marines could attempt to actually assault the Marine Base.
Many Space Marine chapters had squads of what were called, Assault Marines. And much the same as regular Marines, they wore battle suits, only these Marines, for lack of a better word, could fly. Jump, would be a better term. They wore jump packs, which basically allowed them to fly at low levels for a certain amount of time or distance. Any weapons they carried, were light, or designed for close combat. Bolt pistols, plasma pistols, and lots of grenades, and/or melta bombs. They also had chain swords, which led some people to believe, they would fly in and hack their enemies to pieces in carefully choreographed displays of swordsmanship. However, in reality, even though a chain sword did have the ability to cut through a battle suit, it was normally used to cut through obstacles such as doors, walls, even through armored barriers such as a bunker or heavy bolter turret, usually making an opening big enough to toss one or more grenades through.
However, jump packs were very expensive...and it took a great deal of skill and training to use them. Usually, only main chapters of Space Marines had them in any real numbers. The Omicron Rangers had one squad of five. The Cheyenne Rangers had, at present, only two individuals, all trained at the Omicron Ranger Base on Astoria. Gallardo had assigned both of them to the current assault.
The Marine Base had two bunkers, all facing northwest toward the only land approach. Once the bolter turrets had been taken out, two Marine squads would advance for the final assault, but only after the two Assault Marines had flown over and landed on top of the bunkers. There they would plant nova bombs, larger size versions of the melta bombs. Once the bunkers were destroyed, the Marines would drive in using their Rhino APCs, and finish the assault.
One of the tactics Gallardo and Taliaferro liked to do was the formation of a large heavy weapons squad, something that had worked very successfully on Epsilon Eridani 3 against the Orks. They planned to form a squad of twelve Marines, eight of which would be armed with missile launchers, two with Mk-2 heavy bolters, plus two squad leaders. If one of the Marines carrying a missile launcher got injured or killed, a squad leader or Marine with heavy bolter would take his place, depending on whether the enemy Land Speeder had met it demise.
The location for the heavy weapons squad was chosen easily: the horseshoe hill that first Scout squad had used earlier would be perfect.
As for the Scout squads, that was another concern for the two Cheyenne Ranger commanders:
The best range for target painting was one kilometer. The Scout squads would have to move primarily over open ground--without their Land Speeders. First and third Scout squads would advance starting from the hill Reynolds had used as an alternate during their earlier scouting mission, which would put them about one half kilometer south of the heavy weapons squad. From there they would advance across open ground to a long wooded area about one kilometer away from the Marine Base. There they would immediately start painting bolter turrets...if not sooner. Third squad would advance approximately two hundred meters behind, as a back up. Their job would be to paint any targets that attacked first squad, unless the target could be destroyed with bolter fire first.
Second and fourth scout squads would operate in exactly the same way as first and third squads, only they would have a longer route. About one and a half kilometers north of the horseshoe hill, just south of an inlet on the north coast, there was a small but dense forest, which was were their Land Speeders had orders to drop them off. They would advance west for about one and a half kilometers, then turn southwest, just before reaching a large swampy region to a section of woods that was located about one kilometer northeast of the Marine Base.
The Predator battle tank would be located approximately one kilometer southeast of where second and fourth squad was dropped off, behind a shallow but wide, tree-covered, hill. Once all squads had begun their advance, the tank would move up on top the hill and take cover in the trees where it would await to fire on painted targets, or visual targets of opportunity. A little behind the Predator was the rest of Gallardo's Marines, aboard Rhino APCs, waiting to move out for the final assault once the others had done their job.
Last, but certainly not least, were the two Whirlwind missile launcher vehicles. They would be located much further back, several kilometers behind lines on the flat mound of a small hill. They would have the most important job of all. Just before any vehicle or Marine had moved forward to advance, the Whirlwinds would lay down an indirect barrage of blind smoke, then high explosives, right on top the Marine Base and its heavy bolter turrets. The barrage was not expected to knock out the turrets themselves, but blind them, reducing any firepower from the Base to as inaccurate as possible. Later, the high explosive barrage would flatten most any and all buildings in and around the Marine Base, eliminating any personnel inside.
In any battle, no matter how well planned, nothing was expected to be perfect–-to assume so, would be foolish. The previous morning, it had rained. The morning of the assault, it was a clear day, not a cloud in the sky. As soon as the first Cornucopia native bird had caught its first worm...the assault began.
The Rhino's carrying the heavy weapons squad moved out a little too soon, before the Whirlwinds had completely blinded all the turrets. Half way to the horseshoe hill, heavy bolter fire, followed by tank buster missiles, some exploding on the crest of the hill in front of them, others roaring overhead, came in strong and hard. The senior squad leader quickly gave the order to stop the Rhinos and let out their passengers so they could run up to the horseshoe hill on foot. If one of those Rhinos took a hit with a tank buster missile, even at it highest point, the resulting blast could kill every Marine inside; on foot, the Marines would be lower, and much safer.
However, as soon as the Marines were out, one Marine was hit. One of the enemy heavy bolter rounds, after piercing the crest of the hill, continued down and hit the top of one of the Rhinos, where, with most of its velocity expended, ricocheted downward and hit the other Rhino, then ricocheted again, striking one of the Marines carrying a missile launcher in the side of the knee, a disabling wound putting him out of action. The secondary squad leader quickly took up the wounded Marine's missile launcher and ammo, as he and the rest of the heavy weapons squad continued to the horseshoe hill, followed by the Rhinos without anymore casualties.
Less than a minute after the Whirlwind barrage began, second and fourth scout squads began their advance, a slow but steady jog. First and third squads waited awhile longer, which they could afford to do since they were closer.
With the heavy bolter and missile fire on the horseshoe hill not letting up, the heavy weapons squad decided to relocate themselves a little further north, near the flattened remains of the ‘F' shaped building. However, before they did, they made the prudent decision of allowing their Rhinos to cover most of the hill in front of them with blind smoke using the vehicles' smoke launchers. None of the Marines with missile launchers were expected to see their targets anyway, just sit back and line up two red dots on their targeting scope once they had received the data from a Scout Marine's target painter. The tank buster missile did the rest of the work.
On the left, at the far southern end of the horseshoe hill, was a Sergeant John ‘Bull' Hodge wielding his favorite weapon, the Mk-2 heavy bolter. From his position, he couldn't see the Marine Base, but had a good view of first and third Scout squads. They had not gone even two hundred meters when the second enemy Land Speeder was spotted, coming straight for them–-fast!
The Scout Marines dropped down in to prone position in the high grass. Heavy weapons squad had been informed, and Bull was ready. Eventually, several of the Scout Marines had the Land Speeder painted...the data sent to Bull's holo-sights. He lined up the dots...then began firing, only to see the two dots become unaligned. He cursed, missing with his short burst of fire. However, now the Land Speeder was coming straight for him.
The big sergeant lined up the Land Speeder in his holo-sights directly, grinning as he said to himself, "come to papa..."
The enemy vehicle was equipped the same way as the first one: Black Laser with one Marine aboard. Bull hardly noticed the ground in front of him turning black, then as his force shield began flickering; he was too busy firing. The AP rounds of the sergeant's heavy bolter cut gapping holes in the front of the Land Speeder, several bullets taking out the Marine in the front seat before he had a chance to fire his bolter. That's when the enemy vehicle turned sharply, almost losing control as it headed south then east, evasive maneuvers until Bull couldn't see it any longer. Aside from some very-dead grass, Bull was not hurt in any way, the Black Laser, as Gallardo had predicted, had little effect against the force shield of a prepared battle suit.
The Land Speeder continued eastward, then turned north. For any experienced Speeder pilot, flying around behind enemy lines with no advanced information was not smart. Apparently, for this pilot, he thought he was safe, his Speeder spewing out fluid all over the hood from one of the several holes Bull's heavy bolter had put in the vehicle.
He continued straight for a short while until the Predator, from its unseen location, swung its turret around ninety degrees and lined up the shot. One second later, after the tank's twin-linked lascannon let loose a flash of two blinding yellow beams, all that was left of the Land Speeder was a 400 meter long trail of scorched and scattered debris. Shortly afterwards, all Cheyenne Ranger squad leaders gladly relayed the message to the members of their squad, "second Land Speeder terminated."
Second squad was more than half way to its destination. They had been taking steady, but sporadic, bolter fire from an unknown number of personnel inside the Marine Base, most of the rounds missing by at least thirty or more meters. Lana had been teamed up with the new guy instead of Ramcke this time. They had kept about twenty meters between teams, ten meters between individuals. Lana and Zachary had fallen behind a little after running across some soft ground that looked solid. The new Marine had gotten his boot stuck in the mud. Once he had it freed, an enemy bolter round hit the ground only four meters away from him, sending a spew of mud more than ten meters high. It spooked him, causing him to stop and kneel down, ducking. Lana waved him forward, "come, we gotta catch up."
Zachary had taken a liking to Lana right away. She was easy to talk to...and she was nice looking, all a guy could ask for in team member. He ran to catch up with her.
Ahead there was a small but dense section of woods. Lana had found a small gap and was waving her team mate forward.
"LuLu...hurry, up." That was Melinda. "Catch up with us."
"Understood." Lana answered formally, then more informally, explaining. "Zach had his boot caught in some mud. We're on our way."
From the gap in the woods, Lana could see Melinda and Ramcke about fifty meters away. Once Zachary caught up, they'd sprint the distance. No problem.
Standing in front of the thick trunk of a tall broadleaf tree, Lana waited. Bullets continued to zip over the Marines' heads, some making multiple, loud cracks as they went through the trees around them, piercing even the largest tree trunks as if they were made of tissue paper. As soon as the private was less than a meter away, Lana started forward again. But, as Zachary watched, he saw her slammed against the tree trunk she had just started to move away from, the back side of the tree exploding as a bullet came out and hit the ground far behind them. He looked, almost horrified; he didn't know how that bullet could've missed her...of course, he was soon to find out–-it didn't.
Lana had only barely began to take her first step away from the tree. It felt like she had been hit in the stomach with a cannon ball, slamming her against the tree forcing a sharp, loud, grunt out of her.
For this mission, all Scouts wore their soft armor, along with hard armor. The top part of the Scout Marine hard armor looked similar to a cuirass, but at the waist was designed with interconnecting plates for torso mobility. It was made of the same material as the battle suits, only thinner, but with the same special quality to the absorb the kinetic energy of any projectile. If it didn't stop the bullet, it usually absorbed enough of the bullet's momentum so it didn't rip such a big hole in its wearer.
The woman didn't really know what had hit her. For a second, she thought she was okay, and started to move forward again, at the same time trying to take a deep breath; that's when she crumbled to the ground, moaning in pain.
Zachary was still stunned, and for a second, didn't know what to do. Eventually, he made the call, his voice sounding panicked, stuttering at first. "Uh...Lana is, uh...she's hit. Marine down. Marine down!" He cried out urgently, regaining his composure. "LaFong's been hit...serious, CRITICAL, wound!" He waited a couple seconds, then called again, "LaFong's down...critical wound!"
Eventually Melinda responded...her voice almost choking, "okay...okay, I tagged her for pick up...critical wound!. But you gotta keep moving Sparks...KEEP moving, catch up with us right now! Medical shuttle ETA, five minutes." With her com off, the squad leader sighed, then, speaking to herself, wishing her friend could hear her sincerity, "...oh, God--hang in there, LuLu."
The young man started to move, turning just briefly to say one more thing to the groaning woman. "Uh...they're coming...medical is on the way...five minutes." Then he was gone.
At first Lana had tried to double up on her side into more of a fetal position, but found it difficult because of her hard armor. After a short squirm, she ended up on her back, clawing at her armor, trying to grab her abdomen, only to feel the 7.5 millimeter hole in her armor. Every breath she took was agony; it felt like she had a hole the size of a baseball in her stomach.
Reaching along the sides of her armor, she felt for the release bands, eventually finding them, then with a pop, removing the front part of her armor. This allowed her to grab her abdomen, where she quickly felt the hole in her soft armor.
For a moment, the woman felt like she was going to pass out. She held on tightly to her abdomen with both hands, as if she were to let go, her insides would come spewing out. It was at that point, she was sure she was going to die. She cried out for the only mother she ever knew, using her childhood name for her, "Ansie!"
But after what felt like a couple minutes, she was still alive...
Eventually, in the distance she heard foot steps...coming closer. It was fourth squad. But, as they seemed to come closer, it was apparent they had found another way though the trees. The foot steps quickly dissipated into the distance.
However, now she was alone, only the quiet sound of the wind and the chatter of birds around her...in the distance, the sounds of battle. She was going to die here, in the middle of the woods, on planet she didn't hardly know...and most of all, away from Annie.
The minutes ticked by, each one feeling like an hour. She continued to moan. She almost wished she would just die already. After awhile, the thought that she was going to live crossed her mind. Rationally, if the bullet had ripped through her belly, cutting open her abdominal aorta, her spine would been severed as well; however, she could still feel her legs. She wasn't sure she would live...but she begun to have hope.
When the medical shuttle arrived overhead, it scared her. She tightened the grip on her stomach and groaned miserably, continuing to moan as she waited, seemingly like forever.
"There were too many trees...they'd never get to me", was her only thought, until she suddenly became aware of someone coming toward her.
Lana wanted, at least this once to stop moaning. But the man, a trained EMT, had a plan. He looked at her, then quickly explained as he knelt down beside her. "I can't get the shuttle in here, so I am going to pick you up in one motion, and carry you there, okay?"
She could tell the man didn't expect her to answer. After making sure she was free of any hard armor and equipment, he then picked her up, carefully lifting as Lana tried to scream in pain, only managing a gurgling sound, before passing out.
When she woke up, she was on a stretcher inside the shuttle, her arms and bloody hands limp by her side. A second medic quickly hooked up an IV, while the first one, quickly removed her soft armor so he could cut open her fatigue shirt and undershirt at the same time, both now soaked with blood.
At first glance, the medic couldn't believe she was still alive. The orders for the shuttle pilot was clear...return to Base with all due speed...if not faster.
Lana let out a long moaning grunt as the shuttle sped up. It felt like the tattered insides of her abdomen were shifting down further in her body as the shuttle continued to accelerate to full speed. She passed out again.
When she woke up, it didn't seem like she was in as much pain. Everyone and everything around her seem distant. She could hear the medics talking, comments about her condition, and an occasional comment to what had to be another patient on the other side of the shuttle. Her head leaned limply to one side, staring at the medics, her eyes barely open.
When the shuttle landed, hospital personnel were there waiting. They quickly took her off the shuttle and loaded her on a gurney, then rushed her into the hospital section of the corsair.
The second patient in the chopper had a much less serious wound; he was the wounded Marine carrying the missile launcher, by the name of Archibald ‘Gannon' Shannon. He lifted himself up on the stretcher and called over to the medic, someone he had known for awhile. "Hey...Wayne--sounds really serious over there. Who is he?"
"Yeah...very serious–-bad belly wound." He answered cleaning up.
It was the second medic that answered Gannon's actual question, after taking a look at the medical scanner report. "Hmmm...let me see, looks like...LaFong, yeah, Corporal LaFong."
At first it didn't register to the big man. When it did, he practically jumped off the gurney, not holding back any emotion. "LuLu? LULU! Hang in there, LuLu! Don't you die on me!" He settled back down on the gurney, his leg in pain. "Oh...no, not LuLu..."