The 7th Marines are in a dire predicament, and it’s up to Voss to fix them.
The complete novella is on sale at Amazon in ebook or paperback.
The 7th Marines had one other weapon system that could take out tanks. The 25mm railguns fired rounds that contained five nanograms of antiprotons. We had eight of these guns. If we managed to get the battery to Phase Line Onyx and pointed horizontally with interlocking fields of fire, they could take out the Alliance tanks.
Right now I needed to find out how many rockets we’d expended and order a resupply from the regiment’s logistics company. Actually, check that; I wanted all the rocket reserves we had. Beck told me that First battalion had shot six so far, which seemed to be a high number to me. However, it turned out that four of them had been from Charlie company trying to take down the shield generator at that first station. One had been fired in the assault itself. Alpha company had fired one more in their attack at the Gendarmerie station at the southern edge of the high-rise sector.
I told Beck to send in the resupply request for every rocket they would give us. I needed to get on the comm with the colonel and see about getting the air defense railguns moved south.
“Winter Six. Winter Six, this is Frost Six,” I said over the comm. I could have used the Winter Three callsign, but I liked being back in command of a battalion.
“This is Winter Six Actual, send your traffic Frost.”
“Sir, my companies are moving past Phase Line Midnight. My staff has briefed me on the enemy tank threat. I recommend moving the Air Defense battery south to support my battalion in their defense. Over.”
“Roger tha—” then the comm cut off.
“Say again, Winter Six, you broke up.”
“Winter Three Alpha to all callsigns, we are under attack!” Captain Dur said over the regiment’s comm-net.
Lieutenant Katz looked to me and then turned to his platoon. “Fall back to the complex.”
“Belay that,” I said.
The comm-net was a cacophony of the battalion commanders asking for more information and whether they should send support.
“Someone talk to me,” I said over our private channel.
“Bit busy!” Unruh yelled back. There was weapons fire in the background of his transmission.
After what seemed to be an eternity, but was only thirty seconds, Steiner spoke up. “Gendarmes in company strength. We’re engaged, but can repulse.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“I’m sure,” she said.
I flipped to the regimental comm-net. “All Winter elements, this is Winter Three. Regiment reports an attack by Gendarmes in company strength. They will hold. Continue your advance. Out.”
“So, what do we do, ma’am?” Katz asked me.
“Send your medical section and some security to go pickup Alpha company’s wounded. Go with them. Master Guns, go with the lieutenant,” I said. Master Gunnery Sergeant Blum had been in the Marines longer than Lieutenant Katz had been alive. He’d make sure things didn’t fall apart. “I’m taking a squad with me back to the complex to talk to the colonel in person about getting our 25mm railguns deployed south. On the bounce.”
My words were punctuated by an explosion, and I didn’t waste any more time. I bounded back to the complex.
“The enemy attack has been repulsed, ma’am,” Dur told me on our private channel. “They had some grenades or something with them. There’s some pretty significant casualties.”
“Colonel Stern?” I asked.
“He’s down. Injured and unconscious”
“Lieutenant Colonel Weiz?”
“Lieutenant Colonel Weiz didn’t make it.”
“God accept her. I’ll be there in two minutes.”
Both of Colonel Stern’s legs had been blown off. The corpsman didn’t know if the colonel would make it.
The building that had been our regimental headquarters was a pile of rubble.
“They came up from the tunnels. This area is lousy with utility maintenance tunnels,” Steiner told me. “No one thought to secure them.”
I nodded and looked around. First a fighter had crashed on the First battalion staff, now our regimental headquarters had been savaged.
“They rushed right in,” Unruh added. “They knew it was a one-way trip, just got into the building and started shooting.”
I had to admire the Gendarmes for that.
“Well, Beck, congratulations. You’re now the regimental comm operator.” I turned to Unruh and Steiner. “Where is Captain Dur? And where is Lieutenant Colonel Lowe?”
“Over at surgery,” Captain Dur said, bounding over to us. I noticed he was missing his left hand and pointed at it. “I’ll be fine, ma’am. Hurts like hell, but they gave me something decent for the pain. And I have another hand.”
The armor’s internal tourniquets were excellent.
“Is he conscious?” I asked.
“Yes. They’re pulling shrapnel out of his torso. He’s cussing a lot.”
“Great. Beck, get on the comm and tell the regiment I am in command. Then I want you to tell Ice to scratch her prison rescue if it has not already happened. She’s to send her Weapons company south to help support First battalion. Has Snow even reached their LOA?”
“I’ll find out,” Unruh said. “If they have?”
“Same thing. Can you two keep Beck company and make sure nothing else happens while she’s on the comm. Captain, you’re with me.”
Captain Dur was not a liar. I heard Lieutenant Colonel Lowe from thirty yards away explaining the genetic lineage of the Gendarmes that dared to try and kill him. His explanation included some rather improbable couplings with various animals.
“Lowe,” I said when I got there. “That’s impossible. The Luteans do not have mothers. They reproduce with spores, like all fungus.”
He grunted. “What can I do for you, ma’am?”
“I’m taking your Air Defense battery with me south. If the Alliance Army does have tanks with them, I am going to need the punch.”
“Give ‘em hell,” he yelled as another shard of metal was pulled from his skin.
I made my way over to Captain Perika’s beacon. She was the commander of the Air Defense battery. Beck caught up with me first to let me know what was going on.
“Ma’am, both Ice and Snow have sent their weapons companies to reinforce Frost. Bravo Six reports that they have secured the Gendarmerie station at Phase Line Nocturne.”
“Good. Tell Major Kenp to get that battalion moved and set up on Phase Line Onyx on the double. After that, send our SITREP to Arctic. Make sure General Beck knows about the change in command.”
Right now I was technically wearing two hats as both the acting regimental commander and the acting commander of First battalion; it was that kind of day. The number of casualties at the command level had left the situation muddled.
“Captain Perika,” I called out.
“Yes, ma’am,” she said, bounding over.
“We’re moving your whole battery to Phase Line Onyx. We’re going to use them as anti-tank weapons. Get them moved. We’re actually taking the rest of Weapons battalion, sans mortars. Make it happen.”
“Aye, ma’am. Sounds like fun,” she said cheerfully and turned to her battery. “Alright. Get the guns repacked and ready to go south.”
Around me Marines moved like clockwork, getting the railguns demounted and then placed into carrying cradles. The massive power generators would be carried between two Marines, but the guns themselves could be carried by one. Other Marines carried crates of ammo.
Two other Marines very carefully carried the antimatter containment unit that was used to charge the rounds before firing. The white and grey splotched box that housed the magnetic containment bottle was even more armored and protected than a Marine. It was best to keep antimatter in something less fragile than a railgun round for a drop, and only charge them right before firing. The containment box had almost half a gram of antiprotons, and if containment failed, the explosion would level half the city. The two Marines carried the antimatter with the utmost caution.
“Winter Six, this is Alpha Six Actual, we are engaged. Over,” Nizumi said over the comm.
“Alpha Six, Winter six copies,” I replied, pulling up her beacon on the display. She was still about three hundred yards from the Frish River and Phase Line Onyx.
“We ran into infantry approaching the river. It looks like some of their tanks are across the bridge, too. There’s fighting all across the waterfront warehouses. My lines and theirs are—” she cut off for a moment.
“Alpha, Alpha, come in. You cut out,” I said.
“Sorry, had to move to dodge some fire. My lines are mixed with theirs. Requesting permission to fall back to Phase Line Nocturne.”
“Wait one,” I told her and looked to my staff. “Anything that we can put there to cover her fall back?”
“None of the weapons companies are even close yet,” Steiner told me.
“If she cannot stop them there, she won’t be able to hold them at Nocturne. Not unless she has time to set up, which she won’t,” Dur added.
“We’re their best bet. If she holds them long enough for us to get there, we can cover her,” said Steiner.
“Okay, move out. Perika, get your company south and set up on Phase Line Nocturne.” She acknowledged and moved out. My staff and I were not far behind. “Alpha Six, this is Winter Six. Over.”
“Go,” she said.
“Alpha, I need you to hold out long enough for us to get set up back at Phase Line Nocturne. I’m taking most of the Weapons battalion with me. Give me fifteen minutes and we’ll be in position to cover your fallback. Hold on, Mako, we’re coming.”
“Roger Six; they’re not going to get past me. Out.” That was that. If Mako Nizumi said the enemy wasn’t going to get past, they weren’t.
I told Beck to order the rest of First battalion to close with and destroy the enemy.
It was nearly a straight shot south thought the high-rises to where we wanted to be on the Grozeuzig Loop and Phase Line Nocturne. When First battalion had come through here the first time, they had done so tactically, checking corners and doors. They’d checked everything suspicious. We were not moving tactically. We were bounding as fast as we could, kicking off the ground with our jets to move faster.
It almost cost us.
“Contact!” someone called out.
Two Gendarmes that had been missed on the first sweep appeared around a corner. The two men in dirty green uniforms raised their weapons, but Unruh was faster, firing midair. His rounds dropped both of them. The Marine never even slowed down.
“Come on,” I yelled at the Marines with me, trying to get more speed out of my armor. Cybernetic enhancements were purging the lactic acid in my muscles as fast as it could, but now it had started to build up. I put the pain out of mind.
“Winter Six. Alpha Six. What’s your ETA?”
“Twelve more minutes, Alpha,” I said. “We’re coming.”
“We’re getting chewed up. Fifteen of my Marines are down. Major Kenp is dead. I don’t know how many are left in Weapons company. Can I get some fire support from Hailstorm?”
I looked to Captain Dur.
“Any time we send a drone near the FEBA, it’s knocked down,” he said. FEBA stood for the forward edge of the battle area; there’s an acronym for everything.
I rekeyed the comm-net, “Alpha Six, Hailstorm has zero targeting drones in your area.”
“Roger. Request that you release mortars to my command for laser designated strikes on danger close targets,” Nizumi told me.
“You’ll have it,” I said. “Wait one.” I switched to the regiment comm-net. “Hailstorm, Hailstorm, this is Winter Six.”
“Lieutenant Colonel Voss,” Beck said. “Bravo and Charlie have engaged on the flanks, but are unable to get to Alpha company.”
I waved to her to tell her I understood. This is why a commander has a staff, to manage all this mess.
“This is Hailstorm,” the fire direction officer said.
“Hailstorm, you are retasked to support Alpha Six exclusively. She will be calling in danger close, laser designated strikes. Over.”
“Hailstorm copies all. Standing by for fire missions from Frost Alpha. Over.”
“Winter Six, out.” I switched back to First battalion’s comm-net. This is why commanders also have a comm operator. “Alpha Six, Hailstorm is yours. Bring it down on the Allies’ heads.”
“Happy to comply, Winter. Out,” Nizumi said.
The blocks streaked past; one building with blown out windows looked like the next with blown out windows. More than a few scattered fires burned, sending smoke plumes into the air. The fire department wasn’t venturing out in the middle of a battle. We finally reached Phase Line Midnight, the edge of the high-rise sector. The blown out wreck of the building that used to be a Gendarmerie station smoked a kilometer and a half to my left. We could be at Phase Line Nocturne and set up in ten minutes.
But we still couldn’t see what was going on very well without our drones.
“Up,” I told my staff. To everyone else I said, “Keep moving south.”