This story is contest entry for Pod and Planet Fiction Contest YC120
Story is dedicated to the mercs of Finnish Rautaleijona corporation of Dust 514:
Iron Lion 1 (CO) = Sergei Domar
Iron Lion 2 (XO) = Repe Susi
Iron Lion 5 (Platoon sergeant) = Patrick Mertala
Iron Lion 7 (Forward Observer) = YoloScout
Alpha 10 Kalma Alma
Alpha 2 Duck Gun
Alpha 15 Carder Host
Alpha 4 Mjolnir77 Orca
Bravo 10 Spydogg
Bravo 2 Clone Snake
Bravo 15 JT Gallente
Bravo 4 TTero
Charlie 10 Sergamon Draco
Charlie 2 Jonas DeSec
Charlie 15 Tremolor
Charlie 4 Purtsi
and also for the rest of the RA-LE mercs who had to stay onboard the warbarge. Enjoy the story!
Air was still filled with brown dust from the MCC crash hours before. Drop pod that had launched from the orbiting warbarge burned through the lower atmosphere. Inside the drop pod mercenary group Iron Lion contracted to fight for the Republic was moving in to secure crash site and to recover the crashed matari behemoth.
Inside the drop pod, four full fireteams of 4 men each were pressed against their seats due to heavy deceleration on final phase of the landing sequence.
Mercenary veteran Sergei Domar followed automated approach route from his visors display and counted seconds to predetermined ejection sequence location. He took a look over his platoon and gave his final instructions:
-Remember the briefing, we have to take and hold all 4 null cannon installations if we are to get command ship back to the orbit. MCC has sustained too much damage and cannot take any more hits without risking crashing again so all objectives must be in our control before we attempt liftoff and must stay that way until MCC breaks stratosphere. Enemy does not know that the MCC is able to liftoff but once we start taking objectives, they will know what we are up to. Your objectives are marked on the map. Good hunting!
Roar of the retrorockets suddenly stopped and for a moment there was silence. This moment seemed to last forever as everything turned from decelerating G forces to free fall. Tactical display on each visor showed countdown. In sequence explosive bolts in the side doors exploded and slammed sides open. Ejection seats from the drop pod launched mercenaries towards 10 kilometer drop to the ground.
For a moment Sergei took time to orient himself toward the target down below and from edge of his visor he saw the stricken MCC that had plunged several hundred meters through rocky terrain and was partially tilted in the hillside it had hit. He activated his IFF signal on his medium armor suits backpack to allow his squad to track him through HALO jump towards the assigned null cannon objective. Rest of the squad leaders had done same and there were four wedges in the sky, each approaching their own objective.
Altimeter ran quickly on Sergeis display as ground came closer. Their landing zone would be quite on target on central command facility roof right next to the two silos which one had the objective console inside it. Current path prediction showed only 5 meters difference between the planned and predicted landing zone.
There was just one problem with this deployment. With no cloning support on groundside. If you died, there was no second chance on this mission. Clonebay waited in the warbarge in orbit and that transfer would not be smooth or painless.
Roof was only 200 meters away, 150, 100, 50, on final second inertial dampeners were activated and four blue auras hit the top of the building.
-Iron Lion 1 touchdown,
-Alpha 10 touchdown
-Bravo 10 touchdown
-Charlie 10 touchdown
Radio checks confirmed that all squads had made their landing and started proceeding to their objectives. Sergei quickly took his squad on overlooking hole in the installation ceiling. Down below was intersection of roads that went through the complex with walkways covered with walls surrounding the place they would land to. Place down looked empty. Too empty.
-Scanning. No reading but lots of interference. There is something down there.
Sergei grabbed flux grenade from his belt, pulled pin and threw it down on the intersection directly below. Flux detonated and EMP pulse flashed, but nothing was there. Sergei knew there was not too much time to consider options. Going around meant climbing on higher part of the rooftop and taking time to go the long way. Enemy was alerted from the re-entry already and there was not much time to consider options. Time to act.
-Let’s jump. As you land, pick most suspicious looking location and fire a burst to it. In three two one…
Team jumped down, again hitting inertial stabilizers on the last possible moment. Quick hop closer to cover on a ramp leading down, take aim, fire burst. Right next where Sergei had just fired his weapon on gateway bunker roof, scouts cloaked shadow started running towards the exit gate. Another two burst later from Boundless combat rifle and the decloaked body of the scout fell to the ground. Right after, scrambler rifle bursts started cutting through the air as squad of amarr mercenaries in assault armor advanced from their cover positions from inside the gatehouse and lined themselves on structure above the intersection squad had just dropped to.
Sergei took cover and shouted over comms:
-Two and Five, suppress, Seven with me!
Iron Lion 2 in his sentinel armor had moved behind supporting pillars on adjacent platform and took good hold on his Freedom assault heavy machine gun, that was more like light autocannon with high caliber armour piercing bullets.
-We will give them hell
Spread of deadly bullets spread along the wall that covered the Amarrian team, causing them to take cover for short period until continuing firing. Sentinel armor was taking hits, but he was also being repaired by nanites from Iron Lion fives repair tool, giving him extra time to keep enemies pinned down
Instead of directly advancing towards the enemy platform, Sergei ran along the road parallel to the platform and he took next ramp up on the left side of the road, coming up into small machinery area. “They are not this stupid”, he thought to himself and told over in comms
-Seven, frag that corner!
Grenade flew to the corner and detonated remote explosive along with the scout that had just put it down. Both ran around the corner to see a flanked squad that had not been too busy to notice that their squad scout covering their side had just exploded. Exchange of fire started as Seven picked off first enemy with headshot from his precision rifle. The surprised squad fell back trying to get to cover, but was cut down by familiar roar of the assault heavy machine gun. Sergei took a quick look around the gatehouse and the plaform, breaking tunnel vision and called.
-About damn time, muttered 2 with his armor having more nanite than original armor remaining
-Don’t be such a big target. Now let’s move towards objective!
Objective was inside a silo, just hundred meters out at this point and the squad proceeded there without further incidents. Scanning ahead of them and checking each corner they finally made it to the narrow tunnel and service area between two silos that lead them to their objective. Rusty walls with control panel that right away looked liked it didn’t belong there, greeted them. Five took his position ready to start a automatic hacking device, while Sergei contacted rest of the platoon
-Alpha Bravo Charlie, Iron Lion 1, report objective status
-Alpha 10, objective reached. Enemy squad neutralized. No casualties. Ready to execute, over!
-Bravo 10. Consolidating on objective now. Sound of machine gun fire was heard from the background replied with distinct sound of mass driver charges hitting somewhere close.
-One, Bravo 10. Bravo two bit the dust, holding objective, over!
-Charlie 10. No enemy contact at the objective. Ready to hack!
Sergei switched frequencies and started calling the MCC they were rescuing, breaking the radio silence. MCC had held radio silence since the crash and only sent narrow beam distress call. Once they started transmitting, clock was against them.
-Broken Eagle, Iron Lion 1. Do you read me?
-Iron Lion 1, Broken Eagle. Can we get the hell out of here. We have enemy scouts closing in. We can’t play dead any longer!
-Broken Eagle, Iron Lion, begin takeoff sequence. Five, Alpha Bravo Charlie hack now!
-Iron Lion, be advised! We are experiencing secondary engine cluster failure. T-10 minutes until we can attempt takeoff
-Intel promised us three minutes We are about to get swarmed by their troops here in no time!
-We are lucky this thing is even running! We are doing the best we can
-If it wasn’t running, we wouldn’t even be here! Just get it airborne, over!
Sergei cursed his intel, cursed the contract, cursed the trouble he had gotten himself again into. He switched to warbarge frequency
-Overlord, Iron Lion 1
-Requesting orbital support
-Negative on warbarge support, We are forced on high orbit and are not within range.
-You gotta give me something! Imperial guard will be on top of us at any moment!
-Local militia contractor is in system with destroyer support. Callsign Thors Hammer. Sending him coordinates now.
-Overlord, Iron Lion 1, hope this guy is worth his pay, over!
Sergei took quick look on his display. Most likely direction for enemy reinforcements was north of the current complex. North wall was tall and solid wall with only few service exists along it There was no good place to get visual to that direction from inside the complex. He had to get out.
-If you want something done you have to do it yourself! Two, Five, hold this area! Booby trap the tunnel leading here and hold the second entryway to the east. Me and Seven will move out to north. We have better chance of locating their LZ for orbital strike on those hills and with any luck we catch them before they have a chance to deploy.
Sergei moved out the way they had initially came in from with his forward observer Iron Lion 7 right behind him. Far in the distance he could hear the rumbling noise of the MCC powering up it’s main drive. Without the secondary engine clusters assisting in liftoff, the already damaged ship simply had to push itself along the ground until it could orient it’s hull towards its exit trajectory out of the planet.
Road split into two large alleys. Instead of heading to alleys which looked sure place for an ambush Sergei took another ramp up on the right, turn right along the outer wall and through the service exit on the left as fast as he could and jumped down the ramp on the outer wall of the complex as fast as he could, with gunfire coming behind him. Seven planted mine on the doorway to discourage any pursuers.
Once they had cleared the complex wall, barren land coloured red from all the iron oxide greeted them as two fighters started ascending the hill. Sergei took a look above on the sky and saw familiar blue icon in the sky, indicating them that friendly ship had locked on to the district satellite and was currently in process of clearing the signal to get targeting data.
-Iron Lion 1, Alpha 10
-Dropships on horizon, approaching fast from the North
-At least 3. Wait, 2 bigger targets behind first wave. Getting visual now… RDV:s! They got tanks!
-Intel never mentioned about tanks!
-Guess they didn’t mention a lot of other things either but these things are closing in fast
-Keep tracking them, we are almost on the hill top, over!
Enemy was making approach between alpha squad in the east and the charlie squad in the west. Taking cover behind rock formation, Sergei scanned the horizon to see 5 targets in close formation. There was just one location that was between Alpha and Charlie objectives that was suitable of landing heavy equipment. It was flat valley between the hills less than 300 meters away and within direct line of sight of the two man team. If it had just been infantry dropships, those could have just landed troops anywhere they wanted, but by bringing in heavy armor, Imperial guard had exposed themselves to danger
-Seven, you see that flat opening between the hills?
-Get ready to blast it
-Contacting district satellite now
Seven established link with the orbiting satellite and the Catalyst class destroyer that had locked on to the satellite, waiting for signal to clear up for targeting data. Seconds counted on secure channel until familiar message showed up: “Orbital support authorized” as channel was established to send in the coordinates.
-Thors Hammer, Iron Lion 7
-Fire mission, over!
-Thors Hammer standby
Seven opened his tactical display and plotted grid for this target where dropships were just about to land. First dropship was already unloading Imperial guard assault troops and first RVD:s started to release maglocks that were holding tanks in place
Seven checked helmet display for target direction to the north and distance of 300 meters and issued orbital fire command.
FIREM 27WVM 5459 1409 01 01-50 300 FFE
Up in the orbit destroyers railguns lined up to the surface, ready to unleash barrage.
-Iron Lion Seven, Thors Hammer. TOT 5 seconds
Eigh turrets fired in sequence to the planets surface. First RVD had barely gotten back into air as the first railgun charge hit the surface, disabling the tank that was trying to climb out of the drop area. Second direct hit was good enough for the tank to be blasted to pieces, sending its turret flying high in the air with blackened burning hull remaining on the ground. First infantry squad managed to climb out in time, but two others were not so lucky and were completely vaporized in the strike. Second RVD dropped the second tank too soon, jamming it on top of a rock formation and while the pilot was trying to burn away as fast as he could last shell of the strike hit him mid air to the wing mounted thruster, sending his unlucky dropship spiraling to the ground creating a massive fireball as it hit the cliffside.
-That showed them said seven who was scanning the newly formed crater
-Alpha 10, Iron Lion 1, you have one squad of enemies approaching. Hold them off
-We might have had to work some overtime if it wasn’t for that strike, Alpha 10 out.
-Bravo, Charlie, report.
-Bravo, we are holding off some straggler troops, nothing to worry about, over.
Few seconds passed.
-Charlie 10, Iron Lion 1, report
Frequency was just filled with static
-Charlie squad, Iron Lion 1, report
Something was wrong. MCC was just minutes away from liftoff, but one objective had fallen silent. Bravo was currently fighting and was unable to come to assist. Alpha had one hostile squad approaching their complex. Rest of command squad was holding one objective with just two men. There was no backup available.
-Seven let’s head to objective Charlie, We are the only ones who can get there in time. Can you see if they are just being jammed?
-There is something wrong, but we should at least be picking their IFF beacons if it was just jamming. Those get through no matter what
The team ran down the the outer wall of their previous objective complex towards the Charlie objective that was located to the west. On the last small hill before complex Seven took a look on the objective with his precision rifle scope
-No movement, I don’t see anyone. Either Charlie squad has learned how to camoflauge or something is wrong.
-Iron Lion 1, Broken Eagle.
-Iron Lion 1
-We are pushing out in 2 minutes, give us 5 minutes to be out of range
Team advanced closer to the objective as distant roar of the MCC grew stronger. Suddenly objective indicator on charlie started to flash as it was being hacked.
-Broken Eagle, abort take off, objectives are not in our control!
-We can’t! we have to push out now or we are stuck here forever! We are already taking ground fire from small arms! Can you secure the objective?
-I can’t get shot, console is behind the pillars, cursed Seven while taking aim with his precision rifle
-Can’t make promises, we have no clue what is out there. Moving out!
Sergei charged in with his combat rifle to the corner of the triangular complex that had objective panel on the second open platform floor. As he got closer, his suit indicated him he had lost all communications outside the small area close to the objective. This was definitely a set up. Bigger attack force was diversion as the enemy knew they only needed one objective control to shoot down the badly damaged MCC if it attempts anything. First disrupting comms and taking down the team on the site quietly and then waiting for the last possible moment to hack the objective.
With Sergeis hand signal, Seven took a grenade from his belt and threw it up to the staircase to the second level where the objective console was located. Explosion sent shrapnel around the platform and both troopers charged up the staircase. As the team attacked second floor, Sergei quickly thought something was not right and turned around to see decloaked Amarrian scout leaping down from overhead piping with Nova Knives in his hands. Quick burst from the combat rifle from his hip was enough to stop this attack. A second later sniper rifle shot hit where sevens head had just been. Guess that explained what had happened. A cloaked scout had placed comms jamming device on the complex and Charlie team had been sniped off from the second floor. The scout had then hacked the objective and now the snipers were keeping both Sergei and Seven pinned down.
-Seven, cover me while I hack!
Seven stayed low in the cover behind boxes, barrels and all possible equipment that was found on the second floor. He readied his precision rifle And took look on the direction sniper hypervelocity bullet had just came from but saw nothing. Meanwhile Sergei took cover behind the narrow beam structure facing the way sniper shots had came out from while uploading a hacking virus to the objective. Another bullet went past grazing through his shoulder plate, damaging the hydraulics. Seven responded with two shots, forcing the hostile sniper to switch position. More shots from the distance went just by inches past of the hacking Sergei, but he was almost ready.
-Seven, I got the objective hacked back!
-Not sure if that helped, I see 6, maybe 8 assault troops heading our way.
-Find the comms jammer, we must get signal out to rest of the guys I hold them off!
Seven rushed from cover to cover as Sergei fired quicks bursts down the staircase where assault troops were concentrating for charge. Seven rushed from cover to cover, with sniper bullets flying past.
-Can you find it?
-No… wait up there in the tower!
Seven jumped up the structure, first considering to disable the comms jammer with the hack tool, but a sniper shot that pierced the beam next to him got him to other thoughts. He took his submachine gun and emptied magazine to the electrical box. With lots of blue sparkles coming out from the jammer, static from his frequency suddenly switched to intense combat comms all over the grid. All positions were under fire, there was no relief force. This was last thing Seven heard as sniper shot pierced his chest armor, initiating clone transfer.
-Seven! Dammit Seven!
MCC was still minutes away from blasting to stratosphere. From distance Sergei saw the dust cloud that it made as it had just lifted off. Objective could still be hacked back by hostiles and their mission would be deemed as failure. Alone he was no match to two squads of imperial guard. There had to be something he could do. Another sniper shot took down his shields and damaged his armor. Guess there was just one way
-Thors Hammer, Iron Lion 1! Immediate suppression to these coordinates, over!
FIREM 27WVM 5382 1440 01 00-00 000 IS
There was few second silence over communications as Thors Hammer received the coordinates.
-Iron Lion 1, Thors Hammer, immediate suppression, hammer is coming down to your coordinates!
Assault troops charged in with grenades, explosions throwing Sergei on his back on the command console platform. His clone had not yet started transfer and he could see the atmosphere starting to glow right above him as railgun shells started to rain down.