Colonel Ršlle picked his way though a ragged pile of boulders to the Second Kompanie command post. In the fading light all was quiet save for the occasional clang of an e-tool, a cough, or the purring on an engine. And of course, the howling winds. Plummer's CP was set inside a small ring of boulders. It was a secure position with some overhead cover provided by the towering rocks. Ponchos had been strung over the top and tied down against the wind. Their purpose was to block the dim red glow of their flashlights. Two radios sat to one side with their operators beside them. One was listening, the other eating out of a ration pouch, his rifle lying in his lap. Plummer lay stretched out on the ground resting on his elbows and studying a map with his flashlight. Beside him was a steaming cup of coffee. R&omul;lle stepped in and knelt beside Plummer. Already a thick growth of beard was covering his face. He looked dirty and exhausted. The captain looked up at the newcomer and scrambled to his feet.
"Relax, Relax. How goes it, Plummer?"
"Fine Herr Oberst. I've just returned from inspecting the positions. All the platoons have OPs deployed and we are in contact with Panther Six out ahead of us. The panzers are out there too just west of the bridge. We should be secure."
"How is your company? Casualties?"
"We were roughly handled to day, Sir. Second Kompanie has suffered 27 dead and 39 wounded. About a third of our force."
"Have the wounded been looked after?"
"Jawohl. They have all been evacuated. And thank you for the extra platoon. They were greatly appreciated."
"We were resupplied an hour ago."
"Can you tell me something of the overall situation?"
"We got off to a slow start this morning with all the sandstorms sweeping over the landing zones. That threw us hours behind schedule. However two thirds of the 504th is now deployed as well as half of the 4th Hussars and most of the 43rd Fire Support. Most importantly, the area defense network is operational. That has discouraged further Kra'Vak airstrikes for the time being. We also detected one of their auxiliary strips from orbit and have destroyed it."
"And the attack on the pass?"
"We'll go forward with that tonight. Which is why I'm here. I know you're men have been through much. You have done an outstanding job here today. But I need your Company to accompany the tanks on the assault. The 504th is airlifting Third Kompanie to the far end of the pass. They'll form a blocking position there and then the 50th will attack from the East. The Panzers and was all pzRlS301 will attack from the West. Unfortunately though, much of their infantry is still not down. More importantly, your men are better trained for the rough terrain fighting. I've got all the data for the attack on this pad here."
"Who will take over security here?"
Two infantry platoons from the C troop, 504th. The rest of their unit is not down yet. "Rölle looked at his watch. "They'll be here in thirty minutes. I would suggest you get a warning order out to your platoons and start preparing for the hand off.
"Jawohl, Herr Oberst. Plummer saluted and Ršlle disappeared into the night.
"Bloody fucking Hell!"
Colonel Nic "Eureka" Robson, Officer Commanding, No 1 Fighter Squadron OUDF slammed his fist down onto the SATCOM console, cutting off the transmission. Red in the face with anger, he looked up to find his staff standing sheepishly at the door of his dome. Quickly regaining composure, he motioned them inside. "Come on in and find spot to sit."
Robson was still in his flying gear, having just returned from a sortie. Sitting around the cramped dome which doubled as his office and sleeping quarters were Major Burns, Captain Griffon, the group maintenance officer, Lieutenant Everly, the group intel officer, and Captain Robert "Magic" Mako, one of the three No. 1 group AWIs. AWI stood for Air Warfare Instructor. A pilot in the OUDF received the title after graduating form the prestigious and rigorous two-month Air Warfare Academy back on Earth. The training specialized in air to air combat. No 1 Group was fortunate to have three qualified AWIs: Robson, Burns and Mako.
"Well, I've just been on with the Walla's up at 1st CAF. You're not going to believe this. They can't send us any additional fighter support down here. Seems that they took a bit of a drubbing in the fight against the enemy fleet and what's left they're jealously holding on to in the event of a Kra'Vak counter attack."
"I figured as much," said Burns.
"What's more, as of now, we are instructed to cease all close air support and interdiction and fly exclusively CAP in defense of Hannibal. The 504th is shifting around their attack squadron resources to take over all CAS."
"That's a bit steep, isn't it Sir?" Said Everly. "Six Raptors versus over a hundred enemy fighters." ODA 946 had identified at least that many fighters at the spaceport before Adler Tag and the Kra'Vak dispersal to hidden ancillary fields.
"If I may, Colonel. We've been working on the problem and have some recommendations to you."
"Go on Splot." Burns, was the XO and it's senior pilot, known in every squadron as the SPLOT.
We've got the two spare Raptors slated to come in tonight around 0230. It wasn't easy to get them bumped up in the landing schedule but I twisted a few arms and called in a few favors. Anyway, Griffon had them worked up before crating, and they'll be ready to fly within six hours of off-loading. That will bring us back up to eight birds and ten pilots. Grady is on medical rest for 48 hours healing up from te ejection. He was pranged pretty good."
"For now I propose the following schedule. We keep two pilots airborne, two on strip alert inside their cockpits, and the other two birds rearming and pmcs. Three hour rotations. As soon as the two spares become operational, I recommend keeping four up on CAP at all times. I've already worked out crew rotation and Griffon has worked out the maintenance and arming routines. We should be able to keep up this sortie rate for four days. After that, the first birds will be due for their fifty-hour checks. It's a strain on the crews but it is the best we can do. Hopefully by Tuesday, we'll have eight additional birds and crews coming in, maybe more, assuming the requests back home have gone through."
"Three hour rotations, huh? That means six hours airborne, once the fourth element comes online."
"Like I said, it's a bit of a strain, but the blokes are fit."
"Right then, implement the schedule. Now what about these Kra'Vak fighters? Splot, I've read your report and saw the tapes. Yours too Bob. Damn good flying, both of you. What do we know about these things?"
Everly began: "Well, Sir, Captain Mako and myself took a hop out to the crash sight of one of the fighters. It was Major Burns' first kill. Here's the vid and data we found. As you can see, the craft was flipped over onto its back. Despite the fact that it hadn't burned or exploded on impact, there was still extensive damage inside. It seemed like many sections had burned internally and were fused-together masses of metal. The pilot was dead. This type seems to be the one we've encountered every time, though there is a second, larger and heavier class, that's been spotted on some of the ground attacks. Working with Task Force intelligence, this type has been classified for now as the "FLASHER". The FLASHER has a wingspan of 18 meters measured from U-tip to U-tip. Length from tip to aft maneuver nacelle is 16 meters. Height is two and a half meters measured from the vertical stabilizers. Very thin. We had no way of weighing the craft though I'd venture a guess that it's light, maybe three tons. I can't place the material it's made out of. The stuff is smooth like hard rubber, but very durable. That contributes to its weight efficiency. As far as armament, the protrusions from the U-tips appear to be a pair of rail guns. The bore on the weapon was roughly fifteen millimeters."
"It also appears that the railguns have a limited ability to swivel within their housings. As much as fifteen degrees off bore," said Mako.
"That's good to know. What about missiles?"
"There was no discernable ordnance on board, but then again, the bird was flipped over and we did not hang around long enough nor had the means to inspect the other side. Apart form a few bumps which could be sensors or whatnot, there were no doors or hatches that we could see in the smooth skin of the ship."
"What about propulsion? Asked Robson.
"Again, difficult to say. The aft maneuver unit, as we're calling it, did not have the normal nozzles associated with a reaction drive, nor did it have standard gravatic repellors either. Hard to say under the conditions. Sensor data from the engagements shows that it does emit heat, though at a greatly reduced rate as compared to a normal reaction drive. We also know that the material and design of the craft defeats radar to a very large extent. It's also becoming clear, both with this ship and with Kra'Vak ground forces in general, that they have a method of masking infrared. We expect it's some sort of wave generator that cancels out or steps on the IR frequency band surrounding the fighter. All this makes them very hard to spot both during the day and at night with anything but the Mark One eyeball, laser, light amplification, and a very sensitive thermal setting. Radar works but only at ranges under effective IR missile engagement ranges."
"What are we doing to counter that?"
"A few things, Colonel." Said Griffon. I have the armorer section adjusting the seeker heads on Kraits. We're installing an amplification filter that will enhance the thermal detection ability of the missile's own seeker head. So for close in, you should still be able to get the off boresite launching ability you need. The Krait will still work in semi-active homing using laser designation for a distant shot, but I'm afraid the range is going to be about 15 kilometers. The good news is that you don't have to guide it all the way in. The missile will assume on board tracking after it's had about ten seconds of lock to learn the sight picture itself."
"Well I suppose it's better than nothing," said Robson.
"That's damn good given the time they've had to work on the problem," corrected Burns.
"Concurrently, we're boosting the threat warning receiver's ability to pick up their UV targeting beam. We're installing a number of UV sensors on the Raptors and running them direct to the TWR. I've got Holway working out the logic for that one. She thinks she can have the TWR hand off signal strength and direction to the targeting sub-system. I think it'll take a day or so, but we might be able to ride a Krait straight back along the Kra'Vak's own targeting laser."
"Excellent. Keep on her. We'll want that capability as soon as possible."
"So Splot, Magic, what does all this mean in terms of engaging them."
They both opened their mouths to talk but Natalie nodded over to Mako. "With a range of only 15 kilometers, we obviously have limited stand-off ability. That's a crucial handicap against us, given the enemy's numerical superiority. We also know that they are dangerous in a knife fight and can sustain and incredible turn rate at speeds that will make us stall. However they do seem a tad more vulnerable in the vertical and they don't accelerate as fast as our Raptors. None have shown an AAM (Air to Air Missile) capability yet. Pilot wise, except for Nat's second opponent, they seem to be more aggressive than talented. So I think we have a qualitative advantage over them."
"I believe it was Lenin or Trotsky that once said quantity has a quality all of it's own." Said Everly. Mako looked at him and grinned. He had the makings of a goatee on his chin, which matched his blond close-cropped hair. "Be that as it may, I think our best course of action is keeping them at arms length and engaging them between 5 and 15 kilometers. Those twin railguns are deadly up close and they seem to have a greater range than our autocannon, which is effective only out to about three."
"I'm also less than impressed in their tactics. They don't seem to have working together quite down yet. In my engagement, they came after me one at a time. It sounds like Splot had a similar experience. They might have great ships, but they seem a bit green on team ACM."
"I'm sure they're sitting around having the same discussions about us right now." Remarked Robson.
"Magic and myself have genned up a mission in the simulator to give our pilots some experience and hints on dealing with the FLASHER. It's obvious handicapped by our limited knowledge of the FLASHER's numbers but at least the pilots can familiarize themselves on changes with the targeting and engagement techniques for the Krait, as well as how to detect the bastards. We'll be spending every spare minute not resting to go over this stuff with the lads. Everly is organizing another trip out to the downed fighter in the morning with one of the heavy lift skimmers from the 504th. They're going to sling it back here where we can go over it in more detail. I'd have liked to have done it sooner, but you must realize that air assets are at a premium right now."
"Griffon, how are we fixed for air to air stores?" Asked Robson.
"Right now, I've got 48 spare Kraits. We've modified enough to have a pair mounted on each fighter and by morning they'll be enough for a full compliment. The work on the seeker head is tedious."
"Well keep on it."
"We've got another forty missiles coming down with the two spares tonight as well as the rest of the maintenance crew, so I'll be able to put more techs on the job. But that's it. There are no more Kraits in stock. I've already sent a priority message back to fleet requesting more be brought in with the next wave of reinforcements. As far as other stores go, I've got air to ground ordinance up the bum, given that was to be our priority mission"
"Until we get enough Kraits, I want us to still carry Hellcats. We might be able to get some support in for the troops here and there."
"We're fully integrated into the area defense network now. They've actually been getting the majority of the splashes. My guess is that the Kra'Vak haven't caught on yet as to how vulnerable we are in the fighter department. I'm sure they'll catch on soon."
Robson looked at his watch. "OK everyone, it's getting late. If you can, grab some rest. We're all going to need it. I know that the ground ponders are getting ready for a night attack and we've got Spike and Thresh up supporting it. After this package, looks like TF Hannibal will be on their own for a while." Without further word his staff left the dome. Without bothering to even take off his boots, Robson turned out the light and lay back on his cot. Sleep came slowly.
Mills rewrapped his scarf tighter around his head and hunched down out of the wind. He and two others partisans held a vigil for at the link-up point. They had heard the fighting and far off to the west and knew it was a matter of time before help arrived. But that was not the purpose of their link up tonight. They were awaiting the squad of power armor soldiers, which would assist them in their operations at Ršt Hafen. He supposed it was an exciting day. Certainly the arrival of the fleet and the bombardment of the enclave was a double-edged sword for the general population. With rescue at hand, many had sought to flee their captors or resist, only to be killed on the spot. Worse, the orbital bombardment had flattened large portions of the city, not all of them under Kra'Vak control. But then again, Mills supposed the NSL's first priority was the eviction of the Kra'Vak not the salvation of the population.
There was little left of the resistance. The Kra'Vak had done an effective job of stamping it out. While Mills, as senior-ranking officer, was nominally head of the resistance, he had actually turned over control to Bergmann. He remained on as intelligence chief.
Their priority now was to get Lawrence and his team out of the enclave as well as provide accurate target designation against Kra'Vak pockets of resistance within the city. Mellor and Donner had observed the destruction of the physical plant from afar. Ortillery had made moving in that area dangerous enough to discourage and enemy attempt to get at the bomb, but that could change at any minute.
For Mills, there were other problems. With the arrival of the NSL fleet, his time on at Ršt Hafen was sure to be limited. It was time to start planning his escape. But not before he went to see Direlwanger. He knew the old man was in bad shaped, having barely survived the night of the ambush. Mills could not leave the planet without seeing his old friend one more time. More importantly, he could not allow him to fall into enemy hands.
"Here they come."
Mills snapped out of his daydreaming and brought up his night vision goggles. Sure enough he could see two power armor troopers moving carefully down the gully below. There they were, right on time at the right place. It was time to make contact.
Howling wind and the dancing aurora accompanied the bitter cold night. If one tried, they could barely hear the idling engines for the 4th Hussars 'Triton IV main battle tanks as they hid in a depression. Occasional flashes lit the desert floor as the Pommern continued her relentless pounding of identified or suspected Kra'Vak positions. The enemy had experienced no let up in the bombardment for nearly 24 hours. PzRLS301 had been instrumental in ferreting out enemy positions. Even now, they were out ahead of the main body skirmishing and scouting.
In the back of A/4's command track a final conference was in session. Rölle, together with Captain Plummer, Captain Scott from A troop, and Lt. Colonel Beeson, battalion commander from the 504th, were finishing up the final FRAGO (Fragmentary Order) before jump off.
"So that's it, Sir. I'm heading back to my battalion. Everything is set."
"Very well Colonel. I'll see you in a few hours on the other side of the pass. Good luck." They shook hands, and then Beeson put on his helmet and stepped out of the track to his waiting Skimmer. He would be commanding the attack on the far side of the pass, where a very-well prepared enemy position had been spotted. With one troop from the 504th and one company from RLS3, Beeson was to seize the eastern end of the pass by a night air assault, then establish a blocking position to prevent other Kra'Vak units from reinforcing. Meanwhile, a task force from A troop, 4th Hussars supported by 2/RSL-3 would seize the opening to eastern end of the pass by attacking and eliminating enemy two enemy positions covering the area. The rest of the Kra'Vak positions had been neutralized by ortillery and 43rd FSU fire support, but these two position, at the base of Anvil Massif, were inaccessible to ortillery.
Their current position was 2000 meters from the jumpoff point, masked by a series of low hills and gullies from the enemy position. The Kra'Vak had maintained a battle position of this very spot, which had been eliminated by Gorsky's power armor troopers.
"Hauptmann, you can move out when you are ready."
The young Captain put on his helmet and buckled the chinstrap. He attacked the lead cable and then put on his gloves. "We are ready now, Herr Oberst." He saluted Ršlle and then shook hands.
Bring your self back Stefan. Hals und bein brocken." Said Ršlle with a grin. It was the age-old German saying for good luck. Roughly equivalent to "Break a leg".
"Jawohl", Grinned Plummer. He left.
"Well, Captain, that leaves us."
"Begging the Colonel pardon, but I must lodge a complaint one more time, Sir."
Rölle knew what was coming. "Go ahead."
"Sir, it is entirely too risky for you to travel with the troop. There's no question that we'll be taking some casualties. You can not expect me to concentrate on the battle when I have to worry about the task force commanders safety."
"Forget it, Captain, I need to see what's happening out there. Just stick me in the back of one of your tracks and be done with it. There will be no further discussion on the matter. Understood?"
"Yes Sir." Scott looked none too happy as he buckled on his helmet. "Sergeant Luddy, take the Colonel to his Track."
"Yes, Sir. Right this way, Colonel." A short thickly built man with a white beard and cigar stump in his mouth motioned non-chalantly for Ršlle to follow. They walked a short distance in the dark to the armored beast that Ršlle would be riding in. It lay in a ditch, with just its turret showing. This was known as hull defilade. "Colonel have you ever been in a Triton IV before?"
"Well, Sir, it's a little cramped. It has room for a crew of three comfortably. The TC, which is me, my gunner, and the driver. However, we stowed all our gear on the rear deck and have rigged a station for you behind the gunner." Luddy's accent was Irish. They reached the side of the tank. "Just hop across after me. He hopped over to the rear deck and scrambled on to the turret. Another man was already protruding from one of the hatches. This here is Corporal Poglich. He's my gunner. Poglich, this is Colonel Ršlle."
"Ed, show the Colonel where he's going to Sit."
The thin short dark haired gunner motioned for Ršlle to climb into one of the hatches. It was a tight squeeze. The inside of the turret was awash in the red glow of night lighting. Directly behind the main gun was a small seat surrounded by controls, the TC's station. The gunner sat at the front of the turret to the left of the main gun. The right side of the turret was sealed off with the autoloader and ammo storage. They had rigged a seat behind Poglich with a small vid monitor and communications lead. Ršlle could crawl up through the hatch if necessary to look outside. The diver was unseen, up front in the main hull.
"Beggin' the Colonel's pardon, Sir, but you're gonna have ta loose you headgear and wear this CVC helmet. You can adjust the fit with the straps inside the helmet. Plug the lead into the socket here and you'll get all the commo and data feeds through your headphones and HUD." Rölle fumbled with the small buckles.
"For chrissakes Ed, help the man out!" A moment later Ršlle had his helmet properly fitted. "Just a few safety notes, Sir. First off, you see that satchel to your right? Put it around your neck and have the mask attached to your CVC. Just attach the left snap. If we take a hit the halon system will activate and you will need that mask for O2. If we are hit and need to abandon the vehicle, there are two escape hatches. One is above your head. The other is on the deck behind Ed. Got it?"
"I understand Sergeant."
"Make sure you strap yourself in before we get moving. You can monitor everything I'm seeing through my crew station on your vid terminal. That switch there rotates between what I'm seeing, Ed's targeting display, and the driver display. In the upper right and corner of the display you will always see a green circle. That's our TWD or threat warning display. It'll identify enemy targeting sources and incoming rounds and missiles. Anyone on board can call out incoming if necessary. "
"My guess is that you will want to keep your vid on the tactical overlook display aka battle monitor most of the time. That's an overall situation map which links in with the Are defense net, as well as SATCON. It will show you the position of all our forces at any given time as well as spotted enemy units. You can control the whole battle from there if you want. Your comm display is dedicated just to you and you can make your own calls without disturbing my net. Is it all clear?"
"Yes Sergeant, good work."
"The CO has instructed us to hang back. We will not be maneuvering with any of the line platoons and are at your disposal, though we do have a position in the company movement scheme. Unless you say other wise, I'll be keeping station within that scheme."
"That's fine Sergeant."
"Now we'll be moving out to the line of departure in about five minutes so we'll be sitting tight until then."
Muldoon lay on the cold ground leaning back against Glover. Max sat a meter away, his silhouette barely visible in the dark. Flashes from friendly artillery and ortillery strikes lit the sky above him for brief instances. He caught glimpses of the serious looking soldiers around him as each man contemplated the coming hours. Other silhouettes of second company's infantry sat silently wrapped in their thoughts. Many were sleeping, though Muldoon didn't understand how. True it had been a long day, already 24 hours in length, but they were on the verge of jumping off on another attack. Muldoon, now having lived through his first ground battle, found the thought of impending action even worse than this morning. That was because he now knew what to expect. He had no doubt that everyone had to be as frightened as him. If you weren't scared then you were profoundly stupid. And he had spent enough time with Second Kompanie to realize that they weren't stupid.
There was some stirring ahead. Muldoon flipped down his visor and activated his nods. Men were getting up. The time display noted H-hour. He kept his Nods on the green light amplification setting instead of infrared. It had already been determined that the Kra'Vak had some sore of method for concealing their IR signature so only thermals or normal light amplification would work for detecting them. Since a thermal kit wasn't part of the standard infantry battle helmet, he would rely on the less satisfactory LA setting. However Max was carrying a designator, with a thermal mod so that would help when it was time to perform their part in the play.
Muldoon watched with a mixture of admiration and dread as the infantry silently picked themselves and their weapons up and stepped off in single file to the LD. From there they shook themselves out into battle formation and moved out with a bored indifference. Many would not be coming back, but all moved off as if they were going to some daily job, one neither loved nor hated, just necessary. They showed neither hesitation nor haste. They moved slowly against death. It was an incredible psychological mechanism that humans possessed which allowed them to put themselves in harms way when a rational person would be running in the other direction at top speed. Despite his own fears, when his time came, Muldoon found himself rising automatically and motioning for his two corporals to follow. As they stepped off into the dark he gripped his rifle tight. He had developed a newfound respect for the weapon. Now as he walked along his mind was racing. He lips were cracked and his mouth was dry from fear. No amount of water could cure that. A number of previously ignored minutiae now dominated his senses. He scanned the folds of the ground ahead of them, picking out places to dive for cover should they draw fire at any given moment. What a predicament. He'd be sure never to brown off the CO again...
"Six-six to all elements. We're moving."
Rölle felt the Triton lurch and heard the high pitched whine of the engine. Even traversing the broken ground, the ride was incredibly smooth. The Triton V, despite being tracked, was no slouch. It was capable of speeds of over eighty kilometers per hour over rough terrain. Its stabilized hyper-kinetic gun had he capability to track and fire at that speed also. There was little talking or fuss in the vehicle. Luddy gave occasional commands but with his waypoint system, it was very easy for the driver to stay on track though he made minor variations in the route to make use the best use of terrain.
Rölle concentrated on the battle monitor. He observed the icons on the map display and would pass a cursor over any of them to call up information on the unit. He could see detail down to the individual vehicle and squad level. Or scale it back to platoons and companies. He could also give orders to each unit by clicking on it and talking. As long as they battlefield datalink control assembly in orbit above them remained intact, it was a great force multiplier for any commander.
Plummer's company was already in contact with the enemy. They had approached to the top of the first low ridge unseen when they ran across a previously unseen enemy OP. Attempted enemy artillery fire had been instantly stopped by the 43rd FSU's excellent counter battery program. With Second Kompanie engaged, the Hussars were now on their sweep south of that position and heading at the second Kra'Vak battle position beyond. Once the enemy was fixed in place, the 504th would assault the far end of the pass.
Rölle switched to Luddy's display and caught the bright streaks from the MARS or Multiple Artillery Rocket System streaking over head. A dozen rockets blanketed A Troop's target with a hail of antiarmor and antipersonnel submunitions. Anything not under overhead cover would be dead.
"An engineer vehicle is at the barrier," said Luddy matter of factly. "They're goin' ta work."
The Kra'Vak had erected an earthen barrier topped with some reinforcing material. As the engineer vehicle approached, it used its sensor array to locate a minefield, then shot out a thick rope attacked to a harpoon. The rope strung out across the minefield and exploded. It blew a 50-meter lane right up to the barrier. Another lane was cleared by a second engineer vehicle. Beyond the barrier, artillery was falling mixed with opacity rounds, which function as smoke rounds but with chemical compounds designed to suppress thermal and IR vision also. The tech wallas back at R&D believed that it would also be effective against UV.
The first engineer vehicle, larger than a Triton, smashed into the barrier. A power drill sunk a charge into the wall and the track reversed twenty meters The second engineer vehicle did the same. There was a tremendous flash and two holes were blown in the barrier. The engineer vehicles passed through followed by first platoon. Tiny explosions erupting ahead of the engineer vehicles showed that they were still clearing a path in the minefields on the opposite side of the barrier. There was still no enemy return fire. Had the initial bombardment been that effective?
Rölle hope was dispelled when a Triton IV exploded just as it passed through one of the breaches. There was flurry of firing at the breach as tanks and infantry engaged an unseen enemy,
Plummer's voice sounded calm over the company net. "Two-One is out of action. Looks like an enemy AT team somewhere near the breach. Third platoon is dismounting a section to clear."
"Three-one is on it."
Enemy fire from the 2nd battle position (BP) was now hitting A Troop. Six-four, the FIST (Fire support Interdiction team) vehicle was now designating sources of enemy fire and handing them off to the 43rd FSU and the company's attached GMS/M vehicles. Simultaneously the data on the elusive Kra'Vak was being disseminated up and across the battle net to other units. Having cleared breaches through the obstacles and minefields, one of the engineer vehicles doubled back through the lane, widening it. It arrived at the destroyed Triton, and used a tow attachment to secure it and drag it out of the way. Before it could decouple from the hulk, it too exploded as a Kra'Vak railgun found its mark.
"Go Go Go." Ršlle felt a lurch as Six-five accelerated through the breach. The whining engine propelled the fifty-ton beast at 60kph and once through the gap it swung left and resumed its place in the formation. They passed a second destroyed tank.
"Gunner target. Designate!" Luddy had spotted an enemy vehicle and designated it on his IVTT system, (Inter Vehicular Target Tracking). The IVTT shared all target detection and tracking information across every vehicle in the troop and could even hand off targets to other compatible units. Yellow blips were identified enemy targets that could not be fired upon by the host system, while red ones could. Luddy spotted a target, designated it, and then handed it off to the gunner for engagement. This allowed tank commander to keep searching for new threats while the gunner dealt with the actual mechanics of killing them. Poglich ID'd and lased the target, selected Sabot and fired.
"Range 2400. On the way."
"Hit!" Said Luddy. "But it's still moving. Repeat!" Rölle selected the gunner's view and watched as he tracked a low slung dark shape, which was backing away from a firing position. He could see it listing to one side with a small fire denoting where the first round had struck it a glancing blow. Poglich had the crosshairs square on the target and as the Triton maneuvered, the enemy vehicle was tracked with ease. The tank rocked back as the main gun fired again. Rölle watched the second round arc toward the Kra'Vak tank. It struck the vehicle between the turret and the hull; ripping off turret and flinging it in the air like a tossed frying pan. The hull collapsed to the ground, it's Grav motors knocked out. Still it didn't burn. Miraculously, Ršlle saw two figures climb out of the vehicle. It was the first enemy he'd seen, but they were too far away to make out details.
"Kill!" said Luddy.
"I've got crew!" Said Poglich. "Switching to APW!" The coax antipersonnel autocannon fired. Its staccato burst was loud compared to the engines and the main gun. Rölle saw the flashes of impacts around the vehicle and both struggling crewmen toppled over and lay motionless.
Rölle cursed himself for getting caught up in Six-five's fight, though t was understandable since his own hide was at stake. He switched back to the battle monitor. He slewed the map over to battle position 1 and watched as Plummer's company fought it's way through. The attack had prevented BP1 from bringing any fire to bear on the hussars as they had swung past. The fighting appeared to be heavy.
Go to Bright Lights (Part 2)
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