Story Nine – Aureole
Instead of dropping names, Aaron has chosen to drop geek items. Pick them up for extra points!
Searing plasma rounds zipped overhead. The Major turned. He belted the commands and his men followed. They brought a hail of cover down as they split into three unequal teams. Alpha, the group led by the Major himself, banked east. Bravo and Charlie marched forward and west, respectively. Bravo crested the hill and began lobbing explosive charges over the defending base‚ perimeter walls. Their assigned mission was to penetrate front lines and draw fire. They were the largest group but if their friends failed, they‚ certainly become the smaller of the three.
The Major turned to his men. The intercom in his helmet buzzed on.
“Samson, Dante, front running. Herc and Bowser, shield the trail.”
A few words of affirmation preceded their immediate subordinance. These were cogs, fitting together, turning for the good of the clock. They did their jobs, no distinction between well or average. Doing your share meant the platoon lived. Doing your share meant you lived.
The major allowed the men to watch the immediate area. He took the responsibility of mid range surveillance on himself. Complex graphs, charts and calculations illustrated the surroundings, filtering through his suit’s new Samus system, with a learning curve and pinpoint accuracy. For all the method’s benefits, it was distracting to the close-at-hand. He had to weigh the chance of perceiving an oncoming attack against leaving his men with only partial leadership. There was enough trust in the crew and the idea of being caught unawares won out.
The left visor screen showed the real world. It showed the grays and greens tinted over with a bright, light enhancing yellow. LEDs pulsed out with unrelenting voracity, seeking his eyes. A lack of motion made him stop. His team had reached the bend around the hill.
A ping came back on enemy com signals. He sent a typed message to the others through the small keypad on his plated arm.
Too close for standards, boys. Here on out we speak proprietary. Samson, return com.
Samson’s odd, crooning voice fuzzed through the airways.
“Go’in good, Major. Viz on TG. Crystal Clear?”
The Major replied with a deeper tone.
“Loco on Bravo.”
His men didn’t use the military code standards. It was too easy to be intercepted. The war was old. Many of the secrets on both sides had been lost. The codes were too simple and too well known. They’d been together for years in this rock jungle. They knew to make a question sound like an order and the other way round for a statement. They knew their TG, their target was behind those perimeter shields. They knew Bravo’s location was vital.
Samson scanned the area. He saw the defenders, their small group undoubtedly hiding the others reserved in physical barricades. The men of Bravo were there alright, they’d sacrificed some mines and blasted trenches a few dozen yards long.
“I’ll be damned if they don’t got their claws down in the dirt, three steps from a throw?”
The major smiled. Samson could hear it.
“Hot shit, their in pos? Wait for Charlie to send the storm?”
The storm came soon enough. Electro Pulse grenades buffeted the west facing shields. Alpha saw the white and blue bolts lash out. The strip of red protection flickered against the power overload before zapping into nonexistence.
The major sent a yellow warning signal to the rest of Alpha’s heads up displays. They readied themselves, brining their weapons close and bending their knees. Breathing became noticeable. Hearts began a not so friendly competition for beats per second.
They watched the defenders, they saw the panic. Bravo completed their initial mission by holding fire at the first sign of the grenades. Charlie took up the slack. Quick bursts tore into their newly vulnerable enemies.
The defenders scrambled, rerouting formation and focusing on the arbitrary point Charlie had chosen. The third team spread out and gave up ground.
Bravo counted shots. Charlie’s shields couldn’t take much damage but the battle depended on getting the target as far west as possible. Still, they were ordered to support their successors.
The major counted steps. They were close. They were closer. Right there!
Red light. The major flipped the switch, turned off the extended range displays and slammed boot to ground with his men.
The only war cry was the new recruit screaming his own name. Jenkins had that habit. It was actually working. They ran faster, squeezing the triggers, blasting the targets’ backs.
The outer base was won. The tactic had been a boon but it was a combination of strategy, unity, and technology. The new shielding units recently released were holding up to more than twice the old version’s capabilities. The Major already planned to reuse them once their charging cycle was complete.
He checked his readouts for signals and came up clear. He opened com and returned to standard.
“We’ve got fifteen minutes.”
A small spark caught his attention. Herc’s shin plating had been hit with shrapnel. It was small and the system’s rerouting protocol should have taken care of it soon enough but it still made the Major cringe.
“You going to get that checked out?”
The man shrugged, smashing his fist down on the injured piece of equipment.
“Just a leg, sir. I’ve got two more, know what I mean.”
Herc laughed and pulled his gun’s loading mechanism back and released it in place, the onboard whirred with acceptance of the new clip. He nodded to the Major.
“We got a plan, sir?”
The Major installed his own magazine, he was accustomed to the action to the point of keeping his eyes on the Seargant.
“Smash and blast.”
Samson bit down on his own teeth.
“Sir… we don’t know what they got in there.”
The Major stepped back, surveying the defeated.
“I count twenty seven here. Recon told us there’s fifty more holed up in the bunker beyond the barricade.”
“I think fifty’s more than twenty seven, don’t you?”
Samson wasn’t happy about this. He’d been a part of enough near-suicide missions before. He knew that the ‘near’ wasn’t nearly far enough for comfort.
“We should send a scout or an unmanned.”
The other men gathered. They waited for the Major.
“We lost the last unmanned in Tonberry and if you want to ask the men to volunteer for a deep infiltration scouting mission, be my guest.”
Whatever support Samson held behind him was gone. The men flocked to the Major’s side. Yet he wouldn’t relent.
“Call in a new recon. They can scan through the bunker. Hell, call in an airstrike. The carrier’s just outside Marleybone.”
The shields chirped. They were ready, so was the Major.
“Did you forget about the anti-aircraft stations on the peaks around this valley? We’d be calling in a crew just to be shot down. Load up, shut up and take flank.”
The Major shoved a gun in Samson’s arms.
Formations were made. A quick map was plotted and transmitted to the crew. Their new teams were evenly filled. They needed to hit the bunker from three sides at the same time.
Ropes went over the stone walls. The men scaled them quickly. Once on top, they surveyed the other side, ready for an ambush.
There was nothing. The defenders seemed to have been too confident in their initial defense. They always overused the curtain shield posts. It had been their undoing on every front, during every charge.
Visor warnings blared. A three dimensional object appeared on a small square in the lower right corner of vision. It rotated, showing every deadly face.
The Major knew what they were.
Everyone stopped. Like plastic soldiers, they stood ready.
He pressed the toggle on his temple, changing through views. He paused on the electrostatic spectrum map. It was an expensive luxury given only to higher ranks. With it, he saw every one of them. They weren’t positioned for maximum damage. He opened the com again.
“Looks like they dumped what they had. Did a piss poor job of it, too. Follow my tracers.”
The button on his left calf activated dispensers in the soles of his boots. Blue fluid coated the rubber bottoms. He became a walking stamper, setting down a step-by-step path of safety.
He led them through to the safe area closer to the building. They followed in his footsteps.
A small blast and a yelp sent the Major and most of the others spinning around and dropping to one knee.
Herc held himself up from the ground, centimeters from the edge of a mine’s active pressure area. The gash on his shin guard crackled and lit up as the circuitry squealed its anger. It kicked out, the synthetic tendons contracting at random.
Pvt. Sora stooped and stabbed a multi-tool into the maintenance panel just below the knee. He twisted it, fighting against the enhanced strength of the armor. The nano-fiber muscle motors died and the foot crashed to the ground.
Herc was helped up but pushed the others away when he was able to gain balance.
“I’ll drag the damn thing, just don’t brace me like some cripple!”
True to his word, he continued on when the Major decided to move forward. The weight wasn’t much to bear. Herc wasn’t a shielder, he was a heavy gunner, a mostly stationary position. If anyone had to be a little debilitated, he was the most gracious choice of fate.
They reached the brown walls of the hold-out. The Major was a little concerned at the lack of radio communications. There was nothing coming from the building. A tactic these armies had adopted was to shut off com boards and only use them intermittently, hiding position. The Major hadn’t picked up a single signal. He could only assume they were attempting an ambush.
He was sure his strategy would pay off.
The shielders were set up four per group. They were the first to go in. The plan was to use the front mounted guns on the devices to take out the initial resistors. When the power was going to deplete, the soldier would put it on auto, drop it and fall back behind the next protector. Gunners would follow to nab stragglers.
The building was bigger than it seemed. The three doors each led through twisting corridors. The Major took up a shield and helmed his team, carefully approaching each corner.
Herc whispered through his microphone.
“What the hell is that beeping? You hear it”
The Major did. It was a steady, slow pulse.
“Shit, they’re trying to send out a signal. We need to get them before they make contact!”
The last door was found and busted through. The shield’s guns roared. The streams found nothing.
Dust fell after being roused by the action. It revealed an empty room, an open trap-door, a single battery pack originating fifteen long black cords and a makeshift omni-directional motion detector.
The men followed the dark lines in the sandy floor. Simple grey packs ended their distance.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, motherfucking fucker in a fucking fuck-fuck!”
Boyd threw his controller across the room. It bounced off the plexi-glass fish tank and fell behind a heavy coffee table. He slammed his socked foot to the floor.
“God… fucking… goddammit!”
A laughing voice called out from his headset.
“I got out! I got out of the building on a damn broken leg-piece. Ha! Totally goin’ in my ‘Great Shit’ list.”
Boyd shook his head.
He breathed. Even though he could hear the other busting a gut on the now open voip line. He was calming. He knew he shouldn’t get so damn worked up over a game. He bought the Mac Meridian a few days ago. It was the only console hosting the newest installment of his favorite game. He would normally shy away from Apple products but they pulled a nice, cheap, badass next-gen system out of their asses.
Another voice crawled in Boyd’s ear, wiping away the cool composure. It was smooth, like a salesmen trying to palm off some snake oil.
“Told you, Major, we should have sent a scout.”
Boyd kicked his couch, bruising his shin and falling over in pain.
“Fuck you, Sam!”
Posted on 05/10/2011, in Excerpts, Freewriting, Personal, Short Stories and tagged aaron, character, characters, comedy, concept, death, errant, errant studios, fantasy, literary, literature, men, musings, sci fi, shively, Story a day, updates, weapons, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.