Descent - Chapter Four by Rtesian ()
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"Almighty, Almighty, Whiskey5 on station 5 by 5. Request position check."
"Roger, Whiskey5, stand by."
Solona glanced at her radar display as the rearguard Mech pulled up a quarter kilometer behind, its pilot a blonde whose eyebrows matched her roots. "Everything okay, Raven? You were running a little ragged back there." A giggle blurted through.
"I had to pee."
"Well, next time put the Mech on auto-pilot."
"Yeah, but then you'd know I'm peeing." She giggled again. Flatline, who could sleep anywhere, anytime, keyed in.
"I didn't know droids had bladders. Something new?"
"Whiskey5, Almighty. Position confirmed. MCV 21km due North. Acknowledge."
"Roger, Almighty. MCV two one km due North."
They had halted just at a forest's edge, standing among the treetops. Major Wild's Mobile Command Vehicle had broken down and HQ had assigned them to provide security until the Recovery Team arrived. "I don't like it, Lieutenant." Ghost voiced in. Off duty, the question where her Point man was always went unanswered.
Before them an open expanse of barren, cracked rock loomed. Beyond, a massive ridgeline of mesas towered over the horizon. No telling what those mountains hid. Past that, lay the crippled MCV. Ambush city. She didn't like it either.
"You okay, Kanga?" Her last name was Rew.
"Great, Lieutenant. My weapons board is full green. HooRah!"
Solona nodded and smiled, regarding Kanga on her left flank as a great comfort. One less thing she had to worry about.
"Okay then. We have no time for detours. We will probably not encounter adjusting or bracketing fire crossing in the open because any artillery units in the area will have the expanse zeroed in.
"Raven, if anybody goes down, and you are sure no one is on our six, stay and provide support. The rest will continue to the Mesas and jet over them. We've got no time to waste. Once we do, put missile lock on Air-to-Ground for any surprises hanging around. Okay people, give me a system check."
One by one they called in nominal. Turbo engines began to whine and the Mechs shook as restraining bolts remained locked.
"Full throttle, Whiskey5. We're go on my mark. 3, 2, 1, Go!"
In a synchronous jolt, 75-ton Guild Battle Mechs charged across the open plain. Thunderous thumps in lock step shook the ground heralding oncoming freight trains. Solona, left hand on the throttle, right on the weapons board, felt the power vibrating up through the carbon steel structures. She laughed. Trade this for a Naval Bridge Officer in cushioned comfort? Never!
She surveyed dials and gauges, confirming everything green then looked up in time to see Ghost, out on point, sink into the ground. The intercom burst to life with his screaming voice. "I'm in quicksand, going down by the foot. Jet pods choked."
Solona cooled to a dead calm, slowing the squad to a quick walk. Overhead a whistling sound announced death on the wing. An explosion 30 yards in front of Ghost sent shards of blasted rock clattering against their armor plates. "Sonar, Cid. Give me a boundary image of that quicksand." Another round blistered the air, exploding 50 yards past Ghost. Adjusting fire! A salvo loomed.
"Kanga, Flatline, we're jetting out of here. Raven, anybody on your six?"
"Bail out, Ghost. Raven will pick up."
Hellfire descended from the sky. Like black geysers, the ground erupted heated rock and metal shard killers. Right behind, shell bursts realeased anti-personnel shrapnel shredding anything hit. Ghost could not stay in or get out.
The command channel crackled to life." Desperation laced the voice. "Whiskey5, MCV. Whiskey5, MCV. We're taking fire. Artillery and mortar. Do you have an ETA? Come in, Whiskey5."
Solona glanced at the mission clock.
"ETA four minutes, MCV. Over and out."
She leaned to the side, lookin down on Ghost, halfway into the mire. "Ghost, turn your jet packs on full stand by. Swivel your 20mils down and fire away. Raven, pull up and fire yours into the quicksand around Ghost. Make an air pocket. Jet out of there, Ghost."
Solona looked ahead, dismissing the thought she might lose two crew instead of one. Her board lit up like a Christmas tree. A missile two kilometers on their 10 o'clock, lifted and turned toward them as afterburners kicked in. Kanga's voice, cool as ice, crackled through the intercom. "I've got missile lock. I've got tones. Fox 1 away. Fox 2 away."
Two missiles trailing vapor fumes rocketed toward the threat. It executed wild evasive maneuvers, causing one to miss. The second turned it into a harmless fireball. On they flew.
"MCV, MCV, Whiskey5. ETA three one seconds."
"MCV, what's your status?"
"1 dead, 5 for MedEvac. Down to small arms fire. They're walking a line of mortar fire to us, over."
"MCV, do you have radar targeting?"
"Roger, Whiskey5. Sending uplink."
Solona's radar screen flickered then refreshed with seven x's blinking red. "Flatline, Kanga, release your weapons boards. I'm going to slave missile targeting to Cid." She pictured Kanga frowning but the intercom remained silent. "When we arrive on station, Rail gun, Mini gun, 20 mils, your choices."
They hurdled the last mesa line with jet fuel pods flashing yellow. Below them a shallow basin opened surrounded by low-lying, sparsely forested hills. Two vehicles belched smoke and flames, men and women sheltered behind the MCV, mortar rounds whistled and exploded. The x's flashed steady green, rocking their mechs as missiles blasted from their casings. Kanga and Flatline landed on the flanks with 20 mils and Minis spitting metal-jacketed death. Solona dropped before the MCV, Rail gun swiveling for targets, its single-shot thud, thud, thud distinct amidst the mayhem. Everything it hit disintegrated. In less than two minutes, only gun barrel smoke moved.
Solona flipped to intercom. "Raven, Ghost, status please." Raven's voice buzzed her headpiece.
"Ghost used up his jet fuel lifting out. We're climbing. ETA two one minutes."
Screens, windows, and dials went black as cockpits opened. They clambered out the simulators drenched in sweat. Except Kanga. She did not have a hair out of place.
At the hangar door, Major Wild waited. They saluted and Solona released the crew to the showers. His steely gaze locked on her. "Good solution to the quicksand problem." Solona still seethed.
"I had nothing, Major. Should have never allowed that situation to develop."
"Mech warfare is a delicate balance between human instinct and machine intelligence. A lot is going on in any battle. Learn to trust your Mech. That's what auto-pilot is for."
He spun around and walked away. Solona watched him disappear into the crowded corridor. "Yeah." she muttered. "But then you'd know I'm peeing."
to be continued...
Image Comments (4)
RodS () 7:51PM | Sat, 28 March 2020
Kickin' story and render, my friend! I could visualize it all so clearly. Well done!
Madbat () 3:22AM | Thu, 16 April 2020
Nice window view. It reminds me of the thump-thump-thump in Fallout 4. Good story action as well, again with attention to detail in action and lingo.
Bad-Wolf () 3:13PM | Sat, 25 April 2020
I used to play a game called Battle Tech, this story brings back some fond memories of late nights spent strategizing how to defeat my buddies.
Excellent work Rtesian.