The Tankers: Part One
Posted By: Jin1<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 7 November 2008, 1:31 pm
PART ONE: Pointman
"You're telling me that thing is supposed to protect me from Banshees?" A slender finger jabbed at the forest green, dull metal of the vehicle that Leonard was supposed to be using to knock the Covenant aircraft out of the sky, not bitch about.
"Like hell, I know I trained in this thing, but now that we're being sent to the front
I think a transfer to infantry is in order." The private was just a few years younger, beaming green eyes, wide grin that spread from brown colored side burn to other brown colored side burn that I sure as hell didn't like and an ego that size of my ex-girlfriend's mother.
"You asked for this position, and the United Nations gave it to you. Hell, you're even got the best combat unit out there, and you joined after they just got rotated out of the front." A hand reached into my slack's pocket as I fished for something in particular. "So what's the damn problem?"
He rolled his wide eyes. "Cause I don't like the fact that in the last five hundred years that we've had these damn things, we have made it slower and perhaps less armored than before."
I know why he joined our unit, because for the fact that we did just get transferred from the front and that he thought we weren't going to be sent back for quite sometime.
My hand withdrew from my pocket and reached into my chest pocket for the cigarette box. The box slammed against my palm and a slender white shaft popped out. I placed the cylinder between my too chapped lips and took the lighter that I had in pocket and let the flame that came from it lick the end of my little pleasure in life.
The tobacco filled my lungs and I smiled. "A couple million guys in the military and I get the kid who bitches every five seconds." I exhaled quietly. "Tell me the odds."
I caught the glare the Leo threw me and the smile grew wider. His voice however said it all. "What's your point?"
The all too happy grin faded as the cigarette began to burn by fingers. I plucked it from my lips. "My point is, the last time I was on tour I had the same ratty-ass annoying chump who thought he swindled his way into our unit and he didn't have to fight when the time came. He got his in the end."
The kid didn't let up, I knew he wouldn't. "So?" He shrugged as his eyes turned toward the Scorpion. "What happened to him?"
"He was with someone else who had the same ideas as he did. A sergeant that was particularly liked by our platoon," I placed the cig back between my lips. I inhaled the smoke filled my lungs. It felt good. "His tank was lead, so he was done when we first dropped in. Boom. Wraith hit them right in the cockpit."
The Leonard's face dropped like a stone. "Wha
"Keep this in your mind. Around me, you can whine all you want, but if the LT hears it, you're going in lead. In urban combat, you don't want to go in lead." I shrugged. "But then again, you're in my tank. So if we want to get rid of you
We'll be creative."
"What the fuck?"
"Shit happens kid. Welcome to the Knights, kid. If you hang around long enough, maybe I'll show you the ship."
If. I loved the word. Simple, two letters and since we dropped onto the planet in six hours, "If", to the kid, would be a very common reality.
A tank drop consisted of two parts, getting the tanks on the ground via Pelican, and then securing the LZ for further tanks to get there to help your ass.
Now, that's what the manual said. You drop in, you secure LZ and you then get moving. With all important haste.
Your plan never survives first contact with the enemy. So listening to this bullshit right now I frowned at, it bored me, because we all knew the plan wouldn't work. And that the room was darker than night enforced my wandering mind.
Even though Second Lieutenant Rodger Black was an intimidating man, broad soldiers, a face of a bulldog that had beady little blue eyes. His crew cut blond hair enforced the look of a no nonsense bastard that he tried to be, so he couldn't make the briefing any more appealing. As commander of Tank Two, or as we called him over the com, "Knight Leader", he had to give the tough choice of who would be dropped in first and take the initial brunt of the attack.
A choice that wasn't made lightly, "We're dropping in with the eighty first motorized battalion, they will be coming in after us. Keep that in mind ladies and gentlemen, because that we are the first wave we'll be taking the brunt of the attack."
The screen that loomed behind the Lieutenant changed appearance as the holo-tank hummed to life. It showed the map of a inner-colony city, I could recognize it instantly, they took the appearance of Earth cities, mostly like New York, tight city streets, a park here or there and the further you got to the center the higher the buildings got.
The map showed me that, the streets got tighter as you got closer to the center. Raising an eyebrow, and was about to speak before I was cut off.
The lieutenant didn't notice. "We'll be dropping in at this location," A close up on a small green section appeared, "It's a half a kilometer long and one forth wide. It's a park, and it's loaded with Covenant." He pointed to the northeast corner. "The albatross will come in through here, sweep low and off load three members of our platoon. But a Pelican will come in first and drop off the lead tank."
That part caught me; I already knew I wasn't going to be lead, no need in worrying and Leonard didn't have to either. Yet from across the row of seats were sitting in I saw that he cast me a glance of fear. I ignored it.
Going in lead was never a thing you wanted to do, a dumbass thought it was good, and that if they went in lead they would maybe get a medal and a promotion if they did it well, and thus they volunteered for it. In the eyes of the officers, you must be fool and putting you in command of anything larger body you lived in made sure that you didn't get the chance. Hell in their eyes, as well as mine, you shouldn't be allowed to have kids.
Lead tanks were at most always sent to the big scrap yard in the sky. I'd seen it done before, and I was lead once in my life. I would never be lead again. The task they are given is not to "secure the LZ, bullshit", their tasked with dropping and drawing enough fire so that anyone following will have a chance to actually fight back.
Plasma grenades come flying in your direction, in some spots the plating gets so hot it glows like a red star and inside you're wishing that death would give you a sweet release because being devoured at the hands of grunts that would see you as an easy meal isn't appealing.
I crossed my arms across my chest. Ah, yes, the good old days.
A woman sitting next to me raised a hand. She had young face, cold almost dead eyes, which matched her exterior and short black hair. Her voice was crisp and to the point. "Who's leading sir?"
"Tank four, Lang and his new partner Jackson."
I didn't hold back the language. "What the fuck?"
"You'll do fine, El, just keep your head down." A laugh erupted from behind me as a hand rested on my shoulder.
I turned around, a small smile on my face. "Laugh it up, Pryce; laugh it up, because some of us are still wondering when it'll be your turn. Maybe next drop, eh?"
David Pryce didn't reply and Black barked. "Shut it, Lang. When lead drops in, it'll be three minutes before the Albatross comes in, so Corporal you'll have to stay alive for that short amount of time."
The lieutenant gave me a glare.
"Good." A nod, "The park has one lake, but nowhere you'll be landing at so don't need to worry about drowning. Trees are sparse, and the Covenant, as far as we know, have kept themselves concentrated in the southwest corner, so if you'll plenty of time before the yet to you. Don't worry, you'll do fine. Just don't do what you did on the first drop."
"I'll try not to, sir."
"Good. Briefing dismissed, we drop in three hours." The lights in the room turned up on cue. As many of them filed out of the room, the Lieutenant smiled at me. "You'll do fine, Lang. Just make sure you get something eat before you drop, something you'll like."
"Yes, sir." Comebacks bit my tongue but nothing came out, I just turned and walked out of the room, a scowl forming over my face. The bastard wants me dead.
"You lied to me; you said we wouldn't be going in first." The voice of the spoiled brat filled my ears. "You lied to me."
"Deal with it." I began to reach for a cigarette but thought better of it. So I just tucked both of my hands in my pocket. "I wasn't expecting it either."
"So what do we do?"
"Simple. We survive the five or so minutes that it will take for our boys to arrive."
Each platoon had a pelican and an albatross attached to them, the albatross only held three tanks, and the pelican held one. The LT came up with the strategy that you drop a single tank in, you could hold off the enemy until the three had off loaded completely. It was a good practice in theory, but in the end, you realize that you didn't stand a bloody chance in hell by yourself if you were fighting a substantial force.
Chances of survival were low.
I wanted to go home in tact with all hands and legs.
The idea didn't enthrall me at all.
"Look, we're in this together. You aim, I drive, and it's the only way to do this without getting ourselves killed. It's simple, choose targets by closest first, take them out, and then take out the targets farther out. Basic logic. You took the training, you know what to do."
He reluctantly nodded.
"Just stay professional, don't go breaking down on me or anything like that, and focus. Take your time."
I placed a hand on his shoulder. "Because if you do start crying, and aren't able to do your job, I'll shoot you myself." A smile appeared and I walked down the hallway toward the hanger.
I didn't bother looking back.
From Heaven to Earth
The Heaven's Gate is a large ship, she was a carrier, and she had to be. Her brain was the smart AI, Athena, making her a goddess of war, and in her whom she held the children of death, bred for war.
It was poetic, I didn't care for it, but that's the way our platoon sergeant described her, some type of ultimate war machine. If were dealing with humans, I would have to agree, she was a beast ahead of her time. But we weren't dealing with humans, we were dealing with monsters. Gods and evil God's they were.
Spawns from Hades, thoughts that were so settling. I tried to relax in the airtight compartment, above me sat Leonard, his teeth chattered quietly in the red glow of the crew compartment. We were in space; the Gate was in a low orbit around the planet giving us less exposure to radiation.
The Pelican pilot, a woman I knew as Halley, took us in smoothly. She assured me that everything was going to be fine and that she wouldn't get us blown to hell.
Like I believed that, pilots can say a lot, but when they're hit. We would go with them.
Unlike newer models of the scorpion, this one didn't have a turret that was mounted on the outside that had to be manned. Instead the machine gun was mounted next to the main cannon. Saved us from having an extra man, never got why they had to make a manned turret that was a question I would save for one of the techs when I got back to Earth.
My stomach hit the roof of my mouth as we came through the atmosphere at breakneck speeds. My ears popping like AR rounds and I thought to my assault rifle that sat next to me.
"How are you doing, kid?"
Doing good." His voice rattled a bit but the fact that he could finish the sentence was reassuring enough.
I looked out my small viewport and saw light entering my view. "Alright, we're hitting the light side of the planet and we're in the atmosphere." I could finally see the rear of the pelican; it was wide open displaying no occupants inside. "Alright Jackson, this is simple, activate the autoloader and let it get a round into the chamber. Then get ready to unlock the turret."
There was no reply.
"Answer me Jackson."
"Good. Tell me when you're done."
"Just sit tight for a few minutes. And we'll get through this." I repeated the line several times before entering the tank, the kid was so close to falling apart I found myself almost feeling a tinge of regret that he was here.
Then again that I found myself regretting that I had the FNG in my tank.
I checked my motion tracker and saw it lighting up like a firework's display of red. I expanded it and found that the city below was like ant's nest kicked over.
My combat helmet's com squawked. "Alright Elliot, approaching the LZ, we've got hostiles crawling out of the woodwork. I count five wraiths inbound. I'll take some of them out."
"Thanks sweetheart." I replied with a crisp tone.
"No problem, darling." She responded and I saw from the edges of my viewport green and yelled. "Jackson hit the clamps and unlock the bloody turret."
"Jackson, the turret, now!" I called the order early; I knew his hesitancy, why would someone want to leave the safety of the Pelican for the hostile of the ground? I had to find a reasonable answer.
The magnetic clamps disengaged and there was a split second of butterflies in the stomach before a bone jarring halt of the all too faithful ground was felt. I looked back at the motion tracker, "Three targets approaching from the South." I heard the muffled explosions from outside. "Make that one."
I used the small joystick at the base of my arms of my seat to nudge the sixty six ton beast forward. "Thanks, angel," I whispered quietly as the tank jumped. I pressed my eyes against the four inch piece of glass that I could barely see out of. I looked down at the motion tracker. "One target remaining, Jackson. Massive target coming, three o'clock. One hundred meters and closing."
"I see him
"Got a lock?" I nudged the tank to turn and face the incoming target, prevent a slimmer target even though I increased the height of it by double. I saw the shape moving toward us, floating on its antigravity pods it didn't hesitate, didn't even look like it slowed as we turned to face it.
Get ready to go to hell, you bastard.
"I got a lock." Jackson said quickly.
The one hundred and five millimeter muzzle exploded. A cloud of flame obscured my view, the blast sent a ringing through my ears and the craft shook all around me.
My eyes gazed down at the motion tracker. It was still there. "Fuck." I looked up, and peered out the viewport. "Hit the bastard with the twenty-four-seven. Let the gun reload."
I could hear the kid clicking the primary button on his control stick, letting the machine gun fire short but controlled bursts of the anti-infantry gun. Each fifth round was a tracer, so through the thinning smoke I saw bright flashes of red streak and most likely bounce off the enemy's armor.
Seconds were hours as I pulled the control stick hard back and yelled again. "Got a lock?"
I saw something, a bright concentration on the Wraith's turret. Milliseconds later it exploded into the air. "Target acquired."
"Send him to hell," Before he sends us first.
Wraith's plasma blobs tended to linger in the air for seconds too long. More like artillery than tanks but when the "shell" hit the ground it was more devastating than most could imagine. One hit would melt the turret and destroy the important part of the machine. The turret, leaving them defenseless against the second that would surely finish them off.
He didn't plan on letting that happen. He continued to move backward and he heard the turret explode as the PFC let another round at the enemy, the blob appeared in my view and exploded in front of us. The grass around the hit caught fire, and the smoke obscured my view.
Visuals couldn't confirm a damn thing; I looked down at the motion tracker. Nothing. He either was dead or stopped moving. I hoped the former.
I stopped the reverse and then turned the tank west, letting it loop in a small circle. "You see anything?"
I see smoke. He's down, Lang. The bastards down." Relief flooded in the Private's voice.
I held my firm tone. My eyes showed nothing on the motion tracker, but I reached down and tapped the control that zoomed out. Smaller red dots swarmed the screen, and I looked down at my timer. The rest of the platoon was one minute out, but the Covenant infantry was closing fast from the South. "We've still got more to do, concentrate on the closest first, then use the machine gun to sweep the feet out from under them."
His ego came back. "Rodger that, Corporal."
I preferred it when he was scared shitless. I angled the tank south and pushed it forward.
I saw the first grunt come into view; the ugly little bastard didn't stand a chance.
The peaceful chatter of the 7.62mm rounds as they tore into their targets was music to my ears.
HBOFF: You're Doing it Write