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The Battle for Sunjahil: Walrus Attack
Posted By: Mainevent<mainevent117@gmail.com>
Date: 30 November 2005, 2:53 am

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The Battle for Sunjahil: Walrus Attack

      Year fifty, roughly, in what many thought would be a sure victory for the Covenant. Down to our own doorstep at one point; so battered and bruised a single assault frigate could have wiped our entire rag-tag fleet out in one swift move. But they were out of frigates, they were out of carriers, they were out of everything. We'd won the only space battle that ever really counted; the one for Earth. If there was ever anyone looking for a real David versus Goliath story, this one was it.
      We were fighting eight to one odds against an opponent who usually beat us when they were outnumbered three to one. A fleet of mostly assault cruisers and a few lone carriers of various size and classification were all that guarded our most sacred of treasures--Earth. But the crews of those ships had more grit, know how, and sheer determination than all of the academy cadets we'd put through in the last five years combined. Sloppy is the word we usually use to describe the attack, but what did they care; it was supposed to be a sure win. They exited into normal space directly behind the moon, trying to use the natural satellite as an enormous shield. But, unfortunately for them, it also worked the same way for us. They poured between twelve and twenty for ships at a time around the moon with a thirty-degree arc of separation between them, and we hammered their sorry asses until we ran out of nails. Three hundred Super MAC platforms had been built in anticipation for their onslaught, and we used every one of them.
      Late in the attack they realized someone had fucked up horribly and changed their tactics as much as possible. They launched their fighters around the moon in anticipation of catching the MAC cannons unprepared for an attack from such a massive small-craft blind side, but the joke was on them. As the last of their fighters and bombers rounded the moon Humanity made its last glorious stand. Prepared far in advance of this attack, a seemingly endless stream of our own fighters and bombers poured out of the planetoid's shadowy, pockmarked craters. Armed with little other than nuclear-tipped missiles the Longswords and their pilots bravely gave their lives to cripple the Covenant shields.
      There is no technological equivalent to luck. Mankind has learned that lesson time and time again throughout history. One can have every imaginable advantage in a situation, and although they may play an important part in the outcome, without luck there can be no victory. The Covenant did not understand that principle. We overshot, but not by much. Our fleets, stationed strategically throughout the asteroid belt dividing our solar system almost perfectly, abandoned their positions and fell in on either side of the exposed armada's flank. I suspect the Covenant realized, if they hadn't after the nuclear attack moments earlier, that when none of their bombers responded and their sensors filled with enemy signatures, they were screwed. That's my terminology of course, I believe screwed sounds much more like a loud yapping noise in Grunt speak; a weak growl in Elite tongue.
      Three months passed after the battle as we refit, upgraded, and prepared for the first true offensive of the war. On the captured mainframes we recovered scores of information; vital, truly wonderful information. Tactical positions, star charts, procedures-- the location of every major homeworld in the Covenant conglomerate. I almost felt naughty for looking at the stuff, like it was someone's personal mail, but that was my job so I went ahead and did it anyway. Turns out, and none of us could have predicted it, that the Covenant had a much smaller fleet than we had imagined. In fact, by our estimates of the Battle for Earth the stupid sons of bitches had sent nearly seventy-five percent of their total force at us.
      With the captured Covenant technology we improved our own ships far faster than I would have ever imagined. We not only dissected every scrap of propulsion, slipspace, weapons, and shield technology they had, but actually managed to enhance most of it significantly beyond what they had already done. It baffles me still today how the Covenant had not found so many simple ways to increase output here and decrease the required input there. In effect, we estimate that our measures increased Covenant weapons technology by fifty percent-- if we'd been fighting the weapons we had now all along, there would have been no hope.
      And that's the most startling thing--hope. Now it was everywhere, it was contagious. Section Two did a great job with it, but it would have moved just as steadily without them. It didn't take a rocket scientist to understand what had just happened. We actually managed to defeat the Covenant, at home, and now we were more powerful than ever. It's amazing how hungry defeat can make a person for revenge; imagine what it did to an entire army...

      November 4, 2573
      Operation: Payback
      Fleet Status: Over the Sanghelli Homeworld-- Shanghel

      We decided to take on the toughest foe first; a sort of machismo warning to the rest of the Covenant that it would only be a matter of time before the same thing came their way. And yes, as the President of the U.N. had made it abundantly clear, there would be no treaties. The time for treaties died with Reach, and fittingly, a ship named in her honor was at the battle.
      I call it a battle, but it was more of a massacre than anything; at least from space. In all honesty I can say I never expected us to be deciding whether or not we would be invading one of their planets, but I must tell you that it is an absolutely marvelous feeling. There wasn't a single dissenting vote; not even from the ground pounders who'd be slugging it out down there. Everyone was ready for some piping-hot revenge, and that's what we were going to give them. An honest to God ass-kicking they'd never experienced. Time to bloody the bully's nose, if you would.

November 21, 2573
Operation: Lightning Bolt
Troop Status: Entering Sunjahil

      "This is Alpha Company, crossing the Red bridge now. Over."
      "Roger that Alpha, Delta is pushing across Brown now; Gamma has Blue to your left. Over."
      "Copy that, I see Gamma on my heads up. Entering the capital city's perimeter in five minutes. Good luck and God's speed everyone."
      The tanks rolled in on mighty steel tracks. The ground here was dry and brittle, and the scaly mud cracked and wheezed red-sand as they sped off the bridge and onto real land. Bridge crossings always put everyone on edge, more so when the bridge was made purely of highly-concentrated beam of energy that you weren't sure you even had control of. But if the Covenant were waiting for the bridge to ambush Alpha Company they had failed, and every one of their fifteen vehicles growled and hissed their way across.
      Servo motors whined as automated turrets swept back and forth, their gunners searching for any signs of an enemy. There were none; which simultaneously worried and delighted the attacking Marines. All that lay before us were the bombed-out husks of towering metal spires surrounded by low-lying dirt and clay structures that looked like personal dwellings. Sunjahil was the Sanghelli capital city and most populous urban center. It was founded in the midst of a vast, arid desert surrounded by grasslands and low hills walled by enormous mountain ranges to either side.
      Weeks of concentrated bombings, intended to shock and scare most of the entrenched soldiers and civilians, had taken their toll on the city. Large, black columns of smoke plumed high into the atmosphere from every direction. Torn Elite carcasses lie mangled in the streets, blue-green entrails hanging from the ripped gut of the closest corpse. But I had no time to dwell on the carnage already here, or else there would be more, and it would likely be mine.
      Alright you bastards, where are you hiding? I know you're hiding somewhere; you'd never let us just waltz in uninvited; you're far too proud for that.
      "FRG!" A nearby private screamed almost responsively. I ducked instinctively behind the M1-F7E "Fighting Walrus" thick armor as the fat green projectile soared overhead. There was a distinctive whump sound that dissipated almost immediately. Simultaneously, thin green, blue, and purple lances of light hissed from every direction. The rounds mercilessly, but futilely, impacted the thickly shielded skin of the infantry fighting vehicle.
      "Move all vehicles into a defensive circle around me," I yelled into the small handheld receiver near the tank commander's position, "defensive positions until we can get some concentrated cover fire on those buildings."
      "Aye sir!" came the energetic response from my lead crewman.
      Engines growled and tracks chugged through the re-opened mud wound hidden under the crusty dirt scab. The wide-bodied craft laboriously turned as much as possible to form the lead of our defensive semi-circle. The moist concoction that seemed to occupy everything below two inches depth was a runny, crimson red that made the ground appear to bleed as it spurted up through the cracks we had made.
      I watched clearly as another fuel rod shell slammed into the side of one of the Fighting Walrus' troop bays. I knew instantly it was going to be bad; the whole thing sort of rocked to one side, came off the ground, and settled uneasily back into its divot. What appeared to be someone's forearm hung limply out of the top of the troop bay, and there was a sickening feeling swelling through my gut as I imagined how many more men and pieces of men lay dead inside.
      "This is Delta Company, receiving heavy fire from the buildin--" The radio crackled in but was cut off by another transmission, "--Gamma company taking directed fire from all directions. Heavy weapons and small arms. Requesting immediate support. Men down, I repeat, men down inside; at least --" it cut back, "--ten wounded, possibly more injured at our position. I repeat, Delta Company needs immediate close-air support--close-air support," Gamma Company commander burst in after the final switch between communications channels. It was overwhelming to listen to so many personal conversations at once, but that's just what a good leader was required to do.
      "Patch through on our direct uplink and request as much close-air support as you can get here; pronto. I'll need three groups to pick up all the slack. One at each assault checkpoint over the bridge."
      "Yessir!" Communications technician Perry responded as beads of sweat streamed down his cheeks and dropped endlessly off his chin.
      I looked back through my command periscope at the situation ahead. Most of the enemies seemed to be concentrated in six main buildings. Residential or not, I didn't really care then. I downed the viewing lens and rotated one hundred eighty degrees in my seat to the fire-command station.
      "I want coordinated fire on here, here, here, here, here, and there," I instructed with a finger point at six different places on the screen. My gunner nodded understandingly and input the coordinates into the computer before sending it to each of the other vehicles. Twelve seventy millimeter dual cannons rotated to one of the six positions before unleashing a hellish barrage down range.
      High explosive and incendiary footprints marched their way up the side of the building as the gun tore into the nearest red-clay and metal structure, tearing it into to dusty metal shreds. A shimmering white flash popped in the distance as an Elite's shields reflected an incoming bullet. The gun's targeting controls automatically homed in on it, and the poor bastard was eviscerated and evaporated in seconds. The computer-automated controls moved on.
      "Two incoming!"
      One fuel rod shell slammed into the back right base of my vehicle, jerking the rear violently around before settling us again. The other whizzed harmlessly overhead before blowing an empty foot-deep crater in the center of the defensive semi-circle. I listened intently as sniper and gauss cannon fire combined to form a large hole in the side of the building the radioactive rockets had emanated from.
      "Fire on board," a marine shouted as smoke began filling the troop cabin.
      "Put it out and open the gun hatches, Perry, where's my air-support?"
      "Shit if I know; radio's torn to hell over here."
      "Get those marines out the back before we take another one; I don't think the armor can take it."
      "Alright Marines, take up positions behind the vehicles," Perry yelled as he yanked the rear ramp hatch down. The large, armored door opened slowly-- too slowly for comfort. Plasma fire sloshed onto the new target with a rabid fury. Roiling balls of super-heated matter splashed into the door, sending white sparks arcing in every direction as orange beads of molten metal ran down the slope..
      "Hold positions!" I ordered absent-mindedly.
      "No shit!" A marine responded with a bemused but slightly irritated tone.
      Overhead I could hear the distant but distinctive roar of engines. Air support! I grabbed the periscope and upped it to eye level. I could almost feel the heat as enormous explosions rocked the entire region. Enormous cracks split the ground in long, winding paths from the detonations' epicenters. My roof pinged as chunks of rock and alien flesh rained down. There were probably some little Sanghelli women and children mixed up in the concoction falling down all around me, but it didn't really matter to me anymore.
      There was a point before I really knew this war that I would have cared about women and children. Where I would have thought they were innocent civilians who had no part in this. But after Reach, after my home, was destroyed and my wife and child were incinerated at their merciless hands. After they sent us messages in their heavy, mocking tones that finished with that deep laughter that still haunts my dreams. After that, there were no civilians any more. There were no barriers I could hide anyone behind anymore. Now the only barrier I put those alien bastards behind is one of fire and shrapnel.
      "Sir, Corporal Markinson sent you this personal radio since he can't get you on his," a young man said leaning around the rear hatch. He tossed the pack to a Marine who quickly brought me the gear. I unlatched the top cover and picked up the handheld receiver. The field kit had a small note which read 'Channeled-- Talk'.
      "Markinson, this is McLeod."
      "Gotcha loud and clear. How are ya?"
      "Good. What's our status?"
      "Jordan's completely gone sir. I saw it myself, and I'd advise you not to. There's nothing in that you'll need to remember."
      I paused for a moment as I ran through each name aboard that craft. Wilson, the young cocky one who wanted action; Shields, the quiet one who smoked more than a chimney; McWhorter, the only infantry vet-- I had to stop. Going further was both time consuming and dangerous mentally.
      "Anyone else?"
      "No sir. Delta and Gamma are still taking some pretty serious fire from their positions. Delta's got some tanks coming and they're pretty sure they can clean it up. Gamma's cut off square. A round hit the pylon to their bridge and it died. They got ambushed close in too, so air support's afraid to drop."
      "Roger. Ours hit dead on so we're five by five. We'll form up here and swing around the outskirts to their position. Tell them to pull back as far as they can and get Charlie to hole up as much as possible."
      "Don't think that'll be a problem sir. There's only eight of them left and they're hiding in an alleyway."
      "Jesus. Let's move then. Lebronsky, double time it."
      I felt the heavy engines strain to pull us around again. The entire troop shifted in unison, with the tail of the circle following Markinson's lead. The courtyard and buildings directly ahead had been completely flattened by the blast, leaving nothing but a slimy crimson puddle in its wake. A small, ten meter wide corridor ran around the edge of the city between the densely packed houses on my right and the bridge across the small canyon to my left. Jordan's vehicle was left as a fiery monument to exactly how hard this would be. We hadn't even gotten into the city and we were already taking shots from every direction.
      Overhead satellite images gave me a clearer picture of the objective. The outer edge of the Elite capital was situated roughly forty kilometers across the bridge. The capital itself was strikingly similar to a human one, with large sky rises cutting high into the air and wide, high-traffic lanes for mass transportation. Almost all of the buildings inside the city had rooftop or overhanging aircraft access; often with a roof or covering to protect the vehicle inside from the harsh, desert elements. Between the city and the bridge crossings was a region of short, two or three story buildings dotted with small parks and vegetation. I wasn't entirely sure how their caste system was set up, but there was a clear difference between those living inside the city and out.
      I'd overheard a conversation aboard our ship on the way between two guys who apparently studied their cultures, and "Dr. Figaroa" figured that it's not necessarily the haves versus the have-nots. He argued, quite loudly, that there was evidence from the historical data aboard their ships that the Sanghelli, as he always referred to them, were actually a tribal people. Their early years in the desert, he believed, led them to form large bands, or Shiqkaw's, which became the basis for modern society. After a series of violent civil wars in which the current tribe came to power, there was a long period of peace, but distinctions were still severely made and upheld.
      I could buy that. But I am a have versus have not type when it comes to aliens. I only like the ones that have bullets in them and ain't too fond about those who don't.
      "What's our E-T-A?" I asked.
      "Five minutes," Lebronsky replied without pulling his eyes from his monitor, "but we might have a problem up ahead."
      "Problems, I hate problems!" A nosy marine interjected.
      "What kind of problems would those be, exactly?" I cut in.
      "I don't know what you classify four ghosts, two shadows, and some static turrets."
      "These buckets can push one twenty right?"
      "Then I'd classify them as road kill."
      Lebronsky's face lit up, "Aye-aye, sir!"
      Hold out guys; we're coming.