A Mere Wound
Posted By: Useful Dave<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 10 September 2008, 1:36 pm
0718 Hours, March 19, 2543 (Military Calendar) / UNSC Fire Support Base Anvil-Three, 10 kilometres from New Bombay. Mahatma, Vectin system.
It never ceased to surprise Lanette Rankin how quickly the combat engineers could create a firebase from a bare field, all they did was send in the 'Dozy' Scorpions with their bulldozer blades to quickly dig out the required positions. With that done, they had Albatrosses drop in the prefabricated structures, dig 'em in abit and voila, a rather basic but functional firebase ready for moving into. Of course, it wasn't fully a firebase until they actually moved in the artillery, the communications, the ammunition
Sure, everything was there and on site, but that didn't mean it was all in the right place. The bundles of 105mm shells scattered around the artillery pieces being emplaced weren't serving as weaponry at that moment, but they did serve rather well as seating for Lanette and the pair of marines with her. They didn't seem to care about the fact that they were seated upon several hundred pounds of high explosives, nor did the occasional forklift passing by or a Pelican settling down mere metres away bother them. The 'loadie' waving them off did though, his wave losing all but a single finger as they disappeared off around the corner of a prefab storage bunker.
Not surprisingly, their small group was non-com lead, a sergeant with a lighter in her hand and the other patting down every pocket she had. The other marine in the group shared a lack of distinguishing rank pin upon their shoulder and an M6C in their holster, seemingly the only thing they didn't share with Lanette was skin colour or gender. Once the sarge had finished searching each of her pockets extensively, she turned to her companions with a frown upon her dark skinned face.
"Got any fags?" She asked, holding up the disposable lighter for a moment to clarify her request.
The result was a pair of blank stares before the subject was clarified by an empty packet of 'Star Lights Filtered', produced from a pocket by her free hand.
"Y'know, cigarettes?" This second attempt resulted in a more substantial result, the private beside Lanette producing his packet of cigs and passing one over to the sergeant.
"Thanks Brian, dieing for a damn fag after the transit, you would think they could put up with abit of smoke aboard a ship when you have a damn fusion reactor aboard, wouldn't you?" She lamented, cutting a rant in the making short before having her first cigarette in months.
Brian nodded, tucking his packet away while he listened to her waffle on about smoke and space travel, waiting for her to light up before he replied.
"'Tis fine Minie, you just owe me one another time, you've usually got a full pack and a half with ya anyway, 'aven't you?"
Lanette remained silent, shaking her head at the two smokers, filling their lungs with tar and the same stuff which choked you to death in a fire wasn't exactly the smartest idea in the world, although fighting the Covenant didn't exactly add onto your life expectancy either.
'Minie' (Minerva Thompkins to use her full name) rolled her eyes upon spotting Lanette's head rocking from side to side in disapproval at their pastime.
"Lan, just because you don't like it-"
Brian cut in before either of the two women decided to leap into a debate about cancer, ethics, second hand smoke or whatever the hell was on their minds which was even remotely linked to the subject.
"Both of ya just shut it, it's our choice to smoke, we don't force you to breathe it, so keep your nose out, it's better than snorting plasma anyway."
Instead of fueling the argument yet again, Minerva just took a drag from her cigarette, the subject of the Covenant moving her onto more urgent thoughts than a possibility of death by lung cancer.
"What do you two think 'bout the briefing we 'ad earlier?" She asked a few seconds later, breaking the silence Brian had created; it was Lanette who spoke up next.
"I don't like it, we're riding tanks into a covenant secured city with nothing but the armour on our backs and a smidge of fire support. Why are we retaking the city? Why aren't we hitting it with some form of orbital bombardment? Why haven't the Covenant glassed the place yet? It doesn't add up."
Brian chuckled, toying with the flap upon his holster before Minerva's hand flicked it away and he pitched in with his opinion.
"They want something the Covies have, that's all. They bomb it, they lose it. We get shot, we bleed for it
Makes me wish we had some bleedin' APCs, the armour won't last us forever, but we will get in there without being shot, won't we?"
A quiet nod from Lanette confirmed his opinion, although her eyes were focused upon Minerva's cigarette clamped between the fingers of her left hand.
Ignoring Lanette's glare, the sergeant took a final draw upon the cigarette before throwing it to the ground and stamping it out, no-one would notice abit of ash in a base under construction.
"Well, we can't change any of that now, can we, privates?" Her use of ranks instead of familiar names told them that their break was just about over, and it was time to get to the worst part of war, some said waiting was the worst
Tell that to the poor bugger with his guts burnt out by plasma.
"We've spent enough time jabbering, now we'd better kit up and get ready for the attack. The Leftenant will want us preparing by half past at least, and we all know how much he loves anyone being late."
A pair of silent nods and a muttered reply were the only words needed before they turned out from their small cluster, and began making their way off to regroup with the rest of platoon Striker-Two.
0930 Hours, March 19, 2543 (Military Calendar) / Striker-Two, entering the outskirts of New Bombay. Mahatma, Vectin system.
The normal mounting up practice for Scorpion tanks was four to a tank, which worked when you had twelve marines and three tanks and nice, open terrain. It didn't work as well when you had thirty two marines, eight tanks, and a street fight up ahead. Hammer-One-One, the callsign in overall command, thought that his tank, Leftenant Schofield and Corporal Simkins with M19s would be able to clear any Covenant gun-nests before they could inflict damage on the rest of the column, a tactic proved to work when they encountered their first contact on the city outskirts. The line of cyan plasma swooped over the leading tank for a moment, then two M19s barked, along with the sharper crack of the 90mm main gun, and the column moved on. That first contact seemed to prove Hammer-One-One's theory, but he failed to take into account the differences between open combat and urban warfare.
Where as in the open, aside from rather obvious sheltered positions where their presence would be noticed, there was little space for concealed anti-tank weaponry, a city was the complete opposite. Almost every single building had the capability to shelter a hostile presence; one either became lulled into a sense of false security by the lack of open hostility, or unnerved by the lack of resistance. In this case, it tended to be a sense of security in those up front, knowing that every street passed without contact put them closer to their final objective, even if that objective required meeting Covenant forces in the end.
As the convoy started to slide around another corner, the sharp turns between the rows of red brick buildings designed for smaller, lighter civilian mini-cars rather than armoured vehicles, there was barely enough space to fit each Scorpion through. A perfect chokepoint by anyone's standards
The Covenant thought the same. As the leading vehicle rotated within its own length and accelerated down the street, The Lt and Simkins scanning the windows for the familiar purple and green length of a plasma weapon.
"Contact left, Top right win-" Simkins' cry was cut short by the roar of his M19 launching, the Lt turning to the mentioned window only to see it explode outwards, taking an unmanned plasma weapon with it.
"-dow!" Another cannon opened up two windows down, on the right side of the street. With the Lt distracted by Simkins' shot, the Covenant weapon managed to splash the long burst over the Scorpion's frontal armour. Both Simkins and Lt Schofield were caught in the spray of melted and vaporised metal, falling/rolling clear of the damaged tank as the radio-beads in their ears howled with the static of the magnetic fields keeping the plasma contained in their teardrop shape until they impacted with a surface.
With the deck of the Scorpion now clear for action, the slim turret of Hammer-One-One rotated a precise 45 degrees and placed the targeting pip for the main gun squared upon the slim barrel and its grunt operator. A 90mm HE/AP round planted squarely in the cannon's muzzle tore apart both weapon and operator. This may have ceased the threat from that direction, but it did nothing to prevent the grunt in the building behind using its fuel rod weapon to tear open the rear of Hammer-One-One like a .50 to a can.
"Shit, dismount! Off the flipping tanks!" Screamed Sergeant Thompkins, leading by example as she almost leapt from the track-pod she had been riding on, dashing inside the nearest building, followed by her fireteam as they slid from the tanks and sought cover more suitable to light infantry.
Within a minute the street had cleared of infantry, the Scorpions beginning to hose down the upper floors of the houses with their coaxial machineguns. Even though the two Covenant weapons that had even opened fire upon that stretch of street had been silenced, the sudden attack, combined with the wreckage of the leading tank, was enough to hold back the armour units until the infantry hesitantly began to emerge from the cheaply built housing.
"Why the hell aren't we moving up? We can backtrack, find another street
Lanette wondered as she stood beside the sergeant, MA5B hanging on its sling as she observed the rows of shattered windows along the street, the blown out remains of what had been a bedroom before it was transformed into a nest for the plasma cannon, and the smoking patch of ground where the grunt had dropped it's fuel rod cannon after a dismounting member of fireteam-one had caught it with a burst of 7.62 while it aimed to hit another tank.
The sergeant shook her head, waving her hand up along the street to show the buildings past the burning wreckage.
"We go around, we'll just get this again, another street, same story. We're best just pulling this thing clear and getting it out of the way, the armour needs us, and we need the armour."
With the conversation cut short, Thompkins moved towards the nearest Scorpion, hefted herself up onto the hull and began to share her plan with the XO, Hammer-One-Two.
Leaning back against the wall of a house, Lanette found herself being joined by Brian, two fingers upon the hand freed from his MA5B clutching a cigarette before he placed it to his lips.
"Sometimes you've just gotta have a cig." He murmured in reply to her rather surprised look, taking another breath of smoke while they watched the preparations to begin moving the immobile wreck of Hammer-One-One.
"All this, just to capture a few prisoners
" Lanette sighed in reply, they knew the Covenant didn't have a substantial presence in the city, but they had enough heavy weaponry and troops to make moving through it a nightmare for the UNSC.
Neither of them knew the objective for sure, but Lanette and Minerva had managed to hold a conversation over the noise of the Scorpion's engines while the convoy made its way towards the city, giving her more idea than most, she hoped.
Brian shrugged, opening his mouth to reply, then closing it again as the sound of engines filled the air. The wreck of One-One was being removed.
Thanks to improvements in the powerplants in the intervening 600 years between the Scorpion and the first tanks, the Scorpion was able to pull the wreck of one of its siblings clear, helped by the mass lost when the fuel rod hit and metal was melted away, along with the crewmember behind it.
Even with the obstruction cleared, the tanks of Hammer-One and Two seemed reluctant to move, until Leftenant Schofield made a repeat of that Sergeant Thompkins had done earlier, although slowed by the burns he had received when solid metal turned gas right beside him.
"You say that you don't want to move? Look at us, no fancy armour, no 90mm guns, just brawn and brains. If you don't have either, then you should get out of there and let me do it. You move up, you see an enemy, you give him some fucking pedal!"
As he finished off his motivational speech with 'fucking pedal!', he stamped his foot on the tank's armour, imitating the foot-trip for the tank's 90mm cannon.
"Marines, load up and kickass!"
Once the marines had mounted the convoy and set off again, it seemed much easier going. What visible nests there were, got hit by 90mm of tungsten. Of course, that was the visible nests, and they couldn't put an M19 in every window.
Another window was blown out by a rocket, whoops filling the air-
Then one opened up from the window opposite, Brian screamed as his chest was hit by the first burst, Minerva sliding off her track pod and into cover behind it as Lanette reached over to push Brian down from the elevated position of the tank.
A bolt slammed into the deck in front of her face, the titanium which formed the tank's first later of armour was vaporized by the hit, spewing outwards in a cloud of superheated gas and droplets of molten metal. She screamed as her face was hit by the stream of gaseous metal, throwing her hands to her face, hearing the gears within the Scorpion lurch below her, the tank beginning to reverse. More screams joined her own, the radio-bead filling with hurried orders to retreat, to pullback, calls from Anvil-Three about 'outgoing, and the unnatural screams which filled the sky..
0134 Hours, March 21, 2543 (Military Calendar) / UNSC Medical Support Base November, 12 kilometres from New Bombay. Mahatma, Vectin system.
The room was pitch-black.
Lanette felt the cold sheets below and above her, along with hearing the rumbling of lorries passing by outside. She listened, but she couldn't hear the usual humming of florescent light strips, a rather simple reason for the blackness.
Edging herself up, feeling ahead of her hand by hand until she was sitting up in the bed, her face ached, but it didn't feel as bad as it had when the spray of metal hit...
Swinging her legs out over the edge of the bed, it felt like she was about to walk off a cliff, into nothingness. But her feet meeting the floor threw that idea away, even if the swaying of her body kept the feeling there, even if the reality was wrong. Her mind wasn't quite listening to logic, each step was hesitant, as if she felt like she was walking into danger when she knew she wasn't. Outstretched hands found the wall before she walked into it, and scrabbling hands flicked the switch with an electric click.
The humming started, and a double ping revealed the lights as being operational, yet the room was as dark as ever.
The swaying didn't seem to stop, her legs gave way beneath her and she collapsed onto the cold floor. Terrifying thoughts manifested as sobs, sobs turned to screams. A mere wound had robbed her of her eyes, her chances for a normal life, and her service to humanity.