Lieutenant Kelly Jensen-Matthews glanced up at the SitRep Display in the Weapons Platoon Field Command Post hut. Several stealth drones were overhead providing a composite view of the other side of the ridge and the surrounding areas. It was the easiest way she could track the battle. The only other, besides the Mark I eyeball, was the visor display in her helmet. It was a much smaller display. The company was set up near the end of what the military calls a cirque, a box canyon to anyone not a geologist. The ridge was a relatively low upthrust compared to the tall cliffs that formed the side walls.
The CO had positioned the three Rocket-Assisted Mortar (RAM) tubes on the backside of the ridge and had the rest of the company dug in on the other side of the ridge. The hut, a lightweight 3m x 3m x 3m tall, was also set up on the backside of the ridge. It was almost at the base where the slope started to flatten out and just behind a slight ripple that would offer some protection if the Swarm made it to the crest of the ridge or something catastrophic happened in one of the mortar pits. Because of that potential she and Gunny Rogers, the Weapons Platoon NCOIC, had sited the mortar pits a relatively safe distance apart and about a third of the way below the crest and the CP. The number one tube was near the right end of the ridge where it butted against the cliff. The number three tube was sited on the left end and the number two tube was sort of in between. About 40 meters separated the pits.
The AI monitoring the operation from the Home Plate posted the stat on the screen. Shit, despite each of her three mortar crews dropping a 120mm round every 10 seconds for the last 20 minutes, the valley still looked like a roiling gray-green sea in a storm. The mortar bombs were using the rocket assist not only for the initial boost but also for the terminal phase. The sudden increase in speed tended to throw off the Swarm ability to track the incoming bombs. The bombs were also set to detonate at 75 meters above the ground. That was optimal height to provide the deadliest dispersion of their cargo of tightly packed half centimeter diameter explosive dodecahedrons. She was still losing about one bomb in every five to Swarm laser beams. She watched three more 150 meter hemispheres take bites out of the front of the Swarm horde. As the blast hemispheres started to dissipate, rivers of gray-green poured into the areas, rapidly covering the exposed and torn ground. Thousands more followed them.
The scary part was that the Marines had enticed the Swarm into this area on the interdicted world of Tulak in the Tulakat system. The company and a tactics team had been sent to Tulak to demonstrate a new battle plan that Sector Command's War Games Section had come up with for the CMC Tactics, Techniques and Procedures manuals.
The company had played a lethal game of fox and hound. The Marines were the foxes. It had taken ten hours of controlled ambushes of the increasingly larger Sa'arm units. Initial heavy engagements were empty the magazine at effective long-range, with rapid controlled fire and disengage. And lead the Swarm survivors, or the investigating reinforcements, to the next site while providing intermittent, harassment fire. At the next ambush site, the first Marine unit joined up with a second unit. As they were disengaging, the first unit would leave through a transporter pad and a third team reinforced the second unit. Each ambush force was incrementally larger than the prior force. The teams changed frequently. The Company was to be an anvil. The Company was there to test weapons, tactics and dirty tricks. The mortars were one of those weapons.
The direct fire elements of Kelly's platoon were detached to the three rifle platoons to provide each platoon with another heavy-fire laser. Every couple of minutes they were having to relocate as the Swarm meld mind, or whatever it was, located their positions and they started to draw fire. She'd already had two troops injured; one was minor and still with his team. The medics had quickly thrown a patch on a chest wound of the second man and carried him through a transporter to home plate. A couple minutes later, she'd received confirmation the he was in a med-tube getting his right lung put back together. He would do well. Maybe next time would remember that he was a foot taller than he'd been before enhancements and duck a lot lower.
A heavy thump and whoosh announced another volley of rocket-assisted mortar bombs being launched down range. Kelly checked the proximity of the troops that were putting direct fire on the advancing horde with the impact points for this volley. The second set of bombs were going to detonate within 100 meters of the base of the front side of the ridge. That would be a little close. She got on the command circuit.
"Ramrod, this is Mortars. I've got two volleys in the air. The second will be danger close, say again danger close. Splash in 15 tics. Interrogative: Ramrod, you gonna di di mau for Home Plate?"
"Mortars," the Commander had jumped onto the general frequency this time. In the background she heard the carrumph - boom of the first volley exploding. Ramrod continued warning the entire company, "Incoming danger close, incoming danger close!"
"Weapons," the Commander was now just talking to her and the Weapons Platoon Gunnery Sergeant. "On my command, I want your tubes to give me three more rounds each as fast as you can drop them in the tubes with minimal flight time to impact 100 meters in front of my line." She heard the second volley impact. "We're starting egress right after I fire the claymores. The Swarm should notice we're falling back and attempt to overrun our positions. I'll give the fire command before I go through the locus. You'll launch the 3 round salvo, spike the tubes and you di di mau. No dallying, got that?"
"Aye, aye, Sir!" She shifted to Gunny Rogers' frequency. "Gunny, you copy that?"
"Yes Sir." Her display showed him by the number three tube on the left flank, they were her weakest crew.
"Gunny," she said, "if we leave anything, I don't wanna just spike the tubes. I want them destroyed. What's the best way to do that?"
"L.T.," he growled, "I like the way you think." There was a brief pause. " I've netted the gun captains so they will know the plan and will set things up. After the Commander's volley, we point the tubes straight up, lay extra rounds set for sympathetic burst in the pit with the tubes, launch a couple bombs straight up, then everyone goes through their locus. Even if the dickheads get there, they can't stop what's gonna be falling from the sky. We'll set the first one we launch to Explosively Formed Penetrator and have them detonate 50 meters above their target. When the penetrator impacts, most of the bombs we've set for sympathetic will also detonate. The second bomb will time detonate on a delay a couple seconds after impact and we best not be here when things go bang 'cause we'll most definitely alter the terrain. Over."
"Roger, Gunny." She checked the display; the green wave was creeping closer toward the electronically marked Company Line. "All tubes! All tubes! Prep for final volley! Prep for final volley!" The Swarm horde was roughly 200 meters from the Company Line as the company's lasers and grenade launchers went into rapid fire. The Commander allowed the forward elements of the horde to within 75 meters before he ordered the detonation of the claymore anti-swarm mines. Except for small isolated groups and individuals, the horde directly in front of the company was shattered and ripped to shreds for a depth of 50 meters. Lasers ripped at the survivors as a dozen BH-7 anti-personnel rockets whistled above the inrushing mob of dickheads to explode hundred-meter circles of mutilation in the oncoming masses of dickheads.
The SitRep Display was already showing blue friendly trails as the company's fireteams broke off, one from each squad, to race back toward the closest platoon pick-up point. Her three tripod mounted RLA-20 heavy laser teams increased their rate of fire to maintain the volume of out-going energy.
The second wave of fire teams withdrew. Kelly realized that the teams that had fallen back had created a perimeter around their transporter locii. Then the Commander ordered every grenadier to empty their GLA-8's into the oncoming Swarm and all teams to fall back as grenades were launched at any dickheads standing. Her gun teams fell back with the riflemen under the covering fire of the platoons that had already relocated around the transporter pads. Then about 20 meters from the pick-up point, the right flank gun team and the fire team they were moving with stopped.
"Team Whiskey Charlie to Weapons," that was the Charlie team's NCO, "we got lazed; the grunts took out the dickheads. Both teams took a casualty. Brice took a hard hit, and one of the grunts got his arm mangled. We're moving again. Both casualties will go through to medical as soon as we get to the locus. See ya topside L-T. Out here."
"Copy," she replied. Fuck! Now she had three troopers down. She wanted to get the rest home safe. One more job to do. On the SitRep Display, she saw the clusters of blue rapidly get smaller as troops rapidly egressed through the transporters.
Then the Commander called, "Mortars! Mortars! Mortars! Final mission, FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!"
.... There is more of this story ...