First Lieutenant Thomas Klingman couldn't concentrate on deciphering what all the data and the AI controlled networking link ups were trying to tell him. He was too busy killing 'dickheads', and searching the holo map of the planet for someplace where he could gather his men back together again so that they could set up a portable transporter field and boogie on off this Sa'arm infested rock.
He knew it would be hard to find a place that they knew they could defend for the ninety seconds it would take to set up the field, extract all his men, and plant a quick explosive charge that he knew would be positively guaranteed to take away evidence of transporter technology before the 'dickheads' could find some way to disable it.
He'd already lost nine of his people, nine out of thirty two, on this cluster fuck of a mismanaged mission. Captain Erickson had bought it on the third day, leaving him and Lieutenant Andrews to try to pull the plan back together.
Well, they'd finally managed to get what they'd come for, even though Tom truly believed they'd paid too high a price for it. After they had located the lost lap pack, and had popped a field to send it back up to the Sir Percival, their ride back home, which was now standing just far enough off to be able to receive comm data, and to lend some tactical support, if it was needed, but too far away to stir up any interest from the 'dickheads'.
This had always been a weakness of those damn Panther Class assault shuttles. If you lose one, and the auto self destruct fails to properly detonate, someone has to go down and make sure that sensitive technology doesn't fall into enemy hands. The Sa'arm would have loved to get their claws on an intact Confederacy lap pack. They could steal someone else's technology just fine, though they weren't much for innovation.
"Andy, I think I might have found a place we can hold them off long enough to get set up and get ourselves off this rock. Look at Charlie sector, E2-22H. See that little ravine leading up to that burnt out complex? Grab all your people and meet me there in ten."
"I've got it, Tom, but I don't think we can get there in ten. We're still a little busy where we're at. I think we need to bring in some air support to suppress what the 'dickheads' are trying to do, and to help me make sure nothing gets set up to delay me when I'm falling back to Charlie sector."
Not for the first time, Tom wished that Lieutenant Andrews would stop trying to incur major risks to solve minor problems. That's all they needed now, to lose another Panther by bringing it down to a live fire zone.
"Andy, I want you to pack it on out of there, do it now, do you copy me? Disengage, and meet me at that ravine in ten. Klingman out."
Tom heard the double click that told him his order had been received and understood. He knew the junior officer's wardroom would be frosty when they got back to their space taxi, but it couldn't be helped. It had fallen to him to baby sit Andrews after Captain Erickson got popped. None of the intel he'd been getting had made him believe that Andy was facing nearly as much opposition as he and his people were.
One advantage the ground troops had over the 'dickheads' was with their ability to react quickly to changing circumstances. The Sa'arm were plodders, in the sense that they needed hive consensus before altering their course. True, they could marshal that consensus, almost in a single blink of an eye, but they still had to set up their troop dispositions to implement that consensus, which gave the Space Marines a big tactical advantage.
Tom had already lost enough men, and had expended just about as much time as he was willing to give this mission. They'd gotten what they came for and it was now time to disengage and get the hell out of there. He'd hated to pull that rank crap on Andy, but he hadn't wanted to spend the time he knew it would have taken to talk the man out of his unwarranted fears.
In a race between Space Marines and 'dickheads', one Human mind, controlling a strategic withdrawal, with the help of AI intel, was worth how ever many body's making up the single hive mind. Tom knew he could zig and zag faster than the Sa'arm could change course to intercept him.
When he and his remaining troops reached the ravine, and had started setting up their transporting field, Lieutenant Andrews and his troops were still half a klick away. Instead of falling back meaningful distances at a time, and then setting up their little delaying ambushes, Andy was attempting to sneak away from having any contact with the enemy at all. According to everything that Tom had been taught in training, this was almost the worst tactical decision he could have selected. Tom turned to Gunny Fallbrook.
"Gunny, you think you can go out and help Lieutenant Andrews bring his troops in? Take Considine with you. Make sure he takes his little bag of tricks. While you lead the rest of them back to the promised land, he can make the 'dickheads' pay a price for trying to follow too closely. Try to get it done without ruffling any officer's feathers, but get it done in any case. You reading me, Gunny?"
"Aye aye, sir, no ruffled feathers. I've got Martinez and "the Dago" back in the flap there, setting up a few surprises for the 'dickheads', just in case they stop believing they should keep waiting for reinforcements."
Tom watched the sergeant head off with Corporal Considine. Now that he was almost certain that second platoon would soon be joining them in the ravine, Tom got back to setting the charge that would detonate as soon as they were out of there. He looked behind him to make sure that Martinez and DiMarco were nearly finished with setting up their little ambush. Tom knew that the whole ravine area would soon be a killing zone, right after those two got done mining the area and arming all their lethal surprises just before they entered the transporter field.
The extraction back to the Sir Percival went off without a hitch. Tom didn't say anything about it, but, he made a mental note that Lieutenant Andrews had been the third trooper through the field, once the extraction began. Tom noticed that the two senior noncom's had taken note of that fact as well. With the exception of Martinez and DiMarco, Tom was the last to step into the transporter field. He's had to order Gunny Fallbrook to precede him, but he'd wanted to make his own point about how he felt line officers should comport themselves. The two demo guys had to be last, because it took both of them to arm their explosive charges.
The battalion had been away from Journey, their home planet, for almost six months, before they were finally ordered back to their base for some resupply, replacement troops, R&R, advanced training, and to submit to a detailed debriefing for any engagements or enemy contact made during their deployment.
Tom looked at his home planet as it appeared on the viewing screen set up in the officer's mess. He'd been given temporary command of the assault company, after reporting back aboard the Sir Percival. His only command duties since then had been the routine clerical functions associated with the onboard administration of the company. He did attend two strategy meetings, but his company was not involved in either information gathering sortie. Tom knew that he'd be relieved of command, just as soon as they debarked to the Marine base at Peaceful.
Back at the base, after first handing over command of the company to Captain Carstairs, the new C.O., Tom had signed out on a fourteen day leave. It was good to be home, but it was even better knowing that he would soon be back with his family.
Tom knew he was in the minority by thinking of his household staff as his family. The Confederacy wasn't very subtle about wanting to discourage close emotional ties between the military and their concubines. Concubines were for procreation and for the sexual comfort of the fighting forces. The last thing the Confederacy wanted was to have their troopers upset by, or worrying about, the members of their household they were frequently leaving behind.
Already, several colony planets had been destroyed by the Sa'arm, killing upwards of a hundred thousand concubines and their dependent children each time. It was important that incidents such as these didn't destroy the fighting capabilities of the military units whose colony planets had been thus affected. The individual members of the military were aware of this bias against emotional attachment, but, were also aware that there were wide variances in the degree to which each individual military person adhered to this unstated bias.
Tom adhered not at all. As far as he was concerned, they were his family, and he felt a strong sense of love for all of them. He couldn't wait to be back with them, to regain the lifestyle he'd had before deployment. Scuttlebutt had it that the battalion would remain in port for a minimum of four months, time enough to replenish supplies and repair or replace any equipment that had been destroyed or damaged by their just completed mission.
After getting a ride off base, and over to the main residential part of Peaceful, Tom was only minutes away from seeing his family for the first time in more than six months. He'd already spoken with Cheryl, and Glenda, right after he transported down to Battalion headquarters, two days before. They knew he'd be coming home, just as soon as the company's new C.O. had reported in, or as soon after that as he could manage to get his leave request approved and then sign out on it.
.... There is more of this story ...
Science Fiction /