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From The Halls of Montezuma to the Depths of Outer Space III: What’s In a Name? (9/12)
What’s In a Name? (9/12)
All at once, the implications hit every Marine. The inhabitants of the planet Benzagu were a suicidally warlike species who had designed and created a vast multitude of vehicles and weaponry, including plasma beam technology, in order for them to wage war against themselves. They eventually went extinct, but the artificial intelligence controlling this war manufacturing factory continued to manufacture tanks and fighting vehicles and even somehow managed to harvest the dead inhabitants to create grotesque, warlike, flesh/mechanical hybrids. But the artificial intelligence did not have the knowledge or the technology to create vehicles capable of interplanetary space travel until the Skinny-Mogue pirates landed! Now that it had this knowledge, it was preparing to take its cybernetic war machines into space and extend the war to other inhabited planets.
“We gotta’ get the hell out of here, sir!” yelled Gunny Boyer. “We don’t have fire superiority against those things!”
The Marines were only two hundred meters from the exit when the undead cybernetic creatures burst through the blockage and continued their pursuit of the Marines. “Vics! Vics! Vics!” yelled Gabriel into the platoon comm. “We are coming out in a hurry! Get ready to move out now!”
“Dessantes!” Gabriel radioed his gunship support. “We kicked over one hell of a hornet’s nest in here! What have you got for close air?”
“I used up all of my rocket pods on the Skinny-Mogue attackers,” replied Dessantes. “But I still have a full gun load and a rack of Hellfire missiles! What did you guys find?”
“Oh, you’ll see!” yelled Gabriel. He was the last Marine to exit the structure and he saw his humpty-vees kicking up rocks and dirt as they raced back to pick up the line of fleeing Marines. Although they were in a tactical withdrawal, the Marines still maintained squad integrity as they clamored aboard their assigned armored vehicles. Nervous gunners trained their weapons on the structure’s entrance which was now lit with bright lights, wondering what horrible nightmare could have chased out the Marines so quickly. Pfc. Rojas skidded the M1099 command humpty-vee to a stop in front of Captain Gabriel and Gabriel quickly swung open the armored door and jumped in. He shut it just in time, a split second before a plasma blast struck the armored plating with a sickening smack. Lieutenant Rhamsburg ran to the driver’s side and opened the door. “Get on that gun, Rojas!” she ordered. “I’m driving!”
Soon, all of the Marine armored vehicles were on the move, racing across the open plane as fast as the rugged humpty-vees could go back towards the FOB lander which was sitting ten miles away. Behind them, hundreds of the undead cybernetic monstrosities emerged from the entrance firing their plasma beam weapons at the fleeing Marines. What’s worse, dozens of vehicles resembling tanks and wheeled weapon platforms of varying sizes, armored weapons of war, also rumbled out of the entrance. Most of the undead cybernetic soldiers entered vehicles which looked to be designed as troop transports and in short order, the armored force of cybernetic horrors picked up their pursuit of the Marines. Above them, four small metallic objects emerged and immediately gave chase to the Marines.
Dessantes looked down in disbelief at the mechanical horrors which were chasing the Marines. The line of Marine vehicles was about a quarter mile ahead of their pursuers, but the enemy vehicles were surprisingly quick, even their tanks, and it appeared that the enemy would soon swiftly overtake the Marines, if they didn’t blast them into tiny particles with their weird plasma weapons first.
“Gunner!” yelled Dessantes as she pulled the Hel-Plus gunship into a tight, diving turn. “Hellfires! Target the big tank-looking bastards!”
“They all look like big tank-looking bastards!” answered the gunner.
“Kill the ones with the biggest guns mounted on them!” yelled Dessantes.
“Roger,” answered the gunner. “Targets locked. On the way!” The gunner depressed the trigger mechanism and the Hel-Plus rocked only slightly as eight Hellfire anti-tank missiles launched from under the gunship’s massive weapon carrying wings and streaked towards the cybernetic tanks at supersonic speeds. Incredibly, pencil thin beams of plasma shot from small secondary turrets mounted on the rear of the tanks towards the incoming missiles. Four of the Marine’s Hellfires exploded harmlessly, but four found their marks, impacting on the top turret of the tanks and exploding. The four stricken tanks rumbled on for a short distance before the plasma generators erupted, engulfing them in balls of white flames.
“Damn it,” thought Dessantes. “There are still four tanks left.”
“Navigator,” she yelled banking around for another attack. “Get to the topside gun turret! Gunner, target the smaller vehicles and troop carriers! We’re going in guns hot!”
The air whined as Dessantes took the Hel-Plus into a shallow dive in order to give her gunner the most time to engage the cybernetic targets which were racing across the ground below them. The sound of hellish buzz saws screamed over the battlefield as the gunship’s chin mounted chain gun and wing mounted 35mm auto cannons rained a devastating hail of high explosive tungsten steel down on the enemy. Three cybernetic troop carriers erupted in flames before exploding, each one belching out pieces of dozens of burning cybernetic soldiers. Two smaller wheeled weapon carrying platforms also shuddered under the rain of steel and exploded, blasting their undead crews to pieces while two more troop carriers fell to the gunship’s under chin mounted 40mm auto-grenade launcher. Dessantes pulled up, looking satisfied down at the carnage which they had wrought on the enemy in an aerial attack that lasted less than three seconds. The cybernetic army slowed but didn’t stop. “Two more passes like that and all we’d have to worry about are their tanks,” said Dessantes.
Two of the four aerial vehicles which emerged from the structure turned, gaining altitude to pursue the Hel-Plus. “We got company,” yelled the navigator from the topside gunner turret. “Four and six o’clock! Closing fast!”
Dessantes jerked the controls hard to the right to throw off her attackers. The dark red cybernetic aerial vehicles consisted of a rectangular platform about four feet wide and ten feet long mounting an open cockpit flight control and a seat. Directly behind the seat was a small thruster engine and on either side of the platform were circular housings which contained turbine engines for maneuvering. Above each of these turbine engine housings were mounted two plasma weapons and seated at the controls was an undead cybernetic pilot. Both aircraft took up firing positions behind the Hel-Plus and began firing. The gunship bounced from a glancing blow of a plasma blast and threatened to go inverted. The navigator grunted, the shots from his 40mm cannon going wide as the gunship rocked. A second volley of plasma blasts blew the communications and sensor array disk from the top of the gunship, reducing them to molten slag. But the navigator had a second to correct his compu-targetting aids and fired a long burst from the 40mm cannon. The high explosive shells found their mark and one of the cybernetic aircraft was vaporized into tiny scraps of metal as it was engulfed in the explosion of its own plasma generators.
The second attacker dived away, however, it fired a long plasma beam which struck the gunship. The entire starboard wing and half of the starboard thrust engines was cleanly seared off and fell away from the rest of the gunship. Warning flashes bathed the cockpit in red blinking lights and alarms blared as the critically unbalanced gunship keeled over and dived towards the ground. The Marines on the ground still racing towards the FOB lander looked up in horror as the gunship fell from the sky. Dessantes fought to regain control of the gunship, fighting to bring the maneuver thrusters online but it was no use.
“Gunner, unload everything we got into the ground!” Dessantes yelled in desperation. In the back of her head, she recalled how Warrant Officer Nasri-Gabriel told her how the explosion of the makeshift torpedo-bombs inside the HELLUS on Willow’s World had helped to right the terminal trajectory of their crashing Helios gunship. Without questioning, the gunner fired all of the remaining ordinance that the gunship had as it nosed into the ground: the chain gun, 35mm auto cannon, 40mm grenades, 188mm kinetic energy rounds, ship-to-ship torpedoes. Dessantes screamed as she pulled the controls back with all her might, the maneuvering thrusters finally kicking on. The Marines on the ground stared in disbelief as the gunship fired all her remaining weaponry as the ground directly below the gunship erupted like an artificial volcano of rising black smoke and flames which quickly engulfed the plummeting gunship in its hellish embrace.
Captain Gabriel was standing upright in the hatch of the TC seat of his command vehicle. They were still racing towards the FOB lander which, by now, was only seven miles away. Dessantes’ attack had stalled the cybernetic army, but the enemy had quickly recovered from the devastating attack and now were regaining their pursuit of the Marines. Gabriel had turned to face behind him, franticly trying to raise Dessantes on the comm-trans. He got no response, not knowing that the communication array on the Hel-Plus had been destroyed. He was about to give the order to his Marines to circle around to the crash site when a shallow, sickly, howl emerged from the direction of the black smoke and flames rising hundreds of feet in the distance behind them. The dark smoke swirled in circles as a badly battered Hel-Plus gunship emerged from the black cloud flying off the deck at about twenty feet. Only three maneuvering thrusters were keeping it airborne, two on the left and one on the right, despite the fact that the design specs said that the Hel-Plus needed a minimum of four to stay in the air. Its starboard wing was missing and several fires were spewing from the open wound and several pieces of the rugged gunship fell away as it limped back towards the FOB lander. The Marines watching this spectacle held their breaths as the gunship passed low over the plains and disappeared behind a line of grassy foothills, bellowing black smoke behind it. The racing Marine vehicles shuddered briefly as if they had been bumped from below. The Marines saw and felt a large explosion, followed by a black cloud of smoke rising into the sky near where the FOB lander should have been.
The enemy armored vehicles were less than a mile behind the Marines, but their three remaining air vehicles had caught up with them and were raining plasma blasts at the Marine vehicles.
“Go! Go! Go!” yelled Gabriel. “Keep moving Marines! Gunners! You’re our eyes to our six o’clock! Remember! We do not leave anyone behind!”
“OOH-RAA!!!” yelled Gabriel’s Marines in return as they raced another two miles and entered the area of the ancient battlefield which they had passed earlier.
Chensi unscrewed a spent M15A2 charging capacitor from her flame gun and slapped in a new one. She frowned, realizing that she had only one more fully charged capacitor left after this one, and this battle was far from over. She was in one of the rear firing hatches of the squad’s M1151 Fox Recon humpty-vee as Sgt. Wager drove the small fast armored vehicle, bouncing along as it raced over the grassy terrain. In the other firing hatch to her left, LCpl. Houser was firing his squad automatic weapon into the sky at one of the enemy aircraft which seemed to have targeted their vehicle. She noticed that whenever Houser fired, the undead pilot would bank quickly, then return back to its same point of aim.
“Such a robotic tactic,” thought Chensi as she adjusted the aperture of her flame gun to emit a narrow beam. When Houser fired again, the undead pilot predictably banked away but then returned to its original point in the sky where Chensi was already waiting to fire the flame gun. The beam sliced through the connection which held the right maneuvering turbine to the rest of the aircraft and the airborne cybernetic enemy somersaulted in the air, tossing the undead pilot from its seat and sending the pilot hurling into the ground. The damaged aircraft tumbled crazily out of the sky and plunged into the side a hapless cybernetic troop carrier.
Over the ancient battlegrounds the eight small Marine armored vehicles fled back towards their FOB lander, chased every foot of the way by plasma beams. Although the weapons mounted on the Marine’s humpty-vees could not destroy the heavy armored cybernetic tanks, the humpty-vees were small, fast and maneuverable and, so far, none of them had been hit by anything other than light plasma beam fire.
“Those guys are pretty bad shots,” yelled Chensi.
“Maybe they’re part stormtrooper!” answered Houser.
“Storm…WHAT?” yelled Corporal Palkovic.
“Stormtroopers,” yelled Houser. “They were like knights in white armor from a long time ago! I was watching them in a series of movies about mystical religions…”
“…from the late 20th century,” yelled all the Marines at once.
“Yeah, we get it, Houser” yelled Corporal Palkovic to the platoon’s resident historical expert on late 20th century cinema. “Did any of those ancient movies somehow explain this?” said Palkovic, motioning to the wrecked debris of war machines which were scattered across the ancient battlefield.
“Not that I can recall,” answered Houser. “But my guess is that the inhabitants of Benzagu blasted themselves into extinction. But even though the Benzagu inhabitants wiped themselves out, the factories which constructed their war machines continued to operate, somehow taking the heads of their dead soldiers and fuzing them into cybernetic bodies!”
“Robo-zombies?” yelled Chensi. “We’re dealing with robo-zombies?” The enemy cybernetic vehicles were closing fast and were now only a half mile behind the Marines.
“It’s not an unheard of concept,” said LCpl. Houser. “I was watching a documentary from 1980’s earth where the city of Detroit started doing that with dead cops!”
“Still,” said Houser, firing his squad automatic weapon from his hatch and blasting apart two undead cybernetic soldiers off of one of the pursuing tanks. “With no one left to wage war, the factories went into a state of mechanical hibernation.”
The M1151 they were riding in jostled and bucked as a plasma blast exploded next to it, but Sgt. Wagner was unfazed, accelerating the armored humpty-vee over the grassy plains. The platoon’s three lighter armed M1096 Utility humpty-vees were ahead of the detachment with the three M1151’s bringing up the rear and providing what little covering fire they could provide.
Cpl. Palkovic was in the gunner’s turret of the M1151, firing back at the pursuing cybernetic tank vehicles, cursing as his light cannon did little to no damage to their pursuers. “So what made them come back to life?” he yelled.
“Probably those damned Skinny-Mogues,” yelled Chensi. “They came down here and began scavenging for stuff and those jerks probably accidently re-activated the factory. But by the looks of things, the factory scavenged them!” The wind whipped wildly around her as she stood in the open hatch. Chensi swung her flame gun to the side, aiming at what appeared to be a fast wheeled cybernetic armored weapon carrier 300 meters to her right and mounting a wicked looking plasma cannon that was rotating slowly towards SSgt. Talley,s fleeing M1151. Chensi aimed and fired, her well placed shot impacting with the plasma cannon and exploding. The undead cybernetic gunner was blown out of the turret and the cannon somersaulted into the air and crashed into the ground. The vehicle’s cybernetic driver and three other undead soldiers were engulfed in flames as they climbed out of the wrecked and rapidly melting vehicle.
“Makes sense,” yelled Palkovic, still firing the light cannon of his squad’s M1151 humpty-vee. The Marine’s small armored vehicles had shown that they could take hits from small caliber plasma beams and even small caliber rapid fire plasma weapons. But a hit from a heavier caliber plasma weapon would definitely severely damage a humpty-vee while a direct hit from one of the enemy tanks would turn every Marine inside their humpty-vee into instant molten heroes. Palkovic’s shells being ineffective against the cybernetic tanks, he trained the 35mm cannon on a smaller cybernetic armored vehicle which looked to be mounting a heavy rapid fire plasma weapon that was rapidly closing the distance. The impact of two 35mm rounds sent the smaller vehicle flipping into the air only to come crashing down on one of the tanks. The four undead soldiers operating the smaller vehicle were crushed as both cybernetic vehicles erupted in a ball of flames. The tank shrugged off the dead smaller vehicle and continued pursuit, firing its main plasma gun.
“Ugh…” Palkovic grunted as another plasma blast impacted uncomfortably close to their humpty-ee.
Captain Gabriel’s M1099 Command humpty-vee was also bouncing along the grassy plains as it raced towards the FOB lander, with the XO Lieutenant Rhamsburg at the controls. The medic, Cpl. Chapman was seated behind him and the CommSpec, PFC Rojas, was in the gunner’s hatch firing desperately back at their pursuers with the humpty-vee’s heavy machine gun. Captain Gabriel was seated in the TC seat, mentally urging his detachment to move faster as the lander was only two miles in the distance. Suddenly, he was startled to hear two big impacts on the armored door beside him. Looking out the two inch thick armored glass, Gabriel was surprised to see three of the undead, cybernetic soldiers actually running along side his vehicle, beating on the three inch thick duratanium door and actually denting it. Instead of mechanical hands with which to hold plasma beam lasers, each of these undead cybernetic soldiers was equipped with sharply angled metal blocks where their hands should be, presumably to be used as battering instruments.
“Rojas,” he yelled. “Can you get these guys?”
Rojas was firing almost non-stop behind them with the mounted M670 machine gun. He shifted awkwardly, kicking around hundreds of spent shell casings at his feet. “I can’t sir!” he yelled. “The damn machine gun won’t depress that low!”
“I got it,” said Captain Gabriel, pulling his combat pistol from its housing on his left shoulder armor plate. Popping the top hatch, he stood up in his seat. The wind hit him immediately as he looked over and stared almost face to face with one of the three undead cybernetic soldiers. Sparks flew from the undead soldier’s face every time Captain Gabriel hit it with 9.9mm rounds from his combat pistol. The undead soldier stumbled but continued running, keeping pace with Gabriel’s Command humpty-vee. Gabriel switched targets and fired at the second cybernetic soldier, then the third. All three slowed just enough for Lieutenant Rhamsburg to speed up get ahead of them. With that slight separation, PFC Rojas was able to depress his M670 machine gun to an angle where he could stitch their pursuers with machine gun fire. All three undead soldiers flopped over from the impacts and crashed into the ground, unmoving. But more of the cybernetic nightmares followed, firing their plasma rifles at the retreating Marines.
Gabriel jumped back down into his seat, clamping the top hatch behind him. “We can’t get fire superiority with the gunship gone,” he yelled to Lieutenant Rhamsburg.
“Yeah,” she answered as the humpty-vee jerked back and forth from yet another near miss plasma strike. “And we don’t have the time to bring these up into the FOB lander!”
“I don’t intend to,” answered Gabriel. “Once we get close enough, I intend to leave the Humpty-Vees here and book it the rest of the way to the lander. We’ll position them as best we can to form a wall.”
“We’ll need a lot more separation than we have now, Sam!” said Rhamsburg.
“I know,” said Gabriel, grabbing the vehicle’s comm-trans as the distance to the FOB lander rapidly closed. In the distance he could barely make out the shape of the lander . Next to it sat the crumpled and smoking form of their wrecked Hel-Plus gunship. “Lander! Lander! This is Detachment Actual. Do you have a visual on us?”
“Roger, Detachment Actual,” came the reply from the lander pilot. “We have you on visuals. My people got the crew of the gunship inside the lander and have them secured in jump seats! What the hell is going on?”
“Lander,” yelled Gabriel, breathing a sigh of relief that the gunship crew had made it back.
“Mine is the last humpty-vee in formation. I say again, my Command humpty-vee is Tail-end Charlie. Everything coming up on my ass is hostile! Can you give me some fire support, lander?”
The ground in front of his humpty-vee was stitched by plasma fire from the air. “Lander, can you target these damn things in the air?”
“Yeah,” came the lander pilot. “I’ll cover you with the 35mike-mike close-in weapon system and the 40mike-mike auto-grenade launchers, and I’ll have my lander complement on both of the 40mike-mike auto cannons! I’m not sure if that’s enough to take out those tank-looking fuckers chasing you!”
“We’ll take what we can get, lander! We’ll be there a couple minutes before you unload!” yelled Gabriel. Then he yelled, “Break! Break! Break! All detachment elements! We don’t have time to run these humpty-vees up into the lander! I’m taking the lead! Follow after me and when I stop my humpty-vee, I need all of you to stop and dismount! After the lander opens up, we need to position our humpty-vees in some form of obstructive wall then bound to the lander! Do you copy?”
Once again, Captain Gabriel’s comm-trans was filled with the voices of his Marines yelling, “OOH-RAA!”
From The Halls of Montezuma to the Depths of Outer Space III: What’s In a Name? (10/12)
What’s In a Name? (10/12)
With the Marines one mile from the FOB lander, the lander’s on board weapon systems opened fire on the things pursuing the Marines. The 35mm close-in-weapon system mounted atop the lander’s superstructure had targeted the two remaining cybernetic aircraft and the air was rent with the sound of a buzz saw. A hundred rounds streaked towards one of the enemy aircraft at it literally stopped and disintegrated in mid-air. The second cybernetic aircraft flew towards the FOB lander, firing its twin plasma beam weapons. The 35mm instantly recalculated the threat target, adjusting the barrels of its gun and fired again at the enemy aircraft. The undead pilot was ripped to shreds and its aircraft was reduced to a flaming slag of molten metal as it ricocheted off the top of the lander, colliding with the 35mm weapon system, and impacted into the ground behind it.
“That thing just wiped out our 35mike-mike!” yelled the lander’s flight engineer.
“We still have the auto cannons and grenade launchers!” answered the lander pilot as he began the pre-jump procedures. “Fire them until their barrels melt!”
Suddenly the lander was rocked by a hit from a heavy plasma beam blast fired from one of the four remaining cybernetic tanks.
The sudden massive return fire from the FOB lander gave the Marines the few moments they needed to prepare for the last dash to the FOB lander. It had taken a hit from one of the enemy tanks and Gabriel could see that it had sustained some damage from the impact, but thankfully, the extra heavy armored plating that protected the lander kept it intact. Fifty meters from the FOB lander, Gabriel ordered Rhamsburg to halt their humpty-vee. The command humpty-vee came to an abrupt halt and they all scrambled out of the vehicle, Lieutenant Rhamsburg pulling a lever that popped the rear engine hatch before leaving. In less than a second, all of the Marine vehicles had stopped, forming a makeshift wall of armor. All of the rear engine hatches had been popped open by the vehicle drivers. Slowly, the FOB lander’s main ramp began to descend.
“Set them for thirty seconds, Marines! Set them for thirty!” yelled Captain Gabriel to his Marines as they quickly scrambled out of their vehicles and began sprinting towards the lander. Gabriel pulled a high explosive thermal grenade from a pouch on his frontal armor and set the timer for thirty seconds before tossing it into the engine compartment of his vehicle. His Marines had practiced this emergency procedure dozens of times under live fire conditions and he was confident that his vehicle commanders had mimicked his actions.
The dreaded call echoed across the entire Marine line.
Gabriel looked over to his medic Corporal Chapman who was in his vehicle, but Chaps was already out and running towards the 3rd squad M1151 humpty-vee.
Chapman arrived to see Sergeant Wagner, Chensi and Houser pulling the body of Corporal Palkovic from the wrecked 35mm gun turret. Palkovic’s right arm above his elbow was gone, the wound cauterized by the intense heat of the plasma blast that hit him. He was turning pale, going into shock as his team mates tried to get him on a stretcher.
“No! No, comrades,” said Palkovic waving them off. “I can… I can run!” Oddly, he now said these words in a heavy Russian accent, and followed this by more Russian words spoken in a tone of determination and defiance. Wagner and Chapman threw Palkovic over their shoulders supporting his weight as they dashed to the lander.
“Yeah! You tell ‘em, Pal!” yelled Chensi . She then yelled something in Russian which made Palkovic laugh as Wagner and Chapman hauled him up the ramp and into the lander. She and Houser ran behind them, firing their weapons back towards the enemy as they retreated to the lander. Weapons squad formed a small defensive perimeter, firing for all they were worth, as the rest of the platoon dashed up the ramp.
“What did Palkovic say?” yelled Houser.
“I’m not fluent in Russian,” answered Chensi. “But I think he said that it would take more than a flesh wound to take down a raging Cossak!”
“And what did you say that made him laugh?” yelled Houser.
“I think I called his mother a toaster,” said Chensi as she fired her flame gun. “Like I said, my Russian isn’t the greatest!”
By this time, over three hundred undead cybernetic soldiers were emerging from their troop carriers and began marching in a formation towards the lander. Slowly and methodically, the formation approached the line of stopped Marine vehicles, marching as if on parade despite the withering return fire they were receiving from the Marines.
“Move your asses up here, 3rd herd!” yelled Gunny Boyer. “You having a barbecue down there?”
Gunny Boyer and all of the platoon’s squad leaders stood exposed at the top of the ramp, firing at the approaching army of mechanical horrors which was fast approaching behind them. Firing ports which lined the landers perimeter suddenly began opening and Marines began firing back from inside the lander. The rest of 3rd squad scrambled up the ramp, Chensi and Houser bringing up the rear as the ramp finally slammed shut behind them with a metallic clang. As the formation of undead soldiers approached the line of abandoned Marine vehicles, the vehicles suddenly exploded in a white flash of heat and fuel. Secondary explosions immediately followed as all high explosive ammunition and ordinance that was left on the vehicles also detonated. The blasts rocked the lander and shook the ground, toppling over most of the undead cybernetic soldiers, and although almost half of their number had been destroyed, the undead soldiers reformed their lines and continued forwards, seemingly oblivious to what had just occurred. Behind them, their cybernetic armored vehicles continued to slowly move forwards.
“What do you mean we can’t take off?” yelled Captain Gabriel.
“That tank hit the main power feed coupling!” said the FOB lander pilot.
“Where is the power feed coupling?” yelled Gabriel.
“Behind one of the main armored plates below deck, but it’s been destroyed,” answered the FOB lander pilot. “We can still bypass it to a second power feed coupling on the upper deck! We just need a damn power source to plug in and actuate the jump thrusters!”
Captain Gabriel frowned. Where the hell are they going to come up with a power source strong enough to jump start the jump thrusters in the middle of a damn battle? “You bypass the power feed coupling,” yelled Gabriel to the lander pilot. “My Marines will try to find another…”
“Did someone say they need a power source?” smiled Chensi holding her last fully charged M15A2 capacitor charge in her hand, the canister which powered her M11 flame gun.
Gabriel looked desperately at the lander pilot.
“It should work,” yelled the pilot as the lander was rocked again by a powerful plasma blast. “If you can somehow connect it to the power feed coupling topside!”
“Okay,” yelled Gabriel. “Chensi! Wagner! Barner! With me to the power feed coupling, now!”
“Sizemore!” yelled the lander pilot, snapping his fingers at the lander’s flight engineer. “Go with them! Show them where the coupler and the tag out switch are located!”
“Aye, aye, skipper!” yelled a heavily mustached fleet petty officer as he relinquished his 40mike-mike auto cannon to one of Gabriel’s Marines.
“I’m coming, too,” yelled Lieutenant Rhamsburg, coming down off one of the firing ports to reload her M88 rifle.
“No!” yelled Captain Gabriel. “I need you to stay here and organize the defense. You need to buy us enough time to get to the power coupling!”
Rhamsburg nodded and turned to do what she was ordered. Ammunition needed to be distributed, the 40mike-mike auto grenade launchers and 40mike-mike auto cannons needed to be reloaded, machine gunners needed more ammunition, Marines needed to be positioned to fill gaps in the very thin firing line, and the injured needed to be tended to as smoke filled the inside of the lander and the deafening noise of combat filled her ears. Lieutenant Rhamsburg gritted her teeth. “I got this, sir! Go!”
Navy Petty Officer Sizemore led the Marines up two sets of metal stairs past the deck which housed the FOB lander’s piloting bridge. At another narrow landing, the big Navy petty officer held out a big hand to Sergeant Wagners chest, stopping him while slamming his fist against an access panel on the bulkhead wall next to him. The thin metal door of the panel swung open and the petty officer reached in, pulling down the yellow and black lever which cut power to the jump thrusters. “Sergeant, I need you to stay here next to this tag out. When we tell you, I need you to cut power on to the jump thrusters!”
Wagner nodded as the petty officer turned and led the rest of the group to a metal ladder connected to the bulkhead which led up to a hatch that opened to the top of the FOB lander. He disappeared out of the hatch followed by Captain Gabriel, Chensi, and Barner. They had emerged into fresh air atop the lander on a very narrow ledge barely three feet wide, on one side of them was the sloping form of the superstructure which led up to the communications and navigation array towers. On the other side of them, the hull sloped downwards at a steep angle which ended at a drop off that would dump a falling body one and a half stories to the ground. The wind whipped around them as they took in the scene of the desperate battle happening just below them. Marines were firing from weapon emplacements inside the lander, mercilessly cutting down the advancing cybernetic soldiers. But the enemy war vehicles were not far behind them, slamming the lander with blast after blast of plasma beam fire. The rising clouds of white smoke after each hit brought the scent of burned metal to their noses.
“Over here,” yelled the petty officer. “Be careful! This ledge is narrow!” Plasma beams shot up at them from the ground, but most went over their heads.
Barner, who was at the end of the group, got down on the narrow ledge and shouldered her squad automatic weapon. “I’ll cover you!” she yelled as she fired.
The petty officer ran down past a set of metal boxes about two feet foot square which lined the lower part of the ledge, stopping at the one near the end. Opening it, he pointed at the inside and yelled, “This is it! This is the secondary power coupling!””
Chensi knelt down next to it, plasma beams arching up behind her. She had already removed the capacitor’s weapon connector at the top of the cylinder and pulled out the red, blue and green wires which regulated the power control output. Sliding back a smaller panel inside the secondary power coupling, she pulled out the red, blue, and green connecting wires inside the panel.
“Wait! Why do you know how to disassemble a charging capacitor, Chensi?” yelled Gabriel. He was standing with his back to Chensi, using his own body to shield her as he fired his rifle down at the enemy. “Not only is that against regulations, it’s highly dangerous and illegal!”
“I don’t have a boyfriend, sir!” yelled Chensi from behind. “I need to find something productive to do with my time! Now shut up and let me concentrate!”
“Red to red, blue to blue and green to green!” said Chensi. “Too easy!”
“Yeah,” yelled the petty officer. “If you want to blow us all to hell! You’re jump starting the thrusters, not powering up a flame gun! You need to connect the correct wire to the correct power distributer and drain the energy at one time!”
Chensi frowned, finally plugging the green wire of the capacitor to the red wire on the power coupling. “Try this!” she yelled.
“Wagner, hit the lever!” yelled Gabriel into the comms.
“It’s up!” replied Wagner from the power control tag out panel on the deck below them.
“Sir,” yelled the Navy petty officer into his comm to the lander pilot. “Do we have power?”
“Negative,” replied the pilot. “Systems are still off line!”
“Wagner, shut off the power!” yelled Gabriel into the comms.
“I’m down to my last box of ammo,” yelled Barner.
“Chensi,” yelled Gabriel. “We don’t have time for…”
“I said shut up, sir,” said Chensi in an annoyed voice. “Let me think!”
Gabriel turned and resumed firing down at the enemy. He was also down to his last magazine of ammunition.
“Think, Chensi, think,” she said to herself. “Red distributes power evenly throughout the component system. Blue steals all of the power and slaves it to a single central master. Green, in this case, is completely useless.” Quickly, she unplugged the green wire and connected the red wire on the capacitor to the blue wire on the power coupling. “Try it now!”
“Wagner!” yelled Gabriel.
Wagner immediately pulled up on the power level. “It’s on, sir!”
The capacitor’s charging indicator immediately went from full green to deep red, indicating that all power had been drained from it. The lander pilot yelled, “We’re up! The jump thrusters are online! Everyone get down from there! We…are…leaving!”
“Go! Go!” yelled Gabriel. He yanked Chensi to her feet and pushed her ahead of him, then disconnected the spent charging capacitor and tossed it aside before closing the cover of the panel box. Barner, being the closest to the hatch, swiftly climbed down it first, followed closely by the big Navy petty officer. Chensi and Gabriel were only a few steps behind when the earth suddenly buckled and shook. The entire FOB lander was tossed upwards a few feet before slamming violently down to the ground. Chensi lost her balance and Gabriel reached out to grab her as they both fell over the side of the ledge.
Gabriel held Chensi in his arms, trying to turn his back towards the ground as they fell, seeing the look of shock and fear on her face. He intended to push her off him the second that they hit, hoping to lessen the impact of the blow to her body. They both hit the ground hard.