An Onslaught Antagonized, Part Five

This is the final part of “An Onslaught Antagonized,” and I’ve enjoyed writing it – just as I hoped you’ve enjoyed reading it.

Come to think of it, I wonder if I could add to it?

-JB Steele

Chapter Five

Krasnoyarsk Outpost Two, Siberian District, Russia

25 August, 2259 Terra Year

0432 Zulu Time

When the call came through to the oversized command post, the Lieutenant Colonel commanding the base picked it up.

“Tau Base CP, Lieutenant Colonel Davis speaking.”

He listened for a few moments, then waved his arm at a captain. The captain came over quickly. The lieutenant colonel scribbled an emphatic note while he pressed the headset’s speaker to his ear. The captain saw that note read “INVASION INBOUND!!!” He looked up at his boss, who jerked his head in the affirmative. The captain flipped the note over and dashed off at reply, then went over to a controller. He spoke to the man, who started punching buttons, and immediately left the room at a run.

“OK, and when was this supposed to get here? Soon but not sure when? OK, sir, we are locked and cocked and ready to roll.” He looked at the reply note. It said, “Sounding alert” without benefit of punctuation. The base alarms started to sound.

“Yes, sir, we are now on alert, and will deploy a force immediately. Operational control will remain with you, then pass to me. Yes, sir – same to you. Out.”

He stood up.

“OK, people, this ain’t no drill. I want deployment plan Alpha Zed Zero up and running five minutes ago. I want everything in stocks deployed, down to the last firecracker under those rules of engagement. We are now under operational control of Colonel Jacobson, and he wants his perimeter reinforced. Get those IFF units up and dialed into his unit’s codes. We don’t want to be shot by our side.”

The controllers were all too busy to look at each other, but they were all thinking the same thing. Alpha Zed Zero was intended to repel invaders. The button pushing and switch flipping reached a crescendo, underneath the mutters of hurried voices into headsets. The doors opened and a double clutch of security officers took their alert posts. They had personal sidearms for all and all but four had quantum displacement rifles. The four that didn’t have rifles carried disruption rift rifles with small backpacks. Those four posted on all four walls, away from corners.

“Update the plot.” Those words came from Colonel Davis, and at his command the wall above the security officer blanked. It lit up with status updates for all units assigned to the base, showing that most of those units showed ready and awaiting movement orders and the others very close to finishing.

“Establish a dedicated link with Colonel Jacobson’s command post, and identify us as a subordinate unit.”

A chime sounded, and in a corner a communications window opened up with the other command post in the background. Colonel Jacobson looked out at them.

“Colonel Davis? Are you online?”

Lieutenant Colonel Davis stood up.

“Yes, sir, we are, one hundred percent. We are moving out to reinforce your perimeter with everything we’ve got.”

“Just what all do you have? You guys have been mighty secretive.”

“Troops, tanks, guns, and mini-fighters.”

“Wow. Let’s see, I’ll want – “he was interrupted by an orderly, who gave him a tablet with updates. He scanned it quickly. “Jim, the invasion force is headed this way. It’s been sighted with space based assets deploying from a single ship that just popped out from hyperspace. It’s strange, though.”

“How, sir?”

“If they’re sending an invasion force from space, why a single ship and then just enough to hit one spot? This one?”

“Dunno, sir, might want to ask them that.”

“No, I don’t want to give them any ideas. Can you give me overhead surveillance?”

“Sure. They have a loiter time of a little over twelve hours.”

Colonel Davis punched in a quick note on his tablet, and the orders went out. In the launch bays, the armored control stations closed as the pilots hustled in quickly. As they belted in, the automated systems ran diagnostics on the systems that they were preparing to make use of. The pilots settled in and punched buttons to accept the diagnostic results as each telltale lit up green. The only thing left to do was to push the “LAUNCH COMMIT” buttons, and each pilot hammered them down.

The mini-fighters screamed down the rails as the electromagnetic launchers slung them into the air. Before they reached the termination point and became airborne, the encrypted communication links between the small planes and the pilots’ armored shells in the hangers steadied. Redundant links came online. Weapons statuses read out in each pilot’s display, and repeated on an auxiliary status board in Colonel Davis’ control room. The mini-fighters streaked out, their heavy metal based engines pushing them in excess of 30 gees. They spread out in all directions, as a larger, slower airborne unit launched off the rails to take up a position much higher in the sky. This unarmed unit was tasked with overall surveillance, and four mini-fighters loitered with it to protect it. In moments, the others that had advanced ahead saw the front wave of the invasion force setting down in a valley.

“Sir, it looks like they’re about here,” Davis said, tapping a spot on a topographical map, “and they are going to be considerate and use the main road to get here. Uh-oh.”

“What?” Colonel Jacobson said quickly.

“Would you believe that there are two groups of Trippies trying to circle around to the back?”

“You don’t say. Did they read a book of tactics?”

“I don’t know, sir, but in the moments that I had a surveillance look, I saw what could be mortars. Well, it looked like what we have for mortars, but no telling for sure what their version is.”

Colonel Jacobson tapped the more distant group, highlighting it for his staff to see. It projected up on the second auxiliary screen running down the side of the room.

“Jim, I think I’ll send a tiger team out for this group. The other group appears to be closer to your compound, so no sense in crossing response teams. Can you handle that group for me?”

In the other CP, the lieutenant colonel smiled grimly, working his console to send units out to do just that.

“Sir, just forget about them. We’re on it. Also, I’m rolling tanks here, here, here, here, and over here,” the designated areas flashed as he tapped his map. Each tap also allocated those areas for his tank crews to report to with all haste.

“Speaking of tanks, how did you get those?”

“Can’t say, sir, or I’ll lose my Good Conduct merit badge from the Scouts.”

Colonel Jacobson rolled his eyes. He really should have known better than to ask. But, he’d been curious for nearly six months now, ever since the other base had been set up.

“Fair enough. What about the troops?”

“Sir, they left about ten minutes ago, and most of them should be establishing positions around your perimeter. It’s getting about time to get some reports from them.”

“Do they have the right challenge responses for my people out there?”

“Yes, sir, they do, plus the electronic identification tags in their uniforms for the scout vision gear. They’re covered.”

“EID tags, too? We’ve been waiting for ours for four months! How did you get yours?”

“Sorry, sir, you know how it is.” The lieutenant colonel was apologetic in tone as well as words.

Seeing that Davis was doing his best to support him, but unable to talk about things he couldn’t, Colonel Jacobson took a breath and sat down at his console. The screen lit up automatically with the status updates copied from the big screen, and an inset of the other man popped up.

“Okay, Jim, keep this line opened up.”

A different security officer bustled up to the Colonel, and whispered in his ear.

“Sir, we’ve got something disturbing.”

“What is it?”

The man motioned him off to the side.

“Sir, we’ve just discovered a couple of racks of special weapons have been checked out for use.”

“What the hell? Who authorized that?”

“Sir, we didn’t know until a few minutes ago. Somebody futzed with the logs – a skilled somebody, that is – and did it just after the last visual check six hours ago. Computer logs show a discrepancy in count that was corrected by whoever hacked it.”

Colonel Jacobson didn’t need this now.

“Well, who, then?”

“Sir, the ID stamp was Captain Felicia Màrtainn.”

Colonel Phil Jacobson sat down heavily. He looked over at the communications specialist.

“Keep trying to raise them. Master Chief, thank you for your report. Do everything you can to gather more information. If there’s a way to disarm those weapons from here, do it, and don’t wait to ask me about it.”

“Sir, that’s going to be a problem.”

“What? Why?”

The Master Chief at Arms sighed heavily.

“Sir, they knew which ones to get. Our stocks have three inactivated units that are technically “special weapons,” but aren’t fitted with disarmament packages. The nature of their warheads and physics blow every single effort to do that out of the water.”

Colonel Jacobson sat up.

“Are you saying…”

“Yes, sir.” The master chief’s eyes were hard as agate. “They stole two of them.”

Shock coursed over the Colonel’s face. His mind seized on another piece of information.

“Inactivated? Why do we have inactive weapons, and more to the point, why wasn’t I told me had them?”

“We was supposed to get replacements for them, and then get them out of here, but the Defense Appropriations Under-committee and the Hegemony Security Council has had a spat. Every time one of them signs the order, the other one countermands it for some reason or another. So, we still have them, but they’re classified inactive by Hegemony mandate. As for why, well sir, we have specific orders not to discuss them with anyone not on a list of people cleared for it, and your name wasn’t on the list. The only reason I can say anything now is the disappearance of those weapons. You know the next part of what I have to say as well as I do, but I have to say this: No one, not your wife, not your mistress, not anyone here or anyone off this base learns about the existence of those weapons. Sorry sir, but I had to say that.”

“Master Chief, no apologies. You are doing your job, and I hear and accept what you’re saying. I guess we know why Captain Màrtainn and her crew went radio silent. How did they know about these weapons?”

“Sir, we think someone on her crew, or Captain Màrtainn herself, had prior knowledge and blabbed.”

“Wonderful. Keep working at it.”

“Aye, sir, we will.”

“And Master Chief?”

“Yes, sir?”

“I know that you’re in charge of the unit until we get a qualified officer in, but if you want to write a nasty letter to the DAU and the Security Council about their overweening interest in politics over weapons security, I’ll countersign every copy you write.”

The enlisted man smiled, but the bags under his eye belied every bit of humor he might show.

“Aye-aye, sir. I think I might.”

He braced to attention and left.

***

Captain Felicia Màrtainn sat alone in the small conference room. The high-speed team interceptor craft wasn’t as fast as a mini-fighter, but it was capable of low-earth orbit. This allowed it to use parabolas to reach places in quicker times than the shorter ranged craft could do.

She reached into his pocket and pulled out a photo of a couple. In it, on a beach, was a younger Felicia, being held up in both arms of a man with dark hair and laughing blue eyes. The photo showed both of them in a less carefree time of their life, with the threat of war in the distance of future’s reach. She sighed, and her fingertips traced over the man.

“Dima. God, how I wish I could be back on that beach with you, without any worries.”

She gazed at the photo for a few more moments, and tucked it back in her pocket when a discreet knock came on the door.

“Come!”

First Lieutenant Horacio Bisbee came in. He looked at his CO, and without a word opened up a drawer. Two shot glasses came out, and he pulled a flask out of his pocket. He poured a generous shot out in both glasses, then put away the flask. He put her shot down in front of her and waited for her to grab it before lifting his.

“What are we toasting, Horacio?”

“Those left behind, those missed, and an end to this damned war.”

She nodded sadly.

“I’ll drink to that.”

They threw the shots back solemnly. After a moment, she looked at him.

“Horacio, have you ever thought about starting another family?”

He sighed.

“Yes, I have, but every time I did, the ghosts came back. I’ve lost one entire family and barely survived the dreams and the guilt. I couldn’t do it again.”

She nodded, sadly.

“I know it well, Horacio. I know about the tears, the sleepless nights, the changes in your body. I know about the deep abyss in your soul and that Nietzsche quote about it looking back at you.”

Another knock came at the door. Horacio quickly hid the shot glasses, putting them back in the drawer.

“Come!”

A communications rating came in with a tablet. He handed it to Captain Màrtainn.

“Ma’am, that is the text copy of an encrypted automated message burst that we just copied on passive scanners. Invasion warning at Krasnoyarsk Two, and a patrol was wiped out. The Trippy prisoners at the outpost knew about the patrol getting wiped before their comm units could squawk distress.”

“How?”

“Ma’am, the best theory is that the Trippies have some form of telepathy. There must have been enough observation that they believe strongly about it, because they’ve repeated it. Also, there is a specific reason for the invasion, and that reason is that all the prisoners, female and otherwise, are “discarded – used up.” That is the exact phrase they used, ma’am.”

Captain Màrtainn’s face paled, and her lips thinned. To his credit, the communications rating stared back, not breaking eye contact.

“Ma’am, do you want to send a reply or acknowledgment?”

“No. Maintain communications blackout. Nothing goes out.”

“Aye-aye, ma’am.” The communications rating left.

“Did you have something else in mind, Horacio?”

“Ma’am, I just wanted to say it’s been an honor to serve with you, cliché it might be to say that.”

“It’s not a cliché if you mean it. Horacio, it’s been my honor.”

They shook hands over the tabletop.

“Ma’am, we’re almost to the endpoint. About ten minutes out. All systems are checked out and ready, the special weapons have been quadrupled checked, and everyone is ready to do their part. We just need you to give the final word.”

“Well, let’s go, then. We have a place in history to be in.”

Màrtainn rose and lead the way out. The doors closed silently behind them.

***

Smoke filled the command post as Lieutenant Colonel Davis coughed.

“Get those tanks back online!”

“Sir, we’ve lost most of them, but the rest are spinning back up! They report another minute!”

“We may not have another minute! Get one of the micro-fighters on that advance group for air-to-mud!”

“Aye sir!”

Davis looked at the cracked screen.

“Colonel?”

Colonel Jacobson clawed his way back from the floor he’d landed on when the Trippy bombs hit his command post.

“Jim, what’s your status?”

“Sir, I’ve lost most of my tanks and air support, although I still have the airborne early warning system. I can still do precision targeting, and they can still handle the targeting requests from your assets like they’ve been doing. Half of my ground troops are gone, but we’ve stopped the push for now. It looks like the Trippies are massing and trying to reset for another run at us, but I think they’re in just as bad shape as we are.”

“Tell me about it. I’ve got eighty percent casualties all across the board. One punch is all I have left. Everything is contained everywhere but that one corner in the southwest. If we can knock that down, then we can go into the containment areas and secure them from all the Trippy pockets of resistance.”

Colonel Davis slapped at his hand-held device until it came up and showed him the information he was looking for.

“Colonel, I’ve got one tank and maybe three fighters to send. There’s a platoon of heavy weapons nearby, too.”

“Task them all.”

“Tasking.”

A few keystrokes and the unit started smoking. Davis cursed the unit, the place that built it, and the lowest-bidder government contractor that designed it. He crawled across the floor, one leg dragging behind him, and managed to get to his command console. A bleeding Marine helped drag him.

It was a miracle that the screen popped up as quickly as it did, considering all the other damage in the command post. The lieutenant colonel input the tasking commands and held his breath. The communications satellite had been shot out hours ago, and they only had the backup unit. It was buried in a shell similar to the fighter pilots’ shells, and didn’t have as strong connections to the communications network.

The console accepted the commands, and Davis breathed a sigh of relief. It was made longer when the acknowledgments rolled in.

Suddenly, everything stopped.

“The hell?”

He looked at his screen, and Colonel Jacobson looked as mystified as he was.

“Jim? Did everything just stop for you, too?”

“Yes, sir, it did.”

“Get a take from the recon platform, or the fighters. Something. I want to know what’s going on.”

Davis was already doing that, since most of the electronics ratings had been killed in the battle, but he wasn’t going to say that just yet. They had to wait a few minutes, the tension building up as the long seconds ticked by without any noise or anything to break it up.

Finally, the images came back. Trippies lay everywhere. It looked like some lay dead, and others in agony, holding what passed for their heads.

“Sir?”

Colonel Jacobson turned back to the screen, after taking a report from a bruised and bleeding Marine.

“Jim, it seemed to the electronics group that there was a huge EM surge right before everything stopped. Right before that, there was a couple of double-flash signature events at the Grand Canyon.”

“Nukes?”

“Can’t say, Jim. I’ll lose my Good Conduct merit badge.”

The lieutenant colonel shook his head.

“But are we done fighting?”

The colonel looked at the lieutenant colonel on his screen.

“It sure looks that way. However it happened, it’s done. I guess start cleaning up and start doing your reports. Your help saved us, and I’m going to put that in my report. Along with some other things you don’t know about.”

“Aye-aye, sir. Glad to help.” He signed off, confused by the last part of the colonel’s statement, but deciding not to push it. He started the long process of cleaning up.

***

He still didn’t know what stopped the fight, or what killed the Trippies. He had scratched up several squads of Marines with blood in their eyes, and send them out to check. All of them reported back that every Trippy they could find was dead. Most didn’t have any signs of battle injuries, but all of them had apparently suffered extreme agony.

Colonel Davis looked up at the communications rating standing at the door. He waved him in, and watched as the younger man gingerly stepped through what was left of the doorway. He had a sling on his arm that exactly matched the one that the colonel sported.

“Sir, we got a superencrypted message from Captain Màrtainn. We just finished decoding it. There was a lot of data with it, too.”

“From Màrtainn? What is it?”

“Right here, sir.” He handed the colonel a secure high-capacity chip, and retired. Colonel Jacobson slid the chip into his tablet and read the message.

To Colonel Jacobson, or whoever gets this.

I, Captain Felicia Alexandra Màrtainn, UTHMC, make this my last recording. I have no family to leave anything to or anything to leave, thanks to the Trippies. I’m not going to leave a long note. Yes, I stole the weapons, Colonel, and yes, I’m about to use them to take out this Trippy base. It will sacrifice me and my team, but no one here has anything left or anyone to mourn us.

The Trippies have to be dealt with. There has been war for a long, long time now. They have to be exterminated. They have to be completely removed, and I’m going to start the removing, right now.

We’ve dodged a lot of the little pieces of junk they call fighters. All it takes is a close miss from a supraorbital capable craft like this, heavily armored, and the turbulence does the rest. The antiaircraft is closer, but it’s nothing. There isn’t much resistance, almost like most of the Trippies that are supposed to be here are somewhere else. Like, maybe in an invasion force somewhere, raping, pillaging, and looting.

The weapons are armed, and the fail safes are removed. We’ve dodged the antiaircraft fire and are moments away from the Trippy base. There’s no more resistance, and we have a clear shot at the base. The strange thing is, we’re monitoring a lot of EM band transmissions and something else. We don’t know what it is, but it’s easily as powerful as any transmitter. It could be the telepathy that was mentioned in the report of the destroyed patrol. I don’t know. I’m attaching recording logs of everything, for scientific curiosity, if nothing else. I won’t see the results, but someone will.

I’m sending this message out now, with superencryption that will take longer to decode. When that’s done, the Trippies will be gone.

And so will we.

I’m not doing this for madness’ sake. I’m doing it for a very good reason. For every husband, wife, son, daughter, or other family member lost. For every lover, friend or acquaintance. For everyone lost to someone.

For my family.

For Dima.

Captain Felicia Alexandra Màrtainn, United Terra Hegemony Marine Corps, recording.”

THE END

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