• Ace

Among the Worms - Ch1 Pt1

FOD 1339

09/03/3025 Z

Planet: Addick

Outakara District, Tanuma Province, People’s Republic of Uplium

Gregory Leathers and Allen Barrie of Forward Operational Detachment 1339 laid side by side, only separated by their MASCR (Multiple Application Scoped Crew-served Rifle). The long barrel of the 25mm rifle pointed vaguely to the violet horizon. Behind them, a scratched and dented grey PVS-141S or “Pintel”, a 4 wheeled specialized all terrain vehicle, sat with 4 backpacks, grenades, anti armor weapons, communication equipment and various other pieces of equipment attached however Greg and Al could manage.

“Pale Horse 21, Pale Horse 22.” The Radio crackled through Al’s earpiece.

“22, 21, send it.” He spoke, quietly, as the sun set on the violet Tanuma horizon.

“Stand by for White Hawk.” The radio crackled again, signaling that the supporting element was about to be in contact with the moon’s defenses.

“Roger,” Al replied, as he glanced at Greg, who simply nodded, cycling his night vision goggles from thermal imaging to detection vision. The area around them lit up in his vision as if it were day. Moving sources of heat generated a target location linked between the Combined Arms Soldier Integration System (CASIS).

Al rolled over onto the MASCR and peered down the scope, it’s advanced targeting system automatically reading atmospherics and autonomously adding corrections to the scope’s crosshairs. Greg stared through the MASCR’s separate Marking Scope they liked to call the "Eye Ball", which also instantly churned through information and relayed it to the MASCR’s sight and their CASIS.

Planetary assaults always seemed so ghostly to Greg, watching the ships maneuver, seemingly aimless, like the stars in the heavens had come alive. For the first few hours it was always silent, the storm was raging just beyond the atmosphere, but Pale Horse’s mission was here: Marking targets for the Egypt; a hulking Leviathan class cruiser specifically outfitted for use in support of interplanetary operations. The Egypt drifted high above them, one of those stars, from their perspective, fluttering indiscriminately about the sky.

The ground suddenly shook, followed by a low humming noise, Al and Greg immediately identified it as an extra atmospheric particle cannon or more commonly referred to as an X gun.

“Pale Horse 22, 21.” Greg spoke into his radio.

“Wait one.” The radio immediately responded.

Greg watched his HUD as he manually shifted from “PH TAC” to “Egypt Fires” on his comm system.

“-fires, Pale Horse 22, Danger close, Adjust Fire, Grid, 11 hotel-kilo-yankee 1221 4332, X gun in metal structure, requesting Kinetic, when ready, over.” The comms hissed as Pale Horse 22 quickly sent up the fire mission.

Al listened over PH TAC silently as the base he was watching came alive. The ground violently shook followed by a dull smack as the kinetic round entered the atmosphere, the ground shook, immediately followed by a horrendous bang as the kinetic round smashed into ground. Three snaps echoed across the landscape from the ordinance previously punching through the sound barrier.

“Egypt Fires, Pale Horse 22, fire for effect.” Hissed into Greg’s ear as he watched the men inside the remote military base dash out into PVS-141s and light armored vehicles.

The sky erupted in slaps and snaps while the ground rumbled as kinetic rounds entered the atmosphere on their way to the X gun’s grid location.

“Here comes the loud part.” Greg said, as he tapped a button on the MASCR’s Marking Scope. A small light within the display blinked green to indicate a “lock” was achieved. “Egypt Fires, Pale Horse 21.”

“Send your mission.” The radio hissed.

“Adjust Fire, Grid, 11 hotel-kilo-yankee 2161 3112, Company sized mechanized infantry in the open, requesting Kinetic, request splash, when ready, over.”

Al watched patiently as Greg wrote down the incoming message to the observer, understanding that even at 2.5 kilometers, the MASCR’s 25mm Armor Piercing, Fin Guided rounds could easily punch a hole in the soft shell of the vehicles. That was a last resort however, it was much more effective to apply their capabilities indirectly.

“Shot out.” Greg said into his microphone, in response to Egypt Fires.

The sky snapped and popped as Greg’s kinetic round plummeted through the atmosphere.

“Splash out.” Greg responded again.

Ten seconds later the massive round swallowed part of the 800 square meter military outpost in a crater.

“Egypt Fires, Pale Rider 21, fire for effect.” Greg said, a slight grin on his face as he sat up, cross legged. His modular assault rifle leaning against the extra atmospheric radio or XRAY.

Again the sky crackled as the car sized rounds punched through clouds on their way to the surface.

“Splash over.” Hissed into Greg’s ear.

“Splash out.” He responded as he watched what could be easily mistaken for falling meteors change slightly in direction and slow to meet one another in order to smash against the ground at once. The flash was so bright that, even though Greg and Al expected it, it still made them jump. Greg was barely able to follow the shockwave with his eyes as it rushed away from the epicenter, meeting them right before the residual earsplitting smack of the rounds.

“Egypt Fires, Pale Horse 21, stand by for BDA.” Greg spoke into the radio.

“Negative, Pale Horse 21, kinetic guns are down, we are taking fire and maneuvering, jump to Palace Fires.”

“Roger, stay safe.”

“You too.” Greg responded, then turned to Al. “Egypt is taking fire and lost all K-Gs.”

“That’s not good.” Al said, nonchalantly as he sat up and back against a rock.

The sky groaned and crackled as the battle entered the atmosphere.

Greg keyed his radio, “Palace Fires, this is Pale Horse 21, be advised, we will be talking to you for a short time as the Egypt Maneuvers.”

“We’re tracking, Pale Horse 21, just stay on our tac until further notice, the Egypt has been hit by satellite defenses and is down to life support power.”

“Roger that Palace Fires, thanks for the update.” Greg responded, again turning to Al, “The Egypt is floating.”

“Damn.” Al replied as he detached the barrel of the MASCR and started packing it in its drag bag.

Meanwhile, Greg changed his comm system over to “AIR PH” in anticipation for the landing parties.

The sky erupted in the buzzing of lasers and swoosh of long range missiles as dropships began rushing through the atmosphere, escorted by circling fighters, eliminating ground targets with brutal accuracy.

Packing up their equipment, Al and Greg jumped in the Pintel and started it.

“Pale Horse 21, Gypsy five-oh.” The radio crackled into Greg’s ear as Al backed the vehicle partially down the black mountainside.

“Send it for Pale Horse 21.” Greg replied, while Al turned and started in the direction of the obliterated military outpost.

“We have breached, I believe I see the LZ at the following grid, break.” Greg stood by with his notepad and pen as they bumped down the night trail, lights off, relying only on enhanced optical devices, “11 hotel-kilo-yankee 2155 3130.”

“That’s an affirm’ Gypsy five-oh.” Greg responded as his helmet cracked against the roof of the PVS-141.

Poking his head out the window of the PVS-141, Greg attempted to spot Gypsy 50 as it dropped from the sky.

“Bump!” Al called, as the Pintel slowed.

Greg braced himself as the Pintel shook from the large depression. As he righted himself, he spotted a cluster of bright lights in the black sky.

“Gypsy five-oh, Pale horse 21,” Greg called again over the radio. “We are in a grey PVS-141, marked with an X on the hood, do you have eyes on?”

“Stand by.” The radio crackled while Al dodged the monolithic mineral spires that jutted from the wet ground, “Harpy has eyes on your location Pale Horse 21, we are still looking.”

“Roger, you may not be able to see us anymore, we’re in a spike field.” Greg advised as they closed in on the crater.

“Sounds good, we’re about 5 mikes from the VLZ now.” Greg watched as the bright cluster of lights of incoming dropships made a combat descent, perpendicular to the ground, then disappeared behind the mineral spikes.

“Gypsy five-oh, Pale Horse 21, be advised, we are approaching from the south west, we are about one click out right now, over.” Greg said into the microphone as the Pintel broke free from the spire forest.

“Roger, yeah, we gotcha on thermals,” Gypsy 50 responded as the cluster of lights slowed, lighting the crater in a white glow.

The group of dropships landed, the massive engines sending dust up the walls of the craters, creating a wall of debris as Pale Horse 21 arrived at the LZ.

“Gypsy five-oh, Pale Horse 21, we have arrived and are about to crest the crater edge to the south, over.” Greg called, as the Pintel slowed.

“Roger that Pale Horse 21, go ahead, you can roll over to first LIB and let them know.” Gypsy 50 replied, from somewhere within the wall of dust and debris.

Greg sat in the Pintel and shifted his rifle between his legs as he switched his comm channel.

“Bricklayer Main, Pale Horse 21.” He said into his radio. Al, hopped from the vehicle and accounted for the massive amount of gear in the bed. “Bricklayer main, Pale Horse 21.”

“Station calling, please say again your callsign.” The radio responded as the Triumph dropships took off, and the storm of dust subsided.

“Bricklayer Main, this is PALE HORSE 21.” Greg restated, conveying an undertone of annoyance.

“Roger, Pale Horse 21,” The radio sounded, “Send your traffic.”

“We are located at the south edge of the crater, standing by to crest.” Greg spoke.

“Fuck, these guys are slow.” Al said as he noticed not one soldier had crested the crater wall yet.

“No shit,” Greg responded, “Lucky we already took out the defenders, otherwise they’d be fucked.”

“Affirmative, Pale Horse 21, go ahead and crest.” The radio sounded.

“Let’s go.” Greg called to Al, as he shifted the packs in the bed. “They gave us the green light.”

“Yep,” Al responded as he walked up the vehicle and slid into the driver’s seat.

The vehicle slowly rolled forward, and started down the embankment of the crater.

“Holy shit, look at these special motherfuckers.” Al commented as they took in the spectacle before their eyes.

A quarter of the soldiers on the ground were in a typical military parade formation, another quarter, were running around unpacking supplies that should be staying on the Expandable Service Vehicles, another quarter were attempting to set up tents, and the final quarter were ascending the wall on the west side of the crater.

Pale Horse 21 arrived at the bottom of the crater, and rolled up to a Darter Scout Car outfitted with an inconceivable amount of antennas and satellite dishes, Greg assumed this was their Combat Operations Center (COC). Exiting the vehicle, Pale Horse 21 walked to the darter, their hands in their pockets, and rifles slung across their backs. Greg hopped up on top of the Darter and banged on the large metal door as Al leaned against the vehicle, keeping his eye on the Pintel. The hatch opened, spilling dull light out of the vehicle’s busy interior. A confused man, no older than 30 stared at Greg with a confused expression crossing his face.

“Can I help you?” The man said condescendingly, attempting to maintain a level of bearing.

“Yeah man, where is Bricklayer 6?” Greg said, noticing the man was a sergeant.

“Who the fuck are you!?” The man snapped, “You don’t just say man to a fucking Ops Sergeant!”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Greg feigned and apologetic attitude, “You can call me Greg, or Leathers, or Weapons Sergeant Major, whichever you choose.”

“Hey motherfuckers!” Al yelled as he pushed off of the Darter and started towards the Pintel, “Does that look like your shit!?”

A group of soldiers froze near the bed of the 141 as Al stomped up to them.

“Uh, no sir.” One of the men piped up.

“Then get the fuck away from it.” He snapped as the soldiers backed away, sharing glances at one another.

He jumped up upon the bed of the Pintel and sat down, irritated. “Fucking kids, you can’t leave shit alone for thirty seconds without some dumbass trying to jack your shit.”

Greg stood inside the Darter, arms crossed, talking to the Sergeant over the chatter of the COC.

“He’s motivating Delta company right now Sergeant Major, I couldn’t tell you when he’ll be done.”

“Where’s your ops-chief then?” Greg spoke, over the top of radio communications flooding in from all over the Operations Area.

“I will find out,” The Sergeant said as he turned and yelled into the driver’s seat “Cortez!”

The head of a young man, no older than twenty appeared from the hatch of the driver’s seat.

“Yes Sergeant.” The kid responded.

“Go find Sergeant Major Durgan and let him know Pale Horse 21 is here and would like to talk to him.” The Sergeant instructed, and the kid nervously slid by Greg, avoiding eye contact.

Al watched from the 141 as the soldiers finally reached the crest of the crater and started fanning out along it’s edges, setting in a loose security cordon as the main body frantically ran about accomplishing nearly nothing within the crater. His head snapped behind him as he heard quickly approaching footsteps, expecting Greg, but instead, a young soldier sprinted past, no rifle, no armor, no helmet, no nightvision, just a red lens flashlight and an expression of extreme fear.

“Good evening, Sir!” He sounded off as he passed Al.

“‘Sup,” Al responded, beneath his breath as he watched the kid sprint into the darkness. ‘The only person in a hurry here is a private,’ he thought, ‘This is gonna be an interesting deployment.’

Back at the Darter, Greg waited, impatiently, replying to the Sergeants inquiries with uninterested, one word replies, as he studied tactical control measures on a map of the operating area. Finally the hatch of the Darter opened and the young private dropped in and turned to the Sergeant, Greg noticed the kid was now wearing body armor and a helmet.

“Sergeant,” The kid panted, “He’s at the smoke pit, he said ‘If pale horse needs to see me they can come to me’.”

“Great,” Greg hissed beneath his breath, shaking his head.

“And,” The kid took a breath. “Sergeant Major Durgan wants you to take him his armor and helmet.”

“Where’s his armor and helmet?” The Ops Sergeant replied.

“I’m wearing it,” The kid said remorsefully.

Greg opened the hatch of the Darter as profanity began spewing from the Ops Sergeant's mouth.

“I’ll meet you at my Pintel, Sergeant.” Greg said as he climbed from the vehicle.

“Sounds good, Sergeant Major.” He paused yelling for a second to acknowledge Greg.

Al glanced at Greg as he walked through the black to the 141.

“Dude, this is a clusterfuck.” Al said as he gestured to the soldiers lining the crater wall.

“Oh, I know, man,” Greg said as he leaned against the vehicle, handing Al a cigarette. “Bricklayer 6 is holding that formation over there motivating their delta company, and we are going to head over to the smoke pit in a minute to talk to their ops chief.”

Al lit his smoke, inhaled, exhaled, then said, “We seriously need to get the fuck out of here, this place is probably a target for the DCA, and/or waiting for a counter-attack by the DCMS.”

“We’ve got 22 watching over us.” Greg said, completely understanding the situation.

“Right, I get that but they have one A70 and a 25 mil, that’s not gonna stop DCA fires or hold off a lance of DCMS-” He was cut off as the Ops Sergeant emerged from the dark.

“Okay gents,” He sighed, “Ready?”

“Yep, hop in.” Al said as he gestured to the passenger seat of the Pintel.

Greg slid into the driver’s seat and started the vehicle.

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