USD: Four days later
Location: Planet Dedia, Tifara Militia HQ
Elis leaned against the railing of the Militia HQ’s second-floor balcony. She had removed her MK4B helmet earlier to relax. The humid, earthy smell of the planet had contrasted heavily with the filtered and sterile air that the combat suit fed her. The night sky shimmered with a multitude of stars, and every so often, she could spot a shining streak across the sky.
The sound of the shuttles revving up their thrusters for takeoff echoed over the small town. The colonists had finally grown accustomed to the mostly automated flights being managed by Nameless, and a steady stream of civilians were being taxied to orbit every few hours.
There had only been one accident so far when a piece of micro debris had impacted a shuttle about to re-enter and a quick abort had saved the craft from destruction.
It had taken half a day for Nameless’s construction bots to repair it. The delay had annoyed her, because she could feel the calm before the storm. Glancing over in the direction of the landing pads, the area was lit up by the orange flame of the shuttles’ thrusters. Elis watched as they rose into the air and then took off, following a gradual spiraling course upward into space.
The Rexxors had slowly been increasing their probing attacks against the settlement. Even a few of the larger ones that spit spikes had appeared, and several unlucky militiamen had ended up skewered and half melted in an ambush while on patrol around the outer walls.
Those walls were nothing compared to the massive bastions of the capital city, but they were still a good six to seven meters tall and four to five thick. The automated sentry guns that had been mounted had been quite helpful, as the targeting suites would sound the alarm so the guardsmen could take cover.
The Rexxor didn’t seem to take as much notice of the automated defenses compared to the flesh and blood humans manning the walls. Booper had made several solo sorties around the perimeter without being targeted at all. Whether that was because he was not flesh and blood or it was just intimidating, she wasn’t sure.
Elis’s helmet suddenly lit up and Alex’s voice came through.
“Elis? This is Alex. Do you read me?”
Elis sighed; it was the twentieth time Alex had called her. The other girl had called her almost every hour after they had been separated.
She really liked Alex. The other girl’s cheerful energy and excitement toward all things new to her was contagious, and Elis often enjoyed the different reactions she’d have to different foods or other things. She was quite smart and often came up with solutions to many problems that happened on the Tears that Elis would never have figured out without studying an engineering manual for days.
Part of that was Nameless’s support, but the girl was clever on her own.
That made it quite easy for Elis to often forget just how immature Alex could sometimes be. It was hard not to get pulled into something that Alex might not have thought through all the ramifications of.
“Repeat. Elis, are you there?”
The constant check-ins were annoying, but Elis recognized they were because Alex was afraid for her. It made sense, Elis was the only real friend Alex had ever had, and that had been true for over half the time Alex had been ‘alive.’
It was hard for her to reconcile that fact. Alex could be an adult one minute and then show off her giddy teenage side the next. All while only being several months old. Elis had never had a little sister before, but she could easily imagine Alex fitting that role.
Elis picked up her helmet and put it back on, the armor automatically sliding interlocking plates to secure it onto the suit while the facial haptics system activated.
“I’m here Alex. What’s up?”
“Elis, I’m tracking thermal signatures moving toward Tifara’s perimeter. Booper is already en route to the wall there, and I’ve just alerted the militia. Looks like a wave of the smaller Rexxors. They are moving fast, ETA 5 minutes.”
Elis straightened and turned toward the balcony’s staircase. “Roger, can you transmit to me the location they are expected to hit?”
The whine of a gas turbine spinning up caught Elis’s attention. One of the few armored units the Militia had powered up and was moving in the attack's direction.
Alex’s voice chimed again, “Sending now. It should display on your helmet’s HUD.”
Elis nodded to herself before answering. “I got it. Going to catch a ride.”
Hurrying down the stairs carefully so she didn’t damage the building, Elis let loose once she hit ground level. The tank had already rolled down off the tarmac and onto a dirt path that led to the inner wall, but it wasn’t moving flat out and she quickly caught up to it.
Just before crashing into it, she crouched and made a powerful leap, sending her catapulting through the air to land on top of the tank’s turret with a resounding thump. She had to bite back a laugh as the inter-vehicle comms came to life.
“What the hell was that?”
“Something just jumped on our turret!”
Elis cut in before their panic caused any trouble. “Relax boys. We’re going to the same place, I believe.”
“Master-Sergeant, is that you? What the fuck.”
Elis smiled. “Your friendly merc power armor suit, yeah. Just tagging along. Easier than walking all the way to the perimeter. You’re heading to the activity report I just got?”
“Yes Ma’am. Didn’t, uh... know you could outrun a tank in that thing.”
“I can do a lot more than that, tanker.” Elis flexed her suit’s arm servo and pulled herself into a more comfortable sitting position on top of the vehicle.
“Won’t get any complaints from us, Ma’am. Some of our friends been slagged by those spike throwers. Any help is appreciated.”
A second voice chimed in on the inter-vehicle comm, “Let’s just hope we don’t see anything like they are on the city line.”
Elis nodded even though no one could see her.
It didn’t take long for them to travel to the perimeter wall. The tank halted about a kilometer away from it, taking up position in a prepared depression.
“Ma’am this is far as we go. Sorry we can’t get you closer.”
“No problem, you already saved me a few kilometers.”
Elis leaped off the tank and settled into a jog toward the wall. She spotted several groups of men that had arrived in APCs and large transports and were being lifted on elevators in several large groups.
That pleased her because whoever was in charge of them was paying attention and their reaction time was good.
It was impossible to man the entire perimeter heavily. There was just too much frontage and too few soldiers. Guard posts were nestled on the wall approximately every half a kilometer. A freight elevator at each worked double duty, moving any needed supplies and troops up and down the wall.
There were ladders, too, just in case the power failed, although Elis didn’t think anyone was going to have any luck moving heavier equipment up without rigging some type of mechanical lift system.
Not willing to wait for the elevator to come back down, she jumped up to grab a rung from the ladder several feet off the ground. The amplified power of the suit allowing her to fling herself upwards easily. It only took a few bounds before she reached the top rung and then pulled herself up onto the wall.
A startled private had watched her ascent, “Ertan’s blessed tits!”
Elis glanced over at him, “That’s not very polite, private.”
“Sorry Ma’am! You scared the... I never saw anyone go up a ladder quite that way before.”
[Notice: Unit Booper has arrived on position to provide fire support.]
The roar of a thruster burning grabbed Elis’s attention. She watched as the bipedal robot jumped into the air, clearing the wall before arcing downward. Booper’s landing sounded with a crunch that left her wincing. Some stones had probably cracked under the impact.
“Booper, try to be more careful.”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to wait for the elevator, either.”
[Notice: Incoming wave of Rexxor lifeforms closing within 5km. ETA: 2 minutes. Transmitting correlated combat telemetry to MK4B suit HUD.]
Elis hurried over to the outer edge of the wall, concealing most of herself behind a crenellation as she scanned the horizon.
Several hilltops were highlighted in various shades of red, orange, and yellow. Various lines dotted the projected course of the incoming hostiles. They were moving in ordered groups that could have resembled wolf packs from old terra.
Elis reached behind herself and pulled out her pulse rifle, slapping the wireless connector to attach the weapon’s data feed to her visor HUD.
Nothing in sight yet, she glanced over to see how the militia was doing.
Most of them had taken cover positions as she had, combat rifles and other various weapons out and ready. Others were still spreading out, sprinting down both directions of the wall to take up positions further away. Several teams were setting up LMGs, and under the roof of the outpost’s elevator, two men had propped up multiple shoulder fired rocket launchers.
Elis hoped nothing big enough to call for those showed up.
She pinged the militia’s local comm net on the command channel to listen in to the NCOs and Officers giving orders to their squads since she had no one to talk to. It was something she was not used to, being a single detached unit. Normally, she was with her squad.
Elis did not have a sniper rifle or other long-range rifle, so she ducked down out of sight. No reason for her to invite being hit by one of those spike things before anything was in range for her to shoot at.
Booper clanked up behind her, then lowered itself to a nearly sitting position at her back. The robot was still slightly too big to be hidden, but at least it wasn’t silhouetted against the sky anymore.
Elis reached back to fist bump the robot’s chassis, the momentary pang of missing her old squad mates softening somewhat.
“Contact. Contact! Marksmen, weapons free.”
A series of controlled bursts echoed out into the foothills and town as snipers and riflemen took aimed shots at the Rexxors that came into sight.
Elis could see from her HUD map several kills were scored in quick succession, but she frowned as she noticed the small number. The Rexxors weren’t cresting the hills straight for them.
“Fuck. They’re using the hills as cover to get up close.”
Sporadic gunfire unleashed hails of tracers as small groups entered and left the line of sight of the militiamen. The bulk of the Rexxors continued forward, a wave of red triangles coming at them like a wave in quickly multiplying numbers.
“Elis-to-Alex, learn to count!”
Standing up, Elis grabbed hold of Booper’s side. “Booper, they’re going to hit us hard all in one spot. Get us to the Guard Post one klick north of here, pronto.”
The robot let out an affirmative, “Boop,” then rose to full height. Turning back the way they had come, it then crouched and leaped into the air. A cloud of dust erupted underneath them as the bot slammed back down onto the ground on the inside of the wall.
Elis held on and despite her firm hold on two handlebars attached to the robot’s chassis, she almost found herself flung off at the hard jolt. She didn’t blame the bot; it was smart not to run atop the wall where the spike spitters could shoot at them.
She had to clench her teeth though, as Booper’s rapid gait continued the jarring impacts, which only increased as it added bursts of power from its jetpack between every stride.
“Ertan, this is worse than the shuttle.” She cursed under her breath.
It was a race between them and the red triangles reaching the wall on Elis’s HUD. They were going to win.
It was still a close thing, and the short bursts had turned into an unending roar of gunfire, while the tactical net had come to life with chatter as more infantry were directed toward the Rexxors’ intended breach location.
In front of them, a sudden hail of stone and debris erupted as one of the alien’s spike weapons impaled a crenellation. Shouts and screams of pain filled the air, and Elis slapped Booper’s chassis.
“Get us up there.”
The bot carried them up into the air and onto the wall. Almost immediately, the rotary assault gun on the opposite side of the bot began spitting hate out toward the rushing Rexxor. Elis immediately jumped down and found cover with several other grunts.
One was bleeding out from a shattered leg while the other two were attempting to give first aid. He was gripping his grenade launcher tightly enough to make her worry that he’d accidentally blow them all up.
Elis reached into her stomach pouch and pulled out a first aid cylinder and slammed it into the man’s thigh. The spurting blood ceased as the hemostatic agent took effect. He relaxed his grip on his weapon and his head lolled to the side as the painkillers kicked in.
“Guess you guys don’t have the good stuff.”
One militiaman looked at her in shock, while the wounded man kept whispering a pained mantra, “Holy Ertan, Holy Ertan, Holy Ertan, Holy Ertan.”
Elis looked away, scanning the wall to their south. Booper had opened fire with both of its miniguns now and was sweeping two fiery lines of tracers across the crest of the nearest hill. All along the wall gunfire was erupting, but as Elis scanned the tactical map, she spotted a problem.
The Rexxors had chosen the section of the wall to assault for a reason. A hill provided cover until the last 50 meters, once they entered its shadow. Worse, she could see they were bunching up by the thousands there, holding position until they could swarm over them all at once.
She switched her Tacnet channel to the fire direction center to call in fire support, but the channel was overrun with panicked requests for help.
“Fucking fubar. Nameless! Get me a direct line to that tank I hitched a ride on earlier.”
[Affirmative: Commlink override confirmed.]
“-fire mission? Over.”
Elis glanced at her comm link readout to read their callsign. She was very glad to have twisted the Lieutenant Colonel’s wrist into giving her an operational callsign and company access to the Tacnet.
“IDF Armor Apricot-Alpha this is Red-Star. Priority fire mission. Map 37N target grid 56-FA. My position: 5.65’1 -28.95’3, OT direction North, 5 degrees. Distance: 500 meters.”
“Master-Sergeant? The fuck, you’re supposed to go through command FDC, not direct.”
“Nevermind that, your FDC is fubar, and we don’t have five minutes for things to sort out. I have orbital eyes on target. They are massing and coming over that wall if we don’t hit them now. Get a fucking map out if you need to.”
There were a few seconds of silence.
“Affirmative, Red-Star, wait one while we adjust position.”
Elis watched as more and more red dots filled the area, a steady stream of them leaking past the massive grouping and getting splattered as they came into the wall’s line of sight.
Booper had ducked under the guard post’s roof and behind the heavy wall to reload its heavy magazines. Elis wished she had ordered it to conserve ammunition, but the destructive power of the miniguns might have also contributed to the Rexxor holding back. That was giving them precious time to straighten out the militia’s disorganized fire support.
“Red-Star, shot out. I say again, shot out.”
Elis didn’t need to look over her shoulder to see the shell’s trajectory on her orbital view tactical map. A helpful line drawn by Nameless confirmed it was on target. She waited until the single high explosive shell impacted with a massive cloud of debris flying up into the air.
“Apricot-Alpha, this is Red-Star. Adjust distance -50, fire for effect.”
“Affirmative, firing for effect, over.”
A few seconds later, the red dots surged.
The horrifying thought that the Rexxor could somehow sense the incoming projectiles bit at her, but there was no time to contemplate.
Elis reached over the now unconscious, wounded soldier beside her and grabbed the grenade launcher that had been discarded, clicking her pulse rifle into a front sling holder for later.
An unhappy “Brooop” quickly had her attention and Elis walked over to the bot. It only took her a second to see the problem. One belt had gotten stuck in the gap between the chassis and the loading mechanism and the robot’s right-side gun couldn’t reconnect the ammo feed.
A militiaman was already tugging on it in an attempt to try and straighten it out, to no effect.
The man ducked out of the way and Elis grabbed the belt and pulled, the servo in her armor’s right arm whining before the stuck belt freed itself. The gun spun, and she helped the belt straighten out as the line fed through the gun, several dozen unfired shells spitting out onto the ground.
It was just in time for a sudden barrage of artillery shells to punctuate the moment.
“Show time.” She slapped the robot and headed to the wall. As soon as Booper came out of the guard outpost’s cover, it let loose at the oncoming wave of snarling Rexxors.
And it was definitely a solid wave of the wild alien creatures, half of them scrambling on the backs of others in a mad rush to bite and slash at the militiamen on the walls.
Elis raised her newly gained grenade launcher. When no trajectory analysis lines appeared on her HUD she cursed, realizing it wasn’t FedTech issue, so she took a best guess and fired it in what she hoped was a stepped manner across the wave’s front line.
Incendiary rounds from the LMGs lit up the scene, and Elis had to dial down the night vision in her helmet as the launcher clicked empty and she switched to her pulse rifle.
The entire wall for at least a kilometer in both directions was lit up as gunfire poured out at the incoming horde. Bullets pulverized flesh in wild abandon as the concentrated fire brought the aliens to a halt, Rexxors tripping and falling into the fallen bodies in front of them. Others were left crushed by their brethren pushing forward from behind.
Booper suddenly lit off its jetpack and landed on the Guard Post’s roof, the change in fire angle allowing it to fire in the slowly deepening ditch of alien bodies and gore.
Several points along the wall exploded as the long-range spike weapons impacted, but they were not heavy enough to punch through the meters thick concrete. Although some flew over it and smashed heavily into buildings and other civilian structures almost a kilometer behind them.
“Apricot-Alpha, this is Red-Star. Adjust distance -150, fire for effect.”
“Red-Star, be advised 300 meters is on the red line.”
“Affirmative, but you’re going to be shooting on top of us if they get any closer. I say again, Adjust distance -150, fire for effect.”