Killing the Juggernaut: Battle of New Tyre (Open/Started; Looking for Players)

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"Eh never smoked before, but I might take that offer up with you sometime. As for Artemis here, yeah she's really good at what she does. Can easily turn Ferox armor into a giant metal coffin. Taken out about twenty-five or so if I remember correctly," glancing at the side of the tube where several tally marks have been scratched in. "Twenty-six that's right. Be interesting to see what urban combat is like though. Last battle I was in took place in a pretty open environment, so it was easier for the Ferox to notice ya. It'll be nice for that not to be the case here."

"You've never fought in a city before? You're in for a suprise. The bugs can't see you, but you can't see them either... But lets not talk about that, eh? Artemis, thats an interesting name. One of them Old Gods right? That those Pagans worshiped. Or do I have my history messed up?" After asking this, Powell cracks a hearty grin, and takes a deep drag on his cigar.

"Yep, name of some old Greek Goddess of hunting. Figured it was a fitting name for something that takes down big 'beasts' like tanks and the like. And I guess the Greeks were pagans, seems like everyone back then was called a pagan though who wasn't Christian." Falk shrugs and then continues on, "So you've fought in a city, eh? Seen a lot of action before this?"

"I grew up in a damn city. The whole world was a city.I got in my fair share of fights down there. I'll tell you one thing, always be alert." Powell lowered his voice, causing the others to lean in "You'll be wakling down the street, csonfident in your ability to kill anyhting with your mighty Pagan Gun, then BAM!" At BAM Powell shouts, startling some of the sleeping members of the crew. "They're on you, swarming you with their knifes and teeth and what have you. At that range a gun isn't gonna do anyhting but get in your way. Be on the lookout down there, and dont be afraid to call out if the sahdows start moving."

"I'll have to keep that in mind once we're planetside. Although I doubt I'll be leading the group and I plan on being the one jumping the 'Rox tanks. Taking them out at a range was fun, but if they spotted you things got a lot more heated. A full salvo from a group of those buggers can make the ground dance under your feet. Had a couple close calls back on Hippolyta, but at least I came out better than the 'Rox crewmen whose tanks I decided to pop," Falk says with a smile.

"Ain't nothin like the smell of roast bug to brighten your day, eh? Who all's up for a rousing song? Anyone know "Cypress Grove"? A song about a place back on Earth with women perfect for a soldier. Sing along if you like. Starts like this:" Powell breaks into a plaintive verse, singing of a better place in a better time.
There are women, in Cypress Grove
And if they catch ya, you don't go home
So get to boogeyin', and dont look back
a one way ticket, on a two way track

Mitchell looked to Falk while the rest of the task group was getting established on the skiff.

"You know, you should be careful in the city. Your M-88 can do just fine when you blast the thin armor on enemy tanks, but when they're facing you in narrow streets, there's no way to flank 'em. Then, you either have to run or try and shoot through the front armor, and nobody 'cept the tankers wants to have that job."

Turning over to Mitchell, Falk replied: "True, running into them head would make things a lot more difficult and dangerous, but I'm betting that if I find a place to hide along where they'll pass I can get them in an ambush. I've read about how tanks have always had that problem in urban warfare. I guess it all depends upon the situation though," Falk shrugs.

"No one? Ahhhhh well." Powell takes another deep drag on his cigar, savouring the flavour. Chiming in on Falk and Mitchell's conversation, "Yeah, tanks aren't worth shit in a city. What you've really got to watch out for are smaller craft. Like bikes. Back home, some of the bikers would hang spiked chains of teh end of their rides. No one came away from those fights intact."

"People fight on bikes? That really doesn't seem that smart at all. And I doubt there will be Ferox biker gangs that we'll need to worry about," Falk says with an amused smile. He then turns more serious, "Still if they deploy some of their lighter, faster stuff we could have a hard time of it. Sure I took out quite a few before, but that was when I had a thousand meters of clear view. We won't be getting the same down on New Tyre."

"Ahhhhhh, you dont need to worry about the light vehicles. Thats what Hellana is for." Wallace pats his SAW. "Any tin can the bugs throw at us, she can peel apart. If she cant touch it, thats what you're here for. We'll make a good time, son, that we will."

"That sounds good. You pop the soft ones, I'll crack the hard ones. I'm almost looking forward to this," Falk responds with a predatory smile. "Almost. I have no delusions about this mission being easy. But at least we'll make it interesting, right?"

"Amen to that. Wish I could drink to our coming bug ass kicking, but "operational orders" and all. Remember, if it has more than two eyes, two legs, two arms, one brain, or has an exoskeleton, blow it to hell and back." Powell cracks a savage grin, clearly thinking about how much he enjoys killing "bugs"

(Note: IBlackKiteI has joined us)

August 2, 2322 on the Earth Calendar
1040 hours Earth GMT
Aboard UNS Mamayev Kurgan
Mid-Orbit Above New Tyre

Mitchell ushered in the last of his squad members and turned around to return to his seat, while the flight chiefs locked the craft down for departure. Then, the pilot's voice came on over the cabin PA.

"Alright, Marines, we're ready to head out. Everything all set, Lieutenant?"

"Take us out."

At that, the pilot, Federation Navy Lieutenant Commander Ross Henderson cut the PA and called in to the control station on the flight deck.

"Control, this is Papa-One-Four-Four, reporting all cargo on board and requesting top priority launch clearance. Over."

The flight controllers checked that flight. At the moment, the ship was engaged in orbital combat, and needed to continue launching its fighters and fighter/bombers to strike at enemy ships. Any flight to surpass such priority would have to have special authority. Mitchell's strike group had such priority.

"Copy that, Papa-One-Four-Four, you are cleared for launch preparation. Proceed to depart from cleared line Two-Two. Over"

"Wilco, control."

Henderson fired his RCS thrusters on low power to slowly maneuver his craft into position before the front end of the ship's massive docking bay. The shuttle was aligned with a marked track on the floor, hovering motionless above the metal surface.

"Control, we are prepped for launch. Initiate when ready. Over."

"Copy that, Papa-One-Four-Four. Initiating launch sequence in five... four... three... two... one..."

At the end of the countdown, Henderson activated his main thrusters, while the flight deck's electromagnetic takeoff aids accelerated the shuttle to acceptable speed, while the cold plasma window separating the atmosphere of the flight deck from the vacuum of space thinned, allowing the shuttle to pass unharmed. It took less time than the men could count before they were free in the cold, dark void, rocketing away from their home ship while several other shuttles took off from different flight layers.

Looking out the small window near his seat harness, Mitchell saw the guns of the Kurgan firing in anger, shooting plasma bolts at ships that were literally thousands of kilometers away. Occasionally, one of the missile rails would launch a warhead that would go streaking off with a light blue trail following it as its seeker head watched for targets elsewhere in orbit.

"Sir, are we to be breifed as to what our mission is? Us footsloggers are still in the dark concerning anything other than we're here to squah bugs and take names." Now that the drop had launched, Powell had butterflies in his stomach, afraid of the action to come, afraid of dieing, afraid of failure. He hid his fears behind a mask of prefessionalism. After a moment, he calmed down, mastering his fears.

August 2, 2322 on the Earth Calendar
1045 hours Earth GMT
Aboard UT-305 Charon
[1] Trans-Atmospheric Personnel Carrier; Call Sign Papa-One-Four-Four
In Transit; Performing Entry Procedure from Mid-Orbit to Surface of New Tyre
215,000m Above Sea Level

Personnel Cabin

Mitchell turned and looked at Powell from his seat.

"Don't worry about briefing, Powell. Everything will be taken care of once we're planetside. The only thing I know is where we're going, and that's to a Marine Corps base somewhere along a latitude about 30... 35 degrees north of the planetary equator. Other than that, I only know as much as you do: What we're doing probably involves a lot of alien hunting."

Right now, our only concern is getting down in one piece, he didn't have to say.
________________________________________________________________________________________________
UT-305 Cockpit

Henderson was watching his flight computer controls closely. While computer systems had been reliably used for more than 300 years for orbital re-entry, such procedures involved moving at incredibly high speeds, and one tiny malfunction could disrupt everything if the pilot did not practice caution. As usual, the shuttle moved in toward the planet on a rapidly decaying orbital path, which really would have classified as a ballistic path given that it was meant to trace to a planet's surface.

In any case, much of the shuttle's motion was around the planet in a small arc rather than moving straight down. The craft passed many different Human warships, orbital docks, and orbital defense stations on its way down, and all of them seemed engaged in combat with enemy warships far beyond the view of the Human eye. The only hints of orbital combat came from the occasional twinkle of detonating explosives somewhere far away.

Already, the shuttle had descended to low-orbital altitudes, less than 180,000m above sea level, and was rapidly continuing its fall. Henderson let the microchips do their job, watching as the shuttle rolled over and faced its dorsal side to the planet and pointing its main thrusters in the direction of orbital motion. Then, the computer fired off its thrusters, beginning the final descend process. Soon, the craft hit the atmosphere at just over 120,000m, which caused a jolt like that of a rock landing in a pond. The outer surface of the shuttle began to rapidly heat up, and the craft's cold plasma manipulators began to work on a temporary shield focused on the forward side of the ship to absorb the heat of re-entry.

The shuttle shot down to the planet rather quickly, but the flight computer used its RCS thrusters to angle the ship at a 40 degree angle of attack. At the same time, the computer mapped out a flight plan for a series of wide, 70 degree banking turns to let distance absorb as much speed as possible.

This worked for some time, and each banking turn turn several minutes to complete, letting the shuttle decelerate normally. In fact, it was not an engineering problem at all that would complicate things for the flight crew.

[1] UT is the classification tag for any fixed-wing, non-rotor craft, which stands for Utility Transport. The tag is usually applied to personnel and heavy lift craft capable of moving to and from orbiting vessels beyond a planetary atmospheric layer. Charon refers to the name of the boatman in Greek mythology who would, for a monetary cost, ferry the souls of the dead across the River Styx and into Hades.

Of course, this is a fairly dark name choice considering its current use in our context.

"Oh so we won't be going straight into combat. That'll be nice. My last and only other assignment had me land on planet like the rest of our troops are: en-mass. We had a couple days before being sent to the frontlines as well, too bad we won't get that luxury this time around," Falk said with an awkward laugh, trying to hide his anxiety of the situation and partially failing.

Personnel Cabin

Mitchell looked to Falk with a bemused look.

"No, we'll be going almost directly into combat. We get briefed, and then command uses as as we're needed, so that means we may even kill some bugs before breakfast."

The ship shook on its descent, but Mitchell took that as nothing but expected from the air resistance. As the upper cloud layers were penetrated, Mitchell looked down upon New Tyre with shock. There were some areas that were a dull, traumatized green or natural, rocky brown, but there was so much pale, barren tan, like a scorched desert or like dead grasslands, and far too much showed just plain black, scored by swathes of glowing orange flame and the literal heat of battle. In fact, a large majority of New Tyre was in a combat zone, and so most of the planet was covered in ruins, wastelands, and flames visible from space.

"Looks like a Garden paradise" commented Powell, looking out the window. "The only thing its missing is a mile high mound of dead bugs. I geuss thats what we're here for though, right?"

"No pile of dead bugs? Man, there's a stack o' damn near a billion casualties, almost certainly more, on either side."

"Geez this place has been through hell," Falk states while looking down at the planet. "New Tyre looks like it's been chewed up so badly, I wonder why either side is even fighting over it anymore. Are any of the factories even running anymore?"

"Not the ones around here, I bet. But you know, workers are expendable, same as soldiers. And god knows we need guns and other war materials. And don't you go calling me a boy, I'm two years your senior."

"Yeah, there are still places where the factories are still pumping out tanks, planes, and anything else our boys here and elsewhere on the front need... God knows we need 'em bad. Anywhere you see a green, unmolested patch, you can bet there's at least one factory, big as all hell, mind you, running day and night. Thing is, we also have the manpower to run the factories. We were lucky to get so many civilians out of harms way. Of course, there are always too many innocent corpses, especially in this godforsaken war."

"There is no such things as innocence, only degrees of guilt. Your average factory worker? He could be a murderer. A scientist who developed poison gas. An executioner. A petty theif. Doesn't matter though, because in the face of a greater menace, we ban together and forget each other's sins. We stand as one, stop pointing fingers at ourselves, and stand with spears pointed outwards. This fight, it binds us together like nothing else can. It is us against them, and that is paramount. In the end, only one of us will remain. And if it is us, no one will remember their past life, because that is what war does to us. I used to be a factory worker. What am I now? I am a machine of death, killing the enemy. There is nothing left, except war. War has consumed us, long before we have lost. And we might not lose, but the few who come out the other side, they'll fall upon each other soon enough." Powell let show his true feelings, in a moment of wisdom beyond his years. He sits back and closes his eyes, a weary old man in a young body.

Falk looks silently at Powell for some time, contemplating his words. Finally he speaks, "Well if we're all gonna be gears of death in this big old war machine, might as well make the best of it. Live hard, die young. I'm just gonna make sure those 'Rox die younger. What da'ya say Mr. Philosopher, want to join me in my bug hunt?" Falk holds out his hand with a grin.

Powell cracks a huge grin at Falk's words and fiercly grabs a forearm in the traditional warrior's embrace. "Sounds good to me! Drink, smoke, and kill bugs! Can't wait!" Powell is taken up with a new energy, like a child at a candy shop, eager to be about the buissiness of killing.

Mitchell smiles at Powell's devotion, but is simultaneously downtrodden at his lingering delusions about this war, and his words about the innocence of human life.

"Powell, I like your spirit, but you need to understand something. As far as this war goes, those dead civilians are about as innocent as you can get. I've seen your records, and you've fought some bugs before, but I've seen enough to know that this war is far beyond anything previously seen by man along the lines of brutality.

"The enemy kills without remorse. I don't just mean soldiers, both sides fight with every bit of heart they've got. When we aren't worried about killing a fellow human being, we will kill the enemy like we would a hostile bear, though these bears are armed, armored, and hell bent on ending every last one of us. We are fighting a war for survival. There are no alien POW camps, sergeant. They just kill as many Humans as they can. To them, this war is open season. Not one dead man on New Tyre, I can guarantee, deserved his particular end, be him a murderer or a priest."

"Did I imply that? If I did, I am sorry. I was rambling. No one deserves to die at the hands of those Damned bugs. What I was pointing out, was that all sins pale in comparison of the threat of the bugs. And to me, this war is a game. Squash a bug, like we used to play with the ants back home. If not, its too scary to fight, and I go all philosophical. And thats no fun for anyone. So, are we almost down? There's a war on you know?" Powell stretched back, putting his arms over his head, knowing full well this may be the last calm of his life.

August 2, 2322 on the Earth Calendar
1047 hours
25,000m above sea level

The UT-305 made yet another banking turn, when, suddenly, a missile warning alarm sounded in Commander Henderson's ear. He looked down at his radar display and saw a tiny blip moving in a high speed on broad spectrum sensors. He looked around and saw three other shuttles in visible range, each one making the same deceleration patterns as his own Charon.

"Formation, be advised, incoming missile bearing two-three-zero relative."

The missiles were not launched from the ground. It could only mean one thing: fighters. It was well known that shields are at their weakest during atmospheric entry, meaning that a re-entry is the best time to pounce. Henderson did what he could, but the missile would not break lock. Luckily, it was not headed for his Charon. He was already on his radio before the warhead fired not 10m from one of his wing mates.
________________________________________________________________________
Personnel Cabin

Mitchell saw the spectacle. The missile lanced through the air off in the distance and met the UT-305 traveling many kilometers off to the left of his own shuttle. Both were replaced by an orange flash as the afflicted transport essentially dissolved into the turbulent air, and along with it 48 helpless marines. Mitchell was only to look on in horrified silence. His expressionless face brought the event to the attention of the rest of the men aboard the vessel.
________________________________________________________________________
500km Northeast of Papa-One-Four-Four
20,000m above sea level

It was a normal patrol on New Tyre, godforsaken battleground that it was, for Federation Air Defense Forces Captain James F. Teller and his flight of four (counting his own) Lockheed Martin F-78D Striker air dominance fighters under call sign Sierra. Routine sorties had already brought him another confirmed kill that day to add to his previous career tally of six.

Suddenly, his helmet radio crackled to life. It was one of Strategic Air Command's E-22A AEW aircraft, orbiting 300km from an air base about 800km out.

"Sierra-One, command has picked up a distress call from a transport about 500 from your position, classification Uniform-Tango-Three-Zero-Five. Linking data now. Call claims unknown bandits targeting four Charon-type transports. They say one has already been downed. Over."

"Roger that, we'll see to it. Out."

Not five seconds later, the information was posted on Teller's HMD. His navigation system listed a waypoint marking the contact location. The rest of the flight got the coordinates, as usual, and the pilots began setting up for interception.

About to respond to Powell, Falk suddenly notices Mitchell's stunned face. Looking out the window, he just manages to see the Personnel Carrier's flaming debris fly apart. His words stopped in his throat, Falk sits blank-faced with his mouth still hanging open. Turning away from the window he can only a single soft-spoken word: "Fuck."

"Poor Sods. Rest in peace. Didn't even have a chance. No last stand, no glory, no revenge. Poor little men, tossed through the skies like as giant's doll." Powell looks on slightly disheartened, but dispassionatley. He had seen men die before, God knew it was nothing new. "Settle down Falk, theres nothing we can do about it now. Relax and enjoy the few minutes you have left with us. Make your peace with your gods, or other other-worldly powers. Its all in the hands of fate now."

"Yeah, that's why I don't like it. Would rather have a chance to fight back. And if they just blew up, then what's to say we're not next. Some 'Rox may have us in his sights right now. I don't like this randomness. I'll feel safer on the ground." Despite grimly chuckling at the oddness of his last statement, Falk is obviously anxious. He holds Artemis close and stares intently up at the ceiling, as though expecting his death to come from there.

"Falk, I hate it too. But you see, the only thing you could've done to controll it is not gotten on this ship. Think about what would have happened. We would be romping around down there, and suddenly a tank comes along. Hellana can't get through its armour. We have no heavy wepons support. We're fucked. Because you didn't like taking the chance that you could be blown out of the sky. Think about it. Oh, and the fact that they'd shoot you for desertion."

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