Erin adjusted her pilot optical setup on her lightweight helmet; the brilliant sunlight gleamed off of the Hopper waiting on the pad. There mere slight of her aerial insect beast stirred feeling deep inside of Hawksworth’s soul, supreme confidence washed over her, she was fulfilling her ultimate destiny by being here as a combat pilot. While most people dick around with what they’re going to do, Erin knew the first moment she saw an anti-gravity aerocraft loom over the landscape that she wanted to be a pilot. As she had done since the age of fourteen, she entered the bubble-cockpit of an A/G vehicle, and took the controls like it was a natural process. While most girls obsessed over the last fashion, the length of their skits, she already wore wings, and was a private pilot for major Colonial VIPs. It was the invasion that made her a combat pilot
She was greeted in the tight space by Ray, her co-pilot and general pain-on-the-ass, already hard at work on the checklist. “Got the Kinemassic field generators spun-up, Chief! VTOL thrusters lit! Rocket and gun pods are locked-n-loaded! We’re ready to rock!”
“Get those damn ground-pounders up now, Ray, we gotta go!”
Ray clicked over, “this November-Witch 1-1 Control, get Meatgrinder up here, we’re spun-up.”
“Solid copy, they’re all yours.” Ray flashed a wide smile and gave her the thumbs-up.
“This CASEVAC OP sucks!” Hawksworth adjusted her HUD readouts, and triple-checked, then she placed her PDW in the canopy slot. “The Syncs overran Jensen and White Forest; everyone is fallen back to this point.” She showed Ray on a holo-map hanging between them.
“Triple-thick trees, works both ways.”
“Maybe for the boots on the ground, but not up here.” She cycled back to some fresh incoming data. “It looks like the remains of FOB White Forest is under the command of a Sergeant Aroyo, call sign Wildcat 2-5.”
Co-pilot Ray nodded, “A Sergeant? The shit must be bad.”He cycled through the dozen A/G combat aircraft in their November-Witch Hopper unit, and saw two heavy-lift Babar hoppers. He tapped on the Captain’s shoulder, pointed, and confirmed with a nod. With a mere controlled and selected thought, Erin accessed the local COM-VR-NET, and was in cerebral contact with the pilot.
“Hey, Kettlebell 1-5?” She said casually
“What’s up, November-Bitch?” The thick accent of the male pilot came over, loud and clear, even with the COM-VR-NET.
“That’s November-Witch, truck-driver!”
“Oh, sorry, my mistake…”He faked.
“Sure, Kettlebell 1-5, done loading the Mansons and Onikumas yet?”
“Confirmed, Kettlebell 1-5 and 1-6 are loaded to bear, November-Witch 1-1.” She notified Ray with an update to his personal HUD. With that, and the green-light loaded status on Meatgrinder, the CASEVAC mission was on hot-standby.
Then her brain caught up to the fact that there was a missing Babar, “confirmed that, 1-5 just you and 1-6? SITREP on 1-7.”
“FUBAR’ed and MIA, 1-1.”
“Goddamn it, 1-5!” Hawksworth had played Backgammon with the co-pilot of Kettlebell 1-7 just last week!
“Allah Maakum, 1-1.”
“Xin lio.” She answered back and cut the connection, and flipped over to the Air-Boss. “This is November-Witch 1-1, Hoppers spun-up and ready for the hunt, Air-Boss.”
“Green lights, confirmed go on VTOL.” With clearance, Hawksworth expertly nudged the controls, and the heavily anti-gravity vehicle lifted off from the pad, flanked by a dozen other Hoppers. The alien skies seemed fitted with the insect-like armored aircraft. Newly minted recruit from Earth’s wastelands, Sandoval, gripped his new MILSPEC laser, and checked his ALC-9 laser pistol, along with the grenades. It took his mind off the fact that he had never been a plane before, and a low-dose of Courage helped relax him. Surrounding him in the open-door gunship was his new family, Meatgrinder, and his official comm.-traffic call-sign was Meat 3-7, or Meatgrinder jump platoon, third fire-team, number seven.
As the vehicles crossed the vast colored jungles, he noticed there was no visual break of the rope-trees, it was like a living ocean, he turned away, and gazed upon words carved into the plassteel doors: God be between you and harm, in all the empty places where you must walk. In oddly warm sense came over him, and immediately recognized that he would never forgotten those words. This phase gave Sandoval an belief sense of hope, when he had none, being his first combat mission, that if this Earther had survived the Outback, than he could damn well live to see Elysium. Seated next him was the other Aussie, and behind the visor, he boldly stared at the pretty girl. Samantha took noticed and smiled back. But they said nothing, just marveling in the vista of the other A/G gunships flying formation.
It was the freighting sounds of war that shattered her mind, and before Maya’s shielded eyes, the jungle floor was a concert of horror for the greedy gods of war. Dr. Phoenix’s laser weapons danced deadly nearly invisible beams of high energy into the charging alien life-forms. Bursts of brilliant flashes from impacts lit up the darkened conditions, accompanied by pops and cracks, like logs in a roaring fire. Human screams were washed as these alien feral berserkers torn in the Colonial ranks. Maya flashed her PLC-3 laser carbine from target-to-target, stressing the armor’s aiming software and motors to the maximum, while her body was tightly regulated by the steady course of Courage. The monstrous alien werewolf-forms, slashed and torn armored human flesh with claws and teeth, leaping from victim-to-victim, causing Colonial soldiers to hit their own, and laying the heavy AHL-1 laser cannons dormant as both sides mixed in a melee. On the raised position behind Maya, sniper Gauss shots wilted down the berserker reinforcements that emerged from jungle, but they could not help those locked in desperate close contact.
She fired her Steyr-Phoenix on the special anti-armor setting of 40kj, wiping out the battery and taxing the cooling system, but each beam that connected; flash-steamed exploded the organic armor of the Sync. Sergeant Aroyo was too fixated on the killing floor of the battlefield to see the berserker striking an aerial attack.
Her armor sensors alerted her into the attack a heartbeat before it sank its front and rear claws into her armor, Maya parried the blow with the body of her PLC-3 carbine, blocking its momentum, recoiling it back, but her carbine was shattered. Recovering much quickly than the human sergeant, it swiped in a wide arch with four inch claws, catching a chuck of her armor. She screamed, and more Courage answered the call. There was no time to deploy her sidearm, she spun, unhooking her tomahawk from her belt, just as the alien readied another strike. She dodged, planted the blade into its flank of organic armor. The pain and shock unbalanced the creature, allowed Maya a window of opportunity. With rage and drugs fueling her hand, she landed repeated blows into its side, tearing a bleeding gash, then kicked it off the mount of composted jungle material. Without a moment of rest or mercy, she hacking her attacker’s head into a red pulsating mush. As satisfaction washed over her, the hum of Kinemassic field generators emanated from above the canopy.
“This November-Witch 1-1, to Wild-Cat 2-5, we’re on station.”
“November-Witch, we’re in deep serious, berserkers mixed-in, heavy gun unit in the bush behind us.” That eliminated the option of CAS, and Hawksworth cursed, as she signed to Ray to extend the A/G field to ground level, and deployed a gunship via COM-VR-NET to pound the mobile Sync artillery units.
“Solid copy, 2-5, we’re roping in groundpounders.”
“November-Witch, we’ve got reinforcements flowing in from the North-North-West of our position.” Erin pulled up her holo-map, and assigned two of the gunships for CAS tasking on the alien positions.
“Confirmed 2-5, I’ve got some fire headed their way.” She finger-signed to Ray, and he adjusted the light in the rear to green. It was time for November-Witch’s passengers to get off. Sandoval was alerted to the change in the light via everyone jumping out of the open doors of the Hopper. His educated brain told him that it was okay, that the gunship had extended its anti-gravity field to the jungle floor, and they could descend without aid of a rope. But it was still against every natural instinct, until the door gunner yelled at them to get the fuck out. So, he grabbed Samantha’s hand, and as they jumped out, with the blood draining out of their feet, and Courage being pumped, he noticed it was surreal. They floated down; no rush of wind, no screaming, and no piss down their legs.
That tranquilly was shattered the moment their armored boots hit the deck. Samantha Porter died right in front of him; torn to shreds, bloody rain on his tactical gear. Sandoval, shocked at the violence unleashed on them, wiping it away, kept firing at her attacker, and took a massive hit from the Courage. The fresh dose of drugs coursed through his veins, fuelling his raging impulse of death and destruction, spurning him to assault their position. He killed them with a glad heart; blood mixed with his friend’s, and his laser gun pulsated in an orgy of grisly delight.
He was so fucked up; he couldn’t feel a damn thing. But, that was their plan, the brass back on Janus, medicated the hell out of them; giving the grunts hope to live though the fields of slaughter, and get that promised piece of Elysium. Sandoval didn’t want to feel anything anymore, nothing. Only the rush of combat, the pulsing heart of his weapon tearing my enemy into bloody art of shredded flesh.
As Meatgrinder waved into the melee of jungle floor, two anti-gravity gunships blasted the incoming Sync forces; this gave the ground forces below some breathing room to deal with the alien forces mixed within their ranks. Erin and Ray thought in that moment, that this OP was going to be easier than planned. That was until their helmets filled with alarms.
“Ray! What the Hell?!”
“Shin’s got incoming hot-box drop pods!” Erin wasted no time, she shipped down the data to troopers, and the response was nearly instant from the CO of Meatgrinder: Deploy the Mansons and Onikumas! The computers calculated the drop-zone of the Sync pods, and Erin clicked over to Kettlebell 1-5.
“The orders been given, Kettlebell! Send down the psychos!” From the belly of the great hovering beast, the Babar launched two massive shells at the alien drop-zone. In the horizon, rope-trees and jungle floor were scorched clean to make a clean DZ for the Mansons and Onikumas units.
“Psychos on the ground,” Kettlebell 1-5 linked over to Hawksworth. “Prey for the Syncs.”
“I only prey for my enemies to go to hell, 1-5.”
When the Sync endo-atmospheric drop pods burst open with fresh alien ranks, they fully expected to see empty rope-tree jungle, instead it was smoking ashy ground, and surrounding the pods was a phalanx of AI driven heavily armed mecha, called Onikumas, and Courage-pumped up murderous crazies, called Manson Units. These were the worst of the worst of Colonial society, and unknown to the general public, these warehoused humans were removed from their cells, and deployed to the battlefield as the Colonial version of the Sync’s Berserkers. They were the dirty secrets of the Colonial military, but in this case, they served death to the alien enemy, ending the Syncs attempted flanking maneuver in a few seconds of weapons’ fire.
What started off as a defeat, looked like it would be a successful ex-fil back to base. Sensing the fortunes of the battle shifting, the aliens pressed their final attack, and one, specifically targeted the leader, Sergeant Aroyo. The alien warrior fired several hot spike-like projectiles into her lower armor plating, buckling it, Maya collapsed into the soft ground, struggling against the damage and trapped by a failed suit motor, the animal portion of her brain screamed at her to get-the-hell-up, fully invoking flight-or-fight, as heavy doses of Courage were injected, she didn’t fear, it was more survival. That came into clear focus when the Sync warrior leveled its weapon at her head, as her hands groped for a weapon.
It was over, but Maya didn’t give against this alien shit lording over her, she wrangled free her black market last-ditch shotgun pistol-revolver, desperately swinging it to bear. There was a whirl of movement, Sergeant Aroyo, braced herself for a thrashing by the thing above. her Instead her eyes welled up to the moment of her salvation, a colonial trooper chopping the Sync with a tomahawk, thick dark fluid trail whipping through the moist forest air, signing to the experienced soldier that her failed executor was being dealt within a brutal manner. Maya liked this soldier’s style. When he was done, the soldier wiped the blade on a tree, and extended a hand to her.
“Sandoval, Meatgrinder, we’re the QRF.”
“Sgt. Aroyo, what’s left of Wildcat.” She took his hand and was helped up, despite the liberal doses of Courage, pain receptors were lit up in her lower quadrant. “What’s the status, trooper?” She checked her wounds, as Sandoval applied a nano-patch to the cracked armor.
“QRF roped in on the flanks of the enemy, the Hoppers lit a backfire, while the crazies and bots secured the front, and we lopped around, and crushed them.”
“MIA?” She asked, Sandoval now knew, from the briefing, what she was asking: How many of my friends were dragged off to be more of these fuckers?
“17.” He said mournfully.
Maya screamed, “goddamnit!” She moved up on a ridge composed of fallen trees, observing the hasty battlefield. Lit Rope-Trees smoldered covering the jungle floor in hazy, but her improved hearing easily picked up the wails of the wounded, and the cries of living; it was the dead that are silent on the battlefield. Maya mused as her rescuer joined her.
“RTB?” She asked, trying to make some conversion to distract her from the horror below.
“Yeah, back to FOB Shin. They’re sending more Babar heavily Hoppers for CASEVAC.”
“The treehouse, eh?”
“I guess you could call it that,” he thought of his new home above the tree-line. “And when we get back to Shin, you’re buying the pints.” Sergeant Aroyo ignored the banter about beers, and rallied the scattered remains of her unit to a small clearing, freshly made by a few daisy-cutter artillery rounds. She and her new savior from Meatgrinder, were the last boots out of the hellish jungle, as Maya was roped up (A/G field only worked for decent not ascent), she wept for everyone they had lost and that had been taken away.