A hell of a place for a battle, thought Lt. Tzumansky, as he directed his platoon into position. Grande Avenue Korschev was the widest street that cut through the uplanned, ramshackle neighborhoods of Perfume City. A corridor of cover-less death twenty-four meters wide, with dense buildings rising up on either side, High Kommand had somehow decided that the sunken boulevard, and bridge spanning it, was of great strategic significance. Lt. Tzumanksy was charged with the task of setting up his own probes on the bridge, and keeping the UNE from the doing the same.
The UNE, those treacherous apes, had been Fantasian allies only months ago when Tzumansky and the rest of his Platoon had landed here to help police the area from Charlie-Deuce. But ever since Kommissar Czadt uncovered the Terran's covert attempts to arm local Fantasian Privateers the two interstellar allies had become the fiercest of enemies. Cold relations had erupted into hot battlezones overnight.
"Four-Alpha-Kommand to One-Alpha-Support, take the rooftop of the office building in sector six..."
"Roger that Kommand. One-Alpha-Support out."
One-Alpha-Support was Tzumansky's only remaining machine-gun element. They were crawling through the office tower's fifth-story windows and climbing up onto the roof--a dangerous activity even if it weren't for their bulky powered armor and large RPK machine-guns. Tzumansky knew he was positioning them in an area from which they could not retreat, but their unobstructed view of the objective--the bridge--was more important than their survival.
"One-Alpha-Attack to Four-Alpha-Kommand. We are in position."
"Roger that One-Alpha-Attack, standby for contact." One-Alpha-Attack, the maneuver element of 1st Squad, was spread out across the Grande Avenue, their heads barely peeking up over a ridge toward UNE territory.
"Kommand to Two-Alpha-Attack, follow Britz along the left flank and see if you can breach the UNE perimeter."
"Roger that Kommand." Two-Alpha-Attack was the remnants of 2nd Squad, whose own machine-gunners and Corporal had already been toasted when Tzumansky's Platoon had tried to capture Terran Pilots to prove the UNE conspiracy--as if proof were even necessary. Tzumansky hoped that by following Britz, the Platoon's Sniper, they could feel-out the week spots on the left flank and penetrate into the UNE's rear for a nasty surprise.
"Three-Alpha-BT moving through sector six..."
"Roger that BT." Tzumansky would have felt better if he had all three members of his BT Squad, but the Kommissar had called one of his Troopers back from the front-line for "interrogation." Still, the single trooper and his Corporal, with their four KPV, ought to be more than enough to rip apart the UNE's right flank, as well as provide some extra protection for One-Alpha-Support on the roof.
Meanwhile, Tzumansky's single T85/36 K2-Shaw trooper came to a halt beside him and initiated its targeting computers.
"Contact! Contact! Contact!" It was Sergeant Felix, commander of One-Alpha-Attack.
Lieutenant Tzumansky stared at his heads-up display and watched in despair as UNE Recce Troopers arced through the air on plumes of rocket exhaust to take the bridge--his Platoon's primary objective. Tzumansky thumbed his com-unit. "1-Alpha-Support you have company..."
"Roger that, Kommand..."
Tzumansky looked up to see 1-Alpha-Support cross the office building rooftop and prepare to suppress down onto the bridge. But then he noticed two icons moving across his display fast. Before his computer even identified the threats he heard Sergeant Felix bark orders over the Fantasian open channel:
"Look alive, Mollusks! We got two Fast Attack Vehicles approaching down Grande Avenue Korschev--"
"I don't got him, where is he?!"
"I don't have a read! Wait, there he is--"
"Fire!" The sound of MASLAW and RPG fire ripped through the air.
"We got him!" somebody yelled...
"Number two coming in fast! Groszky, lay down--" But even before the Sergeant had completed his order Groszky lit off a gauss grenade to protect them from return-fire.
"Three-Alpha-BT see if you can split off and intercept that second FAV..."
"Roger that, Kommand..."
The BT Squad's Corporal peeled off and prepared his KPV auto-cannon as the remaining BT Trooper continued to sprint on ahead in an attempt to out-flank a UNE AutoRAM machine-gun nest. The nest had just been discovered in the middle of a rubble foxhole just on the other side of the Grande Avenue's ridge.
"Incoming! Incoming! 1-Alpha-Attack you have incoming!" The warning was hardly out of Tzumansky's mouth before a quadruple-salvo of Calliope rockets exploded in the midst of 1-Alpha's maneuver element.
The Sergeant's voice crackled over the com-link. "1-Alpha-Attack to Kommand. Grozsky, Mavrick and Botempkin down, requesting K2-Shaw fire mission on enemy Calliopes..."
"That's a negative," Tzumansky replied. "/36 fire mission on coordinates 34 by 25 by 15..."
The /36 rocked backward with the recoil of the double-rocket fire as they arced toward the bridge...Tzumanksy watched his display with anticipation...despite the erratic rat-a-tat-tat of One-Alpha-Support's RPK fire the Recce Troopers still held the bridge. If these rockets didn't work this battle might be over almost before it had even started. The rockets touched down and bloomed into concentric spheres of electro-magnetic force. Tzumansky let himself smile as he watched each suit of Pathfinder armor go off-line. Thank God for the K2-Shaw, now they were back in business.
"FAV! FAV! FAV!" It was Sgt. Felix again.
"Three-Alpha-BT where are you?!" Tzumansky's request was answered by the loud thunder of the BT Corporal's twin KPV. "Did you get him?!"
"That's a negative--he's moving too fast."
"We got him..." It was Two-Alpha-Attack, peeling off from the left flank they were supposed to hit and moving instead toward the Avenue...
"Negative, Two-Alpha, watch the machine-gun nest--"
But it was too late. Two-Alpha's RPG and MASLAWs fired, most of them missing the fast-moving FAV and serving only to draw attention to themselves from the Flechette gun and AutoRam in the UNE machine-gun nest. Three-quarters of Two-Alpha-Attack fell under the UNE return-fire.
"Shit," whispered Tzumansky.
"Lieutenant, this is Britz, I'm taking fire, requesting K2-Shaw fire-mission before abandoning current position--"
"That's a negative, Britz. Two-Alpha-Attack is down. Do not abandon your flank."
"I repeat, hold your flank." Tzumansky heard a gauss grenade sizzle to life. Well, he thought, that's one way to hold a flank. "/36 prepare to auto-fire on coordinates 35 by 25 by 20..." With the Recce Troopers down Tzumansky's next biggest threat was the Machine-gun nest.
"Incoming! Incoming! Incoming!" It was the BT Corporal. Tzumansky bit his lip as the quad-salvo of Calliope ordnance exploded all around the T85 armor. And then, a half-second later, the BT Corporal stood back up, miraculously unscathed.
"Multiple impacts, Lieutenant..."
Tzumansky checked his HUD and smiled at the sight of almost every icon in the machine-gun nest going off-line under the EMP blasts of the K2-Shaw. Only the Flechette Gunner survived the four rockets.
"Machine-gun nest 75% destroyed..."
And then one of the RPK gunners on the office building roof shifted targets. Magnetically-accelerated hypersteel darts ripped into the UNE Trooper's helmet.
"Correct that, Platoon Sergeant, Machine-gun nest 100% destroyed..." called the voice of One-Alpha-Support's Corporal.
"Watch return-fire from UNE Assault Troopers..."
"Don't worry One-Alpha-Support, I got you covered." It was the BT Trooper that had sprinted ahead on the right flank. He'd finally passed the UNE's front-line and was coming around a corner, lining up both prone, grenade-lobbing assault troopers in his auto-cannon's sights. The weapons discharged with a thunderous report, but they fired completely wild.
"Three-Alpha-BT destroy those Assault Troopers immediately!" Tzumansky would have admired the BT Squad's perfect pincer-move had any of the BT Corporal's collapsed steel rounds actually impacted with the Assault Troopers, but instead they, too, flew wild.
And then it was too late. The disciplined UNE Troopers ignored the BT's threat and raised their RAM lasers to the sky--picking off both of the unfortunate RPK gunners.
Tzumansky had lost his roof-top support, and the K2-Shaw was out of ammo. The force hitting the left flank had stalled, with his sniper barely holding his own behind the protection of a gauss grenade. And now he was finally able to pay attention to the icons pouring out of the elevator onto the bridge. Christ, these UNE apes were everywhere!
"Pull-back. I repeat, pull back. Reconnoiter at Rally Point 5."
"I have Kommissar, but there seems to have been some mistake."
"Really?" The Kommissar fingered his computer terminal and used his armor's sensors to look it over. "Please explain."
"We have seen action twice, Kommissar, without yet receiving reinforcements. Certainly that must be a mistake."
"But members of your unit have received commendations and promotions. Do you understand how extraordinary that is considering that you harbored a traitor?"
"We had no idea that Trooper Kylovich was a traitor--"
"His sabotage of the BT Armor's targeting computers might have been disastrous..."
"It is not my responsibility to identify traitors, Kommissar."
"It is all our responsibility. You're lucky your tour has been extended. High Kommand insisted the lot of you be shipped to Goolag. I intervened."
"Thank you, Kommissar. But about the tour--we are not combat-ready. Even at full strength we were constantly out-numbered three to two by the apes. Without reinforcements we couldn't possibly last under fire--"
"There are no reinforcements."
"Surely you can see--"
"There are no reinforcements! We are under-manned here in Perfume City, Lieutenant. We await Marshal Lodtzjek's CCK Battalion from Roderham. Between the constant threat from Charlie-Deuce and the treachery of the apes all combat personnel must remain on active duty, regardless of their casualty rates. Is that understood, Lieutenant?"
"And Lieutenant, next time I expect you to achieve your primary objective or die trying. Dismissed."