Laurel lay at the crest of the bluff overlooking the valley below. Set in front of her on it’s bi-pod, was here long-range kinetic scout rifle. It’s butt snugged up against her shoulder-plate, visor linked into its optics, she scanned the entrenched Ssin. Their silver-plated arched forms strode about on patrol around the perimeter set at the base of the mountains.
Large ground to air cannons had been set up around the valleys leading in to key points. Going in by ground seemed to be the only option to Laurel with the gravitational distortion enveloping the ring of mountains, preventing any orbital strikes on the area. Not to mention the Ssin fleet orbiting high overhead.
The valley below her that they had been tasked to recon was the most direct route into the Gate caldera, as Jayko had called it during their briefing. The wide opening into the valley from the grasslands was perfect for a joint air and ground attack. She knew it, and so did the Ssin.
The sun was heading toward the horizon, falling behind her. This strike needed to happen soon. Laurel could only hope that the info they’d sent up to the Arcayan advance vessel had made it back to Jayko and the rest of the fleet.
Catching movement through the scope, she saw the two figures of the twins moving quickly, nimbly through the Ssin fortifications in the valley below. They were heading back.
Good. They need to get their asses back up here. Both Tappen and Tarren had opted to set up some sabotage on the massive cannons protecting the valley entrance. Laurel panned ahead of them a ways to a Ssin patrol that was headed right for the twins.
Letting out a hiss of breath from between her teeth, she sighted in on the lead Ssin, mentally activating her radio. “Patrol, baring twelve hundred from your position,” she said as calmly as she could. Just watching them move through the Ssin forces put her on edge. “The Created”, as they were called by the Arcayans, were some of the fiercest and most deadly opponents that the squad had ever faced. And if they were allowed to live, they adapted quickly, so the next time they fought, there was no chance of survival.
“Come on,” she hissed quietly.
“Clear,” called back the twins in unison.
She let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding and panned away from the lean Ssin looking for the twins. They had vanished from their previous path and were no where to be seen.
“Just keep it quiet down there and get back up here in one piece.”
There was a double clicked response from their radios.
Now, where’s Ben? She scanned the hills leading up to the fortifications. He’d headed off to get a look from a different angle and had sent back some good intel from his recon. However, he was supposed to be back by now.
As if on queue, her radio came alive with his voice. “I’m on your six. What’s the sit-rep?”
“Glad to have you back. Twins are just finishing up on their end. Intel’s away, so we should be getting a response sometime soon hopefully,” replied Laurel. She felt Ben’s presence as he crawled up next to her on his elbows, a scope held in one hand.
“I don’t see ‘em down there,” he said scanning the fortifications.
“They skirted around a patrol.”
“I give ‘em two minutes.” Ben kept the scope up to his visor trying to locate them.
“Give us some credit,” came Tappen’s response from their radios.
“How ‘bout thirty?” chimed in Tarren. “We’re on your six.”
Ben grunted. “Now all we need is the cavalry, then we can really get this party started.”
Laurel reached out and flipped up the bi-pod on her rifle and started a backward crawl from the edge of the bluff, rifle cradled in her arms. When she was back far enough she sat back on one leg, and checked the charge on her rifle. Tappen and Tarren came up next to her, crouching. Ben joined them momentarily.
“Do you really think this is going to work?” he asked. “They have a helluva lot of defenses. Just between us.”
Laurel shook her head. “Don’t start. Everything is riding on this and you know it. You saw how serious those Arcayans were in orbit. I just wonder when they’re getting here.”
Ben nodded. Silent. Then, his head jerked up. “Holy shit.”
Laurel and the twins turned to look at what he’d seen behind them. At the same instant their radios came alive with chatter. “Heavies incoming! Look alive down there!”
“Strike cruisers! In atmosphere!?” cried out Ben in shock.
On the horizon the clouds had parted into a mist, whisked away by the drives of the array of Gamma-Class Heavy Strike-Cruisers that were descending from orbit onto a path right up the valley toward their position.
“Let’s kick the door in! Cover your heads!”
A pinpoint of light winked at tip of the cannon slung under the belly of the lead cruiser. Laurel and the squad threw themselves to the ground, covering their heads as the super-sonic round impacted on the gravitational distortion behind them. The ripple of the shock-wave engulfed the area in a roar of sound, light, and debris.
Even on their perch several clicks out from the Ssin fortifications, the squad felt the full force of the strike.
“I take what I said back! Who the hell authorized the firing of a Jump Cannon in atmosphere!?” shouted Ben over the noise.
Laurel uncovered her head as a shower of grit rained down on them, the dust from the impact clearing steadily. The roar gave way to the steadily increasing wine of afterburners. Looking up into the sky she caught sight of the first wave of starfighters as they blew by overhead, unloading a salvo of missile fire on the Ssin ground forces before pulling up to skim over the top of the distortion.
The Ssin fortifications went up in a hail of fire and explosions
Her radio speaker crackling with static from the initial blast, it alive on multiple channels, with orders being give and status updates coming in from hundreds of places at once.
“Weapons free, you are weapons free.”
“Jump Cannon online! Charging for another strike.”
“Ssin fighters incoming! Watch your six!”
Laurel slowly got to her feet as the next wave of fighters streaked by overhead, followed close behind by dropships of all designs. Almost immediately she picked out a familiar form and a familiar voice as well.
“Yeee-haw! We’re not missin’ the party are we?” came the voice of their pilot over the radio. Their dropship came in low, circling around and dropping down, hatches open. As Laurel watched, she spotted the figure standing in the doorway of the dropship, rifle strapped to his back, pistol at his hip, hanging onto one of the hand panic-bars overhead.
“Jayko!” called out Laurel over the radio.
Raising an armored hand, he waved them on-board. “Need a lift?”
“Hells yeah!” cried out the twins scrambling to their feet and hopping up into the bay with him. Laurel pulled herself in along with Ben and the dropship started to ascend.
Jayko touched the side of his helmet. “Recon team aboard. You may initiate the drop.”
“Drop?” asked Ben quizzically coming up beside Jayko and Laurel.
An Arcayan voice came over the radio. “Drop initiated. Impact in thirty.”
Jayko just nodded to the sky above them.
Laurel saw the form of the Arcayan Advance Vessel materialize in the sky high overhead, followed in the next second by twelve flaming comets streaking through the lower atmosphere. On the crest of the hill where they had been moments ago, the comets struck hard throwing soil and dirt into a cloud around them leaving craters in the green earth.
The twelve heavily armored mechs, stood, their limbs articulating, long heads on the swivel as they pulled out their cannon sized rifles from their backs, cradling them in four sets of mechanical limbs. Steam rose from their armor as they started to move forward, sighting in on the nearest Ssin ground to air cannon that was turning it’s aim from the sky to fire on them.
With a discharge of energy down the cannon sized rifle, the mech fired and the Ssin cannon erupted in azure fire shattering with a roar.
“Holy hell!” breathed Ben. “And I thought those things were impressive just standing in their bays.”
“Heck of a landing spot,” said Laurel remembering that they had just been standing on that bluff.
“A tactically sound spot for a landing. The Arcayans wanted to make sure you were out of harms way before dropping into the fight.”
“Nice of them to make sure we were clear,” retorted Ben.
The dropship juked wildly in the air. “Hang on,” called the pilot. “Fire’s getting heavy. We’re coming in to the LZ.”
“LZ, sir?” asked Laurel.
Jayko nodded looking over to her and un-holstering his rifle one handed. “You ready to take on some heavy fighting?”
“Always,” confirmed Laurel, checking the charge and ammo supply on her own rifle. Under her helmet, her gin on her face couldn’t have shown with more confidence.