Pieces In Play

Moving from corridor to corridor seems quicker this time to all members of Echo. In part that’s because they aren’t forced to cover a similar distance to what they need to previously. And sensibly the SMR are making no efforts to mount a defence in the narrow, in comparison to the rooms especially, passages. What they are doing is instead funnelling Echo. Where previously the special ops unit were on a direct course for the generator the same cannot be said now. It’s not a problem per se, more an inconvenience; one that nobody mentions even as they burst out of an avenue and into a new large room.

Immediately Echo comes under fire. Sliding into cover the four UNN soldiers remain at the ready but the wall of lead being hurled their way makes it impossible to reciprocate. Sure, they could blind fire. Each of them, independently, sees that as a waist of ammunition. They might not be short on it but that does not mean they are willing to needlessly expunge it. After all, who knows what might await them up ahead. There might be roughly thirty SMR in this room but who’s to say the next doesn’t contain fifty or a hundred? Try as they might the UNN have never managed to ascertain the exact numbers of the separatist group. They believe it to be in the thousands but it could be hundreds or millions. The latter seems less likely but who’s to say. There are thousands of human occupied systems and most have more than a single colony in each so it wouldn’t be impossible for those on the fringes to total around a million.

“Pattern alpha six; execute when ready, confirm?”

“Confirm.”

That is the sum total of the communication between the squad members. No quips, no jokes, questions, sarcastic remarks, chuckles, laughs or anything else. That’s because all of them are focused, in the zone. If they weren’t they’d be liabilities to not only themselves but potentially the remainder of their unit. Not something any of them wants regardless of how unlikely it is the SMR would be at putting one of them down permanently or not.

Seconds pass as the four armour clad bodies get into position. There is nothing remarkable about their setup. Amanda as a sniper will hang back while Cynthia will run toward the SMR. She has no intention of felling them all herself. Instead her advance is meant to help draw some of their targets out for elimination by Echo 2. Except for those who get in her path, block her way, get too close. Those are who she will take down with her SMG. Echo 1 and 4 meanwhile will be the clean up for any SMR who don’t take the bait. The unit works on it being a roughly sixty/forty split of won’t to will.

The time has arrived. Echo execute on their pattern. Cynthia blasts out of cover, zigzagging as she races at close to her max speed back and forth around crates, machines and other objects she is in no way inclined to consider for fear that doing so might slow her pace and result in her taking rounds. Enough of them would force her back into cover, somewhere. If that were to happen it could prove inopportune for either herself or her squad, more than likely both. So she ignores the details to focus only on the shapes and the course she intends to take. A few separatists move toward her in hopes of intervening, she fires in bursts to converse ammo. It was how she was trained irrespective of if Echo fought next to a munitions dump or out in a field surrounded by nothing but grass. The un-armoured separatists fall shredded by her rounds fall away quickly.

She vaults over a blockage in her chosen route. More SMR round the corner, she fires horizontally across the side by side pair of targets. They both collapse just in time to avoid thwarting her pace.

Meanwhile Amanda lays into the advancing SMR drawn to Echo 3. More so than usual separatists flock toward the lone UNN soldier as she blasts back and forth. A few show signs of holding intent to tackle. They are too slow. Cynthia roars past them leaving Amanda to fire. One shot, one kill.

Each time Echo 2 fires she counts off the number of rounds left in her HPR’s magazine. She started with ten. Previous room she took down three which means seven rounds remained. Since entering this room she’s fired four rounds, claiming a target with each. That leaves her with three shots. She makes them count by taking out a pair with a single shot who are in cover waiting to pounce on Cynthia. Not something they’ll ever get chance to do now, Amanda thinks swinging her weapon back the other way, the scope flaring blue as she passes over Ioan who is letting rip, in a controlled fashion, on the SMR with his carbine.

There aren’t many of the separatists left. Or there weren’t until a few seconds after she has that thought another dozen come rushing in to join what remains of their fallen brethren. A couple have heavy weapons, still not from the weapon caches. What they do have is definitely more threatening than what the other sep’s are wielding however. Hence that is why Amanda sights and fires. Two shots, two kills. Her rifle clicks empty. She knew it was coming as soon as she fired and has already dumped the spent mag.

Pulling a fresh replacement from her armours storage compartment located around her waistline she slams the magazine into place, hears it lock, then rips the bolt back to cycle the first round into the chamber. Right after she returns to peering down the scope and just in the nick of time as Cynthia has an SMR barrelling toward her. Amanda takes a breath, makes sure to slow her breathing, tracks the target, exhales and squeezes the trigger. The sep goes down with only half his head still in place. Cynthia turns, she hadn’t seen him. He was approaching her from a blind spot. She nods to Amanda to convey her thanks. “Anytime.” The sniper mutters into her helmet mic moving on.

Carmine isn’t surprised more SMR have been sent to bolster those who were here when they arrived. What does surprise him is how few they’ve sent. He would have sent more but then he is fully aware of the capabilities of his unit, doubtful the SMR are. Not that it matters. They could send double the number they have and this skirmish would end the same.

He fires a burst; five rounds explode out of the barrel creating a rapid pulse of muzzle flashes. If not for his Dominion III the burst rifle round be difficult to keep trained on a target. It has a hell of a kick to it, which is why so few in the UNN make it their weapon of choice and those who do tend to be big, muscular people that find some of the other options a little small for their hands. Still, even they tend to struggle with landing all rounds from a burst on target. With his enhanced capabilities the Warrant Officer has no such issue.

Ioan is close by and is yet to reload. Perks of having a carbine Echo 1 supposes. Carmine gets seven bursts before his magazine is spent. Just as he thinks that his burst rifle clicks to inform it’s out of bullets to fire. He drops the mag, doesn’t hear it clattering with the decking beneath his feet, and in a fluid motion pulls a fresh replacement, slaps it into place until he hears a click and then… He doesn’t fire for an SMR rounds the corner too close for him to have the time or the chance. Carmine instead settles on swinging his left fist and the weapon within it. The separatist leaps back. Echo 1 is impressed but suspects the reaction was more down to luck than judgement, which is why he follows the first swing up with a second. He’s proven right when the butt of his burst rifle and elbow crash into the separatists jaw. There is a nasty crack. The man goes down but is not out of fight yet. Rather, he flails in an attempt to scramble back to his feet. Carmine never gives him the opportunity because he levels and fires a burst into the targets side and chest. The separatist with the, at best, fractured jaw stays down for good.

Following the dispatching on the separatist Carmine spins around in search of a fresh target and discovers Echo have pushed more than two thirds of the way down the length of the large room. Echo 1 has no conclusions as to what this space might once have served as seeing as there are a mixture of crates, machines and metal mess hall tables but no chairs. However, there are no fresh targets. The SMR are down, as are their slim band reinforcements. The gunfire has ended, an eerie silence having taken its place.

“Clear?” Is all Echo 1 asks. It looks it, sounds it, feels it and yet training tells him to get confirmation. Arrogance gets you killed in the field.

“Clear.” Comes the confirmation Carmine gets in triplicate.

“That wasn’t so bad. I expected more.” Echo 4 informs without anyone having asked for an opinion or comment.

Right after that Carmine orders, “Move out Echo.” And with that they do, returning to the corridors so they might snake down whatever path SMR afford to them heading for the platforms generator.

The Warrant Officer wonders if the separatists have worked out yet that the generator is where they are headed. They should have. He would have. Hell, all of Echo would have. The SMR, he can’t say. They aren’t UNN. At least as far as he knows none of them turned from UNN to SMR. It’s possible but seems unlikely. Once a separatist always a separatist, is what many who see them as terrorists, criminals, anarchists say.

This stint in the avenues that zigzag through Ardent is the shortest yet. But this time Echo finds no SMR. They don’t like it, any of them. However, the map in their HUD which shows the stations schematics makes it clear that there is no other way, unless they want to try getting through air lock doors which are sealed. If they had a cutting torch then maybe but they haven’t and without having located the weapons cache for asset denial as yet there is a growing chance the op might be a failure. After all, there is nothing stopping SMR from fleeing Ardent. Of course whether their ships would be aware of the Fifteenth Fleet’s presence or not none of Echo can say. It’s not like the fleet or Imidachi are trying to hide as they sit beyond the perimeter of the asteroid field. Then again how you would hide a megacarrier Echo 1 has no clue. Its size makes it totally impossible and impractical. It wouldn’t surprise him though if at some point past or present the UNN had entertained the notion. He can imagine the draw if it were achievable within reason.

“Only way out is through.”

“Not the most inspiring words you’ve ever spoken, Car.”

“I’m open to options, so if you’ve got ‘em speak ‘em.”

Echo’s 2, 3 and 4 exchange looks but no one says a word. It’s confirmation that they have no better suggestions. Carmine had hoped someone would have. Alas, it seems the thing they want to do least, cross a suspiciously empty room in hostile territory, is all that’s available to them.

“I’ll go first, Amanda you cover the rear.” Comes the order from Echo 1. No one argues against it. Rather, they single file collapse into the room making sure to keep a couple metres between each of them.

“I don’t like this. I really don’t like this.” Echo 4 informs saying what the rest of them are thinking.

“Eight metres to the other side; we’re near…” Before Echo 1 gets the chance to finish a massive explosion roars into life all around them. Panic hits, adrenaline replaces it soon after. Carmine gets the urge to pump his legs and run. He does but nothing happens. He looks down to find the decking no longer beneath his feet. Then it dawns on him that he is falling. He thinks this is it, this is the end. He slams painfully into something hard and unrelenting barely more than a few seconds afterwards. He gets no time to asses where he is for debris comes toppling down upon him. He braces, arm raised to protect his helmeted head and shield himself against the debris.  An impenetrable cloud of dust is mixed with the debris. It blinds all the members of Echo who are scrambling uselessly as the debris continues to fall, extinguishing the light which had illuminated the area around them even with the presence of the cloud.

“We got ‘em!” One of the separatists screams in joyful victory which goes unheard by Echo who continue to fumble about attempting to understand what has just happened.

“Not so tough after all.”

“They never are. Just stories meant to scare kids and the feeble minded. You know how it goes.”

“Yeah, well call it in. No need to keep the alert up now. They’re pancaked, remains floating in the void.”

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