Chapter 47

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FIRE PLAN

Dekker paced through the center compound. The weapons company’s mortar crews were flinging dirt out of holes where they would position the heavy mortars while runners built leaning stacks of ammunition boxes behind each position. The compound was small and the mortars had to position themselves in two lines of four with barely ten meters between each position. He caught the eye of the section leader watching over the preparations and said, “That’s going to be a tight sheaf, Sergeant.”

“Yes sir, but I think the Captain is leaving the 60’s out with the main line, so we’ll have a good spread for final defensive fires.”

Dekker eyed the buildings flanking the compound. “How about the masking?”

“We checked it, sir. We’re good up to 100 meters in front of the gate. The cards stop at 400 meters, so we’ll be using our personal weapons at that point anyway.”

“Very well, Sergeant,” Dekker said, resuming his walk through the compound. “Carry on.”

“Yes sir.”

Captain Douglas’s command track was parked just inside the gate where he was bent over a sheet of paper spread across a folding plastic table and anchored at the corners by ammunition boxes. Dekker stepped up next to him and tapped the paper. “What’s this?”

“This complex isn’t in our tactical database, so I had to sketch the battle plan.”

Dekker surveyed the chart – Captain Douglas had worked up a detailed plan in less time than he could have mapped one himself on a proper tactical board. “Run me through it, Captain.”

Douglas ran his finger up the middle of the chart, extending in a line north from the gate. “Final defensive fires here,” he said, sweeping his hand across the width of the chart. “I’m laying everything for a 500 meter interlocked perimeter extending across the front and wrapping around the far side of each of the buildings on the flanks.”

Dekker leaned to the side to look past the carrier and noted crews were mounting heavy anti-armor missiles forward of the gate. “I’m placing four of my mounted anti-armor teams right in the middle here. I’m setting up a Ma Deuce smoker and a mounted grenade launcher on either side of those. Bravo Company will hang off the ones on our left with Charlie on our right. Company frontage is about 300 meters on each side.”

Douglas stood up and started walking toward the missile crews mounting their weapons on tripods and lining up the sights on stakes marking the 500 meter line to their front. “Another M2, grenade launcher and mounted AV missile team on each company’s flank at the end of the line.” He stopped and looked towards the horizon. “That’s the main line. I’m expecting the Terran Guard to advance straight at us from the north. That’s their fastest route and I get the feeling they’re in a hurry. I have listening posts set up on three phase lines at one, two and three kilometers out. We’ll register the mortars on each line for prepared defensive fires as the Guard crosses each one.”

“What about Alpha Company?”

“It is my intent to keep the Guard bottled up in the middle here, but if they manage to get around our line, I have Alpha’s first platoon setting up to refuse the left flank, reinforced with an M2, grenade launcher, mounted AV team and a heavy portable missile team. Same thing for their second platoon on the right. I’m splitting their third platoon and setting them up on the rooftops as an over watch and reserve.”

“What’s your fire plan?”

“Phase line Dog at three kilometers; when they trip that line, I’ll open up with the mounted AV missiles and the heavy mortars. Phase line Tripoli is at two kilometers. There, we add in the heavy portable AV missiles, 60 mm mortars and heavy machine guns. That will be the first line of engagement for the companies – I’ve distributed two heavy portables on each of their flanks and am leaving their 60’s attached under the direction of the company commanders. Phase line Exodus is at one kilometer. There, we light up with everything else. About a dozen medium machine guns and close to fifty light machine guns, along with fifteen light shoulder missiles and a hundred and fifty highly motivated riflemen.”

It was a little text book for Dekker’s taste. He scanned the horizon, looking over the same ground that had taken all of five minutes for either of them to analyze. The only real terrain was the dunes behind them. Everything else was slopes and gullies that might as well have been a slab of concrete. They had no reinforcements, nowhere to fall back to and no resupply. They had no room to maneuver, either. Where they stood was the only place they could stand. And if they managed to hold back the Third Battalion, General Godfrey had two more she could send against them. It was a tactical nightmare.

Captain Douglas had his hands clasped behind his back, but couldn’t hide his trembling fingers.

“What is it, Captain?”

“I’ve spent my entire life defending the Exodus Colony from the clutches of the Terran Guard. For years, we’ve held them back, but they just keep creeping inch by inch, marking each one with a headstone. My boys can hit a rat’s ass at five hundred meters and there are no finer riflemen than those digging trenches behind us now. But there’s always been one factor that we don’t have this time.”

“The Paladin.”

Captain Douglas turned around. “That’s right.”

“He has his own mission. Part of a bigger picture, Captain.”

“I’m scared, Colonel.”

“You’re supposed to be scared.”

“Not like that. I’m not scared of dying – hell, I’m amazed I made it this far. Not scared of losing, either.” He unclasped his hands and flexed his fingers but the tremor persisted. “I’m scared of letting these Marines down.”

“You have to get past that, Captain. All you have to worry about is your mission. You take care of that, and there isn’t a single Marine here that you’ll be letting down.” Dekker jabbed his finger at the communications building. “As long as Sergeant Preston gets the time he needs to build his contraption to light off the STI, your mission will be accomplished.”

“A delaying action?”

“Oh, hell no. You go on and kill the Third Battalion if you can.” Dekker turned his gaze to the northern horizon. “You know why the Terran Guard favors a direct assault?” Captain Douglas shook his head.

“Range. There’s a lot going for this lovely world we’ve decided to call home. Wind. Dirt. Clay. Lots of clay. Copper, iron and nickel. But there’s one thing it doesn’t have.” He took a step towards Captain Douglas. “Sulfur. Good old number sixteen.”

“Gun powder.”

“That’s right. The Terran Guard have developed a great variety of weapons based on the rail gun, and they’re wicked up close and personal, but they will never carry the range and accuracy of an R-51 long barrel firing a 7.62 mm slug using gun powder.” He clasped Douglas’s shoulder and swept his hand over the horizon. Run your first phase line out five clicks and pound it with HE when they get to it. Don’t wait until three. When they get to four, you light up every mounted AV missile you have. Take out as many of their troop carriers as you can as far away as you can. Open up with those smokers at two and lay in the rest at one point five.”

He turned to look at Douglas. “You’ve always had a good instinct of when to use the smokers. This time, use everything you have to keep them at arm’s length. Before they run up and gut you with their rail guns.”

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©2016 Michael J Lawrence