Colonel Ben Dekker stood next to a bunker on the MEF compound perimeter and surveyed the Highlands with his field glasses. Just 500 meters in front of him, the fertile ground covered with patches of grass and weeds that were actually green sloped up towards a small rise, behind which a full brigade of the Terran Guard was waiting for him and the rest of the MEF. He cringed as his eyes swept the last arable ground on Shoahn’Tu within reach of the MEF. He had fought here before and he had an old debt to repay.
He lowered his field glasses and studied the bunkers where his weapons company had deployed their heavy machine guns and mortars. He tapped a small button on the headset nestled just under his helmet. “Weapons.” After a soft chime sounded, he said, “Whiskey Six, Enforcer Six Actual. Are you all set up there Captain?”
His headset crackled with a faint hiss and then a click. “Enforcer Six, we’re all set except for one of the plasma guns. We’re putting in another fifty instead.”
“Smoker?” Dekker Asked.
“Yes sir. We still have powder rounds and I figured today was a good day to use them.”
“We need you to keep them pinned down as long as you can, Captain.”
“Roger that, sir. We’ve got our fields of fire out to 1000 meters along a 500 meter line in five sectors. We’ve got you covered, sir.”
“I know you do, Captain. Stand by for the signal. Enforcer Six out. Battle net.” Another chime sounded. “Enforcer Six, all Enforcer stations, com check.”
“Alpha Six, five oh.”
“Bravo Six, five by five.”
“Charlie Six, reading lima charlie.”
Colonel Dekker let out a slow breath as he inspected the line one last time. His Marines were trained, prepared and motivated. All that was left was the battle. He knew that if a bullet ripped into his forehead at that moment, his battalion would carry out their mission just as well without him.
He tapped the headset again and said, “Command radio.” After the chime, he continued, “Marine Six, Enforcer Six Actual.”
The voice of General Lane came back over the line. “Marine Six Actual, go ahead.”
“Enforcer battalion is ready sir. The boys are fired up and ready to shoot.”
“Understood. I’m tying you into the group net now.” Dekker heard a squeal of static and then the voice of Colonel Mason confirming last minute adjustments in his formation as they prepared to move off the line of departure. When he was finished, General Lane said, “Badger Six, report.”
Lt. Simmons, her soft voice crisp and precise, replied, “Marine Six, we don’t have any updates for you sir. We’ll conduct a recon in force on the right and set up a patrol to monitor the Guards’ lines of communication.”
“Understood,” Lane said. “Stand by for my signal. Break. Two Bravo Delta, report.”
Dekker couldn’t help feeling a dull stab of remorse when Major Walker’s voice filled his headset. “Right behind you General. We’re all set here, just say the word.”
“Remember, Major, you are a contingent. Stay put unless I give you the word. Hopefully all you’ll have to do today is watch.”
“Roger that, General. Can’t say we like watching, but I’ll keep the reins tight.”
“You do that. Marines, stand by for attack. Marine Six out.”
Dekker’s headset hissed and then went silent. There was nothing left to say. The air grew still as he waited for the signal for the fight to begin. A low chime sounded in his headset, a final warning and the last chance for any of the battalion commanders to report any last minute problems. Nobody said a word. After five seconds of dead silence, an electronic chime sounded five times, followed by a final one-second dual modulated frequency tone that told him and everyone in the MEF to start moving. His men, stretched out in a line a half-mile wide, stood up and started walking into the Highlands. At the same time, the air filled with the chattering roar of machine guns and the steel ring of rounds leaving their mortar tubes.
A voice spiked with urgency called out over the radio. “Flash! Infantry company strength 1000 meters front. Four tangos behind another 500. Engaging.” The transmission cut off. A moment later, he heard the crack of rifle fire and the eerie pulse of plasma rounds searing the air as they flew into the face of the enemy already advancing on them from the crest of the Highlands.
©2016 Michael J Lawrence