(Ed: This is a sneak preview from my upcoming book: Valkrie: Attrition. Coming probably Summer of 22. It takes place at the same time as Valkyrie: Rebellion. Enjoy!)
“Fog of War”
Inside the defensive perimeter, Firebase Anvil
Tony moved rapidly in a crouch through the blowing dust. Seeing a large boulder, he moved behind it and knelt. He was immediately joined by the sergeant major, the engineer lieutenant, and two Marine NCO’s. They moved into the small depression behind the rock and opened their tactical display. Tony leaned around the boulder and peered into the dust. Seeing a runner coming, he waved at the Marine, who sprinted to them and dove behind the rock into cover.
Hauling the woman to her feet, Tony ordered, “Report, Marine.”
The private shook her head, dazed and replied. The nameplate on her armor read ‘Euwing’, “Sir. They’re all over the place, popping in and out of the dust and in our positions before we can react.” She looked down at her armor and rifle which was splattered with a dark coating and said, “Lieutenant Rodriguez is dead. Staff Sergeant Okono is running Bravo company. Not sure about the others.” Looking past Tony, her eyes widened. The private snapped up her rifle and yelled, “Down!” and began to squeeze the trigger, firing sharp blue blasts into the dust. Tony flopped to the ground, dragging Jimenez down with him. After a moment, the Marine said in a shaking voice, “Clear!” She kept her rifle trained on the swirling dust.
Rolling over, Tony looked in the direction she had fired. Barely visible in the dust about fifteen feet away was a crumpled figure, lying face down. Euwing said again, “This is what it’s like all over the line, sir. They pop up outta nowhere and it gets up close and personal.” She continued to scan the dust for a moment, then added bitterly, “I killed the one that got the L-T with my knife.”
Sergeant Major Jimenez patted the Marine on her power armored shoulder and replied, “You did your job, Marine. So did Lieutenant Rodriguez. We just gotta hang on until help gets here.”
The woman turned and looked into his eyes through his visor and replied, “They’d better make it fast, Sergeant Major. I don’t know how long we can hold out in this shit.”
Leaning around the boulder again, Tony peered through the dust. He swore under his breath. He turned to the staff sergeant crouched by the portable tactical display and asked, “Where are the goddamn Gorgons? They’re supposed to be supporting the line!”
The staff sergeant opened his mouth to reply, but before he could, the dust cloud to the right of them illuminated a brilliant green. A muted roar could be heard. The light disappeared, then again, the brilliant flashes of green, this time interspersed with explosions. The green flashing form lascannons grew in intensity, illuminating the entire area in an eerie flashing green light. The staff sergeant grinned and pointed into the dust, “There’s one, sir.”
Tony shook his head and muttered, “Wiseass.” He shook his head, and turned to the engineer lieutenant, “Anything from the killdozers?”
The young man shook his head, “My last runner said they had started cutting trenches, but I haven’t heard from them in a while. They’re out there somewhere.”
To the front of the small group, the dust started flashing red, and Elai energy bolts started searing past. Tony pulled his head back and turned to the right, watching the mech crew, obviously seeing whomever was shooting, start walking streams of green fire through the dust.
One of the staff sergeant looked up and shouted, “We got….” His helmet faceplate was suddenly an open hole, and inside a dark, shapeless red and black mess. His body knelt where it was for a moment as the power armor servos tried to keep it upright, then fell slowly forward. In one motion, the remaining Marines dove prone. As one, they brought their rifles up, aiming into the blowing dust. Tony scanned the dust, and activated his low light system in his helmet. The image immediately washed out with the reflected light, and he shut it off and strained his eyes.
Suddenly, Euwing shouted, “Contact left!” She rose to a knee and opened fire. Tracing her shots, Tony could see shadowy figures running and diving behind rocks, appearing and then vanishing in the dust. Two barely visible shapes opened fire from behind a rock, pouring a stream of red bolts at the Marines. Tony laid as flat as he could, hearing the bolts searing overhead.
After several seconds, the fire ceased, and there was a startling silence. From behind him, Tony heard a surprised grunt and rolled over. There was a dark armored figure in the depression with them, kneeling on Euwing’s back. She was screaming incomprehensibly. Shocked, Tony raised his rifle. Before he could fire, Sergeant Major Jimenez popped up onto his knees and swung a fist at the figure’s faceplate, hitting it with the augmented strength of his power armor. The figure fell backwards, and the NCO fell over with it, tumbling out of the depression and out of sight. Another two shapes were rolling on the ground. Tony reached over and grabbed the first thing he could find, a dark armored boot. Bracing his feet, he yanked as hard as possible. There was a terrible screech, and he could feel a sickening crunch from the extremity. The Elai kicked at Tony with its other leg. He leaned back, trying to keep the boot away from his faceplate. Suddenly, the Elai stiffened and then went limp. Tony looked down the Elai’s body, and saw the engineer lieutenant, his face pale through his helmet visor, holding the handle of an entrenching tool that was embedded deeply into the alien’s helmet. Tony nodded at the man, and released the leg. He rolled over, just in time to see the Private Euwing pop up to her knees and hurl a grenade into the dust, then drop facedown and cover her helmet with her hands. Tony snatched his rifle, and hearing the explosion, popped up with his rifle at the ready, followed by Euwing. Seeing two Elai writhing on the ground a dozen feet in front of their position, Tony joined the Marine in pumping several bolts from his rifle into the bodies.
The aliens' bodies jerked as the bolts hit, then went still. Tony stopped firing and watched the dust intently. Hearing another motion behind him, he whirled and pointed his rifle. Upon seeing the sergeant major climbing back into the depression, he lowered his rifle. The man was covered in dust, sticking to the blood freezing on his armor.
Sitting down hard, he looked at Tony and in a strained voice, said, “Shit.”
“Yeah.” Tony looked at the man and asked, “You ok?”
Jimenez nodded, and looked down, “Yeah. Not mine, sir.” He rolled over the body of the staff sergeant, and seeing the hole in his faceplate, shook his head and said again, “Shit.” His voice was quiet. From the left and the right of them, the brilliant green flashes illuminating sheets of blowing dust told them that the Gorgons were once again firing.
Tony cautiously looked out, and then said, “Sergeant Major. Take a look. You see anything?”
The older man crawled in next to Tony and stared into the dust. Suddenly there came a blue flash, flying over their heads, then another. In front of them, the dust lit up with a sudden fury of blue and red flashing, mixed with occasional stray bolts flying over their heads. After several seconds, the firing died down, and there was nothing visible in front of them but the blowing dust. Private Euwing popped her rifle up again, her sharp eyes picking up something in the dust. The small group all trained their rifles on the dust as a figure raced at them. Tony breathed a sigh of relief as the figure resolved into the armored shape of a Marine. He skidded to a stop, flopping down next to the prone Marines.
Jimenez growled at the young man, “Report, Marine.”
Panting, the man replied, “Sergeant Major. The flanking force has linked up with the line. We’re pushing them back.”
Tony demanded, “How many Marines are left in the flanking force?”
The Marine shook his head, “Don’t know, sir. They took a lot of heat. Captain Saint is dead, so is Sergeant Kimbro.The remaining troops are in the trench line with Bravo company. The bad guys are falling back.”
Tony turned to Jiminez and said, “Well, it looks like we held ‘em.”
“For now.” The noncommissioned officer looked into the dust, “That trick won’t work twice though.”
Tony nodded wearily, “Yeah. Suggestions?”
With a hard expression on his face, Jimenez looked at the blowing dust, then replied, “Not much choice. We sit here, we get wiped out.” He looked back at Tony, “Lets go get ‘em.”
Tony smiled humorlessly, “When in doubt, huh?” He picked up his rifle and checked the charge on the ammunition pack.
“Attack.” Jimenez nodded, “You got it, sir.” He turned to the Marine runners and said, “Marine, Get the message to the line companies and the mechs. Advance to contact.”