Stories of The 39th Midnight Squadron
Earth Shattering 'Kaboom!'
‘Earth Shattering Kaboom!’
Tiber II Planet-side
March 5, 2937
Fall of Tiber II
The blood from the gash in his face obscured his vision, and dripped down onto the live Vanduul plasma shell he was disarming in his lap.
“Esti tabarnak!” he muttered under his breath. Another flurry of laser bolts ripped inches over his hole in the ground and the Marine to his left took a hit and fell screaming into the mud. Robbie looked to his right at the young Marine Lieutenant who shared his hole along with eight other Marines. At a glance he registered the tenuous state of the men and women next to him, sensing how close some were to breaking. He bared his teeth in a grin and pitched his voice over the sounds of the battle as they hunkered down in their hole. “Hey Sir, You mind telling the neighbors to keep the noise from their party down? I have to work early tomorrow and I’m trying to sleep here.”
The young Lieutenant looked up at him with terror in his eyes, and curled up into a ball as another plasma shell hit no more the 100 feet from them. “Shit!” Sergeant Burgundy exclaimed as the shock-wave nearly knocked the live shell out of his lap and debris showered over their heads. He looked around at the Marines in his hole and shouted, “Lance Corporal! Get your a s s over here and keep low, dammit.”
As the Lance Corporal slowly crawled toward him Sergeant Burgundy completed the final steps necessary to disarm the very lethal shell that had landed in their hole no more the 10 minutes earlier before it could destabilize and cook off. Every soul remaining in the narrow trench had escaped a very messy death, a realization that had pushed several of the Marines to a breaking point. Roughly half of their comrades had panicked and ran as the shell impacted, right into laser turret fire that had cut them into neatly segmented pieces of smoking human meat all along the edge of the defensive position.
The Marine Lance Corporal, now by his side looked up at him, the whites of her eyes showing around the green discs of her iris as she shouted into his ear. “Sarge, please tell me you have an idea how to get us outta this mess!” Looking around at the gear in the hole an idea started to form in his head. With a lopsided grin, he shouted back at her over the din. “Of course I do, did you ever hear that line- “Retreat? Hell we don’t retreat; we just advance in a different direction!?” Well we are most definitely going to advance the hell outta here!” The Lance Corporal looked at him like he was crazy, “What?” Robbie asked, “You got a better Idea? No? Didn’t think so. Listen up! Here’s what we do…”
* * * *
Four Hours Later
Forward most Operating base, Camp Marvin.
“Sergeant Burgundy! Put out that damn cigar! You are stinking up my field hospital!” yelled the chief medical officer on shift.
Sergeant Burgundy, surrounded by eight haggard but breathing Marines, looked past the Medic cleaning up the gash on his forehead with a look that could curdle milk. Before he could respond, one of the grime covered Marines stood and leveled a menacing glare at the medical officer, fists balled up at his side. "With all due respect Sir, there’s eight of us wouldn’t be here but for him, and so I figure that’s eight of us will hold you down while he puts the fucking thing out up your ass if you insist on making it an issue.”
Robbie relaxed, leaning back against his pack as he chewed on his cigar and winked at the medical officer, white teeth flashing in his dirt covered face. Ah, Marines. He’d always liked them and believed everyone should have at least one. Now he had eight! He wondered if he could keep them when he reported back to his unit…
* * * *
March 6, 2937, Tiber II.
Forward most Operating base, Camp Marvin.
“Hey sir, these Marines followed me home, can I keep ‘em?” Robbie casually asked his Captain as he walked into the Engineer section of the camp, gesturing to the eight Marines who followed him in.
“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN, SERGEANT!?” the Captain screamed after he had recovered from his initial shock. “The last time any of us saw you, you had three Sappers with you running toward the battle lines!”
“Uh, sorry sir,” Robbie replied- not looking at all sorry. “I heard a distress call come in over the com from a group of Marines, stuck at a Vanduul defensive obstacle.” His slight shrug gave way to a sudden earnest expression of concern as he eyed the Captain. “Did my guys make it back?”
The Captain grunted, still scowling as he responded. “Yes, though they are a little worse for wear. Couple good gashes, chem burns, collection of bruises…all superficial and nothing the med techs couldn’t fix.” He waved his hand dismissively, his gruff tone sharpening as he redirected his attention. “But where the HELL have you been?! I should have you court marshaled for this! You had better have a good goddamn reason for this disappearing act!”
Completely uncowed by the blistering tone, Sergeant Burgundy launched into an explanation of how he happened to end up with a lost squad of Marines and unexploded ordinance in his lap…
It took a few hours…
But with the Marine detachment offering additional details and high praise, the combat engineer’s Captain just sighed, staring up at his NCO from under bushy brows. “You’re certifiably crazy, you know that don’t you?” the Captain finally said. “Not only that but you have to be the luckiest god damn soldier in the UEE.”
“Thank you, sir!” Robbie flashed a wide grin, "but you never answered my question, sir.” The weary officer stared at Robbie, nonplussed. “What question is that, Sergeant?”
“Can I keep ‘em?” He hooked his thumb back towards the group of Marines huddled together outside the portable C&C structure, having a smoke and looking around the engineer camp while eying the Army personnel who had slowly gathered during the debrief. With an exasperated sigh the Captain rose from his desk and stabbed a finger on the surface of his glas, closing the After Action Report proceedings.“I don’t even know why you bother asking me. We both know you’re just going to do what you want anyway. Just make sure someone from their unit knows they are still alive. After that I don’t care what you do with them,” he grumbled as he stalked out.
The room erupted in applause as other members of the engineering unit moved in to pound Robbie on the back, laughter and an assortment of remarks welcoming him back as the Marines joined the group. Credits changed hands amid good natured grumbling and assorted cackles of delight. Robbie was herded out towards the impromptu NCO club, the glow of his cigar tip trailing smoke as the mob turned the corner, leaving the quiet command center behind them.
‘The Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator!’
Tiber II Planet-side
Forward most Operating base, Camp Marvin.
March 7, 2937
Fall of Tiber II
“Sir, with all due respect, is command FUCKING NUTS?!?” Robbie looked at his Captain with an incredulous expression. “We both know if I think a plan crazy, we have a problem, and I think this is a situation where command needs to slip into a nice new set of straightjackets and spend some time in a rubber room!”
He looked over the holo map of the area one more time with a resigned look, “All this is going to do is get a bunch of Marines, as well as my guys – slaughtered. Next to no air cover, no artillery cover, over 200m of empty field covered by their cannons and artillery- this is not a suicide mission this is a meat grinder, nothing less.”
His Captain looked up from the map, his face weary, and his expression bleak. “Rob, I know what I’m asking of you and your men, I don’t like it any more than you, but we need those AA guns taken out so we can give our Hornets a chance to gain air superiority.”
Robbie took in another long draw of his cigar. “goddamn them,” he said quietly. He blew out the smoke with a heavy sigh. “Well shit. Then I’m taking the section of engineers in. This is not gonna be pretty, and I’m the best you got on the ground.” As he turned to leave the briefing tent, the Captain said gruffly, “I’m sorry.” With a disgusted look, Robbie turned back to the Captain “Fuck you, and fuck command. I’m going because it’s my guys; I could care less about the mission. Command is gonna get us all killed for this worthless piece of rock and you know it.”
9 hours later
Grid: WE U16 356 689 “Hell’s Valley”
Embedded with the 28th Marine Division
“Private, if you don’t get suppressing fire on that Vanduul gun nest I will rip that machine gun outta your hands and you can fly this damn bird!” Robbie yelled at the young Marine behind the company’s heavy weapon. He knelt beside the dying Hornet pilot and did his best to gently remove the man’s helmet. With his trademark easy going smile hiding gritted teeth, he pitched his voice low to the pilot, just loud enough to be heard over the din of combat. “I’m sorry, mate- I need to borrow this and I can’t hear myself think over all this racket.”
The young pilot cracked a smile, coughed up blood and said with a bitter laugh “It’s alright, I don’t think I’m gonna need it where I’m going.” He struggled to focus on the man leaning over him, noting the lack of wings on his unit insignia. He managed to frown slightly. “You sure you can handle her? She’s a lot of machine for a grunt…don’t think they issue these babies to combat engineers…” He smiled weakly, his teeth stained a lurid, bloody red.
In an instant Robbie realized he could have been friends with the young man. Even as he lay dying the pilot demonstrated a wry wit and sense of humor not many seemed to be blessed with. Robbie smiled. “Hell, if one of you powder-puff Air Force types can fly her I’m sure an Army Sapper can do it even better!”
The pilot laughed weakly and grasped Sapper’s hand, pulling slightly so that Robbie leaned down closer to him. “Give ‘em hell,” he breathed before he stilled, his eyes emptying of expression and staring upwards at Robbie as he died.
Sapper sat back on his heels, swallowing past a thick knot in his throat. Sapper brushed his hand over the man’s face, closing his eyes. “Godspeed, man. I wish we could have met in a different place. I’ll send the bastards your best."
He looked back at the collection of Marines and Combat Engineers that had followed his crazy run to the downed fighter. “Alright you monkeys, keep suppressing fire on the position till I get this bird outta here. After that fall back and regroup with the rest of the company. Lance Corporal, you’re in charge- get these badasses home!” He slanted a cocky grin to the female Marine he had helped not four days earlier. “If, I don’t make it back from this, It’s been an honor serving with you shitheads!” He stood and strode to the waiting spacecraft, jumping in as his troops scrambled to get out of the way.
Once inside the cockpit with the sounds of battle sealed away, he had to admit to himself that he had no idea what he was doing. He had minor ground transport training, some space craft training and he had even flown a drop ship once or twice; but this was a an entirely different sort of flying all together. He smiled and murmured, “Well hell, how hard can it be?” He looked around the cockpit- Master power, engine power, flight controls . . . maybe this would be easier then he thought.
He gingerly leaned forward, ignoring the previous occupant’s dried blood on the display panel, and pressed the main power button. The ship coughed once, then twice, and then roared to life. He grabbed the flight yolk and with a nervous grin muttered, “here we go,” and pressed the flight pedals as he pulled back on the throttle. The ship started to vibrate and rose out of the mud and started to move…backwards. “shit, shit, shit, shi…”
“Well,” he mumbled as his aircraft shuddered but seemed to weather the collision, “command staff won’t be using that transport to get them outta this mess…”
He winced. “…Or that one… serves them right for getting us into this mess in the first place,” he grumbled before he punched the throttle forward and shot up into the skies- this time in the right direction.
Radio traffic heard over Forward Operating Base, Camp Marvin.
“W7848, this is flight lead, Monty, Is that you?”
“Flight lead, this Is Sgt. Robert Burgundy of the 54th Combat Engineering Regiment. I regret to inform you that the original pilot of this craft was KIA. He crash landed near my position and managed to inform me of his mission before succumbing to his wounds.”
“W7848, this is flight lead, Roger that. May he forever rest in peace.”
There was a brief pause, then:
“Wait, W7848, did you say… Combat Engineer?!?”
“Flight lead, this is W7848, Roger that. What’s the matter, never seen a Sapper fly?”
“Good grief, ok all wings, form up on W7848, new call-sign Sapper. Son, you got any questions about that bird before things get rough?”
“Flight lead, this is Sapper… just one.”
“Flight lead: go ahead Sapper?”
“I got a flashing screen here that says press ‘any’ key to continue, and I can’t for the life of me find the dam n ‘any’ Key…..”
“…Sapper, this is flight lead. You and call-sign Monty would have been the best of friends…”
“Thanks Flight lead…”
Tiber II airspace
March 8, 2937
“WARNING, WARNING, FUEL AT CRITICAL LEVELS!”
“Really!?” Sapper yelled at the computer “Is that why my engines cut out?! I would never have known, thank you, thank you, you helpful hunk of crap!”
The ground was coming up fast, and Sapper just hoped he could make it back to the UEE side of the battle field. Up ahead he could see Forward Operating Base, Camp Marvin. It might as well have been a light year away. In a last ditch effort, Sapper pulled back on the stick to gain as much altitude as he dared without killing too much speed. He gritted his teeth as he began to coast as he lost altitude. Soon he was skimming the ground as he muscled the fighter with both hands on the stick, attempting through force of will alone to urge the craft closer to the camp while maintaining a horizontal approach.
“WARNING. COLLISION WITH GROUND IMMINENT. ADJUST CONTROLS. WARNING.”
Sapper shot a dirty look at the computer. “Thanks for the tips,” he panted as sweat stung his eyes and he grappled with the leaden controls.
On the rough approach right in front of the runway he hit the ground with a bone breaking thud and a scream of metal as sparks flew from the underside of his ship. Tossed like a ragdoll inside despite the restraints, Sapper felt his left hipbone shatter as it struck a side panel and he nearly blacked out from the pain. The ship skipped once, twice, three times, and crashed into a collection of parked and empty shuttles. He registered a brand new 300i emblazoned with General Stars, and had just enough time to smile before smashing his head off the forward HUD panel as the ship came to an abrupt stop.
Everything went black.
He opened his eyes to bright, flashing lights. Everything was fuzzy at first, and then images sharpened, lending detail to his surroundings. Sirens blared and people were shouting while flashing colored lights from emergency vehicles reflected off crumpled wreckage. He knew he was on a stabilization stretcher on the runway and everything hurt though not as much as he figured it should. Med techs were working on him and he reasoned they must have given him something for the pain. He did his best to look around through the cracked and blood splattered visor on his helmet. He saw what was left of his Hornet, perched over the back end of the General’s 300i in a strikingly suggestive position with an assortment of trashed and smoking ground transports scattered around in the debris field.
“You crazy, beautiful, lucky bastard, you!” a voice off to his left shouted over the commotion. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
With a painful smile as the medics carefully removed his helmet, Sapper replied “Crushed the General’s 300i? Didn’t he just get that paid off?”
“No, you idiot, although it probably would have been fine if you hadn’t landed headfirst on it,” his captain replied, laughing. “Your little stunt of heroics may have just saved everyone in this sector! Not only did you knock out the ground forces and the AA, but half the goddamn enemy fighters too!”
“I only counted four…” Sapper replied with a slight wheeze.
With a choked laugh, the Captain lit up a cigar for his Sergeant and stuck it between Sapper’s lips, ignoring the protests from the Med Techs. “We have been given the evacuation order, and because of you we have an open window to get the hell off this rock.”
Sapper smiled, and gingerly puffed on the cigar. “Good, I’m sick of this particular vacation hotspot. My travel agent sucks….”
The Captain laughed as the medical personnel activated the hover mechanism on the stretcher and guided it towards the waiting hospital ship.