|The Velthora Legion
Author: Nikolai Riktovi PM
The Empire is failing and its people are slaughtered. Army troops abandon their posts in last-ditch efforts to survive. With a rebellion in the core sector, and an alien invasion on the outskirts of human-controlled space, the elite military Legions were finally mobilized. Fighting with any weapon available to them, they will do anything to stop the alien advance.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi - Chapters: 3 - Words: 16,627 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 10-22-12 - Published: 09-25-12 - id: 3060976
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Clouds crawled serenely across the green-tinged sky, inching inexorably closer to the horizon. A hard breeze moved across the prairie grass in waves, rippling through the stalks. Leaves floated with the winds and flowers blossomed in the meadows. Birds soared through the air, circling each other in play or diving for prey. Small field animals rustled through the fields, continuing the eternal search for food or shelter. Coexistence reigned supreme and peace was abundant. Life was good for all the beings of the world.
A cloud moved in front of the sun, casting the world into shadow. The hard breeze slowed, growing still. A demonic shriek split the air and sent the native life scrambling for cover. Upon its end, fire bathed the landscape and a plume of dirt and smoke launched skyward. Secondary explosions littered the filled as the artillery shot's scatter canisters impacted seconds after the primary round. Blazing field rodents ran through the grass, struggling in vain to get away from the consuming pain. Flak cannons tore through the sky and ripped the avian flyers to pieces.
Three figures tore through the grass and dropped to the ground, taking cover from the raining death. Small flames licked at their sides. They crawled forward, glancing warily at the sky as the artillery shells arched over them. Air superiority fighters flew over the field, chasing each other in a fatal dance. One of the soldiers waved to his compatriots and pointed to the distant tree line. 'Snipers. I count five. They're waiting for the bombardment to stop.'
Another artillery shell exploded nearby, littering them with detritus. The secondary explosions scattered toward the trees. The squad leader glanced at her partner. 'Do not fire. Squad, back away. Watch the skies.'
The final soldier tapped his squad leader's boot. 'Sergeant, Commander Riktovi's on the comm. He's got gunships inbound and the artillery barrage is due to cease in t-minus one minute.'
Sergeant Aleman raised a hand to ward off the approaching flames. 'Wolford, pick your targets and take the shot. Hadden, ready your rifle. Fire only at confirmed hostiles. We'll wait for your command, Wolford.'
The sniper rolled away from the fires and put his eye to the scope, struggling to make out the forms of his targets through the smoke and flames. Hadden looked to the sky and commented, 'Sergeant, gunships are t-minus five minutes.'
'Wolford, take your shots.'
He tuned out the world, brought time to a standstill. Calmly murmuring under his breath he mentally lined up his first target, practiced switching between them, and watched his rounds hit home. 'Firing… Firing… Firing.' The rifle kicked against his shoulder and he tracked it laterally, firing again, and again. The five shots were airborne before the first had hit its target. Hadden and Aleman leapt to their feet and jumped through the growing wall of flames, raising their carbines to their shoulders as they did so.
Wolford slung his rifle over his shoulder and drew his pistol, running after his teammates into the flames and swirling smoke. He covered his mouth and nose with his left hand and raised the pistol, ready to fire on the first sign of movement. The oppressive heat clawed at him, enveloping him and restricting breathing. Gunfire echoes faintly in his ears, dull and distant. The sniper tripped over a burning log and fell to the dirt. Fire crawled up his pant leg and he beat at it. His heart beat faster and he began to panic as the flames surrounded him.
Rough hands grabbed the sniper around the shoulders and dragged him through the fire. A feminine voice loaded with authority sounded at his ear. 'Damn it, Wolford! Next time I'll leave you behind.' Aleman glanced behind her as more gunshots rang out and Hadden returned fire. 'Pat yourself out and get on it. Let's go!'
Commander Riktovi gazed in awe at the spreading flames below him, gazing out of the gunship's troop bay. He scowled. 'Campany, spot for targets.' He glanced back at the other four helicopters flying in formation, scanning each one before speaking into his radio. 'Luq-Garu, can you see through the smoke?'
Aaron Campany, the squad sniper, knelt at the embarkation door and aimed his rifle at the chaos below. He turned to report to his commander the same moment Scryer Luq-Garu's response came through the communication system. 'I can't see a thing, sir. No chance.'
Riktovi shook his head and scowled. He leaned back from the heated air outside the helicopter and moved to stand behind the pilot. 'Hadden, radio Command and ask who the hell thought it was a good idea to fire incendiaries on a field while our soldiers are in said field.'
The pilot grinned and shook his head. 'Sierra Five-Nine to base, Captain Riktovi with an urgent request for Command. I repeat, Sierra Five-Nine to base, Captain Riktovi has an urgent request for Command.' The helicopters banked and ran another pass over the leaping flames.
Riktovi leaned closer to the pilot's radio. 'Reiker, this is Nikolai. I want to know who the hell thought it was a bright idea to fire incendiaries during the artillery barrage. My advance squad is being corralled into the hostile force because of the fire your incompetent caused.'
Reiker paused, the moment of silence laced with heavy static. Hadden and his copilot both stared at their commander, expressions of amusement plain on their faces. 'Acknowledged. I'll have an inventory ready for review during your debriefing. Reiker out.'
The captain nodded and turned to the soldiers riding with him. He opened his mouth to speak but was cut off as the copilot gave a shout and the gunship jerked to the side, tilting alarmingly. The flaming fields filled his vision as he smashed into the deck and slid toward the open bay door. Campany fell hard against the wall and grabbed a handhold, his feet hanging over the fires below. His gun's sling caught on his arm and the rifle banged painfully into his knee. Martinez jerked hard against his restraint harness and grabbed for his pack before it fell out of the helicopter.
Riktovi's heart leapt into his throat as he felt the deck disappear from his back and he fell into open air. He grunted in pain, his fall ending with a jolt when the crew chief grabbed the captain's rear neck guard. The helicopter banked hard in the opposite direction and the captain swung under it, twisting the crew chief's arm painfully against the edge of the deck. Campany handed his rifle over to Martinez and leaned over to help the chief, grabbing Riktovi by the shoulders and tugging him aboard the gunship.
As the helicopter leveled out, it was sent into another brief but controlled spin by the roaring passage of Ari in one of the new Rikter Air-Superiority Fighters. Hadden cursed the reckless pilot and brought the gunship back around. 'Corvin, have you got the captain?'
'Toss the ropes and get them out of here.'
A calm voice came over the radio, speaking as if he was having his midday meal at the barracks. 'Revenant One is engaging the enemy.'
The crew chief patted Riktovi's shoulder and uncoiled the gunship's ropes. 'We got you up only to throw you off, eh sir?'
'Looks like it. I'll drop first.'
'Naturally. Wait for my mark.' He stepped back and waited for Hadden to stabilize the gunship as best he could. 'Go, go, go!'
Riktovi grabbed the hanging cord and dropped out of the helicopter. He grimaced at the heat from the rope sliding through his gloves and wrapped his feet around it, locking it between his ankles. Moments later he hit ground and stepped aside, unslinging his carbine and chambering a round. Campany landed beside him with Martinez right behind. Riktovi waved at the hovering gunship and the ropes were released, dropping in a pile beside them. Hadden lifted his helicopter and flew clear of the smoke. A second helicopter replaced him, ropes thrown free. Two soldiers disembarked, sliding clear and readying their weapons on landing. Riktovi nodded to Luq-Garu and she gestured for Mabinogi to pair with Campany. The two snipers brought their wrists together and moved to the side of the squad. Riktovi took point and led the way into the forest.
The radio was a mess. Static warred with the arguing voices and shouted orders. Over it all, a calm and collected voice continued to narrate his aerial struggles. 'Revenant One has engaged. Four hostiles proceeding to Gunship Group Two. Two are down. Sierra-Five-Nine, missile incoming. Evade!'
The captain glanced skyward as the pilot roared past, guns firing at one of the missiles that had slipped his net. A moment later the missile exploded and the fighter barrel rolled left to avoid a salvo from the hostiles tailing him. Riktovi wished him luck and returned his focus to the smoke-filled hell around him. The roaring fire overwhelmed all other sounds and sucked the oxygen from them, suffocating them. The soldiers coughed and covered their mouths and noses, moving slowly away from the fire and into the forest.
Move fast and hit hard. That was the creed of any Special Forces group. Aleman and her team lived up to it. Their boots lifted dust and ash from the ground with every impact. With scarves around their mouths and noses to block out the worst of the smoke, they sprinted through the trees to get away from the rapidly spreading fire. Wolford leapt over a falling branch, the flames leaping after him. As he landed he raised his handgun and fired off three rounds, taking an enemy in the chest and throat. Hadden ran a meter to his left, carbine in hands. He sent a short burst of fire into the trees at his side, keeping another hostile squad at bay.
Aleman took up the rear, running behind her teammates. Unable to keep her eyes on the both of them adequately, she simply focused on keeping her footing and checking to be sure her soldiers had not fallen. With every passing second the reds and oranges of the flames overwhelmed the forest's natural hues, the roaring of the fire became the only sound to be heard. The heat bore down on them, slowly crushing them with its oppressive weight. Her breathing became labored, the oxygen depleting and smoke polluting the air.
Her radio was nothing but screeching static and barely discernible orders or requests.
'Revenant… break…. I repeat, b-'
'Aleman, can… her… Riktovi. Aleman…'
The sergeant tuned it out and focused on the task at hand: avoiding the fires. A round blasted a chunk out of the tree next to her and she fell into a roll, coming up in a crouch. Aleman scanned her surroundings but was unable to spot the shooter. Another bullet streaked past her ear to embed itself in a flame-covered log. She stood and sprinted forward, perpendicular to the unseen hostile. A moment later a voice was shouting in her ear.
'Aleman, hit the deck!'
She tucked into a roll before rising to sprint forward again. A cluster of bullets punched into her left side and shoulder, throwing her to the ground. She gasped as her head smashed into the dirt. Dazed and with her left side bathed in burning, numbing pain, the sergeant clutched her side and climbed to her knees. She cried out in agony as a heavily-armoured form collided into her and held her against the ground. The soldier's breath felt heavy on her neck and ear, sending waves of fury rippling through her. Her blood soaked right hand grabbed her knife from her thigh and brought it up.
Her opponent's hand clasped her wrist and shoved her arm into the ground behind her, hard. Pain lanced up her arm and the blade fell from her grasp.
'Damn you, sergeant. Stay down.' As she relaxed her body and focused on her wounds, Hadden rolled off her and fired from a prone position. Small plumes of dirt kicked up around him with the impact of hostile rounds. 'Martinez! She's covered!'
The medic slung his pack and hunched over, running low to the ground. He knelt at Aleman's side and did a quick glance over her wounds. 'Sergeant, can you hear me?' She nodded and her eyes fastened onto his. Martinez grimaced and ducked over her, sheltering her as a volley of enemy fire was directed toward them. Hadden growled and abandoned selective targeting, spraying the forest in an attempt to give the medic a chance.
Martinez swore and made his decision. Leaning close over the wounded sergeant, he whispered in her ear. 'This is going to hurt. Try to hold on until we get to the APC's.' He applied a quick pressure bandage over her wounds before grabbing her arms and pulling her over his shoulders in a fireman's carry. Taking a moment to balance himself, he ran back to the squad, Hadden rising from the ground and following a step behind. Riktovi dropped a smoke grenade behind them and the squad pulled out.
Aleman gasped in pain, each of the medic's steps sending agony lancing through her. Martinez called her name, shouting questions about her family and her history, about her home. He did whatever he could to coerce responses from her, to keep her conscious. Hadden ran rear guard, firing over his shoulder to keep the hostile squad at bay. Flames sped along the ground and through the trees, licking at their heels. An explosion split the super-heated air and a column of fire reached skyward. Another artillery round landed nearby, the secondary explosives scattering around the squad and adding to the inferno.
Hadden pulled alongside the medic and fired another burst over his shoulder before concentrating on running. He glanced at the wounded sergeant and blinked in surprise; she was staring directly him, unblinking. He flinched as she weakly raised her unwounded arm and pointed at him. 'Hey Private. Marry me. That's an order.' Then she slumped over and stopped responding to the medic. Hadden threw a worried glance at him.
'Not only is she only semi-conscious, but she's also clearly delirious. Where did you say the APC's were parked?'
As if in answer, a harsh voice cut through the static on the squad radio. 'Reiker to Riktovi, where the hell are you?'
Riktovi coughed and waved for the team to pick up the pace. The flames were closing in. A burning branch fell and the captain rolled out of the way. Sparks flew and it exploded on landing, sending burning shards everywhere in a spray of fiery glory. He yelled into his comm-unit and led the way. 'Riktovi to Reiker, we are en route, heading north. I repeat, direction is north.'
'Get your ass moving, captain. We'll meet you at the river mouth.'
'Yes sir.' Riktovi grimaced. While they were both the same rank, Reiker had mission superiority this time around, and the older man certainly fit the bill. They'd both served together for years in the same battalion, Reiker acting as a mentor for the young Riktovi. They'd been through hell and back together, and Riktovi couldn't think of a better commander to serve under.
'They're bringing in heavies, Nikolai. Watch your back.'
This made the captain pause. Campany cast a sideways glance as he ran past, Mabinogi hot on his heels. Riktovi swore and picked up his pace. Heavy shock troops would tear his squad apart. Luq-Garu tapped his shoulder and kept him focused on the task at hand. They ran alongside each other and she cast him a sidelong glance. 'What is it, captain?'
'Hostile shock troopers are inbound.' He grinned in amusement as he watched her stumble and catch herself, quickly regaining her composure. 'My thoughts exactly. We need to pick up the pace.' He waved Arturo and Hadden ahead of him, taking the rear guard position with Luq-Garu at his side. The heat of a passing round alerted him to the closing proximity of the enemy forces. He swore and ducked low, giving a weak attempt to present a smaller target.
Campany burst from the trees and gave a small grunt of surprise, finally free of the cloying smoke. He hiked up a small incline and knelt at the opposite edge of the small road, peering into the trees across from him. The sniper raised his rifle and fired a round into the darkness ahead of him, warning any lurking squads that he was waiting if they decided to make a move. He heard Mabinogi crest the bank behind him. She spun on her boots and aimed back into the burning forest, laying down a wave of fire over the heads of her squad mates. She cursed the smoke and flames for blocking her sight.
Wolford climbed up beside her and dropped to the concrete, sighting down the stretch of road. He mumbled under his breath that they couldn't pick a worse spot to hole up. He heard a rustle beside him and saw Mabinogi dropping to a crouch and raising her rifle. 'Hit the deck!'
Hadden and Martinez dropped, the medic releasing his hold on Aleman. She cried out in pain, brought back to full consciousness by the agony. Riktovi's eyes went wide as he saw the sniper aiming at him. He grabbed Luq-Garu and together they hit the ground, Mabinogi's rounds passing over them. A sharp burst of return fire erupted from the trees and punched into the dirt embankment. Mabinogi scanned for targets and fired at whatever presented itself, be it an arm, a leg, or a head. Every shot hit its mark and in seconds the field had fallen silent again, save for the approaching fire.
Martinez and Hadden helped Aleman to her feet and walked her towards the road. Luq-Garu and Riktovi glanced at each other and the forest behind them before following suit. Wolford's harsh shout cut through the air: 'Contact, at my twelve!'
Far down the road, a light tactical vehicle sped into view, leading a pair of armored personnel carriers. Wolford sighted on the leading vehicle and adjusted his scope. His finger tightened on the trigger and he hesitated, giving the LTV's driver a moment to come into focus. He relaxed. 'Sir, Reiker is on approach.'
'Roger. Everyone onto the road, prepare for extraction.' He knelt beside Mabinogi and trained his carbine on the flickering shadows. Luq-Garu tapped his shoulder as she passed and knelt alongside Campany, joining him in scanning the trees opposite them. Hadden and Martinez helped Sergeant Aleman onto the road and crouched in the center of the formation, training their weapons to the rear. Riktovi pulled out his radio and contacted the approaching commander.
'Squad is ready for extraction. Enemy in sight.' He fired at the shadows moving amongst the flames and Mabinogi joined him. Luq-Garu repositioned herself and opened fire, standing above the crouching captain. A moment later, heavy automatic fire lanced the tree line, the LTV coming to a stop just ahead of the squad. The boarding ramps of the APCs dropped open and Reiker stepped out, followed by seven of his men. They opened fire and Reiker jogged to Riktovi's position.
'Move out, Captain. Wounded first.'
Martinez guided Aleman to her feet and together they ran for the cover of the personnel carriers, Hadden right behind them. Campany and Wolford peeled off next, leaving Riktovi, Mabinogi, and Luq-Garu firing at the rushing hostiles. A round flashed past Reiker and he ducked behind the LTV. 'Captain, get your ass in gear.' He knelt next to the front of the vehicle and opened fire. Riktovi and the others ejected their final magazines and spun on their heels, making for the safety of the convoy. Dust kicked up behind them as the enemy noted the drop in suppression fire.
A round found its way to the chest of the LTV main gunner and he fell, clutching at the wound. Reiker stepped back and banged on the passenger door, giving the signal for the driver to punch it. The commander ducked and ran to the foremost APC. The crew chief hit the control for the door and shouted back to the driver behind him, 'He's clear!'
Reiker stumbled into his seat and slammed the restraint harness down over him just as the vehicle jumped forward, rocking with the power of its sponson-mounted cannons. The commander glanced at his soldiers, red in the internal lighting. Many of their faces held the flush of excitement from their first taste of combat, fresh out of training. Riktovi had his head resting against the metal of the carrier while Luq-Garu sat across from him, staring at him with worry in her eyes. Mabinogi sat in quiet conversation with Campany over the radio – he'd taken the following vehicle.
The ride back to base seemed to take an eternity when in reality only two standard hours had passed. The soldiers mostly rode in silence, each allowing the adrenaline to ebb from their bodies and slowly dropping into exhaustion. Riktovi eventually fell asleep and Luq-Garu leaned her head against the shoulder of the soldier next to her, keeping her eyes on the captain. Reiker murmured prayers to his Goddess under his breath, begging for the safe return of the pilots Hadden and Racz. The crew chief released himself from his harness and stood, grabbing hold of the rope overhead that ran the length of the compartment. He moved to stand by the forward access hatch and let the driver know he was in position.
The convoy passed through the security checkpoint and came to a stop on the sunbaked tarmac. The crew chief counted to four and hit the control, allowing the ramp to drop open and sunlight to flood the passenger compartment. Riktovi jerked awake and lifted his head, momentarily coming into eye contact with Luq-Garu. He smiled at her and lifted his harness, following Reiker out into the sun. The others disembarked behind them, removing their helmets and letting the sweat drip from their brows. Reiker turned to Riktovi.
'Gather your company, Nikolai. Have your wounded patched up and prepared for transport. We're transferring to a different theater, and a different command.'
The captain saluted. 'Aye, sir. With respect, which theater?'
Reiker paused. 'The Dalran sector. One of the xeno species outside our space have pressed forward. As such, we were drafted into one of the Legions.'
Riktovi nodded. 'Do you know which one?'
'The Velthora Legion. Now move out.'