Just a little test piece for a much larger universe I've been making. I know I'm mixing French and Roman terminology. It's deliberate. The First Battle From: General Wang, 6th Colonial Legion To: Colonel White, 6th Colonial Legion, rd Cohort. Priority: Grey Subject: Operational Order 51938 Situation: (1) At 09:18 Zulu on the 25th, aerial observation detected eight groups 100+ nomads each (Total number believed to be ~1000 adults) crossing the Latner from North to South around grid reference Echo 81-39-98-52. Spot Report Imagery (2) Shortly afterwards (09:22) parties of New Zwickau regulars where observed crossing in the same location, apparently hoping to use the Nomads as cover. Spot Report Imagery Enemy: (1) Current intelligence is unclear as to precise enemy intentions or formations involved in the crossing. Intelligence Summary (2) Closest enemy formation is the 8th New Zwickau Volunteer Division. Unit is primarily truck-borne infantry supported by light guns and combat servitors. The division is believed to be reinforced with the Seventh Separate Tank Regiment. Both units are believed to be at 95%+ strength The enemy is unlikely to have air support due to point defence grid. The enemy is supported by artillery with a range of forty kilometres. 8th New Zwickau Volunteer Division Composition 7th Separate Tank Regiment Composition Known enemy positions (3) Enemy may call upon elements of the 3rd Mnemosyne Division and the 5th New Zwickau River Gunboat Division to reinforce. Both are believed to be at ninety five percent + Strength. 3rd Mnemosyne Division Composition 5th River Gunboat Flotilla Composition Friendly: (1)The Rest of the 6th Legion is moving to reinforce your position. You are the primary effort for this operation. Intent is to clear any enemy troops from the South side of the and affirm company claims to that the boarder runs along the middle of the Latner. 6th Legion Composition (2) Fire Support is available from 9th Fire Cohort and Legion weapons. Composition & Protocols Mission: (1) Depart Firebase Black Castle at no later than 20:00 Zulu on the twenty fifth and conduct reconnaissance in force to locate and identify any unauthorized military units which have violated the Latner line. (2) Engage and destroy of all non-company military units encountered with up to level three force. Pursuit operations are authorized up to the Latner. (3) Under no circumstances are friendly forces to cross the Latner. (4) You are authorized to initiate fire across the border only if engaged from New Zwickau territory. If engaged, take all actions necessary for self defence except the movement of ground forces across the river. (5) Conduct census and humanitarian operations on any nomads encountered once enemy forces have been destroyed or before they are encountered. View Long Form Order View Intelligence Summary View Relevant Maps Activate Staff Computer Part One Planet Adrabad Near the River Latner 8 AM. Laurence looked out of the howdah's vision slit on his side, watching the terrain go past. The view rocked with each of the mount's steps, Laurence careful to keep his view relatively far from the vehicle to avoid motion sickness. This, he thought, was an alien world. They'd ridden all night, and with the sun coming up Laurence was finally getting a good look at the wilds. The road was ancient. In the briefing book it had said these roads where over a million years old, remains of the long vanished Faran, to whom Adrabad had been a colony as it now was to the humans. Nothing grew the road, but it was starting to show signs of wear, it's surface chipped and mottled, but still shining in the sun. On the side lettuce red scrub grew out about a hundred meters, then stopped abruptly at the edge of blue green trees. A few terrain plants grew in the forest but that didn't make it look less sinister. The canopy moved and shifted, and Laurence's felt a chill, imagining the creatures he'd seen in the briefing book crawling through that thick tangle of blue and green plants. Laurence was shaken out of his reflection by a cheerful voice from beside him. "Hey Hammond! You ever think when you joined the legion they'd let you ride a dinosaur?" Of course, Laurence knew that a thataderm wasn't really a dinosaur. Still, the long faced, heavily scaled creatures with their strange, side splayed legs and long pointed tails certainly looked the part. The beasts where also fast and untiring. Even with a howdah on their back and a heavy trailer and towed gun behind they ran tirelessly, moving as fast as a ground jeep. "I can honestly say that's not something the recruiter mentioned Sergeant." Laurence looked over at his squad leader, taking care not to bang into him as he turned. It was pretty cramped inside the howdah. Three troops on this level sharing the armoured box with various radios, electronics, and the power packs for the point defence lasers on top. The internal light was weird too, the text on several glowing screens washing distorted reflections across the legionnaires armour. "They're falling down on their jobs Son. I tell you." Sergeant Samad grinned, teeth white in his coffee coloured face. "If they'd have told me I'd get to ride on dinosaurs I'd have joined up years earlier and been a Colonel by now!" "Why did you join up Sergeant?" Laurence asked looking over at the other man before returning his gaze to the outside, not wanting to miss any of the view. "Money of course." Samad said conversationally. "Conditions too. I figured I'd be doing the same job I was doing in Hajjar City, only the pay's better and now I get to blow people who annoyed me away with laser cannons." Laurence could feel his squad leader grinning. "Something similar for you yes?" "Yes Sergeant... well, I also got in a bit of trouble back home." Laurence put one hand to the back of his head in a sheepish motion. The idea of blowing people away with laser cannons appealed to him far more than he was willing to admit. He hoped he'd get chance to do some of that this tour. Really though he wanted to shoot the slim personal defence laser he was wearing slung on his webbing. Now that would be real combat. Weapons aimed by sight and fired personally. "Got a nomad encampment right up ahead Sarge." The voice of Legionnaire Escobar sounded from the howdah's upper level. The top of the armoured box was a low roofed vault surrounded by a mass of screens and access panels. Laurence didn't envy her up there in the cramped, hot uncomfortable space "Looks like a big one, maybe a hundred." "This something you're seeing on the pod or on the UAV?" Samad asked, referring to the big sensor pod mounted on top of the howdah "It's on the UAV feed. They're off road maybe a klick out, about three hundred meters offset, in some low ground red ground. Looks like there's a path through the canopy. They probably scouted it earlier, trying to find a spot where no-one on the road would see them." "Stupid fuckers." The sergeant said it without heat "Should know we've got eyes in the air. Oh well, we can explain to them how dumb they are when we meet them. See if they know anything about these New Zwickau phantoms that got us out all this way... Hilde call it in, Amanda, get the bots deployed." He slapped Laurence on the shoulder "Keep a sharp lookout huh?" Laurence opened his mouth to reply then realized he was being teased and blushed, hoping nobody would notice in the uncertain gloom of the howdah. Samad had already turned away, keying his radio on the frequency that linked them to the squad's second thataderm behind. "Two-One Baker this is Two-One Able come back." The radio crackled "Baker." "Baker, in about an eight of a kilometre we're turning off down a path through the canopy. There's a band of nomads set up camp in some little dell and we're going to question them. Deploy your bots and make sure your gurks have their hands inside the trailer." "Solid copy on that. We've got them on our UAV too. Baker out." "Able out." Samad put the radio down and grinned. "I can't wait to see the look on those nomad's faces when we come through the trees." Laurence didn't really get to see the nomads faces when they came out of the trees. Instead he had to wait until he'd negotiated down the thataderm's flank and to the ground beside it before he got a good look at them. As he climbed down he turned, looking over the nomad encampment. It seemed the patrol had caught them unpacking. Dozens of hulking goat like beasts that his implant informed him where called hikitorms where standing around, loaded down with brightly coloured baggage. Domed tents where being pitched, parents shouting at children to help them make camp. "Kind of sucks doesn't it?" Laurence looked up at the voice and found Escobar climbing down behind him with easy agility. "Poor bastards. An industrial civilization landed here once, and they fell back to..." She nodded "This." "I guess so." Laurence shrugged "A lot of early colonies failed." Behind them, the second thataderm arrived with its robotic outriders. "Yeah. What I'll never understand is why they're clinging to it." Escobar jumped down to the squishy ground. "Come on, let's not keep the goat lords waiting." Laurence dropped down a step behind her, finding his balance with slight difficulty on the uneven scrub. Quickly regaining his equalibrium Laurence following Escobar around the front of the thataderm they'd been riding. Samad and Strauss where already moving around the from the other side. Two battle robots vaguely resembling giant, semi-humanoid toads dropped off the trailer and stalked up in the humans wake. By the four humans and their escorts had assembled a deputation had formed, standing anxiously at the edge of the nomad encampment: an old woman and two old men. All three where radiating nervousness. The empathic receiver in Laurence's helmet homed on them like a dog, then detecting no intent to kill, only fear, lost interest. Samad made right for the three, striding deliberately. Laurence matched him having some difficulty as he watched the crowd. The nomads looked sullen and a bit frightened. Laurence kept an eye on the most angry looking ones, though it seemed unlikely they'd start a fight. He might be the most junior on the team, and frankly a bit redundant given the amount of robotic firepower arrayed with them, but security was still his job. "Translator on the channel." A female voice said over the team link. Laurence knew he'd better be careful what he said now, someone at HQ was listening. Then again they could be listening at any time. Almost certainly had been since the nomad camp had been discovered. The sergeant spoke, the translators voice coming from his suit speakers. "Greetings. I am Sergeant Samad of the Fifth Colonial Legion. I am required to make you aware you have crossed into territory controlled by the Adrabad Colonial Company." The older woman spoke and after a moment the translator interpreted "Greetings. I am Janesa, headwoman of this company. We welcome you to our encampment." "Thank you. The company offers you the services of our doctors to provide preventative medical care to your sick and equip your people with the tags that will allow them to trade on Company land. I must inform you that now you are in Company territory you'll be subject to census for tax purposes. You are also subject to company laws." There was a few moments of discussion between the elders then the woman said "We've roamed these lands for generations, long before the Company came here. What gives you the right to tax us?" Samad frowned "Well ma'am, I'm only a Sergeant. It's the company that collects taxes." He paused "However, in return for taxation you'll receive medical care, and access to company technology. One way or another it's better your people enter the system. You want your children to be healthy yes?" The woman's eyes looked from Samad to the metal giant standing beside him. Behind, a dozen snake like aliens had unloaded from the legionaries second trailer. Each carried a massive shoulder cannon and was accompanied by a pair of hovering mosquito guns. The natives occasionally shot appalled glances at the gurks (not their proper name, but a similar sound, and a throwback to another famous mercenary band) clearly terrified by the saurian creatures presence. The head woman evidently wasn't going to argue anymore. Instead she bowed "Of course." Her eyes. "It is as you say." Samad smiled, looking slightly elated at the woman's acquiescence and nodded graciously. "A final matter. There have been reports of foreign troops in the area. Have you witnessed any of them?" The elders looked at one another "No, we've seen no-one but you." The woman said carefully. The empathy detector chimed in Laurence's ear. "Lying." Escobar whispered, voice angry. "Forget it." Samad said just as quietly "We know they saw them, that's enough." "Phantom Two-One-One, this is Phantom Six, come back." The company command group came over the channel before Samad could key it. He bowed to the head woman then responded. "Phantom Two-one." "Two-One-One. Leave the doc bots there and proceed south east. UAV has spotted possible enemies to the South East. Move to investigate over." A series of objective markers lit up in Laurence's vision as the company commander spoke, showing where they wanted the squad to go. "Solid copy on all. Over and out." Samad looked up. "Remount, we're out of here." The team ran back to their mounts, the gurks and combat robots remounting their trailers. Samad gave Laurence a hand up and grinned. "Now we might get in a fight." He closed the door and looked out. "Baker, as soon as we're through the canopy, unload your gurks and combat robots and get online with us. We'll move in bounding over watch from now on." The radio double clicked in response. Samad banged the back of Escobar's seat. "Amanda, those drones up?" "Got a parameter out boss, and link with the soar eagle above us." Escobar replied. "That said, if something's moving in the canopy on the other side of the river the UAV probably won't spot it. The canopy blocks everything and the trunks are so spread out even a tank isn't going to cause tree falls." "Roger that." Samad didn't sound too happy. "Echelon the bots left to cover the river." "On it." The thataderms began to move back through the canopy and out onto the path. The side of the creature shimmered as Samad switched on the countermeasures system. Laurence's eyes took a moment to shake hands with the electronic warfare system and clear his vision. He could see the line of ground drones, menacing giants, frog and spider shaped, spreading out into the formation. The gurks ran with them, just as quick, their mosquito guns high over the field. They continued down the path, still running at a frantic pace, when there was a sudden jarring boom in the distance. Laurence saw something explode in the air over the river. Another boom followed and a second puff of black smoke appeared, closer this time. It too Laurence a moment to realize that these where missiles being detonated by the formation's point defence system. Escobar was swearing. "Multiple launches from the canopy. Going active on drone one... oh holy shit!" She kicked her door open "Evacuate the vehicle!" Her voice broke "Get out!" Laurence threw his door open and tumbled free, tucking and rolling as he hit the ground. He didn't see if anyone else got free. All he knew was there was a sudden incredibly loud sound and something shredded the armoured howdah above him like tissue paper.