2949-05-25 – Tales from the Service: Operation Landsman
Meraud has haunted the imaginations of many civilians here on the Frontier since Naval Intelligence discovered a brutal forced labor colony there (Tales from the Service: Atrocity on Meraud) where Incarnation troops were sending Confederated citizens out to cut timber and do other menial resource-harvesting tasks in the planet’s frigid climate without the benefit of proper tools or modern thermal insulation. No doubt, the people sent there were those who remained to see the Incarnation’s rule over such planets as Adimari Valis and Mereena but did not demonstrate sufficiently slavish devotion to the Incarnation cause.
Though Meraud remains deep behind enemy lines and beyond the power of Fifth Fleet, another half-mad scheme from the mind of Admiral Zahariev’s chief adviser seems to have born some fruit, in the liberation of nearly two thousand Confederated subjects from this world. This daring raid, which employed one company of the Confederated Marines and several F.D.A. scouting companies, was ferried to location and returned safely by the Whitcomb Scourge and its formation.
This cruiser is the last of her class operational with the Fifth Fleet, it seems. Where once almost all the Fifth’s scouting formations were centered around a Wheeljay-class light cruiser, between the formations cut off in Sagittarius and the losses in battle since then, Whitcomb Scourge and the Lost Squadrons flagship Arrowhawk are the only ones remaining active. Neither of the Lost Squadrons hulls are likely to be returned to any useful service soon. Allegedly, the replacement light cruisers being fitted out now back in the Core Worlds are more capable units by far, but they will be months or years in coming to the Frontier. Zahariev’s battle line might still contain eight big battlewagons, but the fleet’s outriders have suffered badly in this conflict so far.
The Navy is already bombarding the datasphere with accounts and records from the daring Operation Landsman, and it would be a dereliction of my position if I did not gain an exclusive account from the event. Naval Intelligence has put me into contact with Private Yudai Boyd of the Confederated Marines, who was among the raiding party, and he has proved only too happy to provide his experiences. Ashton will be featuring snippets of Private Boyd’s helmet camera footage on the main vidcast some time this week, but here on this feed, we’ve picked up some other aspects of his story to relay.
Yudai Boyd and his compatriots had received a detailed briefing about the inhospitable climate of Meraud en route, but from the inside of his hermetically sealed armor-suit, the frosty landscape remained comfortably picturesque. Though the midday temperature rarely achieved five degrees Celsius even during local midsummer, the air inside his suit remained comfortably mild.
“Scourge to all Landsman units.” Yudai recognized the crisp, pleasant voice of the operational overwatch officer, a pretty Navy lieutenant aboard Whitcomb Scourge circling protectively overhead. He had seen her only once, during the briefing, and decided that he would waive the usual formal hostility Marine grunts had for Navy officers if he was ever to encounter her off-duty in a station bar back at Maribel. “Skies are clear. Operation is go.”
“Copy, Scourge.” Captain Nenci, the Marine commander of the ground troops for the operation, used the same all-blast channel. “By the numbers, boys, just like in the simulator.”
Yudai switched on the electric heaters built into his suit’s jump-rockets to make sure the ever-present frost hadn’t choked the system, then ran a full diagnostic just in case. In front of his face-plate and on the three-dimensional relief map projected into one corner of his vison, he could see thermal-cloaked F.D.A. scouts fanning out forward toward the ridge three klicks distant where the Incarnation’s outer picket line resided.
Despite their short terms of military service, Yudai and most of his compatriots had come to respect these volunteer skirmishers, expert woodsmen and hunters on their native worlds before the War. Even the greenest F.D.A. recruit was more respectable, as a Marine saw it, than a detached, antiseptic Navy spacer scowling down at the dust kicked up by real battle, a battle between men armed with weapons, not between distantly-separated machines in which the crew was merely a set of biological components.
The skirmishers, without powered armor-suits or jump-rockets, needed a great deal of head start, but so did the column of armored personnel carriers disgorging from the heavy dropship behind Yudai and his fireteam. Though quite speedy on a road, these vehicles needed to bull their way through rugged, crystalline forests until they reached the nearest of the ice-rivers which served Meraud as roads in almost every season. With a rising whine from their turbo-electrics, each of the eight-wheeled monstrosities lurched into motion down the gradual slope toward the distant glint of the nearest riverway.
“Sound off.” Corporal Ori Berg, known by most of the company merely as Ice, barked into the fireteam channel.
“Green, Corporal.” Yudai replied, trusting the comms network to prevent his message and those of his three other compatriots from interleaving and becoming hopelessly unintelligible.
The seconds ticked away, and the various non-Marine elements of Operation Landsman fanned out on the three-dimensional map. The Incarnation garrison probably outnumbered the raiders ten or fifteen to one, but they hadn’t come to conquer the Incarnation fortress – they’d come to cut off a few of its questing limbs before they could be retracted into that impenetrable shell. In several directions around the fortress, the Incarnation had dispatched battered secondhand crawlers and convoys carrying work-parties to their suicidal task hacking usable resources out of the frozen Meraud landscape.
Yudai considered his fireteam lucky in the duty assigned to it – they were one of the two fireteams, a mere ten Marines, assigned to support the F.D.A. skirmishers at the fortress perimeter, where fighting would be the fiercest. In addition to the heavy emplaced weapons of the Incarnation base itself, armored vehicles and hostile close air support were probable. Tying up these forces to prevent them interfering with the liberation of the work-parties would be dangerous, but Yudai preferred the certainty of danger to the possibility that he might spend the whole operation watching the skies anxiously but never firing a shot.
A timer appeared in one of Yudai’s displays, counting down from fifteen seconds to represent when Ice wanted him to jump. Each Marine in the team would jump in sequence, allowing those firmly on the ground to support the jumper in case the leap attracted enemy fire. Yudai armed his rockets just as the first pair of armor-suited Marines – one from each fireteam in the fortress group – climbed into the chill sky on pillars of steam and fire.
When Yudai’s own rockets engaged, their calculated arc took him high enough that the tops of the fortress’s inner structures peeked over the top of the ridge beyond. Imagining the wide eyes of Nate guard staring at surveillance screens as rocket-plumes lit the horizon, he grinned inside his helmet, looking forward to an operating environment with ample targets and few things anyone would complain if he demolished.