2948-06-23 – Tales from the Service: Mereena Besieged

A while ago on this space, we featured the properly anonymized account of a feeling of dread felt by one person on one of the many FDA garrisons along the Frontier (Tales from the Service: A Rock In the Way), and the consequences for the original source for its publication (Tales from the Service: Plucked from the Ranks). While these feelings of approaching doom were hardly unique to the original source (Here known pseudonymously as Glorinda Eccleston) at the time or afterwards, Eccleston’s perspective was the one which Naval Intelligence made available to this publication.

Eccleston is also lucky in that she was incorrect in her certainty that her location was the next target for Incarnation occupation forces. She was not, however, very far off. When Incarnation ships arrived in force in the Mereena system, the unit she was attached to – the Twelfth Marines – was garrisoned on “The Rock in the Way” – within ten light-years of the suddenly-embattled system.

Rushed to Mereena in their assault transports by a scratch cruiser squadron (liberally salted with mercenary auxiliaries which happened to be at The Rock), the Twelfth made planetfall on the small Mereena III colony barely hours before the Incarnation vanguard, securing the spaceport to allow for evacuations. Unlike at Adimari Valis, the Incarnation force was far from overwhelming – reports trickling back this far indicate that there are only six to eight enemy cruisers in the system, opposed at rough parity by five Fifth Fleet ships of equivalent size and dozens of smaller warships. Neither force could contest the other’s landing, but the Marines could use the landing pads at the garrisoned spaceport.

Though this report is days old, it is one of the more detailed available of the fighting on Mereena III. Snippets of full-capture audiovisual material will be shown, where Naval Intelligence permits, on episdoes of the vidcast series in coming days.

Colonel Louis Pokorni surveyed the horizon with his combat suit’s metalens magnifier. Though she could only see the stiff back of the towering machine and none of the man inside, Lieutenant Glorinda Eccleston could tell he was tense – that meant the unexpected quiet along the perimeter wouldn’t last. 

“Hairclipper Charlie is late today.” Pokorni grumbled into his command team’s private circuit, as if explaining his unease. “First day since we landed he hasn’t given us Hell before mid-day.” 

Glorinda glanced down at her own suit’s chronometer. She had hoped Hairclipper Charlie – a heavily-shielded Incarnation aircraft armed with a brace of plasma lances with which to strafe the perimeter defenses – had run into maintenance problems after three sorties in as many days. Perhaps some fragment of the ordinance hurled up at the lumbering flying-wing menace had connected with something useful – but more likely the Colonel was right once again. Intelligence Liaison to the Twelfth Marines though she was, Glorinda found herself often playing catch-up to Pokorni’s analytical abilities. All she could really do for the grizzled colonel was sift through low-level Naval Intelligence databanks. 

“Maybe someone tipped him off about the heavy stuff we unloaded yesterday.” Captain Alexis Low, second-in-command of the Twelfth Marines, gestured back toward the spaceport pads just as a lumbering orbital ferry rumbled off the tarmac and wheezed skyward toward the Confederate side of the tense standoff beyond the atmosphere. On the way up, it would be packed full of local evacuees and wounded Marines, but it would return with more ordinance from the fleet supply ships.  

“Charlie runs the risk we find his number every time he lifts off.” Pokorni replied. “His whole job is testing to see if we have it yet.” Unfortunately, Glorinda was fairly sure none of the heavy weapons available were capable of cracking Hairclipper Charlie’s shear screens. Unlike the fragile, nimble Coronacht strike fighters the Incarnation fleet deployed in fleet engagements, their atmospheric ground attack hardware tended toward the big and tough – a blunt instrument for battering aside fixed defenses rather than a precision instrument for outmaneuvering mobile foes. 

“We’d lower our guard if he came over that hill just like yesterday and did the same thing all over again.” Low pointed down to the ruins of what had the previous morning been a thick-walled blockhouse just beyond city limits – one of only two local prisons, long since converted into a Marine bunker before Hairclipper Charlie turned his eye on it. Though only two Marines had been injured in the building’s overthrow, its loss had resulted in a night-time adjustment of the perimeter, with only a three-Marine scout picket left in the ruins. 

“It would relax our guard in one direction.” Pokorni pointed up with one massive armor-suit hand. “They want us looking up today. Waiting for Charlie. That way we’re not looking anywhere else.” 

“You think they’ll try it on the ground already? It’s only been four days.” ” Captain Low seemed dumbfounded, and Glorinda didn’t blame him. She’d walked most of the line with the Colonel – it was strong, with almost two full divisions of FDA stiffened by the Twelfth Marines. Pokorni and the local FDA general both held generous reserves behind the lines for just such a situation, and the enemy force wasn’t very much bigger than their own. 

“It'll be on the ground.” Pokorni pointed to the perimeter just west of the destroyed blockhouse, directly in front of the empty office tower whose roof they stood on. “Charlie hasn’t hit this sector once, so it’ll happen right in front of us.” 

“Nate ground forces avoid frontal attacks, Colonel.” Glorinda knew Pokorni didn’t need to be reminded – this was for Low and the rest of the command team. “Their infantry units aren’t really equipped for it. They move light.” 

“Then it won’t be a frontal assault. Captain Low, what are the two advantages a suitless grunt has over a Marine?” 

“He can go through doorways without widening them, and he can be damned quiet.” 

“Infiltration?” Glorinda looked around, though their perch was twelve stories in the air and more than a kilometer from the perimeter, as if the Incanration’s shock troops would erupt from every shadow. “In broad daylight?” 

“We’d expect it at night, and these green FDA grunts in the line might have their infrared switched off during the day. Besides, if it doesn’t work, they probably only take a few hundred casualties, and if it does-” 

Pokorni was interrupted by a flash of light ahead as something exploded. Darts of energy skittered along the perimeter ahead, and the belated rattle and buzz of railguns operating at maximum cyclic echoed to their perch a moment later. 

“Damn. Earlier than I thought.” Pokorni switched the group to the local ad-hoc network, where the confused barking of non-coms and the nervous replies of privates bounced back and forth in one chaotic snarl. “They’ve infiltrated the front line. Damned provincials are still shit sentries. Break’s over, we’re going in.” 

Bowing his knees slightly, Pokorni activated the jets built into the back of his huge suit. With a roar, nearly a ton of metal and meat lifted into the air and arced toward the melee ahead and below. Captain Low and the others followed a moment later, leaving Glorinda, still hesitant with the unfamiliar suit’s flight controls, briefly alone. Unlike the grizzled raised-from-the-ranks Marine officers, she had never gone to war in an armored combat suit before her current posting. 

Wondering if other Naval Intelligence liasons to Marine commanders were also regularly expected to rocket into close combat, Glorinda checked the status indicators on the railguns slung below each of her own suit’s forearms, took a deep breath, and activated her own jets. With a roar, the suit hurtled into the air, course a dotted arc plotted on her visor. 

Pokorni and the other marines might dismiss the quality of the FDA’s soldiers, but Glorinda had been among them before falling in with the Marines – they were inexperienced, but eager and motivated. Given reliable gear and a chance to learn, they would prove to be at least as good man for man as the too-few Confederated Marines – as long as they lived long enough to gather that experience.