2951-06-21 – Tales from the Service: The Prime August Glitch 

“Damn.” Kanako Dunai kicked off a diagnostic routine and put his ship’s comms antenna on manual control. A comms breakdown during a drop wasn’t quite the worst case scenario, but it certainly wasn’t good. “Commander Mesut, do you read? Having comms trouble over here.” 

Once again, there was no reply on any channel. Staying on course was no trouble without comms since their path had been pre-planned, but soon, he’d have to make the turn to start his descent toward either Alpha or Gamma, and he’d need to know which one. 

Fortunately, Kanako was directly behind the squadron commander, and could go wherever the other dropship went. His other instruments and his tactical plot seemed to be functioning all right, and they still showed clear skies, with no enemy presence. Even as the IFF identifiers on most of the symbols on his display became stale and winked out to leave pale, uncertain radar contacts, he could still make out which one was Commander Mesut’s. 

“Attack force, Alpha is a trap.” The mysterious female voice sounded more insistent this time. “Land at Gamma.” 

Given that his comms were still apparently down, there was no reason he should be able to hear this woman and nobody else. Perhaps this was one of the pathfinders sent down to recon landing sites sending a max-power broadcast from the surface, but even then, the other members of the squadron would be easier to pick up than her signal. “Identify yourself.” Kanako sent, not really expecting to be heard. 

He’d returned his attention to keeping on Mesut’s tail by the time the voice responded. “Are you with the attack force? Listen, there’s a trap down there. You’ve got to-” 

Kanako muted the channel. After checking that the comms system was still not responding properly, he once again tried to triangulate the source of this sender, and once again got no useful response. He’d been a damage control tech, and knew he could fix a bad antenna, but that would have to wait until he was on the ground, and the landing area was secure; until then, he was on his own. 

Being on his own, he wasn’t sure what to do about the voice. She sounded earnestly concerned, but that could mean anything. A functioning system would filter out signals from hostile sources automatically, but he already knew his comms hardware was not working properly; this could be a Nate provocation, attempting to lead the invading dropships astray. 

It could just as easily be a civilian on a commercial comms device, whose signals would never get through the filters on military antennas. Furthermore, Nate knew all too well that most Confederated pilots and troops couldn’t hear transmissions sent to mislead them, and they probably wouldn’t spend much time on something they didn’t think would work. 

As Kanako considered the situation, he noticed a change in the display in his console. Where all the blips around him had been traveling roughly in parallel before, now they were beginning to fan out onto at least three distinct headings. The outer wisps of Prime August’s atmosphere were already beginning to interfere with the radar-only picture, but he thought one group looked to be on course toward the Gamma landing site. 

The signature of Commander Mesut’s dropship was still on a descent course toward the Alpha site, so Kanako stayed with it, though he had his misgivings; those with their comms working normally would be able to confirm plan changes with the launch coordinator back on Michaelis. Surely, they were changing course because they were ordered to, but nothing in the pre-op briefings had indicated that the landing force would be splitting up. 

The view ahead began to glow orange as the dropship plummeted into thicker layers of atmosphere, its speed igniting the air. Automatically, the ship retracted its antennas and closed the heavy shutters over the cockpit, protecting sensitive equipment and crew alike from the fires of atmospheric entry, and the tactical plot went dark. 

With little to do as the ship careened downward on autopilot, Kanako considered the situation. What would cause command to split the force? It seemed in defiance of every contingency in the battle plan, and yet, it was clearly what was happening. 

By the time the ship slowed and the armored shutters slid back open, he still hadn’t found an answer. Kanako could see nothing but blackness ahead, but soon the radar system painted a map of the sky and terrain ahead, and once again the signature of at least one dropship – probably still Commander Mesut’s - appeared directly ahead. A single Puma escort overhead was only remnant of the escort force. 

Kanako was over Landing Site Alpha barely a minute later, circling downward to land as Mesut’s dropship disgorged its company of suited Marines onto a meadow of stiff, shimmering grass-analogue. A third dropship had appeared from somewhere and, not having comms to coordinate, Kanako let it land first before coming down himself.  

The landing was routine, with no sign of enemy forces or enemy fire. Kanako already knew the atmosphere of Prime August was perfectly breathable, but he ran the filters and sensors anyway on final approach. “Lieutenant, I'm seeing nothing out there but more Marines.” 

“Understood.” The gruff Marine officer sounded disappointed. “Shouldn’t we be in command net range? My comms are still out.” 

“I’m having some tech problems on the dropship, sir.” Kanako winced; he didn’t like telling an officer about technician-level problems, and most officers didn’t like to hear about them. “I'll get on it as soon as we’re down.” 

Even as he said this, Kanako twisted the yoke to spin the ship around direct its ramp toward the other two landed dropships, then set the landing skids down on the grass. “Welcome to Prime August.” He lowered the ramp, eager to get the troops off so he could figure out what was wrong with his ship. 

The attack on Prime August succeeded with few casualties on May 26, but the problems encountered in this first proper attack on an Incarnation held world in the Sagittarius Frontier was not without its problems, as next week’s continuation will explain. 

Problems with communications equipment are not the only thing which hampered the mainly Marine attack force; Prime August’s small but well emplaced Incarnation garrison took nearly twice as long as originally planned to exterminate. Most likely, the issues encountered are now being worked into Seventh Fleet's plans for future operations.

2951-06-14 – Tales from the Service: The Prime August Drop

Evidently, our account of the last two weeks featuring some new equipment fielded by the Confederated Marines last year coincided with a Marine recruitment drive event taking place in Sol and Centauri, and some in our audience have alleged that we coordinated the delay of this account to coincide with this event. They point to the central role of the new Kodiak machines in this drive and in our reporting as evidence for this point.

Our audience has grown somewhat in the last year, so perhaps many of these people missed my discussion before that of Naval Intelligence embargo rules. I will summarize it here: even if we have a credible account of a new development on the battlefield, we cannot publish it until Intelligence says so. This is part of the terms of our military embed arrangement.

As it turns out, we were given the clearance to begin discussing the Kodiak program several months ago, but we didn’t have any compelling accounts about it to bring to this feed. You can find several images of the machine on our main datasphere hub which were posted last month after a Marine training exercise on Botched Ravi, for example.

Had the Marines asked us to publish an account to coincide with a recruitment drive, we would have done so, but this content would have borne and appropriate label to indicate this arrangement to our audience. This embed team and Cosmic Background corporate both take transparency very seriously.

When the drop-bay doors finally swung open, Kanako Dunai craned his neck up and looked “down” at the world barely five hundred kilometers below. There wasn’t much to see; John H. Michaelis was above the night side of the planet Prime August. A narrow sea that reflected the light of two large moons snaked between two dark continents, hidden here and there by luminous white tangles of cloud. No lights glowed from the surface – at least none Kanako’s eyes could pick out.

According to pre-mission briefings, Prime August had been one of the planets intended for colonization back in 2946, before the Incarnation had smashed nearly every colonial mission on the Sagittarius Frontier. The engineers sent to build a spaceport and prepare the way for colonists had left Maribel just as first reports of hostile attacks on the new frontier had reached that place. Their ship had checked in at the Sagittarius Gate waystation on schedule and, while Confederated Navy forces scrambled to investigate the attacks, it had headed off to complete its mission, never to be heard from again.

Kanako had seen that world once before, of course. As a hangar technician aboard Whitcomb Scourge, he had been present when the Lost Squadrons had visited Prime August, hoping to find those engineers and their equipment, and perhaps to take on supplies and spare parts from the stranded and still unpeopled colony. Those desperate ships and crews had found nothing except an under-construction Incarnation ground-side installation sitting roughly where the engineers had been tasked to set up a spaceport, and Kanako remembered the dejection and despair that seemed to cascade down the ranks all the way to the lowliest technician. That day, it had seemed that the Lost Squadrons were fated to perish.

They hadn’t perished, though. At least, most of them hadn’t. Many good spacers and quite a few good ships had been left behind by the time the survivors rendezvoused with Confederated forces at Sagittarius Gate.

“Two minutes to launch.” Michaelis’s hangar operations officer announced. “All landing craft report ready status.”

Kanako tore his eyes away from the darkly looming world above his head and flicked the switches that would start his final pre-mission checks. Out there with the Lost Squadrons, while cowering at a damage control station while other spacers fought for his life, he’d resolved that if there was to be war, he wasn’t going to fight it as a technician. The day he’d been pulled from the Whitcomb Scourge duty roster, he’d put in a request to be re-certified as a pilot. Now, here he was at the controls of his very own dropship, about to be hurled free of its troopship toward that same Incarnation outpost that had so dismayed him nearly three years ago. Live or die, he would have his fate in his own hands this time.

At least this time, it would probably be live, not die. The briefing had suggested that the base on Prime August was lightly defended and served  primarily as a listening post, using a network of gravimetric sensory platforms scattered throughout the system to monitor star drive activity in nearby star systems. Perhaps, if Incarnation sensory technology was sophisticated enough, the installation might be able to gauge activity at Sagittarius Gate itself, barely thirty light-years away. The briefing officer hadn’t said how Seventh Fleet knew it could catch this station by surprise, but apparently that had never been in doubt; not a single Incarnation warship blocked the attack force’s path. The Marines in Kanako’s payload bay were armed for just about anything, but chances were they were up against no more than two hundred Incarnation infantrymen, perhaps with one or two of the dreaded Immortals among them.

The diagnostics completed, and Kanako wordlessly forwarded his slate of green status indicators to the hangar operations center. In front of the ops officer, a huge hologram depicting each of the twenty-four dropships and their six Puma escorts would be going from gray to green. When everything was ready-

“Launch system is armed. Godspeed to you all.”

Ahead of Kanako’s cockpit, the first five launches detached from the deck and fell away toward the world below. A moment later, the next five followed. Unlike the assault transports that most Marine units deployed from, Michaelis was not equipped with a strike-grade launch acceleration system; its hangar could deploy its entire compliment in seconds, but it deployed them at low velocity. It could recover the dropships and escorts almost as quickly, but both of these properties were only any good if space around the ship wasn’t swarming with Incarnation fighters.

The rippling launch finally reached Kanako’s rig. With a thump, the dropship detached from the hangar deck, and the big hangar doors quickly fell out of view. There was almost no need to use thrusters to get on course for the landing site; gravity would pull the assault force down toward the dark surface below of its own accord.

Even before the dropship hit the upper atmosphere, the Marine payload began to grow restless. On the video monitor, Kanako watched them restlessly check and re-check their weapons, moving the huge limbs and fingers of their Rico suits with surprising ease.

The company lieutenant, having comms access to talk to the cockpit, invariably decided to use it. “What’s it look like out there, pilot?” His voice was harsh and gravelly, and Kanako wondered if the man had once suffered some sort of throat injury to get a voice like that.

“Far as I can see it’s quiet. Ops network reports no opposition in orbit or in air.” Kanako tapped a control to wake a display in the bay to show the Marines a sky dominated by blue and green indicators, with not a single red pip in sight. “We’re too far out to know much about ground fire, but I’ll get you down all right.”


“All drop units be advised.” This was a smooth, quiet woman’s voice – another pilot, as far as Kanako could tell. “Divert to landing zone Gamma. Do not go to Alpha. Repeat, do not go to Alpha.”

Kanako frowned; the woman certainly wasn’t Allison Mesut, his squadron commander. Tiedeman, the escort commander, was a gruff man, and the comms system hadn’t provided an identity for the speaker. “Who is this? On whose authority are we diverting?”

“Alpha is a trap. Heavy ground emplacements on the ridge.” There was no indication the woman heard Kanako’s transmission. “Repeat: go to Gamma.”

Frowning, Kanako queried the comms system for the origin of the transmission on the squadron channel. After a minute of processing, it returned simply “MISMATCH.”

Kanako switched to a direct channel to the squadron lead. “Commander, who’s that on our comms?”

Though he could almost see Mesut’s dropship in formation ahead, he received no answer.

2951-05-31 – Tales from the Service: The Ruin of a Titan 

When another pulsebeam flashed out of the huge blank-faced turret of the Incarnation armored vehicle, Sergeant Marienne Von Brandt flinched, but the fact that she saw the flash meant she wasn’t dead. The energy blast tore through the third story of a building behind her and off to her right, which collapsed into its lower stories with a roar and another plume of dust. 

As if in response to this shot, several infantry missiles fired by concealed FVDA soldiers shrieked through the air from several directions, though all were shot down by point defense or cratered the pavement in near-miss blasts. The smoke and debris briefly obscured the vehicle from view, and the sound of clattering tracks betrayed the vehicle’s ponderous movement. 

The smoke cleared to reveal an empty, debris-choked street down which the sounds of battle echoed but Marienne could easily follow the tracks left where huge caterpillar treads had scored the ferrocrete avenue. It had, she saw, turned left at the next intersection. After scanning nearby rooftops for any sign of the enemy infantry her unit had been deployed to counter, she darted out from the wrecked groundcar she’d been using as cover. Shattered storefront windows gaped from both sides of the street, but it seemed the area was mostly held by friendly infantry.  

A few friendly radio-identifier chirps identified the location of FVDA heavy fireteams and infantry squads, but Marienne didn’t divert to check if any of them were from her own company. The only thing that might stop that behemoth was a company or two of Marine armor, and that would only know where to go if she kept tagging it with her target painter as it moved. 

Fortunately, the huge vehicle was many things, but it was not fast. When Marienne reached the intersection, she peeked around the corner and found that it had progressed only two blocks in that direction, and was currently butting through the ruin of a building which had collapsed across the street. She put on the target painter, but ducked back behind the wall and dove for the pavement when the turret began to swivel. 

The shriek and crash of more missiles was answered by the sound of a ferrocrete wall exploding into glowing cinders and spinning shards, and Marienne crawled back to the corner to see the huge vehicle weathering a hail of railgun fire from second-story windows on both sides of the street. Though shattering slugs sparked along its entire length, she knew the futility of this sort of attack; the worst these soldiers could do was scratch their foe’s smooth armored hull. 

A moment later, that silent pulsebeam flashed out again, and the upper story on one side erupted into a fountain of debris. Some of the larger chunks landed on the Incarnation vehicle, but they slid off its curved hull without any apparent damage. 

Marienne flicked on her target painter and camera once more as the railgun fire fell silent and the behemoth again began to push debris out of its way. Cautiously, she raised her antenna aerial, keenly aware of how exposed she was should any Incarnation soldiers come up the street behind her. Her only hope was that any such infantry would be too busy with the friendly troops she’d bypassed to worry about her until she could find better cover. 

“Position locked. Final approach.” Major Marius Kerr’s gruff but cooly professional voice reached Marienne’s ear just as her target’s turret rotated toward her position, forcing her to scramble back behind the corner. “Your assistance is most appreciated.” 

In that moment, she was keenly aware of the fact that if it elected to fire its weapon and shave off that corner, she’d be just as dead as if she was out in the open street, but when the pulsebeam flashed out, it went past her, aiming high above the far rooftops. 

A moment later, a rumbling like the roar of a Puma’s liquid-fuel rocket boosters filled the air, seeming to come from all directions at once. Marienne rolled over and looked up just in time to see five huge machines ride white rocket-plumes overhead. They looked a bit like Marine Rico suits, but as they got closer and flipped their thick legs toward the ground, she saw they were bigger – far bigger. A Rico suit was two and a half meters tall, as big as it could be while still capable of using a standard airlock; these things were as big as a Navy gunship and would struggle to exit a starship even through a set of cargo bay doors. 

The huge war machines’ rockets scattered dust and debris as they touched down barely a block away, and Marienne saw the Marine insignias emblazoned on each one’s huge shoulders. One of them, a somewhat different design than the rest, was festooned with a crown of mismatched antennas, and above the Marine insignia, it bore a Major’s five-pointed star encircled by a wreath. 

“FVDA personnel, do seek cover.” This time, Major Kerr’s voice came from a loudspeaker somewhere among the antennas of Major Kerr’s seven-meter-tall machine. Already, two of the other units were moving toward the intersection. Each had a huge multi-barrel railgun built into one arm and some sort of heavy cannon in the other. Despite their size, these Marine heavies moved surprisingly lightly, their footfalls not even shaking the ground. 

The Incarnation behemoth, of course, had seen where Kerr’s men had landed. Its pulsebeam punched through walls and across the street, searching for these new targets. Marienne could hear its tracks scraping the pavement as it swung its huge hull around to face the Marines. 

Belatedly, she realized how dangerous her position was, and Marienne scrambled away toward a tangle of alloy frames that had probably once been a municipal tram. Behind her, one of the Marines fired its cannon – not the silent flash and hot blast of a pulsebeam, but the wholesome, volcanic roar of chemical propellant hurling a payload. 

Evidently, the cannon didn’t faze the Nate crew, because another pulsebeam flashed out. Marienne reached cover and turned in time to see one of the huge Marine machines collapse stiffly to the ground, the armor on its torso glowing orange. Would the behemoth shrug off the Marine armored troopers just as easily as it had the FVDA? 

The remaining Marine at the intersection retreated behind the cover of the buildings, and Marienne watched as the behemoth rumbled back into view, retracing its steps. 

The moment it rounded the corner, the remaining four Marines fired their cannons simultaneously, and Marienne dove underneath the wrecked tram as a blinding flash enveloped the enemy vehicle and bits of shrapnel whistled through the air. On the heels of this volley came a sound unlike any weapon that she’d ever heard before – a dull crash and a screech of rent metal. Then there was silence filled only by the ringing in her ears. 

Marienne peeked out a moment later and found that the Incarnation vehicle lay on its side, its lower hull ripped open into the street like the entrails of a beast. Though its turret bore several scorched blast marks, there was no sign any of them had been a penetrating hit. Two of the Marine suits were pointing their weapons into the torn-open vehicle, while the Major and one other were investigating their fallen compatriot. 

Remembering the first aid kit in her own pack, Marienne crawled out into the open and hurried toward the scene. The moment she did, one of the Marine suits swiveled its multi-barrel railgun to face her, but just as soon as the weapon’s dread maw locked on, it withdrew, its operator recognizing the FVDA uniform and radio identification code. 

A few other FVDA soldiers had crawled out of hiding to gape at the Marines when Marienne reached the feet of Major Kerr’s suit. A few of the braver soldiers had even joined the two marines in their vigil over the destroyed Incarnation vehicle, though it seemed unlikely that any of its crew could have survived. 

The suit stooped down faster than seemed reasonable for something so big and placed its arm in front of Marienne. “Your assistance is appreciated, Sergeant, but we need no aid here, and his machine is far too hot.” 

Marienne craned her neck up toward the torso of the officer’s suit. “He could still be alive, Major. I have some first aid-” 

“Yes, the private likely survived. But it is not safe to move the suit until he exits from inside, or until the armor cools.” 

A series of metallic pings from the fallen machine drew Marienne’s attention to the space between its shoulders just as a panel as thick as Marienne’s hand ejected itself onto the street. A broad-shouldered man in a skin-tight black suit staggered out clutching his midsection with one hand and a large pistol in the other. 

With a sudden motion, the arm blocking Marienne’s way retreated. “You may now assist safely. The battalion recovery team is on its way.” 

As far as I can tell from available records, Masinov was the first major deployment of the Marines’ new armored weapons and tactics. The so-called Kodiak suit is not the first attempt to scale up a Rico suit until it is capable of bearing weapons normally reserved for strike assets and ground armor – a model called the Cronos was used in small numbers as far back as the Terran-Rattanai War, for example – but apparently the Kodiak’s advantage is that it is nearly as mobile as a standard Rico suit despite being several times larger, with armament and armor to match. 

The Kodiak probably will never replace more traditional Marine armored vehicles such as the Talos, a heavy, hybrid-propulsion vehicle with a crew of three which has been fielded in small numbers on most of the battlefields of the Coreward Frontier. The two machines are comparably armed and the Kodiak is less well armored, but has the advantage of Rico-suit-like mobility and needs only a single operator. 

What confuses me about Sergeant Von Brandt’s account is the personal involvement of a major – the commander of the only Marine unit fielding Kodiaks at Masinov, as it turns out – in handling an Incarnation threat. Perhaps the five machines dispatched to her location represented his headquarters section; perhaps his presence is a mere embellishment of the story. If headquarters personnel really were being deployed in the battle, perhaps Masinov was a more close-run thing than public reports suggest. 

2951-05-31 – Tales from the Service: The Tread of a Titan

 “Where in all creative hells did our air cover go?” Sergeant Marienne Von Brandt brushed concrete chips off the shoulders of her smart-cloth camouflage cloak and tried to make herself a smaller target as a heavy Incarnation armored vehicle rumbled past. She had never seen anything like that monster before. She was so close she could hear its fusion engine humming and its turret bearings whining as it swung back and forth. From the glassy face of the turret, an eerily silent pulsebeam stabbed out intermittently, turning sturdy buildings to flying chips and dust almost at random.

“The only squadron up there is tangling with a bunch of Sirrocos in sector K-31, Sarge.” Corporal Arif Schorel reeled in the antenna he’d carefully snaked up an exposed section of draining pipe, then cautiously peeked out of the ruined building they were hiding in. “Not sure they’d be able to stop that thing anyway.”

“Well we’re sure not going to stop it.” Marienne brielfly wondered if she’d rather be in a sector being lashed by strafing Siroccos or crushed by a couple of tracked behemoths. In the end, she decided she preferred the armored vehicles, if only slightly.

A pair of rockets flashed out of a building on the other side of the broad street toward the Nate vehicle. One of them exploded prematurely, intercepted by point defense, and the other exploded against the smoothly rounded side of the vehicle’s hull without apparent effect. Infantry anti-armor missiles like that would punch a hole through a Rico suit and the Marine inside, but against armor that probably belonged on a naval destroyer instead of on the ground, they were little more than a child’s toy.

As soon as the explosion faded, that hideously blank turret swung around in the direction of the attack, and another silent beam of death lanced out. The offending building exploded into another hail of splinters and a fresh plume of chalky smoke, likely marking the graves of at least a few brave FVDA soldiers.

While the turret was turned away, Marienne poked her head up and aimed her rail carbine at the monstrosity. Shooting it with such a weapon would do even less than the rockets, but she could at least paint the target with a rangefinding laser and broadcast a clear visual image of the vehicle on the command network. The Pumas weren’t coming, but perhaps there were quite a few un-occupied guided missile battery commanders back at the LZ who would see the value in not letting that thing get any closer.

As if sensing the invisible targeting laser, the vehicle ground to a stop and its turret spun back toward Marienne and Corporal Schorel. With a snarl of annoyance, she grabbed her compatriot by the shoulder and dragged him flat against the ground just before the ruined wall they were hiding behind exploded into a new hail of shards and dust.

By the time the pair had extricated themselves from the rubble and coughed up most of the concrete dust in their lungs, the behemoth had moved on. To its crew, crushing two soldiers probably seemed pointless, when in ten more blocks, it would reach the top of the rise and bring its weapon to bear on the supplies piled at LZ.

“Are you through making it angry, Sarge?” Schorel helped Marienne to her feet and peeked around the corner. “It’s gone. Let’s see who’s still alive and fall back.”

Marienne reached a finger into her helmet to wipe dust off the screen of her heads-up monitor. “Tell everyone to rally at that broadcast tower.” She pointed to a drunkenly-leaning latticework studded with comms gear. “We’ll figure out-”

Marienne’s helmet comms beeped. “Sergeant Von Brandt, resume painting your target.” The voice was gruff, deep, and unfamiliar; it certainly wasn’t any of the artillery officers she usually heard. “Highest priority. Please confirm.”

Marienne winced. “Schorel, give me your antenna reel, then get to that rally point.” He wouldn’t need a bigger antenna to reach the scattered members of her company, but she would need it to respond to whoever this was.

Schorel winced and nodded; he hadn’t heard the order, but it wouldn’t be too hard to guess at its contents. Slapping her on the shoulder, he passed on the antenna reel. “Be careful, Sarge. We’ll be waiting at the rally.” With that, he darted across the debris-choked street, cupping one hand to the microphone at his chin.

Marienne hooked the antenna unit into her comms unit and extended its whip-like aerial a few feet. “Confirmed receipt. Who is this?”

“Major Marius Kerr, 2nd Battalion, Twentieth Marine armored. We’re inbound at best speed.”

Marienne hadn’t realized the attack on Masinov had included any of the vanishingly rare Confederated Marine armored brigades. The last time she’d heard of any of them being deployed, it had been at Margaux, and she’d never so much as seen one of their combat vehicles. “Aye, Major.”

Stepping out into the street, Marienne loped in the direction the behemoth had gone, wincing each time she heard a building ahead collapse into rubble. With all the smoke and dust, she hoped she’d be as invisible to its crew as it was to her.

The only warning she had that she’d caught up to the huge armored vehicle was the telltale whining of its turret bearings barely twenty meters away. Instinctually, Marienne dove to the pavement, but the pulsebeam wasn’t meant for her; somewhere ahead in the dust cloud, another building flashed into splinters and collapsed in on itself.

Crawling forward now, Marienne began to see the dark outline of the huge machine looming out of the dust. Cautiously, she raised the antenna spool’s aerial a little, then hooked the device to her belt and crouched behind the twisted, burned wreckage of a civilian groundcar. The wreck wouldn’t be much protection against that high wattage weapon, but it would conceal her even better than the dust, and perhaps the crew wouldn’t be able to tell exactly where the target painting laser was coming from.

With a quick prayer, Marienne crossed herself, slid the barrel of her carbine through the groundcar’s charred skeleton, and flicked on both the camera and the target painter.

Today’s account is not from a recent engagement, unfortunately. The counterattack at Masinov took place last November, and though it did not result in recapture of that world, it did succeed in causing significant damage to enemy infantry formations and rescuing a significant civilian population which was taken when the planet was unexpectedly occupied two months previously.

Sergeant Von Brandt’s account of a super-heavy Incarnation armored vehicle is the first such sighting I have seen reported anywhere, even though it reaches us many months after the event. This indicates that this vehicle exists only in small numbers or is fielded only by a small number of enemy formations. Since at the beginning of the war, there seemed to be almost no ground armor in Incarnation inventory, this is yet another new weapon they’ve introduced based on battlefield experience.

Naturally, Confederated troops are also getting new weapons to deal with these enemy innovations. Von Brandt’s account also included a description of at least one rarely-seen (though not quite so new) Confederated weapon system, and it is for this reason that I intend to continue to feature it next week.