2949-06-08 – Tales from the Service: The Cvetkov Maneuver

 Rajab Spano felt sweat dripping down the back of his neck. Even with the self-contained atmospheric system within his armor suit blasting cold air at him from all directions, he always sweated in the suit during combat operations. A D’Sousa Systems sales representative had assured him that the Model 48’s enhanced atmospherics over previous models would eliminate operator perspiration, but after having used the new suit for more than a year, Rajab had definitively concluded that either his body’s capacity for sweat was a power which no mere technology could overcome, or the representative had been a damned liar.

“Spano, three o’clock low.”

Rajab turned toward the callout just in time for his suit to register several hits from a handheld laser. Fortunately, they struck the thick armor-alloy plating of the suit’s torso front and shoulder guards, doing little but discolor the fresh coat of heat-resistant intumescent paint the company armorers had just finished applying for just this purpose. Though he couldn’t see it, he knew the paint at the sites of impact had bubbled into a thick, black foam, protecting the metal underneath.

Before Rajab could switch to thermal vision to spot his attacker among the thick vegetation, a spotter drone launched by one of his compatriots marked the location from above. He raised his right arm to bring his suit’s thirty-milimeter smart-cannon to bear on the unseen enemy soldier, knowing a single fragmentation round from the weapon would shred the Incarnation straggler and everything in a two-meter radius.

“Hold it, Spano. Ramires wants prisoners.”

“Overwatch, Colonel Ramires can come out here and get his own damned prisoners.” Rajab snarled as several more laser strikes registered on his armor. Adjusting his aim to match the updated telemetry from the drone, he squeezed his right control gauntlet.

Though the D’Sousa Systems Model 48 weighed four hundred fifty kilos even before Rajab’s considerable bulk was factored in, but it still rocked back noticeably when the smart-cannon fired. At such a short range, the thunderclap of the projectile’s supersonic exit from the barrel and the dull boom of its explosion barely fifty meters away merged into one glorious sound which perfectly drowned out any protest the overwatch coordinator might have made.

“Adams, Graves, let’s pick up the pace. Too many stragglers here for my tastes. Leave the mess for the F.D.A.” Rajab stomped over to the tangle of broken kindling and shredded vegetation where his attacker had been hiding in a stand of local plants. Though he couldn’t see a body, he marked himself down a probable kill and turned toward the ridgeline.

As he turned away from his handiwork, the balance point of Rajab’s armor-suit changed suddenly. It wasn’t enough to slow him down or throw him off-balance, but it was enough to start alarm indicators blinking in his heads-up display. Something from the vegetation had snagged on the upper part of his suit, probably the comms antenna projecting just behind the armored dome which served as the suit’s helmet.

Setting the suit’s servos into a bouncing double-time jog and letting the motion pull his legs along, he switched his attention to the external microcameras which gave him an all-around view just in time to see the obstruction. A young man in a tattered set of Incarnation combat fatigues clung desperately with one hand to the root of his suit’s comms antenna while the other hand struggled with a round object which was almost certainly explosive.

“Aw, hellfire.” Snarling, Rajab skidded to a halt, his suit’s boots plowing deep furrows in Berkant’s fertile soil. Reaching up with his left arm, he swatted at the area behind his domed helmet, the big suit effortlessly flexing to allow the massive hand at the end of his robotically-extended arm to swipe at the plucky enemy soldier.

The suit, designed with safety stops to prevent him from damaging most of his own systems, stopped him from crushing his unwanted passenger into fine paste, but he did see the explosive device fall to the ground as he flailed to gain a killing grip on the Incarnation soldier. Just to be on the safe side, he stomped forward several paces as he struggled, in case the weapon was armed.

Unfortunately, the young soldier on Rajab’s back was too agile to be caught in one of the places where Rajab could crush him against the suit’s armor plating. Hanging on for dear life and swinging his body to avoid Rajab’s flailing arms, the man refused to be dislodged.

“All right.” Rajab dropped his arms and extended the stabilizing fins for his suit’s jump rockets. He’d never tried the Cvetkov maneuver in a live suit, but he’d been playing with it in the simulator for months, and it would certainly dislodge his passenger.

After an abridged startup sequence, he lit the rockets, propelling hundreds of kilos of metal and polymer into the air and crushing Rajab down into his control harness with at least three gees of acceleration. The acceleration lasted only a moment, though – Rajab had just cleared the treetops when he cut the rockets, rolled the suit over backwards with a quick burst of the attitude thrusters, then engaged them again at full force while still rotating.

In the second and a half of near-blackout as he held down the rocket burn control, Rajab saw the lavender Berkant sky whip out of view to be replaced by the canopies of trees close at hand. When the sky reappeared once more in his narrowing tunnel of vision, he fired attitude thrusters to correct his spin, just as his suit’s legs crashed back through the trees and toward the ground below.

The Cvetkov Maneuver, a crazy trick developed by a crazier Marine, was not something the D’Sousa armor-suit had ever been designed to handle, but when the Model 48’s boots bit into the heavy soil, sliding only a few meters before arresting his backward motion, Rajab was glad for its durable construction. He’d caused a few new warning lights to blink, but the one he cared about – the one which indicated an intruder clinging to his back – had gone.

Oddly enough, the tickling of sweat running down Rajab’s neck and back had vanished as well – the gee forces had whipped the moisture, at least temporarily, into the far crevices of his suit, providing a moment’s relief.

That moment ended when the Incarnation soldier’s body, which had none of the tree-branch-breaking mass of the suit and had thus had a far less direct return path to the ground, tumbled out of the canopy of a nearby tree into the leaf litter below. Rajab didn’t hesitate – he loaded another thirty-milimeter fragmentation round and fired, obliterating leaf litter, body, and tree which had arrested its fall.

“Ramires wants prisoners.” Rajab mocked the overwatch coordinator’s tone within the privacy of his suit before dashing forward to rejoin his two compatriots.

The Raid on Berkant a few days ago marks an interesting change in strategy for the Incarnation. Perhaps they are attempting to mimic the Confederated Navy’s successful use of ground-force raids on worlds like Meraud and Meyerfeld while massing their main fleet for another offensive.

All we can say for certain is that the Berkant raid does not seem to have gone according to our enemies’ plans. Though they were able to severely damage the spaceport and overrun an outlying military garrison facility there with a few thousand troops deployed from a pair of Tyrant cruisers, the response from F.D.A. and mercenary forces (which had, by a stroke of luck, been engaged in a field exercise on the planet in large numbers) was quick and forceful enough to cause the Incarnation’s raiding troops to withdraw in disarray to their landing craft. Many hundreds were left stranded in the garrison facility and its surrounding terrain, and the responding forces fought a bloody two-day battle to clear the area. Among the mercenaries engaged in this fighting was Rajab Spano, a heavy armor-suit trooper with the mercenary Crisp Company.

The Tyrant cruisers used an approach similar to that used by Confederated warships to reinforce and resupply Margaux during the last few months – they jumped into the system farther out than is normal and coasted in on a ballistic course with engines cold, being spotted only hours before they were in position to deploy their troop-carrying launches.

Though the long-term impact of the raid on Berkant infrastructure is minimal, many have forecast that this raid indicates the system to be the next invasion target, but this isn’t the first time an invasion of Berkant has been predicted. You may recall that the first proper fleet engagement of the war was fought in the Berkant system, but the Incarnation fleet had no troop-ships to exploit their success in this engagement.