2951-08-30 – Tales from the Service: The Encirclement on Morioncruz

Though there has not been much datacast media activity regarding the place, Fifth Fleet has announced that an attempt to liberate the minor colony of Morioncruz is ongoing. Apparently the force sent to this world is considerable, mainly consisting of fast cruiser forces and some of the fastest troop transports available.

The battle line of Fifth Fleet is, it seems, not present; it remains at Maribel, ready to pounce on Håkøya should the enemy respond to the battle at Morioncruz in force. Admiral Venturi apparently does not fear that Maribel is in significant danger of the same sort of attack, but using only the fastest forces available is probably also a hedge against this eventuality.

We have gotten a few accounts, some extremely brief, from the mainly FVDA force deployed to Morioncruz. The battle on the ground has been difficult, but not, apparently, very bloody, at least not so far; the Incarnation troops there are reported to be numerous and well supplied but not well dug in, suggesting the world has been a sort of barracks depot for troops that were preparing for offensive action. This account, which will take at least two weeks to bring to this feed, is of a minor action at the fringes of the main battle area, one of probably dozens of such attacks and counter-attacks of similar scale.

Lukas Kaufmann placed his scope’s triangular reticle over the narrow doorway in the side of the landing field control tower half a kilometer away, then sent a double click on the squad comms channel to indicate that he was in position, ready to cover the advance of his compatriots. If any Incarnation personnel came out of that structure, they’d be walking into a blast of electrified plasma courtesy of his arc rifle.

A moment later, an answering chirp on the same channel announced that the advance was starting. Somewhere ahead of Lukas, down near the bottom of the ridge on which he lay, a dozen FVDA soldiers would be clambering through the underbrush at the edge of the cleared landing field to begin creeping toward the tower, its associated sensor station, and a nearby maintenance hangar.

“Be advised, Orbital reports we’ve got inbound enemy air.” Lieutenant Jansour’s thick Memoire de Paix accent filtered into Lukas’s ear through his comms earpiece. “Probably Siroccos coming back from the main event. Stay under cover until they’re on the ground.”

“How long do we have, Lieutenant?” Sergeant Calvo, leading the group tasked with taking the tower, sounded like he was whispering into his comms pickup. Though there probably was no chance of him being overheard from more than a hundred meters away, Lukas didn’t blame the sergeant for being cautions anyway; Incarnation sensor equipment was notoriously good.

“Ten minutes or less, Mr. Calvo. Abort your approach.”

“Acknowledged. Staying low.” Calvo didn’t sound happy about that, and Lukas didn’t blame his compatriot. If the Siroccos spotted any of the attackers on their landing approaches, they could sweep the area with their strafing lasers, putting a stop to the attack long enough for reinforcements to be pulled off the main battle line to thwart this behind-the-lines expedition.

Lukas, knowing that he was no longer required to cover the tower door, swept his scope across the field toward the maintenance hangar. He was just in time to see its main doors creeping open to permit a cavalcade of tracked and wheeled vehicles to spill out onto the apron, each filled with Nate technicians and their equipment. If Calvo had tried to go ahead with his attack, he and his men would have run right into this group and been outnumbered; even technicians, this close to the front line, would keep their laser rifles close at hand.

“Movement by the hangar.” Lukas reported. “Multiple vehicles. Looks like the maintenance team.”

Lieutenant Jansour was quick to respond. “Hold fire, Mr. Kaufmann.”

Lukas winced; the lieutenant should know he didn’t need to be told. Firing on the maintenance vehicles now would ruin the surprise of the attack, and that was the whole point. If possible, the objective was to take as much of the base’s equipment and garrison intact; once the sensor station was disabled, a group of transports would fly in to haul it all away. Headquarters might even be able to find pilots for a few Siroccos, if those managed to make it into FVDA hands intact. Even if the garrison managed to destroy them, waiting until the aircraft were on the ground would all but ensure they were removed from the battle for good.

Lukas watched the maintenance team lining up their vehicles until the deep-throated rumble of incoming Siroccos began to echo off the hills on every side. The sound sent chills down his spine. He had been under Sirocco attack on Mereena, and again at Glen Moore, and this time, he was glad to be out of sight at the ridgeline, rather than down with the rest of the squad.

Swinging the arc rifle up and along the opposite ridge, Lukas scanned for the incoming aircraft. Three huge sweep-wing vehicles came into view before long, flying low against the hills in a line. A thin trail of gray smoke trailed behind the second of the three, and the third was flying slightly askew, likely as a result of superficial damage to one of its wings.

Valero, positioned several hundred meters down the ridge with a better shot toward the hangar, beat Lukas to reporting their arrival. “Siroccos in sight.” Valero’s drawling Frontier twang carried a note of dry humor. “Two of ‘em are damaged. Looks like they’ve been having a bad day out there.”

Lukas hoped that was true. The fate of Morioncruz had still been very much in doubt when their group had set off on its long trek around to attack the enemy rear, and they had heard very little from Orbital about the progress of the greater battle. Though the world was hardly among the Frontier’s most populous or prominent planets, it would do everyone good to take one back from Nate for a change. If the hated Siroccos couldn’t sweep the battlefield without being shot half to pieces, things were not going the way Nate wanted.

“Make sure your men are out of sight, Sergeant Calvo.” Jansour’s warning was probably once again not necessary, but like Lukas himself, Calvo had the good sense to keep quiet. Jansour was nervous; they all were.

The first of the aircraft, the undamaged one, made a low pass over the landing field while the one trailing smoke slowed and deployed its landing skids. The huge aircraft came to a shuddering halt just in front of the maintenance men, some of whom were already swarming forward toward it before it even touched down. A moment later, the other damaged Sirocco came down near the first, resting at a weird angle on a half-deployed landing skid below the damaged wing. It, too, was soon the object of the technicians’ attention.

The final aircraft, as if suspicious that its enemies lay in wait not far away, circled the field twice more before bringing itself in for a far more graceful landing close to the tower. As soon as it was down, its belly hatch disgorged a pair of men who dashed into the control tower.

“The last one’s keeping his damned engines warm.” Calvo grumbled. “If we go now, he’s going to be airborne before we get twenty meters.”

Lukas scanned the Sirocco with his rifle scope. Like most Incarnation vehicles, there were no clear viewpanels on its body; the crew could see out only with the aid of the cameras studding its fuselage and wings. A hit on most of the aircraft would leave only superficial damage. He had a decent angle on the port-side engine air intake, but there was no telling what a shot with an arc rifle would do there. It might do nothing, or it might blow up the engine, and that close to the tower, an explosion might wreck most of what they hoped to capture.

“If we wait for those two to get back, he’ll be airborne anyway, Sergeant.” Lukas gritted his teeth. They hadn’t brought much in terms of heavy weaponry, certainly nothing that could take down an airborne Sirocco before it cut them to pieces. The crew of that aircraft could easily foil the whole raid, if they reacted fast enough.