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.